Terezin ghetto survivor Gideon Lev: We must fight for a better world,agaist hatred of any kind

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February 5, 2023
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We must fight for a better world, against anti-Semitism, against hatred of any kind against anyone, minority or religion, we can do it, you can do it, and your children and grandchildren, declared 87-year-old Gideon Lev, a survivor of the Terezin ghetto, on the occasion of a conference organized by the European Jewish Association (EJA), in Prague and Terezin, before the commemoration, on Friday, of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the president of the EJA, declared, during a meeting with journalists, that “every place has a different message”, and “the main message of Terezin for us is ‘fake news’, the fact that the Nazis tried to claim that they treated the Jews in a very good way”.

This fake news helped them to be praised by many people, instead of being attacked and arrested and Terezin released. Since today we are faced with a lot of ‘fake news’, which is one of the things that allows anti-Semites to incite, it is important for us to address this in particular, added Menachem Margolin.

The director of the British organization Labour Against Anti-Semitism, Alex Hearn, spoke at the EJA conference about how fake news about Jews represents a pattern as old as anti-Semitism itself. Hearn pointed out that anti-Semitism goes beyond political lines and is used by people to gain power or feel powerful. He also spoke about contemporary anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and the role of social media in their dissemination.

There are so many things that the Jews are accused of, including the fact that they do not play a role in this horrible war between Russia and Ukraine, said Menachem Margolin.

Truth is no longer based on scientific facts, but on viral news and social media. Things happen faster. We have to fight against fake news that pops up quickly on our phones. Macron himself has been presented as a puppet of the Jews because he is a former banker and he has money. Fake news uses the same stereotypes against Jews, again and again. We have to fight against all fake news. If we don’t fight it, it spreads, and it spreads very quickly, said French parliamentarian Prisca Thevenot, spokeswoman for the Renaissance party of President Emmanuel Macron.

We have to understand that social media works extremely fast. It is not enough to make laws to keep up with the technological challenges, we have to be quick to ban hate speech on social media, said the Austrian parliamentarian David Stogmuller.

As far as he is concerned, the Portuguese parliamentarian Alexandre Poco emphasized the importance of education in combating anti-Semitism.

Although our problems may not be as great as those of other countries, we must continue to invest in education. A proactive attitude continues to be necessary. We have strong ties with Jewish communities. We continue to promote Jewish life, even though we are a Catholic country, he said during the conference.

If we allow the enemies of democracy to shout, then we risk the end of democracy. The anti-Semites must be made to feel that they have no chance and that they will be made to pay the consequences, warned Sigmount Königsberg, commissioner for anti-Semitism for the Jewish community in Berlin.

For his part, Joel Mergui, the president of the Paris Consistory, which has led “the largest Jewish community in Europe for 20 years”, said that he decided to encourage the members of this community to continue living on the Old Continent as long as they had decision-makers with them in the fight against anti-Semitism and radical Islam.

From your words and actions we will have the certainty that we have a future in Europe, he conveyed to the officials present at the conference.

Coming from Israel especially for the events of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Czech Republic, Gideon Lev is, at almost 88 years old, not only a page of living history, but also a very lucid mind.

The man, born in 1935, in Karlovy Vary, told the participants in English, German and Czech about the events he experienced when he was still a child, many of which left an indelible impression on him.

When the Nazis occupied the Czech Republic, it was the end for the Jews in the country. The Jews couldn’t stay out at night, they couldn’t have radios, and pretty soon they were all moved to Terezin, which was called a ‘relocation camp’. But it was far from that. They put us in crowded barracks, there was no space, the children and women could only see their fathers and husbands from the window, walking in silence, Gideon Lev said.

“Arbeit macht frei” is one of the most cynical Nazi atrocities. In reality, you are free when you are dead, he pointed out, referring to the words in large letters placed at the entrance to Nazi concentration camps.

“Vernichtung durch Arbeit”: destruction through work, that’s what the Nazis wanted, he added.

We must fight for a better world, against anti-Semitism, against hatred of any kind against anyone, minority or religion, we can do it, you can do it, and your children and grandchildren. And that’s what we must do, pleaded the survivor of the Terezin ghetto.

Although he is 87 years old and seems far from the age when someone would start a career as an influencer on Tik Tok, Gideon Lev has, for a year, had an account on this very popular network especially among young people, fueled with the help of a Hollywood content creator, Julie Gray. Two years ago, she wrote a book called “The True Adventures of Gideon Lev”, then thought of making him a Tik Tok account to promote sales. The effect was far beyond expectations.

We now have 414,000 followers, of which 62% are under the age of 34 and 67% are women. In the last 60 days, we have 2 million views, 80,000 comments, 200,000 likes and 4,000 reshares. These are really big numbers. He has an impact on the largest social network in the world. (…) In my experience, young people want to learn about the Holocaust. Fighting anti-Semitism on social media is a huge opportunity. But we have to organize, we need better digital security, centralized shared resources. And we need to make better content, said Julie Gray.

Emma Gunsberger, head of the Czech Union of Jewish Students, claims that there are currently over 4,000 Jews in the Czech Republic.

The problem is that the associations are mainly in the big cities and the Jewish heritage in the smaller towns in the country is largely lost. In every small village you can find an old Jewish cemetery, a synagogue, but the community no longer lives there. If there is someone with Jewish ancestry there, they are usually completely detached from their Jewish identity. So Jewish life is mainly in the big cities and mainly here in Prague, she told AGERPRES.

However, where there are Jewish communities, the number of members is increasing.

The community is growing in Prague because we have Jewish schools, where Jewish children can go and do secular studies like in any normal school, but also Jewish and Hebrew studies. Through these schools we bring back Jewish customs and rituals in Jewish families, she explained.

Emma admits that in the Czech Republic anti-Semitism still exists, but usually “it’s just verbal abuse, it’s not violent”.

There is anti-Semitism, but it’s mainly from uneducated people who don’t know who Jews are and have never met one. It’s very different from the rest of Europe, she said.

It is very easy to put other things on the agenda of those who make decisions. We have to make sure that the problem of anti-Semitism will not be left aside because of other political issues, said Rabbi Menachem Margolin.

At the same time, he pleaded, more must be done so that countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania, which had large Jewish communities, have a Jewish life.

https://www.stiripesurse.ro/terezin-ghetto-survivor-gideon-levwe-must-fight-for-a-better-worldagaist-hatred-of-any-kind_2763415.html

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Pro-BDS conference held at European Parliament

BDS Founder Omar Barghouti honored at EU event hosted by MEP Ana Gomes, calling Israel an ‘apartheid’ state and justifying his actions.
European Parliament Member Ana Gomes on Tuesday hosted an event titled “The Israeli settlements in Palestine and the European Union” and focused on slamming Israel and legitimizing BDS.
The event was held at the European Parliament, and speakers included BDS movement founder Omar Barghouti, Palestinian Authority representative to the EU, Belgium, and Luxembourg Abdalrahim Alfarra, and Institute of International and Development studies in Geneva researcher Tom Moerenhout.
European Parliament President Tajani after complaints from MEPs and Israel advocacy groups, expressed his reservations about the meeting, although he could not technically stop it from taking place. The Socialist Group, of which Gomes is a member, asked for any of their logos or party insignia to be removed from the event
The event took place despite numerous representations against it because of the presence of Barghouti, whose anti-two state solution comments, boycott calls and veiled anti-Semitism comments run counter to stated EU policy.
Gomes began her remarks by saying she was happy that the meeting was taking place despite the efforts of the ‘perverse’ Israel lobby. She then went on to chastise the EU for complicity in not doing enough to tackle settlement construction, a phenomenon she referred to as a cancer affecting the peace process. Alfarra listed a litany of views related to the occupation and urged more EU states to recognize “Palestine.”
Barghouti then outlined his perceived justifications for BDS’ actions, repeatedly calling Israel “apartheid” and accusing the government of far-right tendencies. Finally, the researcher outlined the legal case for boycotts and claimed the EU was in breach of legal obligations when trading with Israel.
The event was then opened to questions, mainly from Jewish and Israel advocates who called for a retraction from Gomes due to her un-parliamentary language, and calling out BDS as anti-peace process.
European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Marglin noted that BDS ultimately harms Palestinian Authority Arabs, since it harms the factories providing them with jobs.He also asked Barghouti to state whether his true intention was to help “Palestinians” or whether BDS’ policy is simply a result of “hating Jews no matter where they live.”
Both the event’s organizers and Barghouti had charges of anti-Semitism leveled against them.
In their responses, Gomes refused to retract, said she was not anti-Semitic. Barghouti called those accusing BDS of being anti-Semitic of being anti-Semitic themselves, said accusations of harm against Palestinian Authority were “patronizing,” claiming his actions were entirely justified.
The event was not well attended by MEPs, and perhaps 5 in total attended, all of whom are anti-Israel from the left political fringes, including Italian communist radicals.
 

Auschwitz survivor decries rise of antisemitism, far-right in Germany

Eva Szepesi tells German parliament that the Holocaust ‘began with words, it began with society staying silent and looking away’

The Times of Israel: https://www.timesofisrael.com/auschwitz-survivor-decries-rise-of-antisemitism-far-right-in-germany/

BERLIN — A Jewish survivor of the Auschwitz death camp told Germany’s parliament Wednesday that she is appalled by the rising strength of the far right in the country and increasing antisemitism in the wake of the October 7 Hamas attack that triggered the war in the Gaza Strip.

Eva Szepesi, 91, who was born in Hungary and liberated from Auschwitz at age 12 in January 1945, spoke at the parliament’s annual memorial event for victims of the Holocaust. She shared her memories of Nazi persecution and addressed concerns about the current situation in Germany.

“I would like not just for murdered Jews to be remembered on memorial days but also for living ones to be remembered in daily life. They need protection now,” Szepesi told lawmakers.

Germany saw a significant increase in anti-Jewish incidents following the attack on Israel. Szepesi said some of her readings at schools were called off for security reasons shortly after October 7 and her most recent such events took place under police protection.

“The Shoah (Holocaust) did not begin with Auschwitz. It began with words, it began with society staying silent and looking away,” she said. “It pains me when schoolchildren are again afraid of going to school just because they are Jews; it pains me when my great-grandchildren still have to be protected by police officers with machine guns just because they are Jews.”

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Szepesi also decried the strengthening of the far right in Germany, where recent national polls showed the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in second place with support of around 20%. A recent news report said some party members attended a recent meeting where right-wing extremists discussed deporting millions of immigrants and people with immigrant roots, including some with German citizenship.

 

The railway tracks where hundred thousands of people arrived to be directed to the gas chambers inside the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz Birkenau, December 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file)

“It appalls me that right-wing extremist parties are again being voted for,” Szepesi said. “They must not become so strong that our democracy is endangered.”

Hundreds of thousands of German citizens attended protests against the far right this month.

“It’s great that so many people have taken to the streets in recent weeks to demonstrate against right-wing extremists,” Szepesi told parliament. “But I would like these demonstrators also to object loudly among acquaintances and at the workplace when inhuman and antisemitic comments are made.”

Meeting with European Commissioner for Education on Anti-Semitism

The EJA and our partners at Action and Protection Hungary Mr Kalman Szalai and Mr Ferenc Olti, were honored to have a meeting with European Commissioner for Education Navracsics Tibor and Ms Katharina Schnurbein, European Coordinator on combating antisemitism, on countering antisemitism through education.
Mr Ferenc Olti initiated and ran a successful project in Hungary, positively influencing the national curriculum and teaching children about Judaism and the important role played by Jews in Hungarian society.
As the EU wrestles with the challenge of rising antisemitism across the continent, we are working closely with the Commission with a view to setting up pilot education projects based on the Hungarian model in several European countries. We will keep you posted as this important initiative moves ahead in coming weeks.
 

President of Montenegro Blessings for Rosh HaShanah

The EJA warmly thanks H.E. Milo Đukanović, President of Montenegro, for His Excellency’s kind wishes to the European Jewry in light of the upcoming holiday of Rosh Hashanah

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