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Lay that burden down

Regarding Mario Kaiser's June 8 opinion article, "My Germany, my burden": Being a German who lives in Germany, I don't think I have much reason to be more insecure of who I am than a person from any other country. I was equally shocked and concerned about the incidents Mr. Kaiser mentioned, but I don't think these events are representative of Germany as a whole - and a lot has happened in the meantime that he didn't mention. Our present government - in close cooperation with the Jewish council, the churches, and the media, has started a number of initiatives against right-wing extremism. The problems, which were mainly limited to specific areas in former East Germany, seem to be under much better control.

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I have lived in Heidelberg for years, sharing a house with people from all kinds of cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, and we have always felt safe.

Two years ago, after the publication of Ignatz Bubis's last interview, I decided to collect signatures for the construction of a new memorial at the site of the former Heidelberg synagogue that was destroyed on Kristallnacht. The public support I found - from members of all political parties - was quite overwhelming. The memorial will open this October.

As far as the current immigration debate is concerned, I believe it is a good thing that even the Christian Democrats are finally coming to terms with the truth that Germany needs immigration. After their failure in the North Rhine-Westphalia state elections, they have stopped arguing against it.

The unfortunate and controversial term of leitkultur, which seemed to lend itself to nationalistic misinterpretations, has also disappeared from their program. I think the fact that former chancellor Helmut Kohl now presents himself as the proud father-in-law of his son's Turkish wife should be reason enough to believe that things are changing for the better!

Andreas Rothenhoefer Heidelberg, Germany

Germany has a long history of cultural achievements, and cannot be judged fairly on a 12-year period only - even a very dark one. There is no nation or people on this globe that has not had clouded periods with various shades of darkness over them. It takes conscious people like you, Mr. Kaiser, to move them, so the sun can shine again.

Go back and work for Germany, so that it will remain a respected member in the family of European states, and the doubts you have now about yourself and your country hopefully will give way to a satisfying purpose.

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Stay well, good luck, and bon voyage.

Eduard Gruenwald Port Washington, N.Y.

Toledo up to the task?

With regard to your June 5 article "Peru victor must now win trust" about Alejandro Toledo: I sincerely hope that Peru's new president is up to the task, for the sake of his country's long-suffering people. Many were supportive of the disgraced former president, Alberto Fujimori, because he got things done - defeated terrorists and controlled inflation - but either ignored or didn't care about his effect on democracy.

In addition to the widespread corruption he fostered, he spared no effort to destroy the country's political parties and potential rivals.

During the campaign, concerns were raised about Mr. Toledo's alleged cocaine use and romps with prostitutes, and the deposit of some $700,000 of campaign funds in his nephew's US bank account last year. The country needs a leader who is above reproach and who will vigorously work to clean up the mess left behind by Mr. Fujimori. It's up to Toledo to rise to the occasion.

Vernon Crawford Mississauga, Ontario

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor