Letter from Munich – 001

Letter from Munich – the Joseph Affair – 1

The following is a detailed description of the case:

This situation has its origins in the life of a single individual, his parents and his sister. It may, however, have larger implications for Germany and for Europe as well.

A few months ago, it was reported in the media here that a six-year-old boy in the town of Sebnitz, near Dresden in eastern Germany, had been drowned in a municipal swimming pool in 1997 by a group of neo-Nazis. The report naturally created a sensation, not only because of its very nature, but also because the mother of the child had had to press the local government in Saxony to reopen the original somewhat superficial, if not irregular, investigation into the matter. That investigation had ended with a report that the child had died merely as the result of an accident. The mother, however, took the unusual step – in Germany – of acting on her own initiative when reports began reaching her that the child had been deliberately murdered. Both she and her husband began their own investigation, contacting witnesses and working with attorneys and academic experts. Their findings resulted in their conviction that the child had been murdered. Since the authorities, though, had apparently been unable to bring the case to a satisfactory conclusion, the parents took an even more unusual step in Germany: they turned to the media.

Their story administered a shock felt all over the country late last year. The parents were invited to Berlin, where they met privately with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and with other politicians such as Çem Özdemir, a Bundestag representative of Turkish descent and a leading advocate of greater efforts to integrate foreigners into German society. Mrs. Kantelberg-Abdulla appeared on television in a discussion with Michel Friedmann, an influential member of Germany’s Jewish community; during the discussion she presented herself as a composed, rational, and intelligent woman (she and her husband both hold German doctorates). While in Berlin they stayed in the building that houses the representatives of the government of Saxony, and it was this government, and not the German federal government, that now promised to reopen the investigation.

It appeared to the entire country that the family would finally see justice done. Saxony’s Prime Minister, Kurt Biedenkopf, one of the leaders in the CDU, Germany’s conservative opposition party at the federal level, appeared supportive and sympathetic. The entire affair, though, was considered by some to be a personal embarrassment for Biedenkopf. He is not only the Prime Minister of Saxony, but is said to have ambitions for the German presidency, a largely ceremonial office but one that carries with it enormous prestige. The affair was also considered humiliating for Biedenkopf because he is also the de facto head of the CDU in Saxony. Whoever heads the CDU in Saxony controls and is responsible for everything in the entire state, since that party forms a kind of shadow government, in and out of power, one that extends to almost all areas of life, including all but a few areas of civil responsibility.

The Drs. Kantelberg-Abdulla ended their talk with Chancellor Schroeder, whom they have described as friendly and sympathetic. They even received a telephone number through which he might be reached at any time if they had problems. They then returned to Saxony House, where they had been staying. Here, however, events began to move in a different direction.

Reports in the German media indicated that the family had been given an opportunity to rest in a remote cloister in Bavaria, under pastoral care and with “psychological counselling.” They were hundreds of kilometers from their home, in a German federal state whose conservative prime minister, coincidentally, has close ties with his counterpart in Saxony, Kurt Biedenkopf.

This episode of the stay in Bavarian cloister is described somewhat differently by the parents themselves, than the way it was depicted in the media. The parents report that after meeting the Chancellor, when they returned to CDU territory in Saxony House, they were told that “for their safety and security” they would be taken out of Berlin. They responded that no place could be safer or more secure than the German capital itself. At the very least, they wished to return to their home in Sebnitz. They were left with the impression, though, that they had no choice. They were pressured into an armor-plated car by a group of men that they describe in terms reminiscent of the Stasi functionaries – some might refer to them as thugs — who were once responsible for security when Saxony was a part of the GDR.

Their car set off for Bavaria, preceded and followed by two similar vehicles, one in front, the other behind them. On the way to Füssen, where the cloister was located, an event occurred that may be relatively minor, but one to which the parents appear to attach particular significance. Mr. Kantelberg-Abdulla, perhaps after reacting in a way characteristic of men from an Arab culture in such a situation, was asked by one of the men escorting the family if he would like a sedative. He declined, however, and was then asked if he would care for a cup of coffee, which he also indicated he did not want. The car nevertheless stopped at a place where coffee could be purchased, and one of the escorts went inside. He returned with a cup and offered it to Mr. Kantelberg-Abdulla, who under the circumstances may have thought it unwise to refuse. A few minutes after drinking the coffee, the couple reported, Dr. Abdulla was overcome with such a sense of torpor that he was unable to sit upright in the car without leaning on his wife for support. He asserts that all he can remember of this part of their journey was the touch of his wife’s hand against his face.

When the family reached the cloister they were given a chance to rest. Some time later, they have said, they were told that they would be given enough money to leave the country and start a new life anywhere in the world, supposedly as part of a sort of witness protection program, and in order to ensure their safety. The state of Saxony would also purchase their pharmacy and living quarters and assume all their debts. The response from Dr. Abdulla was that he wanted to have such an offer in writing and wanted to discuss the matter with his wife. She refused.

During the time the family was enjoying this opportunity to rest and relax in seclusion, a somewhat different image of the affair began to emerge in German state television reports. First, one expert who was interviewed said that the witnesses the parents spoke with may have been so deeply influenced by the parents themselves, and their method of asking questions, that the witnesses gave the information that the parents were looking for. This particular theme was echoed repeatedly in the German media in the days that followed.

The writer of this letter has in his possession photocopies of signed statements by certain of these witnesses the expert referred to. These statements support the contention that the child was set upon, abused, and drowned by a group of neo-Nazis. Moreover, this writer also has a copy of a letter from a firm of Dresden attorneys that the parents engaged, Burtin & Sawitzky. The letter, addressed to the father states: “I can in particular confirm that the witnesses and their statements — and these in turn are confirmed by sworn affidavits — are in my view credible. In no way does the impression exist that the witnesses that have been examined have in any manner been influenced by you or by your wife.” (The text of this part of the letter reads in German: “Insbesondere kann ich bestätigen, dass die Zeugen und deren Aussage, die die jeweils erstellten eidesstattlichen Versicherungen bestätigen, zum einen nach meiner Auffassung glaubhaft sind und darüber hinaus keineswegs der Eindruck bestand, als wenn die angehörten Zeugen in irgend einer Weise von Ihnen oder Ihrer Gattin beeinflusst worden wären“.)

About the same time, the mayor of Sebnitz, a CDU member, was also interviewed on German state television. At the end of a discussion with a reporter, he added ominously, staring directly into the camera and with a deadly serious expression on his face, that the investigation of these events would be pursued to their conclusion, no matter how “painful” that conclusion might be. Why the mayor of a town should be commenting in this way on the details of an ongoing police investigation remains, at least to an American, rather puzzling.

At any rate, new statements in the media soon followed. It was suggested that Dr. Kantelberg-Abdulla, the mother, was unbalanced. However, she was never referred to by her title. Even the fact that she had obtained her doctorate was rarely if ever mentioned. In a country like Germany, where titles and status count for much more than in the English-speaking world, and where everyone with a title of any kind is referred to by that title in public, those omissions were striking. Nor did it ever become public knowledge that the Drs. Kantelberg-Abdulla had survived two wars in Iraq. During that time Dr. Kantelberg-Abdulla, the mother, had worked as a university lecturer, under tremendous wartime stress, instructing medical students on subjects related to pharmacy.

Dr. Kantelberg-Abdulla, the mother, was depicted as a woman isolated and shunned by her neighbors in Sebnitz. She was said to be haughty and arrogant, and the implication clearly was that she now deserved what she was getting. In fact, in addition to her professional duties, Dr. Kantelberg-Abdulla, the wife, has been a popular local politician, elected by her constituents to a seat on the Sebnitz town council. She was not, however, elected as a member of the seemingly all-powerful CDU, but as a member of the left-of-center rival SPD, the Social Democrats.

It may not be very relevant here, but it could perhaps be useful to remember that the Social Democrats are a party whose members have, since the time of Kaiser Wilhelm, suffered what no American politician could ever conceive of. Heinrich Mann, in his novel “Der Untertan,” wrote of their ostracism and imprisonment during this period. Many more writers have described what happened to Social Democrats during the Third Reich. Chancellor Schroeder himself reminded the country in a recent, surprisingly emotional remark before television cameras in the Bundestag that members of his party, the Social Democrats, had during the Nazi period suffered imprisonment and detention in concentration camps, physical and emotional trials that amounted to torture in the extreme, and of course execution.

The Social Democrats, in other words, often in power since the Second World War, impress one as a party whose members have made great contributions to German democracy, far beyond the kind that politicians usually have an opportunity to make.

The new media image of Dr. Kantelberg-Abdulla, the mother, practically overnight transformed her from being a victim to someone now being blamed for a crime. It was implied that she was not only an unbalanced woman, but evil as well, capable of the most devious machinations. The conclusion of some in authority in Saxony that Dr. Kantelberg-Abdulla, the mother, was unbalanced provided them with a pretext for proceeding, a short time later, to a new phase of their “investigation.” After three suspects, one of whose parents had influential connections with the CDU, had been arrested and then released some hours later, the national news on German state television one morning produced dramatic pictures of the Kantelberg-Abdullas arriving back at their home near the Czech border, after the long, exhausting journey from western Bavaria. They were met in Sebnitz, not by any sympathetic townspeople, but by the local district attorney who informed them on national television that he had a warrant to search their house and to seize every article of proof. Proof that their child had been murdered? Unfortunately not: the district attorney informed them that he was considering charging them with the peculiarly German crime of spreading “false suspicions” and he was going to seize proof that would support that charge.

The district attorney’s men spent the rest of the night, approximately eight hours, searching the family’s quite modest home. They seized every videocassette, including those with ordinary feature films and those containing images of their dead son. They seized every audio cassette of recorded telephone conversations, every computer diskette, every file, every piece of paper that they could find that was related to the family’s own investigation of the circumstances surrounding their son’s death. They brought in computer experts who transferred every electron of data stored on the hard disk of the family computer to police computers. None of this material, it should be noted, has yet been returned.

The investigating officers even seized the diary of the Kantelberg-Abdullas’ fourteen-year-old daughter, Diana. This was too much for Dr. Abdulla, the father. He protested that there could not possibly be anything of interest in the diary of a young girl. The authorities relented. They would not seize the diary. But they would read it. One of the men then took the girl to a quiet place. She was permitted to sit and watch him as he read everything she had written about the events in her life: a young girl’s intimate commentary on her daily activities, her dreams, her aspirations.

By the early morning, after a night reminiscent of more unsavory periods in German history, the men were gone. With them went not only everything that might substantiate the government’s charge that the parents had spread “false suspicions,” with them also went every single piece of evidence the Kantelberg-Abdullas had painfully and laboriously collected to support their accusation that neo-Nazis had murdered their son.

The parents were never interviewed by the police about their son’s death. In fact, witnesses that were interviewed by the police have told the Kantelberg-Abdullas that the police never asked them about anything that might shed light on the circumstances of the boy’s death. The police were interested only in asking questions about the alleged involvement of the Kantelberg-Abdullas in encouraging “false suspicions.”

Some time later, the Prime Minister of Saxony, Kurt Biedenkopf, once again appeared on German television in an interview that was shown repeatedly over the next few days. He informed the Germans with breathtaking self-assurance — and with astonishing ignorance of the operation of the American legal system — that if he were in America he could go before a court and be awarded the equivalent of fifty million German marks as compensation for the slander he and the State of Saxony had been subjected to.

There was apparently no awareness on Biedenkopf’s part that the kind of treatment the Kantelberg-Abdullas had suffered – the virtual abduction from Berlin, the nighttime seizure of any proof they could use to support their claims or defend themselves in court, the orchestration of an all but one-sided media campaign of innuendo and intimidation – would in America create such an outcry, from New York to Honolulu, that any American governor or district attorney who even attempted such actions would be forced to resign.

Most Germans, though, are oblivious to the way the American legal system really functions, and Biedenkopf’s threat worked. There has been hardly a word or an image about the family in the media since Biedenkopf’s implied threat. However, there have been descriptions of what the alleged perpetrators of the boy’s murder are said to have suffered during the few hours of their detention and questioning.

The media in Germany are so vulnerable to threats and intimidation from the authorities, such as the threat Biedenkopf made, that no German newspaper or television broadcaster would dare produce any piece of news that might invite a fifty million mark lawsuit.

Why do they take a threat like Biedenkopf’s seriously? For one thing, the free press in Germany is far less free than in the United States. Why do Germans allow themselves to be so intimidated? Many would say it is part of their still deeply ingrained culture of obedience to, and respect for, authority. Why haven’t the Kantelberg-Abdullas used the telephone number Chancellor Schroeder gave them? It occurred to this writer to ask that last question when Dr. Abdulla was saying good-bye to him at the station at the end of a recent visit. The train for Dresden, and on to Leipzig and Munich, was pulling up to the dingy, GDR-era platform. Dr. Abdulla looked up with eyes that appeared red-rimmed through his spectacles. He smiled the sad smile of a tired, middle-aged Arab pharmacist and said, just loud enough to be heard over the engine of the arriving train, “When you have a friend, you just can’t bother him every time you have a little problem.”

The Germans, with all their endearing qualities, and they do have many, remain a nation of people who are still, fifty-six years after the collapse of the Third Reich, easily intimidated. Especially as an individual, isolated from any group, a German still has an abiding respect for, and fear of, authority, despite what unthinking obedience to authority did to this country twice in the last century. It is a respect and fear that may in the end be incomprehensible without actually experiencing daily life in Germany, for Germans live in a society that is so strictly, but subtly, hierarchical, that the average American, separated from any American institutions, might find life here intolerable. In Germany, one still takes orders from those above and gives them to those below.

Of course Germany is a democracy, people here will say, but government and politics are really too complicated for the average person to be concerned with. There may have been a different attitude in the late sixties, but people were too radical then. It is better to leave matters of governance and politics to those “up there,” who know more about such things.

All of this is of course even truer in the eastern part of the country, where the Kantelberg-Abdullas live. Germans there have known only a brief period of democracy, in the early twentieth century. Before that, their experience extended only to imperial monarchy; and since then, people in the “new states” knew only two successive dictatorships before becoming part of the Federal Republic a relatively short time ago.

Germans, especially those in the eastern part of the country will react submissively to the slightest indication of what the authorities want. Many Germans in the east, in the “new states,” still appear to react to the police and government officials in a way that is surprisingly similar to what one would have expected in the GDR.

The compliance with Biedenkopf’s wishes is understandable, but why does the government in Saxony resort to the measures it has used in the case of the Kantelberg-Abdullas? The main reason may be simply that the original investigation of the child’s death was superficial and full of errors, but no German bureaucrat or official will admit to having made a mistake, unless he absolutely must. It would undermine his authority. The original investigation must be shown to have been correct. An additional reason for the government’s behavior may be that even if Kurt Biedenkopf has no ambition to become the next German president, no state prime minister in this country can easily admit that large numbers of neo-Nazis exist in areas under his authority. Moreover, to admit that such individuals exist and would go to the extreme of murdering a child is too much of a defeat for any state prime minister. He therefore reaches the conclusion that it simply did not happen, and in Germany, what the person in charge decides is true, is true. Everyone else falls into line.

I should also state that in addition to everything else they have had to go through, the government in Saxony seems to be determined to minimize their income even more, and there are certainly no longer any offers of refuge outside Germany. The couple, for example, were recently subjected to still another police search after an anonymous informer reported they were keeping an automatic weapon in the house. Though the police found nothing, the Kantelberg-Abdullas were absurdly made to pay the costs of the search, supposedly DM 500. The anonymous caller, as far as one knows, was never charged with spreading “false suspicions.”

The couple are facing opponents of tremendous power. They need allies of equal power on their side. If I were in their position, I would very probably feel a sense of unspeakable despair.

One additional comment now occurs to me. The comment is from The New York Times and was quoted in a German newspaper not long ago: “In vielleicht keinem anderen Land ist das Gute mit dem Bösen so verflochten wie in Deutschland, Land von Heine und Hitler, Goethe und Goebbels.“ A translation back into English would, I suppose, run something like: “In no other country, perhaps, are good and evil so interwoven as in Germany, the land of Heine and Hitler, Goethe and Goebbels.”

Dear Mr. Graf, dear friends (Deutsche Übersetzung weiter unten):

“If not me, who? And if not now, when?” runs the Jewish proverb, expressing the same sentiment as the well-known statement:

“They came for the foreigners, but we weren’t foreigners,

so we said nothing.

They came for the leftists, but we weren’t leftists,

so we didn’t say a word.

They came for the handicapped, but we weren’t handicapped

so we kept quiet,

because we didn’t want to make trouble.

Then they came for the loners and the misfits,

but we weren’t loners or misfits,

so we just stood and watched.

Then they came for the Jews, but we weren’t Jewish,

so still we said nothing.

And then finally they came for us.”

And so I have begun to write these letters about the Joseph affair, as described in the Letter to George Soros of 5 January 2001.

If not me, who? Certainly not the media in Germany. In contrast to what would happen in the United States, the German media has been intimidated and effectively silenced by the authorities with regard to this affair. The German media now do and say what they are expected to do and say. Despite any really objective evidence, they appear to speak only on the assumption that the Joseph affair was a hoax from beginning to end, if they mention the affair at all, The media now seem to express the view that the newspapers never seriously researched the story before printing it, and that the press prejudged the good citizens of Saxony.

The good citizens of Saxony, however, include those who report the following: In interviews with the Dresden district attorney or the Dresden police eye-witnesses say they were informed, “Everything that Dr. Kantelberg, the mother, has said was a lie.” Witnesses felt intimidated by the district attorney and the police. The authorities, the witnesses say, wanted them to provide evidence so that the authorities could charge the mother with making “false accusations.” That was all the authorities were interested in. According to several witnesses, neither the police nor the district attorney ever asked them about the death of the child, only about the “false accusations” made by the mother.

This mother, however, refuses to be intimidated. She stated recently, “Mr. R., the father of D., a very young witness, came into our pharmacy. He asked us to forgive his son (who is still a boy) and his wife for recanting, which they had done at the Sebnitz police station, in the presence of the Dresden police. He said they were interrogated from eleven o’clock in the morning until twelve o’clock at night, until the boy D. and his mother broke down crying and withdrew the statement they had previously made to the examining magistrate in Dresden. He asked for forgiveness for this behavior by saying, ‘What do you think they did to my son and my wife? Both were bawling and weeping and were psychologically broken. They worked on D. (the boy) until he cracked.’ ”

Dr. Kantelberg, Joseph’s mother, went on, “We spoke with one university professor, who said that witnesses were under the impression that many among the police themselves were right-wing sympathizers or even informants on behalf of the right wing. This professor confirmed that this impression was probably true.”

The authoritative German weekly “Die Zeit,” as I mentioned in an earlier letter, wrote in an article in December 2000, “Does right-wing extremism lie at the heart of our society? Many have considered this only one more insane idea coming from the left. But the latest studies, carried out by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation support such a finding. The Munich-based “polis” organization conducted a broadly representative poll, complemented by group discussions in Erfurt, Leipzig, Bochum, and Munich, the results of which back up the supposition that a strongly authoritarian mentality is still at home in the Germany – in the East and in the West, among the lower, middle, and upper classes.”

The article in “Die Zeit” ends with a comment about the Prime Minister of Saxony, Kurt Biedenkopf, the man many say engineered the campaign to “disprove” that the boy Joseph was murdered by right-wing extremists. Biedenkopf, says “Die Zeit,” had supported the thesis that the Joseph affair, or the “Sebnitz” affair as it is also called, shows how a new “Wall” can be built between eastern and western Germany when politics and the media are careless in handling conjectures about the eastern part of the country. “Die Zeit” concludes, “Biedenkopf says that in his Saxony, at any rate, this hate does not exist, this social deformity that leads to murdering foreigners. Biedenkopf errs.”

These are the things that have drawn my attention and been reported to me. I know that I am placing myself in a vulnerable position by writing these letters. I too will probably be charged with making “false accusations” – libel laws in Germany are far stricter than those in the United States – and I could be fined or deported, or worse. I expect at the very least to be fired from my university teaching position for even questioning what any German government official has done.

For after all these years, the authorities in Germany not only still have ways of making you talk, they have ways of keeping you silent as well.

I am an old man, however, not many years from retirement, and I can manage. I am relatively poor, so if Biedenkopf wants to fine me, I am ready to let him have whatever money I possess. If I am deported from Germany, Honolulu is my home in the United States. There are worse places to be sent to. And worse things? An old man who has withstood a great deal in life can withstand a great deal more.

An old man is a perfect victim for neo-Nazis – or for a Prime Minister bent on retribution for a supposed insult. I have lived and travelled in many places on this globe, from Greenland to South Africa, from Tehran to Tokyo. I believe I can survive what even neo-Nazis or the authorities in Dresden may have in store for me. The fact is, though, at my age a man begins to think about what he has done – and still can do – to give meaning to his life. The times do not call for what other “old men” did, men like Oskar Schindler or Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Raoul Wallenberg. What the times do call for, though, have to be done. Otherwise, it is not inconceivable we may once again experience what we did in the past, when we needed precisely the sort of man represented by Schindler, Bonhoeffer, and Wallenberg.

“If not me, who?”

Sincerely yours,

Robert John Bennett

Mauerkircherstrasse 68

81925 Germany

Telephone: +49.89.981.0208

E-Mail:  rjbennett at post.harvard.edu

Since many recipients of this letter may read German more easily than they read English, the following is the author’s translation of the above letter; please note that word-processing programs outside of German-speaking countries may not display all of the letters of the German alphabet correctly:

Sehr geehrter Herr Graf, sehr geehrte Freunde,

„Wenn nicht ich, wer? Und wenn nicht jetzt, wann?“ lautet das alte jüdische Sprichwort, das den Gedanken ausdruckt, der auch in der folgenden vertrauten Aussage enthalten ist:

Man kam, um die Ausländer abzuholen, aber wir waren keine Ausländer,

also sagten wir nichts.

Man kam, um die Linken abzuholen, aber wir waren keine Linken,

also sagten wir kein Wort.

Man kam, um die Behinderten abzuholen, aber wir waren keine Behinderten,

also waren wir still,

weil wir keinen Ärger machen wollten.

Dann kam man, um die Einzelgänger und die Außenseiter abzuholen,

aber wir waren keine Einzelgänger oder Außenseiter,

also standen wir da einfach und alles beobachten.

Dann kam man, um die Juden abzuholen, aber wir waren keine Juden,

also immer noch nichts sagten wir.

Und dann schließlich kam man, um uns abzuholen.

Also habe ich angefangen diese Briefe über die Affäre Joseph zu schreiben, die ich in meinem Brief vom 5.1.01 an George Soros beschrieben habe.

Wenn nicht ich, wer? Bestimmt nicht die Medien in Deutschland. In Gegensatz zu dem, was in den Vereinigten Staaten passieren würde, die deutschen Medien sind von den Behörden eingeschüchtert und effektiv zum Schweigen gebracht worden, wo es um diese Affäre geht. Die deutschen Medien jetzt tun und sagen das, was man erwartet, dass sie tun und sagen sollen. Trotz all wirklich objektiven Beweises, die Medien scheinen davon auszugehen, dass die Affäre Joseph von Anfang an ein Schwindel sei. Die Medien scheinen jetzt der Ansicht davon zu sein, dass gewisse Zeitungen nicht gründlich genug die Geschichte recherchierten, bevor sie sie veröffentlicht haben, und dass die Medien über die guten Bürger von Sachsen voreilig geurteilt haben.

Zu den guten Bürgern von Sachsen aber gehören die, die Folgendes berichten: Sie sagen, als sie von der Dresdner Staatsanwaltschaft oder der Dresdner Polizei vernommen wurden, wurden sie informiert, „Alles, was Dr. Kantelberg, die Mutter, sagte, war eine Lüge“. Man sagt, die Staatsanwaltschaft und die Polizei versuchen Zeugen einzuschüchtern und sie dahingehend zu bewegen eine Anzeige wegen Anstiftung zur Falschaussage gegen die Mutter zu erstatten. Dies geschehe mit mehreren Zeugen. Diese angegliche Anstiftung sei alles, für das die Behörden sich interessieren. Mehreren Zeugen nach, fragt weder die Polizei noch die Staatsanwaltschaft nach dem Tod des Kindes Joseph, sonder nur nach den „Falschaussagen“ der Mutter.

Diese Mutter aber sich weigert, eingeschüchtert zu werden, und neulich berichtete sie, „Gerade kam Herr R., der Vater von D. – einem sehr jungen Zeugen – in unsere Apotheke. Er entschuldigte sich für den Rückzieher seines Sohnes (der immer noch ein Knabe ist) und seiner Frau, den sie auf der Polizeistation Sebnitz gegenüber der Kriminalpolizei Dresden gemacht hatten. Sie wurden von 11:00 Uhr morgens bis 23:00 Uhr abends vernommen bis D. und seine Mutter weinend zusammenbrachen und D. seine gegenüber den Dresdner Vernehmungsrichtern getätigte Aussage widerrief. Er entschuldigte sich für dieses Verhalten mit den Worten, „Was meinen Sie, was Sie mit meinem Sohn und meiner Frau gemacht haben? Beide heulten und waren seelisch total kaputt. Sie haben D. solange bearbeitet bis er umgekippt ist.“

Dr. Kantelberg, die Mutter von dem ermordeten Joseph, sagte, „Wir hatten mit einem Universitätsprofessor gesprochen und ihn extra darauf aufmerksam gemacht, dass kein Zeuge von der Polizei vernommen werden wollte, da viele unter den Polizisten rechts beziehungsweise Informanten für die Rechten sind, was der Professor mir telefonisch auch bestätigte“.

Wie schon einmal erwähnt, hat die autoritative Wochenzeitschrift „Die Zeit“ in einem Artikel im Dezember 2000 gefragt, „Entspringt der Rechtsextremismus in der ,Mitte der Gesellschaft’? Vielen gilt diese These als Wahnidee von links. Doch die jüngste Studie über die ,gesellschaftliche Akzeptanz von Rechtsextremismus und Gewalt’, geschrieben im Auftrag der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, belegt diesen Befund. Es handelt sich um eine breit angelegte Repräsentativbefragung aus dem Münchner Institut polis, ergänzt um Gruppendiskussionen in Erfurt, Leipzig, Bochum und München. Sie untermauert die Annahme, dass in der Bundesrepublik nach wie vor eine stark autoritäre Mentalität zu Hause ist – im Osten und im Westen, in Unter-, Mittel- und Oberschichten“.

Der Artikel endet mit einer Bemerkung von Kurt Biedenkopt, dem Ministerpräsident von Sachsen und dem Mann, der, der Meinung einiger Menschen nach, die Kampagne entwickelte, um es zu „widerlegen“, dass das Kind Joseph von Rechtsextremisten ermordet wurde. „Die Zeit“ schreibt, „Hat Kurt Biedenkopf nicht soeben die These stark gemacht, der ‚Fall Sebnitz’ belege, wie eine ‚neue Mauer’ zwischen Ost und West entstehe, wenn Medien und Politik fahrlässig mit Mutmaßungen über den Osten umgingen? In seinem Sachsen jedenfalls gebe es diesen Hass, solche Auswüchse, Morde an Fremden nicht. Biedenkopf irrt“.

Dies sind Dinge, die mich auf sich aufmerksam machten, und Dinge, die man mir berichtet hat. Ich weiß, dass ich mich dadurch leicht angreifbar mache, dass ich diese Briefe schreibe. Ich auch werde mich wahrscheinlich deswegen vor Gericht zu verantworten haben, dass ich „Falschaussagen“ gemacht habe – die Gesetze gegen Verleumdung sind viel strenger in Deutschland als in den Vereinigten Staaten. Ich werde bestimmt ein Bußgeld bezahlen müssen, oder ich könnte ausgewiesen werden, oder etwas sogar Schlimmeres könnte mir passieren. Ich erwarte, dass ich aller mindestens von meiner Stellung als Universitätsdozent entlassen werde, weil ich die Stirn besitzte, um das, was die deutschen Behörden taten, überhaupt zu bezweifeln.

Nach all diesen Jahren haben die Behörden in Deutschland immer noch gewisse Mittel Sie zum Reden zu bringen. Und auch zum Schweigen.

Ich bin aber ein alter Mann, nicht weit entfernt davon in die Rente zu gehen, und ich kann allein zurechtkommen. Ich bin relativ arm, und wenn Biedenkopf mich mit einer Geldstrafe belegen will, bin ich bereit, welches Geld auch immer, das ich habe, an ihn zu verschenken. Und wenn ich aus Deutschland ausgewiesen werde? Honolulu ist meine Heimat in den Vereinigten Staaten, und Honolulu ist kein Gulag. Und wenn es um etwas Schlimmeres geht? Ein alter Mann, der schon viel in seinem Leben ausgehalten hat, kann noch viel mehr aushalten.

Ein alter Mann ist ein perfektes Opfer, wenn die Neonazis – oder ein Ministerpräsident – ein Opfer suchen, insbesondere ein Ministerpräsident, der darauf erpicht ist, Vergeltung dafür zuteil werden zu lassen, dass er angeblich beleidigt wurde. Ich habe gewohnt und bin gereist in vielen Orten auf diesem Erdball, von Grönland bis Südafrika, von Teheran bis Tokio. Ich glaube, ich kann sogar das überleben, was die Neonazis oder die Behörden in Dresden für mich auf Lager haben. Die Sache aber ist die, dass ein Mann in meinem Alter fängt an, daran zu denken, was er getan hat – und immer noch tun kann – um seinem Leben einen größeren Sinn zu verleihen. Zu einer Zeit wie dieser, brauchen wir nicht die Taten, die andere „alte Männer“ vollgebracht haben, Männer wie Oskar Schindler oder Dietrich Bonhoeffer oder Raoul Wallenberg. Das, was die Welt zu dieser Zeit doch benötigt, müssen wir tun. Sonst ist es nicht unvorstellbar, dass wir das noch einmal erleben könnten, was wir in der Vergangenheit erlebten, als wir genau diese Menschen brauchten: Schindler, Bonhoeffer, Wallenberg.

„Wenn nicht ich, wer?“

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Robert John Bennett

Mauerkircherstrasse 68

81925 Germany

Telephone: +49.89.981.0208

E-Mail: rjbennett@post.harvard.edu

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