Berlin - In Mitte, a man says goodbye to an acquaintance with "Shabbat Shalom" and is mimicked by two men. In Schöneberg, the memorial to the synagogue in Münchener Straße is smeared with runes and a swastika. In Tempelhof, a window of a rabbi's flat is smashed. In Pankow, a woman speaking Hebrew to her children is called "scum".

These are just a few examples of the antisemitic incidents that occur in Berlin on an average three times per day. Some of the incidents don't cross the line into criminal territory but nonetheless massively affect the lives of Jewish Berliners. The Research and Information Centre on Antisemitism (Rias) documented a total of 1,004 such incidents last year. After a decline in 2019, 2020 saw an increase of 118 cases, despite the corona restrictions.

Attacks, threats, property damage, insults

Among these incidents were 17 physical assaults, 43 cases of targeted damage to Jewish property such as graffiti, 51 threats, 123 antisemitic writings directed at a larger circle of people, and 770 cases of abusive behaviour. 

Rias documented a sharp increase in the number of antisemitic incidents in the vicinity of affected people's homes due to the pandemic: 47 cases compared to 33 last year. The majority of these incidents involved abusive behaviour (28), although seven attacks and cases of property damage as well as five threats were also reported. Most of the attacks were directed towards Jewish and Israeli institutions.

Most antisemitic slurs are online

The majority of documented antisemitic incidents took place on the internet, where there was a sharp increase from 432 in 2019 to 550 last year. In the offline sphere, Rias observed a roughly constant level: from 450 incidents compared to 454. Longer lockdowns and the restrictions on public life did not lead to a decrease in antisemitic incidents.

During the presentation of the report on Monday, Berlin's antisemitism commissioner, Samuel Salzborn, said antisemitism existed independently of the pandemic, but the pandemic had been used as a pretext to voice it.

According to Rias, 186 incidents, almost one-fifth of recorded cases, were related to the pandemic. Conspiracy ideology and antisemitic hostility spread from the internet to the streets, he said. At demonstrations, the corona measures were repeatedly compared to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany, hence relativising the Holocaust.

Rias says corona protesters repeateadly used antisemitic ideas to explain their view of the pandemic and its political and economic consequences. For example, in September, the organiser of a rally in Mitte spread the antisemitic conspiracy myth of a New World Order and that the Rothschilds were behind corona policies.

Rightwing extremists, Islamists and Israel haters

In more than half of the incidents, the political-ideological background of the perpetrators was unknown. According to Rias, 271 incidents were linked to rightwing extremism or rightwing populism, with 89 classified as "conspiracy ideology". Anti-Israeli activism played a role in 50 cases, Islamism in 22, while 14 were classified as leftwing and seven as Christian fundamentalist.

Rias distinguishes between five types of antisemitism, whereby multiple classifications are possible: When Jews are described as foreign or not belonging (43.4 per cent of cases last year); when they are subjected to religious stereotypes and blamed for the death of Jesus, for example (9.9 per cent); when special political or economic power is attributed to them (34.6 per cent); when the Nazi genocide is denied or relativised (43.4 per cent); or when the legitimacy of the state of Israel is put into question (26.3 per cent).

SPD, CDU, Die Linke, Die Grüne and FDP groups in the Berlin state parliament condemned the antisemitic incidents on Monday. Even during the pandemic, antisemitism was an omnipresent threat for Jewish Berliners, they said in a joint statement.

"Conspiracy myths have a real impact on those affected by antisemitic violence and pose an abstract as well as tangible danger," the statement read. "The potential danger must not be underestimated."

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