German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that the “disgrace” of antisemitism was increasing in visibility during an address to the local Jewish community’s leadership on Monday night.
Speaking at a ceremony in Berlin marking the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Merkel remarked that the hope symbolized by the revival of Jewish life in Germany did not hide the continuing presence of antisemitic and racist views.
“We can be glad of flourishing Jewish life,” Merkel stated. “But that is only one part of today’s reality. The other part of today’s reality is that many Jews don’t feel safe and respected in our country, and it causes me great concern.”
Antisemitic outrages increased by 13 percent in Germany during 2019, with more than 2,000 incidents reported — among them the foiled Yom Kippur attack by a neo-Nazi gunman on a synagogue in the city of Halle that claimed the lives of two people who were outside the building.
Antisemitic conspiracy theories have meanwhile surged during the coronavirus pandemic, with opponents of social distancing measures comparing themselves to Jews persecuted in Nazi Germany amid angry demonstrations where far right symbols have been on open display.
“We know how quickly words can become deeds,” Merkel said, with reference to the attack in Halle.
Merkel asserted that it was a “disgrace, and it shames me deeply, how racism and antisemitism are expressed in our country in these times.”
Said the German Chancellor: “Racism and antisemitism never disappeared, but for some time now they have become more visible and uninhibited.”
Merkel pledged that Germany’s government would continue to fight antisemitism, acknowledging the appointment of a commissioner at the federal level to combat the problem as an example of its ongoing efforts.
About 200,000 Jews live in Germany, many of them immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
The Central Council representative organization was formed in 1950 by a tiny remnant of Jews who survived the Nazi Holocaust and remained in Germany. The organization is presently composed of 105 Jewish communities around the country.