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In today’s Germany, a new book makes fun of anti-Semitism through cartoons

Anti-Semitism is still a big problem in Germany. A new book called "#Antisemitismus für Anfänger” or “#Anti-Semitism for Beginners" uses humor to explore the topic.

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"Social Distancing: Members of Germany’s right-wing populist AfD party abstain from shaking hands," by Katharina Greve, “#Anti-Semitismus für Anfänger: Eine Anthologie,” Ariella Verlag, 2020.

Credit:

Courtesy of Katharina Greve/Ariella Verlag

It says a lot that in Germany today, you can find a book of cartoons called “#Antisemitismus für Anfänger” or “#Anti-Semitism for Beginners,” put out by a unique, Jewish children’s book publisher.  

But what prompted this "anti-Semitism-for-dummies" approach is that anti-Semitism is still a problem in Germany. In fact, it’s on the rise. 

Related: No Joke! How two cartoonists spurred revolution during Arab uprisings 

Katharina Greve, a Berlin-based cartoonist who contributed to “#Antisemitismus für Anfänger,” has this dark observation: “Anti-Semitism is a German tradition.”

A pink cartoon with five people talking at a party with white and black thought bubbles above their heads

“You are converting to Judaism? Why?” "We want to be part of a worldwide conspiracy, too," by Katharina Greve, “#Anti-Semitismus für Anfänger: Eine Anthologie,” Ariella Verlag, 2020. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Katharina Greve/Ariella Verlag

In one of her cartoons featured in the book, some respectable, educated, well-heeled Germans are at a party talking. 

One woman asks a couple: “You are converting to Judaism? Why?” The other woman answers: “We want to be part of a worldwide conspiracy, too.”

Related: Political cartoonists illustrate a 'fractured states of America'

Greve says Germans definitely know their history but there’s a kind of middle-class, anti-Semitism at work these days. 

“It’s a kind of micro-anti-Semitism, and everyone has a little of it in them. Sometimes, it’s to criticize Israel and to tell Israel how to act. It’s not ‘we have to kill all Jews' now. It’s to tell Israel not to make the same mistake.”

Katharina Greve, cartoonist, Germany

“It’s a kind of micro-anti-Semitism, and everyone has a little of it in them. Sometimes, it’s to criticize Israel and to tell Israel how to act. It’s not ‘we have to kill all Jews' now. It’s to tell Israel not to make the same mistake.”

A black and white cartoon of two people talking in a living room.

“I don’t call them Jews, I call them Israelis when I mock them, out of respect for our German history," by Til Mette, “#Anti-Semitismus für Anfänger: Eine Anthologie,” Ariella Verlag, 2020.

Credit:

Courtesy of Til Mette/Ariella Verlag

Til Mette is another contributor to "#Anti-Semitismus für Anfänger."" He cartoons for the popular German news magazine Stern

“We live in very very weird times. In Germany, in France, in the US, we all have the same tendencies, with right-wing extremists showing up."

Til Mette, cartoonist, Germany

“We live in very very weird times. In Germany, in France, in the US, we all have the same tendencies, with right-wing extremists showing up."

A black and white cartoon of four swastikas spray-painted on a synagogue with two people talking about who did it

“Police don’t rule out anti-Semitic motives in this attack," by Til Mette, "#Anti-Semitismus für Anfänger: Eine Anthologie," Ariella Verlag, 2020. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Til Mette/Ariella Verlag

Mette, 64, grew up at a time when Germany was coming to terms with its Nazi past and transforming itself into a strong, liberal democracy. Anti-Semitism is something he takes very seriously. 

"Especially, if you’re from Germany, you know that this is a topic that stays with you a lifetime," he said. 

In a black and white cartoon, two men talk about their kippa wearing as a dangerous act.

“Wearing a kippah seems very dangerous. I am surprised that it’s not forbidden yet," by Til Mette, "#Anti-Semitismus für Anfänger: Eine Anthologie," Ariella Verlag, 2020. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Til Mette/Ariella Verlag

Mette knows the audience for his cartoons in Stern and "#Anti-Semitismus für Anfänger" are overwhelmingly liberal, but at this point, he doesn’t know how to reach far-right neo-Nazis, some of the main stokers of anti-Semitism in Germany. He says he’s at a loss.  

“It doesn’t work to fight Nazis. They won’t look at it. We don’t have the tools to fight Nazis.”

A cartoon features two media folks talk with Nazis wearing green bomber jackets

Newscaster: “You are distancing yourselves from the hate crime near the synagogue in Halle, Germany." Neo-Nazi: “Yes. We don’t want to be reduced to mere anti-Semitism," by Katharina Greve, "#Anti-Semitismus für Anfänger: Eine Anthologie" Ariella Verlag, 2020. 

 

Credit:

Courtesy of Katharina Greve/Ariella Verlag

Mette says his cartoons may not cure anti-Semitism but he’s going to keep on drawing them. It’s what he does. 

“It can capture an idea in one single drawing and it triggers something in your body. You don’t have to use your brain. Your belly tells you whether to laugh or not to laugh.”

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