Antisemitism is allegedly alive and well in Leipzig.
In a video posted on Instagram early last week, German musician Gil Ofarim said he tried to check in to the Hotel Westin in Leipzig. Ofarim, who is Jewish, was wearing a necklace with a Star of David pendant.
According to what Ofarim said on video, there were computer problems at the front desk, which made for a long queue. He stood in line, but noticed that one person after another was called to the front desk before he was, even though he had been in front of them.
After nearly an hour, he asked why so many people went before him. A hotel employee, identified as “Mr. W.”, replied, “To straighten the queue.”
And then, from a corner of the check in area, an unknown person shouted: “Pack your star!” Then “Mr. W.” also suggested that Ofarim could check in too, if he put away/hid his Star of David necklace first.
Ofarim then left the hotel and, later, made the following video that described what happened (as summarized above):
The video is spoken in German, but the writing says:
ANTISEMITISM in Germany 2021! .. ... yesterday in Leipzig ... ... why? .. haven't we learned anything from the past? .. I'm speechless! .. it's not the first time, but at some point it's enough ... I would like to expressly thank my colleagues @constantin_entertainment, @gregormeyle, @jeanettebiedermann, @jorgweisselberg, robin, nadine and matthias alberti ... thank you for your help!.. #antisemitism #notamillimeterright
Olaf Hoppe, spokesman for the Leipzig police, said that the alleged statement by the hotel employee was “clearly antisemitic” in his opinion, although he admits the police were not on site when the event happened. The police are forwarding the content of the video to the public prosecutor’s office.
The Westin Leipzig’s Facebook account initially had a post that said it was shocked by what Ofarim said and they will look into the matter, but later on, the site’s FB presence was gone.
Unable to post on the hotel’s site, shocked and angry people instead took to commenting about the event on other Westin Hotels & Resort’s and parent company Marriott’s respective corporate online sites.
Meanwhile, the two hotel employees in question have been put on leave, as per a spokeswoman for the hotel. The hotel is doing its own internal investigation of the accusations, and the police have started their own investigation of the matter.
As per a TV interview some time after the event, Ofarim said that he had not received any sort of apology from the hotel. “My management only received an email that they would like to exchange ideas, talk to each other. But I have neither received an opinion on this case, I have received no apology, nothing at all!”
He said early in the week that he was considering filing a criminal complaint.
Meanwhile, one of the accused hotel employee, “Mr. W,” has filed charges against Ofarim, including libel and threatening behavior due to the threatening messages he’s received over social media. “Mr. W,” presented the incident “clearly differently from the artist’s omissions,” as per local police.
Ofarim rejected the defamation allegation, saying that it was “exactly like how I described it in the video.”
The public prosecutor’s office also received a complaint against the hotel employee from a third party who was not involved in the incident, for incitement of hatred.
On Tuesday night, several hundred protesters gathered in front of the hotel to demonstrate against antisemitism. Hotel employees were also standing near the entrance, holding up a banner in what appeared to be a show of solidarity (Germany’s antisemitism commissioner suggested that the Israeli flags and Muslim star and crescent moon on the banner showed that, “Many people have a lot of catching up to do in terms of knowledge of being Jewish and the state of Israeli concerns.”).
However, in a bizarre twist, upon hearing that the protestors would be in front of the hotel that evening, hotel management hired security guards from the Leipzig-based Pro GSL Security company. As per local reports, the company’s managing directors and some of its employees have been involved in multiple far-right and neo-Nazi activities in Leipzig.
#Westin Hotel in Leipzig beauftragt rechtsextreme Sicherheitsfirma auf der Demo vor dem Hotel. Gesichtet wurden diese auch auf einer Demo beim Hitler Geburtstag. In Ausschreitungen in Connewitz und waren Thema im NSU Prozess. Widerlich #WestinLeipzig pic.twitter.com/zdNBbqz49j
— TIMELINE MAGAZIN (@MagazinTimeline) October 6, 2021
Hotel in Leipzig hires right-wing security company at the demonstration in front of the hotel. These were also seen at a demo on Hitler's birthday. In riots in Connewitz and were a topic in the NSU trial.
The manager of the hotel, Andreas Hachmeister, attempted to distance himself from Pro GSL Security in an interview with a local radio station after the event. Hachmeister claimed that the security company had been hired “at short notice,” adding that this was the first time that Pro GSL had been contracted by the Westin. He also said that Pro GSL would not be hired again.
Although the Westin Leipzig has yet to issue an apology to Ofarim, Marriott International apparently reached out to him, and made the following statement on Friday evening:
We have contacted Mr. Ofarim to express our deep regret for his experience. We were shocked and saddened when we saw the video published by Gil Ofarim about the Westin Leipzig. We take this matter very seriously and support the police investigation into this incident. The operator of the hotel has informed us that the employee in question has been on leave until the investigation is complete.
They followed it up by saying that Marriott International condemns antisemitism and all forms of discrimination.
On Friday, Ofarim’s manager said he planned to take legal actions against the hotel.
Meanwhile, since posting the event on his Instagram, Gil Ofarim has been receiving hate messages and threats.
“In the end, I made myself a target. I am now threatened,” said the singer. He had a scheduled concert on Sunday, “and suddenly the police stood in my cloakroom and asked me for information about where I was going to spend the night tonight. None of that made any sense to me and I was escorted by the really very friendly officers – a bus in front of me, a bus behind me. “
It didn’t make sense until he looked at his cellphone. He hadn’t turned on his phone since the event at the Westin. When he finally did, a week later, he saw that he had received a threatening message that said: “You will be at the forefront of the next cleanup, my friend.”
Scary, scary stuff.
Yesterday, Ofarim made the following statement (translated from German):
... I would like to speak briefly because I still have many questions ... ... today i gave my testimony and filed a criminal complaint against the employee of the westin hotel. in the last few days i have said everything i can say on the subject in numerous interviews ... i can't say or do more at the moment ... ... the public prosecutor's office is investigating, and i hope to relax a little after these turbulent days .. I would like to thank you all for an incredible amount of very personal messages and I am overwhelmed by the solidarity shown to me and this important topic from all over the world ...! ... there should be no place for hate, racism, antisemitism, homophobia or discrimination of any kind in this world ... love is shalom .. Gil ..
Thanks to right-wing extremism, prejudices against those of minority religions and/or skin colors have increased significantly in recently years. Antisemitism in Germany has risen at an alarming rate. Speaking at an award ceremony later that week, German foreign minister Heiko Maas said that the federal government of Germany plans to spend more than 1 billion euros in the fight against right-wing extremism, racism, and antisemitism.
Gil Ofarim is the son of the Israeli musician Abi Ofarim, who performed with his first wife, Esther, during the 1950s and 1960s. The couple gained international popularity for their folk songs and chansons. Gil, also a singer, describes himself as a “secular Jew.” He was born and raised in Germany. He had a hit single when he was 15, produced a handful of singles and albums in the late 1990s and has shared the stages with American rock group Bon Jovi and German pop icon Nena (of 99 Red Balloons fame). More recently, he’s appeared on German TV, as a contestant in the reality show Let’s Dance.
Feature Photo: les / Wikimedia
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary