- Two arrested in western Germany after Jewish cemetery vandalized
- We must send a signal': Germany to tighten law on anti-Semitic crimes
- After deadly attack in Halle, owner gifts kebab shop to survivors
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.
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.