Sunday Times: Rising anti-Semitism among migrants in Germany highlighted in case of Jewish teenager in Berlin
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                  Sunday Times: Rising anti-Semitism among migrants in Germany highlighted in case of Jewish teenager in Berlin

                  Sunday Times: Rising anti-Semitism among migrants in Germany highlighted in case of Jewish teenager in Berlin

                  30.05.2017, Anti-Semitism

                  A British teenager who is the grandson of Holocaust survivors has described how he was beaten and abused by Muslim classmates at a leading school in Berlin because he was Jewish, The Sunday Times reported.

                  Ferdinand, 14, who was born in London to a British mother and a German father, told the British paper’s reporter Bojan Pancevski he feared for his life after being repeatedly kicked and punched by students of Middle Eastern and Turkish origin.

                  One of them even threatened to shoot him with a mock gun he believed was real.

                  The case is under investigation by prosecutors and has added to soul-searching in Germany over the rise of anti-Semitism in immigrant communities.

                  This rising anti-Semitism among migrants was mentioned in a report by a German government advisory body that recommended the creation of an ombudsman to tackle the issue. Patrick Siegele, who co-authored the report sponsored, said this was not taken seriously enough in Germany, where hatred of Jews is traditionally linked to far-right extremism.

                  Ferdinand’s parents have asked that his surname not be used, expressing concerns the family could face repercussions for speaking.

                  Almost three-quarters of the pupils at the Friedenau Gemeinschaftsschule, where the bullying took place, are from immigrant families.

                  Ferdinand and his parents — Gemma, an entrepreneur from London, and Wenzel, who works for a human rights organisation — chose the school so he could be educated in a multicultural environment. Until recently the family had hosted a Syrian refugee in their Berlin home.

                  “I loved the fact that the school was multicultural . . . the kids and teachers were so cool,” said Ferdinand, speaking about his experience for the first time.

                  Yet a week after enrolling last November, he let slip to classmates that he was Jewish — and his troubles began.

                  “First my Turkish friend Emre said he could no longer hang out with me because I was Jewish,” Ferdinand said. “Then other pupils started saying stereotypical things about how Jews only want money and hate Muslims.”

                  I got very, very upset and I said: ‘Are you having a Jewish-free zone?’

                  The abuse escalated until he was being beaten daily by a gang of pupils, all of immigrant origin, shouting racial insults.

                  “This boy, Jassin, whose parents are Palestinian, asked me if I’m from Israel,” Ferdinand said. “I’ve never been to Israel. He said Palestine will burn Israel and his friends said Turkey will burn Israel. He kept kicking me.

                  “One day he came up to me from behind and he punched me in the back. I became dizzy . . . I had a bruise for a week or two. Every time something bad happened, I told myself I could manage it, but it only got worse.”

                  His parents reported the abuse to school authorities, who agreed to act but failed to protect him. They told his parents his tormentors could not be blamed for their actions, which they said were the result of views expressed in their homes.

                  According to The Sunday Times report, the school’s social worker told the parents the family of one bully had “suffered” in the Palestinian territories and became aggressive because Ferdinand allegedly “insulted” the Palestinian people. The latter claim was later proven false.

                  Teachers asked him not to enter the same classroom as one bully so as not to provoke him.

                  His mother got very upset and said: ‘‘Are you telling me that Ferdinand cannot go to the class just not to provoke someone by being Jewish? Are you having a Jewish-free zone?’”

                  She arranged for her in-laws, Franz and Petra, to give a talk to her son’s class about how they survived the Holocaust. The pupils listened dutifully — but the bullying continued.

                  “It was chillingly reminiscent of what my husband experienced at school in Nazi Germany,” said Petra, 80.

                  “The whole ordeal showed us how widespread and deeply normalised these hateful attitudes are,” said Gemma. “Their views about Jews and gay people are considered to be normal by themselves and their families, and the authorities simply accept this.”

                  Ferdinand’s parents finally moved their son to the Berlin British School. They took the decision in March after a boy beat and began to strangle him, before producing a mock gun and threatening to kill him.

                  Responding to reports about the case in the German media, his former school admitted that the abuse had taken place and suspended two of the students involved.

                  Its principal, Uwe Runkel, said the school had “no experience” in dealing with a Jewish pupil being “open about his beliefs”. Ferdinand and his parents describe themselves as non-religious.

                  A group of parents from the school then sparked outrage by publishing an open letter to the media, attacking the critical coverage and claiming it was normal for the “confrontation between Jews and Arabs” to be reflected in a “diverse” city such as Berlin.