Anne Frank was mur­dered by anti-semitic Nazis – and now their hate is re­turn­ing

The Scotsman - - Perspective - Chris­tine Jar­dine

Alit­tle over four years ago, I emerged from the dark tun­nel of the Yad Vashem Holo­caust me­mo­rial in Is­rael into a bright sunny morn­ing.

The metaphor is not only in­escapable, but a de­lib­er­ate fea­ture of a jour­ney through the mu­seum which chron­i­cles one of the dark­est pe­ri­ods of mod­ern his­tory through the sto­ries of those who ex­pe­ri­enced it.

Un­like any other mu­seum, or me­mo­rial I have ever vis­ited, I left it with an over­whelm­ing sense of re­lief that this hor­rific phe­nom­e­non was in our past.

Now, half a decade on, I find my­self haunted by the fear that it may not be quite as firmly rooted there as I be­lieved.

And I am not alone.

Over the past few months, I have been at a num­ber events where mem­bers of the Jewish com­mu­nity have shared with me their con­cerns over the growth of anti-semitism.

At West­min­ster, I have taken part in more than one de­bate prompted by ev­i­dence of the re-emer­gence of the 20th cen­tury’s great­est evil.

Then last Sun­day it was con­firmed that the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment has been told that many peo­ple feel its im­pact so strongly that they are con­sid­er­ing mov­ing else­where.

I have not been able to put that thought out of my mind since.

I was born less than two decades af­ter the end of the Se­cond World War.

Much of what is now re­garded as his­tory was then the col­lec­tive mem­ory of my par­ents’ and grand­par­ents’ gen­er­a­tions.

I clearly re­mem­ber the day, shortly af­ter hear­ing of Anne Frank’s story for the first time, that I tear­fully chal­lenged my par­ents to ex­plain to me why, and how, any­body could be treated this way?

They chose not to fo­cus on any vil­lain of that pe­riod but to tell me in­stead of all those who had fought to pro­tect Europe’s Jewish com­mu­nity, of heroic tales of de­fi­ance and im­bue me with a be­lief that good does tri­umph.

I have been par­tic­u­larly grate­ful for their guid­ance re­cently as I have heard, not just the fears, but the ev­i­dence of anti-semitism, and other forms of racism, in this coun­try.

The most re­cent fig­ures for 2018 show the se­cond high­est num­ber of anti-semitic in­ci­dents recorded in first six months of any year across the UK. The high­est fig­ure was in 2017 when there was a record of 1,414 anti-semitic in­ci­dents over the en­tire 12 months.

Those in­cluded vi­o­lent as­saults, of­fen­sive graf­fiti and abu­sive be­hav­iour. None of it ac­cept­able.

But those are just fig­ures on a page.

What re­ally con­veys the anx­i­ety of the sit­u­a­tion are the words of the di­rec­tor of the Scot­tish Coun­cil of Jewish Com­mu­ni­ties, Ephraim Borowski.

He is quoted as hav­ing told a cross­party com­mit­tee of MSPS that many Jews in Scot­land cur­rently feel “alien­ated and vul­ner­a­ble” and that is why they are con­sid­er­ing their fu­ture.

I can­not be­lieve any rea­son­able per­son can be happy to read, or to have heard, those words. What has gone, or is go­ing, wrong in our so­ci­ety that any­one is be­ing made to feel that way?

And please do not any­one try to tell me that this is be­ing ex­ag­ger­ated or is with­out ba­sis.

One of the most of­fen­sive as­pects of last week’s cov­er­age was, for me, the Twit­ter mes­sages I re­ceived telling me this was all a po­lit­i­cal con­struct to dis­credit a par­tic­u­lar po­lit­i­cal party. Se­ri­ously. Al­though I must em­pha­sise it was not by that party or any of their rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Surely we can all see what is go­ing on around us?

I have cho­sen to write this ar­ti­cle about anti-semitism, but it could just as eas­ily have been about Is­lam­o­pho­bia.

Fol­low­ing re­cent vis­its to my lo­cal mosque to meet the com­mu­nity, I was bom­barded with abu­sive tweets and Face­book mes­sages, none of which I would grace with rep­e­ti­tion.

But the theme was clear and the rea­son for con­cern very real. The ‘why’ is more dif­fi­cult. Some com­men­ta­tors will point to the growth of iden­tity pol­i­tics across the world.

Once you be­gin to de­fine your pol­i­tics in terms of who you are, rather than what you be­lieve, do you be­gin to de­fine every­one by whether they are like you, or not?

Do you be­gin to look at ev­ery­thing in the world in terms of them and us?

Just re­cently our coun­try has been go­ing through the most di­vi­sive pe­riod prob­a­bly any of us can re­mem­ber.

Can it be just a co­in­ci­dence that we are see­ing an in­crease in racism?

Oh, I know there are other com­men­ta­tors who would high­light the im­pact of in­ter­na­tional in­ci­dents, wars and ter­ror­ism.

The truth is prob­a­bly some­where be­tween or a com­bi­na­tion of both iden­tity pol­i­tics and in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ences, and in a way it is much less im­por­tant than the recog­ni­tion that it ex­ists.

Sun­day 27 Jan­uary is Holo­caust Me­mo­rial Day. It marks the lib­er­a­tion of Auschwitz, a place whose name is the very epit­ome of the worst that mankind can do, and has done, to one an­other.

Ev­ery time I am re­minded of that hor­ror I choose, as I was taught as a child, to re­mem­ber that it was over­come by hu­man­ity at its best. Those of us with any in­flu­ence on so­ci­ety’s direc­tion have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure our cur­rent com­mu­ni­ties are pro­tected by that hu­man­ity.


0 Anne Frank died in Ber­gen-belsen con­cen­tra­tion camp in 1945 at the age of 15

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