BERLIN – A think-tank affiliated with Germany’s Social Democratic Party issued a
new report last week that revealed high levels of anti-Semitism in Germany,
Poland and Hungary, as well as varying manifestations of racism, homophobia and
prejudice in eight European countries.
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Dr. Beate Küpper, a researcher
from the University of Bielefeld who co-authored the Friedrich Ebert
Foundation’s study along with her colleagues Andreas Zick and Andreas
Hoevermann, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that the study showed a strong
presence of “anti-Semitism that is linked with Israel and is hidden behind
criticism of Israel, and is not neutral.”
She termed the outbreak of
Jew-hatred in Germany “remarkable” because there were widespread Holocaust
remembrance and education events in Germany.
The study – “Intolerance,
Prejudice, Discrimination: A European Report” –questioned roughly 1,000 people
in each of the selected EU countries.
The investigation was limited to
Great Britain, Holland, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Poland and France due
to financial restrictions and requisite expertise in each country to track
anti-democratic attitudes, according to Küpper.
Asked to respond to the
statement that “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the
Palestinians,” 47.7 percent of the study’s participants in Germany expressed
agreement – the highest number in Western Europe.
The statement is a
typical question used to probe attitudes about equating Israel with the Nazi
campaign to exterminate European Jewry.
The US State Department defines
the comparison as an expression of modern anti- Semitism, as does the European
Given Poland’s lukewarm foreign policy toward Israel, the finding
that 63.3% of the Poles questioned agree that Israel is seeking to obliterate
Palestinians may be deeply alarming to some.
The statement “Considering
Israel’s policy, I can understand why people do not like Jews” met with 35.6%
affirmation in Germany, while 35.9% of British respondents were in agreement. In
the Netherlands, 41.1% favored the assertion, as did 55.2% in Poland, 45.6% in
Hungary and 48.8% in Portugal. France declined to participate.
researchers also asked whether “Jews try to take advantage of having been
victims during the Nazi era.”
Almost half the Germans questioned
responded in the affirmative; the country’s 48.9% result was the highest among
the Western European countries. The Netherlands provided the lowest percentage,
with 17.2% affirming that Jews were trying to exploit the Nazi era. The number
for Poland was 72.2%, and Hungary reached 68.1%. France reached 32.3%, England
21.8%, Portugal 52.2% and Italy 40.2%.
Küpper said that Poland and
Hungary were also plagued by extraordinary levels of sexism and homophobia. In
response to the statement that “there is nothing immoral about homosexuality,”
75.8 % of Poles and 67.7% of Hungarians disagreed. The Netherlands showed the
greatest acceptance of homosexuality, as 16.5% disagreed with the statement.
Asked whether “it is a good thing to allow marriages between two men or two
women,” Poland (88.2%) and Hungary (69.3%) showed the highest negative
Here, too, The Netherlands had the highest acceptance of
same-sex marriage rights, with a mere 17% disagreeing.
Asked about the
reasons for anti-Semitism – particularly in Germany, where there has been
intensive Holocaust education – Küpper said the factors explaining anti-Semitism
were not analyzed in the study.
However, some academics in Germany
frequently invoke the notion of “secondary anti- Semitism” – that Germans are
filled with pathological guilt about the Holocaust and shift the blame to Jews
and Israel to assuage their complexes – to explain the disconnect between
Holocaust remembrance events and the rising hatred of Jews and Israel in the
Federal Republic. The theory’s proponents say it would account for the
disproportionate criticism of Israel in the German media and German
parliamentary legislative action targeting the Jewish state over seizing the
A handful of German scholars, including Dr. Lars Rensmann,
Dr. Matthias Küntzel and Dr. Clemens Heni, have investigated the phenomenon of
secondary anti-Semitism in their writings.
Heni told the Post
that “the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation study is based on the so-called
‘group-oriented enmity.’ This is a mainstream concept in Germany, introduced by
Wilhelm Heitmeyer, among others, some 10 years ago, to downplay anti-Semitism
and to equate genocidal anti-Semitism with enmity against jobless people,
homosexuals, women and foreigners.”
He said it was “a ridiculous concept”
because, for example, “equating anti-Semitism with enmity toward Islam is an
obfuscation of Islamic and Muslim anti-Semitism. We have a steadily increasing
number of Muslims in Europe, while Jews – like in the Netherlands – are thinking
of leaving this continent due to anti- Semitic incidents and a political culture
based on hatred of Jews.”
According to Heni, “the study seems to be
reluctant to deal honestly with new anti- Semitism, which is a component of
political Islam as well as left-wing and mainstream anti-Zionism in the
He used the term “lethal obsession” from the Hebrew University’s
Prof. Robert Wistrich, an international authority on anti-Semitism, to describe
what differentiated anti-Semitism from xenophobia and other forms of
“The new anti-Semitism is spread not just by neo-Nazis,” Heni
said, but also “by mainstream left-wing members of parliament, left-wing
activists, extremist Muslims and the European elites likewise.”