NEO-NAZIS are stalking the streets of Germany fuelled by the conflict in Gaza, Jewish leaders warned last night, as they spoke of an “explosion of evil and violent antisemitism”.
A synagogue was attacked with petrol bombs on Tuesday morning, a rabbi received death threats and anti-Jewish comments online are increasing by the hour, observers say.
Monika Schwarz-Friesel, head of a research project looking at antisemitism on the internet at Berlin’s Technical University, said: “There has been massive flood of antisemitic comments in the wake of the Gaza action.
“Anti-Jewish comments fall back on old stereotypes, with phrases such as ‘usurer’, ‘child murderer’ and ‘global conspiracy’ being used again in reference to Jewish people.”
Such phrases were used in the 1930s when Nazi newspapers such as Der Stürmer portrayed Jews as alien creatures and part of a global conspiracy to enrich themselves at the expense of others.
Since the Molotov cocktail attack on the synagogue in Wuppertal, police across the country have stepped up patrols covering Jewish places of worship, schools and meeting places.
Jewish religious leaders have been asked to keep vigilant after a rabbi in Frankfurt received a telephoned death threat from man claiming to be a Palestinian. A police spokesman said: “He threatened to kill 30 Jews if his family in Gaza was harmed.”
A Jewish couple – the man identified by his yarmulke cap – was chased down a road in Berlin recently by a mob demonstrating against Israel.
At weekend demonstrations in Essen and Hanover, bottles and stones were hurled at pro- Israeli marchers, and police spoke of “elevated levels of hatred” towards Jews that had not been seen in years.
Dieter Graumann, president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, said the Jewish community was taking the death-threat phone call seriously.
He went on: “We are experiencing in this country an explosion of evil and violent antisemitism which leaves us all shocked and dismayed. That antisemitic views of the nastiest and most primitive type can be chanted on German streets we never thought possible again in this lifetime.”
Some Jewish communities are advising people not to wear skullcaps or prayer shawls in public that mark them out as Jewish for fear of being attacked.
Stephen Kramer, of the American Jewish Committee, said: “What we have seen in the past few days makes me doubt the Jewish minority in Europe is safe.
“If such demonstrations readily lead to violence and hatred, there is no alternative to a ban”.
German media – like much of the country highly sensitive to any extremist views given Germany’s history – strongly condemned such attacks.
Elsewhere, Rome’s mayor has denounced antisemitic graffiti and swastikas that have appeared across Rome and ordered them to be removed.
Some of the graffiti referred to the escalating violence in Gaza and included taunts such as “Jews, the end is near”.
Mayor Ignazio Marino offered his solidarity with Rome’s Jewish community and said the graffiti, which appeared near Jewish-owned businesses, was an “offence to all Romans”.
Jewish leaders urged police to find those responsible and punish them. Riccardo Pacifici, head of the city’s Jewish community, said “Rome cannot become like Paris where Jews are assaulted, synagogues are surrounded and where wearing the yarmulke is a concrete danger.”
The Vatican newspaper l’Osservatore Romano wrote on Tuesday of the “abominable” new episode of antisemitism.
In France, a 29-year-old Franco-Algerian man with a history of psychological problems was arrested after several Molotov cocktails were thrown at a Jewish cultural and religious centre in Toulouse on Saturday.
He told police he carried out the attack “in solidarity with the Palestinian cause”. The attack followed a pro-Palestinian rally in Toulouse’s central square.
Norway closed the Jewish museums in Trondheim and Oslo at the weekend after threats were made against the sites.