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26 Jan, 2020 18:33

‘Every 2nd Jew in Germany wishes to leave’: Berlin to seek EU-wide criminalization of Holocaust denial

‘Every 2nd Jew in Germany wishes to leave’: Berlin to seek EU-wide criminalization of Holocaust denial

Jews in Germany feel threatened to such an extent that almost half have thought about emigration, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, demanding a harsher response to anti-Semitism, not only in his country but across the EU as well.

Jews in Germany are “openly attacked” on the streets and face threats and abuse online on a daily basis, the minister wrote, in a guest article for the German weekly Der Spiegel ahead of the 75th anniversary of the Nazi Auschwitz death-camp liberation. Maas said that over 400 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in Berlin alone over six months last year.

It does not surprise me that almost every second Jew in Germany has already thought about leaving the country.

The minister particularly mentioned a shooting attack in the eastern German city of Halle last October, when a far-right extremist sought to attack a local synagogue but eventually failed to force his way into the building, instead killing two people at random.

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Maas slammed anti-Semitism as “an absolute nightmare” and “a terrible disgrace 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz,” arguing that it is a Europe-wide problem that requires the efforts of all EU members in order to be solved.

According to the minister, the measures Germany plans to champion during its presidencies of the Council of the European Union and of the Council of Europe, both of which it will assume later this year, will include the creation of a European network of anti-Semitism commissioners and a crackdown on online hate crime and disinformation.

He also specifically mentioned that Berlin plans to “ensure that all EU member states finally make it a crime to deny the Holocaust” and will help set up a Global Task Force Against Holocaust Denial.

The issue of anti-Semitism once again came to the fore in Germany in the spring of 2019, when the nation’s anti-Semitism chief advised Jews against wearing kippahs “anywhere at any time in Germany” – supposedly out of concern for their safety. The approach was quickly branded “defeatist” by various politicians, including Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin.

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Just days after the official’s provocative statement, Chancellor Angela Merkel herself said literally every single Jewish facility in Germany needed police protection. The problem has been traditionally blamed on Germany’s troubled Nazi past and linked to right-wing extremists, prompting the security services to step up their fight against the far-right over the past year.

Meanwhile, some analysts believe that Merkel’s own overly lax ‘open door’ immigration policy, which allowed about a million of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and North Africa to come to the country during the refugee crisis, might also play a role here.

Uniting all Europeans under one banner in the name of fighting anti-Semitism might also prove tricky, since that would require a unified approach to the issue. Poland, in particular, has a simmering row with Israel over its historical role in the Holocaust while its ongoing dispute with Russia over the causes of WWII even prevented its president, Andrzej Duda from attending the recent World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem.

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