What Germans really think about the country’s racism problem

Most Germans recognise that racism is widespread and are willing to face up to the problem, a new study suggests.

Demonstrators at a rally against racism in Domplatz, Erfurt on March 21st 2022
Demonstrators at a rally against racism in Domplatz, Erfurt on March 21st 2022 - . the International Day against Racism. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Bodo Schackow

Around 90 percent of Germans believe that racism exists in the country, according to the study from the new National Discrimination and Racism Monitor (NaDiRa).

Researchers in the survey, carried out by the German Centre for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM), found that nearly half of respondents – 45 percent – said they had observed racist incidents. And more than a fifth of the population – about 22 percent – said they had been affected by racism themselves.

READ ALSO: Black people in Germany face ‘widespread’ racism, study finds

Co-director of the DeZIM Institute Naika Foroutan said that racism is a part of “everyday life in Germany”.

“It affects not only minorities, but the whole of society, directly or indirectly,” he said.

Foroutan said structural and institutional racism “is also seen as a problem by many people”.

“Racist disadvantages are particularly often recognised in the areas of school, work and housing. The issue should therefore be tackled pro-actively and in the long term by policymakers. Our study shows that a large part of the German population would support this.”

READ ALSO: High costs, long queues and discrimination – what it’s like to rent in Germany

Family Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) said the fact that people recognise the problem means the country is “on a good path”.

“The vast majority of people in Germany recognise that racism exists in Germany,” said Paus while presenting the results of the study in Berlin on Thursday. 

“People are also willing to get involved (to act) against it.”

A sign reads 'racism kills' at a memorial event in February 2022 for the victims of the Hanau racist attacks in 2020.

A sign reads ‘racism kills’ at a memorial event in February 2022 for the victims of the Hanau racially motivated attacks in 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

OPINION: When will Germany deal with its casual racism problem?

Paus said that the commitment to tackle racism would be further strengthened by new laws, such as the Democracy Promotion Act.

“In this way, we will strengthen the fight for democracy and diversity, and against extremism and racism,” she said.

“Germany is aware of its racism problem,” added Reem Alabali-Radovan, the Federal Government Commissioner for Racism. The fact that 90 percent of people recognise racism exists is “good news, because it is an important step for change”, he added.

What else do Germans say about racism?

According to the study, half of respondents agree with the statement: “We live in a racist society.”

A majority – 65 percent – think that racial discrimination exists in public authorities. Around 70 percent of respondents said they are prepared to oppose racism – for example, by organising a demonstration, petition or by standing up against it it if they come across racism in their everyday life.

Meanwhile, 81 percent agree with the statement that people can behave in a racist way without intending to.

However, 45 percent of respondents said that criticism of racism is exaggerated, and represents a restriction of freedom of expression in the sense of “political correctness”.

Some people who complained about racism were “oversensitive”, 33 percent of respondents said. Meanwhile, 52 percent even took the view that those affected were too “fearful”.

Researchers interviewed around 5,000 people from April to August 2021 for the study. The review is set to be carried out every two years.

Last year, The Local reported on the the Afrocensus project, which found black people in Germany face widespread racism.

“There is no area of life in which discrimination and racism are not extensive problems,” said the report authors, underlining the deep racial problems in Germany. 

READ ALSO: ‘Black lives need to matter in Germany’ New project to uncover racism in everyday life

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Anti-Semitic church carving can stay, German court rules

Germany's highest court on Tuesday rejected a case calling for a local church associated with Protestant firebrand Martin Luther to remove an ancient anti Semitic carving from its wall.

Anti-Semitic church carving can stay, German court rules

Widely known as the “Judensau” (Jews’ sow), the 13th-century bas relief on the church in eastern German town Wittenberg depicts a rabbi peering into a pig’s anus, while other figures suckle milk from its teats.

The hateful symbolism is that Jews obtain their sustenance and scripture from an unclean animal.

A local Jewish man had appealed to the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe after a local court rejected his claim that the sculpture was insulting to Jews and should be removed.

Although the court agreed that the content of the carving was offensive, it found that the church had taken sufficient steps to counter this by installing a memorial and information board.

READ ALSO: Anti-Semitism ‘massive problem’ in Germany, says Jewish leader on terror attack anniversary

The carving was “anti-Semitism carved in stone”, the court said, but the memorial and information board had enabled “clarification and a discussion of the content… in order to counter exclusion, hatred and defamation”.

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, said the ruling was “understandable”.

However, he said he disagreed with the court’s reasoning insofar as “in my opinion, neither the memorial nor the information board contain an unambiguous condemnation of the anti-Semitic artwork”.

“Both the Wittenberg church community and churches as a whole must find a clear and appropriate solution for dealing with sculptures that are hostile to Jews,” he added.

Luther’s legacy

Many churches in the Middle Ages had similar “Judensau” carvings, which were also aimed at sending the stark message that Jews were not welcome in their communities.

Another example can be seen at the world-famous Cologne cathedral.

But the importance of the Wittenberg relief is tied to Luther, himself a notorious anti-Semite, who preached there two centuries later.

It was in Wittenberg that Luther is said to have nailed his 95 theses to another church’s door in 1517, leading to a split with the Roman Catholic Church and the birth of Protestantism.

The theologian argued that Christians could not buy or earn their way into heaven, but only entered by the grace of God, marking a turning point in Christian thinking.

But Luther also came to be linked to Germany’s darkest history, as his later sermons and writings were marked by anti-Semitism — something that the Nazis would  later use to justify their brutal persecution of the Jews.

The court’s decision not to order the relief to be removed can still be appealed to Germany’s constitutional court.

READ ALSO: German hotel workers probed after singer’s anti-Semitism claim