Lessons from the past to help tackle antisemitism today

A memorial to a synagogue destroyed during Kristallnacht in Bruchsal, Germany.
A memorial to a synagogue destroyed during Kristallnacht in Bruchsal, Germany.
Tens of thousands of Jewish businesses and over 200 synagogues were destroyed and hundreds of people murdered or driven to death on Kristallnacht, 9-10 November 1938. The antisemitic pogrom that these events were a part of sowed the seeds of the Holocaust. Its anniversary reminds us that complacency is not an option, as antisemitism continues to haunt Europe today.

For example, the Agency’s 2013 survey report on Discrimination and hate crime against Jews in EU Member States revealed how 66% of respondents felt that antisemitism is a major problem in their country. Over a fifth of respondents had been physically attacked, verbally insulted and harassed in the 12 months prior to the survey. Antisemitism has also spilled online: 76% felt that online antisemitism had increased over the last five years.

Concerted efforts are required from the EU, its Member States, educational practitioners and civil society organisations to combat the phenomenon. Fundamental rights promotion and wider educational efforts all play a pivotal role in this.

Holocaust and human rights education can help teach those in the present about citizenship and remembrance by drawing on lessons from history. It can also promote the values enshrined in the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights, including freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination. This learning process is vital for fostering a fundamental rights culture in the EU.

The Agency has created two toolkits in this area, one for teachers and another for public officials. It is also part of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance to support EU Member States in implementing commitments set under the Stockholm Declaration.

In addition, it is organising training for public officials on fundamental rights, citizenship, and learning from the Holocaust under the EU’s Slovak Presidency. They play a vital role in cultivating understanding among citizens, which is crucial in tackling antisemitism.

It is not sufficient to remember and commemorate the past. The lessons from it must be applied now. Only then can we create a society for future generations grounded in mutual dignity, compassion and humanity, as opposed to hate.