Germany to tighten legislation on anti-Semitic crimes

German Justice Minister says she's ashamed Jews no longer feel safe, announces new legislation against anti-Semitism.

Ben Ariel ,

Police officers at site of shooting in Halle, Germany
Police officers at site of shooting in Halle, Germany

Germany is planning to tighten legislation on anti-Semitic crimes, the country’s Justice Minister said on Thursday following a deadly attack aimed at a synagogue in Halle last month.

Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht told parliament that anti-Semitism would be made an aggravating factor for hate crimes in the criminal code, according to AFP.

The current law mentions discrimination against particular groups as an aggravating factor but does not refer to anti-Semitism specifically.

"I am ashamed that Jews in Germany no longer feel safe and that so many are even thinking of leaving the country," Lambrecht was quoted as having told parliament, adding, "We have to send a clear signal against anti-Semitism."

In the Halle attack, a right-wing extremist who had posted a racist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic manifesto online tried and failed to storm a synagogue during Yom Kippur prayers.

When he was unable to blast open the locked door, he shot and killed two non-Jewish Germans -- one on the street outside and another at a Turkish snack shop.

Police eventually captured the 27-year-old shooter, Stephan Balliet, after a gun battle that left him wounded.

Balliet admitted to the shooting rampage and confessed that it was motivated by anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism.

Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said on Thursday the proposed legislation change was "an important step towards a consistent punishment of anti-Semitic crimes".

The change is part of a package of government measures announced since the Halle attack, including obliging social media networks to report online death threats and incitement of racial hatred to police.

Anti-Semitic crimes rose by 20 percent in Germany last year, according to interior ministry data which blamed nine out of 10 cases on the extreme right.

A report released last summer found that Germany had seen an increased number of attacks on Jews during the first half of 2018.

Anti-Semitism is not only an issue in Germany. A global survey on anti-Semitism commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and released last week found that about one in four Europeans harbor pernicious and pervasive attitudes toward Jews.