“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 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.