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"The lessons of the Shoah remain relevant today and for future generations. Education against racial hatred and intolerance and for mutual respect is crucial to avoid a repeat of this break in civilization. Today's youth are tomorrow's leaders and opinion makers. It is therefore vital that they understand fully what the Shoah means and how that experience can help shape a more tolerant society. One in which respect for diversity and protection of minorities is an integral part of our democracies." [Beate Winkler, EU's Fundamental Rights Agency Interim Director].
On Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorated Monday, the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) organized a video conference with Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust authority, to emphasize the role of education in combating anti-Semitism and racial hatred.
The FRA, together with Yad Vashem, brought together a group of Austrian pupils to speak, via video conference, with holocaust survivors in Israel. The Holocaust survivors gave testimony about their lives during the Nazi terror: Without past you do not have a future. The pupils also learned about current educational initiatives to combat anti-Semitism and racism.
Beate Winkler, the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency Interim Director, noted that schools can teach against the evils of anti-Semitism to ensure that never again can it gain a foothold. "There are a variety of educational initiatives and tools available which provide valuable support to teachers and educationalists." Mr. Winkler added, "These require wider distribution and use across the EU."
In Europe, anti-Semitism is a very old and deeply rooted cultural trait that has found a specific political expression since the 19th century initially in the context of the development of racist ideology and later in the context of national socialist ideology. However, there is also some research evidence that European anti-Semitic stereotypes have in recent decades gradually been adopted by sections of Muslim communities around Europe.
In accordance to a summary paper produced by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) in December 2006* (the center was established by Council Regulation 1035/97 (EC) in 1997 and is an agency of the EU), major aspects of post-1945 anti-Semitism are the emergence of so-called secondary anti-Semitism and the transformation of anti-Semitic expressions through the existence of Israel. Since open anti-Semitism, in the sense of the often self-declared anti-Semitism from before the Second World War, after 1945 was censored, anti-Semitic statements had to be rephrased so as to avoid being labeled as such. The result of this transformation is that post- 1945 anti-Semitism can be characterized as an "anti-Semitism without anti-Semites."
However, the EUMC paper states that anti-Semitism since 1945 is not just characterized by the absence of self-labeled anti-Semites, but also by "secondary anti-Semitism," which, broadly defined, is any form of anti-Semitism that is itself a reflection of the establishment of the taboo of expressing anti-Semitism. The notion is commonly used primarily to describe anti-Semitism in Austria and Germany, where secondary anti-Semitism is usually deceitfully considered as a reaction to the debates on national identity and National Socialism. Drawing on older stereotypes about Jewish power and influence in the media, a typical false claim of secondary anti-Semitism is, for example, that Jews are manipulating Germans or Austrians, exploiting feelings of guilt. The term has proliferated in "scholarly analyses," particularly to explain the debates on National Socialism and anti-Semitism in Germany in the 1980s. Characteristic of all forms of "secondary anti-Semitism" is that they relate directly to the Holocaust and that they maliciously allow speakers to so-called "avoid expressing open anti-Semitism."
The latest (2005) transnational survey by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on anti-Semitic attitudes covering 11 EU Member States and Switzerland was carried out by "Taylor Nelson Sofres," which conducted between 6,000 telephone interviews among the general public between April 11 and May 6, 2005. The ADL found that "a plurality of Europeans believe Jews are not loyal to their country and that they have too much power in business and finance," which means that "despite good faith efforts by government and the international community to counteract the anti-Semitism plaguing Europe, millions of Europeans continue to believe the classical anti-Semitic canards that have dogged Jews through the centuries."
The 2005 survey indicates that over that year there had been some decline in the acceptance of certain traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes in the European countries tested. However, the opposite is true among respondents in Denmark, where trends actually point to an increase in the percentage of people agreeing with each of the traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes tested. Additionally, Spanish respondents were more likely to question the loyalty of their Jewish citizens than in 2004. Since 2004, there has been an increase in the percentage of Italian respondents who believe that Jews have too much power in the business world. The data indicates that those surveyed in Italy and Spain are now more likely to think that Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.
Recently, the UK has been reported to have removed the Holocaust from its school curriculum because it "offended" the Muslim population, which claims it never occurred. This is a frightening example of the fear that is gripping Europe and how easily some countries are giving into it.
The above strengthens the decree passed on to all of us to "Rememberâ€¦that which Amalek did to us; remember everything do not forget for the rest of your lives and pass on as a holy testament to the coming generations that the Germans killed, slaughtered and murdered us..." [from the Testament of Elkhanan Elkes, leader of the Kovno Jewish Council].
On the evolution of anti-Semitism in the EU, check the EUMC update report "Anti-Semitism Summary overview of the situation in the European Union" (December 2006) at:
The author is the head of the International Department at the Joseph Shem-Tov Law Firm and the grandson of Devora Shapiro-Syrquin who was the lone survivor of a family that perished in the Shoah.
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