Victoria Streatfeild reports on the disturbing resurgence of antisemitism in Britain IN A NEWS item last February, Central Television depicted the increase in antisemitic incidents in Birmingham, and parts of Western Europe.
. The reporter compared the fascist riots of the 1930s led by Oswald Mosley to neo-Nazi marches taking place today in the former West Germany. Nearer to home, in a Birmingham cemetery, there were shots of grave stones covered in anti-semitic slogans. Security officers were reported to be on guard outside the doors of local synagogues.
The report's findings tallied with a five per cent increase in the number of anti-semitic incidents reported to the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
The incidents ranged from a pig's head nailed to the door of a synagogue in Sutherland to antisernitic literature sent to a wide range of prominent and less prominent Jews. Searchlight, an
international anti-fascist magazine, whilst reporting an increase in neo-Nazi marches taking place in Europe. also reported a similar increase in marches organised by the British Nationalist Party.
Ana Polanski from Krakow in Poland has run the whole gamut of anti-semitism and nearly paid the ultimate price. She was 22 years old when the Second World War broke out. Three years later, she was arrested and sent to Ravensbriick concentration camp. After the war, she spent some time recovering from her ordeal at the Cavendish headquarters of the Sue Ryder Foundation in Suffolk.
Now 77, she is in Britain visiting her brother, who lives in North London. "I feel no bitterness or hatred," she said, "but I can't say I like the Germans. When we learnt about German reunification, I wasn't worried. I hoped only for a peaceful coexistence. I'm alarmed, though, by the nationalistic outpourings in Europe. Many countries besides Germany are affected.
There is no doubt in Ana's mind that what she describes as "nationalistic outpourings in Europe" have an immediate and profound impact in Britain.
&ven-year-old Jacob has been on the receiving end. A bright, dark-haired and lively child, he goes to the local primary school near his home in Solihull. One morning last March. he set off for the school as usual, waving cheerfully to his mother, Eileen. Hours later, he returned home in tears. During break-time, in the playground, one of the children had come up to him and accused him of "killing Jesus".
Jacob was too young to understand all the implications of this remark, but he was devastated by its cruelty. The youngest of four children in an Orthodox family, he enjoys taking part in Jewish festivals and keenly attends his local synagogue. His mother is distraught. She and her husband, Frank, are no strangers to anti-semitism. They have received anti-semitic literature and the grave of Eileen's mother was recently desecrated.
"I went to Jacob's school," said Eileen, "and complained to the teachers, who were very good and understanding. But it is the parents of that child who are to blame. If he is being fed these thoughts at home, what hope is there for him?"
Compared to other countries, Britain's record on containing anti-semitism is a good one. The number of reported incidents is relatively low, but it is the nature of those incidents which is so disturbing.
Nathaniel, a caretaker in a cemetery in Kilburn, London, bears witness to this. "I haven't had much trouble," he said, "but many of my friends have received literature, which at best can only be described as obscene.
One friend in particular, who owns a Kosher grocery shop, found the outside walls of the shop covered in swastikas. The police do their best and to do them credit, do treat the incidents very seriously.
"However," he adds, "I just wish people would remember the Jewish race paid the ultimate price in the last war. We were tortured and gassed for our beliefs. Noone can adequately describe or understand the full horrors of the Holocaust."
Nathaniel's only wish is for future generations to grow up in a society free of anti-semitism and the sort of vicious incidents it produces.
"But sadly," he says, "I can •t see that happening."