“Instead, you tend to be daring to say things you’ve never said before.” The AfD staff’s statements are also “a catalyst for anti-Semitism” – but the arrival of Muslim immigrants in 2015 was not.
Schuster spoke before November 9, when the National Socialists’ anti-Jewish pogroms in 1938 were commemorated. The 67-year-old opposed the proposal for a national day of remembrance on this date, which would combine the memory of the night of the pogrom with the proclamation of the Republic in 1918 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. “I think that Memorial Day, which takes into account all the historical events on the 9th of November, is difficult because it is very contradictory,” said the head of the Central Council.
After a month of allegations of anti-Semitism by singer Gil Ofarim against a hotel in Leipzig, Schuster reluctantly expressed himself. Ofrim reported that a hotel employee asked him at check-in to wrap his contract with a Star of David. Shortly thereafter, Schuster asked the hotel to apologize. Doubts about the portrayal of Ofrim arose later.
“At first, I had no doubts about the portrayal of Gil Ofarim,” Schuster said. He does not consider his statements at that time premature. His principle is always to listen to the other party and wants to wait for the outcome of the police investigation. But Schuster added, “If the incident didn’t happen similar to the way Gil Ofarim portrayed him, then I must say, I wouldn’t understand his behavior at all. In that case, Gil Ofarim would have done a disservice to the fight against anti-Semitism.”
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Despite the significant increase in recorded anti-Jewish incidents, Schuster also sees a positive development in Jewish life in Germany. The Jewish communities succeeded in integrating tens of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. “I also see a positive trend in German society as a whole, and that relates to the celebrations of 1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany,” Schuster added. “It turns out that Jewish life is normal.” He also praised the work of anti-Semitic officer Felix Klein.
However, he cautioned that the “side thinker” scene is being infiltrated and abused by right-wing extremists. He cannot predict whether this will shape society in the long run. But there is an extremism that is difficult to restore. We’ll have to deal with that for a long time.”
Regarding Alternative for Germany, Schuster said, “If the AfD staff sometimes utter crude ideas even in the German Bundestag, then in my opinion that is also a stimulus to anti-Semitism.” He rejected the AfD’s portrayal of Jewish life and advised clear delineation of borders. He stressed that “other parties cannot regain votes if they move towards Alternative for Germany or join their voters.” “It is important to point out the differences to the AfD and the danger it poses.”
He himself stuck to his statement from 2015 that curbing Muslim immigration is necessary. “A country like Germany should not overburden itself,” he said. It was also appropriate at the time to express concern about anti-Semitism by people who had grown up with anti-Jewish stereotypes. “Six years later, however, I have no feeling that anti-Semitism has increased significantly because of immigration,” he added.
Schuster is a doctor in Würzburg and has been president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany since 2014.
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