German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Friday demanded his country’s immigrants reject anti-Semitism, characterizing it as a “non-negotiable” condition for living in Germany.
“There are things which are part of Germany. And one of these is our responsibility for our past: the lessons of two World Wars, the lessons from the Holocaust, the responsibility for Israel’s security, the rejection of any form of racism and anti-Semitism,” said the German president at a Hanukkah event at the Israeli embassy in Berlin.
“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.
A study published earlier this 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.
This week’s survey, commissioned by the American Jewish Committee’s Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations in Berlin, found that while many refugees interviewed had positive impressions of Germany, they also tended to believe in conspiracy theories, such as about Jews or Israel controlling the world.
“Anti-Semitic thinking and stereotyping are very common … even among those who emphasize that they ‘respect’ Judaism or that there is no problem living together between Muslims, Christians and Jews in their countries of origin and in Germany,” sociologist Günther Jikeli of Indiana University and the University of Potsdam, Germany said in a statement.
It also found that refugees from persecuted minority communities are more likely to take a stand against anti-Semitism and for Israel.
The report was based on interviews with 68 refugees, and came amid heightened anti-Israeli sentiments at the Berlin rallies.
At the same time, in a show of solidarity with Jewish communities in Germany, local imams joined with Christian and Jewish leaders in public celebrations of Hanukkah, including the annual candle-lighting ceremony at the Brandenburg Gate, where Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal of Berlin was joined in by Mayor Michael Mueller. Security has been tightened throughout Germany and at Jewish venues.
Steinmeier’s speech came two days after the local Bild Zeitung newspaper reported that official Hanukkah celebrations in the northwest German city of Mülheim had been canceled due to security concerns.
A city spokesperson told Bild Zeitung that the decision was made at the behest of the Central Council of Jews, who said the city hall would be difficult to secure for the scheduled candle-lighting ceremony.
Because the concerns over the building were voiced last minute, the organizers were unable to find a more secure location in time for the event.
JTA contributed to this report.