One in Five Germans Express Hostile Attitudes Toward Jews, Survey Shows
Menu JTA Search

One in Five Germans Express Hostile Attitudes Toward Jews, Survey Shows

Download PDF for this date

More than one in five Germans has hostile attitudes toward Jews, and a growing number of Germans feel anti-Semitism is a very serious problem in their country.

These were some of the findings of a survey on German attitudes toward Jews and other minorities that was conducted in late January by the American Jewish Committee.

David Singer, the AJCommittee’s director of research, released the survey’s findings here on Monday.

Singer termed the survey’s findings “disappointing,” compared to a similar survey that was conducted among Germans in 1990.

He noted that one of the most alarming findings of the survey was that more and more Germans believe that anti-Semitism is a very serious problem — 26 percent of the respondents in the current survey, compared to 14 percent four years ago.

Singer called this result a “warning flag.”

Noting that younger and better educated Germans reflected more tolerant attitudes in the survey, Singer nonetheless said the gap between this group and others “is not as strong as one would like it to be.”

The AJCommittee was scheduled to hold a follow-up briefing in Bonn with representatives of the German government, educational foundations and political parties to discuss the implications of the survey’s findings.

The latest survey did show some improvement in attitudes toward Jews over the previous sampling of German attitudes.

In the current survey, for example, 31 percent said that Jews exert too much influence on world events, compared to 38 percent in 1990.

Significantly, residents of the former East Germany expressed more tolerance toward Jews than their Western counterparts.

While 24 percent of those from what was formerly West Germany believe that Jews have too much influence in German society, only 8 percent of those from the eastern part of the country expressed this view.


Asked whether they felt Jews were exploiting the Holocaust for their own purposes, 44 percent of Germans from the western part of the country agreed, while 19 percent of their counterparts from the east agreed.

All together, 39 percent of those interviewed thought that Jews are exploiting the Holocaust for their own purposes — the highest percentage of any of the questions in the survey. Forty-one percent disagreed.

Among Germans in the west, 30 percent disapproved of a Jew being nominated as candidate for president of Germany, while 20 percent of their eastern counterparts voiced a similar disapproval.

In the western areas of the country, 56 percent said the Holocaust has been discussed too much, while 36 percent of Germans from the east felt the same way.

Singer theorized that the more tolerant attitude toward Jews among residents of the former East Germany had to do with the strong anti-fascist ideology that was taught during the days of the German Democratic Republic.

He also suggested that West Germans, who were brought up in a democratic regime, were constantly forced to confront their wartime past.

He said he was surprised that 37 percent of those interviewed disapproved of establishing a national Holocaust Memorial museum in Germany. Singer said he originally thought 90 percent would approve of the idea.

Similar surveys have been conducted by the AJCommittee in East European countries, countries of the former Soviet Union and in the United States. The poll in Germany showed that German levels of anti-Semitism and their attitudes toward foreigners stood roughly in the middle of those surveyed from other countries.

On some questions, such as those dealing with knowledge of the Holocaust, Germans ranked at the top.

Roughly 90 percent of Germans answered several questions about the Holocaust correctly. Asked what the Holocaust refers to, 13 percent of the Germans surveyed did not know, compared to 32 percent of American respondents.

But Germans’ attitudes toward Jews in politics were more disappointing.

Asked if they would approve of a party nominating a Jew as its candidate for president of Germany, 28 percent said no. A survey in the United States showed that only 5 percent of Americans would not vote for a Jew as president.

But Jews fared better than other minorities in the survey of German attitudes. While 22 percent of the respondents said they would prefer not to have a Jewish neighbor, 68 percent said they did not want Gypsy neighbors and 47 percent did not want to live near Arabs.

The survey of 1,434 adults — 992 Germans from the western portions of the country and 442 from the east — was conducted by the Emnid Institute, a major German research institute, on behalf of the AJCommittee.

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