Shadow of the Holocaust still hangs over Europe

Symbol of hate: Auschwitz, whose liberation 70 years ago tomorrow is marked by Holocaust Memorial Day.  Picture: Getty
Symbol of hate: Auschwitz, whose liberation 70 years ago tomorrow is marked by Holocaust Memorial Day. Picture: Getty
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THERE is a feeling of “anxiety” among Jewish communities in the UK following the shootings in Paris in which people were killed in a kosher supermarket and a Jewish security charity said it has received an “unusually high” number of calls.

As people mark Holocaust Memorial Day tomorrow – also the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau where more than a million prisoners were killed – less than a month will have passed since the terrorist attack in the Jewish supermarket killed four people.

Flowers at the Auschwitz memorial in Amsterdam yesterday. Picture: Getty

Flowers at the Auschwitz memorial in Amsterdam yesterday. Picture: Getty

Mark Gardner, a spokesman at Community Security Trust, said the calls they are receiving from Jewish people fearing a Paris-style terrorist attack in the UK is “unusually high”.

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Last week he said the number of calls they had received had been “unprecedented”, and it has only “diminished slightly” since. He said people’s fear lies in an understanding of the “reality of terrorism”.

Four hostages were killed by Amedy Coulibaly at a Jewish supermarket in attacks timed to follow the massacre of 12 people by brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Scotland Yard assistant commissioner Mark Rowley, the national policing head of counter-terrorism, said last week there was a “heightened concern” about the risk to the Jewish population in the UK since the attacks, and a security review would be carried out.

Mr Gardner said there have been terrorist attacks against Jewish communities for many years and referred to the “phenomenon” of when there is an open conflict in the Middle East, there follows a “significant increase in the number of antisemitic race hate” incidents.

Interview: Krystyna Chiger, holocaust survivor

“Every time one of these conflicts occurs, there’s an increase in antisemitic incident levels. And people get very concerned by that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said that while there are feelings of “anxiety” and “vulnerability” in the Jewish community, the threat of antisemitism is not new.

“In light of events in Paris, it is true that there is more anxiety and possibly a feeling of vulnerability, felt more acutely in the Jewish community. I think for Holocaust survivors particularly, you can understand that,” she said.

She added: “The fact is that the threat of antisemitism is one that is not new. It is not something that we only, as a community or as a country, started to be aware of after Paris. Even over the summer there [were] things written … on Twitter there was a hashtag saying Hitler was right.

“This isn’t something that suddenly came to light. I think it’s more that the attention has been drawn to it since the really horrific attacks on people in the kosher supermarket in Paris, simply because they were Jews”.

Ms Pollock referred to the defacing of posters for a Holocaust Memorial Day event in Newham, east London, last week.

“The scary thing about that is that somebody would do that.

“But the positive thing is the rejection from society of that act, whether on Twitter, but also in e-mails and people commenting elsewhere, saying this does not reflect our society and it’s not how we feel.

“I think it’s up to all of us as a country, not just the Jewish community, to be vigilant, and also to recognise – something we always talk about at the Holocaust Educational Trust – that it’s about language, it’s about behaviour, and noticing those warning signs and not letting things get out of control.”