In Berlin, the prosecution released its annual report on antisemitic crime today. The document shows what kind of issues the district attorney’s office is being confronted with while dealing with it.
The Berlin prosecution’s appointee on antisemitism, Claudia Vanoni, has one of the most difficult jobs in Berlin. The chief prosecutor deals with all legal cases that involve hatred and hate crime against Jews. There is a lot to deal with, because antisemitism in Berlin is on the rise.
Hundreds of Proceedings
Identifying antisemitic crimes, in cooperation with the Jewish community in Berlin, documenting them and taking action against the culprits are Claudia Vanoni’s main tasks. She says she believes that in 80 percent of all crimes involving antisemitism, the victims do not contact the authorities, meaning there is a large dark figure.
During the second half of 2018, a total of 248 legal proceedings were initiated in cases involving antisemitism. Out of those, 104 of the suspected crimes were committed online. In 2019, 386 proceedings were initiated against known and unknown suspects, 156 of them were online cases.
Fines and Probation
In many cases, proceedings were discontinued because the culprits could not be identified. This applied to 42 percent in 2018, according to Claudia Vanoni’s report on cases with an antisemitic background, and to 44 percent last year.
In several 2018 cases, the delinquents responsible were convicted. They had to pay fines or got probation. The Berlin prosecution also worked on numerous 2019 cases, in which it reached the same kind of verdicts. In one case, a culprit by the name of Usama Z. was put into a mental hospital.
Attacks Against Restaurant Owner
For a long time, Z. had held big signs with antisemitic content at Brandenburg Gate and other places frequented by tourists almost every day. He physically attacked several people who complained about his display of hatred towards Jews. Usama Z.’s case was highlighted in Claudia Venoni’s report.
So was the attack on the Jewish owner of the ‘Feinberg’s’ restaurant in 2017 which triggered a new round of nationwide discussions about antisemitism. The delinquent got probation. In the antisemitism report it says, the same restaurant owner has been attacked several times more since.
An attack against a man who wore a kippah in Berlin’s Prenzaler Berg district in April of 2018 which made it into virtually all German media at the time was highlighted too. So was a case in which three individuals threatened and beat up a young man because an Israeli song was playing on his cell phone and the attack on a rabbi and his son in Wilmersdorf, as well as the case of a man who approached guards at New Synagogue Berlin with a knife in his hand.
According to Claudia Vanoni’s report, there are challenges the prosecution is facing. For instance, certain antisemitic statements are not indictable, since they fall into the freedom of speech category. Antisemitic hate speech crimes online pose another challenge. One of the problems is that delinquents often conceal their true identity.
When the suspects live abroad, the Berlin prosecution usually sends out rogatory letters. But in many cases the countries that receive them reject requests as long as what Germany sees as a crime may not be one according to the local laws.
As the prosecution’s appointee on antisemitism, Claudia Vanoni also works on improving cooperation between authorities. And she raises awareness by giving interviews and taking part in panel discussions. Her report (in German) can be accessed here.
Her report and other source show that being Jewish in Berlin is dangerous. Antisemitic hate mainly comes from the far right, the far left and from within the large Muslim community. More and more, hatred towards Jews is disguised as what parts of the extremist left calls “Israel-criticism”.
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