A Freeze Across Europe


The headline writers are calling the cold spell across Europe in recent weeks a new “Ice Age.”

In an usually bitter winter, even for the northern part of the continent that deals with nature’s frigid excesses every year, 2011-12 is turning out to be memorable. It’s hitting southern Europe too, the death toll across Europe reaching 300 early this week. The waterways of Venice and canals of Amsterdam froze. Snow covered the Eiffel Tower. A storm paralyzed Rome, and cancelled more than 1,000 flights at London’s Heathrow Airport. In Finland, temperatures of 40 below were recorded. Across the Mediterranean in Algeria, snow and ice was reported.

And in Berlin, where arctic temperatures kept many people indoors, the concrete slabs that make up the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, giving the appearance of an expansive cemetery, were topped with snow. A tourist, above, walks through the 4.7-acre site.

To assist the affected Jews of Europe, many of them aging and indigent Holocaust survivors, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee — the international arm of the Jewish community — last week activated its emergency response system, providing additional care to thousands of Jews, including young families.

“We’ve been able to mobilize quickly and respond to this latest deep freeze because emergency protocols are inherent to out historic winter relief program, said Steven Schwager, the Joint’s CEO.

Europe is bracing for more of the same weather in coming days. This weekend’s prediction for Berlin: high temperatures in the low 20s.