Thursday, Jan. 27, 2005 was a day of celebrating life and mourning the victims of the Holocaust, as it marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp located in South Poland.According to CNN, one-fifth of the six million Jews killed during the holocaust died at Auschwitz, and about 1.5 million people total, including gypsies, Poles, Russians and homosexuals died in the gas chambers there.
Seven thousand survivors were liberated on Jan. 27, 1945, as Soviet troops marched into the Auschwitz death camp and the Germans withdrew, a day the Jews had longed for, but lost hope of.
Anatoly Shapiro, commander of the first troops to storm Auschwitz, had a message at the memorial for everyone to hear: “I want to say to all people around the world, this should not happen again,” he said.
“Never again” has become a sort of post-Holocaust mantra for survivors. However, recent years show that this dream of “never again” may simply be just that: a dream.
As I picked up a Philadelphia Inquirer last Thursday, I expected to see an article about the Eagles? road trip to the Super Bowl, and I did. I expected to see an article about the current situation in Iraq, and I did. I did NOT expect to see an article about a surge in anti-Semitic attacks in Europe, but I did.
As the world celebrates the liberation of the largest Nazi death camp, many European Jews still fear for their safety.
Since the year 2000, not only have verbal attacks against Jews increased, but acts of vandalism, fire bombings of Jewish schools and desecration of synagogues have increased drastically across Europe.
According to the Inquirer, in Germany, anti-Semitic crimes rose from 817 in 1999 to 1,334 in 2002. In Belgium, they rose from 36 to 62, a 72 percent increase.
The Netherlands saw 46 cases in 2002. However, the increasing number of anti-Semitic crimes is most prevalent in France, which saw an increase from 593 reported crimes in 2003 to a high of 1,513 reported crimes in 2004.
That?s an increase of 920 crimes in just one year! That doesn?t even count all of the instances that were not reported, and according to Jewish groups in Europe, most are not.
Many link the increase in anti-Semitism to the Palestinian uprising against Israel more than four years ago. What began as pro-Palestinian movement has turned into an anti-Jewish movement.
Despite the cause or the reason, something needs to be done. anti-Semitism has plagued Europe?s history, from medieval expulsions to Hitler?s “final solution.” No one is suggesting that the current trend in increasing attacks on Jewish communities will reach the magnitude it did in the 1930s and early ?40s, but it is nonetheless a cause for deep concern.
At the commemoration for the 60th anniversary of the liberation on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “We must unequivocally and unanimously tell present and future generations: no one has the right to be indifferent towards anti-Semitism, nationalism, racial and religious intolerance.”
I agree with President Putin 100 percent. No one has the right to be indifferent towards these very serious issues. Many of the leaders in Europe, including President Putin and President Jacques Chirac of France, have spoken passionately about the need to fight anti-Semitism.
However, I think this passion needs to extend past the leaders and reach the people, because they are the ones who can make a difference, and help stop this outrageous outbreak of anti-Semitism.
After reading the article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, I spoke to two very close friends about this topic, both of whom happen to be two of the kindest and most devout Christians I know. Not just one, but both shrugged off this issue like it was no big deal.
I could not believe that such an appalling topic could just get shrugged off. When I first read the article, I was completely outraged to hear that something like this was occurring.
Nonetheless, no one seemed to care. In fact, one of my friends even said, “Well, at least that sort of thing isn?t happening in America.” At least it?s not happening in America? It doesn?t matter WHERE it is occurring.
Just the mere fact that something like this is going on in the world, despite what continent or country is a cause for shock, but more importantly, concern.
Despite what you may think, an increase in anti-Semitic crimes is present in the United States as well. That?s right. Living in America, the land of the free, is not the same as living in a bubble. We are still vulnerable to hate crimes, as Sept. 11 proved a little over three years ago.
So, as we remember the past and the liberation of these Nazi concentration camps, we must remember that anti-Semitism is not just a thing of the past, but of the present. We cannot sit back and be ignorant, letting these attacks on Jewish communities continue like many of the citizens did during Hitler?s reign. If we do, our worst nightmare may in fact become a reality.
Amy Larson is a first year student majoring in forensic chemistry.