Stages of an extraordinary relationship

50 years of German-Israeli relations – chronicle of a rapprochement.

picture-alliance/dpa - 1960 Erstes Treffen von Bundeskanzler Konrad Adenauer mit Ministerpräsident David Ben Gurion

May 14
New state

Speaking from Tel Aviv's Municipal Museum, David Ben Gurion declares the founding of  the State of Israel. The British mandate over Palestine had expired a few hours previously. A few hours later, the USA and the Soviet Union recognize the new state.


May 23
Provisional Basic Law

The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany is promulgated. Venue for such is Bonn. This promulgation constitutes the Federal Republic of Germany. The Basic Law is originally intended to be in force “merely”  on a provisional basis – until Germany as a whole is reunified. In a conclusive move, the reunification in 1990 of Germany causes  the Basic Law to become the country's constitution.


September 27
Unspeakable crimes

In his governmental statement, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of Germany expressly recognizes the “unspeakable crimes” perpetrated “in the name of the German people” upon the Jews. Adenauer commits his country to making for these  “reparations both moral and material in nature”.


September 10
Luxembourg Agreement

Moshe Sharett, Israel's Foreign Minister, and Konrad Adenauer, Germany's Chancellor sign the "Luxembourg Agreement". It covers the indemnification to be paid by Germany to the Jewish victims of the Nazis. The Agreement meets with strong resistance in both Israel and Germany.


July 2
Diplomatic Mission

Israel's Mission in Germany is commissioned. It is located in Cologne. Its purpose is to conduct the preparations for the commencement of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and to facilitate Germany's making of the reparations stipulated in the Luxembourg Agreement.


September 29
Official visitor

Hermann Maas, a Protestant pastor from the Black Forest, is invited by the State of Israel to visit the country for a few months. This is the first invitation issued by the country to a Christian German. Maas had helped German Jews flee the Nazis. In 1964, thanks to this, Israel accords him the honor of being named one of the “Righteous among the Nations”.


December 1
The German language

The step-by-step forging of ties between Israel and Germany leads Israel Bar-Yehuda, Israel's Minister of Interior Affairs, to propose the rescinding of the restrictions placed upon the use of German by cultural institutions. These restrictions had been imposed during the founding of the State of Israel.  Israel's government accedes to the proposal. It leads to a moderately open stance towards German, whose use still, however, has to be approved until 1983 on a case-by-case basis.


March 26
Speech in public

Erich Ollenhauer, chairman of Germany's Social Democratic party, is officially invited by the State of Israel to visit the country. Ollenhauer becomes the first German to give a speech in public in Israel.


September 15
Rapprochement through sports

Willi Daume, president of Germany's League of Sports, makes a trip to Israel in order to give a donation to the country's athletics association. The special importance accorded to sports during this first step in the official rapprochement of the two countries causes German MPs traveling to Israel subsequent to Daume's visit to be declared “sports officials”.


December 27 
Military cooperation

A secret meeting between Shimon Peres (at the time, director general of Israel's Ministry of Defense) and Franz Josef Strauß (Germany's Minister of Defense) leads to the commencement of Germany's supplying of armaments to Israel. Peres visits Strauß at the latter's home in Rott am Inn, Germany.  It is not until 1964 that this visit is revealed to the general public.


April 30
Voluntary service

A group of evangelical Christians headed by Lothar Kreyssig founds the “Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste” (ASF - “Action Reconciliation Service for Peace”). The ASF calls upon Germans to  atone for the deeds committed during the Third Reich by rendering, on a voluntary basis, services in Israel, Poland and Russia. A new German-Israel voluntary service is set to launch operations in 2015.


Reciprocal athletic relationships

Emmanuel Schaffer enrolls as a trainee coach at Germany's Institute for Education in Athletics. The Institute is located in Cologne. His training is held under the auspices of Germany's Football Association.  Schaffer goes on to become the coach of Israel's national football team. In February 1963, the Institute and its counterpart in Israel – the Wingate  Institute in Netanya – set up exchanges of their students. This is the first of its kind between the two countries. In 1971, the institutes forge the first partnership between the countries's institutions of higher education.


A network for research

Israel's Weizmann Institute invites Germany's Max Planck Society to visit Israel. The forging of ties between these institutes of sciences represents the kickoff for the countries' partnership in this area. This partnership is crowned by 1964's signing of the “Minerva Agreement”.  The German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (“GIF”) is founded in July 1986. It is headquartered in Jerusalem, and maintains a liaison office in Munich.


A product made in Germany

Motti Auerbach, the son of the last rabbi to serve in Frankfurt am Main, is named by Volkswagen to be its representative in Israel.  Felix Burian, who was forced in 1938 to flee his home city of Vienna, opens in the same year Israel's first Volkswagen garage.


March 14
Initial meeting

The initial meeting between Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of Germany and Prime Minister  David Ben Gurion of Israel is staged on “neutral ground” - in New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel. The discussions between the two heads of government are being held to determine the nature of the support to be supplied to Israel by Germany. More important than the substance of the meetings is their tone. The friendliness characterizing them  gives rise to the prospect of a reconciliation between Germany and Israel and Judaism in general.


April 11
Belated trial

The trial of Adolf Eichmann begins in Jerusalem. Eichmann was a member of the SS and formed part of the Gestapo group charged with the organization of the Holocaust. As such, he played a key role in the Shoah's implementation. On December 15, the court sentences Eichmann to death. The sentence is carried out in 1962.


Educational trips

Some 30 Germans participate in the first study trips to Israel staged by Germany's  Federal Agency for Civic Education (BpB). As of the end of 2012, 7,300 persons had taken part in 267 such trips to Israel.


May 12
Relations between Germany and Israel

Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany establish diplomatic relations. Ludwig Erhard, Germany's Chancellor, and Levi Eshkol, Israel's Prime Minister, agree to dispatch ambassadors to the respective other country.


August 18
First ambassadors

Rolf Pauls is named Germany's ambassador – the country's first – to Israel. His appointment initially incites vociferous protests. This is due to Pauls' having been an officer in Germany's Wehrmacht (army) in World War II.  Upon proffering his letter of accreditation, Asher Ben-Natan, a diplomat born in Vienna,  becomes Israel's first ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany.


Attractive travel destination

Israel's State Travel Agency opens an office in Frankfurt am Main. In 1987, the Agency sets up a second office. It is located on Berlin's Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. In the 1990s, the office is relocated to the city's Mitte district. Since 2003, this has been the Agency's main office in Germany. In 1974, Germany's Central Tourism Agency commissions an office in Tel Aviv. Its purpose is to attract Israeli tourists to Germany.


March 21
German-Israeli Society

The Deutsch-Israelische Gesellschaft (DIG - “Germany-Israeli Society”) is founded in Bonn. Today, this organization, which operates throughout Germany, has some 4600 members. Its guiding principle is “bringing together the friends of Israel, transcending the lines imposed by parties whilst doing such, so as to forge the ties fostering solidarity with the State of Israel and its people”. In  April 1971, the Israel-German Society is founded. Its headquarters are in Tel Aviv. The two Societies share a goal: promoting the dialogue between the two countries.


May 9
Visit in the Negev desert

Konrad Adenauer visits David Ben Gurion in Sde Boker. Located in the Negev desert, this town is where the latter has chosen to spend his old age. Nearly a year later, in April 1967, upon Adenauer's death, David Ben Gurion attends his funeral. It is his first  trip to Germany since October 1945.


The first municipal partnerships

The launching of official relations between the two countries is followed by the forging of ties between cities in Germany and Israeli. This leads to the entering into of municipal partnerships between Berlin's  Charlottenburg borough and the Israeli cities of Or Yehuda and Kiryat Ata. There are now more than 100 such German-Israeli municipal partnerships.


April 18
Ties between two advancing economies

The Israeli-German Chamber of Commerce is founded in Tel Aviv. Also commissioned on the same day is its counterpart in Germany:  the German Society for the Promotion of Economic Relationships with Israel. It is located in Frankfurt am Main.


Initial direct flights

Lufthansa commissions its office in Tel Aviv. Also launched: direct flights from Frankfurt and from Munich to Tel Aviv.


March 19
Parliamentary-level contacts

A delegation from Israel's Knesset is welcomed to the Bundestag (Germany's parliament). This is the first such visit  by Israeli MPs to Germany. On April 2, 1971, members of the Bundestag form a “Contact Group from the Bundestag to Israel”. It has 106 members. It is then elevated into a parliamentary-level group. The first visit by members of the Bundestag to the Knesset takes place in June 1971. The Israeli counterpart to the Bundestag's Contact Group is convened in 1978.


February 22
Initial governmental-level visit

Abba Eban, Israel's Foreign Minister, arrives at Munich Airport. His visit to the Federal Republic of Germany is the first by a member of the Israeli government.


September 5
Terrorist attack at the Olympics

Palestinian terrorists seize 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympics in Munich. All of the hostages are then killed by the terrorists, or die during the failed attempt to free them. A German police officer is also killed during it. A commemorative plaque is commissioned in Munich on the 40th anniversary of the terrorist attack.


June 8
Special character

Willy Brandt becomes the first Chancellor of Germany to visit Israel. During his visit, Brandt formulates the maxim characterizing the relationship between Germany and Israel: “Our normal relations are very special in nature.”


January 1
Joint youth work

The “Joint stipulations for the conducting and promotion of exchanges among young persons in Germany and Israel” are promulgated. Groups of young  Germans had started traveling to Israel in the 1950s. “Conact” is founded in 2001. It is the center for the coordination for exchanges of young Germans and Israelis.


July 8
Important visit

Yitzak Rabin, Israel's Prime Minister, becomes the first head of the country's government to visit Germany. First stop on his visit is the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.


September 3
Unique partnership

Histadrut, Israel's organization of trade unions, concludes a partnership agreement with the Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (Germany's Association of Trade Unions). This partnership is the only one of its kind in the world.


January 1
Cultural outreach

Goethe Institute opens a center in Tel Aviv. The Institute is a main channel for the provision of cultural offerings from Germany throughout the world. In 1988, the Institute opens another center. This one is located in Jerusalem.


November 2
Unusual coach

Israel's Ralph Klein is a basketball star. Klein is named coach of Germany's national basketball team. Klein was born in Berlin, and is a survivor of the Holocaust. He coaches the team until 1987.


October 8
Initial visit of state

Richard von Weizsäcker, Germany's President, arrives in Israel for a four-day visit. It is the first ever by a German head of state in Israel.


April 6
Clear proof

Chaim Herzog becomes the first Israeli head of state to visit Germany. Herzog describes this visit of state as being “clear proof that the Nazis failed.” The first day of his trip to the country is spent at the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.


May 1
Navy arrives on a sailing ship

“Gorch Fock” is the sailing ship of the German navy. The ship arrives in Haifa harbor. This represents the first time that members of the German armed forces have set foot on Israeli soil. In May 2005, “Gorch Fock” returns to Haifa, as part of the celebrations of the 40 years of diplomat relations between the two countries.


November 9
Unforeseeable event

The fall of the Berlin Wall makes the reunion of Germany a highly concrete prospect. Israel closely follows the events, which do give rise to concerns by the country, as detailed in the correspondence between Prime Minister Yitzak Shamir of Israel and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany.


September 16
Widely-followed trip

Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin of Israel becomes the first Israeli head of government to visit Germany after it has been reunified. Rabin gives a high-profile speech at the former Sachsenhausen concentration camp.


January 16
Speech in Hebrew

President Ezer Weizman of Israel’s four-day visit of state to Germany features a speech in Hebrew to the Bundestag. This is the first speech ever made by an Israeli head of state to this body. Weizman is also the first non-German head of state to speak since German reunification to the Bundestag.


May 5
Joint training

In a first, German cadet officers visit Israel. The purpose of their trip is to participate in the Israeli army's training exercise. The cadets also attend a comprehensive program of education.


September 21
First visit to Berlin

Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel visits Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in the latter’s new official office in Berlin. This represents the first visit by a non-German head of government since the relocation of Germany’s seat of government from Bonn to Berlin.


February 16
Historical responsible

President Johannes Rau of Germany’s visit of state to Israel features a speech to the Knesset. His speech is in German. It is the first ever given by a German head of state to the parliament. Rau’s key point: “History gives rise to responsibility.”


October 23
Encounters among the young

President Johannes Rau of Germany attends the opening in Wittenberg of “Conact”, the center for the coordination of exchange programs among young persons in Germany and Israel. Conact’s partner in Israel is the Israel Youth Exchange Authority in Tel Aviv.


January 24
Non-negotiable fundamental tenet

As part of the remembrance of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Joschka Fischer, Germany’s Foreign Minister, speaks to the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. “The right of existence of the State of Israel,” states Fischer, “is and always will be a non-negotiable fundamental tenet of Germany’s foreign policies.”


December 6
German-Israeli Future Forum

Realizing an idea formulated by the presidents of Israel and of Germany, the German-Israeli Future Foundation is founded in Berlin. The Foundation also has an office in Tel Aviv. The Foundation provides support to projects undertaken by young adults from the two countries.


March 16
Initial governmental consultations

Under the auspices of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, the governments of Israels and Germany initiate governmental consultations. These are led by Prime Minister of Ehud Olmert of Israel and by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. Their purpose is the instituting of joint policies designed to foster and augment relations between the two countries.


March 18
Great honor

Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech in German to the Knesset. This represents the first time that a non-Israeli head of government has spoken to Israel's parliament. This honor had been reserved to non-Israeli heads of state. Merkel's key point: “The security of Israeli will never be negotiable for me, as the Chancellor of Germany.”


January 27
History never to be forgotten

The 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp is the occasion for the speech given by President Shimon Peres of Israel to the Bundestag. Peres states: “My heart breaks when I think of the past's horrific deeds. My eyes envision a world in which young persons share a future in which there is no room for hate.”


April 8
New point of contact

Israel's Consulate General for southern Germany is opened in Munich. Attending the event are Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's Foreign Minister, and Horst Seehofer, Bavaria's prime minister. In 2015, the Consulate General will move to Munich's Karolinenplatz.


July 26
Breach of a musical taboo

Israel's Chamber Orchestra plays works by Tzvi Avni, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Liszt and Richard Wagner (“Siegfried Idyll”) in Bayreuth. It is the first time that an orchestra from Israel plays music composed by Wagner, an avowed anti-Semite,  in Germany.


February 23
“Multifaceted friendship”

The Fifth German-Israel Governmental Consultations are staged in Jerusalem. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's Foreign Ministry, writes an article speaking of the “multifaceted friendship” between Israel and Germany. Appearing in an Israeli newspaper, the article describes this relationship as being “inestimably valuable and unique”.


February 25
Highest national medal of honor

President Shimon Peres of Israel confers upon Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany the “Itur Nesi Medinat Israel”.  This is the highest medal awarded by the country. It honors people and organizations for their exceptionally meritorious services to the State of Israel.


October 23
Anniversary year in Israel

On 23 October German Ambassador to Israel Andreas Michaelis and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin together marked the beginning of the 50th anniversary year of diplomatic relations in Israel. The festivities celebrating German Reunification Day at the Ambassador’s residence in Herzliya provided the setting.


December 17
Anniversary year in Germany

Israeli Ambassador to Germany Yakov Hadas-Handelsman and German President Joachim Gauck marked the beginning of the anniversary year in Germany at the Ambassador’s residence in Berlin on the occasion of the lighting of the second Hanukkah candle.