The city of Ulm, in the state of Baden-Wurtenberg, in southwestern Germany, is on the banks of the Danube. In World War II The Jews of Ulm, around 500 people, were first discriminated against and later persecuted, and their synagogue was torn down after Kristallnacht in November 1938. Baden Wurtenburg now has some 2,800 Jews who belong to the community, according to the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
The New Synagogue in Ulm, dedicated in 2012, is a magnificent building, On 26 August and 2 September 2017, the synagogue was attacked. One or more perpetrators kicked at the building’s facade and later rammed it with a metal post, breaking through the outer wall. According to reports, repairs will cost several thousand dollars.
This alone is unconscionable. Incomprehensible however is the reaction of the local police:
On 12 September, an Ulm police spokesman said that antisemitism was “not out of the question,” but added that investigators were looking into all possibilities and that there were no suspects. This in spite of the fact that an image of a possible perpetrator carrying an object resembling a metal post was publicised on 11 September, along with a telephone number for potential witnesses to call. The photograph, which also shows two people with the man, was got from a security video camera. The police report also notes that “investigators are aware that the perpetrator and his companions were seen by witnesses shortly before and after” the incidents.
Rabbi Schneur Trebnik told the Juedische Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany’s Jewish weekly, that authorities routinely play down reports of antisemitic incidents, and that community members are fearful of being recognized as Jewish on the streets. (This is reminiscent of the findings of CAA’s recent Antisemitism Barometer in which 39% of the British Jews polled replied that they concealed their Judaism in public). Rabbi Trebnik said that In this case, local Jews are upset that no one who saw the attack in progress called police.
This reluctance to act against vandalism perpetrated on the New Shul in Ulm is worrisome to say the least, but the German police’s attitude in this case seems to form part of a pattern which is depressingly familiar. In 2016, a German appeals court declined to question a lower court over its verdict that three Palestinian men who tried to set a Wuppertal synagogue on fire in 2014 were not guilty of antisemitism. The defendants had claimed they were motivated by anger at Israel and not by antisemitism and they were believed. The lower court had found that while the targeting of a synagogue was serious circumstantial evidence, it could not conclude that the act was committed out of antisemitic motives. This is ludicrous, given the ease with which the PA, Hamas et al conflate “Jews” and “Zionism”, and an obsessive negative focus on Israel can argued to evidence antisemitism regardless of the circumstances (See reference in the EUMC working definition below).
To add to the confusion, in another case in 2016 a court in Essen upheld a verdict that anti-Israel chantings of “death and hate to Zionists” at a 2014 demonstration were tantamount to antisemitism.
That confusion could easily be have been clarified by the guidance in the EUMC’s working definition of antisemitism, which includes:
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
“In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.”