Putin-Schroeder wedding is no honeymoon for the Jews

Vladimir Putin and Gustav Schroeder embraced recently while Putin smirked about their being "in love" and the German public applauded. A slight tremor shook the minds of those Jews whose tribal memories are still intact.

If the Soviet-German Pact of 1939 had held, there would today be no Israel and few Jews anywhere. Of course, the pact was predictably a brief affair, although it did make possible the murder of many Jews — and today's Germany and Russia are presumably not what they were.

But not so long ago, leaders of those two nations were the great Hamans of the 20th century. Their methods of extinguishing Jews were different — to begin with. Hitler murdered them; Lenin just outlawed them, banning all Jewish organization, secular and religious. But that edict was profoundly anti-Jewish, and Stalin inevitably topped it off with acts of murderous anti-Semitism.

It is not easy to forget that these two societies were the founts of modern anti-Semitism, even before those leaders emerged. The very term "anti-Semitism" was invented to describe the anti-Jewish philosophy and politics in late 19th century Germany. And the creation of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" by Czarist henchmen provided the main staple of organized anti-Semitism in all of Europe — even reaching America by way of Henry Ford.

Of course, postwar Germany has gone to great lengths to wipe away its Nazi stain, and one must avoid burdening the children with the sins of their parents and grandparents. But Germany is still xenophobic, and in times of stress, breaks out in bouts of anti-immigrant bigotry and violence. Other European nations suffer from the same nativism, as Germany's sister-nation and Hitler's birthplace Austria demonstrates. But Germany still projects a distinctive sense of "Deutschland über Alles."

As for Russia, authoritarianism is still deep in the bone. A recent example featured Vladimir Goussinsky, thrown in jail because of allegedly shady practices, and singled out for that honor among many hundreds of Russian businessmen engaged in the same practices. The difference is that Goussinsky's media empire was often critical of Putin.

Goussinsky is also the head of the Russian Jewish Congress. Any charge of anti-Semitism is muddied by the fact that another big Jewish entrepreneur, Boris Berezovsky, has been untouched. However, Berezovsky is a supporter of Putin — and the head of the Russian Federation of Jewish Communities, a bitter rival of Goussinsky's Jewish Congress.

It might be encouraging that Jews can now rise so high in Russia. But, given the nation's hallowed tradition of anti-Semitism, one can envision more than one economically pressed Russian contemplating these Jewish financial titans, and fingering the dog-eared pages of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." That image does not combine happily with Russia's authoritarian tradition as exemplified by Putin, the old KGB hand.

Indeed, minds boggled at the signs in Berlin warmly welcoming "Putin-the-German," referring happily to the fact that he and his children speak German so well. They mastered the language while Putin was a high officer of the repressive KBG in Germany!

Given the inevitability of Germany's dominant role in the new Europe, one can understand the New York Times' comment that "the sudden closeness of Berlin and Moscow is certain to cause some concern among Germany's European partners."

But America should also be concerned since the Putin-Schroeder love fest resonated with the joint hope that such a union could replace America's role in the world. That might itself qualify as a Jewish nightmare, along with nearby memories of a troubling temperamental compatibility between the Russian and German souls. It is at least worth keeping one eye open.