Germany sees big increase in anti-Semitic acts of violence
The country's intelligence agency says in annual report that violence targeting Jews rose by 71.4% in 2018 to 48 incidents from 21 the previous year, warns of increase in number of far-right extremists to 24,100, with more than half of them potentially violent
Germany's domestic intelligence agency said Thursday that the number of anti-Semitic acts of violence rose sharply last year alongside a further increase in those identified as far-right extremists.
The BfV agency said in its annual report that the number of anti-Semitic acts of violence rose by 71.4 % in 2018 to 48 from 21 the previous year.
It also said that the number of far-right extremists rose by 100 to 24,100 people last year with more than half of them potentially violent.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said "we can find in almost all areas of far-right extremism hostile attitudes toward Jews ... it's a development that we must take, very, very, very seriously."
He warned that migrants, Muslims and politicians were considered enemies by the far-right too.
Anti-Semitic crimes rose 20 percent in Germany last year, according to Interior Ministry data that blamed nine out of 10 cases on the extreme right.
The country's Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Antisemitism Felix Klein said in May that not recommend that Jews wear the traditional head covering or kippa in certain areas in public. The remarks provoked outrage and even prompted a defiant response from President Reuven Rivlin
Klein backtracked after intervention from Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman.
"The state must see to it that the free exercise of religion is possible for all... and that anyone can go anywhere in our country in full security wearing a kippa," Steffen Seibert told a press conference.
In his second statement, Klein said: "I call on all citizens of Berlin and across Germany to wear the kippa next Saturday if there are new, intolerable attacks targeting Israel and Jews on the occasion of al-Quds day in Berlin."
Klein's comments also led the leading German tabloid Bild to include a cutout kippa in its daily edition, which it urged its readers to wear.
"If even one person in our country can't wear a kippa without putting themselves in danger, the only answer is that we all wear a kippa," Bild Editor-in-Chief Julian Reichelt wrote on Twitter as he announced the paper's response to Klein.
"The kippa belongs to Germany!" he wrote.
This is not the first time in recent years that Germans have donned a kippa in support of the country's Jewish community.
Last year, thousands gathered in Berlin for a protest dubbed the Kippa March, taking to the streets while wearing a skullcap in support of the Jewish community in Germany and against anti-Semitism.
Germany, like other Western countries, has watched with alarm as anti-Semitic and other racist hate speech and violence have increased in recent years while the political climate has coarsened and grown more polarized.
The arrival in parliament of the far-right AfD party, whose leaders openly question Germany's culture of atonement for World War II atrocities, has also contributed to the change in atmosphere.
Merkel has also deplored "another form of anti-Semitism" stemming from a major asylum-seeker influx, with many coming from Muslim countries like Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq.
Daniel Bettini and Itamar Eichner contributed to this report