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Antisemitism as a Field of Political Action: The Berlin Model for Fighting Antisemitism as an Example of State Efforts against Antisemitism

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Antisemitism as a Field of Political Action: The Berlin Model for Fighting Antisemitism as an Example of State Efforts against Antisemitism

Abstract

Combating antisemitism is a young policy field with regard to structured state action. The article presents the relevance of combating antisemi-tism and its emergence as a decided state task in order to show exemplarily, using the Berlin model of combating antisemitism as an example, how it is concretely implemented in state action. Berlin is chosen for three reasons: First, the state of Berlin is the first and only federal state to have a cross-departmental concept for combating antisemitism. Second, the Berlin model is based on integrative cooperation between state and civil society agencies. Third, looking at Berlin allows for the perspective of interlocking different vertical differentiations of administration, since the state of Berlin is at the same time a large city, which with its twelve districts has administrative dimensions that correspond to those of other large German cities, in each case and in themselves. In the absence of a federal comparative perspective, the focus of the article is descriptive-explorative.
CARS
Working Papers
# 003
Antisemitism as a
Field of Political
Action
Samuel Salzborn
2022
2
Abstract
Combating antisemitism is a young policy field
with regard to structured state action. The article
presents the relevance of combating antisemi-
tism and its emergence as a decided state task in
order to show exemplarily, using the Berlin
model of combating antisemitism as an example,
how it is concretely implemented in state action.
Berlin is chosen for three reasons: First, the state
of Berlin is the first and only federal state to have
a cross-departmental concept for combating an-
tisemitism. Second, the Berlin model is based on
integrative cooperation between state and civil
society agencies. Third, looking at Berlin allows
for the perspective of interlocking different ver-
tical differentiations of administration, since the
state of Berlin is at the same time a large city,
which with its twelve districts has administrative
dimensions that correspond to those of other
large German cities, in each case and in them-
selves. In the absence of a federal comparative
perspective, the focus of the article is descrip-
tive-explorative.
The Author
Prof. Dr. Samuel Salzborn is Adjunct Professor for
Political Science at Justus-Liebig-University Gies-
sen and Contact Person for Antisemitism, State
of Berlin. He received his doctorate in 2004 at the
University of Cologne and habilitated at the Uni-
versity of Giessen in 2009. Among other things
he was a Research Fellow of the Hebrew Univer-
sity of Jerusalem, a Visiting Lecturer at the Uni-
versity of Economics, Prague, and a Visiting Pro-
fessor at University of Marburg.
3
Antisemitism as a Field of Political Action:
The Berlin Model for Fighting Antisemitism as an
Example of State Efforts against Antisemitism
By Samuel Salzborn
The history of antisemitism in Germany is long,
but the history of state efforts to systematically
fight antisemitism is quite short. That is to say:
antisemitism has always been the subject of ad-
hoc debates in parliamentary, legal, and media
contexts, and there are numerous examples in
the history of the Federal Republic of Germany
of state representatives taking clear positions
against antisemitism. But it is only in the last five
years or so that the fight against antisemitism
has become the focus of institutionalized state
efforts.
This article begins by outlining the relevance of
fighting antisemitism and its history as a task
that is decidedly a responsibility of the state. It
then analyzes the Berlin model for fighting anti-
semitism as a paradigmatic example of how state
efforts are concretely pursuing this aim. I have
chosen Berlin as an example here for three rea-
sons. First, the state of Berlin is the first and only
German federal state to have a plan for fighting
antisemitism that spans all departments. Second,
the Berlin model is based on integrative cooper-
ation between state agencies and civil society ac-
tors. And third, examining Berlin makes it possi-
ble to consider the perspective of intermeshed
vertical levels of administration, since the state of
Berlin is not only a major city, but one whose
twelve districts each independently have admin-
istrative dimensions comparable to those of
other major German cities.
1. The Specific Characteristics of Antisemi-
tism and the Prehistory of State Efforts to
Fight Antisemitism
Looking at current research on antisemitism, it
can be said that this is not simply one form of
discrimination among others; antisemitism is not
simply a prejudice like many others (Rens-
mann/Schoeps 2011; Schwarz-Friesel/Reinharz
2013). Even though antisemitism certainly occurs
in conjunction with other forms of discrimination
such as racism, sexism, or homophobia, it consti-
tutes a fundamental attitude toward the world
that is essentially distinct from them in its consti-
tution. Antisemitism is a combination of
worldview and passion, as Jean-Paul Sartre wrote
in 1945, a fundamental attitude toward the
world, which those who share it use to make
sense of everything in politics and society that
they cannot or do not want explain and under-
stand. Antisemitic attitudes are characterized by
an interpenetration of certain resentments di-
rected against Jews and an extremely strong
level of affect, consisting mainly of projection
and hatred. Antisemites believe in their
worldview not in spite of the fact that it is false,
but precisely because it is false: the point is the
emotional added value that antisemitism affords
them.
This is one difference between antisemitism and
racism and other prejudices, expressed not least
in the Shoah. But another, qualitative distinction
from racist prejudice and its mechanism for at-
tributing power to the Other in concrete, i.e., ma-
terial and sexual terms, is the abstract nature of
this attribution in antisemitism. Antisemitism is
often fantasized in terms of a “mysterious intan-
gibility, abstractness, and generality” (Postone
1982: 15). As a cognitive and emotional system,
antisemitism aims for a total claim to explain the
world through its own worldview. As a
worldview, it offers an all-encompassing system
of resentments and conspiracy theories whose
concrete articulation has changed, and continues
to change, over time. And since antisemitism is
based on projections, these resentments and
myths are always directed against Jews. The real
behavior of Jews has no influence on the antise-
mitic worldview, just as this worldview constructs
itself specifically around the emotional needs of
4
antisemites. Antisemitism is to be understood as
a combination of worldview and affect, that is to
say, as a specific way of thinking and feeling.
Strictly speaking, modern antisemitism is the in-
ability and unwillingness to think abstractly and
feel concretely. Antisemitism confuses the two: it
expects thinking to be concrete, and feeling to
be abstract, projecting the ambivalence of a mo-
dernity that it finds intolerable onto what the an-
tisemite labels as Jewish (Salzborn 2010).
This is why one must also examine antisemitic in-
sinuations, which always create a distorted im-
age of Judaism that ultimately constitutes “the
rumor about the Jews” (Adorno 1951: 110).
These rumors have constantly changed through-
out history, and antisemites have adapted for
example, after 1945, when the openly racist Nazi
antisemitism with its declared aims of extermina-
tion had become politically discredited, and an-
tisemites reacted by developing a new defense
mechanism to shield themselves from any culpa-
bility in the Shoah. This mechanism now held the
victims responsible for themselves disrupting
German national memory: the Nazi mass murder
was followed by its denial and the rejection of
remembrance in the form of an antisemitic re-
versal of the roles of perpetrator and victim.
An important turning point in the history of an-
tisemitic resentment was the Islamist terrorist at-
tacks of 9/11, which were avowedly directed not
only at the United States but at the entire free
world and enlightened modernity (Salzborn
2020). Yet as Osama bin Ladin and other Islamist
terrorists have always emphasized, these were
also, in a crucial way, antisemitic attacks be-
cause for the Islamists, Jews stand for everything
they despise. Especially in the Arab world, 9/11
was thus also understood as the initial spark for
a worldwide antisemitic mobilization, which,
however, was not limited to radical Islamic
groups. The development of antisemitism since
9/11, combined with the political reassessment
that took place in Germany following the arson
attack on the Düsseldorf synagogue in 2000 and
the “revolt of decent people” proclaimed at the
time by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD), was
the background to the belief that the Federal Re-
public should commission regular reports on an-
tisemitism in order to track and report current
developments and develop measures for pre-
vention and intervention.
In November 2008, the German Bundestag re-
solved to “enhance the fight against antisemi-
tism and further promote Jewish life in Ger-
many”; and with this goal in mind, it furthermore
called on the federal government to commission
a report on antisemitism (Fraktionen CDU/CSU,
SPD, FDP, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen 2008). The res-
olution called for this report to be updated reg-
ularly and written by an independent panel of ex-
perts. Its task was expressed defined, on the one
hand, as taking stock of the development of an-
tisemitism in Germany and, on the other, as de-
veloping and refining plans and programs to
fight antisemitism.
The first report on antisemitism was presented in
November 2011, and the second in April 2017,
although the composition of the expert panel
differed for the two reports. With the two previ-
ous reports on antisemitism, the Federal Repub-
lic broke new ground for several reasons. Both
reports are innovative in being situated at the in-
tersection of scientific research, political-peda-
gogical practice, and official policy. Moreover,
the second report on antisemitism formulated
five concrete recommendations for action in ad-
dition to a systematic examination of the topic:
the appointment of an antisemitism commis-
sioner and the continuation of an independent
circle of experts; the consistent tracking, publica-
tion, and punishment of antisemitic crimes; the
permanent funding of antisemitism prevention
organizations; the creation of a permanent fed-
eral-state commission; and long-term research
funding on antisemitism. All of these demands
directly affect government actions, while being
addressed at different though sometimes over-
lapping levels of national, federal, regional, and
local authority.
The federal government and almost all of the
states have appointed antisemitism commission-
ers (Bremen decided against this recommenda-
tion in consultation with its Jewish community).
But the specifics of these positions vary consid-
erably. They are located in different ministries
(state chancelleries; ministries of the interior, of
justice, and of education). Their competencies
and financial and personnel resources differ
5
considerably, as does their (non)affiliation with a
specific government coalition. Their work is
cross-linked and coordinated on key issues by a
Joint Federal-State Commission to Fight Anti-
semitism and Protect Jewish Life” (Gemeinsame
Bund-Länder-Kommission zur Bekämpfung von
Antisemitismus und zum Schutz jüdischen Le-
bens, BLK) chaired by the federal commissioner
and cochaired by the state that holds the chair in
the Conference of Minister-Presidents (MPK). Yet
the general situation of fighting antisemitism at
the state level is highly disparate across Ger-
many, which may also have something to do with
the fact that so far only one federal state has
adopted its own interdepartmental plan for
fighting antisemitism, namely, the state of Berlin.
2. The Berlin Model for Fighting Antisemitism
A significant number of German states are now
following the Berlin model, but nowhere is the
system for fighting antisemitism as well devel-
oped as it is in Berlin: its Berlin Plan to Advance
Antisemitism Prevention represented the first,
and remains the only, state-level, interdepart-
mental program of its kind. On May 31, 2018, fol-
lowing an initiative proposed by the parliamen-
tary groups of the SPD, the CDU, The Left Party,
the Greens, and the FDP, the Berlin House of
Representatives passed a motion “Against All
Antisemitism! Protecting Jewish Life in Berlin”
and called on the senate to develop a state plan
for antisemitism prevention. The Berlin senate
adopted this plan on March 12, 2019, under the
title “Berlin against All Antisemitism! Berlin Plan
to Advance Antisemitism Prevention.” (Berlin
gegen jeden Antisemitismus! Berliner
Landeskonzept zur Weiterentwicklung der Anti-
semitismus-Prävention) To justify the decision, it
cited the working definition of the International
Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) that is
now widely used at the federal and state level:
“The working definition of antisemitism of the Inter-
national Alliance for Holocaust Remembrance, as
expanded by the federal government, is the basis
for the actions taken by Berlin’s administration to
deal with antisemitism. It is thus the starting point
for prevention programs and for continuing educa-
tion and measures to train those working in public
service in Berlin. Individual administrative units of
the city are encouraged to develop guidelines with
practical examples for applying the working defini-
tion in cooperation with engaged civil society actors
and with Jewish organizations.
This working definition states: Antisemitism is a cer-
tain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as
hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical mani-
festations of antisemitism are directed toward Jew-
ish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property,
toward Jewish community institutions and religious
facilities. Manifestations might also include the tar-
geting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish
collectivity’” (Senat von Berlin 2019: 4).
The Berlin Plan to Advance Antisemitism Preven-
tion comprises five fields of action: “education
and youth: early childhood education, youth
work, schools, and adult education”; “justice and
internal security”; “Jewish life in Berlin’s urban
culture”; “science and research”; and “antidis-
crimination, victim protection, and prevention.
The aim is to integrally link the plan’s three cen-
tral pillars of fighting antisemitism prevention,
intervention, and suppression and to build, in
its conception of antisemitism, on the current ex-
pert understanding discussed above. To this end,
it was deemed important to include not only ac-
ademic experts, but also to consult with Jewish
organizations and institutions, as well as with
civil society actors working in Berlin in the field
of antisemitism prevention. The senate further-
more posited that the effectiveness of this plan
would depend upon a coordinated approach by
all stakeholders, to be established by creating a
position to serve as a point of contact for the
state of Berlin on all matters related to antisemi-
tism. The position was initially filled on an interim
basis in May 2019, and as of August 2020 by per-
manent appointment.
In addition to this coordinating function, the task
of the contact person is to identify further op-
portunities to advance the prevention of anti-
semitism in Berlin; to coordinate a group of ex-
perts from academia, education, and civil society;
to implement regular exchange between Jewish
organizations, state government officials, and
civil society actors; to foster cooperation with ex-
isting prevention networks, organizations with
expertise in antisemitism, and counseling
6
centers; to consolidate data and results from the
various sources that track and report antisemi-
tism in Berlin; and to prepare a regular status re-
port on the intervention and prevention of anti-
semitism in the state of Berlin (the first status re-
port was published on August 14, 2020; the main
status report was published on April 05, 2022). In
addition to the group of experts, the plan also
aimed to systematically network the administra-
tive units of the Berlin state government, with a
similar body at district level to coordinate and
expand antisemitism prevention measures within
each of Berlin’s twelve city districts.
The close interlinking of state and civil society
work against antisemitism represents an im-
portant component of the Berlin model, in that
one key aspect is also to build trust. This trust is
crucial. As the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights
(FRA) has shown, in an empirical comparison of
state and nonstate reporting of antisemitic acts
in EU member states from the period of 2009 to
2019, the main problem is that antisemitic hate
crime is unreported or unrecorded. And in this
regard, the trust that Jews place in state actions
plays an important role. In Germany, it is not only
a history of not coming to terms with National
Socialism and the Shoah that undermines such
trust, but also present-day actions taken by judi-
cial and governmental officials. High-profile ver-
dicts such as those rendered against the perpe-
trators of the attacks on the Wuppertal syna-
gogue in 2014, for instance, in which the court
ignored the attackers’ antisemitic motives, have
repeatedly shattered the trust of Jews in Ger-
many’s courts. And events such as the antisemitic
terrorist attack in Halle, where the local police
failed to protect the synagogue on the highest
Jewish holiday, and the internal German intelli-
gence service apparently had no advance
knowledge of a right-wing terrorist, result not
only locally but nationwide in a lasting erosion of
the trust that Jews have in investigative authori-
ties and thus in German government officials and
courts.
2.1 The Level of German States
Against this background, the Berlin model pur-
sues the basic idea that is essential to strengthen
civil society actors, which is reflected in the es-
tablishment of Berlin’s “State Program for De-
mocracy, Diversity, and Respect.” This program
annually funds around sixty civil society projects
dedicated to “preventing right-wing extremism,
racism, and antisemitism,” fifteen or twenty of
which on average are specifically focused on an-
tisemitism. Strengthening civil society is another
central plank of the program because the pro-
cess of gaining trust must not be carried out
solely top-down, but crucially also bottom-up:
through actors who enjoy trust within the Jewish
community, so that “the voices and perspectives
of Jewish victims of antisemitism are taken into
account more than has been the case”
(Poensgen/Steinitz 2019: 26). To this end, the
state of Berlin funds numerous agencies in the
field of antisemitism prevention work, while itself
also acting in numerous areas at the state level
with clearly defined measures in the fight against
antisemitism.
The basis for this is the reporting and documen-
tation of antisemitic attitudes among those who
live in Berlin and of antisemitic acts and crimes.
The Berlin Monitor a representative survey Ber-
lin residents financed by the state that was fo-
cused in 2019 on the topic of antisemitism
showed that antisemitic attitudes are overall less
pronounced among all Berlin residents than in
Germany as a whole, but that the proportion of
Berliners who hold antisemitic views is signifi-
cantly higher among those without German citi-
zenship than among those who hold it
(Pickel/Reimer-Gordinskaya/Decker 2019). As a
follow-up to the Berlin Monitor, the views of
those affected by antisemitism were also sur-
veyed in 2020 in a qualitative study, the first of
its kind in Germany (Reimer-Gordin-
skaya/Tzschiesche 2020). This follow-up study
showed that Jews experience antisemitism in
Berlin in all areas of life, as well as a lack of soli-
darity from non-Jews in taking a stand against
antisemitism and bolstering Jewish life. The cen-
tral deficit perceived by Berlin Jews, according to
the study, is that they do not feel able to live
without limitations, without discrimination, and
thus that they don’t feel able to live self-deter-
mined lives. They experience antisemitic aggres-
sion from almost all segments of the population,
7
ranging from nonverbal gestures, comments,
and insults, to physical attacks.
Antisemitic acts and crimes are the overall focus
of the section on “justice and internal security”:
in this area, the Berlin General Prosecutor’s Office
(GStA) was the first nationwide to appoint an an-
tisemitism commissioner in September 2018 (Ba-
varia and Baden-Württemberg followed). The
same is true of the antisemitism commissioner of
the Berlin police (in office since August 2019),
and with the Research and Information Center
on Antisemitism (RIAS), a civil society organiza-
tion that has been working since 2015 to illumi-
nate this dark field and raise awareness about
antisemitic acts that may not reach the threshold
of being a crime. Many federal states are now
taking this as a model and have established their
own RIAS offices or are planning to do so. The
work of RIAS in documenting and reporting an-
tisemitic acts is complemented by the consulting
services offered by OFEK. RIAS focuses on anti-
semitic acts that are below a criminal threshold,
while also supporting, with its project Regishut,
efforts in training and continuing education to
make the Berlin police more aware of antisemi-
tism. OFEK Berlin, by contrast, is a counseling
center for antisemitic discrimination and vio-
lence that advises victims of antisemitic inci-
dents, along with their relatives and institutions
who might be looking for guidance and infor-
mation. These organizations are examples of
how reporting and documentation, in addition to
sensitivity training and advising, are being car-
ried out by civil society actors that enjoy a high
level of trust in the Jewish community, which is
crucial for regaining and strengthening trust. To
foster exchange between civil society, Jewish
communities, and the senate administration, the
senate Department for the Interior and Sports
(SenInnDS) has established a Round Table
against Antisemitic Violence that has been meet-
ing regularly since September 2019. The civil so-
ciety initiative “Solidarisch gegen Hass” (Solidar-
ity against Hate), founded on the initiative of
Chabad Lubavitch Berlin, the Jewish Community
of Berlin, and Jehi ‘Or, the Jüdisches Bild-
ungswerk für Demokratie gegen Antisemitis-
mus 2019 in the wake of attacks against Berlin
rabbis, is financed by the state of Berlin and sup-
ported by the mayor. The contact person of the
state of Berlin for issues of antisemitism also be-
longs to the supporting members of the initiative
“Solidarisch gegen Hass” (Solidarity against
Hate), which aims to strengthen civil society en-
gagement in the case of antisemitic attacks and
other violence.
In addition, the antisemitism commissioners of
the Berlin Police and the Berlin General Prosecu-
tor’s Office have developed a guideline that
serves as a practice-oriented recommendation
for actions to be taken by investigating authori-
ties in prosecuting antisemitic crimes. This is be-
ing combined with ongoing efforts to raise
awareness among the police and the courts
around the topic of antisemitism. For the police,
this means that all situations or reports related
to antisemitism are subject to mandatory report-
ing, in addition to criminal offenses, public gath-
erings or assemblies, and protective measures.
The Berlin GStA also affirms “in principle a public
interest in prosecuting such acts” to the extent
they are antisemitic, rather than leaving it up to
private individuals to file civil suits (Vanoni 2021:
8).
Awareness-raising measures also include ongo-
ing checks on the protection of Jewish institu-
tions a responsibility that was clearly estab-
lished in the state treaty that Germany concluded
with the Jewish community of Berlin on Novem-
ber 19, 1993 along with increased vigilance on
high Jewish holidays. However, there are also on-
going training measures on antisemitism for
judges and public prosecutors who deal with an-
tisemitically motivated criminal offenses, as well
as for legal trainees, in contexts that include the
Justice Academy in Königs Wusterhausen and
advanced training courses at the German Judicial
Academy, as well as in the area of police training
and continuing education at the Berlin School of
Economics and Law (HWR) and the Berlin Police
Academy. In addition to regular participation in
commemorative events as part of historical-po-
litical education, the Berlin police will turn its at-
tention to the topic of “Jewish Life and the Police:
Past Meets Present” (JLUP)” in 2021 with a re-
search project of its own. Part of this project will
be a traveling exhibition and commemorative
plaque, complemented by the initiation of regu-
lar exchanges between police students and
young Jews in Berlin.
8
Efforts to strengthen the perspective of those af-
fected by antisemitism have also been seen at
the legislative level in the Berlin State Antidis-
crimination Act (LADG) passed in 2020, which for
the first time in Germany added “antisemitic at-
tributions” to the kinds of discrimination prohib-
ited by state laws (LADG, Section 2), separate
from the federal German criminal code. Moreo-
ver, the new version of the law on freedom of as-
sembly in Berlin (2021) was supplemented by a
passage that simplifies the prohibition of assem-
blies referring to international campaigns incit-
ing hatred (Section 14, para. 2), which may be-
come relevant for the large-scale antisemitic ral-
lies on the occasion of the so-called Quds Day
that are registered annually in Berlin.
Complementary to the area of justice and inter-
nal security, the monthly newsletter “Prevention
of Antisemitism in Schools” published by the
senate Department for Education, Youth, and
Family Affairs (SenBJF), which also refers to
events, educational offerings, and new educa-
tional materials, and which covers both historical
and contemporary topics, is used for continuing
education of teachers on the topics of antisemi-
tism and Jewish life in the context of schools and
extracurricular education. Public schools are sup-
ported in this endeavor by special financial re-
sources in a program for political education,
which can also be used explicitly in the area of
antisemitism prevention. Furthermore, a
handout for teachers on antisemitism prevention
at elementary schools was developed. Berlin
schools are required to report antisemitic inci-
dents. The state also supports schools in organ-
izing and conducting field trips to extracurricular
learning sites such as memorials, and it conducts
training trips for Berlin teachers to the Yad
Vashem International Memorial.
Additionally, the state of Berlin supports the civil
society project “ACT – Acceptance, Commitment,
Training” of the Center of Expertise for the Pre-
vention and Empowerment of the Central Wel-
fare Office of Jews in Germany (ZWST), which
aims to raise awareness of how to deal with an-
tisemitism in the context of schools, youth wel-
fare, and youth social work. This is supplemented
in the area of youth work by funding for the Ac-
tion Office for Antisemitism and Race-Critical
Youth Work (ju:an) of the Amadeu Antonio
Foundation, which works across Berlin districts in
aiming to help pedagogical professionals gain
expertise and skills. In the area of adult educa-
tion, further training for course instructors is be-
ing designed at Berlin’s Volkshochschulen, or
adult education centers, to sensitize these insti-
tutions to the topic of antisemitism, and a work-
book on the topic of “Places of Remembrance
Memorial to the Destroyed Lindenstrasse Syna-
gogue and Jewish Museum Berlin” is being pub-
lished by the Berlin State Center for Political Ed-
ucation (LpB) with the support of the Jewish Mu-
seum Berlin and the adult education centers in
Berlin Mitte and Neukölln, as teaching material
for integration and orientation courses. A plan to
increase the visibility of Jewish life in Berlin’s
adult education center programs is also being
developed among these institutions in Berlin.
The topics of antisemitism and Jewish life are
moreover the focus of publications by the LpB
and are continually being addressed in events.
In the field of antisemitism research, Berlin sup-
ports the Arthur Langerman Archive for the
Study of Visual Antisemitism (ALAVA) at the TU
Berlin, which holds the most extensive collection
of antisemitic images in the world. From 2017 to
2019, Berlin also financed a visiting professorship
for antisemitism research at the Center for Re-
search on Antisemitism (ZfA) at the Technical
University of Berlin. This professorship was the
first in the history of the Federal Republic to fo-
cus on research in political science on antisemi-
tism and augmented the historical orientation of
the ZfA with expertise in analyzing contemporary
events, though this perspective is once again un-
derexposed now that the position has expired.
Digital antisemitism prevention has also been an
area of focus. In addition to specific program-
ming and support offered by administrative de-
partments of the senate, such as the contact per-
son of the state of Berlin on antisemitism, the
GStA antisemitism commissioner and the anti-
semitism commissioner of the police, as well as
civil society projects such as “Civic.net - Aktiv
gegen Hass im Netz,” run by the Amadeu Anto-
nio Foundation, or “Online gegen Antisemitis-
mus” of Bildung in Widerspruch e.V. It is also
providing support for the fight against antise-
9
mitic structures on the Internet or in social net-
works by expanding the resources and organiza-
tional capacity for police investigations.
Berlin also provides regular support to the
Jüdischen Kulturtage, an annual festival devoted
to Jewish cultural life, and to the Stiftung Neue
Synagoge Centrum Judaicum, the foundation
and cultural center housed in Berlin’s New Syna-
gogue. As part of the 2021 celebration of 1700
years of Jewish life in Germany, which also coin-
cides with the 350th anniversary of the Jewish
Community in Berlin, Berlin is also supporting
the activities of 3212021: 1700 Jahre jüdisches
Leben in Deutschland, a registered association in
Germany which has received applications from
around sixty projects in Berlin.
2.2 The Level of City Districts
Because of how Berlin is administratively struc-
tured, its approach must respond to the funda-
mental challenge posed by the fact that it is both
a federal state and a city with twelve districts,
each of which has administrative dimensions
comparable to those of other major German cit-
ies. The city is furthermore made highly hetero-
geneous by differing social structures, sociocul-
tural traditions (themselves often significantly in-
fluenced by the neighborhoods within Berlin’s
ninety-seven city subdistricts, as an official level
of administration below the level of the twelve
districts), and East-West histories that are still ev-
ident today. This heterogeneity also includes the
fact that the districts face different challenges
depending on how antisemitism is expressed. In
eastern districts, especially those on the outskirts
of the city, antisemitism motivated by right-wing
extremism plays a stronger role. In Neukölln, by
contrast, Islamic antisemitism is more pro-
nounced. And although the number of antise-
mitic incidents is often highest overall in Mitte
and Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf in a district-to-
district comparison, this is influenced by factors
such as relevance for tourism or the location of
transportation hubs where many Berliners and
non-Berliners often pass through.
The work of Berlin’s districts can be tracked
based on the categories found in the Berlin Plan
to Advance Antisemitism Prevention, while taking
into account that certain tasks are the responsi-
bility of the state and not of city districts (such as
justice, internal security, education). These are
primarily in the fields of basic work to fight anti-
semitism, historical education and remem-
brance, education and youth, and Jewish life in
Berlin’s urban culture, in addition to work that
crosses over between areas, such as efforts in an-
tidiscrimination and victim protection. The fol-
lowing account can only be taken as an overview,
especially considering that a number of civil so-
ciety actors are active in the ninety-seven subdis-
tricts of Berlin’s city districts, all of whom coop-
erate in various ways with district agencies. But it
is not possible to provide a systematic and com-
plete account of their efforts. To take an example
from the field of education: a film screening
about the history of antisemitism might take
place at an adult education center, accompanied
by a lecture, with a book table organized by a
local bookstore to present related titles, and the
event might be sponsored by an organizing alli-
ance of several organizations.
In the overall view of the district’s work against
antisemitism, it is clear that this work already ex-
isted in numerous places before the Berlin Plan
was adopted. But this plan has nevertheless had
a crucial effect in initiating and coordinating
state efforts at the level of city districts. This can
be seen most clearly by looking at the basic work
being done to fight antisemitism: the Berlin dis-
trict of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, for example,
implemented the state plan directly at the district
level in a resolution passed by the district council
for a “District Strategy against Antisemitism”
(2019). This strategy includes appointing a dis-
trict antisemitism commissioner and establishing
a district alliance against antisemitism with ac-
tors from the districts, the Jewish community,
and antisemitism prevention. In addition to Frie-
drichshain-Kreuzberg, the district of Tempelhof-
Schöneberg has also initiated such an alliance,
and the district of Neukölln is planning one. All
Berlin districts have assigned the topic of anti-
semitism to specific departments within their
area of responsibility. In some cases, there are
also explicit plans to establish a position of anti-
semitism commissioner (Friedrichshain-
Kreuzberg), or this has already been done
10
(Lichtenberg, Pankow, Steglitz-Zehlendorf). In-
dependent district reports on the development
of antisemitism and antisemitism prevention are
being planned in several districts, although one
must also note that established structures al-
ready exist in Berlin at this level to document the
development of antisemitism and to coordinate
work with the state-level actors RIAS and OFEK.
These include the district-level Partnerships for
Democracy, funded by the federal program “Live
Democracy!” and supported by the Berlin State
Center for Democracy at the senate Department
for Justice, Consumer Protection, and Anti-Dis-
crimination; and the district registration offices,
which document and track discrimination and vi-
olence.
The field in which the most extensive work has
been done at the district level, well before the
Berlin Plan, is that of historical education and re-
membrance. All districts hold events to mark his-
torical events, such as International Holocaust
Remembrance Day on January 27, Day of Liber-
ation on May 8, or the Kristallnacht on November
9; in 2020, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the
surrender of the Wehrmacht, May 8, was even
declared a one-time public holiday in Berlin.
There are also extensive visits to remembrance
sites, as well as education events, with the pur-
pose of keeping alive a historical memory of Na-
tional Socialism and the Shoah, and the districts
maintain or support historical sites of remem-
brance. Examples include the Janusz Korczak Li-
brary at the Jewish Orphanage in Pankow, the SA
Prison Papestraße memorial in Tempelhof-
Schöneberg, the Eichborndamm and
Krumpuhler Weg historical memorials in Reinick-
endorf, and the geodatabase “Map of Remem-
brance Sites” in Treptow-Köpenick. Sites of Nazi
persecution are made quite visible in Berlin by
memorial plaques, and there are more than
8,400 Stolpersteine small brass cobblestones
remembering victims of the Nazis throughout
the city. Districts are often responsible for their
maintenance, often in cooperation with schools.
And in the Pankow neighborhood of Weißensee,
which also contains the largest preserved Jewish
cemetery in Europe, there is an exhibition that
includes information on the story and purpose of
the Stolpersteine, which originated in an idea
from the artist Gunter Demnig.
The renaming of antisemitic street names or the
proactive naming of streets or squares after lo-
cally significant Jewish personalities also falls
within the responsibility of city districts, as part
of their work in historical remembrance. Berlin is
known nationwide in this regard primarily be-
cause of the recurring debates about Treitsch-
kestraße or Pacelliallee two streets named after
a virulent German nationalist and antisemite, and
the pope who signed a treaty with Nazi Germany
in 1933, respectively, that continually provoke
calls for renaming. Less well known are successes
in renaming city streets and squares, such as the
decision to rename the square in Spandau in
front of the former prison holding war criminals
where neo-Nazis often gather for demonstra-
tions named after Rudolf Hess as “White Rose
Square,” commemorating the resistance group
in Munich; or the naming of Edith-Kiss-Strasse in
Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg to commemorate the
artist who became known in the 1990s for
sketches of her experiences in concentration
camps, which she completed shortly after she
was freed at the end of the war. Since the renam-
ing of street names is the responsibility of the
district councils and there have long been signif-
icant hurdles for changing a name that already
exists, the Berlin senate amended Section 5 of
the Berlin Street Law to create a legal framework
making it easier to rename streets that carry the
names of antisemites.
The thematic area of education and youth pri-
marily concerns work outside of schools, since
the responsibility for education within schools
lies with the senate. At the district level, this
means that work in this area is focused more on
interconnected issues that arise in determining
what is needed in specific fields in the school’s
wider milieu (Salzborn/Kurth 2021: 34f.). That
said, district-level efforts are mainly focused on
implementing training against antisemitism. This
work is carried out in several Berlin districts in
cooperation with the ju:an project mentioned
above, with the aim of training educators who
can act as multipliers in their own schools. It is
augmented by thematizing antisemitism in
working groups dedicated to building shared so-
cial space and in educational networks at the
level of the district youth welfare offices. The
work of Berlin’s twelve adult education centers in
11
the area of general adult education, which has
already been addressed at the senate level, is
pragmatically structured to include wide-ranging
educational course offerings on both antisemi-
tism and on Jewish religion, culture, and history,
in addition to Israeli regional studies and He-
brew. It has also included exhibitions such as
“L’Chaim To Life!” at the Volkshochschule Mar-
zahn-Hellersdorf; city tours through neighbor-
hoods with Jewish history and cultural life today,
for example, as organized by the Volks-
hochschule Pankow; or guided tours of Jewish
cemeteries organized by the Volkshochschule
Mitte. With a focus on aspects of international
education and exchange, the extensive twinning
projects of the Berlin districts with Israeli cities
should also be mentioned here. Eight of Berlin’s
twelve districts maintain such partnerships, and
one district even has partnerships with two Israeli
cities (Spandau with Ashdod; Reinickendorf with
Kyriat Ata; Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf with
Karmi’el and with Or-Yehuda; Steglitz-Zehlen-
dorf with Sderot; Pankow with Ashkelon; Mitte
with Holon; Tempelhof-Schöneberg with Naha-
riya; and Neukölln with Bat-Yam).
Jewish life in Berlin’s urban culture is often prac-
ticed by the districts in the context of Jewish hol-
idays, in addition to cooperation with the Jewish
community and the communities of Berlin’s syn-
agogues. Examples include setting up Hanukkah
menorahs on Pariser Platz (at the Brandenburg
Gate) in Mitte or on Bayerischer Platz in
Tempelhof-Schöneberg for Hanukkah; joint cel-
ebrations of Hanukkah or Sukkot with accompa-
nying activities organized by local neighborhood
organizations, as is being intensively pursued in
Treptow-Köpenick with the project “TKVA
Treptow-Köpenick for Diversity against Antisem-
itism”; the development of an audio tour “Jewish
(Hi)stories in Prenzlauer Berg” in Pankow; the
joint celebration, by district politicians and the
Jewish community in Marzahn-Hellersdorf, of
“Mitzvah Day”; or even temporary projects, such
as in Spandau, where the district is supporting
the Jewish theater ship MS Goldberg in its search
for a permanent mooring.
As a challenge that cuts across various fields of
work, levels of government administration, and
differences between public and private actors,
efforts in the area of “antidiscrimination, victim
protection, and prevention” also touch upon nu-
merous thematic areas at the district level and
cooperation with civil society actors. The PfDs
and the district register offices have already been
mentioned here. But at least since the explorative
study carried out in Berlin accommodations for
refugees by the American Jewish Committee on
the topic of “Attitudes of Refugees from Syria
and Iraq toward Integration, Identity, Jews, and
the Holocaust” (Jikeli 2017), this issue has also
manifested itself as an important field for action
in two respects. First, there is a clear need to pro-
tect refugees from antisemitic discrimination.
And second, there is a need for continued vigi-
lance against antisemitic discrimination on the
part of refugees. This is an issue that Pankow,
among other districts, is explicitly addressing by
offering intercultural remembrance projects for
refugees in German and in Arabic, and through
workshops on antisemitism organized by the
district’s Integration Advisory Council.
3. Summary
Focusing especially on descriptive-explorative
moments, this article has presented the develop-
ment of state efforts to fight antisemitism by ex-
amining the Berlin Plan for Fighting Antisemitism.
Systematic efforts to fight antisemitism on the
part of the state and the city administration still
constitute an extremely young field of policy,
and Berlin is the only federal state so far to have
developed a systematic administrative plan to do
so. This means that it would be extremely helpful
to have comparative research but also that this
is not yet possible inasmuch as no real points of
comparison exist. Questions about how effective
these policies are or how they are being steered
thus cannot be conclusively answered at this
point. The Berlin Plan can nevertheless serve to
demonstrate the potential range of state efforts
to fight antisemitism, in various fields of state-
level policy (in the traditional sense of actions
taken in a number of state-level departments
and policy fields). Furthermore, actions to inte-
gratively network state and civil society actors, as
a potential condition for successful antisemitism
prevention, at least hints at a multilevel
per-
spective. The intermeshed structure of Berlin’s
state and city district governments and
12
administrations is undoubtedly a specific feature
of the Berlin model. One first indication for later
comparative research, however, is that in the
German states extending beyond a single met-
ropolitan area a purely top-down policy that
does not reflect the level of urban-rural differen-
tiation could significantly impede administrative
efforts to fight antisemitism.
Moreover, the crucial issue for advancing anti-
semitism as a field of political action remains an
area of tension. The actual development of anti-
semitism in Germany unmistakably shows that
antisemitism commissioners are needed institu-
tionally in order to have an ongoing grasp of this
set of issues as a structural challenge in German
politics rather than just reacting on an ad hoc
basis (in response to antisemitic incidents) in the
short term and thus in a way that tends to lack
any long-term efficacy.
“Over the past two years, a lot has happened in the
field of antisemitism prevention in Germany, includ-
ing work initiated by its federal antisemitism com-
missioner. Examples include supporting civil society
actors to improve the tracking and reporting of an-
tisemitic incidents; creating advisory structures;
convening expert panels and writing reports; and
establishing a federal-state forum to advance and
maintain a focus on the prevention of antisemitism
as a consistent topic in government efforts at the
federal and state level” (Korgel 2020: 149).
Lorenz Korgel, who served on an interim basis for
a bit more than a year as the point of contact for
the state of Berlin in matters relating to antisem-
itism, before the position was permanently filled,
emphasizes quite clearly that a distinctive func-
tion of this work consists of “naming antisemi-
tism in all its forms and making sure it is con-
demned (ibid.). This is without a doubt a task
that requires work at the level of public commu-
nication and the media. But it also has an effect
internally, on administrative structures, where it
can spur or support changes at the level of pol-
icy, administration, and the law.
The flip side of this, however, is that the process
of critically addressing antisemitism in Germany
is now finally a process that has come to be
understood as a political challenge. Nonetheless,
social resistance to the issue remains extensive,
and the potential for antisemitic violence is also
growing: “in the long run, the warnings of anti-
semitism commissioners will not be enough;
what is needed, rather, is a stance across all parts
of society that condemns antisemitism in all its
forms and stands in solidarity with the Jewish
community(ibid.: 153).
Translated by Michael Thomas Taylor
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Impressum
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Westfalen, Aachen 2022
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Telefon +49 241 60003-24
E-Mail: cars@katho-nrw.de
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ISSN 2748-2146
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
  • Theodor W Adorno
Adorno, Theodor W. (1951): Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life, trans. E. F. N. Jephcott, London 2005 AGH Berlin (2018): Gegen jeden Antisemitismus! -Jüdisches Leben in Berlin schützen, AGH Berlin Drs. 18/1061 v. 31.05.2018
Seit zwei Jahren gibt es in Bund und Ländern erste Antisemitismusbeauftragte. Zeit für erste (selbst-)kritische Beobachtungen
  • Lorenz Korgel
Korgel, Lorenz (2020b): Einmischen im staatlichen Auftrag. Seit zwei Jahren gibt es in Bund und Ländern erste Antisemitismusbeauftragte. Zeit für erste (selbst-)kritische Beobachtungen. Demokratie gegen Menschenfeindlichkeit, 2, 149-153
Die Logik des Antisemitismus. Merkur
  • Moishe Postone
Postone, Moishe (1982), Die Logik des Antisemitismus. Merkur. Deutsche Zeitschrift für europäisches Denken, 1, 13-25
  • Samuel Salzborn
Salzborn, Samuel (2020): Globaler Antisemitismus. Eine Spurensuche in den Abgründen der Moderne (2. Ed.). Mit einem Vorwort von Josef Schuster, Weinheim Salzborn, Samuel (2022): Das Berliner Modell der Antisemitismusbekämpfung. Bericht des Ansprechpartners des Landes Berlin zu Antisemitismus, Senat von Berlin/AGH Drs. 19/0300 v. 11.04.2022
Portrait de l'antisémite
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
Sartre, Jean-Paul (1945) : Portrait de l'antisémite. Les Temps modernes, 1, 442-470