‘Made in Germany’ No Longer Taboo for Israeli Consumers


made-in-germanyIn the first years after Israel’s inception, the four years that preceded the signing of the reparation agreement with Germany in 1952, the young state maintained no diplomatic ties with the country that perpetrated the Holocaust and there was an official ban on purchasing German-made products.

As the active objection to the agreement gradually subsided, and the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1965, German products began to appear on shelves in Israeli stores.

Simultaneously another phenomenon began to emerge in the country, of Israelis exercising their own private boycott of products made in Germany.

A study published by Prof. Moshe Zimmerman in 1997 found that religious people were more likely to harbor negative feelings towards Germany and refrain from buying German products.

But not only religious people still uphold the boycott. Several years ago fans of the Beitar Yerushalayim soccer team protested the club’s decision to enter a sponsorship agreement with the Adidas company, although its products were in fact made in China.

In November 1992 then Education Minister Shulamit Aloni called for an economic-cultural-touristic boycott of Germany following the outburst of neo-Nazi violence in the country and the murder of three Turkish women.

In August 2006 25% of Haaretz newspaper’s shares were sold to the German corporation DuMont Schauberg. In the 1930s the company’s owners were members of the Nazi party and its newspapers supported the Nazi ideology.

But with time also passive opposition dwindled and several German companies gained prominence in the local market, such as the Lufthansa airline, which is one of the busiest flight operators in Israel. In 1958, when it first opened offices in the country, the company was faced with threats by members of the Beitar youth movement.

Trips to Germany, including by train, are also no longer considered taboo.

While in the past the importation of German products to Israel was done almost secretly, today an abundance of German-made products are a staple in Israeli households, including cars made by Mercedes, Volkswagen and BMW, Bosch’s electronic appliances and AEG washing machines. Israelis eat Milka chocolate, ride Kettler bicycle, use Merck and Bayer medicines and get x-rayed by Siemens machine.

Some of these companies contributed to the Nazi extermination efforts as part of the IG Farben conglomerate. Deutsche Bank indirectly helped fund the construction of the concentration camps and the heads of the L’Oreal cosmetics company collaborated with Vichy regime.

But for most Israelis, the “Made in Germany” label today only signifies quality, reliability and lost-lasting products.

240,000 Holocaust survivors are currently living in Israel, but by 2025 their numbers will shrink to only 47,000. By 2015 more than two thirds of them will be over 80 years of age.

{Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Israel/Ynet}