A prominent Jewish official in Munich is accusing local police of using excessive force in detaining him after he quarreled with radical demonstrators last week.
The protest was organized by the so-called “Querdenker,” the German equivalent of the QAnon conspiracy theorists, who were demanding the release of “political prisoners.”
The demonstration was held last Wednesday night, which coincided with the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht — “The Night of Broken Glass” — when mobs of Germans and Austrians attacked, looted and burned Jewish shops and homes, destroyed 1,400 synagogues, killed 92 Jews and sent another 30,000 to concentration camps.
Marian Offman, a former longtime member of the city council who currently serves as Munich’s first interfaith commissioner, told The Times of Israel during a Monday interview that the first thing he saw when he arrived at the protest was a poster depicting whistleblower Julian Assange next to a star of David.
“There was a clear requirement that no Star of David may be used at this demonstration,” Offman said, recalling that he approached police who agreed to confiscate the poster.
Offman, the 74-year-old son of Holocaust survivors, said he asked another demonstrator whether she thought the anniversary of Kristallnacht was the right date for holding such a demonstration.
The woman responded that on the same date — November 8 — there had also been an attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
There was indeed such an attempt, but on November 9, 1938, a year and a day after Kristallnacht. Resistance fighter Georg Elser had planted a bomb in a Munich restaurant, where Hitler and his party colleagues were holding a conference. Elser was later murdered in the Dachau concentration camp.
When Offman told the demonstrator that he would have gladly assassinated Hitler, he said that she responded by asking, “Where is your humanity?”
“People with your background are vogelfrei,” he quoted her as having said, using the German word for “outlaws.”
Offman claimed that the demonstrators – who ranged from conspiracy theorists to several Neo-Nazis – knew who he was and that he is Jewish.
He said that one demonstrator, who he later identified as a regional leader of Germany’s far-right AfD party, accused him of “segregating” people according to their COVID-19 vaccination status. The Querdenker group regularly compares the treatment of the unvaccinated during the pandemic to the persecution of Jews during the Third Reich.
How Munich police treated Marian Offman: pic.twitter.com/BO4q9rYdbv
— Lisa Katha Schneider (@lisakathaschn) November 14, 2022
“I didn’t understand his comment at first, but he used the term ‘segregation’ in the sense of Nazis segregating Jews at the entrance of Auschwitz. This is pure antisemitism, and clearly a relativization of the Holocaust,” Offman said.
Triggered by the demonstrator’s rhetoric, Offman said he called the man an “asshole.”
They were immediately surrounded by police who had “heard everything,” Offman said.
The officers insisted Offman follow them to a police van parked on a side street, but he refused.
A video Offman provided to the Times of Israel shows the officers escorting him to the van against his will. Two officers are seen grabbing him and another group of officers follow them. “They hurt my ribs,” he said.
At the police van, the two people who had insulted Offman were already there, filing a police complaint against him. He said he then proceeded to do the same.
Munich police spokesman Sven Müller told The Times of Israel that Offmann had been “involved in a conversation with two assembly participants, during which mutual insults were made.”
The Munich police saw no “misconduct” by the officers on duty, he added.
Munich police press officer Andreas Franken released a separate statement on Thursday that the officers had not known who Offman was.
Florian Ritter, a local lawmaker and party colleague of Offman’s, told The Times of Israel that he doesn’t understand why police did not immediately take action against those who hurled antisemitic insults at Offman. On Thursday, Ritter filed a formal request to the government of the Bavaria region for police to explain their treatment of Offman.
Offman himself decided not to file a report for bodily injury against the officers. “My pain will not be soothed by inflicting pain on others,” he said.
The problem isn’t the officers on the ground, but whoever gave them their orders, he claimed.
Tobias Singelnstein, a criminal law professor at Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt, argued that there was little reason to assume that the police response was intentionally malicious based on the specific incident. However, he noted that there are German police officers who espouse antisemitic and racist views and said that combating the phenomenon was an “imperative.”
While Ritter was also unable to provide statistics regarding antisemitism in Munich’s police force, he did cite figures that pointed to a rise in overall offenses targeting Jews in the city. Over the past four years, antisemitic offenses have doubled, he said.
Earlier Monday, Offman spoke to the head of the Munich police department and a Bavarian attorney general, though he characterized the conversations as “unfruitful.”
For Offman, last week’s ordeal felt strangely familiar. He published a novel earlier this year called “Mandelbaum,” in which a Jewish city council member is accused of having beaten a neo-Nazi into a coma during a demonstration.
In an interview with the German newspaper Taz, he described the story as “half truth, half fiction.”
Offman told The Times of Israel that he’d contemplated emigrating to Israel after what had happened.
Ultimately, he decided against it. “Munich is the center of my life,” he said.