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November 13, 2011
BERLIN -- Anti-Semitism remains a serious problem in Germany, according to the first report issued by a national commission of experts.
About 20 percent of the German population holds strongly anti-Semitic views, says the 188-page report, which examines anti-Semitism not only in extreme right-wing, left-wing and Islamic extremist circles, but also in mainstream society.
The report, titled “Anti-Semitism in Germany: Forms, conditions, prevention,” was delivered last week to the German Bundestag.
"We tried to look a bit more into different societal entities, such as religious associations and [mainstream] political parties, and we asked whether they have confronted anti-Semitism within their ranks and whether they have prevention ideas," said Juliane Wetzel of the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism, who coordinated the report with Peter Longerich, historian at the London-based Centre for the Holocaust and Twentieth-Century History.
The report, which analyzes existing research by the Anti-Defamation League and Bielefeld University, as well as statistics on hate crimes from the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution, recommends that the country invest more in programs to study and combat the problem.
The nine-member panel that created the report was established in mid-2009 by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and charged with reporting regularly on anti-Semitism and efforts to combat it in Germany. A Bundestag resolution in November 2008 had mandated the committee.
While sources of hate material may be documented, it remains unclear how many people are influenced by such propaganda, Wetzel told JTA.
“More research is needed into what is happening on the ground” both to understand the ripple effect of propaganda and to see which programs are effective in stemming the tide, she said.
Commenting on the report, Berlin-based activist Anetta Kahane stressed the importance of distinguishing between serious charges of anti-Semitism and accusations made for political reasons. Political parties often will accuse their opponents of anti-Semitism when they really should be rooting out the problem within their own ranks, said Kahane, a member of the Jewish community and founder and director of the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung, which has run and supported anti-hate programs in Germany since 1998.
Though “anti-Semitism exists especially in Arab communities, it is undignified to use this to bash all immigrants,” Kahane said. “Anti-Semitism has to be taken seriously and not used as a weapon.
“You cannot win the fight against anti-Semitism, but it can be controlled.”