Germany's Ministry For Women Discriminates Against Women

The current and past Minister have both been women (not to mention Chancellor Angela Merkel). But that's apparently not enough...

Schroeder was Minister at the time of the lawsuit
Schroeder was Minister at the time of the lawsuit
Freia Peters

BERLIN – Establishing a government ministry to fight discrimination was a good first step. Naming a woman as cabinet minister to run it also surely helped.

But now, it turns out, the Berlin Administrative Court has ruled that the German Federal Ministry for Families, Seniors, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) was discriminating against women when it came to filling (other) leading jobs at the ministry.

The ministry’s own equal opportunities officer, Kristin Rose-Möhring, sued the ministry and won. In 2011 and 2012, three leading positions in the ministry were given to men. "The fact that the equal opportunities officer was not involved in the decision-making process in the case of three jobs filled in 2011 and 2012 at the BMFSFJ was against the law," says the court decision.

It’s a devastating verdict for Family Minister Manuela Schwesig, even though the three cases date back to her predecessor Kristina Schröder. However, to Rose-Möhring’s mind the new minister has not changed the way candidates are chosen.

Schwesig has been Minister since 2008 — Photo: Jean11

Rose-Möhring says that she had no say in the selection of the three men and that the final decisions had been taken to hire them by the time she found out.

"The plaintiff was either not told or only told shortly before the new candidate began work," the court decision continues. "Her attempts to raise objection and find out-of-court solutions were unsuccessful."

In all three cases, the court ruled, the equal opportunities officer’s right to be involved in the selection process had been disregarded. The officer had to be a part of decisions involving personnel and could to a significant degree determine the course of action.

At the ministry, Secretary of State Ralf Kleindiek told Die Welt: "We welcome the verdict. It strengthens the rights of the equal opportunities officer and helps clarify the situation."

The practice has already borne fruit: of three secretaries of state two are women. In May decisions will be taken about section heads out of five, three will be women. Over 50% of division heads are women.

The total number of women in leading jobs at the BMFSFJ is 51.6% higher than in any other federal ministry.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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