Thursday, January 27, 2011

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi death and concentration camps, on January 27th, 1945.
Sweden received Jewish refugees both during and after the Holocaust and many of the children and grandchildren of these survivors live and prosper in the country today. Ceremonies are to be held all over Sweden with an official ceremony taking place in Raoul Wallenberg Park in Stockholm.
While the 27th of January is marked to honor the memory of victims of the atrocities perpetrated during WWII, Henrik Bachner reminds the Swedish public that anti-Semitism still flourishes in Sweden today.  
Bachner describes a number of worrying trends current in anti-Semitism denial.  There is firstly a tendency to believe that since WWII ended, there is no more anti-Semitism; this denial has become louder as actual anti-Semitic incidents continue to increase worldwide, including, of course, in Sweden.  In addition, there is a parallel theory that Islamophobia has replaced anti-Semitism as “the new hatred”. Bachner notes that protests against Islamophobia tend to obscure widespread prejudice, not only against Jews, but against other groups as well. Ignored prejudices include racism against blacks of all religious groups, and hatred of the Roma (Gypsy) population, whose members were also murdered by the Nazi regime.
However, as we have seen in posts on this blog, the main targets of hate crime in Sweden are Jews. Bachner quotes worldwide statistics for hate crimes and anti-Semitic attitudes that show that indeed, Jews are many more times likely to be victims of hate crime than Muslims. At the same time there is a regrettably wide perception that Jews exploit Holocaust memory—presumably for undeserved sympathy.  These attitudes only foster increased anti-Semitism, and allow it to grow unchecked.
Please take a moment today to honor the memory of Holocaust victims, both Jews and non-Jews. We remember also the brave non-Jews, such as Raoul Wallenberg, who fought against the Nazi evil by saving Jewish lives, often risking their own lives to do so.
While we remember the horrendous scale of the Holocaust, we strive to remember those murdered not as numbers of people, but as individuals, families and communities of vibrant Jewish life. The loss of Jewish life diminished all of us in the Jewish world, and was a loss of humanity for the whole world.  
Pictured: Raoul Wallenberg, Swedish diplomat and hero who rescued of thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust
By Sara and Chanah Shapira

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