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June 28, 2021 3:36 pm
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‘Hostility from All Directions’: National Report Confirms Rise in German Antisemitism Fueled by Pandemic

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Protesters demonstrate in front of the Reichstag, during a rally against government restrictions related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, in Berlin, Germany, Aug. 29, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Christian Mang.

According to a comprehensive annual report released on Monday, Germany saw a rise in antisemitic acts in 2020 driven by incidents related to the coronavirus and cases of abusive behavior at rallies against measures to control the pandemic.

Antisemitic incidents documented by the Federal Association of Departments for Research and Information on Antisemitism (RIAS) last year amounted to 1,909 — an increase of 450 acts compared with 2019, the association’s 2020 report said. That added up to an average of 159 antisemitic incidents per month, or over five incidents per day.

“Danger to Jews comes from many sides: conspiracist milieu during the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Israel activists during escalations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, plus the constant threat from right-wing extremism,” said Benjamin Steinitz, executive director of RIAS. “Antisemitism is still multifaceted in Germany, and open expression of this hate is increasingly normalized. No matter in what form it must be resolutely ostracized and rejected.”

An analysis of documented incidents showed that there were fewer physical assaults and threats in 2020, also due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. But a number of activists used the crisis as an opportunity to express themselves in an antisemitic manner — becoming especially pronounced in the protests against anti-COVID measures, with one quarter of all documented incidents found to be directly related to the pandemic. 284 cases involved antisemitic content appearing at rallies against COVID-19 measures in speeches, on signs or on clothing. A large number of rallies throughout Germany involved antisemitic conspiracy myths and trivialization of the Shoah.

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On a geographical comparison, three of the four regional reporting offices that participated in the nationwide documentation registered more antisemitic incidents than in the year before: 30% more in Bavaria, 13% in Berlin, 3% in Brandenburg. Only Schleswig-Holstein saw a slight decrease, of 5%. For the first time, RIAS also published figures for the rest of Germany, where 472 antisemitic incidents were recorded.

A third of all recorded antisemitic incidents nationwide, or 644, took place online. Of these, 550 incidents were reported in Berlin.

“Insults at school or during sport events, hate messages on the Internet, arson attacks on synagogues — these are also part of the reality of life for Jewish people 1,700 years after the first mention of Jewish communities in what is now the Federal Republic of Germany,” commented Abraham Lehrer, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. “Unfortunately, this is nothing new for the post-war history of this country either. But while we experience hostility from all directions, we notice a loud silence from the middle of society, especially on Israel-related antisemitism.”

The report found a lower proportion of Israel-related antisemitism in 2020, although it noted the recent openly antisemitic rallies on Germany’s streets — as well as the assaults on and threats against Jewish individuals and institutions in May of 2021 — suggested that tendency is not likely to repeat itself this year.

“The massive mobilization of antisemitism from different social and political milieus poses an increasing danger. Therein lies the dangerous dynamic of antisemitism. As the report shows, growing antisemitism from the right-wing extremist milieu was joined by antisemitic conspiracist mobilization in the context of the pandemic,” said Kim Robin Stoller, director of the International Institute for Education and Research on Antisemitism (IIBSA). “This year, the numerous antisemitic incidents in the context of the war by the terrorist organization Hamas show the antisemitic mobilization ability of Arab, Turkish and Palestinian nationalist and Islamist forces.”

RIAS was founded in October 2018 to ensure uniform recording and documentation of antisemitic incidents by civil society organizations nationwide.

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