Antisemitism Is Alive — and Thriving — in Modern-Day Germany
The German national antisemitism commissioner, Felix Klein, published an article on May 3, titled, “There is a threat of unrestrained Jew-hatred in Germany.” He started off by listing a number of antisemitic events in Western countries that had taken place in the course of a single week. Klein wrote: “Sometimes it is a hatred of Jews fed by a right radical worldview, on another occasion it is unrestrained Muslim antisemitism, yet another originates in a left ideology seemingly characterized by undivided humanism. Each time the picture of the enemy is the same: the Jews.”
Klein adds: “In parallel, far too frequently the Jewish state of Israel appears. Under the pretext of ‘criticism of Israel’ the hatred of Jews is increasingly expressed without restraint for Israel, the Jew among the states. It is of course totally uninteresting how Jews — or Israelis — in fact behave. The antisemite will always hate Jews irrespective of their behavior. This is the simple but dangerous principle of antisemitism.”
Klein’s article was exceptional for a few reasons. First, for decades, the official German version — backed by distorted statistics — had been that antisemitism in the country came almost entirely from the right.
Second, Klein wrote explicitly about “Muslim antisemitism.” The official German version calls it “Islamist antisemitism.” A few weeks ago, a taboo-breaking report by the German domestic intelligence services was titled “Antisemitism and Islamism.” Klein did not make that distinction.
Klein, who was appointed to his position in April 2018, had prepared the ground for his article over the past few months. In January, he said in an interview on German public radio that antisemitic and anti-constitutional positions had been expressed by the right wing party, AfD. He added that the party’s attacks on the German culture of remembrance have triggered secondary antisemitism. As examples of antisemitism, Klein mentioned the inclusion of the prohibition on male circumcision and ritual slaughter in the AfD party platform.
In a newspaper interview in the same month, Klein also said that he had noticed increasing hostility toward Jews among Turkish immigrants, as a result of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s enmity toward Israel. In January, Klein was further quoted as deploring an “alarming historical amnesia,” which has shaken the very foundations of German democracy.
Still, in his recent article, Klein didn’t get everything right. He said that the position of the German government was extremely clear: “The state of law has to fight antisemitism determinedly and relentlessly with all means available. That is irrespective of whether it comes from the right, the left, society’s mainstream, the Muslim community, or from BDS apologists dressed up as human rights advocates.”
It would be wonderful if that were Germany’s reality. However, in February, police stood by when neo-Nazis demonstrated at the former Nazi Party grounds in Nuremberg. They also posed with torches on the grandstand where Adolf Hitler spoke in the 1930s.
Even worse, on May 1, in Plauen in Saxony, about 500 right-wing extremists marched with drums and flags through the town. Most of these neo-Nazis wore t-shirts which said: “National, Revolutionary, Socialist.” They shouted: “Illegal foreigners out and the others as well, stop the asylum flood, national socialists now!” The authorities did not intervene. They had permitted the march.
Klein concludes his recent article by saying that Germany is still far from the relentless antisemitism which exists elsewhere. Yet, in fact, for the informed observer of European affairs, the German case is par for the course when it comes to antisemitism and hatred of Jews and Israel.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank.