The Widespread German Hatred of Jews and Israel

Widespread prejudice against Jews still exists in the country with the most criminal past in Europe.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld ,

Manfred Gerstenfeld
Manfred Gerstenfeld
Manfred Gerstenfeld

At the beginning of the 1990s, I interviewed a board member of one of Germany’s largest banks. The interview took place within the framework of research for my first book which dealt with the future political and economic potential of Italy.[1] When I mentioned that I lived in Israel, he remarked that his contemporary German co-citizens were capable of perpetrating the same evil as they had done during the Holocaust. At the time, and until today, his statement seemed to me to be an exaggeration. Yet there are many factual indications that the German reality is far more negative than its image in the world.[2]

Two recent polls provide much insight into the highly problematic German attitudes toward Jews and Israel. The most important one was published by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in September of 2014. Much of the polling information is devoted to other issues, yet the findings concerning the Jews are both insightful and worrisome.

The pollsters were asked five questions relevant to Jews. The first two dealt with classic anti-Semitism, questions that could already have been asked before Hitler came to power. The first one was, “Do Jews have too much influence in Germany?” Almost 14% of Germans answered this question in the affirmative. The second question asked respondents whether Jews are partly guilty for being persecuted. In June 2014, more than 10% agreed to this statement, and in September 2014 – after the Protective Edge campaign -- the number increased to 18%.[3]


Almost 28% of Germans agree with the statement “Due to Israel’s policies, I can well understand that one has something against the Jews.”
Another study, conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation and published in 2015, asked somewhat similar questions. 28% of German respondents agreed with the statement that Jews have too much power in the world.[4]

These figures express how anti-Semitic stereotypes, promoted extensively before and during the Nazi rule remain, very significant, in spite of mandatory Holocaust education and many history lessons.

Answers to a second series of questions of the Ebert Foundation study indicate how anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism are interrelated. In September 2014, 20% of the German population agreed with the statement that “Jews are increasingly unlikeable due to Israeli politics.”[5] The Bertelsmann study asked whether people agreed with the statement “I find the Jews increasingly less likeable because of Israel’s policies.” Here 28% of the respondents agreed.[6] This is a typical contemporary expression of anti-Semitism; Jews abroad are not Israeli citizens and have no influence on Israel’s behavior.

The response to an additional question further clarifies German attitudes. Almost 28% of Germans agree with the statement “Due to Israel’s policies, I can well understand that one has something against the Jews.”[7]

The answers to a third series of questions provide a profound insight into the criminal mindset of many Germans. In the Ebert Foundation poll of September 2014, 27% agreed with the statement that “what Israel does today toward the Palestinians is no different than what the Nazis did toward the Jews.” Respondents were then asked if they agreed with the statement that “Israel conducts a war of extermination against the Palestinians”, and almost 40% of Germans polled answered in the affirmative.[8]

The Bertelsmann Foundation study asked a similar question: “Do you agree or tend to agree with the statement that what the State of Israel is doing is essentially the same thing as what the Nazis did to the Jews during the Third Reich?” 35% of those polled agreed.[9]

We also have the results of earlier studies with similar questions. Although they indicate that there is a declining trend of people agreeing with such hate statements, the figures remain extremely high. In a 2011 study by the University of Bielefeld for the Ebert Foundation, covering seven different EU countries, 48% of Germans agreed with the statement that Israel conducts a war of extermination against the Palestinians.[10] In 2004, 68% agreed.[11]

Another series of questions in the 2014 Ebert Foundation poll concerned statements which were presented as a negative attitude toward Israel rather than as anti-Semitism.  The first statement was “I am getting furious when I think about how Israel treats the Palestinians.” Here 60% of respondents agreed.  With the claim that, “It is unjust that Israel takes land away from the Palestinians”, almost 69% agreed.  While these answers by themselves are not anti-Semitic, they derive from anti-Semitism.

Another study found that Germans who grew up under the Nazi regime and who were exposed to Nazi indoctrination are currently still far more anti-Semitic than the average German.[12] Though the original research was published in 2012 it suddenly got media attention in 2015.[13]

The continuous incitement against Israel by European and German media has played a major role in encouraging these kinds of attitudes. The fallacy drawn up mainly by the EU that the 'West Bank' is occupied land instead of disputed land, the continuous condemnations of the settlements and of housing construction, the almost systematic way media ignore and are silent about rampant Palestinian criminality and about the Islamo-Nazi character of their largest party, Hamas, have all laid the basis for these opinions to be cultivated. 

An issue which is particular to Germany is what is called secondary anti-Semitism - Germans do not want to be confronted with their past. Another series of questions asked respondents whether they agreed with two statements; the first, “I am annoyed that Germans, until today, are confronted with their crimes against the Jews”, and the second, “I am fed up with always hearing about the German crimes against the Jews.” 55% agreed to the first statement, and 49% agreed to the second.[14] 

These findings raise major concerns for German Jews, for Israel but also for Germany. One can conclude that anti-Semitism is still significantly present in Germany, both in its pre-war classic manifestations as well as in its anti-Israel mutation.

These polls are proof of widespread prejudice against Jews across the country with the most criminal past in Europe. A survey by the European Jewish Association found that despite such pervasive attitudes, most Germans do not feel that German anti-Semitism merits particular attention. Four out of ten Germans believe that the European Union is doing an adequate job in combating anti-Semitism on the continent, and 15% consider that the German government should be doing less.[15]

In September 2014, when Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke at a huge rally at the Brandenburg gate, she said “Jewish friends, neighbors and colleagues: consider yourselves at home here.”[16] The findings of these recent polls, however, demonstrate that there are many Germans who do not think that Jews are at home in the country. Much to the contrary, many Germans have learned little or nothing from the extreme criminal history of their country. They still are full of major prejudices against the Jews and Israel.

Sources:

[1] Lorenzo Necci, Manfred Gerstenfeld, Rivalutare l’Italia  (Milan: Sperling&Kupfer, 1992)

[2] “Russian image has deteriorated - BBC World Service poll,” 4 June 2014.

[4]  Dr. Steffen Hagemman and Dr. Roby Nathanson, “Germany and Israel Today: United by the Past, Divided by the Present?,” Bertelsmann Stiftung, page 35

[6]  Dr. Steffen Hagemman and Dr. Roby Nathanson, “Germany and Israel Today: United by the Past, Divided by the Present?,” Bertelsmann Stiftung, page 35

[8] Ibid

[9] Dr. Steffen Hagemman and Dr. Roby Nathanson, “Germany and Israel Today: United by the Past, Divided by the Present?,” Bertelsmann Stiftung, page 35

[10] library.fes.de/pdf-files/do/07908-20110311.pdf.

[12] Nico Voigtlander and Hans-Joachim Voth, “Exorcizing Hiter:  Anti-Semitism and Denazification of Germany, “ 14 Aparil 2012., at http://economics.stanford.edu/files/Voth4_17.pdf

[13] Benjamin Weinthal, “Study:  Most Germans want to leave Holocaust in past,” The Jerusalem Post, 27 January 2015,

[15] "More Germans worried about Islamophobia than anti-Semitism, new poll finds," The Jerusalem Post, 24 June 2015. 

[16] "Angela Merkel; Fighting Anti-Semitism is German Duty," BBC, 14 September 2014. 




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