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Anti-Semitism in Germany : In Birthplace of Nazism, „Never Again“ Must Really Mean „Never Again“

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Die Synagoge von Halle an der Saale vier Tage nach dem Anschlag Bild: dpa

A new study revealed substantial evidence that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Germany again. What is fuelling this dangerous trend?

          4 Min.

          The Jewish people will always have a complicated relationship with Germany. This will never go away. But, while accepting this fact at the outset, we can acknowledge huge strides have been made since World War II to better our relations.

          Zur deutschen, redaktionell bearbeiteten Übersetzung des Beitrags
          German version of the article

          However, the attempted Yom Kippur massacre at a synagogue in Halle, Germany represents a massive failure on the part of German leaders in waking up to a new and very troubling rising tide of anti-Semitism.

          I am about to arrive in Munich, where I will present Chancellor Merkel with the World Jewish Congress’s highest award for her efforts, like those of her predecessors since World War II, to live up to Germany’s post-War promises.

          But a new survey commissioned by the World Jewish Congress (WJC) – the German Anti-Semitism Assessment Study- revealed substantial evidence that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Germany – not just among the general public, but among elites as well. The survey has been conducted by Schoen Consulting and interviewed 1,300 Germans throughout the country.

          The most alarming finding was that 27 percent of all Germans and 18% of German Elites are anti-Semitic -- with a plurality of Germans believing that Jews talk too much about the Holocaust (41%), nearly half of German Elites say Jews are more loyal to Israel than Germany (48%), and over one-quarter  of German Elites harbor the anti-Semitic belief that Jews have too much power in business (28%) and global affairs (26%). 

          Solid majorities of German Elites acknowledge that Jews are at risk of racist violence (60%) and hate speech (58%) in Germany today.

          The majorities of Germans overall (65%) and German Elites (76%) believe that Nazi era beliefs are increasing with the rise in right-wing parties.

          The deeply disturbing results of the poll should give everyone reason to wonder if Germany has really moved on from its troubling past or is again losing ground – obviously gains made were not as solid as many thought.

          Put simply, only two generations removed from the Holocaust, Jews are evidently still or again a target in Germany, and around the world.

          I don’t say this just to be dramatic. These are numbers that should give everyone pause and everyone should realize that this is not just a ‘Jewish issue.’ It is the major question concerning the fundamental shape we want our societies to take for the future.

          I have been fascinated with German culture and art since I was a student. I don’t believe this form of anti-Semitism was prevalent back then. But, today, these numbers cause me great angst and I am asking myself, what is driving this dangerous trend?

          Today, German Jews find themselves in the crosshairs from fundamentally different poles of anti-Semitic forces; an old hate combined with a new one.

          On the political right there is the traditional, neo-Nazi anti-Semitism which blames everything on “the Jew.”  This is the hate that inspired Stephan Balliet, to try murder worshipers on Jew’s holiest day in Halle. In his racist screed, Balliet blamed all of society’s “problems” on Jews and denied the very existence of the Holocaust. This is a standard anti-Semitic trope.

          But now, on the other side, is radical Muslim anti-Zionism. This new dynamic promotes a hatred of Israel and Jews seeking to normalize anti-Zionism – which is in fact nothing else than anti-Semitism. And this pole overlaps to some extent with the anti-Zionism that is backed by a radical faction of the German left.

          It is this left-wing normalization of anti-Semitism that has led German courts to rule it is permissible a scandalous decision it is permissible for Kuwait Airlines to refuse permission to Israeli—Jewish—passengers – the very sort of exclusion from public life that was a key Nazi tactic before the Holocaust.  If history has taught us anything, it is that once the Jewish people are marginalized, it is easier to do terrible things to them.

          There is another factor that is contributing to this alarming rise in anti-Semitism, and that is education, or the lack thereof. Too few young people know of the atrocities that occurred just 70 years ago, and this ignorance is causing a rise in hatred. Education is going to be a leading factor in reducing anti-Semitism. Teaching students about the atrocities of the past and the importance of tolerance of all people is key to this fight. 

          If there is one country on earth that should be extremely sensitive to anti-Semitism, it is Germany. But Germany has failed to combat all forms of anti-Semitism, from the far-right, and the far-left. And, apparently, a lot of German never stopped or started again believing this hatred.

          On Yom Kippur, the only reason why the carnage in Halle was contained to two murders was because of security measures taken by the Jewish community and the unexpected failure of the assassin’s weapon.  It was not stopped by the German government. No police officers were posted in front of the Synagogue entrance.  How could this be?

          Days before the Halle attack, a Syrian man in Germany broke through a synagogue’s security barrier, screamed profanities towards Israel as well as “Allahu Akbar” and pulled a combat knife. He was simply charged with disturbing the peace and released. This not, in any way, shape or form merely disturbing the peace.  How could this be?

          Germany has six million reasons to be sensitive to neo-Nazi movements as well as left-wing hatred of Jews, but it has come up woefully short in combatting their recent resurgence – especially with police and the judiciary lacking behind.

          Given Germany’s history, this lack of awareness and utter failure to protect German Jews is unacceptable and cannot continue.  Germany has a unique obligation to ensure something like the Holocaust never happens again, and the recent rise in anti-Semitism underscores the need for increased vigilance and education.

          It is for this reason that the WJC is pushing for a dedicated campaign to fight anti-Semitism in Germany. One that will focus on education and fostering relationships between Jewish leaders, the Jewish community, and indeed, German society as whole – of all ideologies and all religions.

          Last Friday, the German government headed by interior minister Horst Seehofer announced an important package of action points to fight anti-Semitism in Germany. I highly appreciate Mr. Seehofer’s initiative and I am looking forward to implement together with him and others a comprehensive list of overdue bold measures like:

          • Enhancing security at Synagogues and schools
          • Broadening the legal definition of anti-Semitism
          • Increasing penalties for those who commit antisemitic attacks, elevating them above other hate crimes
          • Increase penalties for those who post antisemitic hate speech online
          • Implementing the entire catalogue of recommendations from the Independent Expert Group on anti-Semitism
          • Calling on all party leaders to dismiss anti-Semites from their groups
          • Dissolving several far-right groups

          In the end, let’s remember one important fact: The hatred that began with the Jewish people, did not ended with the Jewish people. Seventy-five years ago, when it was all over, Germany’s foray into the darkness of anti-Semitism left 6 million Jews dead. But you should never forget that it also left Germany in ruins and 60 million more dead around the world.

          This is where the hatred of Jews will lead and for your sake as well as mine, it must never happen again.

          Ronald S. Lauder, born 1944 in New York, is an American businessman, diplomat and the president of the World Jewish Congress.

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