Anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head in Greece, where the phenomenon is more prevalent than ever – especially in Athens.
In the 10 months since a Holocaust memorial was dedicated in the Greek capital, a neo-Nazi candidate has been elected to the city council and the city's Jewish Museum of Greece has been slathered with swastikas.
Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated across the country, and Holocaust monuments and synagogues have been vandalized. The country's 6,000 Jews – a vestige of the 60,000 others who were deported in 1943 and 1944 to Nazi death camps – have been the target of a recent surge in hate crimes in Greece.
Moreover, a visit this month by Jewish American leaders was greeted with dismay, and unchallenged anti-Semitism by many, including a prominent Greek composer, Mikis Theodorakis. “Zionism and its leaders are here, meeting in our country!” he warned in a television interview. “This is no laughing matter,” he said, slamming Zionism and its “control over America and the banking system of which Greece has now become a victim.” Theodorakis openly admitted to being an anti-Semite on the program, a confession that reportedly did not raise even an eyebrow.
“We've always been under siege by fanatics and far-right political movements here,” David Saltiel, president of the Central Jewish Board of Greece, told the LA Times in an interview published Monday. “The fear now is that anti-Semitism will get worse with the financial crisis.
The country's deep economic difficulties prompted a massive 110 billion euro ($147 billion) bailout last year by 15 financial ministers in the EuroZone (European Union) and the International Money Fund. The leaders of the 16-nation Eurogroup agreed to the deal in order to prevent Greece from defaulting on its massive debt. But the bailout could not prevent the rage triggered by the cascade of unemployment and skyrocketing immigration -- some of which has since been aimed at the Jews.
Not Only in Greece
Greece is not the only country in which anti-Semitism is on the rise, however. The dangerous trend is also being seen in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, home to only 700 Jews. Many Jewish residents have been prompted to move out for their own safety, according to Frederik Sieradzki of the Jewish Community of Malmo.
In 2009, there were 79 hate crimes against Jewish residents reported to police – double the number reported a year earlier. Jewish cemeteries and synagogues have been repeatedly defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti.
A similar trend has been noted in France, where 832 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in 2009. Half that many, 474 incidents, were reported in 2008, according to the Aid to Victims Department of the Jewish Community Protection Service (SPCJ).
Nearly a third of the gravestones in a 200-year-old Jewish cemetery in the northeastern part of the country were smashed last November. Of the 126 thick limestone tombstones, 49 were broken and toppled in the 19th century cemetery in the town of Bar-le-Duc, located in the Meuse district of the Lorraine region.
A Jewish cemetery in eastern France was similarly attacked in the town of Wofisheim, in the Alsace region last July. In nearby Strasbourg, some 30 Jewish tombstones were broken and defaced earlier in the year, with “Juden Raus” (Jews Out!) scrawled on one of them. Swastikas were painted on 18 others.