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How Students Are Positioning Themselves Against Anti-Semitism

One in four Germans has anti-Semitic views. That is the result of a new study carried out by the World Jewish Congress - the umbrella organization of Jewish communities and organizations. 1,300 people took part in the study. Some of them were so-called elites, thus university graduates with a yearly income of 100,000 euros.

Is anti-Semitism spreading across Germany and also Bremen? The president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, commented with regard to the study that it is time for German society to take a stand and combat anti-Semitism head-on.

Antisemitismus
Deliberately trying to reach the public: (from the left) Franziska Nobis, Professor Magdalena Waligorska-Huhle, and Julia Chapiro. Not in the picture: Clara Hafner.
© Harald Rehling/Universität Bremen

Successful Tour of the City

Show where you stand, do something, that is what the three history students Franziska Nobis, Julia Chapiro, and Clara Hafner thought. They are participating in the seminar on contemporary Jewish history held by Professor Magdalena Waligorska-Huhle. Instead of a term paper, they created a three-hour tour of the city using archives, witnesses, and Bremen sources. In order to commemorate the deportation of 440 Bremen Jews to the Minsk Ghetto 78 years ago, they realized their tour of the city in the middle of November 2019. “We are deliberately trying to reach the public. There were so many registrations that we had to reject some people,” explains Franziska Nobis, who is in the third semester of her bachelor’s degree.

The three dedicated women led the tour group to the memorial, the former synagogue in the Schnoor, to the old police station where they mentioned the support of the Bremen police in the persecution of the Jews, and to the Stolpersteine stumbling stones. “Due to the positive feedback, we are thinking about repeating the tour,” says her fellow student Julia Chapiro.

Increasing anti-Semitism is a current topic for the history students. “Society is in a great period of transition, during which uncertainty arises,” she explains. That is how scapegoating develops as a psychological answer to uncertainty. Franziska Nobis emphasizes the role of social media. “Fake news, racist comments, and smears appear in this fast-moving culture and just slip through the cracks. Reading for more than 30 seconds is too much effort,” she says. That is why only vague aspects stick. Professor Waligorska-Huhle, who teaches history and the culture of East-Central Europe, warns that “the Holocaust seems to be very far away for the fourth post-war generation and the witnesses of the time are becoming extinct.”

Bild 1/20 History students have created a city tour focusing on Jewish life in Bremen. You can experience the tour right here with photos and text. The first stop on the tour takes us to the St. Petri Cathedral, one of the most famous sights in the old hanseatic city. But what does this seemingly Christian place have to do with the city’s Jewish history?
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 2/20 It is all about the double portal: During renovation work at the end of the 19th century, the Cologne artist Peter Fuchs redesigned the cathedral’s entryway. The portals show scenes from the old and new testament. Jewish people can also be seen - in an extremely negative manner.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 3/20 One can see the so-called “Jewish grimace” (“Judenfratze” in German). The term was also used in an artistic manner and stands for an extremely derogatory form of Jewish people’s facial expressions.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 4/20 Even just the term “Jewish grimace” makes the extreme anti-Semitism that was rife in society clear.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 5/20 The St. Petri congregation reacted to the anti-Semitic images by installing a commemorative plaque that can be found on the right-hand side of the entrance. The congregation views the cathedral portals as a memorial today.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 6/20 The Rosenak House can be found in the Kolpingstraße Street in the Schnoor district. A synagogue stood in the neighborhood from 1876 to 1938.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 7/20 During the November Pogroms 1938, the synagogue was set on fire by the national socialists.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 8/20 A commemorative plaque serves to remember the night.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 9/20 This memorial, which reminds us of the murders and systematic destruction of Jewish property during the November Pogroms in 1938, stands on Tiefer Street.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 10/20 The stone lists the names of the murdered.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 11/20 People come here and place stones, amongst other things. Stones stand for eternity according to Jewish tradition. The fate of the victims is to never be forgotten.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 12/20 The former police headquarters on Wall Street, where the central offices of Bremen Public Library are currently located, is also a place connected to Jewish life in Bremen.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 13/20 The police played an aiding role in deporting Jews. In 1940, special police battalions were also formed and for example, “Police Battalion 105” organized the deportation of Dutch Jews to Auschwitz. After the end of the Second World War, many of these policemen returned to their normal duties.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 14/20 According to the Reich’s Minister of Education, Mr. Rust, it was no longer allowed for Jewish children to go to a public school from November 15, 1938, onwards. Bremen’s Jewish community found a solution: A room in the community center at KohlhäkerStraße Street 6 was turned into a classroom.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 15/20 The Jewish school was to also prepare children for fleeing into a safe future. With English, geography, religious studies, and Hebrew lessons, it was intended that travelling out of Germany be made possible for the children. The later renters of the house installed a plaque in remembrance of the Jewish school and the deceased. A stone was placed close to the entrance for each child.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 16/20 The first deportation of Bremen’s Jews was carried out on November 18, 1941, in the courtyard of what is known today as the Oberschule am Barkhof school. The people were transported to the ghetto in Minsk and were thus sent to their death.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 17/20 A small metal plaque stating “Keiner blieb verschont” – “No-one was spared” when translated – can be found at the school entrance.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 18/20 The plaque was damaged in 2014 and has now been reinstalled. In 2016, the school itself organized a remembrance and commemoration event in order to establish the event in the public consciousness and to commemorate the victims.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 19/20 In front of the last apartment belonging to Moritz Gompertz at Parkallee Street 31, one can find a Stumbling Stone in his memory. There are many such Stumbling Stones throughout Germany and further afield. They commemorate Jewish citizens.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen
Bild 20/20 You can take a look at the biographies of the victims under Nazi rule at http://www.stolpersteine-bremen.de/index_en.php. Additionally, there are special tours focusing on Stumbling Stones carried out by the Stumbling Stones in Bremen Initiative.
© Matej Meza/Universität Bremen

Outstanding Support for Vigil

The attack in Halle caused shock at the University of Bremen. Alongside their tour of the city, the students invited the citizens to hold a vigil. They were supported by the Jewish community from Schwachhauser Heerstraße and the regional Bremen group of the Action Reconciliation Service for Peace organization. “It was a complete success in our opinion. 80 people came,” reports Julia Chapiro proudly.

Awakening Positive Curiosity about Israel

Till Schmidt studied politics and cultural sciences at the University of Bremen. For the past two and a half years, the 30-year-old has been a dedicated member of the German-Israeli Society and founded the Youth Forum in Bremen, which is the society’s youth organization. He wants to awaken “positive curiosity” about the country. Anti-Semitism is a not just a problem of the fringes of society, it can also be seen in the middle of it,” he criticizes. The affected persons are scared. “A friend of mine wears a kippah but also wears a hat over it to hide it when he is out in public.”

With his fellow companions, Schmidt holds up to seven events every semester. Often, they are discussions groups on political topics, but Israeli cooking courses are also offered regularly. One example on April 6, 2020: “Flight and displacement of Jews out of the Arab states, Turkey, and Iran”: a presentation and discussion with the publicist Stefan Grigat. The dedicated, young Bremen citizen is convinced that “we need to take the perspective of the affected seriously.”

Contact

The Youth Forum is on Facebook.

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