Felix Klein, Germany’s first anti-Semitism commissioner, told reporters in Berlin on Friday that “it’s quite understandable that those who are fearing for the safety of their children would consider leaving Germany.”
“I hear this from my own Jewish friends,” Klein said, adding, “But we must do everything to avoid that.”
There are an estimated 100,000 Jews living in Germany today. Some 522,000 Jews lived in Germany in 1933, but only an estimated 214,000 remained in the country by 1937, and then, of course, very few remained.
Five days before he would officially assume his post, the anti-Semitism commissioner noted that, to date, the German government has had to rely on disputable police statistics, and said that his planned federal registry of anti-Semitic crime would change the country’s understanding of today’s anti-Semitism.
This is best illustrated by how police and the Jews of Germany perceive the identity of the culprits in anti-Semitic incidents:
“Police statistics say that more than 90% of anti-Semitic crimes come from extreme right-wing circles,” Klein said, but noted that “those affected, Jews who live here in Germany, tell a completely different story. They feel that Muslim anti-Semitism is much more dangerous than it appears to be in the statistics. I want to get to the bottom of this contradiction.”
At the same time, Klein pointed out reliable statistics showing that, Muslim refugee influx aside, “around 20% of all Germans hold anti-Semitic views, a statistic that has remained stable for years and never gone down.”
Klein is extremely serious and extremely ambitious about his assigned task, and even suggested “that intelligence-service methods are necessary in fighting anti-Semitism.”
“We’ve observed that Salafist and Islamist extremists seek to approach refugees in Germany and try to incite anti-Semitism and hatred. It’s clearly the job of the intelligence services to take action against this,” he said.
Klein plans to set up a national registry into which the data would flow from local Jewish groups to police to his office. It would require a great deal of organizing, given that Germany is comprised of 16 federal states, but, hey, if we can’t count on the Germans to organize, on whom can we count?
“I hope we can get the system up and running this year,” Klein said Friday. “Next year, maybe we can have another chat, and you can judge me on whether it worked.”
Once the data is processed, Klein’s office would start designing “tailor-made” strategies to combat the different forms of local anti-Semitism. But above anything else, Klein said, he wants to focus on education.
But he also wants to add a hate-crime charge to criminal cases, with increased penalties in cases in which anti-Semitism was part of the motive.
He also called on state authorities to monitor Germany’s refugee communities.