When people harbour hostile feelings towards Jews, it is called “anti-
Semitism”. These feelings can be expressed in insults, lies or humiliating or unjust actions. They can, however, also be manifested in physical violence or even organised mass killings, such as during the Holocaust, the state-
backed mass murder of Jews under the Nazis.
The word “anti-
Semitism” came to be used in Germany in the last third of the nineteenth century. It has been in currency
ever since then, even though the precise meaning of “anti-
Semitism” is actually somewhat different. The Semites are an ethnic group that includes all the peoples
that speak Semitic languages. One Semitic language, for example, is Hebrew – the language spoken by the Jews – but Aramaic, Amharic, Aramaic and Arabic also belong to the same family. Because “anti” means “against”, anti-
Semitism should be something that is directed against all Semites. But in fact, the word “anti-
Semitism” means a dislike of or hostility towards Jews, and not Arabs. The German constitution
or Basic Law
(Grundgesetz) expressly states that anti-
Semitic actions and remarks are forbidden. But anti-
Semitism still exists; particularly among neo-
Semitic slogans are bandied about or smeared on walls, and Jewish graves are desecrated. Offenders are prosecuted and punished.
Gerd Schneider / Christiane Toyka-Seid