Anti-semitism is alive and well in germany

Once upon a time, Yorai Feinberg was the man with Berlin’s best Israeli food. In his eponymous restaurant, the Israeli man’s eyes shine with delight as he discusses what makes his falafel – dark brown outside, glowing emerald green inside – so good. But a wary shadow returns to his eyes, however, when talk turns to his health and the attack.

Just before Christmas, having a smoke outside his restaurant, a man came over and became berating him. In a six-minute video, shot by Mr Feinberg’s girlfriend, the 60 year old shifts effortlessly from attacking Israeli politics towards something darker. If you want an instructional video in letting your anti-Semite mask fall, this is it.


Mr Feinberg hailed down passing police who detained the man and later charged him with defamation, incitement and resisting arrest. Five months on, Feinberg is full of praise for the police, who regularly pass by the restaurant in a patrol car. And what became of the man? Feinberg shrugs his shoulders. Popular narrative

Since German unification in 1990, the popular narrative surrounding anti-Semitism in Germany has been straightforward: isolated incidents involving young, drunk skinheads in eastern Germany. Added to the narrative in recent years: testosterone-filled young men from families with Arab and Turkish roots.

Ingolf Schaller, the man who attacked Mr Feinberg, is a grey-haired physiotherapist in western Berlin. Until recently he practised in a 19th century building in a leafy residential street where, beside the door, 20 brass “stumbling stone” plaques recall 20 Jewish residents of this building murdered in Riga, Theresienstadt and Auschwitz.

Given Germany’s tragic past, it’s not surprising that media reports about Jewish life here often accentuate the positive: young Israelis embracing the hedonistic freedoms of the country their grandparents fled. But no feel-good reportage can change how, though growing, the Jewish population today is still less than half that of 1933, at about 270,000. Official figures suggest today’s Germany has as many Buddhists as Jews.

If a rabbi is attacked or an Israeli couple spat on near the Brandenburg Gate, all such events are brushed off, after two days of outrage, as regrettable one-off incidents. But pressure is building now for Germany to address an anti-Semitic triple threat. Threats

The effects were clear two weeks ago when a 20 year-old Israeli student, Adam Armoush, wore a kippa on the street to prove to a friend how safe Berlin was for Jews. He was set upon by three Arab-speaking men, including a 19-year-old Palestinian man raised in Syria and now a refugee in Germany, who flogged him with his belt shouting “yahudi” – Arabic for jew.

The second anti-Semitic threat is from young second- and third-generation men from immigrant families raised on satellite television from Turkey and neighbouring countries that mixes anti-Jewish stereotypes with demands to exterminate Israel for its Palestinian politics.

This second threat has now reached German schools. Earlier this month, 15-year-old Berliner Liam Rückert, tired of dealing with “shitty Jew” remarks and death threats in school, told the Bild tabloid he was now moving to boarding school in Israel.

She sees the growing situation in Germany as part of a wider problem in Europe: how to react when one group attacks western fundamental values to attack another group? But Germany suffers from a unique “misunderstood political correctness” towards minorities, she argues: a lack of will to defend – and impose – the non-negotiable social contract that emerged from the painful lessons of its own history.

It was an historically burdened site for a demo: between the post-war synagogue that replaced the original structure burned in Nazi-organised looting in 1938, and a hotel seized from its Jewish owners a year earlier. The date was historic, too: 85 years ago to the day since the Nazis passed a law squeezing Jews out of universities.

Berlin mayor Michael Müller told the kippa-wearing crowd that “our fundamental values are non-negotiable” but, asked about his concrete plans to defend these rights, he talked instead of the need for “everyone to be alert, every day, everywhere”.

In a speech Mr Josef Schuster, head of the Central Committee of Jews in Germany, called out political lip service and took a swipe, too, at efforts by the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) to hijack anti-Semitic attacks for their anti-Muslim policies.

After seven decades, Germany is seeking a new booster injection for its “never again” vaccine against the old anti-Semitic virus – for refugees, Turkish-German youths and even ageing German physiotherapists like Ingolf Schaller. Five months ago, he shouted at Mr Feinberg: “No one will help you. In 10 years, you’ll get what’s coming to you.”