The rise of anti-Jewish actions in Germany is profoundly worrying, but Angela Merkel’s fightback sets an example of moral seriousness and rigour

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has spoken openly about the spectre of antisemitism in Germany. She told CNN that “We have always had a certain amount of antisemites among us ... Unfortunately there is to this day not a single synagogue, not a single day care centre for Jewish children, not a single school for Jewish children that does not need to be guarded by German policemen.” Her remarks came a week after the country’s ombudsman for antisemitism, Felix Klein, suggested that observant Jews would be wise not to wear kippahs (skullcaps) in public. Taken together, these developments might suggest that Germany is sliding back into its dreadful past. In fact, they are signs of a determination that this must not happen. The crime figures do not suggest there is a crisis under way – though crime statistics do not measure fear.

The Jews of Germany are alarmed. It is not just the success of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in recent elections that contributes to their feeling of unease. A short-lived campaign to ban circumcision in 2012 was the first alarm bell; large demonstrations against the Gaza war in 2014, in which hostility to Israel often seemed indistinguishable from antisemitism, was another. And they are aware of the rising currents of antisemitism around Europe, even if it takes different forms in different countries.

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