Israeli Holocaust Event in Germany 'Zoom Bombed' With anti-Semitic Slurs

Live online testimony by survivor disrupted with images of Hitler and anti-Semitic slogans, embassy says, voicing concern over Independence Day events next week

Allison Kaplan Sommer
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A barbed wire fence enclosing the memorial site of the former Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald,near Weimar, in eastern Germany, on January 27, 2020.
A barbed wire fence enclosing the memorial site of the former Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald,near Weimar, in eastern Germany, on January 27, 2020.Credit: AFP
Allison Kaplan Sommer

An online Holocaust Remembrance Day event held by the Israeli embassy in Germany had to be suspended after anti-Semitic trolls disrupted the testimony of a Holocaust survivor in a case of what is being termed "Zoom bombing."

The online meeting was part of a series of outreach events for Germany’s Jewish and Israeli communities. In an effort to reach as broad an audience as possible, the information needed to enter the Zoom event was widely publicized. 

After the event opened and Holocaust survivor Zvi Herschel began telling his story, anonymous participants began displaying pictures of Adolf Hitler and shouting anti-Semitic and pro-Palestinian slogans, according to Jeremy Issacharoff, Israel’s ambassador to Germany. Pornographic images were also shown on the screen, he said. 

Issacharoff told Haaretz in a telephone interview Tuesday that the Zoom session was quickly suspended once the disruptions began. Shortly afterwards, it was reconvened in a more restrictive manner, with each person entering having to be identified by name, and “continued in a respectful and dignified way.”  

Issacharoff further said that after the incident, it became clear to the embassy staff that next week’s planned community commemoration of Israel’s Memorial Day would have to be limited to entry by password and could not be widely publicized. 

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As the coronavirus pandemic was breaking out, The Forward reported about the first cases of "Zoom bombing" of Jewish events, describing it as incidents when uninvited attendees post hateful and graphic material in Zoom video conferences.

The incident, Issacharoff said, made him feel more somber than usual on Yom HaShoah.

“As I listened to the siren in Israel on the radio this morning, I felt profoundly saddened that after so many years – 75 years after the Holocaust – someone here could desecrate the memory of the Shoah and disrupt a survivor’s testimony,” he said. 

Normally, he added, he feels proud to represent Israel in Germany, a country in which he has witnessed “so much respect for the Shoah’s memory” and a repudiation of the crimes of the past. 

“And now I feel very sad, but I also feel this is a day we have to be strong. This is what 'Never Again' means; it is a call for everyday action standing against Nazi thinking and Nazi phraseology. 

In response to the report, a spokesperson for Zoom told Haaretz the company was "deeply upset to hear about these types of incidents. Zoom strongly condemns such behavior and recently updated several features to help our users more easily protect their meetings... We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind either to Zoom so we can take appropriate action or directly to law enforcement authorities."

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