Refugees Should Visit Concentration Camps and Take Anti-Semitism Courses, Says German Jewish Leader

Josef Schuster, President of the Jewish Council
Josef Schuster, President of the German Jewish Council, during the ordination ceremony of Orthodox rabbis in Frankfurt, Germany, on September 26, 2016. He has suggested that refugees and asylum seekers should have to visit concentration camps to learn about anti-Semitism. Hannelore Foerster / Stringer

Refugees and asylum seekers should have to visit concentration camps as part of their integration process, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany has suggested.

Josef Schuster, the most senior Jewish official in Germany, told German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag that many asylum seekers come from countries "where hatred of Jews and Israel are a raison d'état."

"It is understandable that people don't just forget caricatures that have been impressed upon them for decades when they get to Germany," he told the paper on Sunday.

He suggested that it might "make sense for asylum seekers to visit a concentration camp or Jewish museum" and that "anti-Semitic attitudes" should become "a central theme of integration courses." He acknowledged that short integration courses could not be expected to work miracles.

"Whoever thinks that integration can be achieved in two years, is fooling themselves," he said. "When I look back at the integration of Jewish migrants from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, then I can only say that complete integration takes one, if not two generations."

Germany has offered asylum to more people than any other European country since the refugee crisis broke out in 2015, with more than 669,482 refugees living in Germany by the end of 2016, a spokesperson for the UNHCR told Newsweek.

Angela Merkel's government welcomed refugees with open arms at the start of the crisis, but hardened its position on immigration after migrants were linked with several high profile crimes and it toughened its stance on asylum seekers from certain countries, such as Afghanistan.

There has been a sharp drop in the number of refugees gaining asylum in Germany since the start of 2017, signaling a change in policy. Germany approved just 48 percent of asylum applications from Afghan migrants in the first two months of 2017, down from almost 78 percent in 2015, the German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse reported on Saturday.

Schuster's comments came three days after Pope Francis sparked outrage by comparing refugee centers in Europe to Nazi concentration camps. The American Jewish Society said the pope should rethink his "regrettable" comments.