Germans upbeat about immigration, study finds

Interesting results from a large scale poll, providing a more nuanced view of German public opinion than the election results and support for AfD would indicate (article more nuanced than header):

People living in Germany continue to view the country’s multicultural society positively, according to a new study published by the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR).

The “Integration Barometer 2018” is the first representative study on the matter to come out since the start of the so-called refugee crisis in 2015, which saw hundreds of thousands of people escaping war and poverty in their home countries enter Europe.

Despite refugees and immigration policy dominating the news and politician’s speaking points in Germany, the study found that most people still think that life with their immigrant or non-immigrant neighbors is going well.

Main takeaways

  • Some 63.8 percent of local Germans — people described as not having an immigrant background — view the integration situation positively, down marginally from the 65.4 percent logged in 2015. Residents with immigrant backgrounds viewed the integration situation even more positively, rating it at 68.9 percent.
  • The study found a particular divide between the eastern and western states, with 66 percent of western Germans satisfied with the status of immigration, while eastern Germans rated it at 55 percent.
  • The study found that areas where fewer migrants live, such as in the eastern German states, there are more reservations about immigration and integration.
  • Men viewed the status of integration in Germany more negatively than women.

Solution to tensions in education

Researchers noted that skepticism about immigrants can be overcome by having more “personal encounters.”

“The everyday experiences are significantly better than what the [media] discourse would suggest,” researchers wrote in the study.

Germany’s integration commissioner, Annette Widmann-Mauz, said the study’s results were “a good sign” and that it’s important to support schools and other places where people have more opportunities to come into contact with their neighbors. She noted that the attitudes about integration are most positive “wherever there are direct contacts in the neighborhoods, among friends or at work.”

Majority want to help refugees

Attitudes towards refugees were largely positive from both people with and without immigrant backgrounds in Germany. Around 60 percent of local Germans support continuing to take in refugees, also if Germany were the only country accepting asylum-seekers in the European Union. However, a majority of them also want to curb refugee arrivals.

How successful is linguistic integration?

Three quarters of German-born Muslims grow up with German as a first language. Among immigrants, only one fifth claim that German is their first language. The trend of language skills improving with successive generations is apparent across Europe. In Germany 46 percent of all Muslims say that their national language is their first language. In Austria this is 37 percent, Switzerland 34 percent

Split on headscarf bans

Around 80 percent of Muslims questioned in the study supported women and girls being allowed to wear headscarves to school. Only 41 percent of Christians, on the other hand, thought that headscarves should be allowed in schools. Local Germans were more open to allowing headscarves in public authorities, with 52 percent backing the idea.

Muslim women living in Germany were specifically asked in the SVR study about their opinions on headscarf bans. Out of the 29 percent of women who said they wear a head covering, a majority backed measures for them to be allowed at school and public authorities. Around 66 percent of Muslim women who don’t wear head coverings said they should be allowed.

Representative study

The “Integration Barometer 2018” is a representative study of people with and without immigrant backgrounds in Germany. A total of 9,298 people were surveyed between July 2017 and January 2018.

The results of the latest “Integration Barometer” come after weeks of far-right protests against refugees and immigrants rocked several eastern German cities, including Chemnitz and Köthen. Although topics focusing on migrants and refugees dominate headlines and dictate and within the German government, opinion polls suggest that concerns about pensions, housing, education and infrastructure top the list of issues people are most concerned about in Germany.

Source: Germans upbeat about immigration, study finds

Germany’s New Far-Right Campaign Poster Is Unsubtly Racist

Indeed. Reminder of messaging and posters under the Nazis regarding Jews:

The far-right Alternative for Germany party released a new campaign poster last week with a slogan promising “Islam-free schools” beneath a photo of smiling white schoolchildren.

Alternative for Germany, also known as AfD, released the posters in the midst of its election campaign in the southern German state of Bavaria. Recent polls show the party is on track to win the third-largest share of the vote as it saps votes from the traditional conservative party aligned with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But as AfD rallies voters ahead of Bavaria’s elections next month, the party is under intense public and political scrutiny for its links to neo-Nazi organizationsand role in encouraging far-right riots in recent weeks.

AfD’s Bavarian anti-Islam posters have added to the backlash against the party. A German teachers’ associations called the posters dangerous, and an Austrian member of the European Parliament accused the party of promoting fascist rhetoric and racially segregated schools. A British hate crime monitoring group also denounced the poster, tweeting, “Welcome to the new face of fascism.”

Alternative for Germany’s new poster, vowing “Islam-free schools!” and promoting “dominant German culture.”

AfD claims that the posters are not calling for barring Muslim children from schools, Germany’s Der Spiegel reports, but are opposed to Islamic education in schools and face veils. But some Germans on social media criticized the posters for echoing Nazi-era discrimination against Jewish students, HuffPost Germany reported.

The party has a history of anti-Islamic propaganda, and during last year’s national elections it worked with a conservative American ad agency to create a controversial series of posters, including one reading “Burkas? We prefer bikinis” and another with a photo of a pregnant white woman with the tagline “New Germans? We’ll make them ourselves.”

Although AfD is often careful to distance itself from more politically toxic extremist groups and violent rhetoric, it has repeatedly provoked scandals after its officials made statements downplaying the Holocaust or siding with far-right activists. After anti-migrant riots erupted after the killing of a German man in the city of Chenmitz two weeks ago, a prominent AfD official marched with the founder of anti-Islamic extremist group PEGIDA in a demonstration against migration.

While AfD is still shut out of governing in Germany, its success has caused traditional right politicians to swing farther right in hopes of winning back voters, especially prevalent in Bavaria, where the Merkel-allied Christian Social Union is losing support and increasingly embracing anti-immigration, anti-Islamic views.

CSU leader Horst Seehofer nearly brought down the German government this year after demanding tighter border controls, and more recently he called immigration the “mother of all political problems” and said he would have joinedfar-right anti-migrant protests were he not an elected official. Bavaria’s CSU premier ordered that crucifixes be hung in all government buildings, and the party last year drafted a law banning full-face veils in public places.

Much like in several other countries where establishment parties mimic the far right, most recently Sweden, the CSU’s shift hasn’t worked, and the party is expected to lose its absolute majority government in a state where it once dominated.

Source: Germany’s New Far-Right Campaign Poster Is Unsubtly Racist

Germany’s radical left is fueling anti-immigrant sentiment


Sahra Wagenknecht, the leader of Germany’s far-left Die Linke party, has launched a new movement. It is called Aufstehen (literally translated, “stand up”). This in itself is not exceptional. Many other countries in Western Europe have left-wing parties of varying extremes.

Just think of the Dutch LinksGroen, the Danish Enhedslisten and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the United Kingdom. But there is a difference between the movement proposed by Frau Wagenknecht. While the other leftist parties are composed of remnants of the 1968 generation and progressive millennials, with a healthy skepticism toward authoritarianism, Aufstehen is something altogether different. The movement is unashamedly populist — and hostile toward immigration and other liberal causes.
Not surprisingly, such views have received praise from the far-right Alternative für Deutschland.

Wagenknecht is not — as some have said — seeking to build a movement like Momentum in Britain (the left-wing grassroots movement that brought Corbyn to power) or Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s equivalent La France Insoumise.

Her ambition is to create a realignment; to found a movement that appeals to disgruntled working-class voters who feel betrayed by big business, globalism and the low wages in the gig economy.

Her message is not one founded upon hope and solidarity. It is based on an ill-disguised opposition to foreigners. Her analysis is that a message of resentment chimes with low-wage workers.

That has been seen before. It is trite to cite examples of the darker chapters of Europe’s history. Suffice it to say that both Benito Mussolini in Italy and Oswald Moseley in the UK started their respective careers on the political left with a similar message. And further afield Juan Perón, used a combination of social justice and far-right attitudes to seize power in Argentina. Germany is unlikely to go the same way. But the precedents are not to be ignored.

Wagenknecht’s analysis is not entirely unique. In Denmark, the nominally center-left Social Democrats have rebranded themselves as a party that defends the welfare state, while it has lurched to the right on immigration issues.

But unlike the Danes, Wagenknecht has fused opposition to immigration with populist economics. That is a dangerous mix.

She cannot be accused of naïveté. Like Angela Merkel, she grew up in Communist East Germany. But unlike the current Chancellor of Germany, the far-left firebrand is unapologetic about her membership of the Communist Youth Movement FDJ.

She has described the East German communist dictatorship as “the most peaceful and most philanthropic polity that the Germans created in all of their previous history.”

Just for the record, the regime killed 327 people who tried to escape.

The private lives of politicians are not usually of political importance. Wagenknecht is an exception. She is married to Oscar Lafontaine — a former social democrat finance minister — who defected from Gerhard Schröder’s coalition Socialist-Green government and later founded Die Linke, with the members of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), the successor to the East German Communist Party.

Her husband — 25 years her senior and now retired from politics — always stood for a more socially inclusive form of socialism. He even wrote a book titled “The Heart Beats on the Left.”

His wife does not subscribe to softer sentiments in politics. Her decision to establish Aufstehen should be viewed with concern across the whole of Europe.

Source: Germany’s radical left is fueling anti-immigrant sentiment

Germany Chases a Fix for Its $35 Billion Immigration Problem

The other side of Germany’s immigration issues:

Germany has an immigration problem, but it might not be what right-wing extremists think it is. Rather than too many foreigners in the country, economists fret there won’t be enough.

With baby boomers retiring and not enough young people joining the labor market, the country needs at least 400,000 people coming to work in Germany every year to maintain its competitiveness, according to the IAB Institute for Employment Research. A shortage of skilled workers means businesses won’t be able to produce as much as they could, holding back the economy by about 30 billion euros ($35 billion) a year, research by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research shows.

Labor Squeeze

Germany’s job market is expected to get tighter as older workers retire

Source: German Federal Labor Agency

It’s a delicate issue for Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her open-door policy to refugees — more than 1 million asylum seekers came to the country since 2015 — helped foment social tensions and facilitated the emergence of the right-wing Alternative for Germany party. That puts pressure on her to respond to these concerns, while also helping businesses clamoring for more talent.

“It can take up to six months before employees from non-EU countries get their visa,” said Michael Bueltmann, who runs the German operations of digital mapping company HERE Technologies. “This has a negative impact” on recruitment and complicates planning. The company employs 1,200 people in Germany, including programmers from Bangladesh and the Middle East, who lack certainty about their residency prospects.

To address these concerns, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who recently referred to migration as “the mother of all problems,” is finalizing a law aimed at helping skilled workers come to Germany, while also controlling the influx of low-skilled people who might take advantage of the country’s generous welfare system.

The refugee situation and immigration may be linked in the legislation, with the SPD — Merkel’s junior coalition partner — calling for refugees to be able to switch out of asylum status if they find a job. The so-called “lane change” proposal has been rejected by Merkel, setting up a potential showdown.

The final immigration bill is to be presented this fall, and critics are already concerned it won’t go far enough.

“The planned legislation is a first step, but not what Germany really needs,” said Wido Geis, a senior economist at the Cologne Institute. “A truly modernized German immigration law would need a restructured administration” that centralizes approval processes rather than relies on local authorities.

Source: Germany Chases a Fix for Its $35 Billion Immigration Problem

Thilo Sarrazin’s ‘Hostile Takeover’: An Islam expert’s take on the book

Good critical review:

The fact that Thilo Sarrazin doesn’t have a high opinion of Arabs and Turks is no secret ever since his bestseller Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany Abolishes Itself) was published in 2010. At the time, the book’s controversial theses on integration and immigration had sparked a heated debate in Germany.

In the book, the former Berlin senator of finance and former member of the executive board of the Bundesbank claimed that Muslim immigrants had educational deficits and refused to integrate. While Sarrazin already explained why he perceived Muslims as a threat to Western societies in his previous book, he did not deal explicitly with the religion of Islam.

He now tackles the religion more directly in his new book, Feindliche Übernahmen (Hostile Takeover; no English version available).

His initial question — to determine if Islam plays a role in the violent acts of Muslims — is understandable considering the world’s current events. Trying to find out if the religion itself has anything to do with the lower level of education, the lower rate of innovation and the weak economic development of certain parts of the Islamic world are also legitimate discussion points, which are also being debated by many Muslims.

However, the author’s claim that his book provides a sober and impartial study of Islam quickly proves to be an empty assertion.

Absurd presumptions

He explores Islam through the Quran, which he claims to have read in its entirety. Even though this approach sounds correct, his claim to be able to determine the core statements of Islam by reading the Quran without any knowledge of Arabic or theological background is an absurd presumption. Sarrazin openly admits that his analysis “exclusively” follows his own “direct understanding of the text,” as if the Quran were really to be understood without taking into account the context of its origin and the history of its reception.

He ignores everything that doesn’t fit into his own interpretation. He does not discuss the ambiguity of the text nor its poetic dimension. Instead of looking at the Quran as a whole, he takes individual excerpts out of context and reorganizes them under selected themes.

The “religious content” of the Quran is “very simple, the guidelines for the faithful are therefore very clear,” writes Sarrazin. His conclusion: The Muslims’ holy book is obsessive about questions related to sexuality, and it is full of hatred for unbelievers and calls for violence.

“If you take it literally, it leaves little room for misunderstanding,” writes Sarrazin about the Quran. His reading does not see a separation of politics and religion in Islam as possible. “The more literally one takes the Quran, the clearer it appears that the world’s governance can only find its legitimacy through God,” he writes. Like many other Islam critics, Sarrazin picks up one of the Islamists’ core arguments; he presents their interpretation of the Quran not only as a conclusive view, but also as the exclusive one.

A distorted picture based on prejudice

Sarrazin also ignores the fact that the political ideology of Islamism is a product of modernity and that its interpretation is rejected by a great majority of Muslims. He does not say a word about the moderate versions of mystical Islam prevailing in most Muslim countries.

It may appear contradictory that he should adopt the radical reading of the Islamists as the “true” version of Islam, but that is necessary to support Sarrazin’s concept, in which he condemns Islam in its entirety as an “ideology of violence in the guise of a religion.”

His portrayal of Islam is a caricature that has more to do with his own prejudiced views than with the beliefs guiding the lives of the majority of Muslims.

Beyond his study of the Quran, he tries to provide an appearance of objectivity though quotes, numbers and statistics, but the book’s goal remains clear: to confirm his preconceived ideas. His description of the history of Islamic culture as an 800-year-long decline reveals his downright malicious urge to deny Muslims anything positive.

Pitiful bigotry

Anyone who has ever been to Istanbul, Granada or Cairo can only be astonished to read Sarrazin’s declaration that “an independent Islamic building culture never developed.” Anyone who knows Iran’s impressive Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can hardly agree with his statement that Muslims do not know anything “about urban planning with axes and public spaces.”

He also reveals an almost astounding ignorance when he claims that Muslims, “apart from a few fairy tales,” have never developed their own literature — as if poets such as Hafis, Saadi or Mevlana had never existed.

Revealing the full force of his deeply Eurocentric perspective, he cites the lack of symphonic orchestras as evidence of the cultural backwardness of the Islamic world. He apparently cannot imagine that there are other concepts of culture and beauty than the ones developed in Europe. Instead of appreciating the richness, complexity and elegance of the ornaments on carpets, tiles and facades created in Muslim countries, he only sees the absence of portraits and sculptures. You can almost feel pity for Sarrazin for such narrow-mindedness.

No interest in finding solutions

Throughout the book, it is clear that he only takes into account anything that fits into his preconceived world view. He avoids mentioning that the credibility of the statistics he uses has been questioned — that would ruin his narrative. Beyond all the figures on birth rates, levels of education and economic performance, it’s his basic thesis that appears the most questionable, in which he claims that all the Muslims’ social and economic problems can be blamed on their religion — or as the second part of his book’s title states: “How Islam Impedes Progress and Threatens Society.”

Hardly a Muslim bases his actions primarily or even exclusively on Islam. But even if Islam were the cause of all problems, what would be the solution? That all Muslims give up their culture and their faith? That’s not likely.

Sarrazin does not present a solution to this dilemma, as he is not even interested in finding solutions. His whole book shows that he is not concerned with helping shape peaceful coexistence, but rather with the strict separation of peoples and stopping the immigration of Muslims.

Ulrich von Schwerin works as a freelance correspondent for various media in Istanbul. In addition to Turkey, he also focuses on Iran. His political science PhD dissertation was about Iranian cleric and dissident Ayatollah Montazeri.

Source: Thilo Sarrazin’s ‘Hostile Takeover’: An Islam expert’s take on the book

Germany’s Jewish community issues appeal for anti-Semitism funding oath

Echoes of the Canada Summer Jobs attestation:

  • “Both the job* and my organization’s core mandate* respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression;”

Curious to see if the ewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism (JFDA) proposal generates similar opposition within Germany:

Just last week, a man wearing the Star of David was beaten down and kicked right in the center of Berlin. Some weeks earlier, a similar incident in Germany’s capital caused public outrage and sparked a nationwide debate on anti-Semitism when a 19-year-old Syrian attacked and Arab Israeli and his companion with a belt in broad daylight. Both victims wore kippahs (traditional Jewish head coverings) in what was an allegedly anti-Semitic attack.

Call for an oath

Enough is enough, according to more than 30 Jewish organizations and communities, who have now issued an appeal to the German government. In a declaration published on Monday, Germany’s Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism (JFDA) called on the authorities to crack down harder against anti-Semitic agitation and attacks. The organization is demanding that in the future, public funding for civil and religious groups should be granted only if those groups have publicly distanced themselves from all forms of anti-Semitism — a kind of pro-democracy oath.

The authors of the declaration stressed that this applies to Muslim organizations as well. Lala Süsskind, chairperson of the JFDA, warned against playing down anti-Semitism among Muslims out of misconceived concern. “Of course, anti-Semitism also exists on the Muslim side,” she told DW. Denying that does not prevent the exploitation of Muslim anti-Semitism by the enemies of Islam, but it is detrimental to combating anti-Semitism effectively and makes a mockery of the victims, Süsskind said. The German government should, therefore, examine very carefully which organizations benefited from public funding, she explained, and whether said organizations were, in effect, adhering to Germany’s Basic Law, or constitution.

As an example, the JDFA cited the controversial debate surrounding the Berlin Institute for Islamic Theology, which is scheduled to open its doors in 2022 as an affiliate of the city’s Humboldt University. It remains a controversial issue to this day how much control should be given to the three representatives of traditional conservative Islamic associations on the institute’s advisory board. They include the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, the Islamic Federation and the Islamic Community of Shiite Parishes. These associations are among those which, according to the Jewish organizations’ representatives, should make some kind of public commitment to democracy.

Even Jewish students in Berlin have been subjected to anti-Semitic harassment

‘Committed to this fight’

The president of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, does not think of himself as a direct addressee of the Jewish organizations’ initiative. “I take note of the appeal, and I believe it’s correct and important to highlight painful issues, to make every necessary effort to fight anti-Semitism, and that we remain committed to this fight with all the social power that’s available to us,” he told DW, adding that was all he could say about the matter.

Mazyek says his organization is committed to fighting anti-Semitism

After the interview, Mazyek sent DW a newspaper article detailing how he — as president of the Central Council of Muslims — visited the former Buchenwald concentration camp with a group of Syrian refugees in April. Mazyek’s message, which he wants to be understood by DW and by the public, is that his organization is actively campaigning for reconciliation between Muslims and Jews in Germany. He, therefore, said he doesn’t care to comment on appeals, pro-democracy oaths or any other such demands.

Süsskind said she found that response regrettable, and that it reminds her of previous dialogue between Jewish and Islamic organizations on the thorny issue of anti-Semitism. “There are few Muslim associations to which you can speak openly,” she claimed. What’s more, Süsskind added, the appeal was to be explicitly understood as an invitation to all religious groups, political parties and social associations — after all, not only Jewish life in Germany was at stake. “If people are not ready to stand up for their democracy, it goes down the drain,” she said.

An anti-Semitic attack in April prompted a show of solidarity from Berlin’s Jewish community

More financial support

The German government has not yet responded to the appeal issued by the country’s Jewish community. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had already announced on July 6 that the government plans to extend financial support for the Central Council of Jews in Germany. The annual subsidy will rise from €10 million ($11.75 million) to €13 million, both sides confirmed. The reason behind this was, according to Seehofer, the growing threat to Jewish life in Germany. “Those who threaten our Jewish citizens threaten us all,” he said.

Read more: Anti-Semitism in German schools to be tackled with anti-bullying commissioners

Süsskind stressed that the social climate has changed considerably with respect to Jews. She said she frequently receives hate mail, including one message that read: “In goes the knife, out goes the knife, the Jew’s dead.” When she tried to report the authors of those hate messages to the authorities, she was repeatedly informed that they were protected under freedom of speech legislation. In response, Süsskind asked: “Is that really possible?”

Source: Germany’s Jewish community issues appeal for anti-Semitism funding oath

Germany to fight anti-Semitism in schools with new team

Hard to know how effective this approach will be in terms of reach and results but important recognition of a problem, with hopefully follow-up on its effectiveness:

The German government plans to send 170 anti-bullying experts into schools after the summer break to tackle anti-Semitism among children.

“Anti-Semitism in schools is a big problem,” Families Minister Franziska Giffey said.

Last month Germans were shocked by the case of a boy aged 15 taunted by anti-Semitic bullies at the John F Kennedy School in a well-off area of Berlin.

Germany remains haunted by the Nazis’ mass murder of Jews in 1933-1945.

Ms Giffey, a centre-left Social Democrat (SPD) politician, said teachers needed more support to combat anti-Semitism, as the problem went beyond the classroom, involving parents and society at large.

“So in the coming school year, as a first step, we will send 170 anti-bullying experts into selected schools in Germany, funded by the federal authorities,” she told the daily Rheinische Post.

It remains unclear if the Jewish boy bullied at the John F Kennedy School will return there after the summer, the Berliner Morgenpost daily reports (in German). The bilingual school in Zehlendorf teaches German and American children.

Reports say one bully blew e-cigarette smoke in the boy’s face, saying “that should remind you of your forefathers” – a sarcastic reference to the Holocaust.

Bullies also reportedly drew swastikas on post-it notes and stuck them on the boy’s back.

Before 1989, Germany’s Jewish minority numbered below 30,000. But an influx of Jews, mainly from the former Soviet Union, has raised the number to more than 200,000.

How bad is anti-Semitism in Germany?

Berlin’s Anti-Semitism Research and Information Office (RIAS) says anti-Semitism is expressed on various levels, and not only by neo-Nazis, or by Muslim extremists who hate Israel.

“There is overall a worrying development of anti-Semitism becoming more socially acceptable. It has grown over the last couple of years and many cases go unreported,” researcher Alexander Rasumny at RIAS told the BBC.

RIAS documented 947 anti-Semitic incidents in 2017, including 18 physical attacks, compared with 590 in 2016. The watchdog’s annual report (in German) said the increase was partly a result of more Germans reporting such incidents to RIAS, having learnt of its work.

In an interview (in German) with the daily Der Tagesspiegel, the German government’s new anti-Semitism tsar, Felix Klein, spoke of “a brutalised climate now, in which more people feel emboldened to say anti-Semitic things on the internet and in the street”. “Previously that was unthinkable, but the threshold has dropped.”

What other incidents have hit the headlines?

In April two young men wearing traditional Jewish skullcaps (kippahs) were assaulted in Berlin. The attacker, a 19-year-old migrant from Syria, was filmed shouting anti-Semitic abuse.

Later Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, advised Jews to avoid wearing kippahs. But in solidarity, thousands of Berliners wore kippahs on 29 April, declared an “action day” against anti-Semitism.

Two German rappers, Kollegah and Farid Bang, were investigated recently over their gangsta rap lyrics which referred insultingly to Auschwitz victims and the Holocaust.

They were not prosecuted, but were taken on an educational visit to Auschwitz, where the Nazis murdered an estimated 1.1m Jews during World War Two.

Rhetoric from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has fuelled concern about anti-Semitism. An AfD leader, Björn Höcke, drew strong criticism after he condemned Berlin’s Holocaust memorial.

Why this focus now on schools?

Mr Schuster says schools must take anti-Semitism seriously and not sweep it under the carpet.

“Such incidents happen in all types of school and all over Germany,” he warned.

One boy subjected to anti-Semitic taunts at a Berlin school was given a separate room to use during breaks, as well as a separate entrance, RIAS reported.

Another Jewish boy was removed from a school by his parents after a gang had tormented him for months and threatened him with a realistic-looking toy pistol.

Mr Rasumny told the BBC that anti-bullying action had to involve awareness training for teachers, because “they don’t always recognise current forms of anti-Semitism, or know when and how they should intervene”.

There have been cases of anti-Semitism even among kindergarten children.

There is much under-reporting of incidents in schools, Mr Rasumny said. “There is pressure to conform to the rules, not to be different, and often kids report bullying only if they can’t stand it any more,” he said.

In one case, he said, a Jewish music teacher had left a school after being told by a pupil there that “God wants Jews to die”. It emerged that another teacher had said something similar to the child’s mother.

German schools should teach children about Jewish history and culture as a whole, Mr Rasumny said, in order to tackle anti-Semitism. “It’s very important to educate about the Holocaust, but German Jewish history did not just start in 1933 and end in 1945,” he said.

Source: Germany to fight anti-Semitism in schools with new team

Many jihadis from Germany have German citizenship: Report | DW

More on German debates and the question of citizenship revocation. As noted, more symbolic than more effective approaches:

The German government knows of more than 1,000 Islamists who have left Germany for Syria or Iraq to support terrorist organizations there, media reported on Sunday.

The figure comes from an answer given by the government to a question from the parliamentary representatives of the Left Party, according to newspapers of the Funke media group.

The government also cited security authorities as saying that more than half of those who had left Germany for such conflict zones had German passports, the newspapers said in their report.

The figure given by the government shows a further increase in the number of those traveling abroad as jihadis, but indicates that the rate of departures has slowed considerably in comparison with two years ago.

According to the report, 243 supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) have also travelled abroad to support the coalition fighting the extremist group “Islamic State” (IS). Germany classes the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Unconstitutional proposal?

Although dozens of German Islamists are in prison in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, many others, including women and children, have since returned to Germany.

The report said that during coalition negotiations between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), it was agreed that returning fighters with double citizenship should have their German nationality canceled if there is evidence of their having fought for a terrorist militia.

This plan was criticized by the Left Party’s expert for domestic affairs, Ulla Jelpke, who called it “unconstitutional.” She also told the Funke group newspapers that such a move would punish Germans who had fought alongside the Kurds against IS.

Turning back jihadis

Her counterpart from the SPD, Uli Grötsch, also slammed the proposal, even though his party agreed to it in the coalition deal.

“It is more symbolic than politically useful,” he said, saying that prosecution and deradicalization were what was needed instead.

However, the domestic affairs expert of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Armin Schuster, defended the measure, saying that a jihadi who was no longer German could be sent back at the border.

via Many jihadis from Germany have German citizenship: Report | News | DW | 20.05.2018

Germany Acts to Tame Facebook, Learning From Its Own History of Hate – The New York Times

Good long and interesting read, highlighting a number of the issues and practical aspects involved:

Security is tight at this brick building on the western edge of Berlin. Inside, a sign warns: “Everybody without a badge is a potential spy!”

Spread over five floors, hundreds of men and women sit in rows of six scanning their computer screens. All have signed nondisclosure agreements. Four trauma specialists are at their disposal seven days a week.

They are the agents of Facebook. And they have the power to decide what is free speech and what is hate speech.

This is a deletion center, one of Facebook’s largest, with more than 1,200 content moderators. They are cleaning up content — from terrorist propaganda to Nazi symbols to child abuse — that violates the law or the company’s community standards.

Germany, home to a tough new online hate speech law, has become a laboratory for one of the most pressing issues for governments today: how and whether to regulate the world’s biggest social network.

Around the world, Facebook and other social networking platforms are facing a backlash over their failures to safeguard privacy, disinformation campaigns and the digital reach of hate groups.

In India, seven people were beaten to death after a false viral message on the Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp. In Myanmar, violence against the Rohingya minority was fueled, in part, by misinformation spread on Facebook. In the United States, Congress called Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to testify about the company’s inability to protect its users’ privacy.

As the world confronts these rising forces, Europe, and Germany in particular, have emerged as the de facto regulators of the industry, exerting influence beyond their own borders. Berlin’s digital crackdown on hate speech, which took effect on Jan. 1, is being closely watched by other countries. And German officials are playing a major role behind one of Europe’s most aggressive moves to rein in technology companies, strict data privacy rules that take effect across the European Union on May 25 and are prompting global changes.

“For them, data is the raw material that makes them money,” said Gerd Billen, secretary of state in Germany’s Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. “For us, data protection is a fundamental right that underpins our democratic institutions.”

Germany’s troubled history has placed it on the front line of a modern tug-of-war between democracies and digital platforms.

In the country of the Holocaust, the commitment against hate speech is as fierce as the commitment to free speech. Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is only available in an annotated version. Swastikas are illegal. Inciting hatred is punishable by up to five years in jail.

But banned posts, pictures and videos have routinely lingered on Facebook and other social media platforms. Now companies that systematically fail to remove “obviously illegal” content within 24 hours face fines of up to 50 million euros.

The deletion center predates the legislation, but its efforts have taken on new urgency. Every day content moderators in Berlin, hired by a third-party firm and working exclusively on Facebook, pore over thousands of posts flagged by users as upsetting or potentially illegal and make a judgment: Ignore, delete or, in particularly tricky cases, “escalate” to a global team of Facebook lawyers with expertise in German regulation.

Some decisions to delete are easy. Posts about Holocaust denial and genocidal rants against particular groups like refugees are obvious ones for taking down.

Others are less so. On Dec. 31, the day before the new law took effect, a far-right lawmaker reacted to an Arabic New Year’s tweet from the Cologne police, accusing them of appeasing “barbaric, Muslim, gang-raping groups of men.”

The request to block a screenshot of the lawmaker’s post wound up in the queue of Nils, a 35-year-old agent in the Berlin deletion center. His judgment was to let it stand. A colleague thought it should come down. Ultimately, the post was sent to lawyers in Dublin, London, Silicon Valley and Hamburg. By the afternoon it had been deleted, prompting a storm of criticism about the new legislation, known here as the “Facebook Law.”

“A lot of stuff is clear-cut,” Nils said. Facebook, citing his safety, did not allow him to give his surname. “But then there is the borderline stuff.”

Complicated cases have raised concerns that the threat of the new rules’ steep fines and 24-hour window for making decisions encourage “over-blocking” by companies, a sort of defensive censorship of content that is not actually illegal.

The far-right Alternative of Germany, a noisy and prolific user of social media, has been quick to proclaim “the end of free speech.” Human rights organizations have warned that the legislation was inspiring authoritarian governments to copy it.

Other people argue that the law simply gives a private company too much authority to decide what constitutes illegal hate speech in a democracy, an argument that Facebook, which favored voluntary guidelines, made against the law.

“It is perfectly appropriate for the German government to set standards,” said Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy. “But we think it’s a bad idea for the German government to outsource the decision of what is lawful and what is not.”

Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president for public policy in Europe and the leader of the company’s lobbying effort against the German legislation, put it more simply: “We don’t want to be the arbiters of free speech.”

German officials counter that social media platforms are the arbiters anyway.

It all boils down to one question, said Mr. Billen, who helped draw up the new legislation: “Who is sovereign? Parliament or Facebook?”

Learning From (German) History

When Nils applied for a job at the deletion center, the first question the recruiter asked him was: “Do you know what you will see here?”

Nils has seen it all. Child torture. Mutilations. Suicides. Even murder: He once saw a video of a man cutting a heart out of a living human being.

And then there is hate.

“You see all the ugliness of the world here,” Nils said. “Everyone is against everyone else. Everyone is complaining about that other group. And everyone is saying the same horrible things.”

The issue is deeply personal for Nils. He has a 4-year-old daughter. “I’m also doing this for her,” he said.

The center here is run by Arvato, a German service provider owned by the conglomerate Bertelsmann. The agents have a broad purview, reviewing content from a half-dozen countries. Those with a focus on Germany must know Facebook’s community standards and, as of January, the basics of German hate speech and defamation law.

“Two agents looking at the same post should come up with the same decision,” says Karsten König, who manages Arvato’s partnership with Facebook.

The Berlin center opened with 200 employees in 2015, as Germany was opening its doors to hundreds of thousands of migrants.

Anas Modamani, a Syrian refugee, posed with Chancellor Angela Merkel and posted the image on Facebook. It instantly became a symbol of her decision to allowing in hundreds of thousands of migrants.

Soon it also became a symbol of the backlash.

The image showed up in false reports linking Mr. Modamani to terrorist attacks in Brussels and on a Christmas market in Berlin. He sought an injunction against Facebook to stop such posts from being shared but eventually lost.

The arrival of nearly 1.4 million migrants in Germany has tested the country’s resolve to keep a tight lid on hate speech. The law on illegal speech was long-established but enforcement in the digital realm was scattershot before the new legislation.

Posts calling refugees rapists, Neanderthals and scum survived for weeks, according to, a publicly funded internet safety organization. Many were never taken down. Researchers at reported a tripling in observed hate speech in the second half of 2015.

Mr. Billen, the secretary of state in charge of the new law, was alarmed. In September 2015, he convened executives from Facebook and other social media sites at the justice ministry, a building that was once the epicenter of state propaganda for the Communist East. A task force for fighting hate speech was created. A couple of months later, Facebook and other companies signed a joint declaration, promising to “examine flagged content and block or delete the majority of illegal posts within 24 hours.”

But the problem did not go away. Over the 15 months that followed, independent researchers, hired by the government, twice posed as ordinary users and flagged illegal hate speech. During the tests, they found that Facebook had deleted 46 percent and 39 percent.

“They knew that they were a platform for criminal behavior and for calls to commit criminal acts, but they presented themselves to us as a wolf in sheep skin,” said Mr. Billen, a poker-faced civil servant with stern black frames on his glasses.

By March 2017, the German government had lost patience and started drafting legislation. The Network Enforcement Law was born, setting out 21 types of content that are “manifestly illegal” and requiring social media platforms to act quickly.

Officials say early indications suggest the rules have served their purpose. Facebook’s performance on removing illegal hate speech in Germany rose to 100 percent over the past year, according to the latest spot check of the European Union.

Platforms must publish biannual reports on their efforts. The first is expected in July.

At Facebook’s Berlin offices, Mr. Allan acknowledged that under the earlier voluntary agreement, the company had not acted decisively enough at first.

“It was too little and it was too slow,” he said. But, he added, “that has changed.”

He cited another independent report for the European Commission from last summer that showed Facebook was by then removing 80 percent of hate speech posts in Germany.

The reason for the improvement was not German legislation, he said, but a voluntary code of conduct with the European Union. Facebook’s results have improved in all European countries, not just in Germany, Mr. Allan said.

“There was no need for legislation,” he said.

Mr. Billen disagrees.

“They could have prevented the law,” he said. YouTube scored 90 percent in last year’s monitoring exercise. If other platforms had done the same, there would be no law today, he said.

A Regulatory Dilemma

Germany’s hard-line approach to hate speech and data privacy once made it an outlier in Europe. The country’s stance is now more mainstream, an evolution seen in the justice commissioner in Brussels.

Vera Jourova, the justice commissioner, deleted her Facebook account in 2015 because she could not stand the hate anymore.

“It felt good,” she said about pressing the button. She added: “It felt like taking back control.”

But Ms. Jourova, who grew up behind the Iron Curtain in what is now the Czech Republic, had long been skeptical about governments legislating any aspect of free speech, including hate speech. Her father lost his job after making a disparaging comment about the Soviet invasion in 1968, barring her from going to university until she married and took her husband’s name.

“I lived half my life in the atmosphere driven by Soviet propaganda,” she said. “The golden principle was: If you repeat a lie a hundred times it becomes the truth.”

When Germany started considering a law, she instead preferred a voluntary code of conduct. In 2016, platforms like Facebook promised European users easy reporting tools and committed to removing most illegal posts brought to their attention within 24 hours.

The approach worked well enough, Ms. Jourova said. It was also the quickest way to act because the 28 member states in the European Union differed so much about whether and how to legislate.

But the stance of many governments toward Facebook has hardened since it emerged that the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of up to 87 million users. Representatives of the European Parliament have asked Mr. Zuckerberg to come to Brussels to “clarify issues related to the use of personal data” and he has agreed to come as soon as next week.

Ms. Jourova, whose job is to protect the data of over 500 million Europeans, has hardened her stance as well.

“Our current system relies on trust and this did nothing to improve trust,” she said. “The question now is how do we continue?”

The European Commission is considering German-style legislation for online content related to terrorism, violent extremism and child pornography, including a provision that would include fines for platforms that did not remove illegal content within an hour of being alerted to it.

Several countries — France, Israel, Italy, and Canada among them — have sent queries to the German government about the impact of the new hate speech law.

And Germany’s influence is evident in Europe’s new privacy regulation, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or G.D.P.R.. The rules give people control over how their information is collected and used.

Inspired in part by German data protection laws written in the 1980s, the regulation has been shaped by a number of prominent Germans. Ms. Jourova’s chief of staff, Renate Nikolay, is German, as is her predecessor’s chief of staff, Martin Selmayr, now the European Commission’s secretary general. The lawmaker in charge of the regulation in the European Parliament is German, too.

“We have built on the German tradition of data protection as a constitutional right and created the most modern piece of regulation of the digital economy,” Ms. Nikolay said.

“To succeed in the long-term companies needs the trust of customers,” she said. “At the latest since Cambridge Analytica it has become clear that data protection is not just some nutty European idea, but a matter of competitiveness.”

On March 26, Ms. Jourova wrote a letter — by post, not email — to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer.

“Is there a need for stricter rules for platforms like those that exist for traditional media?” she asked.

“Is the data of Europeans affected by the current scandal?” she added, referring to the Cambridge Analytica episode. And, if so, “How do you plan to inform the user about this?”

She demanded a reply within two weeks, and she got one. Some 2.7 million Europeans were affected, Ms. Sandberg wrote.

But she never answered Ms. Jourova’s question on regulation.

“There is now a sense of urgency and the conviction that we are dealing with something very dangerous that may threaten the development of free democracies,” said Ms. Jourova, who is also trying to find ways to clamp down on fake news and disinformation campaigns.

“We want the tech giants to respect and follow our legislation,” she added. “We want them to show social responsibility both on data protection and on hate speech.”

So do many Facebook employees, Mr. Allan, the company executive, said.

“We employ very thoughtful and principled people,” he said. “They work here because they want to make the world a better place, so when an assumption is made that the product they work on is harming people it is impactful.”

“People have felt this criticism very deeply,” he said.

A Visual Onslaught

Nils works eight-hour shifts. On busy days, 1,500 user reports are in his queue. Other days, there are only 300. Some of his colleagues have nightmares about what they see.

Every so often someone breaks down. A mother recently left her desk in tears after watching a video of a child being sexually abused. A young man felt physically sick after seeing a video of a dog being tortured. The agents watch teenagers self-mutilating and girls recounting rape.

They have weekly group sessions with a psychologist and the trauma specialists on standby. In more serious cases, the center teams up with clinics in Berlin.

In the office, which is adorned with Facebook logos, fresh fruit is at the agents’ disposal in a small room where subdued colors and decorative moss growing on the walls are meant to calm fraying nerves.

To decompress, the agents sometimes report each other’s posts, not because they are controversial, but “just for a laugh,” said another agent, the son of a Lebanese refugee and an Arabic-speaker who has had to deal with content related to terrorism generally and the Islamic State specifically. By now, he said, images of “weird skin diseases” affected him more than those of a beheading. Nils finds sports injuries like breaking bones particularly disturbing.

There is a camaraderie in the office and a real sense of mission: Nils said the agents were proud to “help clean up the hate.”

The definition of hate is constantly evolving.

The agents, who initially take a three-week training course, get frequent refreshers. Their guidelines are revised to reflect hate speech culture. Events change the meaning of words. New hashtags and online trends must be put in context.

“Slurs can become socialized,” Mr. Allan of Facebook explained.

“Refugee” became a group protected from the broad hate speech rules only in 2015. “Nafri” was a term used by the German police that year to describe North Africans who sexually harassed hundreds of women, attacking and, in some cases, raping them. Since then, Nafri has become a popular insult among the far-right.

Nils and his colleagues must determine whether hateful content is singling out an ethnic group or individuals.

That was the challenge with a message on Twitter that was later posted to Facebook as a screenshot by Beatrix von Storch, deputy floor leader of the far-right party, AfD.

“What the hell is wrong with this country?” Ms. von Storch wrote on Dec. 31. “Why is an official police account tweeting in Arabic?”

“Do you think that will appease the barbaric murdering Muslim group-raping gangs of men?” she continued.

A user reported the post as a violation of German law, and it landed in Nils’s queue. He initially decided to ignore the request because he felt Ms. von Storch was directing her insults at the men who had sexually assaulted women two years earlier.

Separately, a user reported the post as a violation of community standards. Another agent leaned toward deleting it, taking it as directed at Muslims in general.

They conferred with their “subject matter expert,” who escalated it to a team in Dublin.

For 24 hours, the post kept Facebook lawyers from Silicon Valley to Hamburg busy. The Dublin team decided that the post did not violate community standards but sent it on for legal assessment by outside lawyers hired by Facebook in Germany.

Within hours of news that the German police were opening a criminal investigation into Ms. von Storch over her comments, Facebook restricted access to the post. The user who reported the content was notified that it had been blocked for a violation of section 130 of the German criminal code, incitement to hatred. Ms. von Storch was also notified too.

In the first few days of the year, it looked like the platforms were erring on the side of censorship. On Jan. 2, a day after Ms. von Storch’s post was deleted, the satirical magazine Titanic quipped that she would be its new guest tweeter. Two of the magazine’s subsequent Twitter posts mocking her were deleted. When Titanic published them again, its account was temporarily suspended.

Since then, things have calmed down. And even Mr. Allan conceded: “The law has not materially changed the amount of content that is deleted.”

via Germany Acts to Tame Facebook, Learning From Its Own History of Hate – The New York Times

ICYMI: After a massive refugee influx, Germany is confronting an imported anti-Semitism

Good balanced overview:

Bullied students. Crude rap lyrics. An ugly confrontation on an upmarket city street.

In another country – one less attuned to the horrors wrought by anti-Semitism – evidence that the scourge is once again growing might have been ignored.

But this is Germany, a nation that nearly annihilated an entire continent’s Jewish population. And after a series of high-profile incidents, the country isn’t waiting to sound the alarm on a pattern of rising hatred toward Jews.

In recent days, demonstrators have filled the streets, a first-ever national coordinator to combat anti-Semitism has taken up his post, and officials from Chancellor Angela Merkel on down have spoken out.

Germany is also doing something difficult for a country that sees itself as the open and tolerant antidote to the prejudice-driven murder machine it once was: acknowledging that the problem’s resurgence has been fueled not only by the far right, whose views have increasingly infiltrated the mainstream, but also in significant part by Muslims, including refugees.

“The nature of anti-Semitism in Germany is definitely changing,” said Sergey Lagodinsky, a member of the assembly of the Jewish community in Berlin. “We’re having a lot more violent, everyday confrontations that come through incidents with immigrants.”

That’s not an easy admission in Germany, where Merkel led the push three years ago to open the country to more than a million asylum seekers – many of them Muslims fleeing conflict. At the time, the move was widely seen, at least in part, as a grand gesture of atonement for the worst crimes of German history.

Since then, Merkel has rallied the nation around the slogan “We can do it,” brushing away suggestions that Germany will suffer for its generosity.

But she’s also been forced to concede the link between the new arrivals and creeping anti-Semitism. This month, she told an Israeli broadcaster that Germany was confronting “a new phenomenon” as refugees “bring another form of anti-Semitism into the country.”

That’s something critics have warned of for years, given that many of those who arrived in Germany came from nations where anti-Semitism is widespread, including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. But officials, analysts and Jewish and Muslim leaders all say Germany has been slow to recognize the risks.

“The cultural dimension that is linked with the influx was always underestimated,” said Felix Klein, who started work this month as the federal government’s point person for combating anti-Semitism. “Now we have to deal with it.”

The first step, Klein said, is to understand the scale. But the data is surprisingly limited, and what is available has been called into question.

Police statistics, for instance, show that about 90 percent of the anti-Semitic cases nationwide are believed to have been carried out by followers of the far right – traditionally the bastion of prejudice toward Jews in Germany.

But government officials and Jewish leaders doubt that figure, citing a default designation of “far right” when the perpetrator isn’t known. The government also has no reliable means of tracking anti-Semitism that falls below the level of the criminal – something Klein said he’s determined to change.

A survey of victims of anti-Semitism commissioned last year by the German Parliament concluded that Muslims were most often identified as the perpetrators. A separate study found comparatively high levels of anti-Semitic thinking among refugees with a Middle Eastern or North African background.

The number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in Germany has remained fairly steady over the past decade, at around 1,500 every year, although researchers think the actual numbers are much higher, said Uffa Jensen, a professor at the Technical University of Berlin. One recent survey found that 70 percent of Jews said they would not report an anti-Semitic incident because they feared the consequences.

Even if the overall numbers are relatively stable, the behavior behind the data has changed, said Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

“The incidents are more aggressive, more pronounced, and directly affect Jewish people with insults or attacks,” Schuster said.

German schoolchildren have reported the word “Jew” being thrown around as a taunt on the playground. Some have said they have been threatened with death.

“There are incidents that go so far that kids have to leave their schools because it’s no longer possible to stay. I can’t remember that happening in the past,” Schuster said.

Beyond the bullying, two high-profile instances of anti-Semitism have spawned outrage in recent weeks.

A German rap duo won the top honor at the country’s most prestigious music awards this month for an album that included lyrics boasting of bodies “more defined than those of Auschwitz inmates” and threatening to “make another Holocaust.” Amid a backlash, the awards program was terminated.

Meanwhile, cellphone video footage emerged of an assailant shouting anti-Semitic slurs and whipping a belt against a man wearing a kippa, or Jewish prayer cap. Police arrested a 19-year-old Syrian refugee in connection with the assault, which took place in the trendy Berlin neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg.

“When I watched the video, I looked into his eyes. I don’t understand how a young man can be so filled with hate,” said Sigmount Königsberg, anti-Semitism commissioner for the Jewish community of Berlin.

Königsberg deals with hundreds of incidents each year and said a substantial majority of the cases involve an alleged Muslim perpetrator.

Far-right assailants are less common, he said. But that makes sense, if only for geographic reasons: Germany’s Muslim and Jewish communities are both concentrated in big cities, such as Berlin. Far-right supporters are more likely to live in the countryside.

The German far right has been emboldened lately, winning seats in Parliament last fall – the first time that’s happened since the 1950s. Authorities say elements of the far right have grown more vocal in their anti-Semitism. But they have been even louder in denouncing Muslims, capitalizing on resentment toward Merkel’s decision to let in the refugees.

Ironically, far-right politicians have used concerns about anti-Semitism to make their case against the refugees – a logic that many Jewish leaders reject.

“The world doesn’t revolve around Jews. If people are dying in Syria, you can’t let them die because you may face more anti-Semitism in a couple years,” said Lagodinsky, the member of the Berlin Jewish assembly.

Rather than bar refugees, Lagodinsky said, the solution starts with being more honest in talking about the problem – something he said mainstream German society is often afraid to do for fear of targeting a Muslim minority population that already feels under siege.

Aiman Mazyek, for one, welcomes the conversation. The president of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany emphasized that it’s only a small minority of Muslims who are taking part in anti-Semitic acts. But he said there is no doubt that some newcomers – and some who have been here far longer – have failed to integrate into a society that has put “Never Again” at its core.

“If people come here and want to integrate, they need to understand the DNA of the country. And part of that DNA is the legacy of the Holocaust,” he said.

Mazyek said it will take effort to educate people who may have grown up in countries where anti-Semitic rhetoric is rampant and others who may have been raised in Germany but who nonetheless feel drawn into “the unresolved conflicts of the Middle East.”

But he said there is also reason for optimism.

“Many of them came from countries where there was dictatorship, where they weren’t free. There’s the potential there for much more empathy when they visit a concentration camp,” he said.

Josh Spinner, an American-born, Berlin-based rabbi, said Germany also needs to keep its problems with anti-Semitism in perspective.

“There’s nowhere in Europe where there isn’t a sense of unease” among Jews, said Spinner, who is also chief executive of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, an education-focused philanthropic group.

German unease was reflected vividly this past week in a Berlin protest that drew about 2,000 people, who came wearing prayer caps. They listened as speakers warned of a rising threat and insisted that the country would not tolerate a return to its anti-Semitic past.

But Spinner said Germany still has it better than most places on the continent – in part because its past has taught it to be vigilant and aggressive in responding to signs of hatred.

Spinner said that he has walked Berlin’s streets wearing a kippa for years without any serious problems and that he will continue to do so. Warnings that Germany would become inhospitable for Jews after taking in so many refugees have, for the most part, not come to pass.

“Relative to the perceived threat, not much has happened,” Spinner said. “And that’s a relief.”

Source: After a massive refugee influx, Germany is confronting an imported anti-Semitism