27 January marks the day the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz in 1945. The United Nations designated this as International Holocaust Remembrance Day to honor the memory of the 6 million Jews who were systematically murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. During the Holocaust, a total of 11 million people were murdered in concentration camps in Europe by the Nazi-regime.
The Nazis had persecuted everyone whom they had deemed “inferior” to the Germans. The Jews were the biggest group that was persecuted followed by the Roma people, who lost around 500,000-1 million people in the Holocaust. Other groups included people with mental and physical disabilities, gay people, trade unionist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anarchists, communists, political opponents and other resistance activists.
It has been decades since the Holocaust and we are still facing hate crime against minorities around the world and within Europe. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) reports that hate crimes are on the rise in Europe. FRA defines hate crimes as “violence and offences motivated by racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, or by bias against a person’s disability, sexual orientation or gender identity”.
Racist and xenophobic sentiments towards refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants persist across the EU. Anti-Semitism, anti-Gypsyism, Islamophobia, homophobia and sexism are well and alive in the European society. FRA reported just this month that civil society was under threat in many parts of Europe, which is a very worrying development given the crucial role civil society plays in upholding democracy and human rights.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Germany. In her weekly podcast, she said it was “incomprehensible and a disgrace that no Jewish institution can exist without police security – whether it is a school, a kindergarten or a synagogue.” Apart from Auschwitz, in Warsaw, Poland, a wreath-laying ceremony at a memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 took place that was also attended by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.