Life In Berlin: RIAS Report On Anti-Semitism in Berlin

Mar 23, 2017

"If there is not the signal that people will interfere, the same will happen again."

Benjamin Steinitz refers to anti-Semitic harassment. Steinitz is the coordinator of RIAS, the Department for Research and Information on Anti-Semitism.

"Our approach as a non-Jewish civil society organization to openly approach and co-operate with Jewish organizations in order to find out what are their experiences, perceptions of day to day anti-Semitism is somehow unique," Steinitz says.

The Association for Democratic Culture in Berlin founded RIAS 2 years ago. It's a network that reports and monitors anti-Semitic incidents and works to prevent them.

"We are a place where people can report any time, under You can report in English, German, and Russian language. It's anonymous. We only need one thing: a contact email address, or phone. We will not include an incident that can’t be verified by us," explains Steinitz.

Just recently, Steinitz released their annual report for Berlin. It shows a 16 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents from the previous year. RIAS tracked 470 cases in 2016. 17 were physical attacks against Jews - 18 were threats. They reported 53 incidents of property damage, and more than 380 cases were insults either in person or via the Internet. Steinitz says these numbers are hard to gauge.

"First of all this is what we got to know. We are talking here about a dark field; we are bringing here a bit more light into that large dark field."

But, he does point out that more and more people are being targeted because of their Jewish identity.

"Either by their appearance - they are wearing yarmulkes, or any other Jewish traditional clothing - or the Jewish background of the targeted person was known to the perpetrator in advance," he says.

Steinitz, who also assists with filing police reports and finding counseling for victims, emphasizes how important the role of the witness is.

"The majority of incidents, the people just walk away, and this is somehow a second time of victimization, because they stay alone," says Steinitz.

Within only two years RIAS has built enough trust and support to expand. The Berlin-based organization has plans to set up more networks in other regions of Germany.