The organisers of a Kristallnacht commemoration in Sweden have admitted to deliberately excluding the Jewish community because the event was an “unwelcoming or unsafe situation for them”.
The event in the predominantly leftist city of Umeå, mid-eastern Sweden, proclaimed itself as ‘Umeå against Nazism – demonstration on Kristallnacht’. It took place last night. The group organising Umeå against Nazism comprises of a coalition of friendly sounding local political groups including the Social Democrats, the Green party, the Workers’ Party, the Labour Party, the Centrist Party and the Feminist party.
Despite Kristallnacht commemorations focussing on the symbolic beginning of major persecution of the Jewish community in Germany and Austria by the Nazi movement in 1938, the event as marked in Sweden appears to have taken on an anti-Semitic quality of its own. Although still an anti-Nazi event, it is now anti fascist as understood by the modern left, which includes hatred for the state of Israel.
Event co-organiser and Workers’ party politician Jan Hagglund explained to local magazine Totalt Umeå the logic behind the snub, remarking that the focus was now to create an event for political groups to stand up against Nazism. Because some of those political groups are openly opposed to Israel, the event could be “perceived” as being “unwelcoming or unsafe situation for [Jews]”.
In previous years participants have flown flags equating the Star of David with the Swastika at the Kristallnacht event. Mr. Hagglund told the magazine “I said directly to the person to take [the flag] down, but I do not have the same powers as a police officer and they would not listen”.
Rather than asking anti-Semitic groups to avoid the meeting commemorating Nazi persecution of Jews, Mr. Hagglund instead moved to exclude Jews instead. He excused his actions by explaining how difficult it was to make all parties happy and to get them cooperating, but no further explanation was given.
Jewish association of Umeå chairwoman Carinne Sjöberg has called the situation “insulting” and said it was symbolic of increasing anti-Semitism across Sweden and Europe. Criticising the leftist politicians who organised the event, she said:
“This just shows how little they know about Kristallnacht… the Jews are hated by extremists from all sides. There are still many adults who dare not tell they are Jews.
“It feels sickening how the organisers minimise the importance of talking about anti-Semitism Umeå”.
Last night members of the Umeå Jewish community hosted a rival event to the traditional Kristallnacht commemorations, having a silent lighting of candles, supported by the leader of the city council opposition, Conservative councillor Anders Agren.
Lamenting the state of politics in his city, Mr. Agren told the Norrköpings Tidningar: “This feels quite typical for events in Umeå. I am ashamed”.
This is not the first time city council sponsored events in Umeå have deliberately excluded important groups intrinsically linked to the commemorations. The Swedish army is no longer invited to attend events for the annual national day celebrations in the city, as their presence is considered provoking to migrants living in the city who had fled conflict abroad.
When challenged over whether the armed forces should be allowed to participate in the national day celebrations Anki Berg of the Västerbotten Museum, one of the key city organisers of the event, compared the army to sheep breeders, another group who had wanted to take part and had been turned down. They were “no big deal for us”, she said.