Antisemitism not checked by education

This posting has these items on antisemitism in Germany today and German reparations:
1) BBC: Kristallnacht 75 years on: How strong is anti-Semitism in Germany?;
2) JPost:How anti-Semitic is Germany?;
3) BBC: How strong is anti-Semitism in Germany?;
4) Jewish Forward: German Synagogues Have Been Attacked at least 82 Times in Last Four Years;
5) Notes and links, German reparations;

Peter Eisenman’s holocaust memorial, Berlin, which consists of a 19,000 square metres (4.7 acres) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field.

German Hate Mail Comes From Surprisingly Well Educated Sources

New study shows education does little to cure prejudice

By Donald Snyder, Jewish Forward
December 13, 2013.

Over the course of a decade, the letters poured into the Central Council of Jews in Germany like a river.

“Is it possible that the excessive violence in Israel, including the murder of innocent children, corresponds to the long tradition of your people?” asked one.

“For the last two thousand years, you have been robbing land and killing people!” exclaimed another.

“You Israelis are a crowd showing contempt for humanity,” charged another, though its writer was addressing fellow Germans. “You drop cluster bombs above inhabited territory during the last days of war, and accuse people criticizing such actions of anti-Semitism. That is typical of you Jews!”

Many would view the stream of vitriol, sent to German Jewry’s central communal organization between 2002 and 2012, as little more than raw sewage. But Monika Schwarz-Friesel, a professor of linguistics at the Technical University of Berlin, saw it as raw data. Together with Jehuda Reinharz, the American historian and former president of Brandeis University, Schwarz-Friesel has recently published a study of these letters. And their findings reaffirm one of the enduring, if still surprising truths about anti-Semitism in Germany and elsewhere.

More than 60% of the hate mail came from well-educated Germans, including university professors, according to their study, “The Language of Hostility Towards Jews in the 21st Century,” released earlier this year. Only 3% came from right-wing extremists.

The researchers know this partly from analyzing the language of the letter writers — but also because many of the authors of the emails in their sample gave their names, addresses and professions. “We checked some of them, [and] the information [was] valid,” said Schwarz-Friesel in an email to the Forward. She and her research partner were amazed that the writers were so brazen. “I don’t think they would have identified themselves 20 or 30 years ago,” said Reinharz.

“We found that there is hardly any difference in the semantics of highly educated anti-Semites and vulgar extremists and neo-Nazis,” said Schwarz-Friezel. “The difference lies only in style and formal rhetoric, but the concepts are the same.”
This is not exactly new. Schwarz-Friesel pointed out that many Nazis were highly educated, too.

One of the research pair’s other main findings was that hatred for Israel has become the main vehicle for German anti-Semitism. More than 80% of the 14,000 emails focused on Israel as their central theme.

Schwarz-Friesel and Reinharz say they strove hard to distinguish emails that were critical of Israel — even those that expressed anger toward it — from those that were anti-Semitic.

“Only those letters were classified as anti-Semitic that clearly [saw] German Jews as non-Germans and collectively abused German Jews to be responsible for crimes in Israel!” she explained.

In the paper’s abstract, the researchers clarify further that “Verbal anti-Semitism is based on 1. Collective discrimination; 2. Fixation (by stereotypes) and 3. Devaluation of Jews.”

Schwarz-Friesel said she also considered as anti-Semitic letters that analogized Jewish or Israeli behavior to that of the Nazis.

As a linguist, Schwarz-Friesel sought to decode the classical anti-Semitism that was often hidden in the language of the emails. Schwarz-Friesel says her skills enable her to identify anti-Semitic intent that’s often deliberately obscured. She cites a letter from a professor that opens this way: “You people have a history of 2,000 years…” The letter then goes on to criticize Israel. In this way, according to Schwarz-Friesel, the writer brands Jews as historically evil.

Yehuda Bauer, professor of Holocaust studies at Hebrew University and academic advisor to Yad Vashem, praised the study’s methodology as unique. “Such an in-depth research based on language analyzing has not existed yet,” he said.

Professor Andreas Zick, director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Conflict Research at Bielefeld University, supported Schwarz-Friesel’s findings. “Studies over the last three years show that anti-Semitic attitudes toward Israel [in Germany] are much higher among the well-educated and the middle class,” he said in a telephone interview.

Zick was not surprised by the hate mail Schwarz-Friesel examined. “I get plenty too, because of my lectures against anti-Semitism and the studies of prejudice done by my institute.” He worries about deeply rooted anti-Semitism in the country that staged the Holocaust.

“I’m living in a country where 75 years after Kristallnacht every single Jewish institution is guarded by the police,” he said. “What does it mean that every synagogue, Jewish schools and kindergartens are always protected? It means there’s a threat.”

According to Zick, anti-Semitism even afflicts German school children. “When a child’s possession, like a book or pen, is stolen, the culprit is called a ‘Jew,’” he said, offering an example. Yet most teachers are not trained to deal with prejudice in the classroom, said Zick.

Some 20% of residents in the country still harbor anti-Semitic attitudes, according to a 2012 study sponsored by the German government. That compares to the Anti-Defamation League’s most recent survey of attitudes toward Jews in America in 2013, which found that 12% “harbor deeply entrenched anti-Semitic attitudes.”

In June, the German government passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism in response to the government survey and called for better education programs to fight prejudice. The resolution also called for a deepening of Germany’s special relationship with Israel. In recognition of the state’s historical responsibility for the Holocaust, Germany has committed itself to supporting Israel in ways that go beyond normal state relations. Chancellor Angela Merkel has continued this policy, offering unwavering support for Israel and opposition to anti-Semitism.

But Deidre Berger, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s office in Berlin, said that government resolutions and a pro-Israel foreign policy were not enough to combat the kind of prejudice reflected in the decade’s worth of emails to the Council of Jews in Germany.

“There needs to be greater public awareness of the scope of every-day anti-Semitism,” she said. “German politicians, educators, government officials, police officers and civil society leaders need to highlight the urgency of the problem and initiate activities to counter anti-Semitism…. It is critical that students learn more about Jews, Judaism and Jewish history, as part of German history, as well as learning more about modern-day Israel.”

Contact Don Snyder at

Orthodox Jews erect a Hanukkah menorah at Germany’s Brandenberg Gate, November 2013.

German TV: How anti-Semitic is Germany?

Documentary shows the commonality between anti-Israel legislative initiatives from Green Party and neo-Nazi NPD party.

By Benjamin Weinthal, JPost
December 11, 2013

BERLIN – The German public television station ARD broadcasted last week a documentary film about modern anti-Semitism at the heart of German society.

Close observers of contemporary anti-Semitism showered praise on the film for not shying away from showing anti-Semitism in all walks of life in Germany.

The 50 minute film – titled Anti-Semitism Today: How hostile is Germany toward Jews? – was created by Ahmad Mansour, an Israeli Arab, and two other Germans, Kirsten Esch and Jo Goll. Mansour is a policy advisor to the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy. He has lived in Berlin since 2004 and studied Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology at Tel-Aviv University.

Writing in the main weekly German Jewish newspaper Jüdische Allgemeine, Michael Wuliger, said in his commentary titled “Focus on Reality” that the film clearly showed “examples of anti-Semitism from educated, well-meaning German citizens” who wave the moral finger at Jews.

Appearing in the film is Dr. Monika Schwarz-Friesel, a linguistics professor at the Technical University in Berlin, who investigated a combination of 14,000 letters and emails sent to the Israeli embassy and Jewish organizations. She said the majority of the anti-Semitic letters and emails came from “so-called mainstream society.” One letter from a man with a doctorate states, “Why are always again the Jews persecuted? You need to ask yourself that.”

He added, “By the next Holocaust the whining begins to start again. I am fed up with it.”

The film shows the commonality between anti-Israel legislative initiatives from the German Green Party and the neo-Nazi NPD party. Both parties seek to demarcate Israeli products from the disputed territories.

Dr. Dieter Graumann, the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, slammed the disparate treatment targeting Israel as “absurd” in the film. With respect to the product labeling, he noted that there are “many different territorial disputes in the world and nowhere else is it [product labeling] done.”

He added that there is no effort by German politicians to label products from China because of its territorial dispute with Tibet. “The difference is there are 7 million Israelis and 1.3 billion Chinese,“ said Graumann.

The German Green Party politician Kerstin Müller – and the future head of the party’s Heinrich Böll Foundation office in Tel Aviv – defended the labeling of Israeli products. Müller denied knowing of the neo-Nazi initiative before submitting her party’s initiative in the Bundestag. She said that the buying of products from the settlements “destroys the idea of an independent Palestinian state.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s office in Jerusalem and German Jews have criticized Müller for hostility toward Jews and being unfit to run the party’s Böll office.

The Böll Foundation in Berlin stands by Müller as a capable director.

The film appeared to break new ground, largely because it showed that hatred of Israel – the modern form of anti-Semitism – unifies many diverse groups in German society, including Islamists, mainstream Germans, left-wing Germans and rightwing extremists. Previous German documentaries focused on anti-Semitism from right-wing extremists.

Kristallnacht 75 years on: How strong is anti-Semitism in Germany?

By Stephen Evans, BBC News, Berlin
Noveember 08, 2013
Two Jewish men with a giant Menorah in front of the Brandenburg Gate

It’s 75 years since the pogroms that became known as Kristallnacht – the night of broken glass. It was the outbreak of mass violence against Jews which was to end in their mass murder. As the anniversary is marked, how strong – or weak – is anti-Semitism in Germany today?

Ruth Recknagel remembers the feral looting. Even today, 75 years later, she recalls people swarming around the broken windows of Jewish shops in Berlin and then snatching what they could.

Ruth was born in 1930, so on 9 November 1938 she was only eight years old. She walked around the shattered glass at Potsdamer Platz with her Jewish father. What she witnessed remains imprinted on her mind.

“It was a decisive break,” she says. “It was the start. From then on, everything got worse.”

Others remembered the way the pogroms unfolded into an organised orgy of violence. There was unrestrained grabbing from shops as well as attacks on schools and even hospitals. The Daily Telegraph correspondent in Berlin at the time, Michael Bruce, recounted “one of the foulest exhibitions of bestiality” he had ever witnessed when rioters broke into a hospital for sick Jewish children.

Tiny children were being chased “over the broken glass, bare-footed and wearing nothing but their nightshirts,” Bruce wrote. “The nurses, doctors, and attendants were being kicked and beaten by the mob leaders, most of whom were women.”

The November pogroms marked the start of the Holocaust. After it, the gloves were truly off. Jews had been persecuted from 1933 – barred from ever more jobs, routinely insulted and attacked. But Kristallnacht was the step-change in escalation. Any pretence and restraint vanished. The shattered glass of Kristallnacht led to the death camps.

And that is not forgotten in Germany today. It is taught in schools and remembered from podiums occupied by the chancellor of Germany down. But how much anti-Semitism lingers despite the knowledge of what happened?

It is a complex picture. There is, for example, a growing Jewish population in Germany. It is small at less than 1% of the total population (and much smaller than the 5% of the population with a Turkish background, for example). But it is a community which is growing rapidly, and people don’t tend to migrate to a more hostile environment than the one they left.

The Israeli embassy in Berlin estimates that there are about 10,000 Israelis in Berlin alone, many of them drawn by the cultural life. The city abounds with Israeli sculptors, painters and musicians who often say they have found a home conducive to artistic creation.

There is, though, sometimes resentment from other Jews. I’ve been in a meeting where a visiting American-Jewish author rounded on the Israelis there who had moved to Germany to live and work. How could they look at themselves in the mirror, the angry author taunted the Israeli immigrants to Germany.

Jews in Germany often say, though, that they find much more anti-Semitism when they go abroad. One person told the BBC she had experienced far worse prejudice in Britain than she had at home in Germany – in a Cambridge college, ham was sometimes placed in her postbox.

The widely accepted research into attitudes to race across Europe was done by the University of Bielefeld. It teased out deeper attitudes by asking indirect questions about, for example, whether respondents thought Jews “have too much influence” or “try to take advantage of past persecution”.

The study, published in 2011, and based on thousands of interviews done in 2008, concluded: “The significantly strongest agreement with anti-Semitic prejudices is found in Poland and Hungary. In Portugal, followed closely by Germany, anti-Semitism is significantly more prominent than in the other western European countries. In Italy and France, anti-Semitic attitudes as a whole are less widespread than the European average, while the extent of anti-Semitism is least in Great Britain and the Netherlands”.

After being assaulted last year, Rabbi Daniel Alter now covers his skullcap in parts of Berlin
In all the countries studied apart from Italy, a majority answered that “Jews enrich our culture”. In Germany, nearly 70% said so, about the same as in Britain.

But nearly half of German respondents said that “Jews try to take advantage of having been victims during the Nazi era”. That’s compared to 22% for Britain, 32% for France, 40% for Italy, 68% for Hungary and 72% for Poland.

A separate study published by the German parliament in 2012 concluded that 20% of Germans held at least “latent anti-Semitism” – some sort of quiet, unspoken antipathy towards Jews.

Rabbis often praise the German government for its outspoken condemnation of anti-Semitism. “Germany is certainly doing a lot to fight anti-Semitism,” says Prof Walter Homolka, the director of Abraham Geiger College at the University of Potsdam. “Whether it is ever going to be enough, that’s a big question. We can only hope to keep this figure of 20% in check.”

He says the public statements and the presence of people such as Chancellor Angela Merkel at big Jewish events is important as a signal to the rest of the population. Chancellor Merkel has said that an attack on Jews is an attack on everyone.

What does seem to be clear is that anti-Semitism is rising in Germany.

“Anti-Semitism is acceptable again,” says Anetta Kahane director of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which campaigns against racism. “It must be said clearly – those who say something anti-Semitic tacitly legitimise physical attacks on Jews.”

The foundation has collated official figures which say that in 2011, there were 811 attacks on Jews. These were of various degrees of intimidation, from verbal attacks to physical assault, and included 16 violent attacks. In 2012, that rose to 865 attacks in total, with 27 of them being violent. In the first half of this year, the rise seems to have continued, with 409 attacks, 16 of them violent.

A year ago, Rabbi Daniel Alter was attacked by a group of youths of Middle Eastern appearance as he walked with his young daughter. “They made threats of violence against female members of my family, including my seven-year-old daughter who was by my side,” he says.

One man confronted him very aggressively before striking him: “With his first hit he broke my cheek bone. There was another man hitting me from behind, hitting me either with his fist or something else on my head, and I fell to the floor. The next thing is I saw them running away.”

It has made him change his life. Seventy-five years after Kristallnacht, he feels he can no longer wear his skullcap openly in some areas of Berlin, and covers it with a hat. And he has re-doubled his efforts to visit schools and talk to children – often alongside an Imam from a mosque.

Graffiti at a German Jewish cemetery

German Synagogues Have Been Attacked at least 82 Times in Last Four Years

Report Is Just ‘Tip of the Iceberg’ in Anti-Semitic Crimes

October 21, 2013.

There have been 82 reported attacks on synagogues in Germany from 2008 to 2012, according to a report requested by Left Party legislator and Bundestag Vice President Petra Pau.

But the reported number may actually be too low: An investigation by Germany’s main Jewish weekly, the Juedische Allgemeine, showed that several notable incidents were not included in the report from the German Interior Ministry that was released last week, including an attack on the Dresden synagogue in 2012, as well as desecration of synagogue property in Regensburg and Wuppertal that same year.

Most of the reported cases involved property damage and graffiti featuring banned Nazi slogans. According to the report, the main perpetrators are far-right extremists, credited with more than 90 percent of the incidents, though some cases originate in Muslim circles.

The lowest number of reported incidents was in 2010, with nine cases; and the peak over the past five years was in 2008, with 21 reported incidents. Most of the incidents occurred in the former West German states of North-Rhine Westfalia and Rheinland-Pfalz.

Pau told the Allgemeine that attacks on synagogues are the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to anti-Semitic crimes in Germany.

Notes and links: Reparations
These notes on reparations paid to Jewish Holocaust survivors and to Israel have been included because the issue was both a source of contention amongst Israeli Jews and is used by antisemites to justify their beliefs.

Holocaust Reparations: Germany to Pay 772 Million Euros to Survivors, Spiegel Online, May 2013 (the payments are to individual Jewish survivors)

Holocaust Restitution: German Reparations

From Jewish Virtual Library

On Sept. 20, 1945, three months after the end of World War II, Chaim Weizmann, on behalf of the Jewish Agency, submitted to the governments of the US, USSR, UK, and France, a memorandum demanding reparations, restitution, and indemnification due to the Jewish people from Germany for its involvement in the Holocaust. He appealed to the Allied Powers to include this claim in their own negotiations for reparations with Germany, in view of the “mass murder, the human suffering, the annihilation of spiritual, intellectual, and creative forces, which are without parallel in the history of mankind.”

Due to the deadlock, and later interruption of the Allies’ negotiations for reparations, no further development in Weizmann’s request took place until March 12, 1951, when Israel’s foreign minister Moshe Sharett submitted a note to the four Allied governments which claimed global recompense to the State of Israel of $1.5 billion from the German Federal Republic (West Germany). Sharett’s claim was based on the financial cost absorbed by Israel for the rehabilitation of those Jews who escaped or survived the Nazi regime and came to the newly created Jewish state. The financial expense incurred by Israel in the absorption of 500,000 Nazi victims could be covered at $3,000 per capita.

As a result of unofficial preliminary contacts, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer declared on September 27, 1951, that his government was ready to compensate Israel for material damage and losses and to negotiate with Israel and with representatives of Diaspora Jewry for other reparations. The following month, the Jewish community established the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (Claims Conference) in New York, presided over by Nahum Goldmann, to help with individual claims.

In Israel, the Knesset fiercely debated whether to accept the reparations from Germany over a three day period in early January 1952. Menachem Begin and the Herut Party were among the most vocal members of the opposition, who considered the reparations offer as blood money. By the end of the debate, a small majority of 61-50 succeeeded in passing the resolution to enter into direct negotiations with West Germany over specific reparations amounts. Outside the Knesset, thousands of Israeli’s protested and rioted the decision, at times even pelting the plenum building with stones, leading the police to use tear gas to disperse the crowds.

Following Israel’s approval of the resolution, a West German delegation headed by Professor Franz Boehm met with the Israeli delegation led by Giora Josephthal and Felix Eliezer Shinnar at The Hague in March 1952. The delegation of the Claims Conference, headed by Moses Leavitt, was put in charge of negotiations on individual claims for indemnification. At the negotiations, Israel reduced her claim of $1.5 billion against the whole of Germany to $1 billion against West Germany alone while reserving the right to claim the balance from East Germany – which neither attended the negotiations nor ever provided compensation.

On September 10, 1952, after six months of negotiations, an agreement on reparations between Israel and West Germany was signed in Luxembourg by Sharett and Adenauer. The agreement was ratified and came into effect on March 21, 1953, after a delay caused by the Arab states’ efforts to prevent ratification.

Under the agreement, West Germany undertook to pay a total of $845 million: $100 million earmarked for allocation by the Claims Conference and the remainder to Israel. Direct compensation would be paid in annual installments over a period of 14 years (between April 1, 1953, and March 31, 1966). The money to Israel was split – 30 percent was to pay for Israel’s crude oil purchases in the United Kingdom and with the balance of 70 percent Israel was to buy ferrous and nonferrous metals, steel, chemical, industrial, and agricultural products from Germany.

The agreement was carried out by West Germany government both in letter and in spirit and the goods bought and imported under the agreement represented between 12 and 14 percent of Israel’s annual imports over the decade, thus making an important contribution to Israel’s growing economy.

In 1988, the German government allocated another $125 million for reparations, enabling remaining Holocaust survivors to receive monthly payments of $290 for the rest of their lives. In February 1990, before its unification with West Germany, East Germany admitted for the first time that it was also responsible for war crimes committed by the German people during World War II and agreed to pay reparations.

In 1999, in response to the filing of numerous class action lawsuits in American courts, the German government and German industry agreed to compensate Jews and non-Jews specifically for slave and forced labor they performed for German industry during the war. Among the German industries that came under the lawsuits were Deutsche Bank AG, Siemens, BMW, Volkswagen, and Opel. In return for the dismissal of all such lawsuits and the guaranteeing German industry “legal peace” from any such further litigation, the German government created a foundation – “Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future” – with assets of approximately $5 billion. Slave and forced laborers still alive at the time of the settlement could apply to receive a lump sum payment of between $2,500 and $7,500 from the foundation; in all, over 140,000 Jewish survivors from more than 25 countries received payments. Final payments from the Foundation were to be made by September 2006.

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