Germany warns of spike in anti-Semitism linked to coronavirus

Germany warns of spike in anti-Semitism linked to coronavirus
The window of a synagogue in Konstanz which opened in November 2019. Photo: DPA
Hatred against Jews has spiked in Germany with the spread of the new coronavirus, the government's anti-Semitism commissioner warned Tuesday.

“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”.

READ ALSO: 'We must send a signal': Germany to tighten law on anti-Semitic crimes

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.

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According to government figures, the country recorded 1,799 anti-Semitic offences in 2018, up nearly 20 percent 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 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.

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