Germany fears ‘mass exit’ of Jews if hatred persists

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned on Sunday that Jews could leave Germany on a "massive" scale if urgent action was not taken to stem rising anti-Semitism.

Germany fears 'mass exit' of Jews if hatred persists
A man wears a kippah during a demonstration in Dresden following the attempted racist attack in October. Photo: Robert Michael/dpa
Writing in Der Spiegel weekly on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, Maas said anti-Jewish insults and attacks, in real life and online, had become “a daily occurrence”.
Almost one in two Jews has considered leaving Germany, he said, a country that has long taken pains to confront its Nazi past.
“We need to take urgent counter-measures to make sure that such thoughts do not turn into a bitter reality and lead to a massive departure of Jews from Germany,” he wrote.
The fight against anti-Semitism would be a priority when Germany takes over the rotating European Union presidency in July and the chairmanship of the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights body, in November, Maas vowed.
Germany will push for tougher legal consequences for anti-Semitic acts, he said, and for more EU nations to make Holocaust denial a crime — currently illegal in over a dozen member states including Germany, Belgium and Italy.
Berlin will also step up the battle against anti-Jewish hate speech and disinformation on social media, Maas wrote, saying perpetrators “should feel the full force of the law across Europe”.
An anti-Semitic attack in the eastern German city of Halle in October — in which a gunman tried but failed to storm a synagogue before killing a passer-by and a customer at a kebab shop — showed that “Jewish sites and communities” needed better protection “everywhere in Europe”. 
To help make that happen, Germany will provide 500,000 euros ($550,000) to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) this year, Maas said.
School trips
Germany's top diplomat stressed the importance of educating young people about the horrors of World War II, when six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis.
Research had shown that “a third of young Europeans indicated knowing little to nothing about the Holocaust,” he said.
The comments came on the same day a YouGov survey found 56 percent of Germans were in favour of making a school visit to a concentration camp mandatory.
In a separate statement, Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, warned that a decades-old German “consensus” to admit and remember Nazi crimes “was crumbling”.
“If we don't act now, our democracy could be in serious danger,” he said. “It's not just about the future of the Jewish community but about the future of Europe.”
Elderly Holocaust survivors will gather in Auschwitz on Monday to mark 75 years since Soviet troops liberated the camp, while world leaders held a sombre remembrance ceremony in Jerusalem last Thursday.
More than 1.1 million people, mainly Jews, were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Most died in the gas chambers but many also succumbed to starvation, disease and overwork.

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German man jailed for life over deadly anti-Semitic rampage

A German court on Monday handed down a life sentence to the assailant behind a deadly far-right attack last year that nearly became the country's worst anti-Semitic atrocity since World War II.

German man jailed for life over deadly anti-Semitic rampage
Stephan Balliet (R) who shot dead two people after an attempt to storm a synagogue in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany. AFP

A bolted door at the synagogue in the eastern city of Halle with 52 worshippers inside marking Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, was the only thing that prevented the heavily armed attacker from carrying out a planned bloodbath.

After failing to storm the temple on October 9, 2019, Stephan Balliet, 28, shot dead a female passer-by and a man at a kebab shop.

During his five-month trial, Balliet denied the Holocaust in open court — a crime in Germany — and expressed no remorse to those targeted, many of whom were co-plaintiffs in the case.

“The attack on the synagogue in Halle was one of the most repulsive anti-Semitic acts since World War II,” prosecutor Kai Lohse told the court in the nearby city of Magdeburg as the trial wrapped up.

The prosecution had demanded a life sentence for Balliet. The defence team asked presiding judge Ursula Mertens only for a “fair sentence”.

A lawyer for nine of the co-plaintiffs, Mark Lupschitz, told AFP early Monday the trial had been “fair” and called the proceedings both “stressful and empowering” for the intended victims. 

During the trial, Balliet insisted that “attacking the synagogue was not a mistake, they are my enemies”.

Dressed in military garb, he filmed the attack and broadcast it on the internet, prefacing it with a manifesto espousing his misogynist, neo-fascist ideology.

Israel's ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, called the attack “a very, very alarming moment in German history”.

“If that guy would have been able to get into a synagogue… it would have had a tremendous impact on German identity after the war and the fight against anti-Semitism,” he told AFP in an interview.