Segments of the Jewish population in Berlin are being forced to consider a question many once thought unthinkable in the wake of the atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi followers and the subsequent promises of “never again” — is it time to leave Germany?
Spiegel International reports testimonies from a host of Jews in the national capital worried about their futures and those of their families as a rising tide of antisemitism is seen once more to cast a shadow across the city.
The despair has arrived on the back of the Hamas terrorists attack that killed 1,400 people in Israel on October 7 and kidnapped around 220 more. The report summarizes the fears in a metropolis once known for its anti-Jewish hate and the records of history:
Berlin, of all places, the city from which Adolf Hitler ruled over Nazi Germany. When the Nazis came to power here, 160,000 Jews lived in the city, around a third of Germany’s total Jewish population. By the end of the war, only 1,500 remained – with the rest having been murdered in the Holocaust or driven to suicide or to flee abroad.
The Guardian reports Germany’s antisemitism commissioner has condemned the country’s recent increase in anti-Jewish violence, warning it risks transporting the country back to its “most horrific times.”
The remarks tap into a debate that has played out across Europe, and in particular in Germany and France – home to the E.U.’s largest Jewish and Muslim communities – as officials scramble to contain the spillover of tensions sparked by the Israel-Hamas war.
“People are shocked to hear news of houses where Jews live being marked with a Star of David,” he told the outlet. “Because that, of course, rings a bell and brings us back to the most horrific times we had in this country.”
Recent weeks have seen Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, vow to take a “zero tolerance” approach to antisemitism, citing the responsibility towards Israel given Germany’s role as the perpetrator of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were murdered.
Other national leaders have echoed those concerns.
NOW – President of Germany: “Every single attack on Jews and Jewish institutions is a disgrace for Germany, and every single attack fills me with shame and anger.” pic.twitter.com/PDxVrNNWDj
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) October 22, 2023
In recent days Scholz has doubled down on the pledge, after assailants hurled two molotov cocktails at a synagogue in central Berlin and the Star of David was found daubed on the facades of several buildings where Jews live in Berlin.
The attacks have come even as German citizen Shani Louk has been confirmed as a victim of the horrific Hamas attack on October 7.
“These barbaric, sadistic animals simply chopped off her head.” https://t.co/wjyimp8eZs
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) October 31, 2023
“Our history, our responsibility for the Holocaust makes it our duty in every moment to stand for the existence and security of Israel,” said Scholz.
Germany has the third-largest Jewish community in Europe, according to the interior ministry.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany puts the number of practising Jews in the country at around 100,000 and the number of synagogues at around 100.
Antisemitic acts have increased sharply in the country amid the latest turmoil in the Middle East, the Federal Association of Research and Information Centres on Anti-Semitism (RIAS) confirmed to AFP.
Shock: Jewish Home in Berlin Marked with Star of David Symbol in Grim Reminder of Germany’s Pasthttps://t.co/UYxLP9i8wX
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 14, 2023
In the period from October 7 to 15, RIAS documented 202 antisemitic “incidents” compared with just 59 during the same week in 2022.
Sigmount Koenigsberg, a pointman on antisemitism for the city’s Jewish community, told the Rheinische Post newspaper the rise anti-Jewish incidents brought back painful memories of Nazi Germany.
“It is the first time since Nazi rule that this is happening again in Germany. It reminds my community very much of that terrible time,” he said.