BERLIN (Reuters) – Anti-Semitic crime rose by almost 20% in Germany last year, the interior minister said on Tuesday, blaming most incidents on individuals espousing far-right world views.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said around 90% of the 1,800 recorded incidents were perpetrated by supporters of far-right groups. The main offences included hate speech, anti-Semitic graffiti and displaying banned signs like the swastika.
This is a development that we have to confront, especially in this country,” Seehofer told a news conference, alluding to Germany’s Nazi past. “(That means) with all our means – this is a job for the police as well as for the whole society.”
Germany’s Jews are alarmed by the rise of the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, whose leaders have been accused of playing down Nazi crimes and calling a national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust a “memorial of shame.”
The AfD, which says Islam is incompatible with the German constitution, denies it harbors racist views and has blamed a rise in attacks on Jews and Jewish businesses on asylum seekers from majority Muslim countries.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose decision in 2015 to welcome almost 1 million asylum seekers mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan contributed to the rise of the AfD, vowed to fight all forms of racism with the full force of the law.
“We have a duty and responsibility to defend our values and constitutional laws,” she said at a separate event. “This is especially the case when we must stand up against racism, anti-Semitic hatred and violence using all legal means available.”
Even though anti-Semitic incidents were on the rise, the overall number of politically motivated crimes was down 9%.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Mark Heinrich)