Thousands of German’s wearing Kippas rallied in support of Jews after a recent spate of hate crimes.
Some 2,000 demonstrators came together at the Berlin Wears Kippa event where Jews and non-Jews wore the traditional skullcap in a shared show of defiance.
Recent scandals – including a rap duo making light of Nazi death camps – have raised questions about the country’s ability to protect its burgeoning Jewish community seven decades after the Holocaust.
A demonstrator wears a kippa in the Mauerpark public park during the Berlin Wears Kippa event
Some 2,000 Germans came together in support of Jews after a recent spate of hate crimes
In the latest ugly incident, a tiny Berlin rally against anti-Semitism with just three demonstrators was marred Wednesday when angry counter-protesters shouted ‘terrorists’, spat at them and snatched their Israeli flag, organisers said.
Police said the event in Neukoelln district, the heart of the capital’s Muslim immigrant community, ended early after the trio were shouted down by ‘loud and emotional’ opponents and feared for their safety.
Speaking at the Berlin Wears Kippa rally, Berlin’s Jewish community chairman Gideon Joffe warned that the growing threat meant ‘it’s five minutes to midnight’, adding ‘we have to be careful’.
The head of the country’s Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, demanded ‘100 per cent respect’ for Jews as well as for Muslims, homosexuals and people of ‘all skin colours’.
Recent scandals – including a rap duo making light of Nazi death camps – have raised questions about the country’s ability to protect its burgeoning Jewish community seven decades after the Holocaust
A family get a picture wearing the traditional caps as they rally in support of the Jewish community
The previous day, Mr Schuster warned Jews who wear the kippa or the Star of David could be courting danger on German streets.
The remarks sparked outrage, with the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre accusing authorities of disappointing Jews’ faith in German democracy.
Chancellor Angela Merkel denounced the emergence of ‘another form of anti-Semitism’, beyond that of right-wing extremist groups, from Muslim refugees, in an interview with Israeli television.
The head of the country’s Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster warned Jews who wear the kippa or the Star of David could be courting danger on German streets
Mr Schuster’s comments sparked outrage, with some accusing him of disappointing Jews’ faith in German democracy
She reaffirmed the security of Jews and of the state of Israel was a central concern for Germany because of its ‘eternal responsibility’ for the Holocaust.
Last week Germans were stunned after a 19-year-old Syrian refugee attacked two young men wearing kippas with his belt in a trendy district of the capital, shouting ‘yahudi’ – Jew in Arabic – and lashing out at his victim with a belt.
A video of the assault, filmed by one of the Israeli victims, went viral on social media and sparked widespread revulsion.
The traditional skullcaps were handed out by volunteers in the park in Berlin
Ahead of the Berlin rally, the chairman of the Turkish community in Germany, Gokay Sofuoglu, also called for the kippa to be worn, telling the Berliner Zeitung ‘if you want to stop Islamophobia, then you also can’t tolerate anti-Semitism’.
Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Israeli political party Yesh Atid, said Jews from Germany should go out ‘with a kippa and a big baton in their hands and protect themselves’.
‘We thought the days of anxiety for the Jews in Germany were over. That is clearly not the case,’ he told German news agency DPA in Berlin.
Demonstrations in support of Jews with hundreds of people were also held in the cities of Cologne, Potsdam, Magdeburg and Erfurt, where politicians, Christian and Jewish leaders wore kippas and marched to the main local synagogue.
High-profile incidents in recent months have stoked fears of a possible resurgence of anti-Semitism
Newspapers offered paper cutouts of skullcaps for readers to wear.
The issue of anti-Semitism is particularly fraught in Germany, which has gone to great lengths to atone for its Nazi past and whose political class takes deep pride in the growth of the now 200,000-strong Jewish community.
However, the high-profile incidents in recent months have stoked fears of a possible resurgence of anti-Semitism.
Speaking at the Berlin Wears Kippa rally, Berlin’s Jewish community chairman Gideon Joffe warned that the growing threat meant ‘it’s five minutes to midnight’, adding ‘we have to be careful’
In March, the Central Council of Jews urged schools to keep track of religious bullying following reports that a young Jewish girl was allegedly harassed and threatened by Muslim fellow pupils at a Berlin primary school.
The far-right Alternative for Germany party, which captured nearly 13 per cent of the vote in September’s general election, has also not shied away from questioning Germany’s cherished ‘remembrance culture’.
Party member Bjoern Hoecke last year called Berlin’s Holocaust memorial a ‘monument of shame’ and said Germany should take a ‘180 degree’ turn away from its guilt over World War II crimes.