The German magazine Der Spiegel has found itself embroiled in a new antisemitism scandal after the weekly published an issue depicting contemporary Jews in Germany as ultra-Orthodox Eastern European Jews with side locks.
The Hamburg-based magazine was also accused of spreading Nazi propaganda.
The nearly 100,000-member Central Council of Jews in Germany wrote on its Twitter feed: “With the title picture, The Spiegel unfortunately uses stereotypes of Jews. Therefore, the question arises as to what The Spiegel intends with this photo selection and title. To portray Jews as foreign or exotic promotes antisemitic prejudices.”
Richard Grenell, the US Ambassador to Germany, who has waged a robust campaign to combat antisemitism in Germany in particular and in Europe in general, told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday: “Sadly, we are not surprised that they [Spiegel] are continuing to be antisemitic and anti-American.”
The German Jewish community’s leveling of a second allegation of antisemitism against Spiegel within weeks is unprecedented. Dr. Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in July that a previous Spiegel article declaring that two small pro-Israel organizations control German foreign policy “clearly uses antisemitic clichés, fueling antisemitism. This type of reporting is irresponsible and dangerous.”
Spiegel defended its widely criticized July report about a so-called Israel Lobby in Germany with possible links to the Mossad.
In the Spiegel August historical issue titled “Jewish life in Germany: The unknown world next door,” the magazine uses Nazi language to demonize Jews, according to critics. A story in the magazine is titled “Jud, bittersüß”– an ostensible reference to the Nazi-era produced antisemitic film Süss the Jew (Jud Süß).
Richard C. Schneider, a prominent German Jewish author and the former bureau chief and chief correspondent for German Broadcaster ARD Studio in Tel Aviv, criticized Spiegel on Twitter for its word reference to the Nazi film. Schneider also slammed the photograph, writing: “What is that for a headline photograph? So that is how we Jews look in Germany?”
“For anyone who thinks the photo on ‘Spiegel History’ is alright: Jews in Germany did not look that way in the last 200 years,” Schneider added. “This is probably the classic ‘genre photo’ in editorial departments when it comes to articles about Jews.”
He continued, “if one were to show us ‘completely normal,’ then the majority of society would probably have a problem: ... ‘They are like us!’”
Sigmount Königsberg, the commissioner on antisemitism for Germany’s largest Jewish community in Berlin, tweeted, “a cover photograph for antisemites,” about the Spiegel issue.
He added in a separate tweet: “The doggedness with which Der Spiegel makes Jews in Germany bad recalls the work of Mr. Streicher.” The reference is to Julius Streicher, the founder and publisher of the rabidly antisemitic Nazi publication, Der Stürmer.
Elvira Groezinger, the deputy director of the German section of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, termed Spiegel’s anti-Jewish articles over the last few weeks as creating a “pogrom sentiment.”
When asked on Saturday about the new wave of allegations of antisemitism against the magazine, Spiegel spokeswoman Anja zum Hingst wrote the Post by email: “The cover issue of Jewish Life in Germany shows a historical street scene from 1928 in front of a lending library in Berlin’s Grenadierstraße. We chose the picture because it is an authentic scene from the Berlin Scheunenviertel; the picture shows public, visible Jewish life, as existed in Germany before the Holocaust.”
“At the time, many Jews living in Berlin’s Scheunenviertel – but not only of course – had fled to Germany because of persecution in Eastern Europe,” she added. “It was considered at that time the center of Jewish culture in Europe. Threads from East and West wove together, and here developed a Jewish everyday culture with bookstores, theaters and clubs, which was unique in Europe, and contributed a significant part to making Berlin the Roaring City of the [20th century].”
“On the cover picture we show an aspect from the rich variety of the German-Jewish history, which we portray in this history publication in many further facets,” zum Hingst noted. “We did not want to use an antisemitic cliché, if the impression was created, we are sorry. That was not our intention.”
When pressed if Spiegel has an antisemitism problem and asked about Grenell’s criticism, zum Hingst did not respond.
Spiegel has been engulfed in a series of antisemitic, fake news and anti-American scandals over the last year. Claas Relotius, a former reporter for Spiegel, had reportedly fabricated scores of news stories, including anti-American articles. Last year’s Relotius scandal revealed the magazine’s deeply flawed fact-checking system and its encouragement of anti-American articles based on falsehoods.