Saturday 7 February 2009

European Coalition for Israel warns against surge of anti-Semitism in Europe

"We sinners of the past are called to become the allies of the future and stand faithfully by our Jewish friends." Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn

Source: European Coalition for Israel (A Christian initiative promoting European-Israeli Cooperation)

"European Coalition for Israel chairman Helmut Specht last night called on the European Union and civil society across Europe to raise their voices in protest against the current Iranian threat to wipe Israel off the map. The appeal came at the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day event which is organized in the European Parliament by the European Coalition for Israel under the patronage of the president of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Pöttering.

Specht alerted the audience about the fact that anti-Semitism is again becoming a real threat to European society. According to recent studies anti-Semitic violence has grown with over 300 percent in the last few weeks. In Stockholm participants at a peaceful rally for Israel had to be escorted out of a building in groups of five to secure their safety.

"This can simply not be explained by the military operations in Gaza because a year ago, with relative calm in the Middle East, participants of a Holocaust Memorial Service in the synagogue in Stockholm also had to be escorted out in the same way", he said.

The Holocaust Remembrance Day event in Brussels was part of a pan-European campaign to raise awareness of the Holocaust in churches and faith communities in Europe. The campaign "Learn from History" has this year focused on the failure of the Evian conference in 1938 to solve the Jewish refugee problem at that time. When offered the chance to save fleeing Jews from Nazi-Germany and Austria in 1938 the nations of the world said simply no. Today ECI is involved, together with individual members of parliaments around the world, to bring this dark chapter to a close by recognizing once and for all the failure of this international conference and by asking for forgiveness.

At the memorial service Member of Bundestag, Professor Gert Weisskirchen [photo] quoted in his speech Simon Dubnow, an 81-year-old historian of Judaism, who was among the last inhabitants of Riga's ghetto as they were being transported to their execution. According to survivor testimony, Dubnow called to his younger compatriots: "People, do not forget. Talk about this, people. Record it all." Moments later, he was shot in the back of his head by a Latvian auxiliary policeman.

Weisskirchen, who until recently was the personal representative of the chairman-in-office of the OSCE on the fight against anti-Semitism, reiterated the words of Dubnow, "people do not forget. If this is possible, anything is possible."

At the event, which was this year jointly organized by European Coalition for Israel, European Jewish Community Centre and Yad Vashem, Christian clergy from the Roman-Catholic and the Protestant side acknowledged the sins of the past about not reacting in time. Head deacon of the Roman-Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna Johannes Fichtenbauer brought a message from the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn where he said that "Holocaust was only possible because the church did not understand its Jewish roots." He went on to say that "Church unity can only be established when we understand and appreciate these Jewish roots."

In closing Fichtenbauer quoted cardinal Schönborn by saying that "we sinners of the past are called to become the allies of the future and stand faithfully by our Jewish friends."

Read Professor Gert Weisskirchen's full speech at the European Parliament here
"... historians are creating a model of narrating the Holocaust, not closing up a horrifying past, but to create for the generations to come the sensitivity for a common future in peace."

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