Holocaust survivors must be first in line for COVID vaccine - EJC head

“The pandemic has created the social conditions where antisemitism and extremism thrive.”

Polish born Mordechai Fox, an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor, wears a yellow Star of David on his jacket during a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day (photo credit: REUTERS)
Polish born Mordechai Fox, an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor, wears a yellow Star of David on his jacket during a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day
(photo credit: REUTERS)
European Union member states must ensure that Holocaust survivors have access to the COVID-19 vaccine without delay, European Jewish Congress (EJC) president Dr. Moshe Kantor insisted on Monday ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday.
Speaking during a joint International Holocaust Remembrance Day event, co-hosted by the European Commission and EJC, he said that “we have all been lost during the current pandemic, but the survivors of the Holocaust even more so."
 
He explained that due to the health crisis, many Holocaust survivors are dying alone and in pain, while others are still in the fight for their lives. The extreme isolation of quarantines and lockdowns has a massive impact on the community, as well.
“We have a duty to survivors, to ensure that they are able to live their last years in dignity, without fear, and in the company of their loved ones,” he said. “Therefore, I call on European leaders to ensure that Holocaust survivors have access as soon as possible to a safe and effective vaccination and with the highest priority.”
The pandemic saw a dramatic and concerning rise of antisemitism, neo-Nazism and conspiracy theories against Jews, Kantor explained. He called on EU member states to address this issue, as well.
“As we pay tribute to the victims of the biggest tragedy in history, we must not forget the fundamental lesson that in times of crisis, extremism can rise rapidly,” he said. “The pandemic has created the social conditions where antisemitism and extremism thrive. The human mind, like the human body, is fragile to mutating viruses. And so are our democracies and our shared values of human rights and freedoms.”
 
Kantor insisted that it is the responsibility of humankind to stop hate speech and conspiracy theories such as those egged on amid the pandemic. He nevertheless praised the EU member states for addressing the issue "by recognizing that antisemitism needs to be fought across all policy areas.”
“This year, against the backdrop of the pandemic, we are all asked to find new forms of remembrance,” said European Commission vice president Margaritis Schinas, also speaking during the International Holocaust Remembrance Day event.
“It is a painful reminder of how incredible a privilege it is for our generation to be able to listen to the first-hand accounts of those who directly experienced the tragedy of the Holocaust. We have a duty to listen, to remember. But also, a duty to act decisively against antisemitism in its contemporary forms,” he concluded.