‘Drastic increase’ of violent antisemitic attacks in Berlin, according to figures
The German capital’s first commissioner for antisemitism, Claudia Vanoni, who took up her post on September 1st last year, said seven violent antisemitic attacks were recorded by police in 2017, compared to 24 incidents which were recorded between January and mid-December 2018.
Vanoni described it as a “drastic increase” in an interview with the Berliner Zeitung published earlier this week.
These are provisional figures which may change if, for example, more crimes are reported.
When it comes to non-violent antisemitic crimes, according to Vanoni police recorded a total of 305 incidents in Berlin in 2017. Last year, 295 cases were recorded up until mid-December.
“Considering that cases are usually reported later, there will probably be a slight increase in the number of cases in 2018,” said Vanoni, regarding these figures.
The majority of these cases involve offensive language against others and damage to property, such as hate-filled graffiti.
When asked why Berlin’s prosecution office needs a commissioner dedicated to antisemitism, Vanoni said there had been an “increase in hatred against Jewish citizens”.
“I have the impression that antisemitism is becoming louder, more blatant and more aggressive,” she said.
Vanoni said Berlin law enforcement authorities wanted to take a stand and focus on “combating antisemitism”.
She said one reason why hate crime against Jews is higher in Berlin than elsewhere could be down to more people reporting it due to community organizations like the Antisemitism Research and Information Centre (RIAS). RIAS has an Internet platform so those affected can report crime this way.
High profile incidents, including a young Syrian migrant who admitted to lashing out at an Israeli man wearing a Jewish kippa skullcap last April in the Prenzlauer Berg district of the capital, have renewed fears among the Jewish community in Berlin and Germany.
A video of the attack, filmed by the victim on his smartphone, sparked widespread public revulsion as it spread on social media, and later triggered large street rallies to show solidarity with Jews.
The defendant, a 19-year-old Palestinian from Syria, was sentenced to four weeks’ juvenile detention.
After the belt attack, the head of the Jewish community in Germany, Joseph Schuster, said that Jews should avoid wearing religious symbols in big cities due to a heightened risk of targeted attacks.
The incident had coincided with another public outcry, over a rap duo who made light of Nazi death camp prisoners but went on to win the music industry’s sales-based Echo award, which was subsequently axed.
In the interview with the Berliner Zeitung, Vanoni said that perpetrators of antisemitism come from all social groups.
She said the crime falls under the category of ‘politically motivated crimes’ and in many cases, although not all, antisemitic crimes are marked down by police as having been committed by far-right perpetrators.
When it comes to antisemitism among people in the Islam community, Vanoni said: “In my work, I often hear in conversations with Jewish organizations that Jews regard antisemitism among Muslims as an ever-increasing problem in Germany.
“Statistically, this cannot be proven unequivocally. But I take this concern very seriously.”
Despite the increase in recorded crimes, Vanoni said Germany is on the whole a safe country for those belonging to the Jewish faith.
She added that antisemitism “is not only an attack on the victim, but also on our democracy and our values, and must therefore be fought vigorously”.
The German government created its first country-wide commissioner post for antisemitism last year.