Germany - Expert: Antisemitic incidents doubled during the pandemic

According to the findings of the Federal Association of Research and Information Centers Antisemitism (RIAS), antisemitic incidents from the spectrum of conspiracy myths almost doubled during the pandemic. Between March 17, 2020 and June 17, 2021, 750 incidents were recorded, said RIAS consultant Tanja Kinzel on Thursday at the specialist forum "Conspiracy myths. Gray areas and their interfaces with antisemitism" ("Verschwörungsmythen. Graubereiche und ihre Schnittstellen zum Antisemitismus")in Bonn. In 2019, however, only 321 such incidents were registered.

"Conspiracy theories were radicalized in the context of Corona," said Kinzel at the conference organized by the Kompetenznetzwerk Antisemitismus. It is true that antisemitic conspiracy theories had already become more widespread through the Internet before the pandemic. "However, the Covid-19 pandemic provided an opportunity structure for antisemitic conspiracy myths."

While anti-Semitic myths were mostly voiced among like-minded people before the pandemic, the spread has now expanded, explained Kinzel. The conspiracy theories offer their followers the feeling that they have seen through the truth and that they are rising above the masses. The theories also served to legitimize protest and violence against the corona measures.

During the pandemic, antisemitic statements not only appeared in right-wing extremist Internet forums, but also increasingly in everyday situations, said Kinzel. That had a direct impact on the lives of Jews. Antisemitic stereotypes are often used in conspiracy myths. "People often refer to a political and economic position of power held by Jews." Antisemitic incidents at meetings and demonstrations were a new phenomenon.

Especially in times of the pandemic, which has triggered fears and worries in many people, the risk of simple blame is great, said the antisemitism commissioner of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP), at the conference. She called for a distinction to be made between the target groups in prevention work. The arguments would have to be tailored depending on whether they were addressed to the general public, to people prone to conspiracy myths, or to staunch conspiracy ideologues.