Summary Paragraph: There were numerous anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-Christian incidents, including physical and verbal attacks, death and other threats, online hate speech, arson, burglary, and vandalism. In December Jewish representatives expressed security concerns following protests, some of which were anti-Semitic, about the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In response to the protests, senior government officials condemned anti-Semitism, and some politicians warned Muslims not to engage in anti-Semitism. According to a preliminary government report to parliament, police recorded 1,453 anti-Semitic crimes during the year. An NGO stated anti-Semitism was “latently present” in society, and an academic study found 75 percent of Jews felt anti-Semitism had increased over the previous five years. Civil society groups said most anti-Semitic incidents were carried out by right-wing groups, but they cited growing concern over potential anti-Semitism by Muslim groups. The federal OPC report categorized 31 violent incidents in 2016 as “anti-Semitic motivated by right-wing extremism.” One NGO study found widespread anti-Semitism among recent Middle Eastern immigrants, and another cited anti-Semitism among Muslim students in Berlin. In many anti-Christian incidents, Muslim migrants acted against migrant converts. In September migrants stabbed a Christian convert twice. In January a court sentenced a man to life in prison for killing his roommate after writing he was sorry he could not kill more Christians. In March two men kicked a Muslim girl. In July a speaker at a protest against a proposed mosque called the Prophet Muhammad a pedophile. An EU survey found 16 percent of Muslims reported experiencing religious discrimination over the previous five years. PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) continued to organize weekly demonstrations against immigration and expressing anti-Muslim sentiment. There were demonstrations against what participants called radical Islam. DTIB reported 115 attacks on mosques in 2016. The Catholic Church and the EKD continued to oppose the COS publicly.
In September two Muslim migrants in Berlin attacked a Christian convert from Afghanistan. After asking him why he had changed his religion, the attackers tore off the convert’s cross necklace, repeatedly punched him in the face, and stabbed him twice in the upper body. The state prosecution office launched an investigation, which was ongoing at year’s end.
In March two men attacked a 14-year-old Syrian girl standing at a bus stop in Hoerstel in NRW. They asked her if she was Muslim, tore off her headscarf, pushed her to the ground and kicked her. The suspects fled by car. At year’s end, police had not reported any arrests in the case.
In January the district court in Freiburg, Baden-Wuerttemberg, convicted a man of the 2016 killing of his roommate, a Christian, and sentenced him to life in prison. Three days before the crime, the man had written a text saying he was sorry he could not kill more Christians.
In September the public prosecutor in Dresden filed charges in connection with the bombing of a mosque in 2016. The investigation identified the suspect as one of the speakers at a 2015 PEGIDA demonstration. There were no injuries in the bombing. The suspect remained in police custody at year’s end.
In April the local court in Dusseldorf, NRW fined a refugee 400 euros ($480) for threatening to kill another refugee living in the same shelter because he had converted from Islam to Catholicism, according to press reports. He appealed the judgment to the regional court.
In September the media reported an Afghan refugee fled his shelter in Berlin after Muslim refugees threatened him when he said he was not fasting during Ramadan because he was Christian. As the man fled, other refugees reportedly shouted they would kill him if he came back. The man reportedly found shelter in a church.
In June Berlin Muslims opened a mosque that organizers said they hoped would bring “modern and liberal Muslims” together. One of the main organizers received death threats for opening the mosque. Police officers were investigating and provided protection to the organizer.
In December Jewish representatives expressed security concerns following protests in various cities about the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and said they had increased security at synagogues and Jewish schools. In Mulheim, NRW in December, the Jewish community cancelled a Hanukkah event, citing security concerns. In December the head of the Thuringia OPC, Stephan Kramer, told Der Spiegel magazine that many Jews no longer felt safe to show they were Jewish.
According to preliminary statistics the government provided to parliament in response to a specific request by a member, the police recorded 1,453 anti-Semitic crimes during the year, including 32 cases of violence, 160 cases of property damage, and 898 cases of hate speech.
The media widely reported one case of a Jewish woman who in March removed her son from a high school, which reportedly had a large proportion of Turkish and Arab students, after months of bullying and physical violence. The school told media it would report the attacks to the police. The London-based Jewish Chronicle stated the case highlighted concerns of parents and educators about anti-Semitic harassment of Jewish students, particularly by children of Arab and Turkish descent. The newspaper quoted Aaron Eckstaedt, principal of the privately run Moses Mendelssohn Jewish High School in Berlin, as saying the school received six to 10 applications every year from parents wanting to move their children out of schools where they experienced anti-Semitic harassment. According to Eckstaedt, in most cases families complained about the relative lack of response to the problem from state schools. The media also cited a report by Deutschlandfunk Radio, which featured Jewish teachers from throughout the country who said they were afraid to identify themselves as Jewish to students. According to the report, one teacher said a student told him that if he saw a Jew he would “immediately kill him.” The teacher added, “And he meant it.”
In December police arrested a man after he harassed a Jewish restaurateur outside his Israeli restaurant in Berlin. The man told the restaurateur, “everything is about money with you,” and “No one will protect you … you can all go to the gas chamber.” Commenting on the incident, head of the Central Council of Jews Josef Schuster said the “disgusting attack brings home the point that ant-Semitism has become mainstream, where it is expressed openly and bluntly.” According to press reports, an online video of the incident was viewed more than 600,000 times. Police released the suspect and were conducting an investigation at year’s end.
The Catholic Church and the EKD continued to oppose COS publicly. “Sect commissioners” of the EKD and the Catholic Church investigated “sects and cults” and publicized what they considered to be the dangers of these groups. EKD “sect commissioners” warned the public about what they said were the dangers posed by the COS, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (Unification Church), Bhagwan-Osho, Transcendental Meditation, and Universal Life. “Sect commissioners” continued to produce print and internet literature portraying these groups unfavorably.
In April head of the Central Council of Jews Schuster told the media he did not think a general headscarf ban was compatible with the constitution. Government employees should “be able to wear religious symbols as long as they come to neutral decisions and act neutrally,” he added.
In July two separate groups in Sulzbach, Saarland, Burgerinitiative “Sulzbach wehrt sich” (Citizen’s Initiative “Sulzbach Fights Back”) and Die Freien Wahler Sulzbach (The Free Voters Sulzbach) protested the construction of a planned mosque by the Muslim Community Saarland, a group with approximately 60 members that was monitored by the OPC. At one of the protests, a speaker called the Prophet Muhammad a pedophile and advocated the closing of borders and against construction of the mosque “so that Sulzbach remains a German village.”
An AJC nonrepresentative survey of 27 Berlin teachers at 21 schools – conducted in 2015-16 with the support of the Berlin State Senate and presented in July during a joint press conference of the AJC and Berlin Education Senator Sandra Scheeres – found some Muslim students acted as “moral guardians,” who rebuked other Muslim students for secular views and pressured them to adopt Islamic dress and a conservative religious image. These “guardians,” whom the survey stated were trained by Salafists, also monitored teachers’ statements. One third of the teachers surveyed reported conflict between the religious beliefs of some students and basic democratic values. Teachers reported cases of pupils crossing out Israel in maps and atlases.
A study by the Bertelsmann Foundation released in August stated that, although Muslims in the country had higher employment rates than in other western European countries and approximately the same employment rate as non-Muslim Germans, in part because of a strong economy, devout Muslims faced discrimination in the labor market. According to the study, it was more difficult for these Muslims to find jobs that matched their qualifications, and their salaries were lower than those of nonpracticing Muslims.
According to a survey released by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights in September, 16 percent of Muslims in Germany stated they had experienced discrimination because of their religion over the previous five years. Discrimination appeared to have a racial as well as a religious component, as Muslims of Turkish origin reported experiencing much lower levels of discrimination for any reason (33 percent over the previous five years and 18 percent over the previous 12 months) than Muslims from sub-Saharan Africa (65 percent and 50 percent, respectively). In addition, 8 percent of Muslims from sub-Saharan Africa said they had experienced physical violence over the previous 12 months due to their ethnic or immigrant background, the highest rate of any Muslim group in the 15 EU countries surveyed. Muslims’ feeling of attachment to the country was just below the average for the countries surveyed, 4.0 on a five-point scale.
In April a bus driver in Emden, Lower Saxony, refused to let a pregnant woman wearing a full-face veil onto his bus on three occasions, citing “security concerns.” Local authorities were examining the case, according to the city spokesperson.
In April Patrick Siegele, head of the Anne Frank Center in Berlin and a member of the Independent Experts Group on anti-Semitism, told parliament right-wing individuals were the biggest source of anti-Semitism in the country, although Muslims were often portrayed as the main source of anti-Semitism. Participants at a December conference of Jewish researchers, journalists, activists, and artists in Berlin expressed similar views and cited annual interior ministry statistics that attributed the “vast majority” of anti-Semitic crimes to right-wing offenders.
According to a study issued in April titled “Jewish perspectives on Anti-Semitism,” by Professors Andreas Zick of the University of Bielefeld and Julia Bernstein of the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, approximately 75 percent of Jews felt anti-Semitism had somewhat or strongly increased over the previous five years. The same percentage of respondents, however, said they felt at ease in the country. A 2016 study by Leipzig University found more than 10 percent of respondents agreed that Jews had too much influence, and 9.5 percent agreed with the statement that “Jews use bad tricks more than other people to reach their aims.”
A joint study by Indiana University and the University of Potsdam for the AJC, which consisted of interviews with 68 refugees from Syria and Iraq in December 2016, stated that “anti-Semitic ways of thinking and stereotypes were very widespread” among new arrivals from Syria and Iraq, participants had inaccurate views of the Holocaust, and almost all of the interviewed immigrants had “a fundamentally negative image of Israel and questioned its right to exist.” The study concluded that imported anti-Semitic ideologies created “a potential for anti-Semitic acts that could be mobilized by radicalization or political activity.” The study cited the need for further research through representative polling.
In a report on anti-Semitism during the period 2016-17, the NGO the Amadeu Antonio Foundation wrote, based on its own work and its review of studies of other organizations such as the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation and Hamburg University, that anti-Semitism was latently present in society as a whole and that AfD voters were four times more likely to agree with anti-Semitic statements than were voters of parties then represented in the federal parliament. The most common anti-Semitic acts, according to the foundation, were threats and hate speech, much of it online.
The U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in early December prompted at least a dozen demonstrations in front of U.S. diplomatic facilities and smaller demonstrations elsewhere across the country. Protesters numbered from several hundred to well over a thousand. According to press reports, some participants burned Israeli flags, displayed Hamas symbols, and chanted anti-Semitic slogans. For example, some protesters chanted in Arabic, “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning,” a reference to a battle in which Muslims defeated Jews in the year 628. Police detained a number of protesters. The government reacted swiftly to condemn anti-Semitic actions and language at several of these events. Chancellor Merkel told the press on December 11 she condemned “this violation of fundamental principles of the rule of law” and expressed opposition to “any form of anti-Semitism.” Speaking at the Israeli embassy, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed dismay that anti-Semitism had not yet been overcome in the country, and said he was “shocked and shamed” by the acts and sentiments. Foreign Minister Gabriel, Justice Minister Maas, and Interior Minister de Maiziere also publicly condemned anti-Semitism. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said, “One has to be ashamed when hatred of Jews is put on display so openly on the streets of German cities.”
In response to the demonstrations, other political leaders directed warnings at Muslim protesters. Parliamentarian and head of the CDU youth organization Paul Ziemak told the media that Muslim organizations should accept Israel’s right to exist and pledge to combat anti-Semitism or they would lose the possibility to apply for public funding. Green party cochair Cem Ozdemir warned migrants not to participate in anti-Israel protests. CDU parliamentarian Armin Schuster told the media that foreigners living in the country should be extradited if they burned Israeli flags.
According to the Central Council of Muslims (ZMD), political parties increasingly distanced themselves from Islamic associations because they were concerned that foreign nations and organizations could influence Muslims with money and by sending radical imams to mosques in the country. In September the council published 30 questions of interest to Muslims and answers by the political parties, as a decision-making tool for Muslim voters in the federal elections.
PEGIDA continued to organize weekly demonstrations in Dresden. Amid calls to curb immigration, PEGIDA supporters regularly expressed anti-Muslim sentiments during the rallies. Journalists reported being pushed and threatened when reporting on the demonstrations. The number of participants at PEGIDA marches remained constant at approximately 1,500-2,000 protesters per rally, according to several media reports.
In May a women’s march in Hamburg to protest radical Islam and right-wing extremism had 300 participants instead of the 3,000 organizers said they expected. According to press reports, some organizations planning to participate in the event cancelled their participation after organizers published on their website, “We do not think that emancipation and feminism are compatible with a headscarf.”
In June approximately 1,000 persons gathered in Cologne under the theme “Not With Us – Muslims and Friends Against Violence and Terror” to condemn terrorism, hate, and violence in the name of Islam. The ZMD in Germany, the Turkish Community in Germany, and various organizations from political parties, labor unions, charities, and churches supported the demonstration.
In April DITIB reported 115 attacks on mosques in 2016, the most recent year for which data were available, compared with 99 from the previous year. In 2016, there were six cases of arson (seven in 2015), 16 threatening letters (nine in 2015), 24 cases of burglary and vandalism (21 in 2015), six of incitement to hatred (13 in 2015), eight of damage to property (0 in 2015), and 10 of depositing pig heads or pork meat (three in 2015).
In February residents of the neighborhood of a Bosniak mosque in Bielefeld, NRW, called the fire brigade after they heard windows being smashed and saw fire coming from inside the building. There were no injuries. An arson investigations by police was in progress at year’s end.
In May pig carcasses were discovered at the site of Erfurt’s Ahmadiyya Muslim community’s future mosque. Thuringia Minister of State Bodo Ramelow called the attack “disgusting” and tweeted the attackers had “no respect for issues of belief and freedom of religion.” State security was investigating at year’s end.
In June unidentified vandals spray painted several gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in Gotha, Thuringia, with swastikas and Nazi slogans. The mayor and members of the city council publicly condemned the crimes and ordered the cleaning of the gravestones. Police officers were investigating at year’s end.
In June the NGO RIAS reported that unidentified individuals vandalized multiple gravesites at a cemetery in Stahnsdorf, Brandenburg. The vandals placed insults on an information slab at the gravesite of actor Joachim Gottschalk, who had refused to separate from his Jewish wife and child under the Nazi regime, and demolished the flower decoration at a Jewish gravesite. Police officers were investigating at year’s end.
The media reported some refugees had chosen to convert to Christianity but stated reliable numbers on this issue were not available. Deutschlandfunk Radio cited Thomas Schirrmacher, a sociologist of religion, as stating in February that the EKD, Protestant churches that were not part of EKD, and the Catholic Church had each seen approximately 1,000 conversions – more than during all of the previous 50 years, he said. Deutschlandfunk linked this to the rising number of refugees. It also stated “sects” used refugees’ fear of deportation to promote conversions and incentivized them by offering accelerated baptism, free lunch, and transportation costs.
A pastor at the Dreieinigkeits Church in Berlin said he baptized 500 refugees in 2016, and he believed his congregants were being baptized for legitimate reasons; not simply to gain protected status. He stated at his church the baptism class was a serious months-long commitment. According to the pastor, more than 90 percent of the church’s converts were former Shia Muslims, some of whom converted to Christianity prior to arriving in the country.
In March social workers from the Central Council of Jews, the Central Welfare Office for Jews in Germany, and the ZMD met to discuss the integration of refugees through education. At the conference, Central Council of Jews head Schuster said despite differences, Jewish and Muslim communities often faced similar challenges as minorities needing the support of society, particularly “in times of growing anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”