- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2004

Growing anti-Semitism in Europe in recent years has put thousands of Holocaust historical sites at risk, according to the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad.

The commission has identified 5,000 Jewish historical sites throughout Europe, including Holocaust-era mass graves, execution sites and synagogues. Many of those sites are threatened by anti-Semitic vandals, said Warren Miller, the commission’s chairman.

“Throughout Europe, these instances have increased dramatically,” Mr. Miller said. “Synagogues, schools and shops have been shot at, set afire and bombed.”

The 21-member commission, which is appointed by the president, is responsible for negotiating agreements with foreign governments to protect historic sites overseas that played a role in American history.

Since 2001, there have been more than 2,000 acts of anti-Semitism in Europe, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish rights organization.

The crimes have ranged from neo-Nazis destroying a memorial to Holocaust victims in Germany to grave robbers pillaging a Jewish cemetery in Hungary. The crimes have extended beyond property, with an increasing number of attacks on Jews.

The preservation commission is charged with trying to protect these historical links to Europe’s dark past. An estimated 6 million Jews were murdered by Nazis during World War II. The commission works with European countries and private donors to identify and restore these historical sites.

Now that job is getting even harder — particularly in Western Europe.

“What is interesting, and I think unanticipated, is that the largest spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes has been in Western Europe, especially in France,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

In June, a Holocaust-era mural in southwestern France painted by Jewish children that was waiting to be transported to Nazi death camps had been chiseled off the wall by vandals. Last month, nearly 60 gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in Lyon had been spray-painted with swastikas.

Mr. Miller attributes the rising anti-Jewish sentiment to primarily Middle Eastern immigrants influenced by radical Islamic clerics preaching hate for Jews. He also blames some European governments failing to condemn anti-Semitic behavior.

The Anti-Defamation League recently launched a television ad campaign in Europe with the slogan “Anti-Semitism is anti-all of us.”

The French government also has tried to address the problem, said Agnes von der Muhll, a spokeswoman for the French Embassy. She cited recently passed legislation that toughens the penalties for racist and anti-Semitic acts and renewed efforts to emphasize tolerance in French schools.

Citing a statement by President Jacques Chirac, who said, “When a Jew is attacked in France, it is an attack on the whole of France,” Mrs. von der Muhll said, “I think that is a feeling deep in the heart of the French people.”

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