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Hostility to Jews 'not just a Jewish problem'

Timothy Jones with epd, KNA, dpa
April 30, 2017

A leading figure in Germany's Jewish community, Charlotte Knobloch, said renewed hostility to Jews needs a visible counter-signal. She was speaking on the 72nd anniversary of the freeing of the Dachau concentration camp.

Deutschland Gebet in der Neuen Synagoge in Freiburg in Erinnerung an die Reichskristallnacht
Image: picture alliance/dpa/W. Rothermel

Jews in Germany need a clear signal that their worries and warnings are being taken seriously amid a recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents in the country, a leading Jewish figure said on Sunday, calling for an "anti-Semitism" commissioner in the chancellor's office.

Charlotte Knobloch, the former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said it had to be made clear that hostility toward Jews was not seen only as a problem of the Jewish community.

Jewish Berliners encounter anti-Semitism

She said measures aimed at effectively countering anti-Semitism should be introduced before elections in September and criticized the "half-heartedness" of authorities in dealing with "obviously wrong developments and steps backward." 

'Victims of exclusion and hostility'

Knobloch, who is now president of the "Israelitische Kultusgemeinde München und Oberbayern" (Israelite Religious Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria), noted that 70 years after the Holocaust, Jewish people were again becoming victims of exclusion and hostility. Verbal and physical violence directed at Jewish people and institutions were on the increase, and the word "Jew" had again become an insult in schools and football stadiums, she said.

She also criticized authorities for not taking anti-Semitism among Muslims living in Germany seriously enough.

With elections coming up in a few months time, Knobloch also took aim at right-wing nationalist parties and movements that have been gaining support of late not only in Germany but across Europe, saying that the word "populism" was being misused.

"Neither PEGIDA and their ilk nor the AfD [Alternative for Germany] nor National Front are populists," she said, warning that the term was too weak to cover dangerous phenomena that threatened to destroy the "peace project of the century," the European Union.

"Nationalism remains nationalism. Anti-Semitism remains anti-Semitism. Racism remains racism - the blue cloak cannot hide the brown heart of the AfD," she said, comparing the party's signature color with that associated with the Nazis.

Deutschland Charlotte Knobloch Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz
Knobloch: Racism remains racismImage: picture alliance/dpa/M. Balk

New forms of anti-Semitism

Her comments came at a commemoration marking the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, where tens of thousands of mainly Jewish prisoners died during the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945.

A recent independent report submitted to form the basis of parliamentary discussions in Germany noted that new forms of anti-Semitism were arising in Germany, often in conjunction with criticism of Israel. It concluded that hostility to Jews existed on both extreme sides of the political spectrum and among Muslims.

Last year, 644 anti-Semitic crimes were reported in Germany, although the actual number is likely to have been higher as not all incidents are reported to authorities. The report said most of the crimes were committed by right-wing anti-Semites.

Deutschland KZ Dachau
Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945Image: picture-alliance/Pacific Press/A. Ronchini