When the full horrors of Auschwitz and other concentration camps became known after the defeat of Adolph Hitler and his murderous horde of Nazis, the world vowed never again that such a heinous crime against humanity should be allowed to happen.
Anti-Semitism is Back
Yet in 2020, the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the spectre of anti-Semitism is once again casting its ugly shadow in too many European countries. The sad fact is that even today, being a Jew can get you harassed, or even killed.
One example can be found in France. French Yellow Vest protests that began against a proposed fuel-tax hike began to air anti-Semitic strains such as “dirty Jew.”
French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy took to the radio airwaves in February 2019 to call the Yellow Vest movement out.
“We, unfortunately, cannot say that anti-Semitism is on the margins of the movement,” Lévy told Europe 1 Radio. “It is the heart of the movement … That doesn’t mean that the movement is intrinsically anti-Semitic, but it does mean that it is time for them to come forward strongly to say, ‘Not in our name,’ not like they are doing now: ‘Yes, OK, but…’ There are no buts.”
Orban’s Obsession with George Soros
And in Hungary, Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros has been pilloried by Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his populist nationalist government. Soros was accused of wanting to pour migrants — mostly Muslim — into Hungary, becoming a convenient scapegoat to foment fear and further support for Orban. Anti-Soros activism and portrayals often use anti-Semitic tropes to demonize him such as portraying him as a grand manipulator behind the scenes and a cynical, heartless opportunist who wants to destroy pure, Christian nations.
Never mind that Soros was born in Budapest, survived the Holocaust and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fund school meals, establish a university and contributed to numerous human rights proposals in the country.
The EU Fundamental Rights Agency survey distributed to 16,000 Jews in 12 European countries at the end of 2018 found that 90 percent of respondents felt anti-Semitism was on the rise in their respective countries. Further, 30 percent reported direct harassment.
Outrage Over Belgian Parade Float
In Belgium, the ages-old Jewish stereotype was recently resurrected when a carnival float depicted Orthodox Jews sitting on bags of money.
“It is unthinkable that these images are paraded in European streets,” fumed EU Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas. Nevertheless, the float was paraded.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Anti-Semitism was supposed to be, if not eliminated, at least pushed far from its traditional roots in civilized society. What happened?
Why is Anti-Semitism Returning in Europe?
Many factors combined to spur the resurgence of hatred toward Jews. First, anti-Semitism never really went away. It was held in check once the barbarity of six million Jews being fed into the ovens of German concentration camps in the Second World War became public.
But time has eroded some of the horror and survivors of the camps have died.
As well, the world has cracked and in political terms that means the politics of consensus, of a left and right without strife, is broken. The extremists hitherto relegated to the fringe have managed to slither through into the mainstream.
Violence Against Jews On the Rise
In early 2019, figures revealed the emergence of violent attacks on Jews, with a 74 percent increase in France and, particularly disturbing because of its Nazi past, Germany noted a 60 percent rise.
In Malmo, Swedes rallied in protest of U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel and those in attendance threatened to “shoot the Jews.”
In Stockholm a speaker called Jews “apes and pigs.”
And then there is revisionist history, with some European countries downplaying their involvement with Nazi Germany.
Across the pond in the U.S., Trump has expressed his adoration for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but has at the same time sought white nationalist support, saying the movement includes “some very fine people.” Furthermore, during his 2016 campaign which would ultimately land him in the White House, Trump put up a Twitter post that included an image of opponent Hillary Clinton and featured the Jewish Star of David and a large pile of money. That one tweet summed up the history of the persecution of Jews.
The Myth of Secret Jewish Ties to Money
For centuries, Jews have been negatively associated with money. “Jews, Money, Myth” was presented at the Jewish Museum London (England) about a year ago today. Through exhibits, it makes clear the myth of Jews and money that has persisted for 2,000 years.
In the Middle Ages, Christians were not allowed to lend money and charge interest. Jews were barred from owning land and so they lent money to Christians and inevitably, the myth of the rich Jew was reinforced. Too often, rather than pay what was owed, Christians instead used pogroms to eliminate the debt.
Earlier still, there was Judas, a Jew, accepting 30 pieces of silver to betray Christ according to the Christian Bible. So the story became how the Jews killed Christ, never mind that the other disciples and Christ himself were Jewish.
Even in literature, Shakespeare’s Shylock wanted his pound of flesh and Dickens’ Fagin was an evil Jewish pickpocket.
Appallingly portrayed as controlling, sinister and cruelly wealthy, the Jew remains a target today. The world must always be on guard lest anti-Semitism gain a terrifying foothold once again as it has done in the past.