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Ignatz Bubis 1927-1999 

Jewish Leader Ignatz Bubis Dies

Ignatz Bubis was a Holocaust Survivor, an Activist and became
'Voice of the Conscience' in Post-War Germany

FRANKFURT, Germany—Ignatz Bubis, 72, a Jew who survived the Nazis and returned to Germany to become a champion of the nation's Jewish community and its "Voice of the Conscience," died Aug. 13 in a hospital here. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Mr. Bubis was elected chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany in 1992, and he often made headlines as a voice against intolerance, participating in demonstrations against radical-right attacks and giving interviews to newspapers and TV talk shows.

As the public face of Germany's growing Jewish community, he never backed down from his insistence that Germans must still actively remember the Holocaust, and he stood up to those who said the opposite.

In an interview with Stern magazine last month, Mr. Bubis said he felt he had accomplished "nearly nothing" in his seven years in office. "I wanted to do away with these divisions: here Germans, there Jews," he said.

"Despite the sorrow that the Nazis brought on him and his own family, he committed himself tirelessly to reconciliation," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a statement.

German President Johannes Rau said Mr. Bubis had worked so that "the shadows of German history did not lengthen into the future: "Ignatz Bubis . . . was a German patriot."

Mr. Bubis was leader of a Jewish community that has been growing again since the fall of the Berlin Wall. An influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union in the last decade has more than doubled the community in Germany to close to 100,000 since Mr. Bubis was elected its leader.

It remains a small minority, but Mr. Bubis's moral authority allowed him to play a role in negotiations over compensation for the victims of Nazism and in German-Israeli and German-U.S. relations.

He also spoke up for other groups, such as Turkish immigrants, who fell victim to neo-Nazi attacks.

Mr. Bubis, a former jeweler, was a successful property developer in Frankfurt and in Israel whose real estate projects included the building that is now the Tel Aviv Sheraton Hotel.

He came to prominence in 1985 when he led successful efforts in Frankfurt to bar the staging of a play by filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, which portrayed a Jewish property developer exploiting Germans' guilt to make a fortune after World War II.

Mr. Bubis said that "Der Muell, die Stadt und der Tod" (Garbage, the City and Death) was an antisemitic attack on himself.

Mr. Bubis, who lived in Frankfurt, was born in Breslau--now the Polish city of Wroclaw. He grew up in a German cultural environment.

"Once you are born into a culture and become a part of it, you don't feel that you can become part of any other society," he once said.

His father was a civil servant. When he was 15, Mr. Bubis saw his father marched away by the Nazis. He never saw him again. A brother and a sister also died under the Nazis.

Mr. Bubis survived a ghetto set up by the Nazis for Jews and a labor camp that was a munitions factory at Czestochowa, Poland. He was liberated from the camp Jan. 16, 1945, by Soviet troops and returned to Germany after the war.

As arguments increased in recent years over building a Holocaust memorial in Berlin, Mr. Bubis said he supported such a move but preferred better upkeep of the actual sites of Nazi atrocities--the concentration camp memorials.

When parliament finally approved the Berlin memorial in June, Mr. Bubis said he was pleased because he never thought it would really happen after 11 years of off-and-on debate.

Although he was a German citizen, he told Stern that he wanted to be buried in Israel because he feared his grave would be desecrated. The marble gravestone of Mr. Bubis's predecessor, Heinz Galinski, was destroyed by a bomb in December. Survivors include his wife and a daughter.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company


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