Anti-semitism Still Runs High in West Germany, New Study Shows
Menu JTA Search

Anti-semitism Still Runs High in West Germany, New Study Shows

Download PDF for this date

There is still strong anti-Semitism in West Germany, a university study has shown. The mass communication department of the Sociological Institute at Cologne University has publicized the study, headed by Prof. Alphons Silbermann, which finds that between 15 and 20 percent of West Germans still have marked anti-Semitic prejudices. Among a further 30 percent, there is latent anti-Semitism, the study says.

Silbermann puts much of the blame for this on an “information deficit” in the German population His opinion researchers were told in reply to the question how many Jews live in Germany, for example, an average of 400,000. In reality their number in West Germany is just under 27,000, with another 5000 in Communist East Germany.


About 20 percent of those questioned believed that Jews had particular influence in the theater, in television, the cinema and in literature, while 17.8 percent took the view that Jews are too influential in politics. A particularly clear indication of what Silbermann called “traditional and inherited prejudices” were the answers to the following question: the interviewees were asked to imagine a friend had told them of the possibility of a particularly advantageous business deal with a Jewish businessman and that he wanted advice on how to handle it. Just over 14 percent advised not to have any business dealings at all with the Jew; 38.7 percent thought he ought to do the deal but keep a close eye on the partner. Only 35.9 percent thought there was no difference between a Jew and any other businessman.

The older those questioned were, the more marked their anti-Semitism was (47 percent of the above-55-year-olds). Those tending most strongly towards it on a vocational breakdown were farmers (47 percent). Those with the least prejudice were white-collar salaried staff (23 percent). Of the farmers, 52 percent still believe that persecution of the Jews is punishment for the crucifixion of Christ. Silbermann said only enlightenment and history teaching which did not end with Bismarck could eliminate the anti-Semitism. But so far the educational institutions in Germany had not made any worthwhile contribution to this. He recalled that an anti-Semitic climate had once before been created through literature, from the theater stage and by caricatures. He criticized a modern drama about real estate speculation in Frankfurt, “Der Muell, Die Stadt und Der Tod.” by Rainer Fassbinder, as “swimming on the same wave again.”

Meanwhile, it was reported by the West German Embassy in London that a growing number of Jews who fled Nazi Germany to Britain are asking for their German citizenship again. The Embassy spoke of a “relatively new trend” which had been in progress for about two years and “surprised” the authorities. The Embassy said it could give no figures on the number of people involved. It added that the citizenship applicants usually did not resettle in Germany but stayed in Britain. This contradicted a recent report in the mass-circulation Daily Mirror in London which spoke of an “exodus” of rich families back to Germany. Press reports here have suggested that by taking German citizenship back but living in Britain the applicants could save taxes.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund