Ambassadör Bachman i Stockholms Stora Synagoga Foto: Andreas Carlson
The Spring of 2014 marks 70 years since the destruction of Hungarian Jewry at the hands of the Nazi killers in 1944.
With the end of the war already in sight, the last sizeable Jewish community in Europe was destroyed at furious speed, following Adolf Eichman´s arrival in Budapest, in spring, to set the Final Solution in motion. In only a few weeks, half a million Hungarian Jews, had already met their death in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, in what Sir Winston Churchill called “the greatest crime in history”.
1944, also saw the arrival in Budapest – then the most dangerous place on earth – of a young man by the name of Raoul Wallenberg. Tens of thousands of survivors – and their descendants – owe their lives to his boundless personal courage and determination only. In this very congregation, we have people who have been physically saved by Wallenberg, saved from the trains at the very last minute – some more than once.
In today´s times, one cannot bypass in silence the findings of the large European Union report – published by the FRA in Vienna – which shows that only 70 years after the unspeakable tragedy of the Jews of Hungary, anti-Semitism is again on the rise where Wallenberg once fought his heroic battle and in so many other places in Europe – including here in Sweden. The findings of the FRA – an EU agency – are indeed shocking.
A full 76% of respondents in the survey – which covers 8 countries and 90 percent of Europe´s Jewish population – believe that the situation has worsened and anti-Semitism has increased in their country over the past 5 years. 21% of respondents had experienced either verbal harassment and/or physical attacks in the last year before the survey. 46% percent of the Jewish Europeans interviewed by the Fundamental Rights Agency, worry about being verbally assaulted in public places and 33% worry about being physically attacked because of being Jewish. All these figures in Europe, in our time…!
In addition to all of this, in many places in Europe it is getting increasingly difficult both to obtain kosher meat and to perform circumcision – two absolute pre-requisites for Jewish life to be able to exist at all. These are issues of the highest importance, which must be given proper attention!
Anti-Semitism is a dynamic and changing phenomenon, which evolves with the times. Where it is no longer politically correct to speak about Jews, Israel becomes the target.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed precisely this new type of anti-Semitism in a passionate speech to the Knesset the other week.
Harper said: “We have witnessed, in recent years, the mutation of the old disease of anti-Semitism and the emergence of a new strain. In much of the western world, the old hatred has been translated into more sophisticated language for use in polite society.
Prime Minister Harper says that people who would never say they hate and blame the Jews for their own failings or the problems of the world, instead declare their hatred of Israel and blame the only Jewish state for the problems of the Middle East.
As once Jewish businesses were boycotted – Harper goes on to say – some civil-society leaders today call for a boycott of Israel.
What else than anti-Semitic, says PM Harper, can we call criticism that selectively condemns only the Jewish state and effectively denies its right to defend itself, while systematically ignoring – or excusing – the violence and oppression all around it?
What else, says Harper, can we call it when Israel is routinely targeted at the United Nations?
And what else can we call it, says PM Harper, when Israel remains the only country to be the subject of a permanent agenda item at the regular sessions of its Human Rights Council?”
All these, I repeat, are the concerned words of the Prime Minister of Canada – one of the world´s most respected democracies and leading humanitarian nations.
Uncompromising fight against anti-Semitism in all of its forms – including the all too common form of “modern anti-Semitism”, which chooses Israel, the Jewish State, as its main target – is an obligation for all of us if we want to honour the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and the unparalleled heroism of Raoul Wallenberg.