Several of the demonstrations held in Germany in recent months to protest the social distancing restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic have promoted antisemitic conspiracy theories and imagery espoused by right-wing populists, the German newspaper Juedische-Allgemeine reported.
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has noted an increase in antisemitic and anti-democratic symbols and slogans overall at these demonstrations, in conjunction with the spread of the antisemitic conspiracy theories. Just two examples of the offensive and antisemitic imagery at protests include participants wearing a yellow Star of David patch with the label “Not Vaccinated” and “CoV-2”, and a sign seen at one protest praising Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who conducted cruel experiments on Auschwitz inmates.
Dr. Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and WJC Vice President, rebuked the perpetrators of these antisemitic conspiracy theories and imagery, saying, “demonstrating against the current measures with symbols reminiscent of the Holocaust is tasteless and mocks the victims of the Shoah. Everyone who marches with noble motives should be aware of that.”
A number of German politicians have also condemned the antisemitism at the demonstrations. Interior Minister of Thuringia Georg Maier noted that many of the conspiracy theories “extend far into the middle of society,” and that the protest “can quickly turn antisemitic.”
Berlin State Minister of the Interior Andreas Geisel also expressed concern, saying he fears ordinarily people being “instrumentalized and used to further the spread of such conspiracy theories.”
Armin Schuster of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany commented that it was crucial to have a substantive conversation about how to best combat groups spreading conspiracy theories, adding that "[m]erely dismissing these groups as crazy is too simplistic." State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior Markus Kerber added that it was vital to use facts, transparency and science to combat the spread of conspiracy theories.
In March, Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany Dr. Felix Klein warned that antisemitic conspiracy theories could spread amid the climate of uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus. In an interview with the German-based newspaper Tagesspiegel, Klein stressed that such conspiracies could involve the “Jewish takeover of the world economy, Jewish profits from a possible vaccine, biological weapons developed by Israel, [and] a Jewish attempt to reduce the world population.”