The director for international relations at The Simon Wiesenthatl Center on Monday called on German Justice Minister Heiko Maas to condemn “the Jew-baiting of Maccabi athletes” at the Maccabi Games in Berlin.
In a letter to the minister, Dr. Shimon Samuels praised Maas for “welcoming the Maccabi Games to Berlin as a gift that Germany, after the Holocaust did not deserve.”
But, he pointed out, “apparently not everyone shared those sentiments” expressed by President Joachim Gauck, who had said he was “very moved” that the Games had chosen Berlin.
The athletes had encountered a number of very unpleasant experiences during their time in Germany, some of which are not at all unfamiliar to older Jews who have grown up in the Diaspora.
According to Samuels, German Muslims engaged in “anti-Semitic taunting” of the athletes at the Hotel Estrel which hosted several of the teams. In addition, there were a number of neo-Nazi threats made against the athletes on the Internet. Leftist German journalist Silke Burmester also made some rather nasty remarks on the Twitter social networking site.
“What are these Jewish sorts festivals?” she asked. “Have the Jews had their own Olympic games since ‘36?” In a separate tweet, she posted, “The Jewish sport has again arrived in Berlin. What should that be: swastika-throw?”
Samuels wrote to the minister that the games had not reached their goal, noting that the first Maccabi Games held in Prague came as a response to the exclusion of Jewish athletes from national teams.
“Maccabi’s return to Berlin, to the very stadium built for Adolf Hitler, was to have been a vindication of the united democratic Federal German Republic.
“Instead, the Jewish contestants had to be warned not to wear Stars of David or kippot for fear of violence,” he wrote.
Samuels went on to urge Maas to “vigorously condemn this Jew-baiting and take all legal measures available to apprehend those who would return us to 1936. This anti-Semitism targets Jews directly on German soil. It cannot be argued away as ‘anti-Zionism’ or ‘anti-Israelism.’
“The ironic context of Jewish sports reincarnated in Berlin that reawaken dormant phantoms is as unacceptable for Jews as for Germans.”