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Germany has 'civic duty' to fight anti-Semitism

May 31, 2019

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said German society must oppose anti-Semitism on a daily basis. His remarks came a day before a planned Quds Day march in Berlin protesting against Israel.

A man in Berlin wearing a kippah
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

Amid a public debate of Jews in Germany wearing yarmulkes in public, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Friday that anti-Semitism in Germany "is an attack on all of us."

"We cannot accept it if Jews don't dare to wear kippas in our streets," Steinmeier said. "It is our civic duty to fight anti-Semitism in all forms. And it is the exceptional duty of the state to protect our fellow Jewish citizens and to step in when necessary — also and even during demonstrations and public events.

"Anti-Semitism is always an attack on all of us, on our democracy and our open society," he added "An active civil society must oppose this on a daily basis. Only when Jews are completely at home in Germany is this country completely at home."

Read more: Jews in Europe alarmed by rising anti-Semitism

Al Quds day protest

The remarks were part of a conversation between the German president and Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, according to a press release circulated by the president's office.

Schuster has called on Germany to ban the Al-Quds march in Berlin, an anti-Israel demonstration on Saturday. According to police, about 2,000 people have registered to take part in the protest.

Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem and means "the holy." Al-Quds day was proclaimed in 1979 and marks the occupation of East Jerusalem by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.

Read more: German parliament condemns 'anti-Semitic' BDS movement

Sign of solidarity with Jews

Kippa debate

Germany's anti-Semitism commissioner, Felix Klein, made headlines earlier this week when he warned Jews in Germany against wearing kippas, also called a yarmulke, in some public places to avoid anti-Semitic attacks. The comments drew criticism from the Jewish community, with some saying it was his job to make sure Jews could wear kippas everywhere in Germany.

Ahead of Saturday's Al-Quds march, Klein said all Germans should wear kippahs as a sign of solidarity and a counter-protest to the Quds demonstration. 

Read more: Poland and Israel at odds over Holocaust restitution

In an interview with DW on Friday, Klein said both statements were meant to be provocative and start a conversation about anti-Semitism in Germany.

"We have to show as citizens that we do not accept anti-Semitism and that it has no place in Germany," he told DW. 

"Many people in Germany and in Europe think that the kippa comes from somewhere else — it's not adherent to our culture. That's not true. The kippa always belonged to Germany and to Europe. It is part of the Jewish culture and Jewish culture is part of German culture," Klein added.

In regards to Saturday's Al-Quds march, Klein said: "It's absolutely unacceptable that, in 2019, we hear anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish slogans in Germany. I think we should all stand up against that. We should unite as German society, saying we do not accept any form of anti-Semitism here."

dv/sms (dpa, epd, KNA)

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