German politician urges concentration camp visits for all, including migrants
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German politician urges concentration camp visits for all, including migrants

Welcomed by head of Jewish community, move comes amid concern over anti-Semitism among migrants from Muslim-majority countries

German Chancellor Angela Merkel lays a wreath at the International Memorial of former Nazi concentration camp of Dachau, southwestern Germany, during a ceremony to mark 70 years since it was liberated by US forces on May 3, 2015. American army trucks rolled into Dachau, northwest of Munich, on April 29, 1945 to discover the unspeakable horror that had led to more than 41,000 people being killed, having starved or died of disease. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOF STACHE)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel lays a wreath at the International Memorial of former Nazi concentration camp of Dachau, southwestern Germany, during a ceremony to mark 70 years since it was liberated by US forces on May 3, 2015. American army trucks rolled into Dachau, northwest of Munich, on April 29, 1945 to discover the unspeakable horror that had led to more than 41,000 people being killed, having starved or died of disease. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOF STACHE)

Germany’s main Jewish leader has given a guarded welcome to a politician’s suggestion that everyone living in Germany, including migrants, should be obliged to visit a former Nazi concentration camp at least once.

The suggestion by Sawsan Chebli, a Berlin city government official who is Muslim, came amid concern over anti-Semitism among migrants from Muslim-majority countries. She told Sunday’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper that concentration camp visits should become part of integration courses for migrants.

Josef Schuster, the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, told Deutschlandfunk radio Wednesday the idea is “good in principle” but there are questions over details. He said it wouldn’t work simply to summon people to concentration camp visits.

Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, attends a press conference following his election in Frankfurt am Main, central Germany, on November 30, 2014. (AFP/Daniel Roland)

Schuster said well-prepared visits would be “absolutely important” for older schoolchildren and for asylum-seekers.

The suggestion comes as Germany’s ruling parties are preparing legislation that could see migrants who express anti-Semitic views deported from the country, the daily Die Welt newspaper reported Saturday.

The CDU-CSU conservative alliance led by Chancellor Angela Merkel hopes to present the new bill by International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.

The draft legislation states that “absolute acceptance of Jewish life” is a “benchmark for successful integration” in Germany.

“Anyone who rejects Jewish life in Germany or questions Israel’s right to exist can not have a place in our country.”

Stephan Harbarth, deputy chairman of the CDU-CSU parliamentary group, told Die Welt that Berlin “must resolutely oppose the anti-Semitism of migrants with an Arab background and from African countries.”

Migrants found guilty of anti-Semitic speech could face deportation under the bill.

German officials reacted with outrage in December after protesters in Berlin burned Israeli flags to protest the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said 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.

“Every criminal act motivated by anti-Semitism is one too many and a shame for our country,” de Maiziere told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said that although Berlin opposed the move by US President Donald Trump, it strongly condemned protests where “hatred” of Israel and Jews was expressed.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier declared himself “shocked and shamed” by the incidents and said rejection of anti-Semitism was a “non-negotiable” condition for living in Germany.

A recent study found that anti-Semitism is rampant among Muslim refugees in Germany and requires urgent attention.

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