Britain’s upcoming departure from the European Union, known colloquially as Brexit, has led numerous British Jews to seek German passports, decades after they and their antecedents were stripped of their nationality by the Nazis.
According to The Telegraph newspaper, the number of British Jews applying for German citizenship “spiked sharply” in the wake of the June 23 vote to leave the European Union, up from the usual 20 or so applications of this kind per year.
Germany’s Basic Law states that any Jewish person, or a descendant thereof, who lost German nationality as a result of Nazi laws is entitled to have it restored.
The Community Security Trust, British Jewry’s watchdog on anti-Semitism, expressed its concern, along with other British Jewish groups, over a rise in incidents of racism in the wake of the Brexit vote, including hate graffiti against Polish immigrants and verbal abuse of other immigrants on the street.
Just days after the vote, a British Jewish woman found herself on the receiving end of such an attack, when her bag with the Yiddish word “schlep” written on it drew the attention of a racist thug.
“The word ‘schlep’ written on the side perfectly describes my regular hour-long trek through central London,” Natalie Pitimson, a senior sociology lecturer at the University of Brighton, wrote on her blog.
She had previously encountered no unpleasant incidents over the bag, whose slogan “reminds me of growing up in a lively Jewish family where such phrases littered otherwise very English sentences,” she wrote.
But the bag caused Pitimson distress when it invited a vicious verbal attack by a fellow passenger of the London underground. According to Pitimson, the man told her to “f— off back to Israel with the other yids.”
The June 28 incident left Pitimson “shaking and very upset,” she wrote. “I thought about nothing else for the rest of the day. I have never been targeted in this way before.”
Pitimson traces the “schlep” incident to a noticeable uptick in expressions of xenophobia following the referendum on leaving the EU, in which 52 percent of voters supported Brexit.
As the nation struggles to deal with the aftermath of the divisive vote, Brexit opponents cite such incidents as proof that the referendum result has unleashed a wave of racism. According to the National Police Chiefs Council, 331 alleged hate crime incidents were reported to police in the week after the vote, compared with a weekly average of only 63 before the vote (the statement did not specify the previous time period).
JTA contributed to this report