Authorities in Munich banned the use of yellow stars at protests against coronavirus safety measures on 31 May. The decision came after reports emerged that some demonstrators were seen wearing the Star of David, which Jews were forced to wear in Nazi-occupied territories during the Holocaust, as well as prison uniforms.
In addition, some protesters held signs and placards, which read "masks will set you free" or "vaccination will set you free", a reference to the sign "Arbeit macht frei" (Work will set you free) that hung above some concentration camps, where millions of people, including Jews perished.
In #Köln bei der sog. #Grundgesetz Demo war der #AFD Nahestehende Rechtsextreme Youtuber Oliver #Flesch anwesend und mit ihm ein Mann.— Michael Mayr (@Nightmare_Keks) May 23, 2020
Dieser hatte ein Plakat bei sich mit Aufschrift "Maske macht Frei" eine Anspielung auf "Arbeit macht Frei". 🙄🤦♀️#k2305 #Antisemitismus pic.twitter.com/K5DEckw99I
The news drew strong condemnation from German politicians and Jewish organisations, which described the acts as Holocaust trivialisation, downplaying the suffering of millions of Jews. Felix Klein, Germany’s commissioner for the fight against anti-Semitism described the wearing of the Star of David as a "calculated breaking of a taboo".
The Times of Israel cited the Bavarian Broadcasting Service as saying that Munich officials had introduced a fine for wearing the Nazi-era stars without elaborating on the amount.
German politicians called on other cities and states to ban the use of the offensive symbols. Rüdiger Erben, a member of the Social Democratic Party in the state parliament of Saxony Anhalt, said people wearing such stars act "as an anti-Semite of the most repulsive kind" adding that they have nothing to do with freedom of speech.
Protests against safety measures introduced to curb the spread of the disease continue in Germany, despite authorities having eased restrictions with shops, schools, and restaurants being reopened. Demonstrations were held in major cities over the weekend with more than 200 arrested in the capital Berlin.
Protesters believe that the lockdown and other safety rules infringe upon their freedom. Local media say that the demonstrations have attracted conspiracy theorists and extremists from all sides of the political spectrum. The “vaccine will set you free” signs are part of the conspiracy theory that authorities will hold mandatory vaccination, despite the German government repeatedly saying that if a coronavirus vaccine is developed, citizens will choose for themselves whether they want to be immunised.