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Dutch municipality disgusted with young people protesting corona measures in Nazi uniforms

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The municipality of Urk, in the Netherlands, has expressed disgust at images showing around 10 young people marching through the city in Nazi uniforms last Saturday protesting against the COVID-19 measures, NLTimes reported, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

Photos online show one of them wearing prisoner stripes and a Star of David, while the others aim fake weapons at him.

“This behavior is not only highly objectionable and extremely inappropriate, but also hurtful to large population groups. With this tasteless action, a line has very clearly been crossed as far as the municipality of Urk is concerned,’ the municipality said in a statement.

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“We understand that these young people want to make their voices heard about the impact of the current and upcoming coronavirus measures,” the city mayor Cees van den Bos said, adding that ‘’this discussion is not only taking place in Urk, but throughout our country.’’

He continued, ‘’However, we do not understand the way they are doing it. Not only the municipality of Urk, but the entire community completely disapproves of this way of protesting.”

The Public Prosecution Service said it is investigating whether a criminal offense was committed.

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Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association (EJA), a group that represents hundreds of communities across the continent, said this incident ‘’ underlines the massive job still left to do in education.’’

‘’The actions of the youth in Urk, part of a growing trend of comparing Covid restrictions and push back against vaccination that seeks to draw parallels between government attempts to stem the virus and the Nazi treatment of Jews, shows the massive job still to do in educational provision on what really happened during the Holocaust,’’ he said.

‘’No matter how high feelings are running, the Jewish experience of the holocaust can never be used to draw any comparison, simply because nothing compares to it in Europe,’’ Margolin added.

According to news website Hart van Nederland, the young people apologized on Monday. In a letter, they wrote. “It was absolutely not our intention to arouse memories of the Second World War.”  Howevern they they did not clarify what their intention was. “We want to emphasize that we are absolutely not anti-Semitic or against Jews, or support the German regime. Our sincerer apologies,” they wrote.

This is not the first incident around the coronavirus in Urk.  In January, a GGD testing center in the village was set on fire. In March, journalists were attacked by churchgoers who continued to attend church despite the coronavirus measures.

European Commission

‘Europe can only prosper when its Jewish communities feel safe and prosper,’ says Ursula von der Leyen as the EU presents its first-ever comprehensive strategy to combat antisemitism

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On Tuesday (5 October) the European Commission presented the first-ever EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

With antisemitism worryingly on the rise, in Europe and beyond, the strategy sets out a series of measures articulated around three pillars: to prevent all forms of antisemitism; to protect and foster Jewish life and to promote research, education and Holocaust remembrance.

The Strategy proposes measures to step up cooperation with online companies to curb antisemitism online, better protect public spaces and places of worship, set up a European research hub on contemporary antisemitism and create a network of sites where the Holocaust happened. These measures will be reinforced by the EU’s international efforts to lead the global fight against antisemitism, the Commission, the EU’s executive branch, said.

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Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said that ‘’today we commit to fostering Jewish life in Europe in all its diversity.’’

She added, ‘’We want to see Jewish life thriving again in the heart of our communities. This is how it should be. The strategy we are presenting today is a step change in how we respond to antisemitism. Europe can only prosper when its Jewish communities feel safe and prosper.”

During a press briefing, Margaritis Schinas, the Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, stressed that ‘’antisemitism is incompatible with EU values and with our European way of life. This strategy, the first of its kind, is our commitment to combat it in all its forms and to ensure a future for Jewish life in Europe and beyond. We owe it to those who perished in the Holocaust, we owe it to the survivors and we owe it to future generations.”

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Towards a European Union free from antisemitism

The strategy sets out measures focusing on:

  1. preventing and combating all forms of antisemitism;
  2. protecting and fostering Jewish life in the EU;
  3. education, research and Holocaust remembrance.

Some of the key measures in the Strategy include:

  • Preventing and combating all forms of antisemitism: Nine out of ten Jews consider that antisemitism has increased in their country, with 85% considering it a serious problem. To address this, the Commission will mobilise EU funds and support Member States in designing and implementing their national strategies. The Commission will support the creation of a Europe-wide network of trusted flaggers and Jewish organisations to remove illegal online hate speech. It will also support the development of narratives countering antisemitic content online. The Commission will cooperate with industry and IT companies to prevent the illegal display and selling of Nazi-related symbols, memorabilia and literature online.
  • Protecting and fostering Jewish life in the EU: 38% of Jews have considered emigrating because they do not feel safe as Jews in the EU. To ensure that Jews feel safe and can participate fully in European life, the Commission will provide EU funding to better protect public spaces and places of worship. The next call for proposals will be published in 2022, making available €24 million. Member States are also encouraged to make use of Europol’s support regarding counter terrorism activities, both online and offline. To foster Jewish life, the Commission will take measures to safeguard Jewish heritage and raise awareness around Jewish life, culture and traditions.
  • Education, research and Holocaust remembrance: Currently, one European in 20 has never heard of the Holocaust. To keep the memory alive, the Commission will support the creation of a network of places where the Holocaust happened, but which are not always known, for instance hiding places or shooting grounds. The Commission will also support a new network of Young European Ambassadors to promote remembrance of the Holocaust. With EU funding, the Commission will support the creation of a European research hub on contemporary antisemitism and Jewish life, in cooperation with Member States and the research community. To highlight Jewish heritage, the Commission will invite cities applying for the title of European Capital of Culture to address the history of their minorities, including Jewish community history.

The EU said it will use all available tools to call on partner countries to combat antisemitism in the EU neighbourhood and beyond, including through cooperation with international organisations.

‘’It will ensure that EU external funds may not be misallocated to activities that incite hatred and violence, including against Jewish people. The EU will strengthen EU-Israel cooperation in the fight against antisemitism and promote the revitalization of Jewish heritage worldwide,’’ the Commission said.

Next Steps ?

The Strategy will be implemented over the period 2021-2030.

The Commission invited the European Parliament and the EU Council to support the implementation of the strategy and will publish comprehensive implementation reports in 2024 and 2029.

Member states have already committed to preventing and fighting all forms of antisemitism through new national strategies or measures under existing national strategies and/or action plans on preventing racism, xenophobia, radicalisation and violent extremism. National strategies should be adopted by the end of 2022 and will be assessed by the Commission by end of 2023.

The European Jewish Congress welcomed the release of the EU strategy. “This is an unprecedented and vital document that will act as a roadmap to significantly reduce antisemitism in Europe and beyond,” said EJC President Moshe Kantor.

“It is a commitment to the Jews of Europe that we belong and are a vital part of the European future, and the continent’s decision-makers will be making a supreme effort to ensure Jewish life flourishes,” he added.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder also welcomed the declaration.

“Antisemitism is a huge problem in Europe and it’s high time that the European Union, its Member-States and local authorities adopt a comprehensive strategy on tackling the main challenges on combating antisemitism,” he said.

”I applaud the Commission for putting forward an ambitious plan that encompasses all aspects of fighting antisemitism, Holocaust remembrance and embracing the Jewish contribution to the European way of life. I look forward to working with the European Commission on putting this into practice.”

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Holocaust

80 years since the Babyn Yar massacre is not just an anniversary – It is a call to action

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Six million is much more than a number. It is synonymous with humanity’s darkest chapter – The Nazi attempt to wipe an entire people off the face of the earth. However, we must also see beyond the number. Six million individual lives were lost, none more important than another. Each died their own death. Each was murdered not by a faceless system, but by a fellow human being. If the world is to take Holocaust remembrance seriously, then we must make every effort to remember and cherish each of those lost and to properly commemorate their cruel obliteration, writes Father Patrick Desbios.

My interest in the subject was sparked by my grandfather, who was deported as a French soldier to a Soviet prisoner of war camp in Western Ukraine during World War Two. As I put together the pieces of his story, I also began to uncover the fate of millions of Jews and Roma who were slaughtered in mass shootings in Ukraine. Two decades of hard and painstaking research led to the discovery of countless mass graves. I found that it wasn’t just bodies that were buried in Ukraine and Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe, but the memory, any tangible trace of those who had been callously murdered.

I went from village to village, where thriving Jewish communities had been abruptly snuffed out. Time and again, I discovered that so many residents had no idea mass murder had taken place in the fields near their homes. Slowly but surely, the older generation, who had witnessed their Jewish neighbors and friends being led to their death, told the grim tale, many for the first time ever.

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In this part of the world, Soviet rule had deliberately suppressed the truth for decades. There is no more powerful example than Babyn Yar. Almost exactly 80 years ago, almost 34,000 Jews were massacred by Nazi forces over a 48-hour period at the Babyn Yar ravine in Kyiv, destroying the city’s Jewish community. In the subsequent decades, the victorious Soviets turned Babyn Yar into a waste dump and built roads and housing over what is Europe’s largest mass grave. Specific Jewish or minority suffering simply did not comply with the prevailing Communist narrative. As a result, virtually no memorial existed to acknowledge the horrific crimes which had taken place at Babyn Yar.

Thankfully, things are changing. History is finally being recorded. The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center is establishing a fitting memorial to the tragedy for the first time ever, with a variety of memorial installations and a symbolic synagogue unveiled at the site during the past year. Moreover, the Center is spearheading significant educational and research projects – The names of 20,000 previously unknown victims have been identified and new details of the massacre have been unearthed. A lost world is being brought back to life and voices long forgotten are being heard once again.

Eighty years have passed since the Babyn Yar massacre and we are finally putting right an historic wrong. I am immensely proud to be part of this effort, heading the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center’s Academic Council. I am proud not only because we are at last telling the historical truth, but because failure to do so has appalling consequences.

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The ‘Holocaust by bullets’ in Eastern Europe, of which Babyn Yar is its most potent symbol, was unique in its human cruelty. While the gas chambers saw people murdered in an industrial fashion, Nazi death squads brought the murderers face to face with their victims. Time and again, they looked into the eyes of fellow human beings and without flinching, killed them in cold blood. Murder became routine. Lavish feasts often marked the end of a day’s killing. Few, if any, ever expressed remorse. The ‘Holocaust by bullets’ represents man’s ultimate descent into depravity and evil.

Sadly, such wickedness continues to plague the world in the form of extremism, bigotry and antisemitism. Recently, we have witnessed a global explosion of antisemitic incidents. Meanwhile, I have personally seen the appalling consequences when such hatred is allowed to flourish. Just as I did in Eastern Europe, I have devoted significant efforts during recent years uncovering mass graves in Iraq, documenting the devastating massacres of Yazidis by ISIS. I have witnessed how easy it is for history to repeat itself.

That is why the eightieth anniversary of the Babyn Yar massacre is not just an anniversary. It is not only a long-overdue opportunity to properly commemorate a tragedy undocumented for far too long. It is a wake-up call. If the Babyn Yar story remains untold, then the path will be paved towards similar horrors. If the world can allow evil to unfold in Iraq, then it can happen anywhere. Humanity ignores Babyn Yar at its peril.

Father Patrick Desbios is the Head of Academic Council at the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center.

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European Commission

Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes: Statement by Vice President Jourová and Commissioner Reynders

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On the Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes today (23 August), Values and Transparency Vice President Věra Jourová and Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders issued the following statement: “Over eighty years ago, on 23 August 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed between Germany and the Soviet Union just before the Second World War broke out. For many, this fateful day marked the beginning of a cycle of Nazi and Soviet occupation and violence. On this day, we pay tribute to those who fell victim to totalitarian regimes in Europe and those who fought against such regimes. We recognise the suffering of all the victims and their families, as well as the lasting effect that this traumatic experience left on the following generations of Europeans. Let us work together so that our shared past makes us stronger for the shared future – and does not drive us apart. Freedom from totalitarianism and authoritarianism is not a given. It is something we need to stand up for every day anew. It is at the heart of the European ideal. Together with the rule of law and democracy, this freedom is at the core of the European Treaties we have all signed. We must continue to stand, united, for these fundamental European values.”

The full statement is available online.

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