German leaders voice outrage and thousands rally in Berlin in reaction to rising antisemitism

BERLIN – Germany’s chancellor and president strongly denounced a rise in antisemitism in Germany in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war in separate appearances Sunday that stressed the same idea that it is unacceptable for such hatred to flourish in the nation that perpetrated the Holocaust.

In Berlin, thousands of people gathered at a demonstration called to show opposition to antisemitism and support for Israel. People carried Israeli flags or posters with photos of some of the people reported to be missing or held by Hamas as hostages.

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The protest, organized by a broad alliance of various organizations, comes as antisemitic incidents have been rising in Germany following the violent escalation of the war in Gaza. The organizers estimated that over 20,000 people took part; police put the number at 10,000.

“It is unbearable that Jews are living in fear again today — in our country of all places,” President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told those gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. “Every single attack on Jews, on Jewish institutions is a disgrace for Germany. And every single attack fills me with shame and anger.”

Earlier, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he was outraged by the antisemitic agitation spreading as the Gaza war rages, and warned at the inauguration of a new synagogue that the vow of “never again” must be unbreakable.

Assailants threw two Molotov cocktails at a synagogue in Berlin on Wednesday, and police protection has been increased for Jewish institutions. Scholz, who denounced the violence on Wednesday, expanded on his comments at the inauguration of the temple in Dessau, a city in eastern Germany whose synagogue was destroyed by the Nazis 85 years ago.

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Both Scholz and Steinmeier denounced the Hamas attack on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7 while also voicing their concern for Palestinian civilians caught up in the conflict. But the thrust of their message was to address the fallout at home.

“I am deeply outraged by the way in which antisemitic hatred and inhuman agitation have been breaking out since that fateful October 7, on the internet, in social media around the world, and shamefully also here in Germany,” Scholz said. “Here in Germany, of all places.”

“That is why our ‘never again’ must be unbreakable,” Scholz said as he gathered with Jewish leaders at the Weill Synagogue, noting that the community has recently grown as it welcomed people from Ukraine.

The synagogue is named after German-born composer Kurt Weill, who fled Nazi Germany in 1933, and his father Albert Weill, who was a cantor in Dessau.

“This synagogue here in the middle in Dessau says that Jewish life is and remains a part of Germany. It belongs here,” Scholz said. “Germany will do everything to protect and strengthen Jewish life.”

Steinmeier also called it a “civic duty” to oppose antisemitism in Germany.

Police have increased security for Jewish institutions in Berlin and all over Germany.

Israeli flags that were flown after the Oct. 7 attack as a sign of solidarity in front of city halls all over the country have been torn down and burnt. Several building in Berlin where Jews live had the star of David painted on doors and walls.

Also Sunday, police officers in Berlin surrounded participants of a pro-Palestinian demonstration at Potsdamer Platz, which had been banned.

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