“It couldn’t happen again!” As a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement I feel that although there have definitely been gains since my experiences in 1965, we seem to be sliding backward holding on to those gains by our fingertips. Political actions, legal decisions and economic factors mean the poor are poorer, the rich are richer and civil rights for many groups hang in the balance. I thought this sadness was generated by the United States. Then I read an article that made my skin crawl. The article: “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?”
Some facts from this article:
• In France Jews represent 1% of the population. In 2014 51% of the racist attacks were against Jews.
• The words inquisition, ghetto, pogrom and Holocaust came from Europe.
• In Greece 69% of adults hold anti-Semitic views. “…the fascists of the country’s “Golden Dawn” Party are open in their hatred of Jews. “Dirty Jew” is a term commonly used in public schools.
• Acts of anti-Jewish harassment are common in Sweden.
• The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam has police patrols to protect it. “Anne Frank has become an obsession of modern anti-Semites.”
Why a resurgence of anti-Semitism?
• Anti-Semites never left Europe after World War II and there has been a 1000 year history there of anti-Jewish activity, much supported by the Catholic Church until the mid-twentieth century.
• People take out their frustrations with Israel on local Jews.
• Memories of the Holocaust fade as Holocaust deniers abound.
• “The chief propagators of contemporary European anti-Semitism may be found in the continent’s large and disenfranchised Muslim immigration communities.”
• European fascist groups are growing and active.
• The new generation is anti-Semitic and encourages their elders not to frequent Jewish shops and Jewish professionals.
Silly me. I thought the horrors of the Holocaust would never happen again. My history students always found the Holocaust to be one of the most compelling subjects we studied and they were disgusted by what they learned. However, as it seems that racism has gathered strength in the United States, it does not seem so strange that anti-Semitism could rear its ugly head again. Perhaps I am a pessimist, but a quote by Heinrich Niemöller comes to mind.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.