Antisemitic theories on the rise in Germany

By Toby Axelrod, December 9, 2010

Higher-earners are more xenophobic than the average German, and resentment of Jews and Muslims is on the rise, according to an annual study of social trends released last week.

The 9th annual "German Situation" study, from the University of Bielefeld Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence, suggests a clear "cooling of the social climate" as a result of tougher economic times.

Researchers found an increase in antisemitism linked to Israel over the past year, though still not as high as in 2002, the first year of the study. In 2010, 57 per cent of respondents agreed: "Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians" and 38 per cent agreed that it was "understandable how Israel's policies might encourage anti-Jewish feelings."

More than 25 per cent agreed that "Muslim immigration to Germany should be prohibited", an approximately five per cent increase over 2009. The study also found that antisemitic theories are becoming more socially acceptable.

Professor Wilhelm Heitmeyer of the University of Bielefeld oversaw more than 2,000 interviews for the study, which focused on the impact of the current economic crisis.

They found that a crisis mentality leads to a closing of the ranks. Resentment of immigrants, the poor and minorities tends to increase.

Mr Heitmeyer said the results showed that people with higher incomes, unaccustomed to losing money, were becoming increasingly xenophobic, while those who earn less than 2,500 euros per month tended to be more sympathetic to other disadvantaged groups.

Mr Heitmeyer told reporters that resentment of Muslims, who make up the largest religious minority in Germany, had shifted within the general population from the political centre to the left.

The report comes as right-populist parties with anti-immigrant platforms are becoming more active in Germany. The Austrian Freedom Party has opened a branch in Germany, and a similar German party has been established in Berlin.

Debate on the integration of Muslim minorities in Germany even elicited a reaction from Chancellor Angela Merkel, who this autumn said that Germany's experiment in multi-culturalism had failed.

Last updated: 1:50pm, December 9 2010