Saturday, 24 Feb 2018 - 9 of Adar, 5778

Holocaust Remembrance Day in Germany

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Though Germans don’t participate in compulsory public ceremonies coinciding with Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Ha Shoah), news media this week were full of stories about the Nazi genocide, and inevitably, the state of anti-Semitism today.

For a country with less than a hundred thousand Jews, it can briefly feel like the community is a lot larger. Granted, as memories or ghosts, but still undeniably present in ways that other minorities, of much greater size, are not.

The release of the Independent Expert Group on Anti-Semitism report on Monday (24 April), to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Day, contends that Germany pays too little attention to contemporary forms of anti-Jewish racism: 644 instances of Judeophobic crime were reported in 2016.

Unsurprisingly, the report emphasises the role of Arabs and Muslims and their feelings for Israel, and the role that the Jewish state plays in contemporary anti-Semitism.

For 40% of those Germans surveyed, Israel is key to their racism. The finding is particularly prescient for some experts, for whom anti-Semitism is often more closely tied to the Arab-Israeli conflict than European populism, or Hitler’s Nazis.

However, just when you start to scratch your head and wonder what happened to Deutschland, the report noted that the highest number of anti-Semitic crimes in the country was committed by right-wingers, not Muslims. In fact, little or no link could be found between the Islam of Turkish and Arab Germans, and their views of Jews.

The study found that young people with migrant backgrounds in the former USSR were more likely to harbour anti-Semitic feelings than Middle Eastern immigrants.

The findings are indeed surprising, given the extent to which populist politicians throughout Europe have, in recent years, sought to cultivate Jewish support by brandishing pro-Israeli, anti-Muslim credentials.

Marine Le Pen, of course, has built a small Jewish following, particularly among French Jews of North African descent, who appreciate her anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Geert Wilders, and most recently, German AfD leader Frauke Petry, have portrayed themselves in a similar light, though few, if any German Jews will ever take Petry seriously.

Still, the high number of hate crimes speak for themselves. The fact that they’re being carried out by a broad cross-section of Germans is what’s most troubling. Not because they all share antipathy for Jews, but because the prejudice is so widespread. The key, or so the report’s data suggests, is that this anti-Semitism coincides with Islamophobia, directed at Muslims and refugees.

Perhaps that’s why anti-Semitism remains such a topic of conversation in the Bundesrepublik, and why Israel is such a consistent part of the prejudice. It’s all about the Middle East, and an innate sense that there’s little separating Muslims and Jews.

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