Rising Antisemitism in Europe

By Anna Hanuska

Less than a century after causing the most famous genocide in recent history, antisemitism is on the rise around the world, notably in Europe.

In France, 64% of Jews report suffering antisemitic verbal abuse, according to a 2019 study. The statistic for religious Jews is even higher. Clearly, the more visibly Jewish one appears in France, the more likely one is to be harassed. Many members of the general public believe that hatred comes only from “Neo-Nazi” ideologies, yet this belief is not shared by those being targeted. Jewish respondents listed far-right and far-left ideologies as almost equal causes of hatred. While far-right extremists are known to be antisemitic, since it’s included in garden-variety racism, the far-left seems more subtle to the general public. The discrimination by the far-left is often not rooted in a general hatred of all peoples deemed “other” but stems from falsely blaming Jewish people for issues in the economy. Scapegoating Jews for the ills of capitalism is a long-standing and very harmful form of discrimination that is still prominent today.

Additionally, the prominence of antisemitism has real-life implications, even for kids. A former French principal attests that he regularly advised parents not to send Jewish children to his high school for fear of their safety. He even intervened to have a teen accepted to the local Jewish school to prevent him from enrolling at the regular public school. His fear is obviously shared by the Jewish community, as only a third of Jewish children attend public schools in France, even though the majority did 30 years ago. The dangers that Jewish children face are not just isolated anecdotes either, as six out of ten reported suffering physical abuse at school.

Perhaps most worryingly, antisemitism is back (if it ever left) in Germany too. Another study found that 27% (that’s more than one in every FOUR) of Germans hold antisemitic views, such as that Jews have “too much power over the economy” or “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to Germany.” Says Cologne Rabbi Yechiel Brukner, “There are still living Holocaust survivors and Germans already dare to entertain anti-Semitic thoughts.” 

In both Germany and France, a large portion of antisemitic attacks are attributed to the influx of Muslim immigrants. However, this opinion is often dismissed as Islamophobic and has become politically incorrect to admit (for fear of encouraging anti-immigration views), leading Germany to underreport the number of assaults by Muslim people. Politicians cannot seem to find a way to acknowledge that letting in a large number of refugees from countries that hate Israel (and thus all Jewish people) without safeguards in place to protect said hated group may have been a poor idea. Simply stated, the communities’ overall attitude toward Jews in the immigrants’ country of origin probably had more impact on their prejudices than their religion did, so the issue should be able to be acknowledged without blaming Islam. Regardless of the origins of hatred, however, the normalization of antisemitism in Europe could not happen without the locals allowing and encouraging it. Two German filmmakers agree, displaying native Germans both enabling and actively participating in antisemitic bullying in their short films. “Germany may have been coping with its history on the level of the German institutions,” states Arkadij Khaet, director of the short film “Masel Tov Cocktail,” “but it didn’t necessarily percolate down to the personal level.”

All over the world (because, yes, it’s a problem in America too), people must stand against antisemitic ideologies and agendas. From bullying in schools to verbal street harassment, Jews face continued discrimination internationally, which we as a society must work to prevent.