Jewish Communities Worldwide

What does the far-right’s success in Germany imply for European Jews?

In Europe, Jews often serve as the canary in the coal mine, the first to recognize threats that affect all German citizens.

Europe has long aspired to achieve unity, where local interests give way to the greater good. Recognizing that globalization demands a united front against China’s assertiveness and the dominance of US tech giants. The continent’s political leaders understand the importance of collective strength over fully sovereign nation-states.

The repercussions of Brexit are a stark reminder of the perils of prioritizing individual autonomy. Since leaving the European Union, the United Kingdom has experienced economic losses and a decline in competitiveness, underscoring the significance of unity in today’s globalized world. Recent events, such as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, further underscore the need for European unity.

Even far-Right parties are reconsidering their position on leaving Europe. It is increasingly evident that the pursuit of sovereignty and the ability to determine national priorities must be balanced with the constraints imposed by the EU. The rise of the far-Right in countries like Italy, France, and Germany reflects a swing between trust in the future and the desire to preserve the status quo. The fear of losing control has prevailed in recent elections, particularly in eastern Germany, where the far-Right Alternative for Germany (AfD) secured its first-ever governing position in the victory of Robert Sesselmann on June 25.

While Robert Sesselmann’s local government office may appear inconsequential, this victory carries significant implications that warrant introspection throughout Germany. It compels Germans to reassess the resilience of their democracy and confront the challenges they face. Critics argue that the AfD’s nationalist and anti-immigration platform poses a threat to social cohesion, as its divisive policies and normalized rhetoric risk eroding the cherished values of inclusivity and tolerance. Moreover, if the influence of the far-right continues to grow, Germany’s international reputation as a nation committed to human rights could be compromised.

However, supporters of the AfD view this victory as a response to perceived failures in mainstream politics. They believe that the party resonates with the concerns of a significant portion of the electorate, addressing overlooked issues such as immigration, national identity, and the impact of globalization. From their perspective, Stuhlmann’s success signifies a necessary recalibration of the political landscape, demanding renewed attention to the interests and anxieties of ordinary citizens.

In an attempt to gain legitimacy and expand its appeal, the AfD has sought to reassure Jews and to engage with Israel. Recently, AfD parliamentarians Matthias Moosdorf and Marc Jongen visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, in Jerusalem. However, their intentions have been met with skepticism by the Jewish community. The party has attracted individuals who advocate Holocaust denial, attempt to whitewash Hitler’s record, and even call for the removal of the Berlin Holocaust monument.

These actions raise doubts about the party’s true commitment to acknowledging and addressing the historical atrocities of the Holocaust.

Felix Klein, the German government’s special commissioner for combating antisemitism, warns that the party’s recent successes may be linked to a rise in antisemitism. He highlights the correlation between social dissatisfaction and the manifestation of antisemitic sentiments.

Election poster of Robert Sesselmann of AfD. Photo: Shutterstock

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany describes it as a “breach of the dam that the democratic political forces in this country simply cannot accept.”

In Europe, Jews often serve as the canary in the coal mine, the first to recognize threats that affect all German citizens. If the AfD’s popularity continues to grow, it is imperative for politicians to take these developments seriously. The party’s increasing support – with some polls ranking it second nationwide –cannot be ignored.

Democratic political forces cannot simply accept the presence of a party that harbors extreme right-wing views. This pivotal moment should serve as a catalyst for action, an entreaty to uphold democratic principles, safeguard the rights of all citizens, and foster an inclusive society that celebrates diversity and unity.

The dream of European unity and the pursuit of a shared destiny require striking a delicate balance between sovereignty and integration. It is crucial to recognize and address the concerns of individual nations and their citizens while promoting cooperation and mutual understanding on a continental scale.

Europe’s ability to compete globally and confront future challenges depends on its capacity to overcome the allure of narrow interests and embrace the strength of unity. Only by doing so can Europe fully realize its potential as one cohesive and prosperous continent.

First published by The Jerusalem Post.