Antisemitic stereotypes still found in some German school textbooks

Medieval and Renaissance anti-Jewish period texts are still used


German officials have been condemned for failing to remove antisemitic stereotypes from school textbooks.

Jonas Weber of the Social Democrat Party (SPD) in Baden-Württemberg says disturbing portrayals of Jewish people remain present in educational material in the federal state.

Mr Weber, a regional MP, told the JC officials must deal with the problem. He said: “Unfortunately, we have the impression the Ministry of Education does not want to set the necessary priorities in the fight against antisemitic stereotypes in textbooks.”

He is especially concerned by medieval and Renaissance period texts. Examples include Martin Luther’s Against the Jews And Their Lies from 1543 and the Spanish Catholic text the Centinela Against The Jews from 1674, and enlightenment thinkers from Voltaire to Feuerbach, Marx and Schopenhauer.

In a 2019 report, Baden-Württemberg’s first antisemitism commissioner, Dr. Michael Blume called for the establishment of a reform commission, “to make textbook approval in Baden-Württemberg more transparent”.

In response, the regional Ministry of Education talked to publishers and the Central Council of Jews, and then asked the state’s Centre for School Quality and Teacher Training (ZSL) to analyse a sample of textbooks.

But differing views quickly emerged. Michael Kilper, head of the department for general education schools, said: “The representations of Judaism are predominantly technically correct and appropriately differentiated.”

Yet ZSL President Thomas Riecke-Baulecke said the issue of anti-Semitism in textbooks was “red-hot”.

“Sometimes it comes down to details,” he said, “for example, when Jewish life and culture are collected on special pages and thus given a special position, or when Jews are depicted with facial features reminiscent of monkeys.”

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