The Bundestag voted last week to appoint a special commissioner to monitor acts of antisemitism across Germany and efforts to combat it.
No one has yet been appointed to fill the new role, which will also have responsibility for overseeing federal programmes in schools and refugee centres.
It comes after years of efforts by organisations like the Central Council of Jews (ZdJ) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC)’s Berlin office to raise awareness of a spike in antisemitic attitudes around the country.
The new law defines it as Germany’s responsibility to fight the problem in the light of the National Socialist genocide of European Jewry. It says most antisemitic crimes are committed by right-wing extremists, but adds that there is evidence of antisemitic attitudes among Muslims in Germany.
It is a demographic divide that is fraught with political baggage, as the Bundestag vote made perfectly clear.
Most of Germany’s mainstream political parties supported the new position, but the Left Party – successor to the Communist Party of former East Germany – abstained in protest at what it said was too much emphasis on migrants as a source of the problem.
But the law’s reference to Muslims was right up the alley of Germany’s newest far-right party – the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) – which backed the measure wholeheartedly.
The support came as some AfD legislators are under investigation for seeking to downplay Nazi atrocities, which is a crime in Germany.
Statistics show most antisemitic incidents in the country are committed by the far-right, even though a recent study commissioned by the AJC suggests attitudes are a ticking time-bomb in the migrant communities.
The research found that Muslim refugees tend to believe in conspiracy theories about Jews or Israel controlling the world.
The study was released soon after a wave of anti-Israel demonstrations in which some participants burned homemade Israeli flags and shouted anti-Jewish slogans in Arabic.
Attitudes are not crimes, but a key task for the new commission will be to help prevent them.
Deidre Berger, head of the AJC in Berlin, said after the study was published that integration classes for refugees must emphasise Germany’s links to Israel, its support for Jewish communities in the country and its liberal democratic values.
Overseeing such programmes will be one of the new commissioner’s responsibilities.
And although neo-Nazis and radical Muslims get plenty of attention, the ZdJ’s Josef Schuster recently warned that the most insidious threat came from mainstream German society.
There have been reports of attitudes towards Israel that verge on or cross the line into antisemitism in several German cities. Moves have been made to ban funding or any other support to proponents of the BDS anti-Israel boycott movement.
While it may well be impossible to eradicate a scourge that has lasted thousands of years, the Bundestag decision acknowledges that both watchfulness and action are needed if it is to be kept at bay.