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A “sinister turning point” for German Jews?

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Ben Zion Synagogue earlier this month. John MacDougall/AFP/Getty

“Jews in Germany live in fear once more,” says Katja Hoyer in Engelsberg Ideas. The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the country has risen almost every year since 2015. But what’s happened since the October 7 massacre is “on a different scale” – 2,800 chargeable offences have been recorded in less than six weeks, more than in the whole of 2022. On 18 October, two Molotov cocktails were hurled at the Ben Zion Synagogue, which is part of a community centre that also houses a school and nursery. Almost exactly 85 years earlier, on 10 November 1938, the same synagogue was gutted and destroyed on Kristallnacht, when Nazi thugs were joined by ordinary Germans in a nationwide pogrom against the Jewish people. Today, once again, “Jewish places of worship and education aren’t safe for those attending them”.

What’s most troubling for German Jews is that they haven’t seen “a similar spike” in public outrage. Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews, has accused people of being in a kind of “hibernation” when it comes to anti-Semitism, willingly turning a blind eye to the growing threat to Jewish life. Schuster, whose grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz, says he doesn’t “recognise this country any more”. The big question now is whether 7 October will prove a “sinister turning point” for German Jews. Politicians are making “the right noises”, but many people feel let down “by society rather than politics”. It’s on all Germans to “prove that ‘Never again!’ is more than an empty phrase”.