Speech by EJC President at the Presentation of Book Series “An And to Antisemitism!” Vienna, Austria

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Dear President Sobotka,

Distinguished guests

Dear friends,

We are gathered here today, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the day that symbolised the beginning of the darkest period in European history.

Through Kristallnacht, the Nazis tested the whole society’s reaction to violent antisemitism.

It was the indifference of society to these shameful acts that were happening in front of their eyes that encouraged them to take the next steps towards the extermination of European Jews.

83 years after the November pogroms and 76 years after the end of the Shoah, hatred, disinformation, conspiracy theories about Jews or the Jewish state are more than ever circulating online and poisoning hearts and minds.

The fight against antisemitism is an indicator of the ability of democratic states to protect their citizens against the main security challenges of our time.

In some ways, the situation has become much worse, but in other ways it has also become better.

Across Europe, we have seen an unprecedented response at the political level to combat antisemitism:

  • Two European Council declarations, the first one thanks to the Austrian presidency.
  • The Fifth World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem hosted by the State of Israel in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress and Yad Vashem.
  • The Malmö International Forum, organised by the Swedish government on the initiative of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.
  • The first ever EU Strategy on Combatting antisemitism, published just a month ago by the European Commission.
  • Crucial steps to fight antisemitism at the national level, and here the efforts of the Austrian government and the Austrian National Council are an example to the rest of Europe.
  • Just two weeks ago, the European Council did an unprecedented move: It confirmed in its conclusions that no efforts must be spared in the fight against antisemitism.

However, just as we were seeing great progress at the political level, the problem of antisemitism in society is unfortunately getting worse.

So we asked ourselves: what else can be done to create positive change?

In Austria, this question was debated for the first time on the highest academic platform at the international conference: An end to antisemitism!

This conference was organised by the European Jewish Congress, in cooperation with the University of Vienna, the University of Tel Aviv and the New York University.

We were intentionally overambitious with the title of the conference.

However, our objective was to plant the seeds that would make a real contribution to this fight.

The five volumes that we are presenting today explore antisemitism in religion, in history, in the social sciences, in politics & the media, and offer a catalogue of policies to find concrete solutions.

So what are the next steps?

We have now an opportunity to share the results of this very profound and intensive academic work.

Together, these five books are the most ambitious examination of the problem of antisemitism.

More importantly, they prepare the ground for common preventive action in society today and in the future.

Our objective is to distribute these volumes as widely as possible, so that they can be used as a multiplier by governments, academics, churches, the media and other organisations.

Why do we believe so much in books?

It is no coincidence that our people are referred to as the people of the Book.

Books have always been the quintessence of our way of life and they are still the primary reference for our beliefs and our perception of the world.

Of course, today’s influencers and decision-makers also use other tools like media and social media.

But Jewish people are particularly attached to books and hope that others will follow us.

It is not a coincidence that we are launching these books here in Austria.

Inspired by Austria’s leadership, the country is paving the way towards a solution to the oldest hatred.

I would like to thank EJC Vice-President Ariel Muzicant, who was the visionary and an exceptional force behind this great success.

This process was completed because of his hard work and his systematic engagement.

I would also like to thank Prof. Armin Lange, the coordinator of these volumes, and all one hundred and nineteen esteemed academics who made important contributions to this initiative.

We can now look forward to successful and meaningful implementation.

Thank you.