One of the most seminal slogans of the 20th century was the historic refrain:
“Never Again!” This cry rose from the ashes of the Holocaust and was meant to
ensure that there would be no repeat of the greatest tragedy in modern European
This refrain remains hollow if it remains a theoretical verbiage
utilized during speeches and ceremonies but lacking any real intent or
In recent years, a seemingly long-dormant ideology returned to a
semblance of power for the first time since the unconditional surrender of the
German forces on May 8, 1945. For the first time in well over six decades,
political parties which require members to be of “Aryan origin,” have full-armed
and open-fisted salutes, logos distinctly resembling swastikas and calling for a
census of Jews are back in Europe once again.
These elements are no
longer consigned to the beer halls, isolated farm retreats and on the margins of
European political discourse, but are moving closer and closer to the
In fact, this new-found political confidence is reflected in
the streets, where more and more Jews are being physically and verbally attacked
in the open.
The Golden Dawn party in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary and
Svoboda in Ukraine are just three examples of European political parties that
have moved well beyond the historic far-right and still unacceptable discourse of
those like Le Pen’s National Front and the Freedom Party in Austria.
appear to be entering a new phase in European political history that has
extremely worrying parallels with the past. Of course, many will argue that none
of these parties have great power currently, but then the question needs to be
asked: At what point will their power be too much? THIS IS something all
decision-makers, opinion-shapers and law enforcement agencies in Europe need to
Not in a theoretical sense, but in a very real, practical
The Jewish People and other minorities who are in the direct line
of fire from this maleficent hate have no doubts that this threshold has already
passed, and that it is having a very real effect on the streets. A recent survey
found that 63 percent of Hungarians are willing to affirm their anti-Semitism,
with no shame.
On January 27, the international community observed
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day to remember the victims of the
Holocaust and learn its lessons. A few days prior, I stood in the seat of
European governance, the European Parliament. This parliament was the joint
recipient of the recent Nobel Prize for Peace, along with other European Union
Along with many others, I lauded this prize for the
European Union’s commitment to peace and its success at unifying a continent
that has known so much bloodshed.
However, as Europeans, we cannot afford
to rest on our laurels and claim that a lack of war or conflict means that the
European Union has succeeded in creating a harmonious and peaceful continent
that will be able to prevent future catastrophes.
AS THE number of
Holocaust survivors begins to dwindle, many are witnessing something that would
have been unbelievable to them only a few short years ago. These new groups,
rapidly increasing in popularity, are emulating and co-opting the policies and
ideology of those who murdered their families and brought to them untold
There are too many Europeans, especially among Europe’s
leadership, who remember the death and destruction which followed the Nazi
ideology and we, as Europeans, should do everything we can to rid ourselves of
this force which once again is trying to cast its dark shadow on our
We call on all figures in Europe, whether media, cultural or
academic, to use their platforms to assist in the elimination of this disease.
European politicians must together adopt stricter legislation that would
proscribe such groups, which promote hate, discrimination and racism, from
participation in European political institutions.
There must also be the
demand for tougher enforcement and punishment and the strengthening of education
Around eight decades ago, the National-Socialist
movement caught many by surprise, and most did not fully comprehend or believe
that it would be willing or able to fulfill its genocidal and destructive
Living with this dark history in our relatively recent
lifetime, we have no similar excuse.
We know what this ideology seeks, we
know what this racist movement aspires to and we cannot let it get a foothold on
our continent once again.
Just as eight decades ago the Nazi ideology was
able to take advantage of a financial recession, so we face similar economic
challenges once again. This is when we must be at our most vigilant. We must
beat back the advances of this ideology, not for the victims of the past, but
for the possible future victims. If we do not, then “Never Again!” will remain a
hollow term utilized during speeches and ceremonies.
As the prominent
Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer said: “Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt
not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”
writer is president of the European Jewish Congress and co-chairman of the
European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation.