Antisemitism and Xenophobia in Germany after Unification

By Hermann Kurthen; Werner Bergmann et al. | Go to book overview

or Jewish cemeteries. They are therefore intended as an iconoclastic redefinition of these artworks or institutions more than attacks against existing Jewish communities. This is in contrast to the attacks on homes for asylum seekers, which are obviously directed against the residents living there. 19 However, Jewish communities have been subjected to telephone threats and defamatory letters. These appear to be exceptional incidents, according to a nonrepresentative study conducted by Alphons Silbermann and Herbert A. Sallen in 1990. A large percentage of Jews questioned, considered many Germans to be antisemitic, but hardly any of them had personally experienced discrimination at work or in their communities ( Silbermann and Sallen 1992, 47).

In assessing the development of violence, it is important to take into account the escalation process and the fact that such incidents often occur in waves. The monthly statistics on desecration of Jewish buildings and cemeteries for the period from January 1992 to February 1993 clearly reflect that anti-Jewish actions followed phases of xenophobic mobilization; for example, the highest figures for violence occurred from October to December 1992 after the antiforeigner violence in Rostock. Such short-term swings do not provide conclusive information as far as longer-term, stable levels of antisemitic violence are concerned. It is more significant that there has been an annual average of slightly over 30 desecrations in the Federal Republic since 1986, compared to only 15 to 20 in the preceding years. The escalation to 40 incidents in 1990-91, 62 in 1992, 68 in 1993, 68 in 1994, and 40 in 1995 started from an already existing level. (The number of criminal acts in 1985 was as high as it would again become in 1991.) Half of the cemetery desecrations each year have had a right-wing extremist background. Most of the remaining desecrations are probably acts of right-wing sympathizers or imitations by apolitical lunatics. Similar waves of antisemitism have often emerged in the FRG and other countries (see Epstein 1993), without reversing or even interrupting the long-term trend toward a decline in antisemitism.

Such waves of violence have almost always been triggered by isolated antisemitic attacks and are seldom the result of more general political events. By publicly opposing such actions, politics and the media have served to inhibit these waves. A different situation prevails with regard to xenophobia. Here, clear relationships can be observed with economic conditions (or at least the subjective perception of them), the number of immigrants, and above all discourse in politics and the media. In contrast to antisemitism, the issue of "foreigners" is a less tabooed subject in political and social debate, for it allows the public expression of negative opinions about "the foreigners." Such statements by media or politicians would never be tolerated if made about Jews; in that case, anyone making such statements would suffer a withdrawal of public respect.


NOTES

Translated from German by Allison Brown.

1.
The following are the responses of Germans who were asked questions about contact with different groups:

-35-

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Antisemitism and Xenophobia in Germany after Unification
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Contributors xi
  • I 3
  • Note 17
  • I - Facts and Findings About Antisemitism and Xenophobia in United Germany 19
  • 2 21
  • Notes 35
  • 3 39
  • Appendix 63
  • Notes 83
  • 4 88
  • Notes 105
  • 5 110
  • Appendix: Question Texts and Scale Construction 130
  • Notes 139
  • II - Movements, Groups, and Organizations Propagating Antisemitism and Xenophobia in United Germany 141
  • 6 143
  • Note 158
  • 7 159
  • Appendix: Statistics on Right-Wing Extremist Groups and Periodicals 171
  • Notes 172
  • 8 174
  • Notes 189
  • 9 190
  • Notes 206
  • III - American, Jewish, and German Perceptions of and Reactions to Antisemitism and Xenophobia 209
  • 10 211
  • Notes 220
  • 11 224
  • Notes 238
  • 12 242
  • Notes 256
  • 13 257
  • Appendix - Selected Chronology of Antisemitic and Extreme Right-Wing Events in Germany During and After Unification, 1989-1994 263
  • Note 285
  • References 287
  • Index 311
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