1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

German police call for monitoring of antisemitic groups

May 17, 2021

As lawmakers look to crack down on antisemitic groups participating in pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Germany, a German police union has said officers need more information to target offenders.

German riot police at Al Nakba Day protest in Berlin, May 15
German police encounter a pro-Palestinian protest in BerlinImage: Carsten Koall/Getty Images

The chairman of the Federation of German Detectives (BDK), Sebastian Fiedler, on Monday called for closer surveillance of demonstrators during pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel protests.  

Fielder said the escalation in the Middle East conflict means security authorities need to closely observe the protest scene in Germany.

"It is crucial for German security authorities to get an even more accurate picture of the potential danger posed by violent antisemitic groups," Fiedler told Funke media group.

As the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza rages into a second week, Germany has seen vandalism on synagogues and antisemitic slurs shouted during pro-Palestinian demonstrations in several cities.

During one incident last week in the western city of Gelsenkirchen, 180 people marched from the train station to a synagogue chanting antisemitic slogans.

German lawmakers are under pressure to act, and Germany's Jewish community has called for more protection.

Germany's antisemitism commissioner, Felix Klein, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper Monday that German prosecutors need to be put in a "position to quickly and better recognize and punish antisemitism."

Police caught off guard

BDK chairman Fiedler said that situations like what happened in Gelsenkirchen show how local police were "surprised" by the "number and militancy" of the demonstrators.

He added that local police forces are already strained in containing pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protests, and it is difficult to single out antisemitic offenders during the confusion and tumult of demonstrations.

"Tougher penalties against antisemitic slogans only make sense if officers on the ground can also apprehend the offenders," Fielder said.

'Full force of law' against antisemitic protest

The president of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Schäuble, has called for tougher penalties targeting antisemitism seen during demonstrations against Israel.  

"Of course, vocal protest against Israeli policy is allowed, but there is no justification for antisemitism, hate and violence," the conservative democrat told Germany's Bild tabloid.

"The full force of the rule of law is needed against perpetrators of violence, and the greatest possible protection is needed for Jewish communities and institutions," said Schäuble.

He added that any protesters that do not clearly distance themselves during demonstrations from verbal attacks on Israel's right to exist would be "complicit."

Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz from the Social Democrats (SPD) told Funke media group that anyone caught carrying out antisemitic acts must be prosecuted. 

"For these things there is no room for pardon," said Scholz. "Offenders must feel the full force of the law."

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer made similar remarks over the weekend, telling the Bild tabloid: "We will not tolerate the burning of Israeli flags on German soil and attacks on Jewish facilities." 

What has happened during protests?

Thousands of people joined pro-Palestinian rallies in several German cities on Saturday, including Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Leipzig and Hamburg.

The protests were mostly peaceful and many demonstrators explicitly expressed their opposition to Israel's policy towards the Palestinians.

Many held up signs saying "Freedom for Palestine," "Stop the genocide," and "Against Zionists — not against Jews."

However, there were some scenes of violence and antisemitic agitation in several cities, according to German media, with protesters pelting police with stones and bottles.

Some protesters tried to burn Israeli flags, shouted expletives about Jewish people and called for the bombing of Tel Aviv.

Schäuble said Monday that the conflict in the Middle East will not be resolved in Germany and "we will not allow it to be carried out here at the expense of Jewish Germans."

wmr/nm  (dpa,AFP KNA, ENA)