As 70th anniversary of Holocaust approaches, Jewish groups fret over hate

Czech president expected to unveil roadmap for combating racism.

January 5, 2015 14:01
2 minute read.

Auschwitz-Birkenau. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The very future of European Jewry stands in the balance, European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor said in a statement Monday, announcing a conference on contemporary anti-Semitism to take place during his organization’s commemoration of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp later this month in Prague.

On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz- Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp, was liberated by Soviet troops. The United Nations established International Holocaust Remembrance Day on that date.

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“Commemoration alone is not enough,” Kantor opined.

“To prevent history repeating itself, we need more than speeches about dark chapters of history. We need to deal with the present challenges we face and safeguard our future.”

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Parliament, and other senior EU officials are expected to join parliamentarians from a number of nations to debate strategies to cope with what the Jewish body characterized as “the rise of anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia in Europe.”

The European Jewish Congress, an affiliate of the World Jewish Congress, comprises communities throughout the continent. It hopes its discussions will aid in creating a legal framework to “outlaw effectively these intolerant and dangerous tendencies.”

“The situation in Europe regarding anti-Semitism, racism, and the rise in religious radicalism cannot continue without endangering the mere existence of European Jewish communities and the safety of Europe in general,” argued Kantor, who has previously warned that life in Europe may become “unsustainable.”

On the second day of the commemoration-cum-conference, which is slated to occur on January 26-27, Czech President Milos Zeman is expected to discuss his “road map” for combating extremism, the EJC announced.

Anti-Semitism has reached levels not seen since World War Two, driven by Islamist extremists using hatred of Jews as a way to attack Israel, and by far-right nationalists in Europe, World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder told Reuters in a recent interview.

“After World War Two, into the 50s, 60s and 70s, the type of anti-Semitism we see today, nobody would ever have thought of happening.

But as time has gone on and generations have passed, we see the rise of anti-Semitism,” said Lauder.

The WJC is holding its own commemorations at Auschwitz concurrent with those of its local affiliate.

Lauder said that he hopes that “this commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the freeing of Auschwitz, and the ceremonies that will take place, may remind the world what it is happens when anti-Semitism is allowed to run wild, so to speak.”

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has confirmed that he will attend the commemorations in Prague. Russian President Vladimir Putin was also invited by the Czech government, eliciting vocal protests by the local Jewish community.

In several countries, up to a third of Jewish residents are mulling emigration, according to a 2013 study by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights. Anti-Semitic chants and physical violence against Jews during European protests against Israel’s Gaza offensive this summer brought widespread condemnations by leading politicians there.

Recent developments in Europe, including a court decision to remove Hamas from the EU’s list of terrorist organizations and the failure of the European Parliament to establish a working group on anti-Semitism, have weakened faith among some Jews in the continental association’s ability to combat anti-Semitism.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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