Infotrue Educational Experiences by Rick Landman
German Pulse.com

Jewish, German, LGBT, and Holocaust related BLOG
by Rick Landman

Steuben Parade
Steuben Parade - Jewish Contingent


For the 4th time, there was a Jewish Contingent walking in the Steuben Parade to commemorate German Jewish Contributions to America. When I had the idea, I wondered if this mere act could be considered insensitive for some Jews. I remember my own mixed emotions the first time I walked in the Parade. While I think most Americans today can separate the Nazi period from the rest of German history, there still seems to be some difficulty for some in the Jewish Community to publicly display pride of their German roots.

My paternal grandparents came to America as sole survivors; losing their siblings, parents and relatives to the Holocaust. Seventeen immediate family members were murdered. And while I cannot forget or forgive the actual perpetrators or collaborators; I no longer blame today's Germans for the past atrocities. This is not only unfair to them, but it also negates the hundreds of years of deep Jewish history in Germany and the re-emergence of Jewish life since the end of the war. There is much Jewish-German history to be proud of in both America and Germany as well. There were also dark periods in our country's history; yet I am still a proud American.

Maybe my personal life is rather unique, since I not only heard of first-hand horrors; but I also heard stories of my family's lives in Germany before the Nazi period. Like other first generation Americans, I heard the foreign language at home, and ate the foods of my ancestral home. Unlike Jews in Eastern European countries, where they were always segregated, discriminated and attacked; Jews in Germany had full citizenship and considered themselves German from 1871-1933. So I understand why Jews might not want to march in a Polish Parade or Ukrainian Parade. But Jews in Germany had more civil rights than Jews did in America from 1896-1933. Almost every country in Europe killed Jews in their past and many participated in the Final Solution without much of a fight. The real enemy is dehumanizing and exterminating minorities word-wide; not hating today's Germans.

Many German Jews in 1933 didn't want to come to New York because of America prevailing national segregation and discrimination laws. All minorities (including African-Americans, Irish, Jews, Catholics, Native Americans, Asians, etc.) were legally excluded from various "white-Christian" neighborhoods, resorts, country clubs, colleges, and jobs. Hitler's SA learned a lot about terror from our KKK. If only America could have spoken out with one unified strong voice against Hitler's Anti-Jewish policies in 1933 then maybe the Holocaust would never have happened. But each test that Hitler tried, including the 1936 Olympic cover-up, Kristallnacht (1938) and the ill-fated St. Louis Voyage (1939), gave him the conviction to go into Poland and start the Final Solution. America couldn't strongly protest against the Anti-Jewish policies because a large segment of our country agreed with Hitler's "Separate but Equal" segregation/discrimination policies at the time.

When I asked German Jewish Institutions if they wanted to join me in marching, the typical official response was that the Parade was on a Saturday (Shabbos). {Note: the date of the Steuben Parade was voluntarily moved twice so it wouldn't conflict with Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur's traffic pattern for Fifth Avenue.} When asked if individuals from these institutions could join in, the answer was either yes, followed by an excuse; or just a no thank you. Each year at its peak about 12 people said they would walk with me, before the amount of cancellations would come. In 2011 we did have 4 walkers.

So that is why I think this endeavor is important, and why I walked again this year even though about a dozen others cancelled out on me. I was expressing my emotional growth by using my feet in public. Today the LGBT Community marches with pride in their Pride Parade each year, but in 1970 it was an act of courage to run up 6th Avenue in a demonstration called by the Gay Liberation Front. I know; I was there.

That is why I don't think it is too soon to ask the question why the descendants of German Jews (especially those who recently obtained dual citizenship) and the institutions who support German Jewish culture are not participating in the Parade. Reform Judaism started in Germany and many NYC Jews travel on the Shabbos. If anyone wants more information about joining in next year's Jewish Contingent in the 2014 Steuben Parade, look at the Steuben Parade web on this website or contact infotrue@yahoo.com.