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Germany: Antisemitic incidents in Berlin hit record levels

May 22, 2024

The number of incidents reported in the German capital increased by almost 50% in 2023, according to new figures. The majority of cases were documented after the October 7 terror attack on Israel.

People wave Israeli flags in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin during a demonstration against antisemitism in October 2023.
The number of antisemitic incidents in the German capital increased by almost 50% in 2023, according to new figures.Image: Annegret Hilse/REUTERS

A total of 1,270 antisemitic incidents were documented in Berlin in 2023, according to Germany's Federal Association of Departments for Research and Information on Antisemitism (RIAS).

The figure represents an almost 50% increase on the previous year and the highest number of incidents in the capital in a single calendar year since RIAS began its work in 2015.

According to RIAS, over 60% of incidents were recorded between October 7, when the Palestinian militant Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel, killing around 1,200 Israelis and taking about 250 more hostages, and the end of 2023, by which time a humanitarian crisis had unfolded in Gaza following  Israel's retaliatory operation. 

What the RIAS report said about antisemitic incidents in Berlin

A total of 783 antisemitic incidents were recorded in Berlin after October 7, the annual report revealed.

RIAS has been recording an average of about 10 antisemitic incidents a day in Berlin since the start of the current war.

"October 7, 2023, was a watershed moment," the report notes. "Since then, antisemitism has been significantly more present in Berlin, with previously existing forms of antisemitism hardening and intensifying."

The RIAS report also finds that antisemitic incidents in the capital have become more violent in nature, with 34 antisemitic assaults recorded.

One of the most serious incidents was an arson attack on a synagogue in central Berlin's Mitte district on the night of October 17-18, while another case details how a man threw a firework at two people who were speaking Hebrew in a bar.

Online antisemitism has increased, too, with the RIAS report documenting 41 cases of antisemitic abuse directed at Jewish social media users.

Although the figures in the RIAS report are restricted to 2023, statistics from Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office released at the start of May 2024 reveal that the trend has continued, with a total of 793 antisemitic offenses, including 14 acts of violence committed across Germany between January and March 2024 alone.

"It is frustrating to repeatedly point out the consistently high numbers of antisemitic violence in Germany, but it is necessary," commented Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, at the time.

Report: Rise in antisemitic incidents in Germany

How criticism of Israel descends into antisemitism

According to the RIAS report, a key pattern of antisemitic abuse is the way in which Jewish people are considered responsible and accountable for the politics of the State of Israel — and not just in Germany.

In the context of the recent pro-Palestinian protests on university campuses across the United States, Robert Williams, executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation, told DW: "There are always valid reasons to protest the actions of any government. But more often than not, as of late, we've seen protests directed at the State of Israel devolve into antisemitic rhetoric and the use of antisemitic images.

"If you are blaming the entire Jewish diaspora, Jews around the world, for the actions of the Israeli government, that is a form of antisemitism," he explained.

"If you are using images that show Jews as somehow particularly murderous, that's playing on medieval anti-Jewish stereotypes that have been with us for almost a century, and that is a form of antisemitism.

"Unfortunately, we're seeing too many cases of antisemitism around anti-Israel criticism right now," Williams said.

Campus protests: Pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli?

mf/rt (dpa, KNA)