German Hate Mail Comes From Surprisingly Well Educated Sources

New Study Shows Education Does Little To Cure Prejudice

Lack of Discrimination: Linguistics professor Monika Schwarz-Friesel says there is little difference between the semantics of ‘highly educated anti-Semites and vulgar extremists.’
Technische Universität Berlin
Lack of Discrimination: Linguistics professor Monika Schwarz-Friesel says there is little difference between the semantics of ‘highly educated anti-Semites and vulgar extremists.’

By Donald Snyder

Published December 08, 2013, issue of December 13, 2013.
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“I’m living in a country where 75 years after Kristallnacht every single Jewish institution is guarded by the police,” he said. “What does it mean that every synagogue, Jewish schools and kindergartens are always protected? It means there’s a threat.”

According to Zick, anti-Semitism even afflicts German school children. “When a child’s possession, like a book or pen, is stolen, the culprit is called a ‘Jew,’” he said, offering an example. Yet most teachers are not trained to deal with prejudice in the classroom, said Zick.

Some 20% of residents in the country still harbor anti-Semitic attitudes, according to a 2012 study sponsored by the German government. That compares to the Anti-Defamation League’s most recent survey of attitudes toward Jews in America in 2013, which found that 12% “harbor deeply entrenched anti-Semitic attitudes.”

In June, the German government passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism in response to the government survey and called for better education programs to fight prejudice. The resolution also called for a deepening of Germany’s special relationship with Israel. In recognition of the state’s historical responsibility for the Holocaust, Germany has committed itself to supporting Israel in ways that go beyond normal state relations. Chancellor Angela Merkel has continued this policy, offering unwavering support for Israel and opposition to anti-Semitism.

But Deidre Berger, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s office in Berlin, said that government resolutions and a pro-Israel foreign policy were not enough to combat the kind of prejudice reflected in the decade’s worth of emails to the Council of Jews in Germany.

“There needs to be greater public awareness of the scope of every-day anti-Semitism,” she said. “German politicians, educators, government officials, police officers and civil society leaders need to highlight the urgency of the problem and initiate activities to counter anti-Semitism…. It is critical that students learn more about Jews, Judaism and Jewish history, as part of German history, as well as learning more about modern-day Israel.”

Contact Don Snyder at feedback@forward.com


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