German far-right extremists set up fake Jewish organizations to raise funds

German nationalists set up 10 phony Jewish charities in order to raise funds, investigation finds.

By Ben Cohen, The Algemeiner

At least 10 fake Jewish organizations have been created by right-wing extremists in Germany in order to receive charitable donations and grants, an investigation by one of the country’s leading broadcasters has found.

The investigation by the Panorama program on Germany’s ARD network last week disclosed that supporters of the Reichsbürger (“citizens of the Germany empire”) movement — which regards the Federal Republic created following the defeat of Nazism in 1945 as unconstitutional — set up the “verein,” or nonprofit associations, posing as “Jewish communities” pursuing “exclusively charitable goals.”

Reichsbürger supporters believe that the proper borders of Germany are those set in 1871, when the German Empire was formed.

While the organization is not explicitly neo-Nazi, many of its backers are sympathetic to the Hitler regime, with a tendency to deny or diminish Nazi crimes against Jews and other minorities.

A report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) in 2022 estimated that there are around 23,000 “Reichsbürger” in Germany, with five percent of them classified as far right extremists.

The fake associations carry names like “Jewish Community of Ahrensbök” or “Jewish Community of Zeitz.” According to Panorama, the alleged community in Ahrensbök, in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, was described as a “collective community of all conservative-liberal, liberal, and reformed Jews in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein.”

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While that association has since been de-registered because of a lack of members along with the decision of the local municipality to reject a grant application, at least four of the fake associations are still operating, according to Panorama.

Many of the associations were allegedly set up by Iwan Götz, a 75-year-old convicted fraudster who calls himself “chief rabbi” and claims to be Jewish. Interviewed by Panorama, Götz portrayed himself as a representative of “true Judaism,” insisting that it if were not for his efforts, the field would belong exclusively to “Zionists” in Germany.

In the same interview, Götz falsely claimed that the Nazi era was the result of a Jewish plot. “Germans themselves did a small part of it, Hitler was financed by Jews,” he said.

Saskia Benter Ortega, spokesperson for the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the broadcaster DW that her organization was aware of the Reichsbürger activities.

“We are familiar with the problems of these groups and individuals,” she said. “It is important to ensure that the Jewish community is not misused for political or extremist purposes.”

Antisemitism has increased precipitously in Germany in recent years, with nearly 2,500 incidents officially recorded last year, though many experts suspect the true number could be five times higher.

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Several German officials have expressed concern that the country’s law enforcement authorities are not taking adequate measure to stem the trend.

On Monday, Frank Lüttig — the attorney general in the city of Celle, in the state of Saxony — highlighted two incidents in which judges elected not to proceed with prosecutions despite the evidence.

In one case in the city of Hanover, a poster distributed by a far right party bore the slogan “Stop Zionism — Israel is our misfortune.” The public prosecutor’s determination that this was “legitimate criticism” of the State of Israel was roundly condemned by Lüttig, who told the legal journal LTO that it was clear that “Israel is our misfortune” properly means “the Jews are our misfortune” — the same slogan used by the notorious pro-Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer.

In the second case, the regional court in the city of Braunschweig ruled that a coronavirus conspiracy theorist who wore a Nazi-era “Judenstern” (“Jewish star”) at a demonstration opposing vaccinations had not violated German restrictions on demeaning or abusing the Holocaust.

“The decision of the Braunschweig Higher Regional Court is fundamentally wrong and forgetful of history,” Lüttig said.

Arguing that far right extremists were abusing protections on the freedom of speech, Lüttig urged the judiciary to “draw clear red lines and not get lost in academic banter.”