European legislators examine ways to combat antisemitism

“Today, the situation in Europe is worrying."

Members of the European Union delegation under the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp (photo credit: YONI RYKNER)
Members of the European Union delegation under the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp
(photo credit: YONI RYKNER)
KRAKOW, Poland – A delegation of more than 100 members from the European Union, including members of the European Parliament, visited Auschwitz-Birkenau on Tuesday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps.
The program was organized by the European Jewish Association (EJA) and the European Action and Protection League (APL), and included ministers, senators, MPs and MEPs from across the political and national spectrum.
The visit was preceded by a symposium held in Krakow, uniting the European leaders in analyzing the roots of contemporary antisemitism, examining ways to incorporate Holocaust education in the education systems of various European countries, and formulating legislation that prohibits the use of antisemitic stereotypes.
“In recent years, antisemitism has become an epidemic that shows no sign of disappearing,” said Aharon Tamir, deputy chairman of March of the Living. “Whilst meetings between world leaders on the subject are important, now is the time for decisive action. Each representative who has visited Auschwitz with us, is obliged to make the required changes in their home country. We have passed the turning point; time to take the necessary steps to combat antisemitism is running out.”
The EJA and APL urged the legislators to unite under the program’s slogan #NotOnMyWatch and were presented with draft legislation to be implemented in their countries, tackling the frameworks of stereotyping, education and Nazi memorabilia.
Rabbi Menahem Margolin, founder and chairman of the EJA, proclaimed that: ‘’European politicians must do more than [make] statements condemning antisemitic incidents. This is not enough. They need to do more to insure the future of European Jews.
“They have to introduce in their respective countries a draft legislation that we have proposed in order to tighten laws fighting antisemitism,” he said. “We need to create or amend existing legislation with regards to combating antisemitism in the following areas, and under the EU or national framework: stereotyping, education and the sale of Nazi memorabilia. This is fundamental, not only for European Jews but for Europe itself.”
“This is a fight between good and evil, between light and darkness,’’ Margolin said.
“It is important that all EU member states embrace the IHRA definition of antisemitism,” said Michael O’Flaherty, director of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency.
Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands Binyomin Jacobs addressed the question of whether Jews should leave Europe: “My parents did not have where to go after the Holocaust, whereas I can always go to Israel. If or when I go, will only be decided by me – and not out of fear.”
European Parliament former president, MEP Antonio Tajani, said that people killed in the Shoah are, “the real victors of the Holocaust are the victims. Their memory lives on. They have a present and future whereas the Nazi regime remains only in the past.”
Honorary guest Abdallah Chatila was presented the King David Award during the event. Chatila bought €600,000 worth of Nazi-era items to stop them from falling into the hands of neo-Nazis and Nazi sympathizers, who would use them to glorify Hitler and his genocidal regime. He then donated the items to Yad Vashem.
“Some people care more about me being Lebanese than the fact that I did what I did,” Chatila said. “My problem is that those who criticize me in Lebanon criticize me but never once stopped to ask why I did it.”
Vice President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness said that, “75 years after the liberation of [Auschwitz-Birkenau] camps, cities have been rebuilt, villages rebuilt, but communities [were] never fully repaired.
“Today, the situation in Europe is worrying,” he continued. “The European Union needs to work internally and externally to combat all forms of racism. In my visit to the synagogue in Brussels, I was sad to see that a place of worship needs armed protection. While we are deeply moved on an emotional level, that is not enough – we do have to act.”
Former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, a Holocaust survivor and chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, noted that the slogan
“NotOnMyWatch” cannot be recited and forgotten, but must be acted upon.
“It is here, where over a million Jews were murdered, that I say that these words must be translated into actions,” he said. “Antisemitic acts are seen all over the world. How is it possible that they occur in Europe? Did Europe not learn its lesson? Children are not aware of the atrocities that occurred here because their parents never told them.
“It is important to educate and pass the knowledge about the Holocaust to children from a young age, or I am not sure this will not happen again somewhere, somehow,” he continued. “They must be taught that we are all brothers and sisters who belong to the same family: mankind.”