Merkel: Anti-Semitism in Germany ‘more widespread than we imagine’
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Merkel: Anti-Semitism in Germany ‘more widespread than we imagine’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking to the media in Berlin, Germany on June 29, 2015. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking to the media in Berlin, Germany on June 29, 2015. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

BERLIN (JTA) — Germany must set clear boundaries in the fight against anti-Semitism, Chancellor Angela Merkel said ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Anti-Semitism in Germany is “more widespread than we imagine,” Merkel said in a conversation with Jewish media expert Oren Osterer in a podcast aired Saturday, noting several fronts: schools, social media and legal measures. The remembrance day is Wednesday.

Merkel agreed it was especially important to reach young people coming to Germany from countries where hatred of Israel and Jews are common. Germany had some 500,000 applications for asylum in 2015, the vast majority from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries.

“You can try arguing again and again” to reeducate Holocaust deniers or anti-Semites, but in the end “you also have to set clearer boundaries … and let them know that this has no place in our society,” Merkel said, adding that she has intervened personally with Facebook regarding hate propaganda.

The chancellor, who will attend Monday’s opening of an exhibition of art by survivors of ghettos and concentration camps, also said she was moved that Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial had been willing to send these items to Germany.

“It shows that there is a close cooperation and a certain trust” between Germany and Israel’s Holocaust memorial. “It is something emotional and reminds us that we have an everlasting responsibility for what happened in the past — for the Shoah.

“It is very, very important that each generation faces this German history, that each generation recognizes this history,” she said, adding that the exhibition “reminds us of the terrible suffering.”

On reaching youth, Merkel said, “We have a great challenge ahead of us.” She said along with teaching about the Holocaust, educators should share the richness of the Jewish contribution to Germany, both past and present.

“This is why a visit to the Jewish Museum in Berlin is very important,” Merkel said, adding that her own visits there have been very emotional. But, she acknowledged, Jewish life today is not in a museum. One must also celebrate the return of Jewish life in Germany and fight against anti-Semitism, she said, and “this brooks no compromise.”