In 1939 there were an estimated 9.5 million Jews living in Europe. Today their numbers have diminished to roughly 1.4 million — just 0.2 percent of Europe’s total population.
The Holocaust accounted for the greatest decrease in Europe’s Jewish population — which went from 9.5 million to 3.8 million between 1939 and 1945. In recent decades, however, emigration to Israel and other parts of the world has contributed to the continuing decline. Many worry that a recent uptick in anti-Semitism will cause an “exodus” of Jews from Europe, and their suspicions may be justified.
The most dramatic declines in Europe’s Jewish population have typically come from Eastern Europe and countries formerly part of the Soviet Union. But recent years have witnessed large-scale emigration from France, Italy, Belgium and Britain, as well. Jewish immigration to Israel was up by 88 percent from Western Europe in 2014, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel.
A siege at a kosher market in Paris following the January Charlie Hebdo attack left several people dead and lead many French Jews to be on heightened alert. The Jewish Agency for Israel, which coordinates immigration to Israel, predicted that some 15,000 French Jews would emigrate in 2015 and more than 50,000 make the move in the next few years.
Pew Research estimates, however, that there were roughly as many Jews in France as of 2010 as there were in 1939, and some argue the population will persist in the country despite obstacles.
“The European Jewry is the oldest European minority and we have our experience of surviving under all possible circumstances,” Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, told The Associated Press. “We will not give up our motherland, which is called Europe. We will not stop the history of European Jewry, that is for sure.”