Germany warns of spike in anti-Semitism linked to virus

Germany has seen a steady rise in anti-Semitic crimes. — Reuters pic
Germany has seen a steady rise in anti-Semitic crimes. — Reuters pic

BERLIN, April 7 — Hatred against Jews has spiked in Germany with the spread of the new coronavirus, the government’s anti-Semitism commissioner warned today.

“There are direct links between the current spread of the coronavirus and that of anti-Semitism,” Felix Klein said in Berlin at the launch of a new government research project into the issue.

“There is a boom in conspiracy theories in times of crisis,” he said, describing anti-Semitism as a virus of its own that is “contagious on a social level”.

For example, he cited claims circulating online that the pandemic is the result of a failed bioweapon test by the Israeli secret service.

“In recent weeks, right-wing radicals have increasingly tried to leverage the coronavirus crisis for their own ends,” Klein said.

Anti-Semitic crimes have increased steadily in Germany in recent years.

According to government figures, the country recorded 1,799 anti-Semitic offences in 2018, up nearly 20 per cent on the year before. Of those, 69 were classed as violent attacks.

Last October, a suspected neo-Nazi gunman tried to storm a synagogue filled with worshippers in the city of Halle.

After failing to break down the door, he shot dead a female passer-by and a man at a kebab shop instead.

With €12 million (RM56.8 million) of funding between 2021 and 2025, the new research project involving several German universities will aim “to better understand the causes and manifestations of anti-Semitism,” according to Education and Research Minister Anja Karliczek.

“We want to tackle anti-Semitism with science,” Karliczek said. — AFP

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