A British teenager who is the grandson of Holocaust survivors has described how he was beaten and abused by Muslim classmates at a leading school in Berlin because he was Jewish.
TheSundayTimes Ferdinand, 14, who was born in London to a British mother and a German father, told The Sunday Times he feared for his life after being repeatedly kicked and punched by students of Middle Eastern and Turkish origin. One of them even threatened to shoot him with a mock gun he believed was real.
Ferdinand’s parents have asked that his surname not be used, expressing concerns the family could face repercussions for speaking. Almost three-quarters of the pupils at the Friedenau Gemeinschaftsschule, where the bullying took place, are from Muslim immigrant families.
Ferdinand and his (ignorant) parents — Gemma, an entrepreneur from London, and Wenzel, who works for a human rights organisation — chose the school so he could be educated in a multicultural environment. Until recently the family had hosted a Syrian refugee in their Berlin home.
Yet a week after enrolling last November, he let slip to classmates that he was Jewish — and his troubles began. “First my Turkish friend Emre said he could no longer hang out with me because I was Jewish,” Ferdinand said. “Then other pupils started saying stereotypical things about how Jews only want money and hate Muslims.”
The abuse escalated until he was being beaten daily by a gang of pupils, all of immigrant origin, shouting racial insults. “This boy, Jassin, whose parents are Palestinian, asked me if I’m from Israel,” Ferdinand said. “I’ve never been to Israel. He said Palestine will burn Israel and his friends said Turkey will burn Israel. He kept kicking me.
“One day he came up to me from behind and he punched me in the back. I became dizzy . . . I had a bruise for a week or two. Every time something bad happened, I told myself I could manage it, but it only got worse.” His parents reported the abuse to school authorities, who agreed to act but failed to protect him. They told his parents his tormentors could not be blamed for their actions, which they said were the result of views expressed in their homes.
The school’s social worker told the parents the family of one bully had “suffered” in the Palestinian territories and became aggressive because Ferdinand allegedly “insulted” the Palestinian people. The latter claim was later proven false. Teachers finally asked him not to enter the same classroom as one bully so as not to provoke him.
“The whole ordeal showed us how widespread and deeply normalised these hateful attitudes are,” said Gemma. “Their views about Jews and gay people are considered to be normal by themselves and their families, and the authorities simply accept this.”
Ferdinand’s parents moved their son to the Berlin British School. They took the decision in March after a boy beat and began to strangle him, before producing a mock gun and threatening to kill him. “I was terrified and just went to the ground . . . everyone burst into laughter and called me gay.