Antisemitism and conspiracy narratives

Antisemitism and related antisemitically motivated attacks are on the rise – in Germany and also across Europe. The Covid-19 pandemic has fueled this development. New conspiracy narratives are circulating; minorities are being attacked on the internet and on demonstrations. They are even accused of being responsible for the outbreak of the pandemic.

Antisemitism or hostility toward Jews poses great challenges for our society. A look at the statistics shows how serious the problem is: In 2020, German authorities recorded 2,351 antisemitic crimes. Even compared to the previous year, this corresponds to an increase of 16% and the number of unreported cases is estimated to be approximately three times as high.

Antisemitism is defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), whose classification the EVZ Foundation and the German government follows, as "a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, as well as toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities (...)."

Although the term antisemitism was not coined until the 19th century, the phenomenon of anti-Judaism actually dates back to antiquity. Anti-Jewish laws and measures, expulsions and acts of violence such as pogroms – attacks on Jewish people and on Jewish institutions – characterized some parts of the Middle Ages and the early modern era. With the emergence of antisemitic parties and the rise of nationalism, antisemitism acquired a political component in the 19th century.

Six million Jewish people murdered

The National Socialists took advantage of the antisemitism smoldering amongst the German population – millions of people bought Hitler's book "Mein Kampf". Starting with economic boycotts, anti-Jewish racial laws and pogroms, the National Socialist antisemitic ideology culminated in the systematic extermination of European Jews. It is estimated that six million Jews were murdered by the National Socialist regime and its collaborators.

Marina Weisband

Being Jewish in Germany means that it happened and consequently could happen again. Understanding today that antisemitism doesn't just begin when somebody shoots at a synagogue. That even the Shoah didn't begin with gas chambers. It begins with conspiracy theories.
Marina Weisband
Politician and publicist

Antisemitism today: Conspiracy narratives are on the rise

Although the number of antisemitic incidents in Germany has been increasing steadily since 2015, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst leading to the new alarming record level in 2020: The Federal Association of Departments for Research and Information on Antisemitism recorded a drastic increase in antisemitic myths when the various Covid-19 measures came into force in the spring of 2020. In right-wing communities, antisemitic sentiment has been conjoined with new conspiracy theories about the "true" causes of the pandemic, which have become further and further removed from the reality of the situation. It was on demonstrations of Covid-deniers around the country in particular that these conspiracy myths haven been exhibited more openly than ever.

This is also confirmed by the MEMO Study carried out by the EVZ Foundation. 29.2% of the respondents said they "agree” or even "strongly agree" with the statement that there are "secret organizations" that “exercise a great deal of influence on political decision-making."


  • 123

    That's how many incidents of anti-Semitic remarks at Corona demonstrations were reported from March 17 to June 17, 2020 alone. (Source: RIAS 2020)

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Antisemitism has a profound impact on society as a whole because it undermines democratic values as well as human rights. The need to combat it makes joint commitment more vital than ever.

Already since 2011, the Foundation has initiated the cross-project and strategically oriented conference series "Perspectives. Forum for Education and Academia, a Critical Look at Anti-Semitism". With groundbreaking topics and the latest findings, this is the place where innovative educational methods are discussed and discourse-critical points are established, thereby facilitating an exchange between science and educational practice.

For the theme year "1,700 Years of Jewish Life in Germany" in 2021, the Foundation funded the youth campaign #tsuzamen - Young Perspectives on Jewish Life, projects in which young people engage with Jewish life in Germany and help to make it more visible – thereby undermining the basis for antisemitic stereotypes.

Dedicated strategy against antisemitism

In addition, the Foundation has more recently pursued a dedicated strategy against antisemitism with structural approaches, strengthened by the Agenda for the Future. In the newly created cluster "Acting against antisemitism, antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination and racism" which deals with manifestations of antisemitism at key points in the state and society today and develops counter-strategies with partners, the Foundation is now further expanding its funding commitment for combating and preventing antisemitism.

Coalitions with the Jewish community and other groups affected by discrimination also make an important contribution. The EVZ Foundation creates and supports these coalitions.

With this funding portfolio consisting of

  • digital approaches,
  • local coalitions,
  • structural approaches for combating antisemitism
  • as well as work with specific professional groups and key players

the EVZ Foundation encourages civil societies throughout Europe to counter antisemitism with specific activities – for an open, plural and caring society in which Jewish life is natural, lived and visible.


  • Coalitions

    Between 2020 and 2022, funding will be provided for coalitions in Baden-Württemberg, Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia, the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan area, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and in Schleswig-Holstein, as well as for Jewish Campus Weeks at approximately 20 universities. Jewish life is strengthened and antisemitism is countered by local civil society coalitions.

  • Offers for public administration

    Political education against ideologies is a cross-cutting issue for the whole of society. This is where the project “Stark im Amt!” (Strong in Office!) of the Anne Frank Educational Center comes in as part of the NS Injustice Education Agenda. Counselling and advanced training programs allow employees in public administration – from local authorities to the Federal Office – to recognize elements of antisemitic and racist ideologies and to take preventive action.

  • Project

    The advisory network polisphere has analyzed antisemitic phenomena in the "dark social web" in order to understand the role of radicalization spaces beyond the classical platforms. The spectrum of networks analyzed ranges from anonymous image boards such as 8kun to the messenger service Telegram and its significance for so-called "lateral thinkers". A website bundles interviews with experts and approaches to solutions.