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Germans Mull Revamped Holocaust Education Plan

Germany’s parliament is considering a review of education programs in its schools after receiving a government commissioned report showing that anti-Semitism in the country remains at disturbingly high levels.

The Bundestag, which debated the report Wednesday, put off approving any legislation or resolutions in response to the report’s findings until it could develop a concrete action plan. Bundestag member Stefan Ruppert said he thought such a plan would be ready “in a few weeks” and could include “an evaluation of school syllabi on the history of the Shoah as well as Jewish life in Germany.”

A consensus is developing in Germany that education on anti-Semitism must move beyond its current focus on the Holocaust as the impact of that historical event on younger generations recedes. Some point out that there is now also in Germany a population of Muslims for whom the Holocaust has a much different political meaning due to its use as a justification for the establishment of Israel, which they view as having led to the displacement of the Palestinians.

In the Bundestag debate, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, said, “Anti-Semitism is not just a topic for the Jewish community in Germany. It touches on the very basis of our democracy, our freedom, our living together.” He denounced an attack on Rabbi Daniel Alter that took place August 28 in Berlin by individuals of Middle Eastern appearance who first asked Alter if he was Jewish after seeing his kipah.

The report, commissioned four years ago, was delivered to the Bundestag in January. It found that notwithstanding the emergence of Muslim anti-Semitism in Germany, the vast majority of anti-Semitic activities and incidents continues to come from the country’s far right. In 2011, almost 96 percent, or 1,188 of the 1,229 reported cases came from the right, the commission reported. The study found that 20% of Germans harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.

The Bundestag debate was poorly attended. But Chancellor Angela Merkel came to underline her government’s commitment to addressing the issue.

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