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Anti-Semitism in Berlin

Andre Leslie / aiSeptember 29, 2012

After an attack on a Berlin rabbi on month ago, the German capital has been rocked by two new antisemitic incidents. The Jewish community says society as a whole needs to combat anti-Semitism.

Berlin synagogue (picture: Soeren Stache/ dpa)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

On Wednesday (26.09.2012), the Secretary General of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Stephan Kramer, was threatened with an attack. On the same day, a taxi driver in Berlin refused to drive a family to a synagogue. Both cases have been picked up by the police for investigation.

Daniel Alter (picture: Florian Schuh/ dpa)
Rabbi Daniel Alter said his attackers were of Arab originImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The two incidents took place only about a month after an attack on a rabbi that made the headlines across Germany - 53-year-old Daniel Alter was beaten up by a group of teenagers and verbally abused for being Jewish. The victim said the attacks were of Arab origin.

But Levi Salomon, anti-Semitism commissioner for the Jewish Community of Berlin organization, does not think that Berlin has become any more anti-Semitic than it was. "This city is a mirror of society in general," he said. "I believe that anti-Semitism is simply deeply rooted in Germany."

Klaus Wowereit (picture: Jörg Carstensen/ dpa)
Wowereit called on civil society to condemn any form of anti-SemitismImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The two incidents that took place this week received media coverage from all the major papers in Berlin. The Berliner Zeitung daily wrote in an editorial that society had to react: "It is not enough to ask for the voice of reason. A threat to Berlin's Jewish community is an attack on social order that we cannot accept."

Deep roots

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit strongly criticized the incidents and called on the capital's citizens to take a stand. "Beyond the reaction of the security authorities, it remains society's task to condemn any form of anti-Semitism and xenophobia," he said in a press release.

The incidents took place on Yom Kippur, one of the most important of Jewish religious holidays, though whether this was the motivation for the attacks remains unclear. Speaking through her spokesman on the same day, Angela Merkel had wished all Jews in Germany a good Yom Kippur.

Berlin flashmob
In response to the attack on Daniel Alter, a Berlin flashmob protested against intolerance and anti-SemitismImage: dapd

Bad timing

Salomon believes the political debate on religious circumcision is part of the reason why anti-Semitic attacks in Germany are on the rise. In May 2012, a Cologne court had ruled that the circumcision of boys amounted to bodily harm and was therefore against the law. Both Jewish and Muslim organizations have strongly criticized the ruling. The German parliament is now create a legal basis for allowing religious circumcision, which is to come into effect this autumn.

Though many politicians are alert to the problem of anti-Semitism, some in society see an opportunity to now express their xenophobic feelings, says Salomon. He believes the best way to combat anti-Semitism is to gradually change perceptions in society. "A debate on the future of Judaism in Germany is not only advisable – it is necessary," he said.