Frankfurt / New York (dpa) – With a campaign against hate speech, the Claims Conference, which advocates for the enforcement of claims by Holocaust survivors, recalls that hate speech in National Socialist Germany preceded the mass murder of European Jews.
On YomHaSchoah’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls on April 8 this year, the digital campaign “It started with words” should make it clear that the Holocaust did not come out of nowhere.
While January 27 is celebrated internationally as a day of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism, “YomHaSchoah” is the day in Israel to commemorate the six million European Jews murdered by the National Socialists.
“You don’t wake up one morning and decide to participate in a mass murder,” Greg Schneider, vice president of the Claims Conference, said in a statement. “Hate speech, propaganda, anti-Semitism and racism were the roots that led to genocide.”
Eva Szepesi, who lives in Frankfurt, is one of today’s witnesses from around the world who report their experiences in video testimonials. “The Shoah did not start with Auschwitz,” said Szepesi, who was deported to the German extermination camp Auschwitz at the age of 12. Her parents and younger brother were murdered there. “It started for me when I was eight. I couldn’t understand why my best friends were yelling bad words at me. “
“More than ever, words of hatred are spreading uncontrollably and often unchallenged through the echo chambers of social media,” stressed Rüdiger Mahlo, the representative of the Claims Conference in Germany. “We should never underestimate the power of words and be aware of their consequences.”
“The recent past has shown that the path from word to deed is getting shorter and shorter,” noted Frankfurt rabbi Avichai Apel. “The cancer of anti-Semitism has been rampant since the outbreak of the corona pandemic and is increasingly poisoning coexistence in our society.” Social media hate posts are “particularly bad fire accelerators who have made life more dangerous for Jews in this country.”
The “digital quagmire of hatred” must be dried up, demanded Apel, who is also a member of the board of the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference in Germany. This includes consistent prosecution that also holds the operators of such platforms accountable, the courageous use of appropriate technologies such as artificial intelligence to track down the perpetrators of such hate speech, the obligation to use real names on the Internet, as well as prevention through educational work in schools. “
The Frankfurt magistrate has since adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition for anti-Semitism in order to be able to act more effectively against its forms. ‘Unfortunately anti-Semitism is increasingly daring to go back from the back rooms of our society to the center of our society, where precisely that center runs the risk of seeing social boundaries shifted by dangerous habits to more or less subtle forms of anti-Semitic stereotypes’ , Frankfurt mayor Uwe Becker, who is also the Hessian anti-Semitism officer, explained.
It doesn’t take worse attacks to discover that we no longer need to talk about how to defend ourselves from the beginning, but how to fight the spreading anti-Semitism more effectively. Anti-Semitism is not always easily recognizable: “The variety and diversity of anti-Semitism today ranges from far-right mobs to intellectually packed anti-Zionism, which detours through so-called criticism of Israel and yet ends up in anti-Semitism. Semitism, to culturally imported hatred of Jews.”