German police raid homes of 17 accused of antisemitic hate speech on social media

Suspects from Bavaria said to range in age from 18 to 62; one reportedly posted to WhatsApp school class chat ‘Gas the Jews’, another called for extermination of Jewish people

Illustrative: A German police officer stands guard in front of a synagogue to secure the building in Frankfurt, Germany, November 8, 2023. (Michael Probst/AP)
Illustrative: A German police officer stands guard in front of a synagogue to secure the building in Frankfurt, Germany, November 8, 2023. (Michael Probst/AP)

BERLIN — German authorities on Tuesday raided the homes of 17 people in the state of Bavaria accused of spreading antisemitic hate speech and threats targeting Jews online.

According to the Bavarian criminal police, the suspects were 15 men and two women, aged between 18 and 62, the German news agency dpa reported. Police questioned the suspects and confiscated evidence from their homes, including cell phones and laptops, the agency said.

The suspects were said to have celebrated the attacks by Palestinian terror group Hamas on Israel on October 7 that killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians. They were also accused of spreading hate speech against Jewish people on social media, using symbols of banned terrorist organizations, dpa reported.

The police operation focused on Bavaria’s capital city of Munich where nine of the accused resided. Further searches were carried out in the Bavarian towns of Fuessen and Kaufbeuren as well as in the counties of Passau, Fuerstenfeldbruck, Berchtesgadener Land, Coburg, Aschaffenburg and Hassberge.

One suspect allegedly sent a sticker in a WhatsApp school class chat showing a clown with the words “Gas the Jews.” Another person, a German-Turkish dual citizen, allegedly posted on his account that “the Jewish sons” deserved nothing more than to be “exterminated,” dpa reported.

Another suspect, a Turkish citizen, is accused of posting a picture of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler shortly after the October 7 attacks with the caption “I could kill all the Jews, but I left some alive to show you why I killed them.” Next to it, he posted a Palestinian flag, the caption “Free Palestine” and an emoji with a victory sign.

Protesters hold placards and flags during a pro-Palestinian rally in Berlin, Germany, October 28, 2023. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

“Unfortunately, antisemitism has an impact on the daily life of many Jews in Germany,” Michael Weinzierl, the Bavarian police commissioner against hate crime told dpa, “the terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel also has an impact on their lives in Germany.”

Weinzierl said it was important to show Jews and Israelis living in the state “that we stand behind them here in Bavaria, that we protect them here and also protect them from hostility.”

Last month, Germany’s chancellor and president strongly denounced a rise in antisemitism in the country in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.

Germany has strict rules against hate speech. Raids in connection with the publication of banned symbols such as swastikas and other Nazi symbols are not uncommon. The denial of the Holocaust, in which the Nazis and their henchmen murdered 6 million European Jews, is also banned.

Antisemitism has spiked in cities across the world following the Hamas attack and subsequent conflict.

War erupted on October 7, when Hamas-led terrorists from Gaza breached the border and then rampage murderously through southern Israeli communities, killing over 1,200 people and abducting some 240. The attack came under cover of a barrage of thousands of rockets fired at Israel. Hamas and other terror groups have continued to launch rockets at Israel, displacing over 200,000 people.

According to Gaza’s Hamas-run health authorities, more than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed, two-thirds of them women and minors. Those figures cannot be independently verified, and Hamas has been accused of inflating them and of designating gunmen in their late teens as children. It is not known how many among its total are combatants, and how many among the dead were victims of misfired rockets aimed at Israel.

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