German airline apologizes for excluding Jewish passengers over alleged mask dispute

BERLIN – The German airline Lufthansa has apologized for not leaving any members of a large group of Orthodox Jews after some of them refused to wear masks.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, Lufthansa said it “regrets the decision to exclude injured passengers from the flight, for which Lufthansa sincerely apologizes.”

The airline said it was reviewing what happened during the May 4 incident involving passengers from New York who were in transit for a flight from Frankfurt to Budapest.

Some of the passengers allegedly refused to follow the rules requiring face masks, as a result of which Lufthansa employees allegedly blocked all passengers who were visibly identified as the flight connecting them to the Jewish entrance, writes the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

According to local German media, the crew excluded passengers who were identified as Jews because they wore skull hats or had side locks.

“We regret that the large group was not allowed to sit, but was not restricted to inappropriate guests,” the airline said.

“We have zero tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and any kind of discrimination,” he added.

The anti-Semitism commissioner of the state of Hesse, where Frankfurt is located, has strongly condemned what happened.

Uwe Becker said that apparently a whole group of people, solely because of their recognizable beliefs, were responsible for something that obviously only affected individual travelers.

“This is non-discrimination, not least because the company’s top management must also take personal responsibility for apologizing for this incident and taking a clear, unequivocal stand,” Becker told dpa.

Becker said he would be happy to talk to Lufthansa about the issue.

“Such a thing should not be repeated,” he added.

Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, head of the local Chabad community in Berlin, says German companies need to be sensitive to possible anti-Semitism, given the country’s Nazi past.

Teichtal welcomed the fact that Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spor called him to apologize for the incident.

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