February 13 is the anniversary of the arson attack on the building of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria at Reichenbachstraße 27. It was the "heart of the Jewish community", explains Dr. Charlotte Knobloch, President of the Jewish Community. Residents of the Jewish retirement home and external guests were staying in the building at the time of the attack. Seven people died – all of them survivors of National Socialist terror. "This attack was not only the deadliest antisemitic attack in German post-war history, it also destroyed a place of Jewish life in Munich," says Dr. Knobloch in the interview. The arson attack of 1970 has still not been solved. This heinous act receives hardly any public attention. For our column "No Place for Hate", Dr. Knobloch talks about the aftermath and explains how civil society can support Jews and their communities on site. 

Dr Charlotte Knobloch, President of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria

Dr. Knobloch, what significance did the building in Reichenbachstraße have for members of the Jewish community, and what kind of place was it? 

Reichenbachstraße 27 was the heart of the Jewish community for nearly six decades after 1945. The only surviving synagogue was located here, and the administration of the Jewish community was also based here. In the meantime, residents of the retirement home as well as external guests were also staying in the building, including, unfortunately, on the night of the attack. Every Jewish person who had anything to do with our community in the second half of the 20th century knows this place. I myself got married in the synagogue in 1951, the banquet took place in the front building, which was burned down in 1970. This attack was not just the deadliest antisemitic attack in German post-war history, it also destroyed a place of Jewish life in Munich.


The arson attack was, as you say, one of the most serious antisemitic attacks in the Federal Republic since 1945. Despite this, the crime received little attention from the German public and was ignored for a long time. What does this mean for the victims and for the community today?

Fear and uncertainty prevailed in the Jewish community after the attack. Things didn't get any better after that; the Olympic bombing shook people again two years later, and the numerous plane hijackings and other attacks against Jewish life did the rest. During these years, the community lost a number of members who preferred to go to Israel or English-speaking countries because they no longer saw a future for their children in Munich. We still miss these families now. Almost none of the current members of the community have their own memories of the attack, and even close relatives of the victims are now very old. For most of those who stayed in Munich afterward or who have come here since, the focus was more on the future. In this respect, it was a good signal that the state capital of Munich brought the attack back into public memory in 2020 with its own act of commemoration. This event was one of the last before the start of the pandemic, and I am still pleased that it took place.


Antisemitic violence is an everyday threat in Germany and it's currently on the increase. You recently issued a warning: "The danger comes from all sides." How can civil society support Jewish people and their communities on site?

I and many other members of the community would prefer it if we didn't need any support at all, if Jewish life didn't have to be perceived as permanently in need of help. But since the situation is as it is, we would like three things: Safety, curiosity and empathy. We ensure safety ourselves with active and financial support from the Free State of Bavaria, but curiosity and empathy are a matter for everyone. We are happy to welcome anyone who takes part in a synagogue tour, who asks us questions, and who is open to Judaism and to Jewish people. All too often, Jewish topics are still considered "exotic" or even dangerous, and nobody wants to say the wrong thing. Although this restraint is well-intentioned, it does not remove any of the baggage that we are all now carrying. I therefore much prefer honestly provocative questions to the most polite silence. 

As far as empathy is concerned, it's not so easy to grasp. Jewish people need to feel that they are not alone in times of crisis, but that they have support - from the political sphere, where it is fortunately available, and also from civil society. Here we are not yet as far ahead as I would like to be. It must also be recognized that the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community feels connected to Israel as a Jewish state in one way or another. When we then experience massacres like the one on October 7 and the subsequent solidarity rallies bring together just 2,000 participants with great difficulty, many Jewish people see this as a clear signal: Our pain and fear are not really so important. Of course, this doesn't just apply to Israel, but the example comes to mind because it is topical. You certainly can't enforce sympathy, but I would like Jewish people to feel much more empathy.


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