Swastika and “Heil Hitler” on the synagogue: “Corona frustration in some people turns into anti-Semitism”

PublishedFebruary 19, 2021, 7:21 pm

The synagogue in Biel was desecrated with swastikas and “Heil Hitler” slogans. Relevant associations and foundations are worried about increasing anti-Semitism in the corona pandemic.

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Anti-Semitic symbols and slogans were discovered on the door of the Biel synagogue on Thursday.


Strangers have a swastika ...

Strangers have a swastika …


... as well as “Sieg Heil” and “Juden Pack” carved into the wood.

… as well as “Sieg Heil” and “Juden Pack” carved into the wood.


  • Anti-Semitic symbols and slogans were carved into the door of the Biel synagogue.

  • It is already the fourth anti-Semitic act in this country this year – and the third in a synagogue.

  • According to the Swiss Association of Israelites (SIG) and the Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism (GRA), the Corona crisis is fueling anti-Semitism.

Jews in Switzerland are stunned: strangers have scratched a swastika and the slogans “Sieg Heil” and “Juden Pack” on the door of the synagogue in Biel. The Swiss Association of Israelites (SIG) is shocked: You have to think back a long way to find such a serious incident in this country in which a Jewish house of worship was desecrated with explicitly anti-Semitic sayings and statements.

At the beginning of this year, however, there were already several anti-Semitic incidents. On January 30th, a stuffed pig and a packet of bacon were deposited in front of the synagogue in Lausanne. On February 3, a woman wanted to smear the doors of the Synagogue of the Liberal Jewish Congregation of Geneva with pork slices before throwing them in the direction of the building. And on January 17th, masked people hijacked an online cultural event of the Jewish Liberal Community Or Chadasch in Zurich and disturbed it with swastikas and images of Hitler.

“The accumulation of serious incidents is worrying”

“This accumulation of serious incidents is actually extraordinary and worrying,” says SIG General Secretary Jonathan Kreutner. Currently there is no evidence of a connection between the cases, so one can only speculate. One observes, however, that something is brewing, especially on the Internet, especially with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

The current situation makes its contribution. “We have to state that the corona pandemic does indeed promote anti-Semitic attitudes,” says Kreutner. The conspiracy theories on Corona, which repeatedly contain anti-Semitic elements, are characteristic. “It is conceivable that the coronavirus frustration for some will discharge through anti-Semitic acts.”

Dina Wyler, managing director of the Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism (GRA), agrees with Kreutner. Worldwide it can be observed that “ancient anti-Semitic narratives are given a new impetus by the pandemic”. For example, that the Jews were responsible for the pandemic or would specifically benefit from it. “Such conspiracy theories are mainly spread in messenger services like Telegram,” says Wyler. Such tendencies can also be observed in Switzerland.

A guilty party against the uncertainty

That the Jews are used as scapegoats for a crisis is nothing new. Already during the plague it was said that the Jews had poisoned the wells. “In a complex world like today, people are looking for easy-to-understand explanations for tragedies of global proportions – and thus also for someone to blame to deal with the uncertainty,” explains Wyler, who studied international relations and religion. Unfortunately, minorities such as the Jews are often stigmatized.

The past has shown that words can be followed by deeds, warns Wyler. That is why society as a whole is challenged. “If anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are reproduced in your own environment, you should vehemently contradict”. Since people often lack the knowledge or the courage to do so, the GRA launched the Stopantisemitismus.ch website last autumn. It should help to recognize anti-Semitic statements in everyday life and to react correctly to them.

Meanwhile, SIG General Secretary Kreutner is calling for more extensive solutions across Switzerland to better protect the Jewish communities. “We just need more support here, financially and more police protection.” The incident in Biel should be understood as a wake-up call. There are cantons that are now actively involved in the structural safety precautions. The canton of Bern, criticized Kreutner, was “unfortunately still reluctant” here.

In a study published last July, the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) examined how Jews in this country experience and perceive anti-Semitism. Around half of the respondents stated that they had been harassed real or online in the last five years anti-Semitic. Almost three quarters assume that anti-Semitism is an increasing problem. According to the respondents, the greatest danger comes from anti-Semitism on the Internet. In contrast, physical injuries or assault were rarely reported. What the ZHAW study also shows: The situation of Jewish people in Switzerland is less dramatic in a European comparison.

Are you or is someone you know affected by anti-Semitism?

GAME, Stiftung against racism and anti-Semitism

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