In 2005, many decades too late, the United Nations General Assembly named January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This is the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps. Every UN member state has an official obligation to honor the victims of the Nazi era and also develop educational material about the Holocaust. This indeed takes place in many countries.
Today’s reality is such however, that whatever is Jewish, will come under attack. This also happens in a variety of countries with memorial events related to the Holocaust. Anti-Semites paint graffiti on Holocaust monuments, and the Holocaust is denied by other anti-Semites. In 2009, the important Norwegian TV2 television station broadcast an interview with convicted British Holocaust denier David Irving. The broadcaster even financed Irving’s travel to Norway and his hotel expenses. The journalist who interviewed him displayed little knowledge of the topics discussed.
Holocaust inversion is even worse than denial. Inverters, which even include some Jews, state that Jews and Israel behave like Nazis. In 2010-2011, the German Holocaust foundation Remembrance, Responsibility, Future (EVZ) financed a program with public funds for the Anne Frank School in Gutersloh which hosted Dutch Jewish Holocaust survivor and anti-Israel hate-monger Hajo Meyer.
He equated the suffering of the Palestinians with the persecution and mass murder of Jews in the Holocaust. Leon de Winter, a bestselling Dutch Jewish novelist said that Meyer suffers from extreme "survival guilt." He noted that all Israel-bashing groups love Meyer because of the added factor of his being Jewish and a Holocaust survivor.
Italian journalist Angelo Pezzana relates how International Holocaust Remembrance Day is abused in many parts of Italy: "Marking the 27th of January as a day of remembrance has turned it into a national event where everyone can express his opinion, however miserable. The latter happens mostly in schools. Meetings are held with hundreds of students present, where extreme leftist professors are invited to speak. They present the Shoah in a distorted way. This leads to a public debate usually linking the crimes of the Nazis to Israeli policies."
Educated as extreme anti-Semites
In September 2005, a committee of Muslim advisers to Prime Minister Tony Blair suggested that Holocaust Memorial Day be abolished and replaced by a Genocide Day that would also commemorate the mass murder of Muslims in Palestine, Chechnya, and Bosnia. Influenced by Muslim urging, the local council of the English town of Bolton replaced Holocaust Memorial Day in 2007 with "Genocide Memorial Day." After protests, Holocaust Memorial Day was reinstated in later years.
Kristallnacht memorial meetings have also become a favorite venue to be used as a political instrument rather than to memorialize Jewish victims. In Helsingborg, Sweden, the Jewish community there refused to participate in the 2012 Kristallnacht memorial.
The local paper, Helsingborgs Dagblad, noted that the community's leader Jussi Tyger said that the memorial meeting was organized by left-wing parties, who are known to be the most racist against Jews. In Bergen in Norway, the Jews remained outside of the 2012 Kristallnacht remembrance meeting, because two prominent anti-Israeli hate-mongers were speaking.
In some Dutch towns on National Memorial Day (May 4) - Dutch war victims – of which Jews were the by far largest group - as well as German soldiers, are remembered together. Elsewhere it was planned to put the names of the Jews murdered by the Germans on the same monument as the German soldiers killed there.
The antidiscrimination group Nederland Bekent Kleur was the only one to organize annual Kristallnacht memorial meetings until 2001. In the last few years, sympathizers with Hamas and Hezbollah were among the speakers and they compared the Holocaust to the oppression of Muslims. Eventually, the Jewish community refused to cooperate with the organizers.
Later the CJO, the umbrella of Dutch Jewish organizations, started to organize its own annual Kristallnacht memorial meetings. In 2012 there were two memorial meetings. The one run by the "antidiscrimination group" was devoted to extreme right and racist violence.
If one wishes to mix Holocaust remembrance or Kristallnacht meetings with contemporary issues, there is one subject which should top the list: The extreme anti-Semitism coming out of parts of the Muslim world and several Muslim communities in Europe.
Last year saw the murder in front of a Jewish school of a Jewish teacher and three children by Mohammed Merah in Toulouse, France. His brother Abdelghani denounced his acts and wrote in his book that their mother educated them as extreme anti-Semites.
In October, a video was posted of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi answering "Amen" to a praying Imam who asked Allah to destroy the Jews. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal recently visited Gaza for the first time in 40 years. He reiterated that his movement aimed at destroying Israel. By mentioning these events and many others, a true picture would be drawn of where today’s greatest concentrations of extreme anti-Semites can be found.
Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 20 books. He is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism