Anti-Semitism and attacks on Jews are on the rise in Germany.
They are also underpinned by a corona pandemic that has raised anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.
According to Tommi Kotonen, a researcher who specializes in the far right at the University of Jyväskylä, far-right groups show ideas in which the pandemic is combined with anti-Semitic theories.
- Some far-right groups have put it so that the pandemic is the result of globalization and they see globalization itself as some kind of Jewish conspiracy.
Their solution to the problem is nationalism and the rise of the nation-state.
The same was assessed by Felix Klein, Commissioner for Anti-Semitism in Germany, who was appointed in 2018 for growing anti-Semitism.
He told AFP in the early fall that there was a clear link between the corona crisis and the rise of anti-Semitism.
- Conspiracy theories increase in times of crisis, he said.
One of the conspiracy theories, according to Klein, has been that the coronavirus is "a failed bio-weapon created by the Israeli intelligence service."
Protests by coronary deniers provided a platform for anti-Semitism
Over the past year, protests have been staged in Germany against the government’s interest rate restrictions, bringing together a wide range of people from the far right to the anti-vaccine.
Although not all participants support the far right, according to Kotonen, extremists have seen opportunities to recruit more people to their ranks in protests against corona restrictions.
Those working against anti-Semitism have warned that protests should not be hijacked by far-right intentions.
- Far-right radicals have tried to use the protests for their own purposes, Klein estimates.
Some of the protesters have used the yellow star, which has clearly been a replica of a star that Jews had to use in Nazi Germany.
By wearing a yellow star, protesters have sought to equate the corona restrictions on the persecution experienced by Jews in Nazi Germany, which Jews and relatives of Holocaust survivors have naturally found offensive and derogatory.
German intelligence has warned of a clear increase in hate crimes
The rise of anti-Semitism is not only linked to the crown, but anti-Semitism has been on a worrying rise in Germany in recent years.
Thomas Haldenwang, head of German domestic intelligence, warned about this in an interview with the German magazine Tagesspiegel in early October.
- Over the past two years, acts of violence against Jews and Jewish institutes have clearly increased, Haldenwang told the newspaper.
The same is true of statistics from the German Ministry of the Interior.
According to them, last year hate crimes against Jews increased by 13% in Germany compared to 2018. In total, more than 2,000 hate crimes against Jews were reported.
The crimes have also appeared in the news.
In early October, a man in military uniform struck Jewish students in Hamburg near a local synagogue.
The man hit one of the students with a shovel before the synagogue security guards caught him.
Last year, a German neo-Nazi tried to enter a synagogue in Halle, where about 50 people were celebrating the Jewish Feast of Yom Kippur.
The man shot two bystanders when he was unable to enter the synagogue.
Not a new phenomenon
Although Germany has dealt with the traumas of Nazi Germany quite openly, some critics have assessed that the handling of the past is halfway there, which has contributed to the rise of anti-Semitism.
According to a study published by the World Congress of Jews, one in four in Germany has anti-Jewish ideas.
According to the anti-Semitism unit of the German Ministry of the Interior, in addition to acts of violence and hate speech, anti-Semitism manifests itself as old stereotypes and conspiracy theories in which Jews are portrayed as rich and "ruling the world."
Kotonen says that political anti-Semitism has a long history in Germany.
At the same time, the rise of anti-Semitism in the country has been influenced by international currents, such as the 2015 refugee crisis and the consequent rise of the far right.
- Some groups seek inspiration from the 1930s and 1940s, but neo-Nazi activities have also become more international in Germany.
For example, so-called demographic theories are international phenomena that have boosted the rise of the far right.
In Halle’s synagogue attack, for example, the author posted a live video of his attack, while spreading various conspiracy theories in English.
He was believed to have been inspired by the Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand.
"All forms of anti-Semitism condemned"
In statistics, the majority of hate crimes have been reported to be committed by the far right, but there are also a small number of crimes motivated by the far left as well as foreign ideology or religion.
However, problems have been identified in the statistics as they are also said to list unclear criminal cases at the far right.
Klein, the commissioner for anti-Semitism, has admitted in an interview with the New York Times that in crimes reported by the Department of the Interior, where the perpetrators have remained unclear, the crimes have been automatically recorded as being committed by the far right.
According to Klein, statistical methods are now being changed.
Also, not all studies give similar results on the role of the far right.
In a large EU anti-Semitism survey conducted in 2018, one in three German Jews said they had experienced harassment over the past year, and about 40 percent of them said they had experienced it from someone who supported it with “extremist Islamist ideas”.
In the same poll, many people with Jewish backgrounds expressed concern not only against anti-Semitism but also about growing anti-Muslim sentiment.
Commissioner Klein told the New York Times that he believed the debate over hate crimes committed by Muslims had been feared to drive minority groups against each other.
According to Klein, it is important to condemn all forms of anti-Semitism.
“I think a workable strategy is to condemn all forms of anti-Semitism - I don’t want to start a debate about what is more dangerous or problematic anti-Semitism than the other,” he said.
AfD flirts with anti-Semitism and supports Israel
The far-right party AfD, which has become popular in Germany in recent years, has been accused of flirting with anti-Semitism, and the party has provided a platform for anti-Semitism, Kotonen says.
The party has had a divisive attitude towards Jews.
Among other things, Björn Höcke, one of the party's best-known politicians, has called for a "180-degree turn" in the way Germany recalls its recent history.
At the same time, the party has ridden anti-Muslim rhetoric and appeared as a defender of Jews and Israel.
Party politicians have also sought to portray anti-Semitism as a phenomenon brought by Muslim immigrants to Germany.
For example, party politician Jörg Meuthent referred to Germany becoming "a world champion in anti-Semitism brought by Muslims."
The administration is working to eradicate the problem
German politicians have also woken up to the rise of anti-Semitism with the recent attacks.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has called the rise of anti-Semitism shameful, and Germany has sought to eradicate anti-Semitism.
German Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer has allocated a budget of EUR 18 billion to the Ministry of the Interior for next year, among other things, to improve internal security.
He has said there is zero tolerance in Germany for the far right.
German universities have also received additional funding to study the root causes of anti-Semitism.
Hoofer has also promised that all kinds of hate crimes will be addressed in a broader perspective.