Jewish life in Germany in danger, Jewish leader says


BERLIN (JTA) — A Jewish leader in Germany is pressing the government to do more to combat anti-Semitism; specifically, by appointing a special commissioner.

Charlotte Knobloch, former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said she feels Jewish life in Germany is in danger. The close of 2017 has been marked by numerous violence-tinged anti-Israel protests in Germany and a spectacular old-style, neo-Nazi outburst that set social media on fire.

The incidents prompted debate and discussion about how best to combat the problem and ensure the viability of Germany’s Jewish communities. There are some 100,000 identified members of Jewish communities nationwide, and another 100,000 who identify as Jews but are unaffiliated.

The best way to fight back is to appoint a commissioner to deal with such issues, Knobloch said in a radio interview with Heilbronner Stimme on Friday. Vandals in Heilbron, in the state of Baden-Württemberg, recently attacked and damaged a large public Hanukkah menorah.

This kind of aggressive anti-Semitism – on the street and on the Internet – have become ubiquitous, said Knobloch, who survived World War II in hiding with a non-Jewish German family and has seen the reestablishment of Jewish life across the country, including in her home city of Munich.

With the growing Jewish population – especially due to the influx of former Soviet Jews after 1990 – has come increased visibility and

increased risk. Though old-style anti-Semitism remains constant in mainstream society, the newest threat comes from political

anti-Semitism, which aims at Jews and their houses of worship or other institutions as stand-ins for Israel.

There is increasing concern about anti-Semitism among Muslims in Germany, both those who have lived in the country for decades and recent refugees who bring anti-Semitic attitudes from their home countries.

Recent anti-Israel demonstrations in German cities, triggered by U.S. President Donald Trump’s reiteration of American support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, were characterized by the burning of makeshift Israeli flags and anti-Jewish chants.

While events in the Middle East often trigger upsurges in anti-Semitism, observers also say that the rise of a right-populist political party has been accompanied by a loosening of taboos against all sorts of xenophobia in mainstream society, including the virulent

neo-Nazi variety.

In Berlin, a recent verbal barrage by a right-wing extremist against an Israeli restaurateur was captured on video, posted online, and

went viral, prompting discussion and debate about how to deal with such cases. The 60-year-old man was arrested and later released

pending an investigation.

Many Jewish leaders in Germany support the call for a government-appointed expert on anti-Semitism, to oversee the collection of data on incidents and the response nationwide.

Knobloch said the appointee must have experience and training; it should not be a mere symbolic position, she said, adding that she was

very concerned about the reported increase in anti-Semitic incidents. “[P]olice protection and … the most serious security precautions”

have become the norm, she said.

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