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August 10, 2020 1:38 pm

Rising Antisemitism Presents ‘Dire’ Threat to Germany, Head of Top National Security Agency Warns

avatar by Ben Cohen

A ‘kippah rally’ in Berlin in April 2018 expressing solidarity with Germany’s Jewish community. Photo: Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch.

The head of one of Germany’s national security agencies has warned that his country is facing a “dire” situation in terms of rising antisemitism.

In an interview ahead of Monday’s publication of his department’s 100-page report on antisemitism, Thomas Haldenwang — president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the government agency tasked with defending Germany’s democratic institutions from extremists on right and left — noted that antisemitic crimes committed by right-wing extremists “increased by 71 percent in 2018 and by another 17 percent last year.”

Added Haldenwang, in an extensive conversation with the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Saturday: “In the everyday life of our Jewish citizens, this means they are often exposed to insults, threats and attacks.”

Haldenwang underlined that “when Jewish citizens tell me that they are wondering when the time will come to leave Germany — that they have even reached this point — then the situation is dire.”

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He said that the goal of the state was to ensure “that everyone in this country can wear a kippah whenever and wherever they want: Just as we have to ensure that everyone can wear a cross around their necks or a crescent moon without being afraid.”

The report by Haldenwang’s office highlighted an “informal network” of right-wing extremists who were working in key areas ranging from the domestic intelligence service to certain media outlets. Antisemitic propaganda was being “skillfully” repackaged to appeal to a broader public, it said.

“The old hatred is becoming more socially acceptable,” the report asserted. “The limits of what can be said shift in favor of the antisemites.”

Haldenwang emphasized that antisemitic messages were implicit in many of the conspiracy theories embraced on the right, such as the claim that the billionaire financier George Soros, who is Jewish, was funding a “globalist” threat to national governments.

Such attacks symbolized the “typical, poorly veiled antisemitism of the New Right — not clearly stated, but clearly indicated,” said Haldenwang.

The same report observed that after right-wing extremists, Islamists were the main culprits in attacks on Germany’s Jewish community.

While hostility to Jews on the far right was frequently based on discredited racist tropes, the report said, among Islamists, prejudice against Jews was grounded in “the anti-Zionist enemy image of the ‘Jewish State of Israel.'”

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