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Asher Ben-Natan
photo by Rhonda Spivak


Amnon Rubinstein
photo by Rhonda Spivak

 
50th ANNIVERSARY OF SIX DAY WAR-REVISITING 1967 : THOUSANDS OF GERMANS WANTED TO SERVE IN THE ISRAELI ARMY

Prof Amnon Rubinstein: The Mistakes after the Victory

by Rhonda Spivak,posted June 5, 2017

[Editor's note: This article was written  10 years ago on the 40th anniversary of  the Six Day War when in I I met  Dr. Ben Natan, at a conference devoted to revisiting the Six-Day War which took place in Herzlia.  Ben-Natan, who at the time was 86 years old  was Israel's Ambassador to Germany during the  Six-Day-War.]

 

RE-VISITING 1967: THOUSANDS OF GERMANS WANTED TO JOIN THE ISRAELI ARMY

by Rhonda Spivak, written June 2007

“In May 1967 [leading up to the six-day war]..there was a real fear in Germany that we would see another Holocaust …It was a subject that Germans couldn’t live with,” recalls  Dr. H.C. Asher Ben-Natan, who was Israel’s Ambassador to Germany during the six-day war.

Ben-Natan became Israel’s first Ambassador to Germany with the commencement of diplomatic ties between Germany and Israel in 1965. A former member of the Israeli Defense Ministry Ben -Natan had been involved in weapons deals with West Germany and France before his appointment as Ambassador to Germany, a post that he held until 1970.

Prior to the outbreak of the six-day war, “...there were thousands of Germans who wanted to serve in the Israeli army… and thousands of German children sent money from Germany to Israel”, says Ben-Natan, who spoke before an audience that attended the international conference marking the 40th Anniversary of the Six-Day War at the Interdisciplinary centre in Herzylia. 

 

Ben-Natan, who is now 86, recalls that “The German government condemned [Egypt’s] closure of the Straits of Tiran, and condemned the Arab threats.  Germany declared neutrality, but it was not a neutrality of the heart…  There was really a great support [for Israel]…Every time they [the Germans] read of the Israeli victory, there was great enthusiasm,” says Ben-Natan.

 

Ben-Natan remembers that on behalf of Israel he approached the Germans  to ask for 20,000 gas masks from Germany, and the request was officially refused.  “But they [the Germans] did supply 20,000 gas masks to Israel from civilian warehouses in Germany”, Ben-Natan notes.  “At the time, the [German] Minister of Transportation told me that the airport in Frankfurt was available for any Israeli shipments,” he added.

 

“After the war, the P.L.O. was active in Germany and the extreme left had criticisms of the occupation and…continued with venomous anti-Semitic rhetoric”, Ben-Natan said.  In Ben-Natan’s view, although after the war Germany went back to its policy of neutrality “the events of May 1967 improved the relationship between Germany and Israel.”

 

Ralf Fuecks, of the German Heinrich Boll Foundation, one of the organizers of the conference, said the six day war appeared as a “turning point for the attitude in large parts of the West-German political left from being pro-Israel to becoming anti-Israel-and this in most cases in a very short time.”

 

“On the other side…many conservatives [in Germany] like the media-tycoon axel Springer supported Israel and identified very much with its military power in the war.  That however came partly with the price that many people thought that with this kind of a Pro-Israel-attitude they did not have to deal anymore with the painful questions, which the Shoah had left for German society-to identify with Israel’s military force was a way to be on the right side this time, some kind of political reparation.”
 

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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