Berlin Impressionen

Berlin Swept by Outrage Against Antisemitism and Sympathy for Israelis

German leaders and officials have strongly criticized a rise in antisemitism in their country following the Israel-Hamas conflict, and a top minister has gone so far as to say that the government will take steps to prevent individuals who have engaged in antisemitic actions from obtaining German citizenship.

In Berlin as well as in London, thousands of people gathered in demonstrations called to show opposition to antisemitism and support for Israel in the aftermath of the surprise October 7 attacks by Hamas terrorists on Israelis that claimed hundreds of lives.

The Berlin protest, organized by a wide alliance of organizations, came amid an uptick in antisemitic incidents in Germany—a trend that has surged in the aftermath of the violent escalation of the conflict in Gaza.

“People are shocked to hear news of houses where Jews live being marked with a Star of David,” said Felix Klein, the first person to head the Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight Against Antisemitism, appointed to that position in 2018.  He pointed out that the recent surge in anti-Jewish violence in Germany carries the risk of returning the country to its “most horrific times.”

Meanwhile, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser warned on October 25 that a new law tabled in the German parliament provides a “clear exclusion of antisemites.” Individuals supporting the Islamic terror group Hamas would face legal prosecution to the fullest extent of the law, she said.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed his distress at the resurgence of fear among Jews, especially within Germany. “It is unbearable that Jews are living in fear again today,” he told a crowd of at least 10,000 people demonstrating in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin with Israeli flags and posters showing images of hostages taken by Hamas.

“Every single attack on Jews, on Jewish institutions is a disgrace for Germany,” Steinmeier observed. “And every single attack fills me with shame and anger.” 

Inaugurating a synagogue in the eastern city of Dessau on October 22 along with Antisemitism Commissioner Klein, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he was “deeply outraged by the way in which antisemitic hatred and inhuman agitation have been breaking out since October 7 on the internet, in social media around the world, and shamefully also here in Germany.”

Scholz was referring in part to two Molotov cocktails that had been thrown at a synagogue in Berlin. “Here in Germany, of all places,” he said, adding: “Our ‘never again’ must be unbreakable.”