BERLIN — Germany should appoint an anti-Semitism commissioner to counter growing hate speech against Jews and Israel from both its homegrown far right and the immigrant community, the interior minister said Sunday.
Thomas de Maiziere spoke days after protesters in Berlin burned Israeli flags to protest the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
“Every criminal act motivated by anti-Semitism is one too many and a shame for our country,” de Maiziere, the caretaker minister since inconclusive September elections, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
“Anti-Semitism must never again take hold in Germany,” he said, pointing to a rise of “derogatory remarks, inappropriate jokes and discriminatory behavior against our Jewish citizens.”
He condemned the recent flag-burnings as “the symbolic destruction of a country’s right to exist,” while Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen also said such expressions of hate were “unbearable.”
De Maiziere said when Germany has a new government — which Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats are now discussing — it should appoint an anti-Semitism commissioner.
Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said last week that, although Berlin opposed the move by US President Donald Trump, it strongly condemned protests where “hatred” of Israel and Jews was expressed.
On Friday, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also declared himself “shocked and shamed” by the incidents and warned that anti-Semitism was still “showing its evil face in a variety of ways.”
Steinmeier stressed Germany’s responsibility to learn “the lessons of two world wars, the lessons of the Holocaust, the responsibility for the security of Israel, the rejection of all forms of racism and anti-Semitism.”
Steinmeier specifically demanded his country’s immigrants reject anti-Semitism, characterizing it as a “non-negotiable” condition for living in Germany.
“For this responsibility, no line can be drawn under the past for later generations – and no exceptions be made for immigrants. It is non-negotiable – for all who live in Germany and want to live here!” he added, speaking at a Hanukkah event at the Israeli embassy in Berlin.
A study published last week found that anti-Semitism among Muslim refugees in Germany is rampant and requires urgent attention.
In his address, the German president also referred to recent demonstrations in Berlin against the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Thousands of protesters burned homemade Israeli flags and crowded city subway stations chanting anti-Israel and anti-American slogans on their way to rallies. The numbers of refugees among the demonstrators was unknown.
“The very week that our fellow Jewish citizens lit the candles of their menorah, Israeli flags were on fire on German squares. I am horrified and ashamed,” he said.
“Anti-Semitism has not been overcome, also not in our country, and it raises its evil head in many different guises: In extreme actions such as the burning of the Israeli flag and ignorant slogans of hatred and violence; But also in habits which are less obvious and the spreading of prejudices against ‘all things Jewish.’” he added.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas demanded that lessons on the Holocaust be included in integration courses that teach German language and civics to asylum seekers and immigrants.
He wrote on Spiegel Online that many “come from countries where powerful elites intentionally fuel hatred of Jews and Israel, and where anti-Semitism is practiced almost as a matter of course.”
Maas said that all immigrants needed to understand that “we fight against the anti-Semitism of the neo-Nazis and we will equally never tolerate an anti-Semitism imported by immigrants.”