German police in the state of Bavaria on Tuesday raided the homes of more than a dozen people accused of having spread antisemitic material online, including the celebration of the Hamas attacks against Israel.
Bavarian criminal police say the suspects included 15 men and two men, aged 18 to 62, according to dpa, a German news agency. The suspects were questioned and police confiscated evidence from their homes, dpa reported.
The suspects were said to have celebrated the attacks by Palestinian terrorist group Hamas on Israel on Oct. 7, and were accused of spreading hate speech against Jewish people on social media, using symbols of banned terrorist organizations, dpa reported.
One suspect allegedly sent a sticker in a WhatsApp school class chat with the words “Gas the Jews.” Another person, a German-Turkish dual citizen, allegedly posted on his account that “the Jewish sons” deserved nothing more than to be “exterminated,” per dpa.
The police operation focused on Bavaria’s capital city of Munich, where nine of the accused resided. Further searches were carried out in other Bavarian towns and counties.
Germany, like the rest of the world, has seen a sharp rise in antisemitism, following the Israel-Hamas war. In Bavaria alone, there were nearly 150 incidents between Oct. 7 and Nov. 9 – an increase of 285% from the same time period a year earlier, according to the RIAS group, which tracks antisemitism in the country.
Germany, the country that gave rise to the Nazis and Adolf Hitler in the first half of the 20th century, has strict rules against hate speech. Raids in connection with the publication of banned symbols such as swastikas and other Nazi symbols are not uncommon. The denial of the Holocaust, in which the Nazis murdered 6 million European Jews, is also banned.
The Israel-Hamas war erupted after the militant group’s surprise attacks on Israel killed about 1,200 people. Israel’s retaliatory strikes on Gaza have so far killed more than 12,700 people, according to Palestinian health authorities controlled by Hamas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.