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Menachem Begin on “Blood Money” and German Reparations

Date: Wednesday, Aug. 25 | 7:00–8:30 PM EDT

Amidst a young and very poor state, within a decade of the Jewish people’s mass extermination in Nazi Germany, Menachem Begin stood up in the Knesset and declared the outright refusal of German reparations at all costs. This was the same Menachem Begin who, four years earlier, in an act of patriotism, ordered his men not to return the fire as soldiers under the command of Yitzhak Rabin bombarded the arms transport Altalena. Now, Menachem Begin’s speech to the Knesset against a Holocaust reparations agreement with West Germany nearly resulted in a civil war. At the core of Begin’s speech on reparations is the question of the role of history and memory of a people. How do people and groups use memory to influence others and promote their agendas? As we ask broader questions about what it means for Jews to participate in politics and government as Jews, this speech forces us to confront the uncomfortable realities of a Jewish government at this fateful stage in its infancy and its relationships with its Jewish citizens, other nations, and Jews around the world.

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