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German Jews elect woman as leader for first time

Written by: Staff

BERLIN, June 7 (Reuters) The Central Council of Jews in Germany elected 73-year-old Charlotte Knobloch as its president today, the first time a woman has been chosen leader of Germany's Jewish community.

The council says it represents some 110,000 Jews, more than half of the estimated 200,000 Jews believed to be living in the country that once tried to wipe them out.

Knobloch became vice president of the council in 1997 and was named vice president of the New York-based World Jewish Congress in 2005.

She was born in the southern German city of Munich and survived the Holocaust by living with a Catholic family in Franconia.

Knobloch was the daughter of well-known Munich lawyer Fritz Neuland. After World War Two, Knobloch had intended to emigrate to the United States but settled back in Munich instead.

Knobloch has called for a ban on right-wing extremist parties in Germany, including the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD).

She has also criticised Berlin for not being forceful enough in its fight against neo-Nazi extremism.

She succeeds Paul Spiegel, who died in April after a long battle with leukaemia. The other candidate for the council presidency was Salomon Korn, the Polish-born son of a rabbi.

Spiegel signed an accord in January 2003 with then German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder which gave the council the same legal status as the country's main churches and annual government support of 3 million euros (4 million dollars).

At the time of the council's founding in 1950, there were only 15,000 Jews left in Germany. In 1933, the year Adolf Hitler took power, there were an estimated 600,000 Jews in Germany.

Six million European Jews were killed in the Nazi Holocaust.

Reuters SHB VV1751

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