“Elie Wiesel was one of the last survivors of the Holocaust. He was the conscience of the world, you see. That was important,” says Prof. Julius Schoeps about the Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel who died on July 2nd. A voice that will be missed, says the scholar, in a life-long quest against racism and antisemitism. Schoeps, director of the Moses Mendelssohn Zentrum in Potsdam, opens a conference on the new antisemitism in Europe.
“You see a lot of young people here, and I have a feeling there are very interested in the topic,” he says.
The conference at CIEE, the Council on International Education Exchange, brings together scholars from Berlin, Potsdam and Indiana University.
“We have empirical data from surveys in the Jewish communities, and not only in Germany, but in Europe in general, and there’s an increasing feeling of insecurity,” says historian Dr. Olaf Glöckner, a research associate at the Moses Mendelssohn Zentrum in Potsdam. “We cannot say that the criminal statistics are also increasing, but the Jewish communities, they feel that there is an increase of hostility from the intellectual sides - there is Israel bashing. In France and countries like Belgium, there are also increasing numbers of violence.”
The research is just at the beginning, says Glöckner, but this new unease in Jewish communities already shows how individuals have changed their behavior in the past five years.
“If nearly twenty percent of the Jews in Germany, which were in a survey from the EU, and they think about, 'Do I go to a Jewish service or not?' Twenty percent - I mean, this is every fifth person. So this an alarming sign, I would say.”
Dr. Günther Jikeli, currently at the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism at Indiana University, researches antisemitism among Muslims. He comments on the recent terror attacks in Europe.
“The jihadist terrorism we have seen, all of them are also anti-Semites, where people who are not necessarily well organized but influenced by Islamist ideology. They think that the struggle with Jews - killing Jews - is a duty for them. So that’s inherent in many Islamist ideologies.”
Worldwide, adds Jikeli, the first victims of Islamists are Muslims.
The conference on the new unease, organized by Indiana University Europe Gateway, attracted a large crowd. Attendee Lars Breuer says, “There is not so much research on contemporary antisemitism, and there are hardly any institutions, so it’s rather unique to have these kind of events or gatherings.”