Leader of the Central Council of Jews Josef Schuster said in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper published on Friday that Christian Social Union (CSU) chairman and Bavarian Minister-President Seehofer’s statements “pose a danger” to the country.
“The recent statements from Minister-President Seehofer pose a danger, they foster a sentiment in the country that can provoke exactly these kinds of negative escalations,” Schuster said.
Schuster added that Germany needed to reflect on its own history when dealing with people fleeing their countries.
“Germany should exhibit deep understanding for refugees because of its history and experience with flight and expulsion,” he said. “We should include people who are fleeing a civil war in their countries, such as is the case for Syrians. But when I see some people today stirring up hatred against refugees, I ask myself how it is that the greater good of human dignity is still not actually anchored in their heads?”
The right-wing leader has spoken of “massive abuse of asylum”, announcing on Monday that Bavaria would create two new registration centres near the border for asylum-seekers from so-called “safe countries.”
People from countries such as such as the Balkan states of Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro will be categorized as “low probability to stay” and processed and deported much faster.
The Bavarian leader has been accused of seemingly riling up fears about migrants abusing asylum status, with Justice Minister Heiko Maas saying that “the shrill tones emanating from places like Bavaria that insinuate massive asylum abuse aggravate the debate in an irresponsible way”.
Refugee organizations have said it is unfair to judge asylum seekers’ based on their country of origin because there may be other political circumstances putting individuals at risk.
Schuster's paternal family originally lived in southern Germany, before being forced to flee Nazi Germany during the Second World War. He was born in Haifa, Israel and moved back to Germany with his family as a small child. He said in the interview that Germany should promote integration with immigrants early on.
“It begins in schools. When children from immigrant backgrounds integrate into a class and grow up with local children, it promotes mutual understanding,” he said. “Of course, it is not the kind of solution to work in four weeks, but it is an important step for the future.”