Thursday

15th Apr 2021

Opinion

Commemorating the Holocaust in revisionist times

  • In the face of nationalist revisionism, it is time to recommit to a politics of solidarity, anti-racism and inclusion that crosses borders. (Photo: Rantes)

This year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which also marks the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, comes several months after Poland’s right-wing government passed a law making it illegal to use the term "Polish Death Camps", in an effort to emphasize the responsibility for the Holocaust remains that of the German Nazi regime which occupied Poland.

But banning the term points to a larger trend of Holocaust revisionism across Europe and a revival of nationalist politics whose targets range from Roma and Jews—groups targeted and murdered by the Nazis on "racial" grounds—to refugees, Muslims and other racial, national and religious minorities.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

In Croatia, Jewish and Serbian organisations are boycotting the government Holocaust commemoration ceremony at the former concentration camp of Jasenovac, where nearly 100,000 Serbs, Roma, Jews, Croats and Muslims were murdered.

They are protesting the government’s tolerance of plaques bearing the Nazi-allied fascist Ustasha slogan, "Ready for the Homeland", on former concentration camp sites, government buildings and other memorials.

The government has turned a blind eye to the widespread use of nationalist symbols linked to the regime, under which 500,000-1,000,000 were murdered in the so-called Independent State of Croatia (1941-1945).

Hungary’s ruling party Fidesz and its leader Viktor Orban have targeted Roma, Jews, refugees, Muslims and the LGBT community, among others, and called for a referendum last October that would block refugees from the country.

Targets remain the same

The referendum didn’t bring the needed voter turnout, but 98 percent of those who voted, voted in favour of closing doors to refugees and migrants.

The anti-migrant sentiment in Hungary has been encouraged by the government, which has also built a monument in central Budapest dedicated to the "three victim groups" of the Nazis - Jews, Roma and Hungarians - and has been producing and disseminating other revisionist histories of the Holocaust that portray Hungarians as solely victims, rather than as perpetrators or collaborators.

In the Czech Republic, where the former concentration camp at Lety has been the site of an industrial pig farm, president Zeman has been whipping up populist sentiment against Roma, Jews, refugees and Muslims and in an act of political retribution last October went so far as to withdraw a national award planned for an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor.

There is a right-wing resurgence across Europe and the world, where just this week we saw Trump’s inauguration and a meeting in Germany of Europe’s right-wing leaders, organised under the banner of "Europe of Nations and Freedom".

From Slovakia, Austria and Sweden to France, the UK, Greece and beyond, this nationalism is taking hold in the same geographical spaces as the Holocaust.

In many cases the targets remain the same - Roma, Jews and others - but Muslims, refugees and other ethnic minorities have become prime targets of xenophobic nationalism, racist violence and right-wing propaganda.

An era of building walls

All of them have been emboldened by last June’s Brexit vote in the UK and Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States and the success of his racist, anti-immigrant political platform.

We have entered an era of building walls and securing borders, marked by racism, anti-refugee, anti-Muslim, anti-Roma and anti-Semitic politics.

Much of the current political climate across the world is marked by xenophobia that has been unseen since the Nazi era.

Holocaust commemoration, education and research are more important than ever. Commemoration includes recognition of Romani and Jewish histories of persecution, remembering how dangerous it is to turn away refugees and build walls between communities.

In the face of nationalist revisionism, Holocaust denial and anti-refugee sentiment, it is time to recommit to a politics of solidarity, anti-racism and inclusion that crosses borders on this year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This recommitment honours the victims, the survivors, the families and communities who suffered at the hands of the Nazis and their nationalist allies during the Holocaust.

Ethel Brooks is associate professor at Rutgers University and a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

EU failing on Roma rights

EU led efforts to integrate Roma communities in Europe are failing with poverty and social exclusion pervasive throughout the minority group, according to an EU-rights agency.

How to combat anti-Semitism and Islamophobia?

The deadly attacks in Paris and Copenhagen have served as a wake-up call to European policy makers of the escalating reality of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism in Europe

Will Romania be EU's Green Deal laggard?

Of the €30bn allocated to Romania under the EU recovery fund, just four percent is slated to go to renewable energy and energy-efficiency. Despite the pressing need to decarbonise Romania's heat and power sectors, this is not an investment priority.

Column

Muslims, Ramadan, and myths facing 'European civilisation'

Happy Ramadan? The UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief warned the Human Rights Council last month that institutional suspicion of Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim has escalated to "epidemic proportions" worldwide.

News in Brief

  1. EU states make progress on Covid-19 'travel certificates'
  2. Michel pledges to protect von der Leyen's 'dignity' in future
  3. Libya frees UN-sanctioned human trafficker
  4. European court: jailed Turkish writer's rights violated
  5. EU set to miss 1m electric charging points by 2025 target
  6. Lavrov expects Iran nuclear deal to be saved
  7. France suspends flights from Brazil due to Covid variant
  8. Johnson & Johnson delays roll-out of vaccine in EU

Column

Why Germans understand the EU best

In Germany, there is commotion about a new book in which two journalists describe meetings held during the corona crisis between federal chancellor Angela Merkel, and the 16 prime ministers of its federal constituent states.

Why Iceland isn't the gender paradise you think

Iceland's international reputation masks two blunt realities that face the country's women - the disproportionate levels of gender-based violence that they experience, and a justice system that is frequently suspicious and hostile towards victims of this violence.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. Nato and US urge Russia to back off on Ukraine
  2. Future EU platform seeks to 'stay clean' of hate speech
  3. Denmark threatens Syria deportations amid EU concerns
  4. MEPs raise concerns on vaccine 'travel certificates'
  5. Will Romania be EU's Green Deal laggard?
  6. Muslims, Ramadan, and myths facing 'European civilisation'
  7. Europe & Africa - rebuilding the future
  8. How the pandemic became an EU goldmine for crime

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us