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German Anti-semitism on the Rise, According to Findings of Latest Poll

September 10, 2002
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German anti-Semitism is increasing, according to the findings of a new survey.

The poll, conducted by researchers at the University of Leipzig, also found that while anti-Semitism is more common in the western German states, xenophobia dominates in the east.

The poll, which was based on interviews of 2,051 people and released Sept. 5, is one of several on the issue to come out in recent months.

Two surveys released in June contradicted each other on the state of anti-Semitism in Germany. However, like the new poll, they indicated that negative stereotypes about Jews persist.

According to the latest poll, 28 percent of respondents agreed that “Jews have too much influence.”

Among those in western Germany, 31 percent agreed — a “dramatic increase” from the 14 percent who agreed with that statement four years ago, researchers said.

In the former eastern states, on the other hand, the number of those who agreed with the statement stood at about 14 percent — the same as four years ago.

On another question, 20 percent of those questioned believed that “Jews don’t fit in so well with us.”

Here, too, researchers found significant differences between eastern and western Germany: Only 8 percent of easterners agreed, as opposed to 22 percent of westerners.

According to the study, some 30 percent of those in eastern Germany were clearly xenophobic, as opposed to 24 percent in western Germany.

On one question, about 43 percent of those questioned agreed that “foreigners come here only to take advantage of our welfare state,” and 35 percent agreed that “foreigners should be sent back to their homelands when there are too few jobs here.”

The researchers said the questionnaire also revealed an increase in the tendency to minimize Nazi crimes, particularly among residents of western Germany.

The study also showed that higher education was clearly linked with lower levels of right-wing extremism.

Women were less prone to right-wing extremism than were men, and younger people less likely than those older than 60, researchers said.

In the years following World War II, social scientists tracking the issue have found little change in base levels of German anti-Semitism.

Some have attributed occasional peaks and dips to the influence of world events, with the most recent factor being Israeli-Palestinian violence.

But researchers tracking anti-Semitism have sometimes come up with conflicting results.

According to a survey published in Der Spiegel magazine in June, anti-Semitic attitudes have decreased in Germany during the last decade.

But a second survey at the time, conducted by the University of Leipzig together with the Sigmund Freud Institute in Frankfurt, showed an increase in anti-Semitic attitudes since 1999.

The differences, which may be related to the style of questioning, are emblematic of the difficulties in measuring taboo attitudes.

Those who conducted the second June study said their questions were less direct, and therefore were more likely to reveal hidden prejudice.

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