It has been nearly 70 years since the rise of fascism in Europe, when Jews, Roma and other “undesirables” were systematically murdered in an attempt to reconfigure the region according to the programmatic plan of Nazi racial theories.
Despite the well-documented historical recollection of Nazi and affiliate atrocities, Europe has seen a worrisome rise in anti-Semitic incidences and conspiracy theories, promulgated largely by far-right nationalist parties featured in many post-Soviet Eastern European political systems. Anti-Semitic incidences have not been reserved to Eastern Europe, with France, Greece and even Sweden increasingly serving as a host to violent attacks and indiscriminate rhetoric directed towards their Jewish populations.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a U.S based international NGO created to combat Anti-Semitism, has noted this disturbing trend over the years using annual surveys across different European states. Highlighting Europe’s renewed anti-Semitic tendencies, the surveys show “disturbingly high levels” across the continent, with Hungary, Spain and Poland garnering record highs. A staggering 75% of Hungarians polled believe Jews have too much “influence” in International markets, while another 72% of Spaniards believe that the minuscule Jewish population is more loyal to Israel. Other European states that suffered extended periods of Nazi occupation in the last century did not fair better. 53% of Poles and 45% of Austrians believe that Jews still talk too much about what happened to them during the Holocaust.
Aside from the statistical evidence, the signs of latent societal anti-Semitism have already begun to take hold of Europe. In Hungary, the rise of the radical nationalist Jobbik party, the third largest party in the National Assembly since 2009, reflects an old tradition in the Magyar State : making a scapegoat of vulnerable minorities. Jobbik’s platform is strikingly similar to the fascist Arrow Cross party that was installed by Hitler during Nazi occupation. It draws off national or historical grievances such as the Treaty of Trianon or “international investors”, in an attempt to gain votes. Recently, Jobbik caught the eye of international observers, following a disturbing comment from party deputy leader Marton Gyongyosi, who called for listing Hungarian residents of Jewish origin on the basis of “security” in order to combat the perceived dual loyalty of Jews to “Zionist Israel”.
In a similar vein, Ukraine’s far-right nationalist Svoboda “Freedom” party can be seen as another example of of this disturbing trend . In the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary elections, Svoboda was able to gain 37 seats after winning 10.44% of the popular vote, and became the 4th largest national party. Evidence of Svoboda’s racist tendencies can be seen implicitly in statements and books associated with the party. Using historical revisionism, Svoboda has sought to erase Ukraine’s past through the renaming of streets, to reflect their own nationalists sentiments. In an outlying district of Lviv, ”Peace Street” was changed to ”Nachtigall” street, in reference to a controversial ethnic Ukrainian Nazi battalion, accused by the Simon Wiesenthal Center of killing Lviv Jews in 1941. Similarly, Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn, a nationalist ideologue prominent in Ukraine and associated with Svoboda, released a book containing passages from the likes of Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels and SA leader Ernst Roehm.
In Greece, the economic turmoil over harsh austerity measures and indebtedness to Germany has ironically led to the rise of the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party. Using clear Nazi symbolism in their flag, combined with anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic sentiments, the party was able to garner 18 seats in the parliamentary elections and almost 7% of the popular vote. In the Hellenic Parliament, Golden Dawn MPs have openly quoted the anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols Of the Elders of Zion. Moreover, elected MPs from Golden Dawn come from racist backgrounds, with Artemis Matthaiopoulos of Serres previously serving as a front-man in a Neo-Nazi band, or MP Eleni Zaroulia sporting an Iron cross upon inauguration in Parliament.
Western Europe has also been plagued with the scourge of extremist tendencies and increasing degrees of anti-Semitic incidences. French Jews are moving in great numbers to Israel and abroad – largely as the result of the notable Toulouse tragedies and the growing threat of assaults from Arab youth. Sweden’s relatively small Jewish community has also come under growing intimidation. Malmo, the third largest city in Sweden, has undergone an unprecedented exodus, with the Jewish population dropping 5% annually, as incidents continue to increase in pace.
The common trend between these states shows the laxity of European governments to combat anti-Semitism. In the same respect, many incidents are often dependent on people’s perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and their associating all Jews with Israel’s actions. Nonetheless, European inaction will only normalize anti-Semitic sentiment on the continent, ultimately poisoning societies.
– Cody Levine
(Featured photo: CharlesFred, Creative Commons, Flickr)