Angela Merkel anti-Semitism Jewish Christian Relations Manfred Gerstenfeld

Dr.Manfred Gerstenfeld: Chancellor Merkel’s Legacy And The Jews…….


This article by Dr.Gerstenfeld was first published by the The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), and republished here with the author’s consent…

The country’s newly appointed Antisemitism Commissioner Felix Klein has said that he is not surprised that many German Jews are debating whether to leave.22 This leads to a troublesome question: Chancellor Kohl enabled the building up of a greatly increased Jewish community through immigration. Will Merkel’s legacy be a substantially diminishing Jewish community through emigration?



Manfred Gerstenfeld

As of a few weeks ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is no longer chair of the Christian Democrat Party (CDU). She announced that she will not be a candidate for the chancellorship — a position she holds since 2005 — after the next elections. Thus media have started to analyze her performance and speculate about her legacy.


This is also an adequate moment to begin looking at Merkel’s legacy in regard to Germany’s Jews. Helmut Kohl, the previous CDU leader who served as chancellor from 1982-1998, enabled an estimated 170,000 Russian Jews to immigrate to Germany. As a result of that policy Germany once again has a significant Jewish community.1 The country’s organized Jewish community currently has close to 100,000 members.2 This is however barely more than 0.1% of the Germany’s population.


Merkel has never failed on general support and rhetoric toward Germany’s Jews. In November this year she spoke at the major Berlin Rykestrasse synagogue on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of ‘Kristallnacht’ saying, “Jewish life is blossoming again in Germany. An unexpected gift to us after the Shoah… but we are also witnessing a worrying antisemitism that threatens Jewish life in our country.”3 She added that violence against Jews blamed on far right militants or Muslims is on the rise in Germany.


Last year Merkel would not have mentioned Muslims among those guilty of antisemitic incidents even if they were already responsible for years for a substantial part of it. However the situation changed in December 2017 when Muslims burned a homemade Israeli flag in Berlin.4 The video went around the world and created associations with the far more serious book burnings that took place under Hitler’s government.


Several politicians then started exposing Muslim antisemitism.5 6 After some time Merkel had to do the same. Until today, German statistics of antisemitic incidents are nevertheless heavily manipulated.7 All antisemitic acts committed by unidentified people are falsely attributed to the extreme right.8


At the end of 2018 a study entitled Experiences and perceptions of antisemitism provided data on how self-defining Jews in 12 EU countries see and experience this Jew-hatred.9 It was published by the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). The study provides important relative data even if in absolute terms it is not statistically significant. Though somewhat behind France on this issue, Germany was one of five countries where the great majority of interviewees saw antisemitism as a big problem.10


Compared to the previous FRA study from 2012, a far larger share of Jews saw current antisemitism as a problem. Almost all interviewees said that antisemitism increased during the last five years. Germany is also among the countries in Europe where expressions of hostility toward Jews in the street and other public spaces is considered to be a very big or fairly big problem.11


The majority of German respondents said that they regularly hear the statement ‘Israelis behave like Nazi’s toward the Palestinians.’12 A significant number of German Jews have also heard negative statements about Jews at political or social events.13 Germany is also among the countries with the highest level of Jews familiar with antisemitic incidents either as witnesses or through their circle of family members and close friends.14 The majority of German Jews say that they worry about verbal insults and possible harassment in the future, or alternatively that a family member or another close friend might be subject to insults and harassment.15 Many German Jews avoid certain places in their local area or neighborhood, at least occasionally, because they do not feel safe there as Jews.16 in Hungary, Belgium, France and Germany, a large minority of respondents indicate that they have considered emigrating in the past five years because they did not feel safe there as Jews.17


In December, the Berlin Jewish community’s Antisemitism Commissioner, Sigmount Königsberg, mentioned that the subject of emigration comes up more and more often in Jewish community decisions. He added that every corner of Berlin has become potentially dangerous for Jews. 18


From a managerial and political point of view, Merkel governed Germany well until 2015. The country withstood the major challenges of the worldwide 2008 economic crisis without huge problems. Under Merkel’s chancellorship Germany’s dominance of the European Union increased. She successfully pushed her candidate, former Luxemburg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, through as President of the EU Commission.


Yet Merkel’s legacy for the nation may to a large extent be heavily influenced by one fateful decision: opening Germany’s borders for asylum-seekers and other immigrants in September 2015. Since then, about a million and a half asylum refugees have entered the country.19 Many came from Muslim countries, in particular Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Merkel misjudged the problems that so many non-Europeans would bring with them as well as the absorption capacity of the country’s population.


The official version is that there are three to four antisemitic incidents per day in Germany. There are probably more because many victims do not complain. Jews are increasingly feeling the brunt of two phenomena: the many antisemites among Muslim immigrants and their descendants as well as the revitalization of the antisemitic extreme right. Even if the situation does not get worse, it is already bad enough and unlikely to improve.


The Hanns-Seidel Foundation studied attitudes of asylum-seekers in the German federal state of Bavaria. It found that more than half of those from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan believe that Jews have “too much influence” in the world.20


A study by the historian Gunther Jikeli about Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Germany, commissioned by the American Jewish Committee was summarized by the organization’s Berlin Director Deidre Berger: “Until now, reports that many new arrivals in Germany espouse antisemitism have been largely anecdotal. But this new scientific analysis shows that the problem is widespread in the refugee communities from Syria and Iraq. Antisemitic attitudes, stereotypes, and conspiracy theories are common, as well as a categorical rejection by many of the State of Israel.”21


The country’s newly appointed Antisemitism Commissioner Felix Klein has said that he is not surprised that many German Jews are debating whether to leave.22 This leads to a troublesome question: Chancellor Kohl enabled the building up of a greatly increased Jewish community through immigration. Will Merkel’s legacy be a substantially diminishing Jewish community through emigration?




2 //






9 European Agency For Fundamental Rights, Experiences and perceptions of antisemitism, Second survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in the EU Luxembourg 2018. //

10 Ibid, 22.

11 Ibid, 21.

12 Ibid, 24.

13 Ibid, 28.

14 Ibid, 32.

15 Ibid, 33-35.

16 ibid 36

17 Ibid, Page 38.





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