A new survey published by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights reveals the worrying extent of anti-Jewish abuse in Europe and failure of states to tackle this growing problem. There is now little room for doubt; Europe’s Jews feel increasingly threatened and abused, fearing antisemitic abuse from Muslim extremists, the extreme right-wing, and left-wing radicals. With few European member states taking any serious action, and the failure of the authorities to tackle this growing problem, the human rights of Jewish Europeans are under threat. 75 years after Kristallnacht, has Europe failed to learn from history?
This week marks the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the series of coordinated attacks against Jews throughout Germany and parts of Austria which was the ominous prelude to the mass murder of much of European Jewry. The savage attacks of 9th November 1938 saw Jewish businesses attacked, hundreds of synagogues torched and around 30,000 Jewish men rounded up for deportation to concentration camps. German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week described Kristallnacht as “one of the darkest moments in German history,” urging “all the people in this country to show their civil courage and ensure that no form of anti-Semitism is tolerated.” But 75 years on, where do German Jews stand? Merkel herself went on to observe that today it is “almost inexplicable but also the reality that no Jewish institution can be left without police protection.”
This is true elsewhere in Europe, too. In Britain, I am used to attending synagogues protected by concrete crash barriers, watched over by teams of security guards. Our Jewish schools are surrounded with razor wire, and bomb proof doors. One security professional told me that this has become so normal most of the children don’t even notice it any more. Yet I grew up in a country that gave me, and generations of Jews before me, a safe place to live, study and pray. As a Rabbi friend of mine often publicly remarks at events of national importance, Britain has been good to its Jews, and the Jews have been good for Britain.
Yet over recent years, things have changed for the worse in Europe. Antisemitism has appeared in the lives of a generation who never thought they would experience it first hand. From stories about verbal abuse shouted at kippah-wearers and physical attacks on Jews, to an arson attack on a London synagogue and a shooting at a French Jewish school, it is clear that something has changed.