German schools 'must teach that Jews belong in our country', says antisemitism commissioner

The calls come as cases of Jew hate are on the rise across the country


BERLIN, GERMANY - JANUARY 30: Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Anti-Semitism Felix Klein attends an international gathering on combating anti-semitism on January 30, 2023 in Berlin, Germany. The group, with representatives from the U.S., the E.U., other E.U. nations and Israel, were meeting to discuss and formulate national strategies to counter anti-semitism, which as been on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Germany's government commissioner for the fight against antisemitism is demanding compulsory reporting of anti-Jewish incidents in schools.

Commissioner Felix Klein said cases of Jew hate were on the rise across the country, even among teachers.

“It does not only come from the students, but also from the teachers,” he said. “There are sometimes terrible comments, everywhere in the classroom.”

He added it was crucial to have this form of reporting mechanism, so that “no one is then tempted to sweep anything under the carpet”.

Klein also criticised some school textbooks, saying they portray Jewish life “as it was 2,000 years ago: boys read the Torah and girls grind grain.

“There are also devastating images in religious books. Textbooks must make it clear that Jews belong to Germany.”

The Federal Minister of Education and Research, Bettina Stark-Watzinger, said she shared the concerns raised by Klein.

Dr Clemens Escher, her spokesperson, told the JC: “The minister takes the increasing antisemitism in Germany very seriously. Of particular concern is that antisemitism is not a problem of the extreme fringes. We cannot accept that.”

The ministry has been funding a range of projects to fight antisemitism since 2021. Around 12 million euros have been made available for this until 2025.

One projects involves developing a core curriculum for the prevention of antisemitism in the training of police officers and teachers.

“One of the BMBF’s concerns is to take action against hatred of Jews, especially on the internet,” said Escher. “One of the funded projects deals precisely with this topic. This shows that young people find it difficult to name antisemitic statements as such. The researchers will therefore develop media training for young people and operators of social media platforms.

“The fight against antisemitism and solidarity with Jews is a national task and concerns everyone.”

The view that there is an urgent need for an in-school system to report antisemitism is shared by the Federal Association of Departments for Research and Information on Antisemitism (RIAS).

Founded in Berlin in 2018, the organisation aims to encourage Germans to post information about antisemitic incidents on its website

Spokesman Marco Siegmund told the JC: “The antisemitic incidents at schools documented by RIAS throughout Germany show that this is a widespread and complex problem.

“We currently know that the threshold for reporting antisemitic incidents at schools is particularly high. Our recorded incidents also show that antisemitism in schools is particularly directed against Jewish students, who often feel left alone.

“Specific reporting options for students, their parents and teachers are thus urgently needed to shed light on the high number of unreported cases and to provide adequate support to those affected.

“Federal state (regional) RIAS reporting offices are in the process of developing reporting options for schools as is the case in North Rhine-Westphalia, where the RIAS reporting office is working on a solution in cooperation with the Ministry of Education.”

The idea of in-school reporting systems for antisemitism in German schools is also finding favour within a range of education-related groups from the Jewish community.

The Hamburg community has the Joseph Carlebach School, which takes both primary and secondary pupils. It is housed in the building of the former Talmud Torah School, closed by the Nazis in 1942.

Of its then 28 teachers and 343 pupils, only three teachers and 76 pupils survived the Shoah. 

Today the building is also used by a Jewish nursery school, the Ronald Lauder Kindergarten.

David Rubinstein, managing director of the Hamburg community, told the JC an in-school reporting mechanism is essential, because if antisemitism is to be properly tackled, young people need to be involved early.

 “It is with children that we have to start. The children are the future, and they are also the parents of tomorrow.”

Shelly Meyer, board member of the Association of Jewish Students North in Hamburg, told the JC the concept is a “step in the right direction.”

She said: “A nationwide standard establishment of antisemitism definitions in the training of teachers as well as in the structural sense of the educational sector at kindergartens, schools, vocational colleges and universities is a step in the right direction.

“This would help in identifying and naming antisemitic incidents, which at present are often belittled.”

“As there is still room for definition of anti-Semitism, misunderstandings and stereotypes about Jews are common

“The national antisemitism prevention measures would offer security for those affected, particularly in milieus that have no visibly recognisable Jewish people in the immediate vicinity.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive