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 add to centuries-old myths; Jews and persons marked as Jewish 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 3.021 antisemitic crimes. Even compared to the previous year, this corresponds to an increase of roughly 29% 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.
Under National Socialism, antisemitism became the official policy of the state: Starting with economic boycotts, anti-Jewish racial laws and pogroms, the National Socialist antisemitic ideology culminated in the systematic murder of European Jews. It is estimated that six million Jews were killed by the National Socialist regime and its collaborators.
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."
Antisemitism is also frequently expressed in the context of the Middle East conflict, for example, when antisemitic narratives are projected onto the state of Israel or Jewish people are blamed for Israeli policies.
"Whenever things escalate in the Middle East, the next weekend they escalate on our soccer fields. This can be read one-to-one." Alon Meyer, President of Makkabi Deutschland
Antisemitism has a profound impact on society as a whole because it undermines democratic values as well as human rights and because it poses a very real threat to Jews and non-Jews, as the terrorist attacks in Halle (2019) and Hanau (2020) show. 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.
More recently, the Foundation has also been pursuing a determined strategy to combat antisemitism both structurally and sustainably, 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
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.