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German Muslim students refuse to commemorate Holocaust, with one writing “Free Palestine” in response

Pupils at a school in Gelsenkirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany refused to participate in an International Holocaust Remembrance Day event, it has been reported.

The event was part of a global commemoration in which people took photographs of themselves with a sign saying “I Remember” or “We Remember”.

Some students allowed themselves to be photographed with the remembrance signs but declined to permit the photographs to be displayed on the internet. According to the newspaper Der Westen, several asked: “Why always the Jews?”, stating that there are other problems in the world.

“Some Muslim students said they would not participate in the event,” said Florian Beer, a teacher at the school, who added that it often hosts events that leave an “aftertaste of antisemitism”.

An unidentified student also wrote on a blackboard: “F*** Israel, free Palestine”. If there could be any doubt that this refusal to participate in a Holocaust commemoration event was motivated by antisemitism, instead being an ill-conceived attempt at having a universalistic approach to education about genocide, then this action must surely cast that aside.

School director Günter Jahn said he was pleased by the opposition to the remembrance event, stating: “It is important that there is criticism. That is the basis for a discussion.”

The Weiterbildungskolleg Emscher-Lippe school has 500 students, 40 per cent of whom are from a migrant background, and is in Gelsenkirchen, in the northern part of the Ruhr region.

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office, told the Jerusalem Post: “Muslim students are greatest in need of Holocaust education, so it would be unfortunate if they were excused from those activities.

“Given that Holocaust consciousness is a central idea of civic identity in the Federal Republic, it is doubly important for families that come from countries with deep antisemitic traditions and no knowledge of the Holocaust and the destruction of European Jewry.”

The number of antisemitic attacks reported in Germany doubled from 2015 to 2016, according to a Diaspora Affairs Ministry report. The actual number of attacks may be higher because of disagreement over how to identify contemporary antisemitism in the Federal Republic.

Last year we reported that Muslim students in Canada had blocked a Holocaust Education Week motion.