BERLIN (JTA) – A bookshop owned by two Israelis in Berlin has closed its doors amid speculation that its shuttering is the result of threats and pressures by far-left activists.
The store, described by its owners as a “conceptual English bookshop” was situated at the Neukölln district.
Co-owner Doron Hamburger wrote in a statement on Facebook this week that the “the real reason for closing [is] first and foremost financial.”
But a columnist for the Zeit newspaper, Armin Langer, who has looked into the matter, wrote that the store “has to close because of threats” in an article published Tuesday.
But he also said the decision was connected to an anti-fascist protest against a planned event at the shop last March that was to focus on the philosophy of fascist Italian Julius Evola, who today is considered an inspiration to the alt-right movement in the United States. The event was cancelled. Hamburger referred to the protest as the last straw that led to closure.
Langer wrote the discussion about Evola was not scheduled to celebrate his views, but rather to deconstruct or mock them.
“But the fact is that a Jewish bookstore in Neukölln is now shuttered because of the power drunkenness, stupidity, and humorlessness of self-righteous descendants of the perpetrators [of the Holocaust],” he wrote, adding the radicals from the TOP B3rlin far-left group were “self-appointed guardians against anti-Semitism with no understanding” of the issue. Langer also wrote the far-left activists made threats repeatedly aimed at the bookstore.
Yet Hamburger emphasized in his comment that the shop was faltering financially anyway: “I’ve spent too much money on building the place, bought a way too expensive stock of books, gave away too much things for free, hadn’t utilized the commercial potential of the concept of
Topics and the shop, but hey, these are my problems, and I take full responsibility for them,” he wrote.
His remarks followed a storm of rumors about anti-Semitism being a prime cause of the closing. Though he says he experienced some anti-Semitism while running the shop over the years, “Please leave the Antisemitic claim out,” he wrote. “It is not the case here with this specific incident.”
Meanwhile, in Vienna, some 1,000 supporters of the Book Shop Singer in the city’s Jewish museum have signed an online petition to keep the current shop open. Museum director Danielle Spera reassured readers of the newspaper the Standard that there will be a bookstore, run by a
different tenant. In addition to books, it will also offer items made in Israel and crafts made by Jewish artists.