BERLIN (Dec. 20)
German officials are said to be deeply concerned about the devastating impact the wave of neo-Nazi violence here is having on the country’s image in the eyes of Jews around the world.
Government officials are reported to be alarmed at a series of protests against the violence that were staged by Jews in recent weeks outside German consulates or embassies in several countries, including Australia, Brazil, Britain and Israel.
The protests come after years of attempts by the government to convince Jews around the world to soften their attitudes toward Germany. But many of those advances have been dashed by the spate of attacks against foreigners and Jewish memorials to the Holocaust.
In one of the latest violent incidents, neo-Nazis in western Germany severely beat a Greek girl on Saturday and carved a swastika into her forehead.
The incident followed two earlier attacks by vandals on the Greek school in Wuppertal, northeast of Dusseldorf, where neo-Nazis threatened students and told them to stop “exploiting” Germany.
The Greek community in Wuppertal demanded immediate action by the authorities to curb the right-wing violence.
Opposition to racism was reflected in demonstrations Sunday joined by almost half a million Germans, news reports said. Vigils to protest neo-Nazi violence took place in Stuttgart, Hanover, Bremen, Saabrucken, Dusseldorf and Tubingen.
In one attempt to curb the growing wave of hate, a federal agency said it is considering a ban on 19 publications targeted at young people that propagate hatred against foreigners and Jews.
The Mainz-based agency said the increasing virulence of the material, often appearing in entertainment magazines, now made it possible the courts would accede to such a ban.
Actions such as this and the banning of various neo-Nazi groups show that the authorities are now taking the problem of neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism more seriously, after a slow start, according to one German Jewish leader.
Ignatz Bubis, chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, also raised strong objections to suggestions made by Jewish groups to boycott Germany because of the neo-Nazi violence.
“Hitler isn’t there. Germany is not burning,” he said.
Bubis also said that reports of a mass exodus of Jews from Germany are greatly exaggerated. The number of Jews who have left for Israel have increased only minimally, he said, “and many of these are former Israelis.”
At the same time, Bubis said that nearly 80 Jewish cemeteries and memorials were desecrated this year and his hate mail is both increasing and more open.
“The anonymous letters I used to get now arrive with a complete return address.”