Jewish leader urges action against antisemitism as Germany considers vaccine mandate

Hate crimes against Jews have risen in Germany since the outbreak of COVID-19, much of it fueled by antisemitic conspiracy theories.

By Sharon Wrobel, The Algemeiner 

The head of the Jewish community in Germany on Monday expressed support for a general vaccine mandate to contain COVID-19, but warned that compulsory inoculation may spur a stronger wave of antisemitism connected to the pandemic.

“COVID-19 impacts people’s life and their health, but it has also led to dangerous social developments,” said Josef Schuster, an internal medicine physician and president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. “The anti-vaccine and corona denial movement is radicalizing to a frightening degree. It can’t be ruled out that the introduction of a general vaccine mandate will fuel even stronger protests and violence.”

“However, protection of the health of the general public carries a heavier weight. Therefore, we consider a general vaccine mandate to be unavoidable,” Schuster remarked.

As controversial steps are being discussed to increase the number of vaccinated adults in Germany, Schuster urged lawmakers to exhaust their means and take decisive action against recent antisemitic incidents flaring up at demonstrations against vaccine mandates.

“Just as a vaccine mandate will need to be accompanied by more measures to get the pandemic under control, a longer-term political commitment will also be needed to smooth out the social upheavals,” Schuster said.

Schuster’s comments come as new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Friday that the contentious plan to introduce a vaccine mandate was still necessary to bolster the nation’s inoculation rate and curb the pandemic. Back in November, Scholz had suggested that a general vaccine mandate would take effect this year, in February or early March.

“We need to continue to push forward with more vaccine and booster jabs. The best protection against the Omicron variant is a booster shot,” Scholz said.

However, given the controversy over a general vaccine mandate among some in Germany’s political echelon, it may take months for lawmakers to debate the measure.

Hate crimes against Jews have risen in Germany since the outbreak of COVID-19, much of it fueled by antisemitic conspiracy theories.

At some rallies against the government’s coronavirus response, anti-vaccine protesters have worn yellow Jewish star, or “Judenstern,” badges and other symbols associated with the Nazi era. Demonstrations organized by the group “Querdenken” — German for “lateral thinking” — have regularly featured far-right symbols and visual themes comparing social distancing to the Nazi Holocaust.