‘Salon anti-Semitism’ spreading in Germany, film festival head says

BERLIN (JTA) — Germany’s worsening economic situation is strengthening the far-right, German actor Christian Berkel,  co-patron of the Jewish Film Festival Berlin & Potsdam, told a local newspaper.

It is not just neo-Nazis who are susceptible, said Berkel, 55, noting a kind of “salon anti-Semitism” that is increasingly acceptable in mainstream society. “Criticism of Israel is used as an indirect means to comment negatively about Jews in general,” Berkel told the daily newspaper Märkische Allgemeine, on the eve of the festival’s
opening Monday.

Such events, which bring out the diversity of Jewish life and viewpoints, are important in helping combat the problem, he said, adding that  “the fact that there is Jewish life in Germany is also a victory over the attempted genocide by the National Socialists.”

Berkel, whose mother fled Nazi Germany and whose father reportedly was a military doctor, said he is particularly sensitive to anti-Semitism past and present. On the Jewish film festival website, he describes himself as part of “a generation that had to seek out these stories because it was too difficult for our parents – on both sides – to tell them.”

The 19-year-old film festival is directed by Nicola Galliner, who was born in England to parents who had fled Nazi Germany. Among those expected at Monday night’s gala event are Israel’s ambassador to Germany Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, and Germany’s Minister of Culture Bernd Neumann. Israeli film director Eran Riklis and actor Abdallah El Akal will discuss Riklis’ 2012 film “Zaytoun,” which is to be screened at Potsdam’s Hans Otto Theater.

The festival, which awards several prizes, features 33 films from 8 countries this year – including ten from Israel, and discussions with filmmakers and other guests. It is funded in part by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the Press and Information Office of the federal government and several state and local industrial and governmental foundations.

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