German Government Commissioner on Antisemitism: COVID-19 denial now a pretext for Holocaust revisionism
Antisemitic sentiment is intensifying in German society because of the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrations against compulsory quarantine measures have become fertile ground for it, according to a recent press conference in Berlin given by the German Government's Commissioner on Combating Antisemitism, Felix Klein, who said advocating conspiracy theories and denying the existence of the novel coronavirus has become another way to engage in Holocaust revisionism. "A central motif of those who hold antisemitic attitudes always has been to call themselves persecuted victims, and it still is," he said.
This motif, in the Commissioner's view, is the main pillar around which the current demonstrations against quarantine measures are currently revolving. "These demonstrations are being exploited by radicals from the 'Reich citizens' subculture [those who refuse to recognize the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany] and the ultra-right for use as their own forum," Klein said.
Anetta Kahane, who heads the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which advocates against antisemitism, racism and right-wing extremism, said during the press conference that the pandemic has brought about a sea change in the dissemination of antisemitic sentiment. Demonstrations by those opposed to compulsory hygiene measures are the main means of achieving this change, and Germany, according to Kahane, is one of the main countries where such protests are being held.
"The radicalization of these protests is remarkable. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is also playing its own role in this," she said.
Kahane recalled a recent case in which that opposition party invited several people to the Federal Assembly who subsequently disruptively harangued Government officials and MPs during voting on an amendment to the law on combating infectious diseases. The adoption of the amendment was accompanied by a big demonstration in Berlin featuring violence against police.
Protesters called the amendment similar to the legislation in 1933 that facilitated the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler seizing unlimited power. Both Kahane and Klein consider comparisons of the current measures to combat the novel coronavirus with the situation in Nazi Germany to be dangerous Holocaust revisionism.
Klein said a recent speech at an anti-quarantine demonstration in Karlsruhe, in which an 11-year-old girl compared herself to Anne Frank because she couldn't legally celebrate her birthday as she liked due to the quarantine measures, is an example of such revisionism. Anne Frank and her family, who were Jewish, hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam, but after two years their hideaway was revealed to the authorities, and Anne subsequently died in a concentration camp toward the end of the war.
The demonstration in Karlsruhe was organized by the Querdenken ("Unconventional Thinking") movement, which facilitates the espousal of conspiracy theories and radical right-wing opinions at its events. Kahane also recalled a speaker at a recent Querdenken demonstration in Hannover, who identified herself just as "Jana from Kassel".
"I feel like Sophie Scholl, because for several months I have been actively involved in the resistance, giving speeches, attending demonstrations, distributing fliers and organizing protests," the speaker said said. Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans were members of the nonviolent anti-Nazi resistance organization called White Rose, created mostly by professors and students from Munich University.
The Nazis persecuted the Scholl siblings and eventually executed them in February 1943. During the press conference, Kahane emphasized that the conspiracy theories and other arguments being made at anti-quarantine demonstrations have an antisemitic core even when they do not always directly mention Jews as the originators of evil.
"The antisemitic net keeps tightening and tightening," Kahane said. The Government Commissioner said he views the correct proportion of prevention and punishment to be the way to resolve the situation.
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