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‘Never Show That You Are a Jew’: An Old and New Reality in Germany

Omer Messinger/NurPhoto/Getty Images

‘Never Show That You Are a Jew’: An Old and New Reality in Germany

‘Anti-Semitism is once again socially acceptable; inhibitions have fallen.’

In Germany, “anti-Semitism is becoming socially acceptable,” president of the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Anti-Semitism Levi Salomon said on April 3 in an interview with German daily newspaper Tagesspiegel. His comments came after widespread reports in the media of a 14-year-old Jewish boy who was attacked by fellow classmates at a school in Berlin last month.

Salomon recounted the advice that his grandfather gave him before his death: “Never show that you are a Jew in public” (Trumpet translation throughout). Though his grandfather’s viewpoint was shaped by a cruel past, it is reality again today.

“Such incidents are more and more frequent, not just in Berlin. It is urgently necessary that the federal government sets up an anti-Semitism commissioner as organizations and communities have been long demanding, especially at a time when anti-Semitism is becoming socially acceptable,” Salomon told Tagesspiegel.

Last year, nongovernment research and information center Anti-Semitism Berlin (rias) reported 470 cases of anti-Semitism in Berlin alone. Seventeen of them included physical attacks. In the case of the 14-year-old Jewish boy, the attackers were Arab and Turkish children.

According to a 2010 study, anti-Semitism in Germany is more widespread among Arabic and Turkish adolescents than among young people without a migration background. German media still widely portray anti-Semitism as a problem mainly among Muslim students. But is this still the case? In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine, director of the project “School Without Racism—School With Courage” Sanem Kleff said:

There is also an anti-Semitic attitude in Germany that originates from the unspeakable Nazi-ideology which is still partly widespread. There are right-wing-oriented young people in the majority of society who offend classmates with discriminatory statements. On the other hand, children with a migration background do the same, especially if they are from a family with a biographical and political Islamic relationship to Middle East as a region. Then the political Israel is a big issue.

Bild reported that 2016 reached another “new sad record” in anti-Semitic offenses. Whether German or Muslim, the next generation is increasingly more hostile. Although German politicians and the majority of the population promote a Jewish-friendly Germany, the trend turns against them.

“History shows that anti-Semitism is a measure of global tension,” wrote Trumpet contributing editor Brad Macdonald.

“For centuries, anti-Semitism has been a valve through which mounting tensions are released!” he wrote. “When the plague decimated Europe in the late Middle Ages, for example, blame was pinned by many on the Jews.”

Rising anti-Semitism within Germany and around the world is a dangerous sign of instability. To learn more, read Brad Macdonald’s article “Anti-Semitism: Why You Should Be Alarmed.” 

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