Before I report on my experience from the German group, I’d like make a remark on the System Event and its boundary management. In my view the processes within the System Event must be seen in the light of its own independent process, yet the possibility of the cross border traffic, visits of individual members or delegations to other System Events or even of the staff can have a deep impact on the group process within the System Event. When a group decides to stay mainly by itself, e.g. I found the Palestinian group in the System event to be a group in “splendid isolation”, paying courtesy visits to other groups only, this group may have experienced its System Event mostly on its own terms, in the German group however, at least how I experienced it, the central experience happened during a session with cross border traffic, when the invited Israeli-Jewish delegation came as a guest to the German System event.
In the beginning, I experienced the process within the German System Event as a group enacting resistance and searching for leadership, experienced Nazareth-Conference veterans tried to take over, reminding the group, there were tasks to be accomplished, yet, there were no personal encounters, we solved the first Sessions in the end the German way, somebody taking down notes for the group, a to do list was established. The different interests could not be brought together, the group split up, Germany divided itself. Some women in the group, taking note that in their view, only one young and beautiful woman who graced the German group, in dreadful comparison to the Israeli -Jewish and the Palestinian groups, decided to explore the reasons, why young people in Germany would not decide for a Nazareth conference. They wanted to indulge in questions of the future and took the young German colleague as its paradigm. This group called itself “happiness-group”, the protagonists were mostly women.
The other group was trying to get into contact with other System events, especially the Palestinian-Israeli group, but also the Israeli-Jewish group. It was striving for action, the protagonists were male, they were activists and called themselves the “madness-group”. I was in it, and were it not for some sober minded members, especially of the former East Germany, the group would have immediately sent invitations to its objects of desire. But before the process of invitations could start, that group wanted to inform the “happiness-group” about its plans, yet wanted to process in a split fashion, as “we” have had the idea, we want to do it alone. The split group, however, united. The price for unification was that the issues of the “happiness”-group were extinguished by the overwhelming unification and that we lost a member for several sessions, it was the young woman of the “happiness group”, who had not felt to be adequately represented in her group’s narrative. After the “re-unifaction” arose a flurry of actions, members as if in an adolescent upsurge wanted to leave “home”, visit other System events, the Staff and invitations were sent out to the Others, the Palestinians and the Israeli-Jewish groups.
When the Israeli-Jewish finally sent a delegation, all women, the boundary was open. It turned out to be a haunting experience, I, we Germans and moreover, however, the Israeli-Jewish delegates, I’m sure will never forget. After friendly exchanges, a German delegate took over, he asked a question about the Genocide of the Armenians in the 1920s, the questions turned into a fierce interrogation of the delegates, insinuating in the end that the Zionist movement in Israel was also responsible for the Turkish crimes on the Armenian people. This was clearly an attack, it was racist and it was a provocation of the delegates, who have the Shoah in their family history. I, we, l did not interfere, I saw the troubled faces of some delegates, saw their struggle, yet the German group did not stop it. I did intervene, in the end, when it was too late. I had been a bystander, too, though I had been in close personal contact and exchange with some members of the Israeli-Jewish delegation. Then, as the writing on the wall, came the hypothesis of the staff that the German group projected its racism to the Israeli-Jewish group. In the beginning, I was not sure, if this attack had not been the sole project of an individual, but the following system event made things clearer. It was not only something individual, it was in the group and of the group, as some members expressed explicitly their gratitude for the aggression, for whatever reasons. It was at this moment, when some in the group expressed their gratitude, that I felt a very difficult estrangement from my German group, a specific form of loneliness. The one who led the attack, those of us who let it happen , those who expressed gratitude for the attack, me, what else are we than “ordinary men” (Christopher Browing). Aware of my own aggression and dismayed by my own weakness as a bystander, I feel I have to take responsibility not only for the Shoah, then, but for that, what is still in us now, for the reenactment of racism today, so it is a responsibility for then and now. This was a characteristic of this conference, a haunting experience never to be forgotten.
Wolfgang Martin Roth