Right-wing adolescents and young Muslims are displaying levels of anti-Semitism that were long considered unthinkable in Germany
At many German schools, the word "Jew" is becoming an insult again. German politicians don't seem to know how to respond.
The Jewish High School in Berlin's central Mitte district resembles a high-security ward. Those who want to access the imposing old building on Grosse Hamburger Strasse have to pass through a meticulous security check. The building is surrounded by a fence several meters high and video cameras register every move. Policemen stand guard in front of the building.
"We're no ghetto," school director Barbara Wittig clarifies. "We offer those children protection who have to fear discrimination at other schools," she adds. And such cases have increased dramatically in the past two years. "I always though Jews were integrated into German society," says Wittig. "I would never have thought it possible for anti-Semitism to express itself as virulently as it has recently."
As of this week, Wittig's students have included two girls who previously attended the public, non-confessional Lina-Morgenstern High School in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood. Their woes attracted considerable public attention. For months, one of the two girls, who is 14 years old, suffered anti-Semitic insults from adolescents with an Arab background. They also beat her and spat on her. Walking to school became like running the gauntlet for her. Her tormentors would hide in wait for her and chase her through the streets. In the end the girl had to be given police protection on her way to school.
These events in Kreuzberg represent an especially drastic example, but they're not the exception. Berlin's state parliament lists 62 reported cases under the category "(right-wing) extremism" in its study "Indicators of Violence at Berlin's Schools, 2004/2005." That's a steep increase in comparison with the previous year, when only 39 cases were registered. The category "(right-wing) extremism" includes "anti-Semitic, racist / xenophobic and right-wing extremist remarks" by children and adolescents, in addition to remarks that "incite racial hatred or express fundamentalist / Islamist fundamentalist views."
One high school student in Berlin's Steglitz-Zehlendorf district said in class: "All Jews must be gassed." Students in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district locked another student inside the chemistry lab and said: "Now we'll turn on the gas." A non-German child at an elementary school in Treptow-Köpenick insulted his teacher by calling her a "Jew," a "witch" and a "sea cow." When a teaching aid in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg tried to settle an argument between students, he was told: "Piss off, Jew!"
And the surge of anti-Semitism seems to be growing. In November, Berlin's public authorities had already registered more cases of anti-Semitism than during the entire previous year. A recent study by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) also criticized cases of anti-Semitism, racism and right-wing extremism at German schools.
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