Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sheikh Jarrah, Berlin


"In 1882, a wealthy Berlin businessman, Friedrich Wilhelm Wessel, bought for 27,000 marks, a small island in the Havel River almost 20 kilometres south-west of [Berlin]... Wessel decided to make it into a park and then sell parcels for the construction of country houses. The site is quite close to Wannsee, where Berliners already went in the summer to bathe. Well-off families had large villas on the island's shores and held regattas there. In 1901, Wessel had the name of his property changed to Schwannenwerder (Swan Island)... [It] became a summer retreat for the upper stratum of the Berlin bourgeoisie. Its layout was simple: a road running around the centre of the island served the 40 lots put on sale, which thus had direct access to the water and to the park, with nothing to block the view in either direction. Enough to charm the most exigent buyers. The great shop-owners such as Berthold Israel and Rudolf Karstadt, bank presidents such as Schlitter, Goldschmidt, Salomonsohn; and the owner of the Trumpf chocolate factory, Richard Monheim, all bought lots on Schwannenwerder. This little colony of millionaires modelled its mores on those of its Wannsee neighbours. They spent weekends and part of the summer season there, and finally began to live there year round after the car made it easier to commute daily to the capital... After the [Nazi] victory in the March 1933 elections, men from the SA branch in [nearby] Zehlendorf invaded the island and symbolically raised the [Nazi] flag over the water tower. The police did not intervene, and in this climate began the forced sales, at low prices, of the properties held by Jews. In a few years Shwannenwerder became the symbol of the Nazi establishment's success. The best known of the parvenus was Joseph Goebbels, who in 1935 bought at a very modest price lot 8-10, owned by the Jewish banker Schlitter. Three years later, he appropriated the neighbouring lot, which had been owned by Samuel Goldschmidt, who had been forced to emigrate... In 1937, Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, the head of the Reich's womens' organizations, decided to establish a school for the Reich's girls at number 38, the former home of an industrialist who had been forced to leave. Lot 20-2, the Salomonsohn's villa, was taken over by the chancellery in 1939 and reserved for Hitler's personal use... In the same year Hitler's physician, Dr Theo Morell, obtained an 'Aryanized' lot that had belonged to Georg Solmssen... Within 6 years all the Jews had been driven out. Most of them left the country. Schwannenwerder was absolutely Judenrein, that is 'cleansed' of its Jews. This place is emblematic of what took place in German society... during the 1930s. In a very short time, men and women who had lived in the country for centuries found themselves banished from society. Despite their profound integration and intimate knowledge of German culture, they were considered revolting creatures whose elimination was the necessary condition for establishing collective happiness. Anti-Semitism was no longer the ideology of those on the margins of society. It had become the official doctrine of the National Socialist state and constituted the heart of the Third Reich's ideology." (High Society in the Third Reich, Fabrice d'Almeida, 2008, pp 87-89)


"Israeli riot police have evicted 2 Palestinian families from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem*, defying international protests over Jewish settlement activity in the area. Clashes erupted after police moved in around the homes in the Arab district of Sheikh Jarrah after an Israeli court ordered the eviction of the 53 Palestinians, including 19 minors. Jewish settlers were later seen moving into the houses. Maher Hanoun, the head of one evicted family, said: 'I do not need a tent or rice. What I need is to return to my house, where I and my children were born'. The houses were built in the 1950s by the UN Relief & Works Agency for Palestinian refugees when the area was under Jordanian control. Jordan had not formerly registered the buildings in their names by the time the 1967 war broke out, according to the families' lawyer, Hosni Abu Hussein. In the early 1970s, a Jewish association claimed ownership of the land, based on property deeds from Ottoman times. At first the Palestinian families agreed to pay rent to the association to continue living there as protected tenants. Abu Hussein said they stopped paying when he discovered that the Jewish property deeds had been forged. The British consulate, which is in Sheikh Jarrah along with several other foreign missions, condemned the evictions. 'The Israelis' claim that the imposition of extremist Jewish settlers into this ancient Arab neighbourhood is a matter for the courts or the municipality is unacceptable', it said. 'These actions are incompatible with the Isreali-professed desire for peace'. (Violence as police evict Palestinians, Agencies, The Age, 4/8/09)

[*[Israeli]-occupied East Jerusalem? The Australian prefers "Arab-dominated East Jerusalem" and "disputed East Jerusalem." (International fury as Israel evicts Palestinians, John Lyons, 4/8/09)]

By way of context, see my 8/7/09 post Highway Robbery.

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