Anti-Semitic offenses rose almost 10 percent in Germany last year, and violent attacks were up more than 60 percent, crime statistics showed Wednesday, sparking alarm in the Jewish community.
Police recorded 1,646 offenses motivated by hatred against Jews, the highest level in a decade, said a government answer to a request by leftist Die Linke party lawmaker Petra Pau.
Among these were 62 violent offenses that left 43 people injured, up from 37 physical attacks the previous year, according to the preliminary police data.
The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, said the statistics reflected a “frightening trend” and confirmed what was already a “subjective impression among Jews.”
“Considering that acts below the threshold for criminal liability are not included, the picture darkens further,” he said, urging “a stronger commitment against anti-Semitism by politicians, the police and the judiciary.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer stressed that “there is no place for anti-Semitism in Germany” and that Jewish life in Germany must be allowed to “develop freely and safely.”
Rise of the Far-Right
Germany, like other western countries, has watched with alarm as anti-Semitic and other racist hate speech and violence have increased in recent years as the political climate has coarsened and grown more polarized.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday condemned an “unacceptable increase” in anti-Semitic hate speech, amid outrage over anti-Jewish graffiti and vandalism in and around Paris last weekend.
More than 70 years after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is once again a growing problem in Germany. In a recent poll, half of Germans surveyed said they think that Jewish people are now at risk of racist violence: https://t.co/zAiRF31LEQ pic.twitter.com/yMtDugsxz3
— CNN (@CNN) November 29, 2018
An influx of mostly Muslim refugees and migrants to Germany from 2015 drove the rise of the far-right and the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which since late 2017 is the biggest opposition group in parliament.
Leading AfD members, aside from railing against Islam and multiculturalism, have also made comments that play down the Holocaust.
Party co-leader Alexander Gauland has described Nazi Germany’s industrial-scale murder of Jews and other minorities as a mere “speck of bird poo in over 1,000 years of successful German history.”
Another leading AfD politician, the nationalist Bjoern Hoecke, has criticized Berlin’s sprawling Holocaust memorial as a “monument of shame.”
At the same time, Germany has also witnessed anti-Semitic attacks committed by migrants from Arab states.
In one prominent case last year, a 19-year-old Syrian man was convicted for assault after lashing out with his belt at an Israeli man wearing a Jewish kippa skullcap while shouting “yahudi,” Jew in Arabic.
However, the vast majority of anti-Semitic offenses were committed by far-right perpetrators, the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel reported in an article on the new crime statistics.
News of the belt attack coincided with another public outcry, over a rap duo who made light of Nazi death camp prisoners but went on to win the music industry’s sales-based Echo award, which was subsequently axed.
Pau in her statement charged that “we are seeing that militant right-wing extremists can openly call for the desecration of Jewish institutions and attacks against Jewish people.”
A rising number of people and groups in the “grey zone between conservatism and right-wing extremism are denying the Holocaust and engaging in anti-Semitic agitation,” she said.
More on the Subject
The French government called Tuesday for a firm response to a series of anti-Semitic acts over the weekend including graffiti and vandalism which have raised fresh alarm.
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux urged the police to pursue the culprits while suggesting the spate of attacks could be blamed on far-left and far-right activists who have infiltrated weekly “yellow vest” protests.
Demonstrators have gathered every Saturday in Paris since November to denounce the government of President Emmanuel Macron.