German diplomat to discuss ‘challenges of nationalism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism’

Herbert Quelle, Consul General for Germany to the Midwest, will speak at an AJC/Jewish Federation event on March 8. 

By Eric Berger, Staff Writer

When asked about the increase in anti-Semitism in Europe, Herbert Quelle, Consul General for Germany to the Midwest, placed most of the blame on migrants from Muslim-majority countries. 

Quelle, who will speak on March 8 at the Jewish Community Center near Creve Coeur, also pointed to xenophobia on the right but told the Jewish Light that “in absolute numbers, I would say the main concern should be, to what extent are we able to integrate people who do not have the consciousness that Germans” have “about the historic responsibility for the Shoah.” 

At the event, Quelle will speak about Germany in the wake of the influx of refugees from Syria and other Muslim-majority countries and the “challenges of xenophobia, anti-Semitism and nationalism.” The event is sponsored by AJC (American Jewish Committee), and is part of the Jewish Federation’s Shma: Listen! Speaker Series. 

The German newspaper Tagesspiegel recently reported that there were 1,453 anti-Semitic incidents in Germany in 2017 — about the same as in 2016 — according to police statistics delivered to a German political party.

The German parliament voted last month to establish a commissioner to address anti-Semitism in the country. The measure “noted that while most anti-Semitic crime in Germany is attributable to the far right, there are increased concerns about anti-Semitism among recent refugees and migrants from the Middle East and North Africa,” the JTA reported.

The mainstream political parties — with the exception of the Left Party, which abstained because of wording related to migrants — supported the measure.

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, who had long been calling for such a move, supported the move and stated that it was important to combat the problem “whether it comes from the middle of society, from right-wing extremists, or Muslims and Israel-haters.”

 “But we explicitly reject a general suspicion against Muslims or even an instrumentalization of the topic in order to exclude this religious minority,” he added.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party also introduced legislation in January that would allow German states to expel foreigners who make anti-Semitic statements, including a refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist, according to JTA. 

Quelle supports that legislation. He said that many of the more than one million refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle East countries who fled wars and entered Germany often “hold inherent anti-Israel positions.”

“Anti-semitism has always existed, and I think we have to constantly monitor what is happening in that respect and there is no reason to be complacent and to think it will go away by itself. We have to continually express our opposition to it,” Quelle said during a telephone interview.

Germany is not the only European country that has tried to address certain rhetoric through legislation. The Polish president recently approved a law that criminalizes using terms like “Polish death camps” and prohibits people from blaming the Polish state or nation for crimes the law says were perpetrated exclusively by Nazi Germany during World War II, according to JTA.

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, stated that the term “Polish death camps” is a “historical misrepresentation,” but also stated that law is “liable to blur the historical truths regarding the assistance the Germans received from the Polish population during the Holocaust.”

Quelle agrees with the historical finding that there were no Polish death camps but said that the “legislation points in the wrong direction because it intends to criminalize a discussion that any society should be open to have.”