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.
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.
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.