a recent post report on antisemitic incidents in Britain in 2021 was alarming reading. Community Security Trust (CST) recorded a total of 2,255 incidents – the highest number ever reported to the organization in a single year.
Eight percent of the incidents involved violence, and a small number of these involved extreme violence. One hundred eighty-two of the incidents occurred in schools and involved Jewish students or teachers. There were 82 desecrations of cemeteries or synagogues, and this sadly shows why Jewish schools and community organizations in Britain require significant security measures.
The most common type of incident documented in the CST report involved people using the conflict in Israel and Palestine in May 2021 as an opportunity or excuse to harass Jews. These made up 826 of the incidents, 37 percent of the total. Examples of this included cars draped in Palestinian flags driving through Jewish communities while abuses were shouted at residents. A new source of antisemitism in recent years has also been the COVID-19 pandemic. Antisemitic ideas online about COVID, vaccines, and other topics are rampant.
As anti-Semitic killings in recent years in France and an attempt to attack a synagogue during a service in Halle in Germany in 2019 have shown, Britain is not a more dangerous place for Jews than other Western European countries, but the report from CST shows that anti-Semitism in Britain is both a challenge and a threat, and that Jews are being targeted in their neighborhoods in anti-Semitic incidents.
Unlike in earlier times, Western European states themselves are now unlikely to engage in anti-Semitic action, but anti-Semitism persists in society and in politics, as can be seen in the attitudes of French presidential candidate Éric Zemmour, and in the antisemitism. -Semitism directed against some Jewish Labor MPs who challenged the party’s leadership over its handling of anti-Semitism during Jeremy Corbyn’s time as leader. The CST report and other recent incidents, such as the hostage-taking at a synagogue in Texas by a British citizen in January this year, show that anti-Semitism can still pose a grave danger to Jews.
The need to consistently challenge anti-Semitism remains clear, and the Wiener Holocaust Library’s upcoming exhibition in London, Fighting anti-Semitism from Dreyfus to Today, is a timely examination of the wide range of ways in which Jewish and other groups have fought against antisemitism. -Semitism in more than a century since the Dreyfus Affair galvanized anti-Semites and their opponents in France.
The passions ignited by the Dreyfus affair, which saw the arrest, trial, and imprisonment of Jewish French army officer Alfred Dreyfus on trumped-up charges of espionage, refuted the notion that by the end of the 19th century, anti-Semitism was a thing of the past. The same can be said about the current situation in Western Europe, and our exhibition draws from the Wiener Holocaust Library’s archival collections, originally assembled to challenge anti-Semitism in interwar Germany, to document the struggle in Britain. , France and Germany during the last 120 years. years.
The Fight Against Antisemitism traces the separate but intertwined national histories of antisemitism and the fight against it in Britain, France, and Germany. The Wiener Library itself has transnational roots, having been founded by a German Jew whose goal was to warn the world of the threat posed by the Nazis. Antisemitism in the form of postwar Holocaust denial, which was so prominently and successfully refuted in the Irving–Lipstadt libel trial in London in 2001, grew out of transnational anti-Semitic networks based in Britain and France. Our exhibition shows that this cross-border work, practiced by both anti-Semites and anti-Semites, already existed at the time of the Dreyfus Affair and continues to this day.
The exhibition also explores the various methods that have been used to challenge antisemitism for decades, including the use of public debate in the press, work to monitor and document the activities of antisemites, as well as demonstrations, sabotage and street . fighting. Today, those fighting antisemitism sometimes use modern intelligence and dissemination methods, but the underlying principles of antisemitism work remain.
The Dreyfus Affair can be seen as marking the early stages of a century of anti-Semitism in Europe, in which the mass murder of Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust was the central event. The library exhibition explores and connects some key moments in this history, focusing on the actions and strategies of those who fought against anti-Semitism.
In France, the involvement of leading personalities in defense of Dreyfus, such as Emile Zola in his famous essay J’accuse, led to an unprecedented mobilization of both committed anti-Semites and committed anti-Semites. In Germany and Holland in the 1930s, the founder of the library Dr Alfred Wiener and others produced fact sheets and other materials to help those involved in the fight against anti-Semitism. They also monitored, documented and disseminated information about the activities of the Nazis. During the Holocaust, jewish resisters he fought against the genocidal antisemitism of the Nazis and their collaborators in partisan groups, armed uprisings, clandestine rescue missions, and in efforts to preserve records of Jewish life and culture.
In Britain in the 1930s and 1940s, Jewish anti-fascist groups like Group 43 fought fascists in the streets, like Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, and the trade union movement in places like Dalston in East London, and through labor. undercover to infiltrate the fascists.
Our knowledge of the activities of anti-Semites often comes from the work of those fighting them, as can be seen in the photographs on display from the collections of the library’s predecessor organization, then based in Amsterdam, which record the proliferation of posters anti-Semites on the streets of Germany in the mid-1930s.
Also on display at the exhibition are documents from the archives of the CST and the Board of Deputies of the Archives of British Jews, parts of which are housed in the Vienna Holocaust Library, including photographs showing fascist gatherings and desecrated graves and extensive documentation compiled by the Board of Deputies. about British neo-Nazi Colin Jordan.
This timely exhibit focuses on the fight against antisemitism, and in doing so also provides many examples of manifestations of antisemitism since the time of Dreyfus. We hope to challenge the widespread ignorance about what antisemitism is. Too often, people fail to recognize familiar myths and stereotypes as anti-Semitic, despite many valiant efforts by Jewish and non-Jewish allies to expose the falsehoods and debunk the slanders. Too often, too, Jews are blamed for the anti-Semitism inflicted on them, a pattern that affects other minority groups as well.
If there is one thing we hope people will take away from this exhibition, it is that visitors will be inspired by the many examples of anti-Semitic activity on display and realize that the best way to fight anti-Semitism is to focus on fighting against anti-Semites, and never be tempted to blame their victims.
Fighting antisemitism from Dreyfus to today is a major new exhibition at the Wiener Holocaust Library in London, opening on March 30, 2022.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.