Bonn A 20-year-old German of Palestinian origin attacked a 50-year-old Israeli Professor from the US, who was in town for a guest lecture at the University in Bonn, on Wednesday afternoon. The police first mistook the victim for the culprit. Has antisemitism in Bonn reached a new level?
A 20-year-old German of Palestinian origin attacked a 50-year-old Israeli Professor from the US, who was in town for a guest lecture at the University in Bonn, on Wednesday afternoon. The police first mistook the victim for the culprit.
A 50-year-old college professor, who is a US resident from Israel, and who came to Bonn as a guest lecturer was walking with a friend in the Hofgarten on Wednesday afternoon around 2.20pm when he was approached by a 20-year-old German of Palastinian origin. The younger man asked the professor about his kippah and subsequently assaulted him verbally. The attacker hit the kippah off the victim’s head repeatedly, pushed him and beat him on the shoulder and reportedly shouted: „No Jew in Germany!“ (sic)
While the victim’s friend called the police, the professor fought off the attacks. When the 20-year-old man heard the patrol car’s siren, he let go of his victim and ran away. He pulled his shirt off and continued to escape with a bare chest.
The professor followed the man. When the police approached the two men from behind, they first mistook the professor for the culprit, because he did not react to several requests by the police officers. He was overpowered by the police officers, brought down to the ground and secured. According to the officers, he resisted these measures. The police officers hit him in the face. While the victim’s friend cleared up the misunderstanding, the actual culprit was arrested.
The 20-year-old was brought to a special clinic for psychological assessment. A drug test was also performed. The man repeated the Anti-Semitic remarks in front of the police but did not comment further on the attack.
As police spokesperson Robert Scholten reported on Thursday afternoon, the 20-year-old was released again, with agreement of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. There had not been sufficient reasons to detain him further. Doctors examined him in the psychiatry ward but they also found no reason to submit him to a clinic. The Bonn man is now being charged with sedition and causing bodily harm. He was known to the police prior to this incident due to previous proceedings (bodily harm and robbery). Scholten did not say if he was sentenced before.
The investigation against the police officers for causing bodily harm will be taken on by a team from Cologne’s police squad, for reasons of neutrality.
The police president of Bonn, Ursula Brohl-Sowa, has apologised to the guest professor who has since left Bonn. She tried the same evening to reach the 50-year-old professor (who came to Bonn for a guest lecture on Wednesday), personally and in writing. On Thursday morning she met with him and apologised in a personal conversation for the behaviour of her police officers. According to GA information, the professor left Bonn after that meeting.
In regard to the intervention by the police officers, Bonn’s police president said: „A terrible and regrettable misunderstanding during a mission situation, for which I asked the professor explicitly for forgiveness. We will investigate in detail, how this situation came about, and how such misunderstandings can be avoided in the future.“
Countrywide the German media reported on the incident. North Rhine-Westphalian Minister for the Interior, Herbert Reul, apologised for this „obvious police mistake“ and described Anti-Semitic offence as „appalling“. He promised a neutral investigation in this case to find out if the behaviour of the police officers was „appropriate“. He himself has apologised to the victim. The Anti-Semitic attack itself was „appalling“, said Reul. „We will not permit hunts on Jews in Germany again.“
The Anti-Semitic comissioner of the federal governement, Felix Klein, said he was „deeply disgusted“: „I expect that the suspected Palestinian culprit will face speedy investigation procedures,“ he told the newspaper Rheinische Post.
Lord Mayor and University condemn attack
University rector Michael Hoch condemned the attack: "Our guest deserves the utmost respect for continuing to take part in conversations with our students and holding his lecture after the attack. We are very sad that our academic friend had to take this experience back home with him.“ The university still stands „for a free and unobstructed scientific discourse“.
Bonn’s Lord Mayor Ashok Sridharan also reacted to the incident: „I condemn the attack in strongest terms and apologise to the scientist for what happened to him in Bonn. Nobody, no Bonn citizen and definitely no guest should ever fear assaults, particularly not due to a religious symbol“, said Sridharan. Together with the Jewish community the city of Bonn will show with a „Kippah Day“ next week (July 19) that racism has no place in Bonn. „We are proud to be an open-minded city, with a peaceful community consisting of nearly 180 nationalities.“ He added: „We are resisting any attempt to destroy our harmonic community and atmosphere. We owe this to our city.“
Jewish community advises against wearing a kippah
That this kind of incident happened now in Bonn as well, does not come as a surprise to Margaret Taub, Chairwoman of the Jewish community. „The situation has become more and more problematic for us in recent years“, she said in an interview with the GA. Hostilities and verbal attacks are already common in everyday life. With a violent attack on a Jew anti-Semitism in Bonn has reached a new dimension. „It is getting increasingly difficult to be a Jew in Europe“, she said.
For years the Central Council of Jews in Germany advises against wearing a kippah publicly. „If people nevertheless want to wear one for religious reasons, I recommend wearing a hat or cap over it. To protect themselves and their lives, they should not be recognisable as Jews“, she added. Her sons used to wear kippahs, but nowadays she „does not approve of that anymore“. As a Jew in Bonn they are now used to the daily dangers. „But a queasy feeling remains, always.“ Other than in the US, apparently. „The visitor from the States didn’t seem to expect this kind of aggressive behaviour“, she suspects. Traum insisted that the Bonn police does everything to protect the Jewish community.
INFO: The number of Anti-Semitic attacks in Germany rose from 297 to 324 in 2017, an increase of 9.1 percent. (source: NRW statistics)
(Original text: GA, Translation: Mareike Graepel)