Anti-semitism In Europe Continues

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The Anti-Defamation League recently polled Europeans about their attitudes toward Jews. Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League talks about how anti-semitism in Europe continues, especially during the global economic downturn.


While the neo-Nazi movement gains strength in Germany, anti-Semitic views prevail among a surprising number of Europeans. The Anti-Defamation League recently polled citizens of seven countries, and to discuss the results, we called the ADL's national director, Abe Foxman, who's in Rome right now. And I understand you just had an audience with the Pope today. Before we get to the poll results and what they mean, let's talk about that. What were you discussing?

Mr. ABRAHAM FOXMAN (National Director, Anti-Defamation League): The subject was anti-Semitism, was Holocaust denial, was the Holocaust issues, the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community, and that was, I guess, stimulated by the fact that there has been a rift between the Vatican and the Jewish community after the reinstatement of several bishops who had rejected Nostra Aetate and Vatican Council II, and amongst them was a bishop who is a Holocaust denier and an anti-Semite.

BRAND: This is Bishop Michael Williamson, who denied that gas chambers existed and said just 300,000 Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

Mr. FOXMAN: Correct.

BRAND: What did the Pope say to you when you raised these objections?

Mr. FOXMAN: Well, the Pope condemned anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, but made no reference to Williamson, and so, as far as many of us are concerned, this issue is not resolved.

BRAND: OK, and let's talk about this poll that you conducted, a pretty large poll, surveying 3500 adults in seven European countries, and the headline from this is you found that about 30 percent of those who responded blamed Jews in the financial industry for the current global economic crisis.

Mr. FOXMAN: Yeah. Well, Jews and money are an ancient classic anti-Semitic canard. It's almost part of our subculture. So, when an economic crisis or any crisis occurs, people look to blame others. And here, the Jewish community is not only convenient, but a classic scapegoat when it comes to the issue of money.

BRAND: And what are some of the other attitudes that you found? You polled the countries Austria, France, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. Where did you find the most anti-Semitism?

Mr. FOXMAN: And well, Poland, Hungary and Spain was the worst. The other attitudes that are troubling is loyalty, the issue, are Jews loyal to their country? The majority of Europeans continue to believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than the United States. And the issue of blaming deicide - you know, blaming Jews for the killing of Christ - still maintains almost a third of the population of Europe. We've been doing this for the last 10 years, and what's distressing is that it doesn't abate; it doesn't go down; it holds steady. And at times of crisis, as we're seeing now in the economy, it rises, even, on specific issues.

BRAND: Although you say in your survey that the numbers have actually decreased in Austria and in the United Kingdom in terms of...

Mr. FOXMAN: Correct.

BRAND: Anti-Semitic attitudes?

Mr. FOXMAN: Yes.

BRAND: So, that's good news.

Mr. FOXMAN: It's good news, but overall in Europe, it continues to be bad.

BRAND: Abe Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, thank you very much.

Mr. FOXMAN: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: NPR's Day to Day continues after this.

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