History repeats itself, but I never thought it would happen so soon.
Last year I was working in Belgium during the European Union elections. While these were barely reported in Canada, election talk was absolutely everywhere in Brussels, the heart and seat of the EU. The results were disturbing; far-right parties swept the polls. I watched in horror as on May 25th, 2014 two seats of the European Parliament were democratically won by neo-Nazis in Germany and Greece. The day before, a gunman armed with a Kalashnikov rifle and handgun killed four people in the Jewish Museum in Brussels.
Jewish Belgian politician Mischaël Modrikamen said “Sadly, however, the actual attack comes as no surprise to us after years of living in an atmosphere of rampant antisemitism that often leads to violence.” Where then, was the reporting of these events in Canada? None of my colleagues back home were aware of the anti-Semitic climate in Europe. While I was visiting Sweden in early May 2014, I saw anti-Jewish graffiti outside stores in the city of Uppsala (see photo).
This year has gotten progressively worse. Since last year’s election, over 10 000 Jews have left France alone. Parents and their children are saying tearful goodbyes to grandparents who vowed never to be displaced by racism again or are too old to move, but are fearful for the safety of their children.
Last week I returned from a quick work trip to Europe. I was in Brussels for a mere three days, and I did not have to look hard. Scribbled in white on buildings as the bus I was on flashed by: swastikas. (See photo). My own friends told me that Jews and Muslims are the cause of the recession in Europe. This is exactly the same rhetoric as Hitler’s Nazi Germany. At Antwerp train station, there are stars of David with GO HOME written beneath. Go look for yourself. I don’t know why these things continue to shock me. We all know that history repeats itself.
On my flight home, I watched the news from a screen at a stopover at the airport in Philadelphia: shooting at a synagogue in Denmark. Following the Charlie Hebdo shooting at the Jewish supermarket, these are dark times indeed.
I am not really sure what to do with this information and these photos. I find myself wishing that these things were not, are not, happening, but they are. What do we, as Canadians, do about this?
70 years after Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz Nazi death camp in January 1945, Ottawa is scheduled to unveil a National Holocaust Monument this year, in 2015. I am afraid that we are all too blissfully unaware of the creeping back of anti-Semitic hatred in Europe. Unfortunately, it is not only Europe. Just now, February 26th 2015, Daniel (last name omitted for privacy) walked into his apartment’s parking garage in Montreal to find a large swastika emblazoned in red on his car, along with a death threat note.
During the Second World War, when Jews begged to be let into Canada to flee genocide, our government famously responded that “none is too many” Jews in our country. What are the steps forward to ensuring that this history of ours does not repeat itself?