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German leaders call for crackdown on antisemitism

October 19, 2023

After a Berlin synagogue was attacked with Molotov cocktails and clashes broke out at unauthorized pro-Palestinian events, politicians have called for stricter enforcement of Germany's antisemitism laws.

A Jewish man behind police tape at the Kahal Adrass Jisroel community center in Berlin
The Berlin Public Prosecutor's Office described the "escalating character" of the arson attack on a Jewish community center on WednesdayImage: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

German leaders have called for a crackdown on antisemitism after a Jewish community center was attacked in Berlin and a number of unauthorized pro-Palestinian events were held in recent days.

"Antisemitism is out of place in Germany, and we will do everything we can to stand against it," said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday. "We will do that as citizens and as those who bear political responsibility."

Scholz added that this is also a matter of enforcing existing laws.

Opposition leader Friedrich Merz from the conservative Christian Democratic Union said he expects "a tough crackdown by police and the judiciary."

"Hatred of Jews and violent hostility against Israel must have no place in our country," Merz said.

German politicians condemn unauthorized pro-Palestinian events

The outcry from German leaders comes amid Israel's conflict with Hamas, which is categorized as a terrorist group by the US, the EU and Germany, among others.

Merz warned of an "openly erupting conflict" as a result of the war in Gaza.

On Wednesday, police arrested more than 170 people after clashes broke out at unauthorized pro-Palestinian events in Berlin.

Police said officers were pelted with stones and bottles, and a number of them were injured.

"Yes, we have a high degree of freedom of assembly, and it is also fine when people demonstrate on the streets. But what is not OK is the use of violence, and certainly not against police forces," Germany's Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said on Thursday.

"This is why I strongly condemn the attacks on police officers last night."

Investigation into synagogue arson attack

The Berlin Public Prosecutor's Office has also taken over the investigation into the attempted arson attack on a synagogue in the German capital.

Attackers threw two Molotov cocktails at a Jewish community center in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The public prosecutor's office pointed to "antisemitism" and "violence against police forces" at the pro-Palestinian rallies as well as the "escalating character" of the synagogue attack.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany has described the attempted arson as a "terrorist attack."

zc/jcg (dpa, AFP, epd)