To the members of the board of trustees of the
We turn to you as the members
of the board of trustees of the German Orient Institute in Hamburg,
a scientific institution, whose maintenance is borne to a
considerable extent by funds of the Foreign Office i.e. from
taxpayers’ monies. It is incumbent on you as the board, whose
purpose it is to take care of and to conscientiously look after the
respective institution, to be circumspect as to its international
reputation, which in times of Islamist terrorism requires a
On 6 January 2003 the director of this scientific institution, Prof.
Udo Steinbach, compared Palestinian suicide terrorists with the
Jewish fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto at an event in Salzgitter-Bad.
Steinbach explained: “If we see how Israeli tanks drive through
Palestinian villages and how the desperate people resist with
stones, we must be allowed to ask with regard to Warsaw and the
uprising of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto whether this then also
By bringing in the picture of the stone-thrower who is fighting
against tanks, he not only conceals the well-known fact that the
Palestinian side does not exclusively use stones. He also projects
the Israelis into the role of Nazi-Germans - which is to say that
they are assumed to act with the intention to annihilate - and the
Palestinians into the role of the Jews - which can mean two things:
either the Palestinians defend their existence or the Jews were
never threatened by annihilation but– keyword terror – perhaps
overstated their case. The two meanings are not mutually exclusive.
On the contrary: both serve anti-Semitic resentments.
“Must we not ask ourselves what is going on if a
decent and normal young man, who wants to live like everyone else,
buckles on an explosives belt and blows himself up only because he
does not see any other way out to preserve his dignity?”, Steinbach
introduced his comparison. In this innocently and naively phrased
question the double-edged character of this comparison is repeated.
For either the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto fought for their ‘dignity’,
or the Palestinians choose death in the struggle because they are
murdered anyway. No matter whether the uprising in the Ghetto is
trivialised as a fight for ‘dignity’ or the right to acts of
desperation is confirmed to the Palestinians, for Steinbach the Jews
remain the problem at the end.
does not want to commit himself to one or the other interpretation,
for he does not have to. By denying the eliminatory and anti-Semitic
motivation of Islamist terror he relieves the Germans and the
Palestinians at the same time from the responsibility for their
actions and names the supposedly culprit. The comparison of Jewish
Ghetto fighters with Arab suicide killers and of Israeli soldiers
with SS-henchmen is a conscious playing down of Nazi crimes, a
trivialisation of Hitler, and an outrageous desecration of the
remembrance of the Jewish dead.
director of an institution which is co-financed by the Foreign
Office Steinbach has not only relativised eliminatory anti-Semitism,
but has legitimised it as a just form of resistance. Until today he
has rejected to take any consequences from his appalling remarks.
It cannot be disputed that the case of Steinbach
constitutes a scandal: on the on the hand because he has repeated
his claims several times – also publicly – and reaffirmed them as
can for instance be gathered from his press release of 6 July 2003
or from his statement of 16 April 2003, which was published by the
Protestant Press Service; on the other hand because he still holds
the direction of the Orient Institute. For this reason this letter
will be an open one and will also be placed at the disposal of the
We as the signatories of this letter
ask you to make this matter, which we have brought to your
attention, an agenda subject at the next meeting of the board of
trustees. In addition and independently of this request we demand
that Steinbach immediately resign from the post of director of the
German Orient Institute.
Mr. Joschka Fischer, Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of
Mr. Ole von Beust, President of the Senate and First Mayor of the
Free and Hansa City of Hamburg