Merkel calls for ‘zero tolerance’ as anti-Semitism rises in Germany

Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, German chancellor admitted growing anti-Semitism a problem in Germany, noting that Muslim migrants contribute to the rise.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In her weekend podcast leading up to Sunday’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged that anti-Semitism is rising in her country and that Muslim immigrants are part of the problem.

“Today we are seeing a very different kind of anti-Semitism: There’s the hatred of Jews by our local people, but also by Muslim migrants,” she said.

The numbers are troubling. According to the German Interior Ministry, the first nine months of 2018 saw 1,075 crimes of an anti-Semitic nature.

Merkel said that everyone has the responsibility to ensure “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism and other forms of xenophobia.

“This day reminds us what racism, hatred and misanthropy can do,” the German leader said.

Merkel listed proactive steps that ordinary citizens and the government can take to ensure that anti-Semitism does not again take root in the country.

Education is part of the solution. “People growing up today must know what people were capable of in the past, and we must work proactively to ensure that it is never repeated,” she said.

In April, 2018, Merkel appointed the first Anti-Semitism Commissioner. She also created a national registration office where victims and witnesses of anti-Semitic attacks, whether physical or verbal, could report what happened online.

The goal is to create a more accurate picture of anti-Jewish hatred in the country, with an eye to developing strategies to counter it.

The other half of the equation is to ensure that the memory of the six million Jewish victims is never forgotten. Merkel said it was “crucial” to create “new forms of remembrance” so that their stories could be told in a way that would catch the attention of the younger generation.

Noting that elderly survivors will not be around much longer to give living testimony about their horrific experiences, she said “these forms…will become more significant in the future.”

One of the memorial projects she mentioned by name is that of the Stolpersteine (“stumbling stones”), initiated by German artist Gunter Demnig in 1992.

Concrete bricks are set into the pavement near houses from which victims of Nazism – whether Jewish or not — were either deported and murdered, fled or committed suicide to escape persecution.

They contain brass plaques etched with the people’s names, and dates of birth, deportation (if relevant), and death (if known). Some 70,000 have been affixed to date, the vast majority of them in Germany, although there are some in countries the Nazis occupied during World War II.

Last January, a Berlin municipal council official who is also a Muslim, had a suggestion of her own to teach the dangers of anti-Semitism – that as part of German integration courses, migrants should be obligated to visit a former Nazi concentration camp at least once.

At the time, Josef Schuster, the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, said it was a good idea “in principle,” although proper preparation for such a trip would be vital.