Kristallnacht survivors warn against anti-Semitism and hate speech

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BERLIN — Holocaust survivors around the world are warning of a resurgence of anti-Semitism as they mark the 84th anniversary on Wednesday of Kristallnacht — the “Night of Broken Glass” — when the Nazis terrorized Jews across Germany and Austria.

In the organization’s #ItStartedWithWords campaign that handles claims on behalf of Jews who suffered under the Nazis, several Holocaust survivors recount on video how anti-Semitic speech led to actions that nearly resulted in extermination mass of Jews in Europe in the last century.

Among them is Eva Szepesi, 90, a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp.

“It started for me when I was 8, and I couldn’t understand why my best friends were calling me bad names,” she said.

Szepesi was shocked at how her best friends could treat her like this, but soon the Jewish girl found herself fleeing the Nazis before being captured and deported to Auschwitz at the age of 12. His parents and his brother were murdered in Auschwitz.

On November 9, 1938, the Nazis, many of them ordinary Germans, killed at least 91 people and vandalized 7,500 Jewish businesses in the Kristallnacht pogroms across Germany and Austria. They also burned down more than 1,400 synagogues, according to the Israeli Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

Up to 30,000 Jewish men were arrested, many of whom were taken to Nazi death camps such as Dachau or Buchenwald. Hundreds more committed suicide or died from abuse in the camps years before official mass deportations began.

By the end of World War II in 1945, the Nazis and their henchmen had murdered 6 million European Jews.

The #ItStartedWithWords campaign, a relaunch of the New York Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also known as the Claims Conference, is a digital education project in which survivors reflect on the moments that led to the Holocaust. It was a time when they could not have predicted the ease with which their neighbors, teachers, classmates and colleagues would turn on them, turning from words of hate to acts of violence.

“The revival of this campaign goes beyond the commemoration of Kristallnacht,” said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference. “With the growing prevalence of Holocaust denial, distortion and hate speech on social platforms, the central message behind the #ItStartedWithWords campaign becomes even more important: The Holocaust didn’t start with camps. , ghettos and deportations; it started with words of hate.

In Germany, an anti-Semitism monitoring group said it documented more than 2,700 incidents in the country last year, including 63 attacks and six cases of extreme violence.

In a June report, the Department for Antisemitism Research and Information said anti-Jewish conspiracy narratives linked to the coronavirus pandemic and anti-Semitic criticism of Israel in the Middle East conflict were the primary drivers of the 2,738 incidents he documented.

Incidents of bias and hate speech have also increased in the US, including recent comments by singer Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, and a social media post shared by NBA star Kyrie Irving.

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