New AJC Survey Finds Negative Attitudes Towards Jews Widespread in Germany

New AJC Survey Finds Negative Attitudes Towards Jews Widespread in Germany

December 15, 2002

December 15, 2002 -  NEW YORK -- Negative attitudes towards Jews are widespread in German society today, though keeping the memory of the Holocaust strong has grown, according to a new American Jewish Committee survey.
A solid majority - 60 percent - of Germans acknowledge that anti-Semitism is currently a problem in their country, according to the survey. Seventeen percent see it as very serious, and 43 percent as somewhat of a problem, while 30 percent say anti-Semitism is not a problem at all.

For the American Jewish Committee, which maintains an office in Berlin, this is the third survey conducted in Germany since German unification in 1990. The new survey examines German attitudes towards Jews, Holocaust remembrance, and the global war against terrorism.

Nearly 60 years after the Holocaust, substantial percentages of Germans voice negative feelings towards Jews. The German Jewish community totals about 98,000 in a country with a total population of more than 82 million. Among the negative attitudes:

20 percent of Germans believe Jews have "too much influence" in German society.
35 percent of Germans endorse the view that Jews are motivated by feelings of revenge more so than others.
40 percent of Germans contend that Jews exert too much influence on world events.
52 percent of Germans assert that Jews are exploiting the memory of the Holocaust for their own purposes.
17 percent of Germans "prefer not" to have Jews as neighbors, though more Germans would prefer to not have as neighbors Gypsies, Arabs, Turks, Africans and Poles.
These and other negative feelings about Jews expressed in the survey responses may even be higher than the statistics indicate, given the finding that 59 percent of those surveyed agree with the statement that "Many people in Germany are afraid to express their true feelings about Jews."

On Holocaust remembrance, the survey found that the need for continuing Holocaust education is both needed and welcome.

Only 43 percent of Germans know that the Nazis killed six million Jews during World War II, though that finding represents an improvement over the 1994 survey when 36 percent correctly cited the 6 million figure. While the trend toward more specific knowledge is positive, more than half of all Germans cannot correctly cite the number of Jews killed by the Nazis. Furthermore, only 37 percent of Germans under the age of 30 can correctly identify this information, as compared to 45 percent of those over 30.

65 percent of Germans think that teaching about the Nazi extermination of Jews should be required in the German school curriculum, while 22 percent say it should not.

Broad majorities of Germans do favor maintaining the memory of the Holocaust, but there still is significant opposition to this position. Support among the younger generation, now the third and fourth generations to come of age since the end of World War II, is nearly as strong as among the population at large.

72 percent of Germans believe it is essential (27 percent) or very important (45 percent) for all Germans to know about the Nazi extermination of the Jews during World War II, while 16 percent says it is somewhat important and 4 percent say not important at all.
59 percent of Germans endorse the view that the remembrance of the Nazi extermination of the Jews should be kept strong even after the passage of time, while 29 percent disagree.
49 percent approve of the German parliament decision to authorize the building of a national Holocaust memorial in Berlin, and 27 percent disapprove. Support is highest among young people, of whom 55 percent approve of the memorial with a disapproval level of only 18 percent.
In general, the older the respondent, the more likely they are to express negative attitudes toward Jews and other minorities. There are consistent correlations in the poll between higher levels of education and lower levels of prejudice. Eastern Germans hold significantly more positive views on Jews than do western Germans.
On the war against terrorism, a majority - 63 percent - of Germans favors the decision of the United States after September 11 to launch a war against terrorism, but 77 percent see the U.S. acting mainly in its own interests, and only 11 percent think the U.S. is taking into account the interests of its allies in the fight against terrorism.

Conspiracy theories, the survey found, abound, even in Germany, a close ally of the United States. Thus, nearly one in five Germans believes that American intelligence services took part in the September 11 terror attacks, and only 49 percent say it is not possible.

With regard to relations between the United States and Germany at present, only 1 percent sees them as very good, 31 percent as good, 48 percent as not that good, and 10 percent as bad.

The survey, carried out from October 8-25 for the American Jewish Committee by Intratest, a leading German public opinion research organization, has a margin of error is plus or minus three percent.

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Contact: Kenneth Bandler (212) 891-6771

        Lisa Fingeret Roth (212) 891-1385

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