The Spirit of the Holocaust Is Stirring In Germany
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High school students shouting “Heil Hitler,” performing the Nazi salute, sharing images depicting Jews being gassed, and telling appalled classmates that if they don’t like what they’re hearing, they should move to Poland.
This is how the Hitler youth behaved in the 1930s, before they marched off to war in the 1940s. But this behavior is happening today in some German high schools. In fact, anti-Semitic incidents—including verbal and online abuse, flag-burnings, and physical beatings—are increasing in frequency all across Germany. “Anti-Semitism Is Sweeping Germany,” blared the New York Post on Saturday.
Some of Germany’s leaders appear to be concerned. But are they concerned enough? And why aren’t more Germans far more alarmed by the resurgence of anti-Semitism? We all remember Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews culminating in the Holocaust and the “Final Solution.” Do we think that history can never be repeated?
In 2016, there were 470 reported incidents of anti-Semitic behavior in Berlin, a 16 percent rise over 2015. 2017 concluded with a flurry of anti-Semitic incidents across Germany, including multiple protests at which the Israeli flag was torched and crowds chanted anti-Semitic slurs. One recent video, which went viral (and was quickly removed), showed a Jewish shop owner being harangued right outside his premises. The attacker wasn’t Muslim or a far-right skinhead. He was, in the words of his victim, “a normal, well-dressed German who wore brand-name clothes and did not smell like alcohol.”
Charlotte Knobloch, former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, recently warned that anti-Jewish behavior is on the rise and is now endemic to German society. “Anti-Semitism has grown on the right and the left, in the Muslim community, and also in the heart of German society,” she stated (emphasis added throughout).
Germany’s leaders admit that there is a problem. Following the anti-Israel protests last month, one of which occurred only 100 yards from Berlin’s Holocaust memorial, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman stated: “[It] is something to be ashamed of when anti-Semitism is so openly displayed on the streets of German cities.”
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere recently admitted that the problem is so serious that the government needs to create an anti-Semitism officer or department to tackle the nation’s anti-Semitism problem. He also admitted that the number of “disparaging remarks, inappropriate jokes and discriminatory behavior against ‘our Jewish citizens’ has grown.” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has also spoken about the problem.
These condemnations are right and important: But what practical solutions are being implemented to address this issue? Considering Germany’s history with anti-Semitism, how has the problem been allowed to get this serious? There isn’t enough urgency over this matter. Germany and Europe, even Britain and America, ought to be far more alarmed.
In a recent interview with Deutsche Welle, Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews, revealed that there are Jewish institutions and neighborhoods inside Germany that require police protection. There are parts of Germany that are too dangerous for Jews to enter. There are “districts in [some] major cities [where] I’d advise people not to identify themselves as Jews,” Schuster said.
History reveals what can happen when a nation, particularly Germany, gets too comfortable with anti-Semitism.
In his book The Last Lion, historian William Manchester documented the prevalence of anti-Semitism in Britain and Europe in the 1930s. It’s remarkable just how acceptable, and even fashionable, anti-Semitism was in Germany and Europe. Manchester wrote of how it was “reported [to Churchill] that all over Germany … motion picture theaters, shops and restaurants were displaying prominent signs reading ‘Juden unerwünscht‘ (‘Jews not welcome’).”
Manchester described how, over time, the Jews’ “day-to-day existence [became] increasingly difficult …. ‘Für Juden kein zutritt’ (‘Jews not admitted’) placards hung outside grocery and butchers’ shops; they could not enter dairies to buy milk for their infants, or pharmacies to fill prescriptions, or hotels to find lodging. At every turn they were taunted ….”
The situation doesn’t appear to be nearly this dire in Germany today. But is a 1930s-type scenario really that far off? The same anti-Semitism that produced that behavior already exists inside Germany today, and it is increasing. Inside Germany today, Jewish shop owners are being harangued, high school students are joking about Jews being gassed, and parts of the nation are no-go zones for Jews.
Isn’t it fair to say that the spirit of the Holocaust is stirring in Germany, certainly in some quarters?
Where is this leading? The history of World War ii reveals the answer, or at least part of it. But to really understand where Germany’s struggle with anti-Semitism is leading, you need what the Apostle Peter called “the more sure word of prophecy.”
Biblical prophecies in Hosea 5, Daniel 7, Habakkuk 1, Matthew 24 and Revelation 17 all reveal that German anti-Semitism will play a central role in end-time events. If you’re interested in learning more about the prophetic angle to this worrying trend, I encourage you to read The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy and Germany and the Holy Roman Empire.