BERLIN – Germany's main Jewish group on Sunday elected its first leader born after the Holocaust, a 60-year-old businessman who promised to focus the organization more on contemporary Jewish life.
Dieter Graumann was born in Israel in 1950, the son of Jewish refugees who moved to Germany two years later
He said after his unanimous election by the board of the Central Council of Jews in Frankfurt that he wants to focus on the positive aspects of Jewish existence in Germany, including "the joy of life," German news agency DAPD reported.
"Judaism doesn't always exclusively mean persecution, misery and catastrophes," Graumann said in early November at a Kristallnacht commemoration ceremony in Frankfurt.
As vice-president of the council representing the country's estimated 200,000 Jews, Graumann has also repeatedly criticized Germany for its extensive business ties with Iran, calling them "despicable" and "a disgrace."
Chancellor Angela Merkel, foreign minister Guido Westerwelle and parliament speaker Norbert Lammert welcomed Graumann's election. Lammert said it marked the beginning of a new era, adding he expected Graumann not to gloss over the past but also to show "the many aspects of contemporary Jewish life in Germany."
Graumann succeeds 78-year-old Charlotte Knobloch, who witnessed the Nazi destruction of the Munich synagogue during the Kristallnacht 1938 and survived Nazi Germany by hiding with a German family. Knobloch did not seek a new term as the organization's president.
Graumann, who has been the organization's vice president since 2006, studied economics and law in Germany and Britain, and worked for Germany's central bank before going into the real estate business.
Graumann's election coincided with German President Christian Wulff's first official visit to Israel.
Wulff, 51, is the first German president to be born after World War II. Visiting the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, he said the "inconceivable crimes" of the Holocaust require all Germans to act forever on behalf of Israel.