Confronting Antisemitism in Europe Today

How can society respond to enduring hatreds?

Several recent, high-profile events in Germany have highlighted the country’s ongoing struggle with antisemitism. A major German music prize was awarded to a popular rap duo whose lyrics referencing Auschwitz have been condemned as antisemitic; after a public outcry, the award was canceled. That same month, two young men wearing skullcaps were attacked in an upscale Berlin neighborhood, prompting rallies of protest and solidarity throughout Germany.

Occurring in April—the same month when people around the world commemorate the Holocaust on Yom Ha’Shoah and observe Genocide Awareness Month—these events reveal the troubling persistence of antisemitism, even in a country so committed to the memory of the Holocaust. Educators teaching the Holocaust can share these recent events with students as a coda to the history and a reminder that historic hatreds endure and evolve. This lesson idea invites students to examine recent events and statistics about the rise of antisemitism and to consider how individuals and groups in civil society can respond to hate.

Read:

As a class, read one or more articles describing the recent events in Germany. Facing History’s blog post Confronting the Rise of Antisemitism in Germany provides a good overview of the events; within the blog post are links to other relevant articles from the New York Times (Fury in Germany as Rap Duo With Anti-Jewish Lyrics Gets Award), the BBC (Auschwitz rap: German Echo music prize scrapped in anti-Semitism row), and the Associated Press (Germans don Jewish skullcaps to protest anti-Semitism). These articles provide more context and commentary to seed a discussion of the questions below.

Discuss:

  • What is antisemitism? What do you know about what antisemitism has looked like historically?
  • How is antisemitism appearing in Germany today? In what ways is it similar to historic examples of antisemitism? How is it different?
  • How do statistics from the articles reveal the growth of antisemitism in Germany, in other European countries, and in the United States? How might growing antisemitism be connected to rising intolerance generally?
  • What are some ways that citizens have responded to recent antisemitic incidents in Germany? What is the role of political leaders and well-known artists or musicians? What is the role of ordinary people? What impact have they had?
  • These articles chronicle some responses after antisemitic incidents have already happened. What do you think it would take to prevent such incidents from happening at all?

Extensions:

To delve more deeply into the challenge of antisemitism in contemporary Europe, and to explore how young people are responding, teach these two lessons from Facing History's Standing Up to Hatred and Intolerance collection:

To explore how communities stand up to hatred, and to consider other examples of the power of symbols, read or watch “Not in Our Town,” the story of how residents of Billings, Montana, responded to a series of hate crimes in their community in the 1990s.

Want more teaching tips and strategies to address current events with your students?

Visit our Current Events page to see our latest teaching ideas and strategies for connecting breaking news stories to your curriculum.

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