The legacy of anti-Semitism still haunts Germany.
The evidence, as Germany marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Saturday, is unavoidable. There are swastikas on buildings, desecrated Jewish cemeteries, anti-Semitic comments flooding social media, Israeli flags burned at demonstrations and physical assaults on Jews.
“It seems like Germany has been hit by a new wave of hatred for everything Jewish,” Marcel Furstenau, a commentator for Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international public broadcaster, told Fox News.
According to the latest figures available from the Ministry of the Interior, there were 1,468 anti-Semitic offenses reported in 2016.
Jewish leaders like Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Jewish Community of Munich and Northern Bavaria, express frustration with the situation. Knobloch laments the fact that, more than 70 years after the Holocaust, Jewish public life is not possible without police protection.
Hatred emanating from the more than 4 million Muslims living in Germany exacerbates traditional forms of anti-Semitism.
“Muslims blindly accept anti-Semitism and transport it unfiltered as it is practiced in their former homelands,” said Knobloch, who praises Germany as a freedom-loving country committed to democratic values.
German Jews are concerned about the 1.5 million Muslim refugees who entered Germany in 2015-16 because many come from countries where hatred of Jews is doctrine.
A recent American Jewish Committee study finds anti-Semitism on the rise in Berlin schools. That finding corresponds with an increase in militant Islamic views held by persons with Arab and Turkish backgrounds.
An incident in Berlin’s Freidenau neighborhood provides an example of anti-Semitism in the schools. A Jewish teenager was strangled until he lost consciousness when he told his classmates he was Jewish.
Wenzel Michalski, German director of Human Rights Watch and the teenager’s father, said one classmate claimed he couldn’t have any friend who is a Jew. “You are all murderers,” he told Michalski’s son. Other classmates launched similar attacks.
Last year, the teenager endured four months of verbal abuse, beatings and a mock execution with a toy gun that looked real. His parents eventually transferred him to another school because authorities did not take adequate measures to remedy the situation.
“I felt such pain that we were not able to protect our son during this ordeal,” said his mother, Gemma.
Taboos about public expressions of anti-Semitism are vanishing, and revisionist views of the Holocaust are emerging. The far-right political party, Alternative for Germany (AFD), which won stunning victories in the 2017 national elections and is now the third-largest party in the Bundestag, has a nativist agenda that makes minorities anxious about a return of Nazi-era German nationalism. The AFD extols German World War II heroism and rejects any sense of shame for the Holocaust.
Another factor contributing to anti-Semitism, according to Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office, is the fact that many Germans, as well as Muslims, are anti-Israel and blame Jews for Israel’s actions.
“There is little separation, in the minds of many, between Jews and Israel,” she said.
The German government is attempting to address this growing anti-Semitism.
A recently enacted law, authored by Christian Democratic Party member Dr. Stephan Harbarth, provides for the deportation of anti-Semitic refugees.
“Anyone who lives in Germany needs to understand that anti-Semitism has no place in our society,” said Harbarth. “And Israel’s right to exist is an integral part of our country’s doctrine.”
“Just one act of anti-Semitism is one too many in Germany,” said German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert.
Germany has many memorials to Holocaust victims and will observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Saturday, marking 73 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp.
“The Germans are very good in hiding their anti-Semitism from themselves,” said Michalski. “They are world champions in building memorials, but the danger is that they are burying their anti-Semitism under those monuments until they think that it doesn’t exist anymore.”