Berlin Has ‘Serious Antisemitism Problem’ Says City Commissioner, as New Stats Reveal Over 400 Incidents Targeting Jews in First Half of Year
by Ben Cohen
A slight drop in the number of antisemitic incidents in Berlin during the first half of this year is no excuse for complacency, the city’s antisemitism commissioner emphasized on Thursday following the publication of statistics for hate crimes targeting Jews in the German capital from January-June 2019.
“Antisemitism remains a serious problem that we cannot tolerate in Berlin,” Lorenz Korgel — the city’s commissioner for combating antisemitism — told local news outlet Berliner Morgenpost. “The number of antisemitic incidents remains at a high level. ”
Data assembled by RIAS Berlin, an antisemitism monitoring organization, showed that there were 404 reported antisemitic outrages during the first half of 2019 — an average of two per day. While the great majority of these incidents were confined to verbal insults and abuse, there were 13 instances of physical attacks and 20 instances of damage to Jewish communal property.
Those numbers represented a drop on the previous year, when 579 antisemitic incidents were recorded in the first half of 2018. However, according to the Taggeschau news website, the change was down in the main to a decline in the reporting of antisemitic incidents online. The level of real-world incidents remained worryingly high, the website said, highlighting that a total of 55 people had been directly targeted in public spaces around the city.
The RIAS report named three Berlin neighborhoods — Mitte, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg — where Jews were at the greatest risk of being attacked. All three sections contain high concentrations of the Muslim communities that compose 10 percent of Berlin’s overall population. Approximately 30,000 Jews live in Berlin, including a growing community of Israeli emigrants.
While 30 percent of the incidents involved far-right perpetrators, RIAS reported, the larger number are committed by pro-Palestinian Muslims.
In January, a woman traveling on a bus in the Mitte neighborhood was assaulted by a Muslim male passenger who overheard her speaking in Hebrew on her cellphone. A similar incident was reported in May, when a woman speaking Hebrew in Kreuzberg was spat upon and insulted as a “yahudi” and “child murderer.”
At the militantly anti-Zionist “Al Quds Day” rally in May, one Islamist protester told a counter-demonstrator, “Hitler needs to come back and kill the rest of the Jews.”
And in June, a young man in the Rathaus Steglitz underground station who told three men that he was Jewish after they demanded to know his religion was viciously punched to the ground without a further word being exchanged.
RIAS Berlin warned that an “antisemitic background noise” was increasingly shaping daily life in Berlin.
“The alarming thing is that someone being recognized as a Jew because of their Star of David necklace, or because they are speaking Hebrew, is enough to cause an attack,” the antisemitism monitoring group commented.