Merkel made the remarks during a celebration marking the 70th anniversary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the umbrella organization founded by Holocaust survivors.
Addressing some 130 prominent guests in the interior courtyard of Berlin’s New Synagogue on Tuesday, Merkel said it was “shameful” that perpetrators — like the man currently on trial for an attack on a synagogue in the city of Halle last year — were becoming more bold about expressing anti-Semitism and racism. The gunman killed two near the synagogue after failing to enter the house of worship during Yom Kippur services.
If “education and education and enlightenment are not enough” to curb such tendencies, “we must resort to … disciplinary action as sanctioned by our criminal law,” Merkel said.
Central Council President Josef Schuster said most Jews trust Germany to tackle the problem and that they are “prepared to give the state the benefit of the doubt” so far.
Crimes motivated by anti-Semitism in Germany rose 13% from 2018 to 2019, with a total of 2,032 reported incidents last year, according to recent figures. The vast majority of the anti-Jewish crimes reported, 93.4%, were ascribed to far-right perpetrators, though there also was an increase in such crimes from the far left.
The alleged Halle shooter testified at his trial that he had wanted to kill Jews, specifically on the Jewish holiday, because they “are the main cause of white genocide and want to create a new world order.”
A new report from the Berlin-based Department for Research and Information on Anti-Semitism found that the coronavirus pandemic has also led to a rise in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and Holocaust distortion in Germany.