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JewishJournal.com

December 7, 2006

European anti-Semitism spurs controversial comparison

http://www.jewishjournal.com/arts/article/european_antisemitism_spurs_controversial_comparison_20061208

Across Western Europe, thousands cheer neo-Nazi rockers calling for the killing of Jews, synagogues are defaced, Holocaust memorials and cemeteries are desecrated, Jewish schoolchildren are attacked and their parents are afraid to wear yarmulkes or religious jewelry on the streets of major cities.

In "Ever Again," the Simon Wiesenthal Center, having documented the Holocaust and its aftermath in earlier films, presents a frightening picture of a rising wave of European anti-Semitism, fueled by Islamic fanatics and neo-Nazis.

During 74 minutes of graphic footage and wide-ranging interviews with both victims and perpetrators of abuse and violence, "Ever Again" tracks the new anti-Semitism in France, Germany, Belgium, Holland and Britain.

The film by the Moriah Films division of the Wiesenthal Center and narrated by actor Kevin Costner opens Dec. 8 at the Landmark's Westside Pavilion Cinemas.

Some of the most disheartening interviews are with moderate Muslims who are afraid to speak out against extremists, and with public school teachers who won't mention the Holocaust in class in the face of threats by their Muslim students.

Coming from the opposite ideological end, but aiming at the same target, is a revived neo-Nazi movement, especially among disaffected young people.

Director Richard Trank and Rabbi Marvin Hier, producer and founding dean of the Wiesenthal Center, are Academy Award recipients for previous Moriah Films documentaries. "I doubt that many Americans realize the amount of fear the Jewish communities of Western Europe are living under, due to physical violence and terrifying threats from neo-Nazis and Islamic fanatics," said Trank. "Tragically, young Jews told us that the situation has become so bad that they no longer see a safe future for themselves and their families in their own countries."

Hier warned that "many American Jews who have recently visited Europe have come to feel it is no longer safe for them there. The world in which a Jew can safely raise his or her children has become greatly diminished in recent years."

However, noted Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum said he objected to the film's title, with its clear allusion to the Holocaust-era battle cry, "Never Again."

"There is no doubt that the situation in Europe must be taken seriously, but it's a mistake to link it to the Holocaust," he said.

Berenbaum, a University of Judaism professor, is currently editing the soon to be published book, "Anti-Semitism: Then and Now," with contributions by 20 American, European and Israeli experts.

"Today's anti-Semitism is a different and more complex phenomenon than it was 65 years ago," he observed. "To a large extent, what we see now is the revolt of an underclass, spurred by anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism and anti-globalization.

"A major difference from the 1930s and '40s is that anti-Semitism is not supported by governments. A country like Poland is Israel's best friend in Europe, and Germany has the fastest-growing Jewish population anywhere."

The Landmark's Westside Pavilion Cinemas are located at Pico Boulevard and Overland Avenue. Call (310) 281-8223 for screening times. For more information about the film, go to www.wiesenthal.com.

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