There is great lament in post-Nazi society. Criticism of anti-Semitism is quickly dismissed as McCarthyism. That's dishonest.

A participant takes part in the last act of a demonstration under the motto

Clear edge: “Together against left-wing, right-wing and Islamist anti-Semitism” Photo: Christoph Soeder/dpa

Nowadays he complains a lot about “McCarthyism” and the narrow “corridors of opinion”. This idea of ​​supposed “bans on opinions” alienates me. If you talk to people affected by anti-Semitism and racism, many report that they are worried about not being taken seriously. If you talk to 40 percent of Germans, they express concern that they will no longer be able to express their opinions freely. But what sanctions should they fear? What can you expect apart from counterarguments?

Hannah Arendt wrote that we must intervene in the world “by speaking and acting” and take responsibility for it. I think it is important to recognize that anti-Semitism rarely appears as a criminal offense in everyday life. We live in a post-Nazi society. It is laminated and coded. Some whisper about “globalists” and others compare Israelis – or Jews in general – to Nazis.

To know if a person is anti-Semitic, you would have to look deep inside their head. But since there is often no psychoanalytic lounger available, I stick with what I can evaluate: the statements. And an equation (expressis verbis, not a comparison) between Israel and National Socialism responds to a need that is becoming increasingly stronger in Germany: the need for closure.

Criticism is far from being a ban

The story is only fixed when the German perpetrators are put into perspective by the fact that the former victim now acts “equally” badly. The equation is inappropriate because it ignores ideology. The Shoah is unprecedented not because of the means, but because of its objective of industrial destruction of an entire population group.

Criticism of such equations is always necessary, but in no case does it amount to a prohibition. The debate on this is necessary so that relativizing positions can be classified. Anyone who looks closer will have the opportunity to see that it is not about banning opinions, but about increasing sensitivity, which sociologist Aladin El-Mafaalani talked about. Racist and anti-Semitic positions are no longer simply accepted.

Could we still imagine today Jonny Buchardt's performance in 1973, when he led his audience behind the joyous cry of “Zicke zacke zigzacke! – Hoi hoi hoi!” to respond to the “Victoria” ad with “Heil”? We have to keep talking, that's why I'm fighting. But I also fight for people to call things by their name.