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German Chancellor vows to tackle anti-Semitism

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
German Chancellor vows to tackle anti-Semitism
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz underlined the importance of tackling anti-Semitism on Sunday, October 22nd, and has spoken out against the issue to several German media outlets. (Photo by Hendrik Schmidt / POOL / AFP)

At a synagogue opening in the eastern city of Dessau, Olaf Scholz declared there must be "zero tolerance for anti-Semitism in Germany".

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz vowed Sunday to stamp out anti-Semitism at the opening of a new synagogue, amid a spike in anti-Jewish incidents in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

"There must be zero tolerance for anti-Semitism in Germany," Scholz said at the synagogue in the eastern city of Dessau.

Germany will "defend and protect" Jewish life, Scholz said, voicing his shock at anti-Semitism spreading "around the world and, shamefully, also here in Germany" since the October 7 attacks by Hamas on Israel.

Germany has seen a spate of anti-Semitic incidents since the attacks and Israel's retaliatory bombing campaign.

Jewish homes in Berlin have been marked with the Star of David and attackers last week hurled two Molotov cocktails at a Jewish synagogue in the city.

There must be no turning a blind eye "when Jews are not safe on Germany's streets, when Stars of David are smeared on homes, when firebombs are thrown at synagogues", Scholz said.

The opening of the synagogue in Dessau came 85 years after a synagogue in the city was destroyed in the "Kristallnacht" anti-Jewish pogrom on November 9, 1938, when Nazi mobs torched and ransacked synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses across Germany in what is widely seen as the start of the Third Reich's drive to wipe out Jews.

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Painful memories

The new building has been named the Weill Synagogue after the German-American composer Kurt Weill, whose father was a cantor in Dessau's Jewish community.

Dessau is just 50 kilometres from Halle, where a gunman killed two people after failing to storm a synagogue on Yom Kippur in October 2019.

Germany has the third-largest Jewish community in Europe, according to the interior ministry.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany puts the number of practising Jews in the country at around 100,000 and the number of synagogues at around 100.

Anti-Semitic acts have increased sharply in the country amid the latest turmoil in the Middle East, according to the Federal Association of Research and Information Centres on Anti-Semitism (RIAS).

In the period from October 7 to 15, RIAS documented 202 anti-Semitic "incidents" compared with just 59 during the same week in 2022.

Sigmount Koenigsberg, a pointman on anti-Semitism for the city's Jewish community, told the Rheinische Post newspaper on Sunday that the rise anti-Jewish incidents brought back painful memories of Nazi Germany.

"It is the first time since Nazi rule that this is happening again in Germany. It reminds my community very much of that terrible time," he said.

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