Moment Zoominar: The State of Antisemitism in Germany Today with Ambassador Emily Haber and Robert Siegel

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German Ambassador to the U.S. Emily Haber: Fighting Antisemitism is a German Obligation

Emily Haber, Germany’s ambassador to the U.S. says the recent rise in anti-Semitism in her home country has alarmed her. “The amount of hatred and agitation against Jews during the days of the attacks from Gaza on Israel were terrible,”she said in a recent Moment online interview with Robert Siegel.  You have two things. The first one is we’ve seen over the past years a steady rise of anti-Semitism, especially in the extremist fringes of the society. The other thing is there is a correlation in times of violence in the Middle East with anti-Semitic demonstrations.”

In Germany, it is a federal crime to use Nazi symbols or to deny the Holocaust, laws that are continuely updated, including a recent measure against agitation and hatred in the internet.

Haber says the aggressive push against anti-Semitism “grew out of activism in the 1960s and 70s, with young people forcing their parents to confront the past and come to terms with it, to come to terms with the responsibility that emanates from the past.”

“What we want to be, the values that we want to stand for, that we want to defend and fight for, all of that comes from the most terrible of histories and our experience with it and the legacy that it has left.”

However, she noted that the shifting population in Germany presents new challenges.

“About 25% of Germans have a migration background, which means that they have no familiar ties to Nazi Germany,” she said. “It reduces or hampers the sense of responsibility for what was because to many of them, this is other people’s business.”

Asked whether new immigrants should be expected to acquire the sense of obligation on behalf despite the lack of history, she said it would be a clear cut yes.

“If the refugees or migrants are coming to Germany because they hope for a different future,they also need to understand that the very asylum laws that offer them protection and offer them a new home is a lesson from the past,” she said. “It’s a conclusion that we have drawn because of the looming factors of history.”

She said Germany has learned from other countries that the measure of successful integration by immigrants is not whether you master the language or are part of the workforce. “The measure of integration actually is whether you respect women and not despise them, whether you accept that part of participation and belonging comes with accepting the history and accepting the future linked to the history, accepting what I call a key of core values.”

Education, the most critical component of the fight against anti-Semitism is also, she said, key to helping new arrivals become fully integrated members of the society. The refugees that flooded into Germany in 2015 and 2016, the peak of the crisis, came from different regions and came for different reasons.

“It was clear that there was no one-size-fits-all approach,” she said. “What we tried to do that would be a generational challenge is to make sure that integration starts as early as it possibly can with kindergarten, with schools.”

At times it is a negotiation, she said, between the values Germany holds and those of its newest residents; but not everything can be negotiated.

“Anti-Semitism and racism is unacceptable as much as a disdain for women,” she said. “I believe center stage for the welcoming societies would be to call for respect, for some elements in the welcoming society that will be non-negotiable because they’re core to their identity.”

She noted that speaking to the Knesset a few years ago, the German chancellor referred to the battle against anti-Semitism as “part of our DNA.”

Emily Haber, Germany’s Ambassador to the U.S., discusses the current forms and manifestations of antisemitism in Germany, and how it is connected to other European movements. Ambassador Haber is in conversation with Robert Siegel, Moment special literary contributor and former senior host of NPR’s All Things Considered.

This program is hosted by Moment Magazine with the support of the Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation and co-presented by the German Embassy, Washington.

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