BERLIN (AP) — German authorities on Tuesday raided the homes of 17 people in the state of Bavaria accused of spreading antisemitic hate speech and threats targeting Jews online.
According to the Bavarian criminal police, the suspects were 15 men and two women aged between 18 and 62, German news agency dpa reported. Police questioned the suspects and confiscated evidence from their homes, including cellphones and laptops, the agency said.
The suspects were said to have celebrated the attacks by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel on Oct. 7, and were accused of spreading hate speech against Jewish people on social media, using symbols of banned terrorist organizations, dpa reported.
The police operation focused on Bavaria's capital city of Munich, where nine of the accused resided. Further searches were carried out in the Bavarian towns of Fuessen and Kaufbeuren as well as in the counties of Passau, Fuerstenfeldbruck, Berchtesgadener Land, Coburg, Aschaffenburg and Hassberge.
One suspect allegedly sent a sticker in a WhatsApp school class chat with the words “Gas the Jews.” Another person, a German-Turkish dual citizen, allegedly posted on his account that “the Jewish sons” deserved nothing more than to be “exterminated,” dpa reported.
“Unfortunately, antisemitism has an impact on the daily life of many Jews in Germany," Michael Weinzierl, the Bavarian police commissioner against hate crime, told dpa. "The terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel also has an impact on their lives in Germany.”
Weinzierl said it was important to show Jews and Israelis living in the state “that we stand behind them here in Bavaria, that we protect them here and also protect them from hostility.”
Last month, Germany’s chancellor and president strongly denounced a rise in antisemitism in the country following the Israel-Hamas war.
In the state of Bavaria, there were 148 antisemitic incidents from Oct. 7 to Nov. 9, an increase of 285% from the same time period a year earlier, according to the RIAS group, which tracks antisemitism in the country.
“Since Oct. 7, Jews in Germany have been experiencing psychological terror," said Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council for Jews in Germany, the country's leading Jewish group.
“Antisemitic turmoil first manifests itself in language, but words become deeds,” Schuster said. "Society as a whole must now take a clear stance. For too long, we have allowed a ntisemitism to penetrate into the heart of our society via extreme right-wing circles, radical left-wing demonization of Israel or Islamist fanatics.”
Germany has strict rules against hate speech. Raids in connection with the publication of banned symbols such as swastikas and other Nazi symbols are not uncommon. The denial of the Holocaust, in which the Nazis and their henchmen murdered 6 million European Jews, is also banned.
The Israel-Hamas war erupted after the militant group’s surprise attacks on Israel killed about 1,200 people. Israel’s retaliatory strikes on Gaza have so far killed more than 12,700 people, according to Palestinian health authorities.