In 1939, the year World War II started with Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Germany had a Jewish population of 270,000. Austria, Hitler’s birthplace, which was merged into Germany in the Anschluss, had 60,000 Jews.
By 1945, Germany’s Jewish population had been reduced to 20,000, plus 60,000 displaced persons, and Austria had a surviving Jewish population of 7,000, according to “The Destruction of the European Jews” by Raul Hilberg.
As Hitler’s armies raged across Europe, their crimes against humanity spread throughout Nazi-occupied territory. By the time Nazi Germany surrendered May 7, 1945, a total of 6 million Jews had been systematically slaughtered through mass executions in death camps and firing squads. Two-thirds of Europe’s Jews were killed, making up one-third of the world Jewish population.
Sadly, 75 years after D-Day, when the Allies turned the tide against the Nazi death machine, we are witnessing a shocking resurgence of anti-Semitism worldwide, in democratic nations like France, the United Kingdom, Belgium and even in the Scandinavian nations that had resisted the Holocaust during World War II.
But perhaps most disturbing of all is the chilling atmosphere reported in a major article by James Angelos in the May 26 edition of The New York Times Magazine headlined: “The New German Anti-Semitism: For the nation’s estimated 200,000 Jews, new forms of old hatreds are stoking fear.”
Yes, anti-Semitism has again sprouted from the blood-soaked soil of Germany. For decades, it was naively believed that with the destruction of Nazi Germany and the democratic government’s campaign to eliminate any vestiges of Nazi sympathy it was again safe for Jews to live in the birthplace of Europe’s most virulent Jew-hatred. Jews from the former Soviet Union — even Jews from the State of Israel — began to move to Germany, where they were welcomed and respected by the government of West Germany and the re-united German government.
In his well-documented and lengthy article, Angelos shows how that hopeful sentiment was misplaced. He writes:
“Now, some 200,000 Jews live in Germany, a nation of 82 million people, and many are increasingly fearful. In a 2018 European Union survey of European Jews, 85 percent of respondents in Germany characterized anti-Semitism as a ‘very big’ or a ‘fairly big’ problem; 89 percent said the problem has become worse in the last five years.”
On May 27, an article by Christopher Schuetze in the Times reported that Germany’s top official responsible for efforts against anti-Semitism suggested that Jews “should not wear their skullcaps everywhere in public.”
“The recommendation by Felix Klein, a federal official, came amid growing evidence that, three-quarters of a century after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is on the rise,” the article said, citing what analysts called “a sobering state of affairs in Germany.”
The resurgent German anti-Semitism has been attributed to the rise of neo-Nazi groups and radical Islamic elements among the Middle Eastern and Turkish immigrant population that grew during the tenure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Already, many Jews in France no longer wear kippot in public, with some choosing to wear baseball caps instead, after several Jews were savagely beaten on French streets after they were seen wearing yarmulkes.
Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have denounced the rise of anti-Semitism in their nations, but much more needs to be done. How sad that 74 years after the unconditional surrender to the Allies by Nazi Germany, the poison of Jew-hatred has risen again.
The slogan “Never Again” truly rings hollow in light of such developments.