I recently read two gripping books that had more in common than might at first be thought. Indeed, one might detect an alarming continuum. In December 1990, a year after the Berlin Wall fell, Dina Gold, then a BBC investigative reporter, marched into the Ministry of Transport at Krausenstrasse 17/18 in former East Berlin and announced to the bemused official on duty, "I've come to claim my family's building."
Gold's book, Stolen Legacy, to be published shortly, tells the remarkable story of the dogged, six-year campaign she mounted to obtain restitution from the German government for the Nazis' appropriation of the magnificent, six-storey headquarters of her family's renowned pre-war fur business.
The German government finally conceded that the building, constructed by Gold's maternal great-grandfather, belonged to her family. In 1996, Germany bought it back from them for its market value of DM 20 million. A kind of justice had been done.
This was achieved through the extraordinary tenacity of Gold, supported by her husband, Simon Henderson. They battled the resistance of German officials and what, with so many documents lost or destroyed, seemed the impossible odds of backing up their claim.
The book illuminates the pre-war life of an assimilated, wealthy family of German Jews, of whom only a few - Gold's grandfather was one - had the foresight to get out in time. But what makes this book unique is what else Gold uncovered. For the family was robbed of the building by one of Germany's top insurance companies, the Victoria, which transferred its ownership to the Nazi railway system that transported millions of Jews - including Gold's relatives - to death camps. And she unearthed other evidence to suggest that, even today, Germany has failed to expunge certain links to its terrible history.
Which brings me to the second book, Tuvia Tenenbom's Catch the Jew. Tenenbom, born and raised in Israel and a journalist in Germany and the US, passed himself off as "Tobi the German" as he toured Israel to find out what people were saying and thinking. Hilariously recounted by the disarmingly anarchic Tenenbom, the results become steadily more appalling. Believing "Tobi" is a German gentile, and unaware he can understand Hebrew and Arabic, Jews, Arabs and western "liberals" display unbridled malice and bigotry towards Israel and the Jewish people. That's not the worst of it. What Tenenbom stumbles across is that these bigots are being paid by European governments, working through hundreds of hostile NGOs, to defame and demonise Israel and the Jewish people. He catches them out in breathtaking fabrications cynically constructed to appeal to lazy western journalists for whom "pariah Israel" is the only story to be written.
He is told the Palestinians are living in poverty but he sees countless expensive Palestinian houses and magnificently appointed neighbourhoods. He is told of Israeli atrocities by people who can provide no evidence. He is given a figure for the number of Bedouin being evicted from their homes which is greater than the number who actually exist.
Many defamers are Jews. Like Itamar Shapira, the Israeli tour guide and a self-professed "ex-Jew", who equates Nazis with the Israelis for the tourists he leads round Yad Vashem. Tenenbom discovers some of the biggest sources of funding for these NGOs are German political parties. And so he reaches the dismaying conclusion that the Europeans have now found a new way of perpetrating their historic anti-Jewish animus by paying Jews to fabricate libellous falsehoods against other Jews.
In other words, the story behind Dina Gold's book has not ended.
In Catch the Jew! Tuvia Tenenbom uses humor and charm to explore life in Israel and Palestine. In the course of his research he uncovers an international agenda to find fault with Jews and Israel. These people have one goal; to Catch the Jew doing something wrong! To buy "Catch the Jew!" on Amzon.com click here.