75 years after Kristallnacht

Spiegel Online reports an EU survey on fears of rising anti-Semitism in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

A vast survey conducted by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights and published Friday contains troubling results almost exactly 75 years after Kristallnacht: Jews in Germany and seven other EU countries continue to live in fear of verbal or physical abuse — whether in public or, increasingly, online.

“I find it almost unbearable that religious services can only take place with police protection.”

“Anti-Semitism is one reason for me to leave Germany because I want to protect my family from any danger.”

“The anti-Semitic insults I have experienced were not from neo-Nazis or from leftists, but from ordinary people of the political center.”

Maybe this is just the human normal – group hatreds splashing around all over the place and everyone except those lucky enough to be privileged in all categories just having to put up with it…or be killed by it, as the case may be.

The survey’s results provide insight into the perceptions, experiences and self-conception of European Jews. Rather than supplying absolute figures on anti-Semitic attacks, the study focuses on the perceived danger of such attacks and how much the anxiety this causes affects their lives.

  • Two-thirds of respondents (66%) said that anti-Semitism is a problem in Europe, and over three-quarters (76%) noted that there had been an increase in anti-Semitic hostility in their home countries over the last five years.
  • Close to half of respondents (46%) are afraid of being verbally attacked or harassed in a public place because they are Jewish, while a third (33%) worry that such attacks could turn physical.
  • Roughly 50 percent of surveyed parents or grandparents of school-aged children worry that their children could be victims of anti-Semitic verbal insults or harassment at or on the way to or from school if they wore visible Jewish symbols in public.

Of course perceptions and fears can be different from reality; they can be, in short, mistaken. But still the numbers are disquietingly high.

  • More than half of respondents (57%) said that, over the last 12 months, they had heard or seen someone claim that the Holocaust was a myth or that it has been exaggerated.
  • About a quarter (26%) of respondents said that they had experienced some form of anti-Semitic harassment over the previous year, while 4 percent said they had experienced physical violence or threats of attack in the same period.
  • Almost one-fourth (23%) said they had been discriminated against in the last 12-month period for being Jewish.
  • Among employed respondents, 11 percent said they are most likely to experience discrimination for being Jewish at the workplace, while 10 percent said this was the case when looking for work.

So fears are at about 50% and experiences are around 25%…In a way, with the experiences being at 25% (assuming the claims are accurate) you’d expect the fears to be even higher.

The study also found that respondents claimed that they had been increasingly exposed to negative statements about Jews online, including on blogs and social-networking sites. Three-quarters (75%) of all respondents in the eight countries identified the Internet as “the most common forum for negative statements” and a place where such statements could be made with virtual impunity. This was particularly true for respondents between the ages of 16 and 29, of whom 88 percent said that they saw or heard negative comments about Jews online.

Worries about suffering verbal or physical attacks, the study notes, have been found to have negative effects on physical, social and emotional well-being by prompting people to restrict their movements or activities.


The survey also found that Jews living in Germany were particularly concerned with two issues that have sparked much debate in recent years: the prohibition of circumcision (brit mila) and traditional Jewish rituals associated with slaughtering animals (shechita). Almost three-quarters (71%) said that banning circumcision would be a “very big” or “fairly big” problem for them, while half (50%) held the same view regarding prohibitions on traditional slaughter.

“I will wait for the developments concerning a statutory regulation on the Brit Mila. This will be crucial for my decision on whether or not to leave Germany.”

Oh dear. I wish the two could be disaggregated. I wish no one saw wanting to prevent infant and child genital mutilation as any kind of group antagonism.


  1. Shatterface says

    Growing up in the Seventies and Eighties in the Northwest of England there was a lot of ”casual” racism about: jokes about thick Irishmen and tight-fisted Scots, lazy black people and ”Pakis”, etc.

    Almost the exact same jokes were told about Jews as Scots: ”Scottish” and ”Jewish” were practically synonymous, and while I wouldn’t dismiss this as inoffensive humour that was about the limit of it. I’d never heard the kind of outright hatred of Jews that has become almost mainstream (except from Nazis in WWII movies, of course).

    I’d never heard anyone even hint at the blood libel or suggest that Jews were in anyway conspiratorial.

    I can’t speak for other parts of the country of course and I’m aware that there has always been an undercurrent of anti-Semitism among the upper classes but Jews were pretty much under the radar of local racist yobs.

  2. Pen says

    Almost three-quarters (71%) said that banning circumcision would be a “very big” or “fairly big” problem for them, while half (50%) held the same view regarding prohibitions on traditional slaughter.

    I fear another problem could be a growing disapproval in Europe against the conduct of the state of Israel. On the one hand, members of the Jewish diaspora may be held to account for it which is completely unfair. On the other hand, many of them do support Israel’s choices and very oftenexperience disapproval of Israel as anti-semitism.

    But then again, there is also the Internet which is a huge factor, economic insecurity and inequality in Europe which tends to bring out the worst in people, and the rise of Islamophobia which, because there is uncertainty in some quarters about whether it is justified, to be tolerated or what, facilitates anti-semitism sneaking in the back door.

    The fact is that some Jewish people may find themselves caught between the growing number of liberals who disapprove of Israel especially and circumcision on the one hand and increased numbers of right-wing nationalists who hate them for being ethnically and culturally different anyway.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says


    Not only do one million Israelis live outside Israel, but the destination of choice for young Israelis who are educated and secular and cosmopolitan is the place where the Final Solution was planned: Berlin. And at least 15,000 young Israelis are living in Berlin. That’s a massive community of expats in a city like that. They get citizenship there and they love it. They don’t want Netanyahu’s doom and gloom. They don’t want to live the spirit of the Holocaust every day. And most of all, they don’t want to control other people who they could just as easily see as their friends and neighbors. And so they’re leaving.

    (Offered to point out the paradoxes in the modern Jewish condition, not as an attempt to rebut the OP.)

  4. johnthedrunkard says

    What Pen and others fail to credit is that ‘disapproval of Israel’ IS fueled by antisemitism. Indeed, simply IS antisemitism in practice.

    While any reasonable person can be upset by the conduct of West Bank ‘settlers’ or Haredi thugs; the obsessive, rabid focus on Israel, combined with utter indifference to human suffering ANYWHERE else is not a serious moral position.

    I believe a substantial portion of ‘lefty’ antisemitism is a left-over from the Cold War. The day that Nasser sought money and support from Khruschev was, like the signing of the Hitler-Stalin pact, an occasion for all obedient fellow travelers to perform a moral/political 180% about-face.

    We now have several generations of faux ‘progressives’ frozen in the attitude taken in 1956.

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