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Kontinuitäten des Antisemitismus:
Märtyrerkult und populistische Bewegungen

Film, Discourse
In German

The event has to be postponed from 08.10. to 06.11.

With: Güner Balcı, Veronika Kracher, Catrin Lorch
Hosted by: Marko Martin

Right-wing extremists and Islamists show clear overlaps in their anti-Semitic and patriarchal worldviews. The martyr cult is at the center of their ideologies and iconographies. Even in far less radical movements, there is a strong need for figures who supposedly sacrifice themselves to overthrow “the system.” These martyrs can inspire and direct parties and extra-parliamentary movements by establishing crosscutting populist messages such as “people versus the elite.” In order not to endanger their movements and such identity-creating and unifying central narratives, anti-Semitism and misogyny are denied, relativized as collateral damage, or even affirmed as active resistance against elitist political correctness. Political norms are questioned and undermined at all levels. A central question is whether today’s movements are constituted more by common bogeymen and the associated cults of personality than by an interest in actual political change. What basic conditions and similarities does the martyr have in extremist and populist movements? In what way does the figure of the martyr reverberate in art and culture?

19:00 Film Screening by the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism (JFDA). The JDFA is dedicated to the fight against anti-Semitism. Among other things, it offers support relating to anti-Semitic incidents and carries out independent monitoring. Part of this monitoring is a comprehensive video collection of anti-Semitic, racist, and homophonic incidents. The JFDA will show a selection of its video material in the Grüner Salon.

20:00 Panel and discussion

Veronica Kracher is a freelance journalist (Konkret, Jungle World) and speaker. She publishes on the alt-right movement, anti-Semitism, and feminist social criticism and also researches the incel internet subculture.

Güner Balcı was a TV editor at ZDF until 2010. Today she works as a freelance author and TV journalist. In 2012 she was awarded the Civis Television Prize for her report “Death of a Judge.” Her documentary film Der Jungfrauenwahn won the Bayerischen Filmpreis 2016.

Marko Martin is a writer. His journalistic work focuses on includes Israel, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, as well as on human rights issues in the age of globalization. Recently his books Das Haus in Habana. Ein Rapport and Dissidentisches Denken. Reisen zu den Zeugen eines Zeitalters have been published, focusing on criticism on dictatorship.

The Forum for Democratic Culture and Contemporary Art was founded with the support of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation in order to counter an increasing tendency towards cultural pessimism. This cultural pessimism is not only experiencing a renaissance through nationalist and other regressive movements—it is also increasingly being reproduced and affirmed in non-critical forms in art and culture (forum-dcca.eu).


The fear of loss of culture and identity has taken a central place in social, political, and cultural debates. This results in segmentation into friend-enemy antagonisms and an emotionalization of politics. The idea of a universalist society seems to be a legacy model. An increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric and stereotyping—especially in the use of conspiracy theories—shows how cultivated and long-standing anti-Semitism and its codes are. These “Continuities of Anti-Semitism” are the occasion for the new series of events at the Forum for Democratic Culture and Contemporary Art in the Green Salon, which highlights and reflects on the significance of anti-Semitism in current political debates.

Past Activities

Kontinuitäten des Antisemitismus: Zwischen Abwehr von Schuld und Aneignung von Leid

With: Mirjam Wenzel (director Jewish Museum Frankfurt), Merle Stöwer (author), Enrico Heitzer (historian, Sachsenhausen Memorial)

Memorials, and with them the culture of remembrance, are a testimony to the German guilt surrounding the Shoah, yet in day-to-day life they are increasingly being confronted with historical revisionism, relativization, and the denial of the Shoah. This exposure to remembrance is supposed to ensure that a new, enlightened Germany—based on and committed to the lessons of the Shoah—emerges out of an identitarian Germany, where individual responsibility is neglected in favor of a reversal of perpetrator and victim, and antisemitism is externalized by attributing it exclusively to other groups. In the wake of Höcke’s speech in Dresden on the “Memorial of Shame,” the Buchenwald Memorial in Thuringen has regularly issued bans to AfD representatives.

The urge for a revisionist “reevaluation” of the mass murder of Jews on an industrial scale has also become apparent in certain areas of historical scholarship, not least since the “Historikerstreit” between Ernst Nolte and Jürgen Habermas in 1986. Equating Soviet gulags with German concentration camps denies the historic singularity of the mass murder on an industrial scale that took place during the Shoah.

Such normalizations of German history through the relativization and exploitation of the Shoah can also be found in the fields of art and culture. On the one hand, the Shoah is repeatedly presented as one transgression among many, and as a result is compared to or even set against other crimes against humanity. On the other hand, political art projects exploit the Shoah to stress the importance and urgency of their own work—even at the expense of living Jews if necessary.

Kontinuitäten des Antisemitismus – Zwischen Abwehr von Schuld und Aneignung von Leid (Continuities of Antisemitism—Between Resisting Blame and Appropriating Suffering) explores these relativizing approaches toward the Shoah, which despite—or precisely because of—a unanimous “never again,” are part of the German reappraisal of the past.

Kontinuitäten des Antisemitismus

With: Laura Cazés (Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der Juden in Deutschland e.V.), Mirna Funk (author), Samuel Salzborn (social scientist and researcher on Antisemitism)
Moderator: Gabriela Hermer (rbb Kultur)

The Eurovision Song Contest, the Pop-Kultur festival in Berlin, the Ruhrtriennale, and the German-Israeli film festival Seret—the BDS movement has called for a boycott of all of these events. The Boycott, Divestments, Sanctions (BDS) group aims to isolate the state of Israel politically, economically, and culturally. The transnational campaign has been repeatedly classified as antisemitic, but has also attracted a great deal of support. In May 2019 the BDS movement, its methods, and its line of argument were ruled antisemitic by a large majority of the Bundestag, although there were fierce disputes on the matter within the political parties.

It is particularly because of these high-profile calls for boycotts that the BDS movement is at the centre of debates in the arts and cultural sector, where it has a large number of prominent supporters and is increasingly setting the agenda. Reasonable criticism of this alliance is not generally expressed by those in the art and cultural scene. In the context of cultural events, a ritual reversal of the balance of power has long since established itself, in which the marginalized Israeli artists are not the victims of these boycotts, but the boycotters are instead transfigured into victims of censorship. This ploy—which is also adopted by right-wing extremists—propagates preexisting antisemitic clichés about the “all-powerful” Jews.

Too seldom problematized in and through art, antisemitism is consequently externalized. There are therefore hardly any instances of a deliberate confrontation with (one’s own) antisemitism. This stands in stark contrast to the societal relevance of antisemitism, and not only after the right-wing terrorist assassination attempt in Halle. The event Continuities of AntisemitismBoycott against Israel explores the question of why exactly BDS receives such support from large sections of the arts and cultural sector. The guests will talk about BDS’s methods and arguments, and the extent to which these follow antisemitic continuities.

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