June 27, 2018 / 4:19 PM / 2 months ago

German official calls for consequences over anti-Semitism at Berlin school

BERLIN (Reuters) - A senior German government official called on Wednesday for a German-American bilingual school in Berlin to take clear action to prevent further bullying after an anti-Semitic incident involving a ninth-grade student.

Felix Klein, who holds a new government post tasked with fighting anti-Semitism, told Die Welt newspaper that he was deeply shocked about the latest in a series of anti-Semitic incidents reported at schools in Berlin.

The John F. Kennedy School, a public school in Berlin that relies on both U.S. and German curricula, said this week it was responding to the incident after initially underestimating its scope and gravity.

The school said it held a conference for students with psychologists on Wednesday and plans to meet with police officials on Friday to discuss reporting requirements and prevention efforts. The school announced plans to focus on the issue of discrimination in the next school year.

Germany, home today to an estimated 200,000 Jews, reported a 2.5 percent increase in anti-Semitic crimes in 2017 despite an overall drop in politically motivated offences, according to new government statistics released in May.

Almost 95 percent of anti-Semitic crimes in 2017 had a right-wing motive, the government said, although some politicians, including many in the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), have blamed the phenomenon on the influx of more than 1.6 million mostly Muslim refugees and other migrants.

Germany is not the only country confronting anti-Semitism but the legacy of the Holocaust, in which Nazis killed at least six million Jews, gives the issue particular resonance.

“This case ... shows that anti-Semitism is often also there where we don’t expect it,” Klein told Die Welt. “I call on the entire school community to draw the necessary consequences and to ensure that such bullying does not happen again.”

The Central Council of Jews in Germany faulted the school for not taking the incident more seriously from the start.

“We are dealing with a societal problem. Such incidents occur in all types of schools and all over Germany,” the group’s president, Josef Schuster, said in a statement. “Religious bullying often comes from Muslim students, but not only them. Anti-Semitism is found in all segments of society.”

The group repeated its call for a nationwide system for recording anti-Semitic incidents at schools and throughout society to better understand the depth of the rising tide of anti-Semitism. It also called for training courses to help teachers better respond to such incidents at schools.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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