Antisemitism and Xenophobia in Germany after Unification

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

tionship or interaction between individual and society responsible for the emergence of deviant attitudes and behavior. Accordingly, problem-solving intervention into social relationships must follow. In the end, some sociological criticism expresses doubt as to whether political authorities and institutions of social control are capable of adequately responding to violence, right-wing extremism, and antisemitism at all because institutions are themselves part of a causal chain that leads to prejudice and violence ( Heitmeyer 1994a: 11). Consequently, such social criticism in Germany now focuses more on extremism at the center rather than on extremism at the margins of society. But such theoretical approaches do not relieve society as a whole from its responsibility to take care of its extremists and processes of radicalization. Aside from the question whether such theory is consistent and empirically valid, such deterministic social criticism lacks a practical purpose. Reasons for how it came to be may be reconstructed, but they provide no guidelines on where to go from here and what to do with those who have been apprehended and adjudicated for deviant extremist behavior.

The course taken in response to antisemitism is typically a confrontational one. Usually, it is not the antisemitism itself that is in dispute but the identification of its origins, the assessment of its threat to society, and the appropriateness of countermeasures. Such measures are most often limited to educational recommendations and symbolic political acts through which the norm of anti-antisemitism is reconfirmed and strengthened. The often-criticized ineffectiveness of such appeals is to some extent due to the fact that on the one hand fighting antisemitism is not a private matter and on the other hand society does not have any institution 30 specifically empowered to educate and dismantle prejudices. There is no appropriate organization or occupational group to deal with such problems, employing professional problem-solving strategies, and serving as a social advocate, a communication and negotiation partner for politics, ministerial administrations, and any others concerned with the issue. The social problem of antisemitism or xenophobia is thus passed on to established task-related systems such as political and social education, the schools, and the justice system, all of which deal with the issue as one of many tasks to carry out, after first making internal decisions as to what is socially appropriate and objectively justified. Due to insufficient organization, capabilities, and the prevailing public individualism, the appeal to every man and woman to stand up against right-wing extremism and antisemitism gradually loses its strength. Media interest and sensationalist reports decline and social institutions return to their task-specific routines until new scandals or violence demand renewed attention.


NOTES

Translated from German by Allison Brown.

1.
The "Auschwitz lie" is a major focus of such literature. On its prevalence, see Landesamt für Verfassungsschutz Berlin ( 1994) and chapter 8.
2.
Scientists often do not draw specific conclusions from their research but instead make

-220-

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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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