70 Years After Holocaust: Is Europe Safe Enough?

European Jewish Congress president Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor during a panel of the Let My People Live! International Conference in Prague warned that Nazism is coming back in Europe. The Let My People Live Forum event, organized by EJC is taking place from the 26-27 of January in the Czech Republic to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

“Radical Islam is the force to blame. The features of this phenomenon are well known: arrogance, unshakable belief in your own righteousness, contempt for other faiths, creeds and ideals”, said Kantor. “Nazism is coming back in Europe, being successful not only in the streets, but also in parliaments. Can one think that their behavior would differ from that of their brown predecessors?” he asked. Kantor said similar tendencies that were seen in the past had started to repeat. Kantor called on European government to guarantee more security for the Jews and take legislative steps in this respect. 

One of the guest of the forum, award-winning actor and storyteller Sir Ben Kingsley, insisted that one of the greatest tragedies was the fact that in his view “Europe did not grieve in 1945. It moved on. It found another enemy, it found other issues. “The first step in healing is for us to collectively grieve – we have missed that crucial step.” As a result, he warned, “we are in terrible danger, because of missing the step of grieving, of sliding back.”

The recent terrorist attacks in the heart of Paris are just the latest example of the rise of hate, racism and anti-Semitism, which has engulfed parts of the European continent in recent years. The deadly attacks on the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher Kosher supermarket have made finding practical solutions to rising hate and religious extremism all the more pressing.

Numerous polls and studies have shown that 70 years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camps, anti-Jewish sentiment is rising again in Europe. For example, in a survey conducted by the European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) in 2013 among European Jews, 66% of respondents said they considered expressions of anti-Semitism to be a problem in their daily lives. A third of those surveyed even said they were seriously considering leaving Europe out of fear for their safety. Israel registered a 32% increase in immigration of Jews to that country in 2014. From France alone, approximately 7,000 Jews left for Israel, which was more than double the number who did during the previous year.

The situation has become so serious in the UK that more than half of Jews in Britain are worried that they will not have a future there.

Moreover, according to a new study, the British have a negative perception of Jews and do not view them as loyal to the country in which they live. Perhaps the most serious recent expression of anti-Semitism was the murder of four Jews during an attack on a Paris Kosher shop. However, this event is hardly unprecedented or unique, as Jews have been murdered on the streets of Europe in recent years in terrorist attacks such as the murder of three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 and the murder of four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels last year.

However, Jews are not the only target. There has been a distinct rise in manifestations of hate whether they are from radical Islamists or from the far-Right and neo-Nazis, all of whom are gaining in power and popularity.

During the forum participants focused on three main topics of the international meeting: the use and manipulation of various form of traditional and social media to promote extremist political ideologies; the efficiency of legislative measures to combat anti-Semitism, racism and hate speech; the responsibility of political leaders to combat the increasing representation of extremists political parties and movements.

Among the 500 foreign visitors who have descended on Prague for the Holocaust Remembrance events are 30 heads of parliament who are expected to meet in a closed session today to produce a joint declaration on the issue of anti-Semitism. Afterwards Czech President Miloš Zeman, visiting Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev and the head of the European Parliament Martin Schultz will make public statements. The speeches will end with a minute of silence for the 1.1 million people who perished in the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1940 and 1945.

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