Is Germany no longer safe for Jews?

The firebombing of a Berlin synagogue speaks to a chilling return of anti-Semitism.

Sabine Beppler-Spahl
Germany Correspondent

Topics Politics World

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In the early hours of Wednesday morning, two men threw Molotov cocktails at a synagogue in central Berlin. Security guards managed to put out the fire and no one was injured. Nevertheless, this represented yet another attempt to terrorise Berlin’s Jewish community.

The attack on the synagogue followed a night of rioting, mainly in Berlin’s Neukölln district, which is home to a sizable Middle Eastern migrant community. According to one police report, the rioters were a mixed group of Islamists, ‘young people prone to violence’ and other members of the public. They had managed to erect barricades to block streets and set garbage containers on fire, before the police used water cannons to disperse them. As a police spokesperson complained the next day, ‘our emergency services are becoming the targets of religious fanaticism’.

That’s not quite true. The real target of the mob is Jewish people, not the police. The police are just collateral damage in this surge of anti-Semitic violence. Wednesday’s attempted fire-bombing of a synagogue is sadly just one incident of many. Since 7 October, the day Hamas slaughtered hundreds upon hundreds of Israelis, Germany’s Federal Association of Anti-Semitism Research and Information Centres (Rias), has recorded over 200 anti-Semitic incidents. Rias reports that Jews have been spat at on the street and that the outside doors and walls of Jewish people’s houses have been graffitied with the Star of David – a chilling reminder of how Nazi stormtroopers used to publicly expose Jewish residences in the 1930s.

The German state and the Berlin authorities have promised to do all they can to protect Jewish life. Security in front of Jewish institutions has been stepped up, and even the Holocaust memorial in Berlin’s city centre has had to be guarded.

Yet, at the same time, there is little confidence that the authorities can deal with the growing anti-Semitic threat. Jews are now being cautioned not to speak Hebrew in public. And increasing numbers of Jewish parents are deciding to keep their children at home, rather than send them to the city’s Jewish schools. Jewish people’s worst fears, fuelled by an anti-Semitism that has been on the rise for a while, are slowly being realised. Even before Wednesday’s attempted firebombing, at least two Jewish congregations in Berlin refrained from celebrating Shabbat in their synagogues out of concern for the safety of their members.

As terrible and as incredible as this sounds, it seems that Germany’s streets are no longer safe for Jews. When Berlin’s mayor, Kai Wegener, visited the synagogue after the arson attack to show his solidarity with the congregation, shouts of ‘Free Palestine’ could be heard from passing cars. It is clear that Jews in Berlin are being held responsible for the conflict in the Middle East.

It is important that the government has pledged to protect Germany’s Jewish minority. But it will take more than an increased police presence to make the streets safe for Jews again. It will require every German with a sense of history and a moral conscience to start showing some solidarity. It’s time to take a stand against this new anti-Semitism.

Sabine Beppler-Spahl is spiked’s Germany correspondent.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics World


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