‘Bolder and More Brutal’: New Report Shows Steep Increase in Antisemitic Violence in German Capital
Violent antisemitic incidents in Berlin more than doubled during the last year, against the background of an overall increase in the number acts of Jew-hatred in the German capital, a report by a leading monitoring group disclosed on Wednesday.
The report — published by Berlin’s Research and Information Center on Antisemitism (RIAS) — recorded a total of 1,083 antisemitic incidents during 2018, compared to 951 the previous year.
Over half of these incidents involved written or discursive antisemitism, such as incendiary remarks against Jews in public and the distribution of antisemitic flyers. Antisemitism rooted in hatred of Israel and Zionism was a prominent factor, with more than 600 incidents that targeted what the RIAS report classified as “Jewish/Israeli organizations,” “Jewish/Israeli individuals” and “Israel solidarity activists.”
In an incident last March — just one of dozens of examples given in the report — a wall at the Anne Frank Center in Berlin was defaced with the words “F— you Israel.” In another incident last September, a Jewish woman who entered a corner store wearing a Star of David necklace was abused as a “Jewish slut” and then thrown out.
Assessing the political motives behind these attacks, the report made clear that antisemitism in the city goes well beyond the ranks of the extreme right, attracting the involvement of some left-wing groups as well as elements of Berlin’s 300,000-strong Muslim community.
Far-right activists were responsible for 18 percent of the acts of violence, the report said. “Anti-Imperialist” and far left groups were behind 4 percent of them, while those identified separately as “anti-Israel activists” were responsible for 11 percent, and Islamists a further 2 percent. RIAS was unable to identify a clear political motive or orientation in 49 percent of the attacks reported.
Most disturbing is the soaring increase in acts of violence — 46 incidents were reported in 2018, compared with 18 the previous year.
“These attacks ranged from random encounters in the street with people perceived as Jews to attacks on political opponents legitimized by antisemitism,” RIAS observed. In most cases, the group said, the victims were wearing Jewish religious symbols or were overheard communicating in Hebrew.
The size of the Berlin Jewish community is estimated at 11,000, boosted by the presence of up to 15,000 Israeli citizens thought to be residing in the city.
The antisemitism report was widely covered in the German press on Wednesday, with news site Spiegel declaring that the RIAS figures proved that Berlin’s antisemites were becoming “bolder and more brutal.”
Benjamin Steinitz — a project leader with RIAS — told German media outlets on Wednesday that the “brutalization” of Jews in Berlin did not occur “in a vacuum.”
“In comparison to the past few years, [there is] an increasing willingness to combine antisemitic statements with specific threats of violence, or to engage in actual violence,” Steinitz said.