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German Jews Comment on the Year 2019: ‘All I Want is Normality’

Jews in Germany are looking back at a difficult year 2019 during which they were confronted with hatred and danger. Most came to the conclusion that antisemitism will not just vanish anytime soon. Germany’s policies disappoint many members of the Jewish minority.

The rise of antisemitism in 2019 was felt by the small Jewish community in Germany. Many of its members believe that this sick hatred towards Jews in their country always existed under the surface, and that it has become socially acceptable again. Unintended or not, this development is being fueled by European and German policies, according to critics. Among German Jews, the attitudes vary between pessimistic and pugnacious.

Malca Goldstein-Wolf
„The year 2019 has shown Jews in Germany that they can not feel safe here. Antisemitic attacks from all directions, almost on a daily basis, lead to uncertainty. German politicians just came up with meaningless words, approved absurd U.N. resolutions against Israel and failed to protect Jewish institutions appropriately. In the meantime, the German media fuel antisemitism with their one-sided, distorted coverage from the Middle East. German politicians applaud when Israeli products are supposed to be marked again. And the judiciary in this country ignores antisemitic motives when it evaluates crimes. The question whether Jews have a future in Germany is debatable.”

The activist Malca Goldstein-Wolf fights antisemitism. Photo: private

Empty Words in Berlin

Merchandise from Judea and Samaria will be marked as such, just like back then, when ‘Do not buy from Jews!’ was the motto. Allegedly “illegal settlements” in an area Israel had to conquer in a war it did not want, in order to be able to defend itself against the constant Arab attacks, are being discussed by self-proclaimed experts, while the brutality of the Iranian regime against protesters in Teheran is largely being ignored. A short press release is enough here, while Berlin claims to know exactly what Israel should do or not do.

In 2019, Germany’s federal government kept on repeating its demand according to which Israel has to work on the Two-State Solution, in spite of the fact that the predominantly Jewish state has done exactly that, while the Palestinian leaders did everything to prevent any peace agreement of this kind, or any other kind, for decades.

Mike-Samuel Delberg is Social Media Manager at the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Photo: Delberg

“2019 was a year of awakening. For a long time we felt safe, as if we had lived on a secluded island, far away from the problems with antisemitism that France, Denmark or Belgium are confronted with. But since the antisemitic attack of Halle, this romanticism has evaporated. In spite of it all, the only appropriate reaction is not to flee, but to go on the offensive. We Jews in Germany will not hide. On the contrary, we will make sure we are more visible. We will show ourselves more. A Jew in Germany is part of society, just like a Christian, a Muslim or an atheist. All I want is normality. People should not be puzzled when they see a man wearing a kippah. I want Hanukkah or Yom Kippur to be as familiar as Christmas or Ramadan. And I am convinced this goal can be reached. This path will not be easy, but we have to take it. Together. In and with Germany.
Mike-Samuel Delberg

‘Israel Critic’ as a Profession

The annexation of Crimea by Russia is not a subject at all to the contemporary ‘Israel Critic’ who will use the word ‘settlements’ as a trump card whenever he, or she, is running out of arguments, which happens rather often. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. This double standard appears whenever it is about Jews. It is a form of antisemitism German Jews do notice. The same applies to direct hatred shown by the BDS movement, radical left-wingers, Islamists and extremist right-wingers. In 2019, this was the case all the time.

Imanuel Marcus is the founder of The Berlin Spectator.

“Almost seventy-five years after the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, the situation is alarming. In 2019, Germany continued changing. Apart from violence against Jews and hatred towards them at the Synagogue of Halle, on schoolyards, in city centers and elsewhere, disappointment was an aspect the community felt. In Berlin’s government quarter, some politicians who keep on saying they wanted to fight antisemitism and support Israel seem to be doing the exact opposite. Yet again, the German Foreign Ministry just had its man at the United Nations vote for several anti-Israeli resolutions which singled out the only democracy in the Middle East, the country Germany says it supports. The German Israel policy needs to change. Once in a while there is a glimmer of hope. But it will usually be nullified the next moment. Many non-Jewish Germans say Jews use the word ‘antisemitism’ too often. We will use it as long as this disgusting condition exists. So should everyone else. This is not about us Jews only, but about everyone.
Imanuel Marcus

Among non-Jews, mainly conservatives, including commentators on Springer SE publications such as ‘Welt’ and ‘Bild’, understand that hatred towards Jews in all of its forms is not just a problem which affects that small minority, but society as a whole. Antisemitism was an indicator for the condition of a society, Johannes Boie of the ‘Welt am Sonntag’ weekly wrote the other day. This insight needs to spread all over Germany for an effective fight against this kind of hatred.

Just like all other Germans, Jews in this country have all kinds of opinions about just as many subjects. Within the community, never-ending discussions take place between conservatives, centrists and a bunch of mostly moderate left-wingers. But there is unity, for the most part, when it comes to the assessment of the German government’s policies. Those are being perceived as mostly anti-Israeli, in spite of contrary statements made by Berlin politicians on a regular basis.

Elio Adler, M.D., heads the NGO ‘WerteInitiative’.

„The year 2019 had to be an eye-opener to anyone who occupies himself with the subject of Jewish life in Germany. There has been visible Nazi terror, Islamist agitation, a growing extremist right-wing party, disguised left-wing antisemitism and an increased hardness of the societal climate. There is a storm brewing. For 2020, I hope politics and society will understand one thing: When it comes to the protection of Jewish life, this is not entirely about protecting a minority or doing things to please its members. It is about the core of a free, democratic society. Are we ready to put everything to the test in order to save it? In 2020, politicians need to decide whether they are ready to leave the old paths and to promote everything that supports our communal life while persistently fighting everything that harms it. Just continuing and hoping things will be fine is not an option anymore.”
Elio Adler, M.D.

Many German Jews believe both European and German Israel-policies need to change, also because they seem to be fueling Israel-related antisemitism more than they are fighting it. For 2020, many Jews are hoping for a conscientious fight against antisemitism. But hardly anyone in the community is overly optimistic.

Note: The German version of this piece can be accessed here.

By the way: The publication you are reading, The Berlin Spectator, was established in January of 2019. We have worked a whole lot, as you can see. But there has hardly been any income. This is something we urgently need to change. Would you consider contributing? We would be very thankful. Our donations page can be found here.