Germany’s Angela Merkel calls on public to fight anti-Semitism

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany called for civic action to fight anti-Semitism following a wave of incidents this summer in her country.

Merkel, speaking Saturday on her weekly podcast on the Internet, urged the public to attend a national rally Sept. 14 at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate under the banner of “Stand up! Say no to anti-Semitism.”

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“I will personally do everything I can, as will my entire government, to ensure that anti-Semitism doesn’t have a chance in our country,” Merkel said.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany, which organized the rally, said last week that German Federal President Joachim Gauck would speak there.

Several anti-Semitic incidents, including verbal and physical attacks, were reported this summer in Germany. Most occurred during anti-Israel protests connected with the renewed conflict with Gaza.

In the podcast, Merkel focused on the myriad attacks and said she was extremely concerned that virtually all Jewish institutions in Germany require police protection. Some 240,000 people of Jewish background are living in Germany today, including about 105,000 members of official Jewish communities. In 1933, before the Nazis came to power, there were more than 500,000 Jews in Germany.

Saying she is proud that Germany has a thriving Jewish population 69 years after the end of World War II, Merkel urged rally participants to demonstrate that “everyone who lives here is safe.”

“We also have to pay attention and not ignore signs of anti-Semitism,” Merkel said. “We have to act decisively against it.”

She said because of Germany’s responsibility for crimes against humanity during World War II, the country has a special duty to stand up against hate and for democracy.

Political action is much needed, critics say. At a pro-Israel demonstration in Frankfurt last week, Deidre Berger, head of the American Jewish Committee in Berlin, said the Bundestag should fulfill its promise of three years ago to support programs designed to teach about the Holocaust and the dangers of unbridled hate.