Anti-Semitism surge 75 years after Auschwitz

London: Anti-Jewish attacks are part of a wave of more violent hate crimes. © Getty

Will we ever defeat anti-Semitism? Today, millions of people around the world will remember the Holocaust. But while fewer victims of the Nazi atrocities remain, old hatreds still persist.

We have to remember what happened.

We have to make sure that it never happens again.

Millions perished as Nazi Germany combined modern technologies with ancient hatreds. Anti-Semitism was weaponised.

Two-thirds of Europe’s Jews were murdered.

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. Seventy-five years on from the liberation of the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, world leaders have gathered in Jerusalem. Similar events are taking place all across the planet.

The Holocaust or Shoah was an unthinkable atrocity. It has re-shaped the way that we understand the history of Western civilisation.

As the German philosopher Theodor Adorno put it: “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”

European Jews were deliberately targeted by the Nazis for no reason other than their religion and ethnicity.

The Nazis described the Jews as “pigs” and “rats”, presented them as aliens in their own country and repeated age-old stereotypes about them rigging the economy.

Tragically, most of Europe’s Jews were in fact utterly powerless as Nazi Fascism ramped up its hateful rhetoric and adopted to a programme of ethnic cleansing.

Astonishingly, anti-Semitism is once again on the rise. Major terrorist attacks have targeted Jews in both the US and Europe, including shootings in synagogues. One poll found that a quarter of Europeans hold anti-Semitic views.

Anti-Jewish graffiti was spray-painted on the streets of London in December. The Labour Party is currently under investigation for anti-Semitism.

A combination of vocal resentment for the world’s only majority-Jewish nation, Israel; the insidious nature of internet filter bubbles, and the simple fact that less people personally remember the holocaust have all contributed to this sad state of affairs.

We know what happened at places like Treblinka and Auschwitz because the people who survived could tell their story. But now, 75 years on, we are losing these living relics of humanity’s darkest hour. Without them among us, we will ever be able to defeat anti-Semitism?

The oldest hatred

People are not born hateful. Ideas appear, but they also disappear. Though anti-Semitism’s presence in modern-day society must not be tolerated, there is no reason it should carry on existing forever. All prejudice is the result of ignorance. So long as people are taught to be fair and to understand the weight of history, there is a chance that hatred will be overcome.

That said, the history of anti-Semitism does run deep, not for nothing is it known as the oldest hatred. Online conspiracy theories and the ill-directed anger of pro-Palestinian circles mean that anti-semitism is re-establishing itself for new generations. Some people are still racist, still sexist. So long as there are people, there will be vicious ways for them to behave.

You Decide

  1. Will the horror of the Holocaust feel less serious once all of the survivors have passed away?
  2. Have you heard anti-Semitism in the playground or in another situation? What do you think is a constructive way of calling it out?

Activities

  1. Research the life story of a Holocaust survivor, and summarise their struggle and achievements on half a side of paper.
  2. In groups, discuss what you can do this year to honour the lives of those who perished at the hands of the Nazis. Write a list of steps you will take to remove hatred from your lives.

Some People Say...

“We cannot understand [Fascism], but we can and must understand from where it springs, and we must be on our guard...because what happened can happen again...”

Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian author and Auschwitz survivor

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The Holocaust or Shoah is commemorated on 27 January – the day Red Army troops liberated Auschwitz. Between 1941 and 1945, around two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population was murdered by the Nazi regime. This was some 6 million people. Anti-Semitic beliefs helped the Nazis justify their brutal executions. Some of these are still common today, including tropes like Jews having too much power in business, and Jews not being loyal to the country they live in.
What do we not know?
How attitudes towards the Holocaust might evolve after the last survivors pass away. The increasing politicisation of remembrance also risks tarnishing its solemnity (Poland and Russia have recently fallen out over who should speak at a remembrance event). The State of Israel’s increasing susceptibility to criticism also means that the blurring of lines between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism could allow more anti-Jewish hate to spread.

Word Watch

Anti-Semitism
The hatred of and discrimination against Jewish people.
Auschwitz-Birkenau
The largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp in what is now a part of Poland. Approximately a million people were murdered there.
Shoah
Hebrew term for the Holocaust.
Rigging
Interfering in a process so as to win.
Rhetoric
Way of speaking, set of ideas.
Ethnic
The deliberate targeting and eradication of a section of society.
Filter bubbles
Like an echo chamber, an online space where the same negative ideas are reinforced. For example, you watch one video questioning the truth about the Holocaust, then you keep getting suggested more.
Treblinka
Another major Nazi extermination camp.
Relics
Objects surviving from an earlier time.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.