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July 29, 2019 12:24 pm

‘My Experience Hardly an Isolated Case,’ Victim of Antisemitic Attack in German City of Potsdam Says

avatar by Ben Cohen

A member of Berlin’s Jewish community speaking to journalists at the trial of a Syrian migrant who assaulted a man wearing a kippah. Photo: Reuters / Hannibal Hanschke.

The 25-year-old Jewish man verbally assaulted and spat on by two Syrian refugees who spotted his kippah in the German city of Potsdam on Saturday has since remarked that his experience was “hardly an isolated case.”

Speaking on Monday to the right-wing media outlet Tichys Einblick — a news and opinion site edited by Roland Tichy, a conservative columnist — the victim of Saturday’s attack said that he and other active members of the Jewish community experienced antisemitic harassment “on a weekly basis.”

Named only as Marvin F., the victim, who is a student, said that members of the community were “usually exposed to verbal insults and attacks on a weekly basis” especially when using public transport.

He emphasized that most of these incidents were almost never reported to the police, because of the common feeling among targeted Jews “that the perpetrators are often not caught anyway, or not really punished.”

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Describing his own experience, the student said that he had been spotted by two Syrian teenagers in the central railway station in the city of Potsdam — part of the Berlin region — while wearing a kippah with a Star of David symbol. The older of the two teens spat at the victim and assailed him with antisemitic and homophobic epithets, including “you dirty Jew!”, before running off.

The victim said that an elderly woman who witnessed the attack approached him encouraging him to call the police. Four officers responded promptly and the perpetrator, who had remained in the station after the attack, was arrested shortly afterward. He has since been released.

Saturday’s incident in Potsdam reignited the debate among German Jews over the safety of wearing visibly Jewish symbols in public. Last May, Felix Klein — the federally-appointed commissioner tasked with combating antisemitism — ruffled feathers inside and outside the Jewish community when he remarked it was not safe to wear kippah “everywhere, all the time” in Germany.

The victim of the attack in Potsdam concurred with that assessment, saying that he wore a kippah “most of the time,” but would never do so in certain neighborhoods.

“I wouldn’t wear my kippah in Kreuzberg, Neukölln, Ostbahnhof and Wedding,” the victim said, naming four neighborhoods in Berlin with large Muslim populations. “You would risk your health and your life. It’s in these parts of the city that Islamist hatred of Jews hits the hardest.”

In a separate interview, the head of the Jewish community in Potsdam said that he had been “shocked” by Saturday’s assault.

“I’ve always believed that Potsdam was a quiet city,” community chairman Evgeni Kutikov told local media outlet Märkische Allgemeine on Sunday. He called for Muslim migrants in Germany to “finally be informed and made aware that there are laws in Germany, and that there are consequences if you violate those laws.”

Kutikov emphasized that he would not recommend against wearing Jewish symbols in public, despite the attack.

“If it comes to the point where we have to warn against it, then for us Jews, the point will have been reached where we leave Germany and emigrate to Israel,” Kutikov said.

Antisemitic hate crimes in Germany rose by 20 percent in 2018; both the government and the police have been strongly criticized for assuming that attacks on Jews are solely the work of the far right.

Earlier this year, Marcel Luthe — a member of Berlin’s state parliament for the liberal FDP Party — claimed that up to 60 percent of antisemitic offenses in the German capital had been incorrectly blamed by police on the far right, thereby diminishing the role played by Muslim extremists and militant anti-Zionists in attacking Jewish targets.

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