Members of the Jewish community in a city in northern Sweden were outraged to learn they were not invited to a ceremony commemorating Kristallnacht on Monday over “security concerns.”
Kristallnacht, the “Night of the Broken Glass,” was a large-scale pogrom in 1938 against Austrian and German Jews, which many historians consider the opening shot in the Nazi-led campaign to exterminate the Jews of Europe.
Some 400 Jews were murdered and 30,000 others expelled – some to extermination camps – during the night between November 9-10. In the days following the pogrom, the murder of Jews continued and, according to estimates, some 1,400 people were killed.
Jan Hägglund, the head of the left-wing Workers’ party in the city of Umeå, e-mailed other party leaders in the local council, asking them to come together against anti-Semitism and even to speak at the event.
When asked why the 300 members of the Jewish community weren’t invited, Hägglund told Swedish news site nt.se that: “In previous years, we have had a lot of Palestinian flags at these rallies, and even one banner where the Israeli flag was equated with a swastika. The Jewish community wasn’t invited because we assumed they might be uncomfortable around that sort of thing.”
Right-wing parties in the city decided to boycott the event, claiming organizers wanted to focus not on the Holocaust and the events of Kristallnacht, but on Muslim refugees in Sweden and Islamophobia.
Members of the Jewish community in the city, meanwhile, announced that they intend to hold an alternative event in memory of Kristallnacht, and light memorial candles.
The head of the Jewish community, Karin Sjöberg, an Israeli who has been living in Sweden for 32 years and is also a member of the city council, said in response: “I think he has a lot of nerve that he did not approach us as soon as he decided to organize the rally in the city square, and it’s not for no reason.
“The real reason was that he wanted the event to focus on the Muslim refugees and not at all on the Holocaust or the Jews. After the story broke, he announced the rally was under the banner of ‘Fighting Nazism.’ In my eyes, this is an outrageous historical distortion. They’re ignoring the memory of the Holocaust and the events of Kristallnacht.”
The Jewish community learned about the plans to hold the rally by accident, when one of the party leaders who was invited to the ceremony called Sjöberg, asking her to speak there. Sjöberg, who was surprised to learn of the rally, told her colleague she had no knowledge of it.