Anti-vaccine protests in Germany are using Holocaust symbolism

At least one of the participants is said to have worn a Star of David on his jacket with the word "unvaccinated“ on it. Another displayed the words “2021 is the new 1933” on his T-shirt.

 A man wears an anti-vaccine button as people and teachers protest against New York City mandated vaccines (photo credit: REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR)
A man wears an anti-vaccine button as people and teachers protest against New York City mandated vaccines
(photo credit: REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR)

There is an increasing use of Nazi and Holocaust symbolism at protests taking place in Germany against COVID-19 restrictions and vaccinations.

The Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Antisemitism (JFDA) reported that at a rally held last week in Leipzig, signs and posters were displayed that “largely contained conspiracy ideology and antisemitic but also Shoah-relativizing content.”

At least one of the participants is said to have worn a Star of David on his jacket with the word “Unvaccinated” on it. Another displayed the words “2021 is the new 1933” on his T-shirt.

“Other examples... were the equation of vaccinations with Zyklon B by the former AfD politician Stefan Bauer, Attila Hildmann’s statements that Judaism was responsible for the pandemic and all the evil in the world and that a new Holocaust was imminent, and neo-Nazi Sven Liebich posing with a copy of the Diary of Anne Frank at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin,” the JFDA told the German news channel Tagesschau.

The Leipzig rally, as well as other demonstrations held recently in Berlin, Kassel and Stuttgart that brought out tens of thousands of people, were organized by the Lateral Thinking (Querdenken) movement. The spectrum ranges from citizens who want to point out the importance of the fundamental right of assembly to fanatical opponents of vaccination, general skeptics of the state, and conspiracy theorists.

Polish born Mordechai Fox, an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor, wears a yellow Star of David on his jacket during a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day (credit: REUTERS)Polish born Mordechai Fox, an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor, wears a yellow Star of David on his jacket during a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day (credit: REUTERS)

The JFDA noted the radicalization of the “lateral thinking” movement that was reflected in the aggressive and heated atmosphere during the Leipzig protest. Press representatives were insulted, and police officers attacked at the barriers.

“Right-wing extremists, as well as ‘Reichsbürger’ and ‘self-governors,’ are also trying to take advantage of the COVID crisis and are participating in corresponding demos,” Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann has said about the movement.

On the occasion of the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht on November 9, the German Amadeu Antonio Foundation warned against growing antisemitic tendencies.

“We are only just beginning to understand how dangerous antisemitism is. We must fight all antisemitism from any milieu,” said Anetta Kahane, chair of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, in a press release.

“I observe with great concern that in the meantime the accusation of antisemitism weighs more heavily than the antisemitism itself. This is an expression of an increasing defensive attitude.”

The foundation says it wants to strengthen civil society in Germany against antisemitism (also in the form of anti-Zionism), racism, and right-wing extremism.

The writer is a fellow with the Ernst Cramer & Teddy Kollek/Middle East Fellowships.