Berlin Mayor, Jewish Council Slam Attack on Jewish Teens

Five students from Jewish high school attacked by group in Berlin; four suspects detained for questioning.

The mayor of Berlin and the head of Germany's Jewish Council on Thursday denounced an attack on five Jewish teenagers by a group of punks.

The teenagers, aged between 15 and 17, were on Wednesday subjected to anti-Semitic abuse by four punks near the Juedische Oberschule, the Berlin school they attend, police said.

One victim was forced to flee into a nearby bakery after the punks set their dog on the group, before witnesses alerted the authorities. The four punks were taken into custody and the dog was taken to an animal home.

"This obviously anti-semitic attack ... cannot be tolerated," Mayor Klaus Wowereit said.

"Considering our history, we are happy that Jewish life is again flowering in our midst," he added. "It's all the more important to stand up to any form of anti-semitism, xenophobia and right-wing extremism."

Charlotte Knobloch, president of the German Jewish Council, said the attack was "disgusting".

"It's known that some members of the punk scene have a high potential for anti-semitic violence that is fed by anti-Israeli sentiment but attacking children gives the case an especially reprehensible character," she added.

Two of the alleged perpetrators of the attack, aged 27 and 31, were to appear before a magistrates court Thursday.

The Jewish community in Germany is the fastest-growing in the world, according to the World Jewish Congress, mostly because of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Germany's Central Council of Jews says the Jewish community has some 110,000 registered members. Some 560,000 Jews lived in Germany before the Holocaust.

Still, Frankfurt-based Holocaust scholar Gottfried Cosler said recently that German youth have begun use the word "Jew" as a common curse in daily discourse.

A new study by a political education center has also found that German schools are failing in educating students about the Holocaust.

Susan Orban, a historian at Yad Vashem, says that the Holocaust should be taught using methods that have proved successful in the past.

"Today's kids live in different times than that of Anne Frank," Orban said. In order to bridge the generational gap, she submits a different approach, "for example, asking them to imagine that they have to abruptly leave their homes and start a new life elsewhere."

Such a method, according to Orban, would speak more directly to the children's hearts and minds than descriptions of the horrors of the concentration camp.

Sigel expressed similar sentiments, adding that the children of immigrants have shown particular interest to the victims of Nazism given that many of them suffered from racial persecution, religious intolerance, and even genocide in their native lands.