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May 7, 2021 12:14 pm

German Antisemitism Commissioner Calls for Nationwide Ban on Display of Nazi-Era ‘Jewish Stars’ at Coronavirus Protests

avatar by Ben Cohen

A placard held by a demonstrator at a coronavirus protest in Munich, Germany, reads “No Place for Nazis.” Photo: Reuters/Alexander Pohl/Sipa USA.

Germany’s leading official tasked with combating antisemitism has called for a nationwide ban on the display of “Judenstern” badges and other symbols associated with the Nazi era at demonstrations against coronavirus prevention policies.

In an interview with the Taggespiegel newspaper on Friday, Felix Klein — the federal government’s antisemitism commissioner — called for municipalities across Germany to follow the example of Munich, which in June 2020 banned the “Judenstern,” or “Jews’ Star” from demonstrations in the city opposed to the wearing of masks, vaccinations and similar government initiatives to overcome the pandemic.

“When people attach so-called Jewish stars to demonstrations, thereby making comparisons that relativize the Holocaust, the possibilities of regulatory law should be used,” Klein said. “The city of Munich has stipulated in the requirements for such demonstrations that the display of these so-called Jewish stars is not permitted. If they are displayed anyway, the police intervene. I hope that other cities will follow Munich’s example, and I support this.”

Klein’s comments came against the background of another documented rise in antisemitic outrages across Germany during 2020, much of it fueled by coronavirus conspiracy theories. According to German federal government figures released in February, at least 2,275 crimes with an antisemitic background were logged over a 12-month period ending in January 2021. Some 55 of those attacks were acts of violence.

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“Unfortunately, it has been a tradition in Germany for centuries that Jews are held responsible for crises,” Klein said. “This mostly comes from right-wing extremists and conspiracy ideologues. But there are also anti-Jewish arguments on the left.”

Klein observed that the coronavirus protests had brought previously disparate groups of extremists together. “Antisemitism is the glue that holds the very different groups together,” he argued. “Of course, not all opponents of the corona measures are antisemites. But people who claim that they are in the mainstream of society allow antisemites to hijack the protests.”

Klein also addressed the phenomenon of antisemitism masked as opposition to Zionism or the State of Israel, in the wake of a demonstration in Berlin on May 1 where slogans calling for the elimination of the Jewish state were chanted.

“Israel-related antisemitism … is the most widespread form of antisemitism — and also the form to which there is the least resistance in society,” Klein said. “We have to fight every form of hostility towards Jews. Israel-related antisemitism in particular is often misunderstood and underestimated. But there is no such thing as harmless antisemitism.”

Klein’s comments on the coronavirus protests in Germany coincided with growing concern in other countries about the appropriation of Holocaust symbols by anti-vaccination activists. The latest row erupted in the US on Thursday, when a law professor compared the prospect of “vaccine passports” to the plight of Jews under Nazi rule during a committee hearing of the Michigan House of Representatives.

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