Sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Berlin in 2018, report finds
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Sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Berlin in 2018, report finds

German watchdog says anti-Jewish violence in capital jumped over 150% since 2017; surge in threats, attacks and other incidents attributed to far-right

Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, speaks during the 'Berlin wears kippa' event, with more than 2,000 Jews and non-Jews wearing the traditional skullcap to show solidarity with Jews on April 25, 2018 in Berlin after Germany was rocked by a series of anti-Semitic incidents.(AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ)
Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, speaks during the 'Berlin wears kippa' event, with more than 2,000 Jews and non-Jews wearing the traditional skullcap to show solidarity with Jews on April 25, 2018 in Berlin after Germany was rocked by a series of anti-Semitic incidents.(AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ)

Anti-Semitic offenses in Berlin rose almost 14 percent in Germany last year, and violent attacks targeting Jews in the German capital jumped nearly 150%, according to a new report by a leading anti-Semitism watchdog.

The report published last week by the Berlin-based Research and Information Center for anti-Semitism (RIAS) said that 1,083 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in the city in 2018, compared to the 951 incidents reported the year before.

Over half of the incidents targeted what the report categorized as identifiably “Jewish/Israeli” organizations, individuals or activists in Berlin.

RIAS manager Benjamin Steinitz told Germany’s Die Welt last week the anti-Semitic incidents in the city were becoming increasingly “direct” in nature, noting the increase in physical assaults.

The report noted a sharp rise in physical assaults targeting Jews in the city, from 18 attacks reported in 2017 to 48 in 2018. Threats made against the Berlin Jewish community nearly doubled in the last year, with 46 incidents reported in 2018, compared with 26 in 2017.

Guests attend a ceremony at the Synagogue Rykestrasse in Berlin on November 9, 2018 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Kristallnacht Nazi pogrom. (John MACDOUGALL / AFP)

Steinitz warned of increasing willingness to follow up anti-Semitic statements with “concrete threats of violence or even force.”

The RIAS findings paralleled official crime statistics released by German authorities in February, which showed a 10% increase in anti-Semitic offenses in 2018 from 2017, including a 60% increase in violent assaults.

Both the RIAS and police found that the majority of the incidents with an identifiable motive emanated from far-right groups or sympathizers.

Germany, like other Western countries, has watched with alarm as anti-Semitic and other racist hate speech and violence have increased in recent years as the political climate has coarsened and grown more polarized.

A mass influx of mostly Muslim refugees and migrants to Germany from 2015 drove the rise of the far-right and anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which since late 2017 is the biggest opposition group in parliament.

Leading AfD members, aside from railing against Islam and multiculturalism, have also made comments that play down the Holocaust.

Demonstrators hold a posters reading “AfD is not kosher” as they take part in a rally organised by Germany’s JSUD Jewish students’ union on October 7, 2018 in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany. (AFP PHOTO / dpa / Frank Rumpenhorst)

Party co-leader Alexander Gauland described Nazi Germany’s industrial-scale murder of Jews and other minorities as a mere “speck of bird poo in over 1,000 years of successful German history.”

Another leading AfD politician, Bjoern Hoecke, has criticized the sprawling Holocaust memorial in Berlin as a “monument of shame.”

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, and other Jewish community leaders have accused the AfD of fomenting hate against refugees, Muslims and Jews.

AFP contributed to this report.

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