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Study: One in four Germans harbor anti-Semitic thoughts

Rebecca Staudenmaier
October 24, 2019

More than a quarter of Germans surveyed said they agreed with anti-Semitic statements, including that Jews have "too much power over the economy." Over 40% said they thought Jews "talk about the Holocaust too much."

A man wearing a yarmulke stands in front of the synagogue in Munich, Germany
Image: Getty Images/AFP/C. Stache

Anti-Semitism is gaining a stronger foothold in German society, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing a new study from the World Jewish Congress (WJC).

Out of the 1,300 Germans who took part in the representative survey, 27% agreed with a range of anti-Semitic statements and stereotypes about Jewish people.

Some 41% said they agreed with the statement that "Jews talk about the Holocaust too much." The same portion said they believed "Jews are more loyal to Israel than to Germany."

Over 20% of respondents said they agreed that Jewish people have "too much power" over the economy, international financial markets and the media. Another 22% agreed that "people hate Jews due to the way they behave."

"These are cliches, stereotypes, envy but there is also some truth to it. Jews are successful. What's the problem with that?" Cologne Rabbi Yechiel Brukner told DW. "Why are Germans not envious that, as a percentage of the population, Jews have many more Nobel Prize winners? Why doesn't that bother anyone? What does it always concern the aspect of 'money'? Judaism places an emphasis on intellectual intelligence and that has meant that Jews are often very successful. They also work hard, but why does someone not like them for that?

"Think about this: There are still living Holocaust survivors and Germans already dare to entertain anti-Semitic thoughts — and even to take action based on them. That's incredible," Brukner added.

The survey was carried out two months ago, prior to the anti-Semitic attack targeting a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle.

Hostility towards Jews growing among 'elites'

Anti-Semitism is also growing among the wealthy and well-educated, according to the study.

Safety of Jews in Germany

The WJC found that 18% of "elites" — respondents with at least one university degree who make at least €100,000 ($111,300) per year — agreed with anti-Semitic sentiments.

Within that group, over a quarter said they believed Jewish people have "too much power over world politics" and the economy.

Read more: German groups combating far-right extremism face uncertain future

Graph on anti-Semitism in Germany

'It's time for German society to take a stand'

The president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the state of anti-Semitism in Germany has reached a "crisis point."

"We've seen what happens when ordinary people look away or remain silent," he told the paper.

Lauder added that Germany has an obligation to prevent the return of intolerance and hatred, and if one quarter of the population adheres to anti-Semitic beliefs, then the remaining three quarters must take action to defend democracy and a tolerant society in Germany.

"It's time for German society to take a stand and combat anti-Semitism head-on," he said.

Read more: In Germany, memorials for Nazi terror victims vandalized

Fear rises after Halle attack

Resistance rises

While anti-Semitism is spreading in Germany, the study found that the readiness to combat it is also growing.

Two-thirds of "elites" said they would sign a petition against anti-Semitism, while a third of all the respondents said they were willing to take part in demonstrations against anti-Semitism.

The vast majority of respondents recognized there was a rise in hostile behavior toward Jewish people in Germany, with 65% saying that rise was tied to the success of "right-wing extremist parties."

One in four respondents said it was possible that "something like the Holocaust could happen in Germany again."

Read more: German politicians slam right-wing populist AfD over rising anti-Semitism

Nastassja Shtrauchler contributed to this report.

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