Some prejudices never really go away: their continued existence reminds us that the world is still not approaching a state of perfection. It was my experience last September in Berlin that first alerted me.
Close to the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag is the Holocaust Memorial. It is formed of a field of Stelae, dark and silent reminders of the millions that were systematically killed by the Nazis. The monument does not appear controversial: it is a place for reminder and reflection. Or so I thought, before observing the presence of a security guard. In fact, there were two guards on duty that day, and as far as I know, every day.
The example is not an isolated one. Last month in Budapest I noted rather greater security precautions in place at the Great Synagogue (second only in size to that in New York). This magnificent building, topped by two onion domes, is now surrounded by a substantial fence and watched over by more of those guards.
News now reaches me that Jewish communities in Leeds have organised themselves to guard places of worship and other buildings across the city. Here, where there has been a substantial Jewish community for decades, contributing much to the wealth and well being of the area, one might have thought that the older and least pleasant of prejudice would have fallen by the wayside.
Anti-Semitism is one of the most terrible stains on the recent history of much of Europe. It is a challenge to all of us to make sure it is not allowed to return.
No ifs, no buts, no excuses.
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
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