Berlin, Nov. 17 (Reuters): A dispute that broke out during a ceremony to rename a Berlin street “Judenstrasse” — Jews Street — six decades after the Nazis removed the name has aroused fears and anger in Germany’s tiny Jewish community.
Paul Spiegel, head of the Central Council of Jews, said reports that protesters in the working class district of Spandau disrupted the ceremony with ugly shouts of “Juden raus (Jews out)” recalled the darkest chapter of Germany’s Nazi past.
Although police at the ceremony abruptly ended by the disturbance have said they did not hear the shouts, Berlin’s city government has launched a criminal investigation.
“It is further proof that inhibitions about anti-Semitic sentiments are falling if ordinary people start shouting slogans such as ‘Juden raus’ in public,” Spiegel said. “Germany hasn’t seen anything like this since 1945.”
The controversy over the new street name is only the latest incident fuelling angst among the country’s 100,000 Jews a half century after the Holocaust that killed most of the 600,000 German Jews, and some six million Jews throughout Europe.
A swastika was recently drawn on a guest book at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp; a memorial to Jews in a town north of Berlin was painted with swastikas and damaged by fire; charges of anti-Semitism have been raised against a top politician; and a survey found most Germans believe Jews are exploiting the Holocaust to further their interests.
Even in the leafy Berlin district of Steglitz, attempts to change the name of a street from “Treitschkestrasse” after historian Heinrich von Treitschke, because he had claimed Jews were “Germany’s misfortune”, have run into resistance from the conservative local council.
An initiative to change the street named after the notorious historian, whose writings were adopted by the Nazis, to “Kurt-Scharf-Strasse” after a Protestant bishop who hid Jews from the Nazis have repeatedly failed.
“We’ve seen a new dimension of anti-Semitism,” said Michel Friedman, vice-president of the Central Council of Jews.