German Authorities Refuse to Call Repeated Attacks on Synagogue Anti-Semitic

Police in the German city of Ulm have indicated that there is “no indication of an antisemitic background” behind repeated acts of vandalism carried out against the city’s synagogue.

Citing a report in the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper, Benjamin Weinthal reported Tuesday in The Jerusalem Post, that a man with a group of six others, kicked a hole in the wall of the building causing thousands of dollars worth of damages. On August 26, a man using a metal post demolished the facade of the building.

Police have issued a photograph of the suspect in both cases, described as a man with a full beard, who has not been apprehended.

While bottles have been thrown at the synagogue in the past, Rabbi Shneur Trebnik told the paper that the latest attacks were “like the first time,” in that they cause physical damage to the house of worship.

“Once again it appears we have a situation of denial of antisemitism by important authorities in Germany,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center told the Post. “First, it was the judicial system that denied that throwing molotov cocktails at synagogue in Wuppertal constituted an antisemitic attack. Now, it appears that the local authorities led by the police in Ulm refuse to treat attacks on a synagogue as antisemitism. Such outrageous attitudes and decisions constitute a threat to the safety of every in Jew in Germany and every Jewish institution.”

Cooper speculated that the refusal of the authorities in ULM to characterize the attacks as anti-Semitic could be related to their acceptance of “the antisemitic BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] movement,” but he acknowledged that “it is too early to tell,” if that link exists. Nonetheless “if the local authorities won’t give full protection to Jewish citizens,” Cooper said, “the state of Baden-Württemberg must move in to reassure the local rabbi and the Jewish community during the high holidays and beyond.”

In related news, Weinthal also reported that Jewish groups, including Düsseldorf’s Jewish community and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office, are calling for penalties to be imposed on a German politician who referred to his pro-Israel colleagues as an “organized, good networked ‘fifth column’ in the interests of Israel’s policies.”

Social Democratic Party (SPD) official Stefan Grönebaum made the comments on Facebook in July. He issued an apology, that was forwarded to the Post by the Ministry of Economic Affairs for the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where he works, “if I hurt feelings with my political criticism, I regret it very much. Israel’s right to exist is, in view of our history, beyond all questioning. I apologize to those who found my criticism as anti-Israel, anti-Jewish or antisemitic. That was meant in no way.”

The ministry distanced itself from Grönebaum’s comments saying through a spokesman, “that it decisively rejects his Facebook comments and has prohibited him from making a connection to the ministry in his private comments.”

Ephraim Zuroff, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office called the apology “insufficient.” He added, “anyone who believes this is an apology is simply ignoring the problem.”

Zuroff had also criticized Grönebaum’s comments as “giving a green light to incitement and possible violence against Jews.” He called on the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to expel Grönebaum.

[Photo: Richard Mayer / Flickr]