In May 2022, following an incident in which a large group of Orthodox Jews were insulted and denied access to a Lufthansa flight to Budapest, Peggy Shapiro, StandWithUs Director of Special Projects and Carly Gammill, Director of the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism sent a letter, individually, to eight Lufthansa executives encouraging the company to use the incident as an educational opportunity. As part of this opportune moment, Shapiro and Gammill urged Lufthansa to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism as a tool for evaluating future potential antisemitic conduct.
In a May 20th response to that letter, Jan Korner, Lufthansa's Head of Government Affairs in Germany, expressed a sincere apology to the Jewish community, noted that the airline was conducting a thorough investigation of the incident, indicated Lufthansa's intention to continue its longstanding relationship as a partner for the Jewish community, and specifically thanked Shapiro and Gammill for their reference to the IHRA Definition.
On August 2nd, following the conclusion of that investigation, Lufthansa announced that, in addition to the creation of a new senior management position to help prevent antisemitism, and improvement of staff training concerning antisemitism, it will in fact adopt the IHRA Definition as the international standard for the entire Lufthansa group.
To effectively identify and combat anti-Jewish bigotry, a consistent definition of antisemitism is imperative. StandWithUs is thankful to Lufthansa for joining the hundreds of other institutions that have already taken the crucial step of adopting the IHRA Definition.
May 11, 2022
Christina Semmel, Lufthansa Group, Corporate Communications, The Americas
Andreas Bartels, Communications Director
Harry Hochmeister, Member of the Executive Board and Chief Commercial Officer Passenger Airlines
Dr. Michael Niggemann, Member of the Executive Board & Chief Officer Corporate
Carsten Spohr, Chief Executive Officer
Christina Foerster, Member of the Executive Board and Chief Customer Officer
Dr. Detlef Kayser, Member of the Executive Board and Chief Operations Officer
Remco Steenbergen, Member of the Executive Board Chief Financial Officer
Permit me to introduce myself. I am a child of two Holocaust survivors who lost their homes, their childhoods, and 182 family members during the Nazi reign. I was born in the displaced persons camp in Landsberg, Germany, in the shadows of that darkest time in history. Today, I am the National Director of Special Projects for StandWithUs, an educational organization whose mission is to stand up for Israel and stand against antisemitism. Together with my colleague Carly Gammill, Director of the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism, I am writing to you about the shameful incident on the flight from Frankfurt to Budapest, Hungary, on May 4, 2022. Undoubtedly, you are inundated with communications about the story circling the globe. Our purpose in writing is not to condemn, but to offer you an opportunity to demonstrate Lufthansa’s true commitment to a zero-tolerance policy against antisemitism and to prevent future incidents.
Living up to a goal of zero tolerance for antisemitism is a formidable challenge since antisemitism, like a virus, manifests itself in ever-changing forms. Antisemitism “mutates” and can occur in new ways that are hard for leaders and institutions to identify. Anti-Jewish bigotry was once focused on the religion of Jews, vilifying them for not accepting Christianity or other aspects of their religious beliefs and traditions that made them different. Then, it focused on the notion of race, demonizing Jews for being inferior to “pure-white” Aryans. Depending on the source of the hatred, it has focused on economic issues, accusing Jews of being capitalists or communists. We can’t fight the antisemitic virus of 2022 if we only recognize the version from 1942. Because antisemitism comes in many forms, many people may have no idea when they are witnessing— or even engaging in—antisemitism.
We challenge you to ask your employees and your executives to define antisemitism. The likelihood is that the definitions will vary greatly, and there will be people, especially younger people, who have no idea what the word means. You cannot defeat this scourge of antisemitism if you cannot identify it.
Lack of understanding leads to unintentional antisemitic activity. When individuals fail to understand antisemitism, they may inadvertently engage in antisemitic rhetoric or conduct. There are numerous examples of people being publicly exposed for using antisemitic slurs or invoking antisemitic stereotypes only to respond that they did not understand the meaning of a particular antisemitic term or phrase and its harmful impact on Jewish people.
Today, you have an opportunity to educate Lufthansa staff about what antisemitism is and demonstrate moral leadership within the broader culture by adopting the International Holocaust Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. The IHRA Definition has been adopted and/or endorsed by 35 nations, including Germany, and international/governmental bodies such as the UN, the EU, the U.S. State Department, and over 850 organizations. By adopting the IHRA definition and sharing it with all employees, Lufthansa will provide the guidelines which enable individuals to self-monitor, curtailing instances of unintentional antisemitism.
We know too well that a virus, undiagnosed and unchecked, can harm—and even destroy—the body it inhabits.
We urge you to take a leadership role and protect Lufthansa staff and customers from experiencing or engaging in antisemitism. Click here to learn more and adopt the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism.
Please feel free to contact us for more information. StandWithUs looks forward to announcing Lufthansa's meaningful stand against antisemitism to our millions of social media followers.
National Director of Special Projectsand
Director of the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism
Click below to see a PDF copy of the letter: