'Appalling,' 'frightening' poll results on European anti-Semitism

"Never forget." You would think that less than 75 years after 6 million Jews were slaughtered by Nazi Germany that European attitudes toward Jews would have evolved beyond the crude, nauseating anti-Semitism that directly led to the Holocaust.

Unfortunately, that's not the case.

Results of a CNN survey on European attitudes toward Jews is incomprehensible considering that there are still many survivors of the death camps still alive. But collective memory is a tricky thing, and those who believe that the Holocaust could never happen again should sit up and take notice.

According to the poll, more than a quarter of Europeans surveyed believe Jews have too much influence in business and finance. Nearly one in four said Jews have too much influence in conflict and wars across the world.

Meanwhile, a third of Europeans polled said they knew just a little or nothing at all about the Holocaust, the mass murder of some six million Jews in lands controlled by Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s.

In a statement sent to CNN, Klein said: "For combating anti-Semitism, it is fundamental to keep the memory of the Shoah alive and nurture a vivid culture of remembrance.

"On a European level, I am going to encourage other states to create national functions similar to mine. We have already started to fight anti-Semitism on the level of the EU, for example by calling for the member states to adopt the definition for anti-Semitism that the (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) has formulated.

"The German Bundestag and the German government have adopted this definition in 2017. Our biggest challenge, however, will be to change the views people hold about Jews. This is a task for all of us, and for the sake of society as a whole -- because anti-Semitism is a threat for any democratic, open society."

Deborah Lipstad, a leading historian of the Holocaust isn't surprised.

"Stepping back from the specific findings of the study, it is imperative to note that anti-Semitism constitutes a conspiracy theory, i.e. an irrational evidence-free perspective that attributes to all Jews -- irrespective of their location, status, age, nationality, world view -- the same qualities and stereotypes. Anti-Semitism makes as much sense as attributing to all left-handed people or all blonds similar attributes and behaviors."

Lipstadt, one of the world's pre-eminent Holocaust historians, says she was also disturbed by the ignorance that surrounds the systematic murder of Europe's Jewish population during World War II.

"This is not something that should so easily be forgotten. It should be something about which Europeans should still be grappling. Not because of guilt -- today's Europeans are clearly not guilty of anything -- but in terms of the society within which they live."

Uncomfortable truths are not easy to deal with for anyone. And it's not that Europe has soft-pedaled the Holocaust in educating children. It's just that most people choose not to dwell on the past.

But obviously, something has to be done quickly or the very next generation of Europeans - or the one following - are likely to repeat the obscenity as the survivors of the camps die and their words lose their power.

We're certainly not immune to anti-Semitism in the US. But Jew-hate was ingrained in Europe for centuries before the Holocaust. It's a casual, matter-of-fact kind of anti-Semitism - a part of everyday life for hundreds of years. That's probably why it's so difficult to expunge.

The Muslim migration to Europe will not improve the situation, and given their lack of assimilation into western culture, the newcomers will carry their hate from the old country to the new. The future looks bleak for Jews in Europe if these present trends continue.


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