Germany, Jewish Group: Let's Make a Deal

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WASHINGTON: The Holocaust is about to be settled with a check. German chancellery minister Bodo Hombach and Deutsche Bank chairman Rolf Breuer were in Washington Monday to meet with Israel Singer, secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress. The Germans want a blessing for their $10.1 billion takeover of Bankers Trust and immunity against future Holocaust damages; the WJC wants money, which, luckily, Germany has plenty of these days.

The pre-negotiating began over the weekend, with a WJC staffer threatening German companies with a South African-style "disinvestment campaign" if the talks failed. A spokesman for German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, meanwhile, called for a deal "to protect German industry from unjustified attacks, some of which seem to be clearly aimed at putting some German companies out of business." The WJC, dangling immunity, has the cards; Schroeder is coming to D.C. on Thursday and wants to be able to bring corporate relief back home with him. But with Holocaust survivors growing fewer by the minute, the WJC is in a hurry too. All that adds up to optimism, as Schroeder's camp put it, "that a solution can be reached" on Monday. He might want to stop using that word.