Monday, August 11, 2014

Germany: "There's not much to be done if they just think all Jews are evil"

Forty-nine-year-old Uwe Dziuballa has devoted the last 20 years to breathing fun back into Jewish life in his home town of Chemnitz, in the eastern German state of Saxony.  
At times like this, when emotions over the Middle East conflict are running high, the well-known Jewish entrepreneur finds he has to be particularly thick-skinned. 
"The insults on the streets have got a bit more frequent in recent weeks," says Dziuballa matter-of-factly. "I've been spat at a couple of times too. But nothing bad has happened at the restaurant." 
"I walk around with a kippah on all the time, I've never seen any reason to take it off," he explains.  
Dziuballa himself often gives talks on Jewish life in local schools - and receives a mixed reaction. 
Many older children are "astounded about the diversity of Jewish culture," he says. Sometimes he must face a class of 14-year-olds "many of whom come from far-right backgrounds. There's not much to be done if they just think all Jews are evil."

"We know not everyone likes us being here. Sometimes they show it," he says. 
Dziuballa still gets the anonymous phone calls. They call him "Jew pig" down the phone or to ask him why he doesn't just leave. The abuse is just a small part of life in Chemnitz, he says, shrugging it off. 

Harder to ignore were the attacks. For many years Schalom restaurant was badly vandalized - on average once every couple of months. Outside lamps were repeatedly smashed, the plants ripped out of the soil, insulting graffiti scrawled on the walls. At first Dziuballa was confused. 
"I couldn't understand that someone would put so much energy into actually doing that. I was completely baffled," he says.

More: The Local

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