Rabbi's bashing in Berlin sparks new fears of anti-semitism in Germany

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 September, 2012, 4:42am


The brutal daylight beating of a rabbi in front of his six-year-old daughter has sparked condemnation in Germany, with some Jewish groups saying they feared a rise in anti-Semitic behaviour.

Daniel Alter, 53, was hospitalised after he was beaten on a Berlin street in front of his young daughter on August 28. The attack by four youths, thought to be Arabs, outraged the Jewish community, already up in arms over a court ruling in western Germany that outlaws religious circumcision.

One youth hit the rabbi in the face several times after asking him if he was Jewish, apparently because he was wearing a traditional head covering, police said.

The assailants fled, but not before making death threats to the young girl, according to authorities who have launched an investigation into Tuesday's attack.

Berlin rabbi Andreas Nachama said on Thursday that Germany had seen over the past few years "a rising hostility towards Jews due to the conflict in the Middle East."

"Verbal attacks against Jews have increased," said Gideon Joffe, head of the Jewish Community of Berlin, in an interview with local daily Tagesspiegel.

Meanwhile, the rector of the Abraham Geiger College in Berlin, an academic seminary for rabbis, warned his students against wearing the yarmulke, or traditional Jewish skullcap.

"If you are no longer seen as a Jewish person, you are safer," Walter Homolka told the Berliner Morgenpost daily.

Another Berlin-based rabbi, Walter Rothschild, told German radio: "I have been spat on in broad daylight in (the central Berlin square of) Wittenbergplatz and had slogans linked to the Middle East shouted at me."

Catholic group Pax Christi called it an "attack on Jewish life in Germany".

Levi Salomon, spokesman for the Jewish forum for democracy and against anti-Semitism, tried to downplay the problem, saying: "We are shocked (by the attack) but we do not feel unsafe here."

The Jewish community in Germany has undergone a renaissance since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Some 220,000 Jews arrived from the former Soviet Union in Germany, which had only 30,000 Jews before 1989. Before Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, there were 600,000 Jews in Germany.