‘No One Reacted,’ Says Young German Jew Assaulted in Gym Locker Room by Attacker Shouting ‘Free Palestine!’
by Ben Cohen
A young German Jew has revealed the shocking details of an antisemitic assault he was subjected to while changing in a gym locker room on Monday.
Samuel Kantorovych said on his Facebook page that he was changing in the locker room of the gym in Freiburg — a city in southwestern Germany that is home to a Jewish community of under 1,000 — when a man snuck up behind him and ripped off his kippah.
Kantorovych said that the man was shouting the epithets “You dirty Jew!” and “Free Palestine!”
The assailant, Kantorovych continued, “spat on my kippah and threw it in the garbage!”
“I was shocked!,” he explained. “He looked at me and asked me, ‘Do you want me to beat you up? F__ off you dirty Jew!'”
Kantorovych said that he had been “overwhelmed by this situation and (for whatever reason) I asked him, ‘Here, in front of everybody?'”
He wrote: “Somehow I was hoping someone in the changing room full of men would interfere…. I turned around. I looked everyone standing around in the eyes!!! No one reacted, everyone was just watching.”
The young man said that he “literally was in fear of my life realizing that no one would help me but watch! Baruch HaShem, an old man stood up and tried to calm the situation down.”
The attacker then “just walked away like nothing happened! To the staff member trying to question him he said that nothing happened and even if something happened, no one can prove it!”
Kantorovych told the local Badische Zeitung news outlet in a separate interview that 10 men had been present in the locker room during the attack.
“I had this naive idea of civil courage,” he said. “If anyone had said anything, I would not have felt so alone.” He said that he was “infinitely grateful” to the man who eventually intervened.
Freiburg police were called to the scene and are now studying Kantorovych’s kippah for traces of the assailants’ DNA.
Kantorovych said that he had resigned his gym membership out of fear that he might again encounter his attacker. “People think that antisemitism only exists on TV or in Berlin, but the reality is different,” he remarked.
Antisemitic outrages have risen sharply in Germany over the last five years. Data released by the Federal Ministry of the Interior over the summer documented a total of 1,799 antisemitic offenses in 2018 — many observers believe that number is fraction of a much larger total, as the majority of antisemitic crimes go unreported.
A survey of German public attitudes to Jews conducted by the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in October showed that more than one in four respondents agreed with a range of antisemitic statements that were based upon classic anti-Jewish tropes.