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In part, the Halle attack was the act of a single crazed individual who spent a year planning and preparing for his act of hatred. But he is also part of a festering far-right ultra-nationalist ideological and social network, with allies and enablers in Europe and North America. And these groups are joined in their hatred and violence at the point where the far right and far left meet in promoting virulent antisemitism.

In order to go beyond shock and condemnation, and deal effectively with this evil, each of these levels must be addressed, which the post-Holocaust German elite has clearly failed to do. Germany has laws banning Holocaust denial and antisemitic speech, but too often, these are not enforced. And even when they are applied, the process is slow and is not nearly enough to deter antisemitic attacks. Similarly, Germany has endorsed the antisemitism defintion of the International Holocaust Memorial Alliance (IHRA), but has failed to act on its provisions.

Low Priority Given to Fighting Antisemitism

The Jews praying in the Halle synagogue were saved by a miracle – not by the limited security that was provided. Had they not acted quickly, and had the lock on the door been damaged, the carnage would have been far greater. The government must do much more to provide security for Jews and Jewish institutions. And in the realm of intelligence, the need for resources and intensive surveillance of neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist organizations is also clear. When the early warning signs on social media or in other realms are evident, authorities must act immediately to prevent more antisemitic atrocities.

A big part of the problem is the low priority that the post-Holocaust German elite – politicians, academics, journalists, church officials, teachers, diplomats, government bureaucrats – give to fighting antisemitism. They like to pretend that Germany is now a “normal European country”. Indeed, these officials even contribute to the anti-Jewish atmosphere, particularly through demonization of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. In today’s Germany, like much of “liberal and enlightened” Western Europe, it is popular to promote anti-Israel narratives that spill over into antisemtisism, expressed in violent attacks on synagogues and on individual visible Jews.

There is little outrage in response to attacks from Palestinians or Islamist radicals, such as in the July 2014 assault on the synagogue in Wuppertal. Indeed, a German judge ruled there was “no evidence whatsoever” of antisemitic motives. And a few days ago, after a man with a knife was apprehended at Berlin’s New Synagogue during Friday night prayers, the police astonishingly let him go. In today’s Germany, the authorities have turned their eyes so that they would not see the hate.