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Why has no one from the German fashion industry spoken out clearly for over four weeks after the mass murder in Israel? Did I just miss that? Does the fashion scene have anti-Semitism in its ranks? Definitely not at first glance. As an external observer, I am not aware of any failures, neither at fashion shows nor at Fashion Week or the numerous workshops of the innovative startup scene.

And yet anti-Semitism is part of today's fashion industry. And it's been that way since 1945. Non-stop. West German fashion companies built on the capital of Jewish companies that had been expropriated thousands of times, especially in Berlin. The clothing associations, the lobbies, the designers did everything – successfully – to cover up their own involvement. This is how a cartel of silence emerged. Recent memorial features, such as those for the Grünfeld company, Jewish and once on Kurfürstendamm, make an exception.

The industry's anti-Semitic attitude began before 1933 and culminated, exactly 85 years ago this year, in the Berlin anti-Jewish pogroms around Hausvogteiplatz, Berlin's old fashion center. Over 2,000 Berlin Jewish fashion and textile companies were expropriated, vandalized, robbed and destroyed.

Only very few of the fashion companies faced up to their past after 1945. No memory of the forced labor camps for clothing production or the Nazi raids on the couture fabric warehouses in Paris, Vienna and Budapest. To this day, not a word has been said about the fashion schools in Berlin that were closed at the time, such as the Reimann School.

Will Fashion Week or the German Fashion Council want to remember this year? The liberal background of Jewish-influenced fashion in Berlin since 1830 could be the basis for a new fashion development in the 21st century. Yes, even after such a long time, their creativity continues to have an impact, just not on the fashion designers. Fashion needs liberalism and democratic freedom, otherwise it cannot be creative.

Anti-Semitism always occurs where the past is buried. Fashion has a great appeal to younger generations, fashion has influence - especially through social media. The catwalk is ideal for reaching younger generations. Just like the members of the Council of Fashion Designers America (CFDA) are proving it these days. Designer Jennifer Fisher said: “The fashion industry has an ethical and social responsibility to show the world how fashion can be a powerful tool in combating anti-Semitism…Show solidarity with your Jewish peers and friends. If you see anti-Semitism, call it out.”

The still prevailing amnesia of the German fashion and textile industry contributes to the fatal forgetting. What has been hidden for so long cannot now be discovered? Why wasn't one euro of the 20 million in funding from the Senate administration put into coming to terms with its own history? The defense of democracy is imperative for diversity, not just in the fashion scene. If this wasn't clear to you before, with October 7th and the unimaginable crimes committed in Israel and the global wave of anti-Semitism, that should now be abundantly clear. Never Again Is Now.

Uwe Westphal

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