Anti-Semitism past and current decried at Holocaust memorials

(JTA) — The president of the European Jewish Congress, making reference to the quenelle gesture, decried a new wave of anti-Semitism sweeping Europe at an International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Brussels.

Dr. Moshe Kantor made his remarks at the official annual European Parliament event commemorating the Holocaust co-hosted by the European Parliament and the European Jewish Congress.

The Brussels observance was among many marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day throughout Europe.

Kantor in his address said, “The Holocaust is not a matter for satire. Anti-Semitism is not an opinion, it is a crime.”

“Today, we are witness to the absolute democratization of anti-Semitism,” he said. “A simple inversed Nazi salute performed with impunity at Auschwitz, at the Berlin Holocaust memorial, at a synagogue and even in front of the Jewish school in Toulouse where Jewish children and a teacher were murdered in broad daylight by a French terrorist.” He referred to the quenelle, a gesture created by the French comedian Dieudonne that is widely recognized as anti-Semitic.

“A symbol invented by a so-called comedian which allows young people out for a drink, soldiers having a laugh and even a footballer scoring a goal to have their own unique opportunity for Jew hatred,” he said.

Antonio Samaras, the prime minister of Greece and current president of the European Parliament, said at the gathering that it was important to remember the Holocaust and put into practice the lessons learned from history.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said, “World Holocaust Day is meaningless if we only pay attention to the past and ignore the same problems that threaten us today.” He added that the threats are not only against Jews.

Established in 2005, International Holocaust Remembrance Day is an international memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust held on the anniversary of the liberation of the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau.

President Obama said in a message marking the day that the courage of those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust is a reminder to “confront bigotry and hatred in all of its forms, especially anti-Semitism.”

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum announced plans to join with United Nations information centers in 63 countries to distribute a documentary made by the museum, “The Path to Nazi Genocide.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres said in a statement to mark the day, “We have a duty to remember the past but also to improve the future. This is not just a memorial day but a call to us all to move ahead, never forgetting the past but never losing hope in the future.”

Some 58 Knesset members joined U.S. and European lawmakers at Auschwitz to mark the remembrance day.

Pope Francis in a letter said humanity must work to ensure that a Holocaust never happens again. The letter, which will be read at a concert Monday in Rome, was sent from the Vatican and addressed to his personal friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Buenos Aires.

Russian author Daniil Granin, a 95-year-old survivor of Auschwitz, was scheduled to address the German parliament in the Bundestag. A moment of silence was held to remember the Nazis’ victims, the German news agency DPA reported.

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