I had misgivings about flying home with Lufthansa after my North American lecture tour and stopping over in Munich for three hours. I have been in Germany exactly once, more than 40 years ago, and I cut the visit short, very short. My parents were Holocaust survivors from Germany, so no further explanation is needed.
It turned out even worse than I expected, way beyond simply uncomfortable.
I kept my small, black knitted kipa on my head there. I had it on all over North America, so why should I make an exception for Germany, I figured. I don’t know if that explains the incidents below, and frankly, I don’t care if it does or doesn’t.
From the duty free shop to the cafeteria, female clerks treated me with disdain and hostility. I tried to be friendly with the first one, with no results. I didn’t even try with the others.
Then came the security check before the flight to Tel Aviv. I saw others breeze through with a cursory examination. Here’s what happened to me.
I put my bags on the belt in front of the X-Ray machine–a computer bag and a carry-on–and walked through the metal detector with no problem. Then a small, young, blond German ordered me to stand in front of him with my arms extended, What happened then was the most intrusive, abusive search I have ever encountered. Not only would it qualify for sexual assault–that wasn’t even the worst part.
Standing behind me, the little German peeled off my kipa and closely examined, with prying fingers, the part of my head it had covered. I had to control myself, believe me, but if I had done to him what I felt like doing, I would be in a German prison right now. After a thorough examination of my feet and shoes, the disgusting little German pointed me back toward the belt where my bags had been X-Rayed. There, a middle-aged German woman asked coldly if she could examine by computer bag. I agreed. She fished around in it for a few seconds and let me go.
Here’s where it gets even more personal. I was so shaken by the experience that I just took my bags and went to sit down at the gate without checking them. A few minutes later, another middle-aged German woman came over, calling my name, walking straight toward me–with my wallet and Israeli passport in her hand. This is the large wallet I use for my passports and my foreign currency, and it lives in a front pocket of my computer bag, pretty much all by itself. I was using my American passport at the airport, so the Israeli passport was in a pocket inside the wallet, inside the bag. Someone extracted the wallet and then took out and examined my passport–otherwise, how would German woman #2 have known what I looked like? I angrily asked why someone took the wallet out of my bag, and she angrily denied that anyone had done that. This went back and forth several times until I sarcastically thanked her for bringing it to me, and she left.
As far as I can tell, nothing was taken from the wallet. So what. The lesson is clear.
Stay away from Lufthansa. Stay away from Munich airport. And if you are at all affected by this story–stay away from Germany.