Cologne tolerates 'anti-Semitic’ exhibit

By JPOST CORRESPONDENT
March 3, 2010 18:09

Many on local council oppose German prosecutor's decision, urge action.

4 minute read.



Cologne city officials removed tje 'Wailing Wall'

anti semitic gaza poster 311. (photo credit:Courtesy)

BERLIN – A crude anti-Israel exhibit in Cologne’s Cathedral Square in the heart of the bustling pedestrian zone does not meet the criteria of inciting hate, Rainer Wolf, a spokesman for the public prosecutor in Cologne, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

Wolf said the public prosecutor plans to dismiss the complaint of Gerd Buurmann, a non-Jewish theater director, who filed a grievance in February, asserting a violation of Germany’s hate-crime law.

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Buurmann told the Post that he is “horrified” by the decision and plans to now participate in a civil legal action against Walter Herrmann, the exhibitor of the anti-Israel exhibit.

Herrmann’s long-standing exhibit, “Cologne Wailing Wall,” has been deemed anti-Semitic by critics in the Cologne City Council and a commentator from the large daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger.

Buurmann initiated legal action because the exhibit shows a cartoon of a man sporting a Star of David on his bib as he devours a young Palestinian boy with a fork draped in an American flag and a knife with the word “Gaza.” A blood-filled glass next to the plate appears to symbolize the blood of the child.

Wolf, the prosecutor’s spokesman, told the Post that six or seven complaints have since been filed, ranging from private individuals to the Society for Christian-Jewish relations.

Asked whether the cartoon is an expression of modern anti-Semitism, Wolf said, it is “not a tendency of hostility toward Jews, but an actual criticism of the situation in Gaza.”

He added that the exhibitor, Walter Herrmann, seeks to “criticize” and the “cartoon is a sarcastic expression of the Israeli army in Gaza.”

However, Dr. Marcus Meier, the director of the Society for Christian-Jewish relations in Cologne, told the Post that his organization filed the complaint because the cartoon of a “Jew drinking blood with a star of David” spreads anti-Semitism.

According to Meier, the cartoon recalls the anti-Semitic stereotypes of the Christian tradition in which Jews are depicted as eating Christian babies.

Herrmann has used Cathedral Square to showcase a festival of Israel-hate over the years. Buurmann’s complaint jolted the Cologne City Council to issue statements condemning the exhibit as anti-Semitic.

But leading politicians, including ex-mayor Fritz Schramma of the Christian Democratic Union and the current Social Democratic Mayor Jürgen Roters, from the Social Democratic Party, seemed to have to tolerated Herrmann’s diatribes against Israel over the last five years by failing to initiate action against the anti-Israel vitriol.

Herrmann also propagates the view that the Israelis are “cleansing” the holy land of Palestinians in the same way the Americans purged the Native American presence in North America.

Buurmann appealed to Roters, the Cologne mayor, for a reply regarding a petition – Cologne Against Anti-Semitism – as well as statements from members of the city council.

The online petition, directed at Roters, states “it is your task to refrain from looking the other way, to finally step in and put an end to this anti-Semitic agitation – with all means provided by the German constitution.”

Buurmann said that Roters has ignored the petition.

Gregor Timmer, Roters’s spokesman, told the Post that it is a justified question to know why the city of Cologne is tolerating anti-Semitism. He said Herrmann is “mentally ill." In a statement issued to the Post, Mayor Roters said that "such a provocative presentation is not to be tolerated.Precisely because of the background of Germany's history, is this intolerable. One can generally criticize Israel's politics, but where an insulting or anti-Semitic expression appears, one must abstain from such a thing. In terms of the permissibility of such an expression of speech, that is covered by the right to protest and the police and public prosecutor are therefore responsible."

Yet, the Left Party, which is represented in the city council, issued a statement, saying the “criminal act of inciting hatred is met” by the anti-Israeli exhibit.

The Green Party faction in the city council sees the exhibit “as repugnant and clearly anti-Semitic,” adding that Herrmann uses the “Wailing Wall” exhibit “as an instrument of one-sided and pigheaded criticism of Israel.”

In surprisingly candid language, the Green Party criticized the council’s failure to not take seriously the effects of the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel spectacle. The Free Democratic Party in the City Council urged the police to dislodge the exhibit.

According to Buurmann, the exhibit is no longer on the Cathedral Square but Herrmann posted a sign that he plans to remount the “Wailing Wall” in June.

According to the Cologne Against Anti-Semitism Web site, 639 individuals have signed the online petition, urging action against the “Wailing Wall” exhibit.

The Web site asked, following President Peres’s visit in Germany, “How would Shimon Peres have felt on his way home, had he known that only a few hundred kilometers west of Berlin, in the city of Cologne, Jews today are still exposed to ongoing anti-Semitism – and not only recently but already since 2004?”

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