An official warning to German Jews about the dangers of publicly wearing the kippah skullcap in the face of rising antisemitic attacks drew a response Friday from visiting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The German government’s own commissioner on antisemitism Felix Klein sparked alarm earlier this month when he said he “cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere… all the time in Germany”.
Pompeo made clear his concern over the warning soon after he landed in the German capital.
“We were concerned to see Jews discouraged from wearing the yarmulke in public out of safety concerns. None of us should shrink in the face of prejudice,” he said at a press conference in Berlin.
As Breitbart News reported, attacks against Jews rose almost 10 percent in Germany in 2018, with violent acts soaring by more than 60 percent alone, crime statistics reveal.
In one prominent 2018 case, a 19-year-old Syrian man was convicted for assault after lashing out with his belt at an Israeli man wearing a Jewish kippa skullcap while shouting “yahudi”, Jew in Arabic.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin has voiced shock at Klein’s warning, calling it a “capitulation to anti-Semitism”.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman subsequently stepped in to stress that it was the job of the state to ensure that “anyone can go anywhere in our country in full security wearing a kippah”.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Friday telephoned Jewish council president Josef Schuster over the issue and issued a statement stressing that it was the “job of the state to protect our Jewish fellow citizens and to intervene where necessary”.
America’s top diplomat is making his first visit to Germany as secretary of state at the start of a four-nation European trip in the wake of rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
Pompeo is set to meet Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Friday before continuing to Switzerland, which has long represented Washington’s interests in Tehran and has in the past been an intermediary between the two.
AFP contributed to this report