A man wears a Jewish kippah bearing the flags of Germany and Israel, in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany. Picture: FRANK RUMPENHORST/ DPA/AFP
A man wears a Jewish kippah bearing the flags of Germany and Israel, in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany. Picture: FRANK RUMPENHORST/ DPA/AFP

Berlin — Germany’s government commissioner on antisemitism has warned Jews about the potential dangers of wearing the traditional kippah cap in the face of rising anti-Jewish attacks.

“I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere all the time in Germany,” Felix Klein said in an interview published on Saturday by the Funke regional press group.

In issuing the warning, Klein said he had “alas, changed my mind [on the subject] compared to previously”.

Klein, whose post was created in 2018, cited “the lifting of inhibitions and the uncouthness which is on the rise in society” as factors behind a rising incidence of antisemitism.

“The internet and social media have largely contributed to this — but so have constant attacks against our culture of remembrance.”

He suggested police, teachers and lawyers should be better trained to recognise what constitutes “clearly defined” unacceptable behaviour and “what is authorised and what is not”.

His comments came just weeks after Berlin’s top legal expert on antisemitism said the issue remains entrenched in German society.

“Anti-semitism has always been here. But I think that recently, it has again become louder, more aggressive and flagrant,” Claudia Vanoni said, adding the problem is “deeply rooted” in German society.

Antisemitic crimes rose 20% in Germany in 2018, according to interior ministry data that blamed nine out of ten cases on the extreme right.

Justice minister Katarina Barley told the Handelsblatt newspaper the increase is “shameful for our country” but added that the police are “vigilant”.

Vanoni also said that the proliferation of online platforms that allow people to express extremist views without inhibition while hiding behind screens have fostered the rise in cases.

The arrival in parliament of the far-right AfD, whose leaders openly question Germany’s culture of atonement for World War 2 atrocities, has also contributed to the change in atmosphere, as has the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers, many from Muslim countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Klein said that while the far-right is to blame for most anti-semitic crime, it is apparent that some Muslims are also influenced by watching certain television channels “which transmit a dreadful image of Israel and Jews”.

AFP