The German government’s top official against anti-Semitism says he wouldn’t advise Jews to wear skullcaps in parts of the country.

Felix Klein was quoted in an interview with the Funke newspaper group published Saturday as saying that “my opinion has unfortunately changed compared with what it used to be” on the matter. He said: “I cannot recommend to Jews that they wear the skullcap at all times everywhere in Germany.” He didn’t elaborate on what places and times might be risky.

Germany’s main Jewish leader said last year that he would advise people visiting big cities against wearing Jewish skullcaps.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin criticized the commissioner’s comments on Sunday, calling his statements a “surrender to anti-Semitism.”  

“This capitulation shows that Jews are not safe, again, on German soil. We will never give in, we won’t lower our gaze and we won’t react with defeatism in the face of Germany anti-Semitism,” Rivlin said in comments carried by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. “We expect and demand that our allies respond in kind.”

Government statistics released earlier this month showed that the number of anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner incidents rose in Germany last year, despite an overall drop in politically motivated crimes. 

There were more than 1,600 hate crimes targeting Jews in Germany in 2018, an increase of about 10 per cent over the previous year, according to official figures cited by the BBC. 

Extreme right-wing activists committed 90 per per cent of the crimes, according to German Interior Ministry data cited by Haaretz.

Jewish leaders in Germany have also warned Jews visiting large cosmopolitan cities to remove their skullcaps, with Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews, cautioning against wearing a skullcap in areas of Germany with large Muslim populations.  

There are currently about 100,000 Jews living in Germany, according to Haaretz. 

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