Over the course of a decade, the letters poured into the Central Council of Jews in Germany like a river.
“Is it possible that the excessive violence in Israel, including the murder of innocent children, corresponds to the long tradition of your people?” asked one.
“For the last two thousand years, you have been robbing land and killing people!” exclaimed another.
“You Israelis are a crowd showing contempt for humanity,” charged another, though its writer was addressing fellow Germans. “You drop cluster bombs above inhabited territory during the last days of war, and accuse people criticizing such actions of anti-Semitism. That is typical of you Jews!”
Many would view the stream of vitriol, sent to German Jewry’s central communal organization between 2002 and 2012, as little more than raw sewage. But Monika Schwarz-Friesel, a professor of linguistics at the Technical University of Berlin, saw it as raw data. Together with Jehuda Reinharz, the American historian and former president of Brandeis University, Schwarz-Friesel has recently published a study of these letters. And their findings reaffirm one of the enduring, if still surprising truths about anti-Semitism in Germany and elsewhere.
More than 60% of the hate mail came from well-educated Germans, including university professors, according to their study, “The Language of Hostility Towards Jews in the 21st Century,” released earlier this year. Only 3% came from right-wing extremists.