Eighty years ago we said ‘Never Again’ but we spoke too soon, writes KAREN POLLOCK chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust
As I watched footage of the various protest marches in British cities at the weekend, I could barely believe what I was seeing.
Just a week after the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust, people turned out to demonstrate – but not in solidarity with the 1,300 men, women and children who were murdered by Hamas terrorists, or to demand the release of hostages or call for peace.
We now know that women and girls were raped and mutilated. More than 150 people – including children and grandmothers – were kidnapped. Most horrifyingly of all, 40 babies were killed.
In the face of such unimaginable barbarism, thousands of people took to the streets of London, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and Glasgow bearing placards with slogans such as ‘Resist’ and ‘End Israel state terror’.
Others joined in inflammatory chants, including ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’, and trampled on Israeli flags.
In such a context, it wasn’t safe to be a dissenting voice. In London on Saturday, a lone man brandishing an Israeli flag was chased down a London street and surrounded by furious pro-Palestine protesters before being encircled by police officers for his own protection.
Perhaps worst of all, in an appalling display of callousness, at least two protesters sported images of paragliders, a shocking homage to the terrorists who left Gaza by air to inflict unimaginable terror on kibbutzes just a few miles across the border.
In an all too familiar turn of events, we have also seen people denying the savage nature and industrial scale of the attacks. Some refuse to believe that they happened at all.
Denial of violence against Jews is nothing new, of course. Denial of the Holocaust started soon after it ended.
In April 1945 when the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby, standing amid dead and dying Jews from across Europe, described the unspeakable horrors of what he saw at the Nazi concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen.
His incredulous bosses at the BBC initially refused to air the report. Only when Dimbleby threatened to resign if it was not broadcast did the world finally hear the appalling truth.
I have been reflecting this week on the way Dimbleby, a non-Jewish reporter, risked his own career to share the story of Bergen-Belsen.
I think he hoped that by bearing witness to what the Nazis had done he would ensure that the horrors he saw would never be repeated.
But in recent days we have seen that Jew hatred remains alive and well across the world in 2023.
There is an understandable concern in our community. Some people are nervous about wearing a kippah in public (the head covering proudly worn by Jewish men). Others who wear a Star of David on a necklace have learned to cover it up in public places. I share the anxiety, but British Jews will not let this cower us.
For survivors of the Holocaust to witness this rise in anti-Jewish sentiment after all they have endured is unspeakable.
When the world said ‘Never again’ nearly 80 years ago, we hoped that violent and barbaric antisemitism had been eradicated for ever.
When mass graves were discovered across Europe, filled with the bodies of Jews slaughtered in cold blood, we hoped that we would never again see such scenes.
In the years since, we have been reminded time and time again that antisemitism did not end with the liberation of the camps and the end of the Second World War.
Over the past week, that message could not have been clearer.