Prominent Germans Join Merkel in Decrying Antisemitism

Leaders from business, politics and culture joined Chancellor Angela Merkel in urging Germans to oppose antisemitism as conflict in the Gaza Strip intensified and Palestinian supporters prepared to march in Berlin.

Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn, Deutsche Bank co-CEO Juergen Fitschen and fashion designer Wolfgang Joop were among 45 celebrities splashed across today’s front page of Bild, Germany’s most-read daily newspaper, with statements against anti-Jewish slogans that have erupted at pro-Palestinian protests in Germany.

“Discrimination and hate have no place in Germany,” Winterkorn was cited as saying.“We all have to fight for a free, open and democratic society.” Fighting between Israel and Hamas “mustn’t be exploited as a pretext to spread antisemitic slogans,” singer Vicky Leandros was quoted saying.

Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip and fighting that has killed more than 800 people, most of them Palestinians, have unleashed protests around Europe. Some rallies in Germany and France have included antisemitic chanting and even turned violent, drawing condemnation from lawmakers across the political spectrum.

Bild also featured Merkel condemning the “outbursts” as “an attack on freedom and tolerance,” citing comments attributed to her by a government spokesman on July 23.

The fighting, which broke out on July 8, reached a new intensity yesterday as Palestinian officials said 16 people were killed in a shelter run by the United Nations in northern Gaza. Seven children were among the dead at the UN Relief and Works Agency refuge at Beit Lahia, Ashraf al-Qedra, a spokesman for the health ministry in Gaza, told reporters.

The conflict is likely to add momentum to a pro-Palestinian rally in Berlin this afternoon, coinciding with al-Quds Day, an annual event that started in Iran to protest Israeli control of Jerusalem.

About 105,000 Jews are registered as living in Germany, according to the Brussels-based European Jewish Congress. The biggest community is in Berlin, the capital.

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