Germany and Israel
Whitewashing and Statebuilding
A radical reinterpretation of the relationship between two states whose history has always been intertwined, particularly revisiting Germany’s involvement in the Palestinian question.
According to common perception, the Federal Republic of Germany supported the formation of the Israeli state for moral reasons—to atone for its Nazi past—but did not play a significant role in the Arab–Israeli conflict. However, the historical record does not sustain this narrative.
Daniel Marwecki’s pathbreaking analysis deconstructs the myths surrounding the odd alliance between Israel and post-war democratic Germany. Thorough archival research shows how German policymakers often had disingenuous, cynical or even partly antisemitic motivations, seeking to whitewash their Nazi past by supporting the new Israeli state. This is the true context of West Germany’s crucial backing of Israel in the 1950s and ’60s. German economic and military support greatly contributed to Israel’s early consolidation and eventual regional hegemony. This initial alliance has affected Germany’s role in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict to the present day.
Marwecki reassesses German foreign policymaking and identity-shaping, and raises difficult questions about German responsibility after the Holocaust, exploring the many ways in which the genocide of European Jews and the dispossession of the Palestinians have become tragically intertwined in the Middle East’s international politics. This long overdue investigation sheds new light on a major episode in the history of the modern Middle East.
Daniel Marwecki is a teaching fellow in Politics & International Studies at SOAS University of London. He also teaches at the University of Leeds School of History, and is a co-editor of dis:orient, a German-language magazine on Europe and the Middle East. He formerly taught at the University of Leipzig and worked for a German NGO in Jerusalem.
‘Using foreign office archives, cabinet protocols, parliamentary debates and expert interviews, Marwecki provides completely new insights into why postwar Germany supported Israel and why, despite Nazis remaining in German power, Israel accepted this assistance. This fascinating account not only sheds light on historical developments, but helps makes sense of the present moment.’ — Neve Gordon, Professor of International Law, Queen Mary University of London, and author of Human Shields
‘A sober, thoughtful and valuable history of the strange relationship between Germany and Israel. Whereas much academic and official discourse assumes the relationship was driven by moral concerns, Marwecki shows clearly and compellingly that it was driven by interests on both sides.’ — Hans Kundnani, Senior Research Fellow, Chatham House Europe Programme, and author of The Paradox of German Power
‘A fascinating study providing detailed perspectives into the evolution of German-Israeli relations. Covering sixty years of interaction at all levels of state and society, Marwecki impressively captures how the two have remained strategically intertwined.’ — Alexander Clarkson, Lecturer in German and European and International Studies, King’s College London
‘A carefully researched, forcefully argued and clearly written account of Germany’s political relationship with Israel through the logic of the 1952 reparation agreement. An important contribution to scholarship, and a critical corrective to the official representation of this special relationship.’ — Felix Berenskötter, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, SOAS University of London