O P I N I O N
by Roland Binet (Braine-l’Alleud/Belgium)
One would have thought that after the destruction of millions of Jews during the war and the creation of Israel, that antisemitism would have disappeared forever from Europe, the harsh and bloody lessons of the Holocaust having been learned. Yet, now, almost seventy years later, antisemitism is still an important factor to be reckoned with, both in Eastern and Western Europe.
In The East
In some former Soviet republics, antisemitism has reappeared, most of its overt manifestations being sponsored or condoned by local authorities. There are the commemoration events in honor of the Waffen SS volunteers in the two northern Baltic States Estonia (e.g. the Lihula movement) and Latvia (Bauska), and in Lithuania, in honor of the directly culpable Lithuanian Activist Front and Nazi puppet provisional government in Lithuania (reburial of Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis in 2012, neo-Nazi marches in Feruary and March 2013).
The problem goes well beyond the Baltics. To the east, there are shrined in (mostly western) Ukraine to Bandera, and to the east, deep within the EU, to Horthy in Hungary.
In Budapest a street was named after C. Tormay, an antisemitic author. Recently, when the World JEwish Congress gassembled in Budapest, there were hundreds of members of ‘Jobbik’ to protest against against “the Jews.” This openly antisemitic party reached 17 % the last elections. In all former Soviet republics, there have been reports of antisemitic acts: swastikas at Jewish sites in Hungary in 2011, desecration of commemorative Jewish monuments in Ponary and Bialystok in 2011, in a cemetery (Valdemārpils/Latvia in 2011). But, when one looks at the figures of “physical” incidents involving Jewish citizens in Eastern Europe, they are much smaller than the ones in Western Europe as there were only 22 recorded acts in Latvia in 2011 and 10 in Lithuania in 2011. No figures are available for the other countries.
In The West
In Western Europe, there are two main movements of antisemites: first the right-wing adherents who still profess a hatred of the Jews, and secondly segments of the Muslim population, especially the young from crowded impoverished suburbs or neighborhoods, who hate Israel and associate all Jews with Israel and its policies. But, on the whole, antisemitism is to be found in far larger figures in Western han in Eastern Europe. According to recent reports, 20% of Germans and 44 % of Italians still profess prejudiced or hostile attitude toward the Jews. The most brutal recent examples of antisemitism linked to violent acts or killings have taken place in France. On January 21, 2006, some youths kidnapped, held and tortured a young Jew who later died from his injuries. On March 19, 2012, also in France, a Mulim turned extremist killed a Jewish teacher, three children and injured another one, on the grounds of the “Otzar Hatorah” school in Toulouse. In France, there were 389 antisemitic incidents and threats in 2011, and 1,262 indictments related to racist, antisemitic and discriminatory offenses in 2010. In Austria there were 522 cases brought to the courts in 2010 related to the ‘Prohibition Status’ and 73 indictments. In Germany, in 2011 there were 1,188 politically motivated crimes of an antisemitic nature committed by right-wingers. In the United Kingdom, 488 hate crimes were recorded in 2010. In Belgium there were 82 complaints in 2011, 58 recorded incidents in 2011 in Italy, 161 crimes reported in 2010 in Sweden and 286 recorded incidents in 2010 in the Netherlands.
One can see that antisemitism is still alive in most European countries. They are either sponsored by the local authorities or stem from rabidly antisemitic segments of populations that have no memory of the Holocaust or do not show respect to the victims of Nazism and their descendants. Unfortunately, there are few if any governmental or state-sponsored solutions in view to fight against this revival of an old East European plague that has now spread to the whole of Europe.