BERLIN, Germany — Anti-Semitism in Germany is not just a marginal phenomenon confined to neo-Nazis or Islamists, a new independent report has found. Rather it is rooted in the wider society, with one in five Germans being latently hostile to Jews.
The group of experts commissioned by the German parliament to examine the issue published their report on Monday, and they came up with deeply worrying findings. They concluded that anti-Semitism could be found “right at the heart of society.”
“Anti-Semitism in our society is based on widespread prejudices, deeply rooted clichés and sheer ignorance about Jews and Judaism,” one of the experts, historian Peter Longerich, said at the launch of the report in Berlin.
One of the places where anti-Semitic utterances are most frequently to be heard is on the football terraces. Chants such as “Jews belong in the gas chambers,” “Auschwitz is here again,” and “synagogues must burn,” are often heard during lower-league games. And in many schools “You Jew!” is used as a general insult.
Overall, the report found, latent anti-Semitism is to be found in around 20 percent of the population. The expert panel of 10 was appointed in 2008 and part of its remit is to regularly produce reports and come up with recommendations to fight anti-Semitism.
The experts examined various areas of life in Germany, including work, leisure and media. They found that the Internet is playing a decisive role in the dissemination of hateful propaganda, particularly with young people. The far-right, Holocaust deniers and extremist Islamists used the Internet as a platform for spreading their views.
The far-right neo-Nazis are estimated to be the most important source of anti-Semitism in Germany. Around 90 percent of anti-Semitic crimes are carried out by far-right members. And it is a sort of ideological glue, helping to bind together different far-right groups. According to German intelligence agencies there are around 26,000 neo-Nazis in Germany.
Hatred of Jews is also found among different Islamist groups. The domestic intelligence agency estimates that there are 29 Islamist groups in Germany, with around 37,400 members. And anti-Semitism is also a “constituent element of their ideology.” Such groups often deny the Holocaust and reject Israel’s right to exist.
While it may be easy to outline the problem, coming up with a remedy is more difficult.
“There is no comprehensive strategy to fight anti-Semitism in Germany,” warned Juliane Wetzel, of the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism, based at the Technical University of Berlin.
It was something that could only be fought in the long term and with sustainable measures, she argued. Unfortunately, projects up to now have been uneven and uncoordinated, she said.
The authors warned against taking comfort from the fact that anti-Semitism was even more widespread in some other countries such as Poland, Portugal and Hungary.
“Germany, despite constantly coming to terms with its National Socialist past and the widespread public tabooing of anti-Semitism, still has higher levels than West European countries like Italy, Great Britain, the Netherlands and France.”