Coming to terms with the past: German diplomat meeting with regional Jewish communities

Retired German diplomat Stefan Schlüter will visit Birmingham as part of an 11-city U.S. tour, visiting mid-sized and smaller Jewish communities to speak on “How Germany Has Come to Terms with Its Past.”

As program director of the Diplomatic Academy in Berlin, Schlüter strongly believes German diplomats have an obligation to reach out to Jewish communities due to the legacy of the Holocaust.

His main Birmingham event will be on Oct. 18 at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, with a 5:30 p.m. reception and 6 p.m. discussion. The event is coordinated by the Institute, the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, the UAB Institute for Human Rights and the American Council on Germany.

He will also speak at a breakfast briefing on Oct. 19 at 7:15 a.m. at the Levite Jewish Community Center’s senior lounge. The event is free and open to the community, but reservations are required to Florina Newcomb at the Birmingham Jewish Federation.

The American Jewish Committee is also coordinating the national tour. According to information from the AJC, the tour’s goal “is to engage Jewish communities in smaller U.S. cities to examine German-Jewish themes, to openly discuss Germany today in the context of its history, and to provide opportunities to learn about contemporary Germany.”

In Birmingham, that also means examining local civil rights history. The event will include a panel discussion by local educators, moderated by Tina Kempin Reuter, director of UAB’s Institute for Human Rights.

“We cannot host Mr. Schlüter and his country’s story without also including our own story and how we handle our past,” said BHEC Outreach Coordinator Kendall Chew.

After studying political science at the University of Hamburg, Schlüter went to Israel as a 23-year-old in 1975 and lived on Kibbutz Ramat Rachel near Jerusalem. He joined the German Foreign Office in 1979, and was sent to Buenos Aires, where he met his wife, and then Algiers before moving to Tel Aviv as spokesman for the German Embassy.

While in Tel Aviv from 1986 to 1990, his daughter was born. During diplomatic postings in Los Angeles, where his son attended a synagogue preschool, New York as Deputy Consul General, and San Francisco as Consul General, Schlüter engaged in dialogue with Jewish organizations and at synagogues about Germany’s relationship with the Jewish people and organized several trips to Germany for rabbis. Since the summer of 2017, he is a retired member of the German Foreign Office.

The American Council on Germany was incorporated in 1952 in New York as a private nonprofit organization to promote reconciliation and understanding between Germans and Americans after World War II.

The tour will also be in Charleston, Savannah, Atlanta and Nashville.