“Anti-Semitism concerns us all”

Red lines and civil courage – Felix Klein explains why Germany needs an anti-Semitism commissioner in the year 2018.

Campaign against anti-Semitism: Berliners wear the kippah
Campaign against anti-Semitism: Berliners wear the kippah dpa

Since May 2018, the lawyer and diplomat Felix Klein has been Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism Commissioner Felix Klein
Anti-Semitism Commissioner Felix Klein dpa

Mr Klein, what do you hope to achieve in your role as anti-Semitism commissioner?
I want to make it clear to German society that anti-Semitism is a serious evil that concerns not only Jews in this country, but us all. I would like to encourage those who are committed to fighting anti-Semitism to join forces and to speak out more loudly. And I want to encourage Jews in Germany to report publicly if they are attacked.

Do schools need to focus even more intensively on teaching pupils about the Holocaust?
The way history is transferred into the present and future must become clearer. We must teach pupils what it means when we see violence on our streets today. Nowadays almost one in five pupils in Germany is of migrant origin. That’s why it is important to involve all pupils – not only the German students – in learning about and analysing the Holocaust. The message we must convey is that this is a matter of fundamental values being abused in the most despicable way.

Anti-Semitism often starts in small ways, but this lays a very dangerous foundation.

Dr Felix Klein, Anti-Semitism Commissioner

Is it true that a new brand of anti-Semitism is being brought to Germany by immigrants from the Middle East?
Many immigrants have been socialised in countries where Jews are portrayed in a way that we find completely unacceptable. It is one of the challenges of integration to fight against this. Anyone wishing to live in Germany must accept a number of values. These include showing respect for Jews and engaging with German history.

Does Germany need more civic engagement to combat extremism?
Social media have caused our political and societal discourse to become increasingly blunt. People can say completely unacceptable things online, and nobody contradicts them. We have to push the “red lines” back to where they belong.  Anti-Semitism often starts in small ways, but this lays a very dangerous foundation.

Interview: Tanja Zech

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