Last summer, Anke Brueggemann, an eighth-standard teacher at the Geschwister Scholl School in the German town of Solingen, heard a teenage boy on the playground scream, “Jude.” His tone was bitter and he was clearly using the word as a slur, Brueggemann argued. She remembered seeing a newspaper advertisement about Rent A Jew, an organisation that facilitated interactions of Jewish people with youth in educational institutions in Germany. “I knew it was time to invite them to meet the students,” Brueggemann said.
Jude—German for Jew—is a common insult on football fields in Germany. Seventy-five years after the Second World War ended, Europe’s largest economy is still wrestling with anti-Semitism, owing primarily to two reasons: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has given rise to anti-Israel sentiments in some quarters, and an upsurge of the neo-Nazis, evident in the 12.5-percent presence of the far-right Alternative for Germany in the Bundestag.
Even though the Holocaust is a mandatory part of Germany’s educational curriculum, and the country has a culture of remembrance, most Germans have never personally interacted with a Jewish person. Some German schools take kids on visits to former concentration camps, but, according to a survey by the Körber Foundation—a non-profit organisation based in Hamburg—less than half of children aged between 14 and 16 know about the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. Last year, data collected in the three federal states of Berlin—Brandenburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria—by the Federal Association of Departments for Research and Information on Anti-Semitism showed 1,253 registered anti-Semitic incidents entailing harmful behaviour, physical attacks and hate mail.