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Opinion: Anti-Semitism a Present Danger in Europe

The Allies liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp 59 years ago today. Pictures from Jan. 27, 1945, have permeated our post-war consciousness, and should keep us alert for signs of a renewed anti-Semitism in Europe.

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Auschwitz survivors gather at the former Nazi death camp to mark the 59th anniversary of their liberation.

Each year on January 27, across Germany, the nation remembers what Auschwitz has come to symbolize – the worst of the Nazis' crimes against humanity. Wreaths are laid, political speeches are delivered, and exhibitions are held in memory of the Jews murdered during the Holocaust. There is much that is moving, good, and necessary during this day of remembrance.

But as time distances us from historical events, there is a growing necessity to rethink what we've come to call the "Politics of Memory." How should memorials look in future, so that they are still of relevance to young people? What path should we take to bridge us from the immediacy that comes from meeting eye witnesses of these events, to the building of a modern culture of remembrance?

How can we create a proper consciousness of the horrors of the Holocaust, without burdening or turning away our young people by passing on to them a sense of guilt or moral outrage? These are difficult, but unavoidable questions, since dealing with the past is a task for the future.

Renewed anti-Semitism?

And yet, it seems that this year's day of remembrance for the victims of the Nazis is less marked by the past as it is by the present. Fifty-nine years after the liberation of Auschwitz, there is cause for concern. The European Union has seen a drastic increase in anti-Semitic violence. It's not just incidents of Jewish graves being defaced or Jews being attacked that are worrying. It's more the fatal tendency to once again blame Jews for the many evils in this world.

Anti-Semites aren't content to hang back anonymously in the shadows anymore. They openly identify with old forms of resentment and clichés. They send hate mail with a return address. They yell hateful slogans in the street.

Present danger

The fact that Israel has declared January 27 its National Day to Combat Anti-Semitsm points to the heart of the conflict. Modern-day anti-Semites now often use the politics of the Sharon government to fuel their hatred.

But it's the Jews of Europe who are being confronted with an increasing number of anti-Jewish attacks – frequently carried out by young immigrants from Arab countries. European Jews are being held responsible for the inhumane occupation policies of a country they've never lived in.

The new anti-Semitism has its roots in the Middle East conflict. It is being fueled by fundamentalists on both sides, and has become a present danger.

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  • Date 27.01.2004
  • Author Cornelia Rabitz (dc)
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4bif
  • Date 27.01.2004
  • Author Cornelia Rabitz (dc)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4bif