Time to Abandon ‘Utopian’ Dream of German Society Free of Antisemitism, Jewish Leader Admits

The head of the German Jewish community said that he had abandoned hope of his country ever being free of antisemitism.

Speaking at an event in Frankfurt, Josef Schuster — president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the country’s EJC affiliate — said that recent protests against coronavirus restrictions, many of which have featured antisemitic tropes, had persuaded him to abandon the “utopian” notion that Germany society could shake off the pervasive influence of antisemitic beliefs.

“Unfortunately, what we are experiencing at the moment does not surprise me,” Schuster said.

At the same time, Schuster emphasized that the majority of Germans were resolutely opposed to antisemitic agitation. After the gun attack by a neo-Nazi at a synagogue in the city of Halle on Yom Kippur last October, the response of a wide swathe of German society had “very encouraging and compassionate,” Schuster noted.

Schuster’s comments came as the international human rights NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) fired a rare salvo against antisemitism specifically, noting that the coronavirus protests had been used by some Germans “as a pretext for displays of antisemitism, or open or thinly veiled support for neo-Nazi ideology.”

A statement from Hugh Williamson — the director of HRW’s Europe and Central Asia Division — argued that concern over the protests had to be understood in the broader context of rising antisemitism. Antisemitic attacks in Germany in 2019 increased by 13 percent on the previous year, with more than 2,000 incidents reported.

“A time like this, in which far-right antisemites can weave their toxic ideology into what should be peaceful protests about public health measures, requires vigilance,” Williamson stated.

Williamson called on the German government to increase its vigilance.

“Addressing Germany’s Jewish community on the night of the Halle synagogue attack, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared her government would ‘do everything possible to ensure that you can live in safety,” Williamson recalled. “The Covid-19 crisis is a sad reminder that work is still needed to make this a reality.”


Subscribe to EJC newsletter

Get EJC's bi-weekly newsletter, including the latest statements and news from the European Jewish communities, direct to your inbox.

European Jewish Congress will use the information you provide on this form to contact you. We will treat your information with respect and will not share it with others. By clicking Subscribe, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.


EJC President calls on the Portuguese Parliament not to harm the Sephardi citizenship law

EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor has written to the President of the Portuguese Parliament calling on him to ensure that a law passed in 2013 which provides Sephardi Jews with the possibility to apply for Portuguese citizenship is not harmed by recent attempts to pass amendments which would damage the applicability, intention and spirit of the original law.

Antisemitic chants at anti-racist march in Paris shows how worthy cause is being hijacked to spread hate

EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor called on anti-racist marchers and organisers to ensure that antisemitism is not being adopted by some within their ranks, after large groups of marchers at a rally in Paris's Place de la République shouted antisemitic slogans like “dirty Jew”.

Kantor Center Antisemitism Worldwide Report 2019 – The Coronavirus Crisis is Reviving ‘Blood Libels’ Against Jews

EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor said that already in the first few months since the global breakout of the coronavirus, there has been a rise in antisemitic manifestations relating to the spread of the disease and the economic recession triggered by the pandemic at the release of the Antisemitism Worldwide Report 2019. The total number of major violent incidents monitored in 2019 was 456, an 18% rise from 2018.

Message from Moshe Kantor

EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor announced a series of important measures to provide support and assistance to Jewish communities and other people in need to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus crisis.