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German Center on Anti-semitism Marks 20th Anniversary of Research

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A German university that expelled its Jewish professors and students in the 1930s is marking the 20th anniversary of its Center for Research on Anti-Semitism.

Speakers at the Oct. 24 ceremony, including Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Shimon Stein, and the head of Berlin’s Jewish community, Alexander Brenner, lauded the center for its work.

“I will never say that our work is done,” Wolfgang Benz, director of the center, told JTA. “Every new generation must be taught to recognize the mechanisms that lead to prejudice.”

Stein noted that a recent report by Germany’s Federal Bureau for Constitutional Protection indicated that 15 to 20 percent of Germans have anti-Semitic attitudes.

“A form of anti-Semitism is running through the public discourse, dressed in the guise of criticism of Israel,” he said. “We Israelis are open to criticism, but it has to be fair and honest in order to be constructive, and to avoid serving anti-Semitic stereotypes. We are grateful to the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism,” he said, for “countering prejudice and resentment with the weapon of knowledge.”

Since its founding in 1982 at the Technical University of Berlin, the center has published more than 500 studies and books on subjects related to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust; it has amassed a library with some 35,000 volumes, and an archive of articles and primary sources.

The center holds conferences on historical and current topics and publishes a yearbook as well as educational material disseminated to schools across Germany.

Benz became the center’s director in 1990.

Among the center’s current projects is a database on the rescue of Jews in Germany during the Nazi years.

In September 2000, the center held a conference on “The Formation of Prejudice and Stereotypes in the Arab-Israeli Conflict.”

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