Paul Spiegel

Leading German Jewry

Paul Spiegel, 62, the new head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, will have a tough time filling the shoes of his predecessor, Ignatz Bubis. But then, that’s not his intention.

Spiegel, “who seems at first glance dull and inconspicuous but then proves to be full of humor and wit,” according to Jacques Schuster of Berlin’s conservative Die Welt, survived the Holocaust as a child hidden by Christian farmers in Belgium. He is likely to be the last German Jewish leader born in the Holocaust generation.

A talent agent by profession, Spiegel leads the Jewish community in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and worked as an assistant to Bubis. “He will be a man of consensus,” predicts Berlin’s leftist taz, a man who is well aware of his limitations.

Spiegel is widely viewed as a “go-between” in the transition before the younger generation takes over. “[Spiegel] regards Bubis as his ‘shining example,’ ” writes Adrienne Woltersdorf in the liberal Frankfurter Rundschau. Yet  he never shared Bubis’s pessimism about the future of German-Jewish relations. And unlike him, Spiegel is a team player who plans to involve as many people as possible in the work of the Central Council.

One of Spiegel’s biggest challenges will be the integration of Jews from the former Soviet Union coming to Germany. And he must address German-Jewish normalization—the ability to mutually remember the past while looking ahead—which is “tedious work; for he is expected to finalize the grand vision of his predecessor,” writes Roderich Reifenrath in Frankfurter Rundschau.

However well-intentioned, Spiegel does not plan to emulate his predecessor’s role as Germany’s national conscience about the crimes of the Holocaust. “I won’t be as omnipresent as [Bubis],” Spiegel is quick to state. “You see, I have a family.”