A new survey by an independent German foundation has found that over a third of Germans believe Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is essentially the same as the Nazi genocide of the Jews during the Holocaust.
The wide-ranging survey of thousands of Israelis and Germans conducted by Bertelsmann Stiftung mostly looked at relations between the countries, but also checked antisemitic and prejudiced views in the German public.
Asked to voice their position on the statement “What the State of Israel is doing to the Palestinians today is in principle no different than what the Nazis in the Third Reich did to the Jews,” a full 36 percent of respondents said they agreed or strongly agreed, while another 25% said they did not know. Only 40% disagreed or strongly disagreed.
In response to another question, 24% of German respondents said Jews have too much influence in the world, 62% disagreed and the rest did not know.
The study found a correlation between lower education levels and prejudices against Israel and Jews.
“In view of the demonstrable connection between education and antisemitic prejudices, we are urgently required to invest even more in educational work and enlightenment in the future,” said study leader Joachim Rother.
Conversely, the poll found a large majority, 82%, agreed with the statement that “Jews naturally belong in Germany,” while 13% disagreed and 5% said they didn’t know.
The research by Bertelsmann Stiftung, released Friday but conducted in 2021, surveyed 1,270 Germans and 1,370 Israelis with a variety of questions regarding their views on one another’s countries as well as the role of the Holocaust in relations.
The survey found that Israelis have a higher regard for Germany than Germans do for Israel.
When asked about their view of the opposite country, 63% of Israelis said they had a positive view of Germany while only 46% of Germans said the same about Israel. Meanwhile, 34% of Germans characterized their view of Israel as poor, while only 19% of Israelis saw Germany in the same light.
In regards to views about the other country’s government, 55% of Israelis said they viewed Germany’s government positively, whereas only 24% of Germans said the same about Israel. Among respondents aged 18-29, only 15% of Germans said they viewed the Israeli government in a positive light.
When asked about the lasting role of the Holocaust in relations, 58% of Israelis agreed or strongly agreed with the sentiment that Germany “has a special responsibility for the Jewish people,” compared to only 35% of Germans. Another 25% of Israelis and 33% of Germans said they “partly agree” with the statement. Meanwhile, 31% of Germans and 11% of Israelis disagreed or strongly disagreed.
Asked whether Germany “has a special responsibility for Israel” in particular, 57% of Israelis agreed or strongly agreed, with 25% partly agreeing and 12% disagreeing. Among Germans, only 27% agreed or strongly agreed, 37% partly agreed, while 35% disagreed.
The poll showed that many more Germans than Israelis are ready to move on from the Holocaust altogether: Respondents were asked their opinion on the statement “Almost 80 years after the end of the Second World War, we should no longer talk so much about the persecution of the Jews under the Nazis, but finally put the past behind us.”
Forty-nine percent of Germans agreed with the statement, compared to only 14% of Israelis. Meanwhile, 33% opposed it compared to 60% of Israelis. Relatively high numbers on both sides were undecided — 17% of Germans and 21% of Israelis.
A majority of Germans (56%) and Israelis (68%) said they thought cooperation between the countries is positive. Asked whether cooperation should intensify, 78% of Israelis and 53% of Germans answered in the affirmative.
“Much has been achieved for German-Israeli relations in recent decades,” said Rother. “However, the different perspectives of the younger generations in both countries also show that an intensive examination of the different perspectives and realities of life is indispensable. Direct encounters in the form of dialogue and cooperation can be particularly helpful here.”