75 years after Auschwitz liberation, antisemitism still threatens ‘foundations of democratic societies’

UN Photo/Evan Schneider Auschwitz-Birkenau, a Nazi concentration camp in Poland, where over a million Jews and members of other minorities perished during the Second World War.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Commemorating 75 years since the liberation of the notorious Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, independent UN rights experts said on Thursday that “urgent action” is needed to combat mounting antisemitism.

“On this solemn commemoration, designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, States around the world are failing to sufficiently counter antisemitic violence, discrimination, and hostility within their societies or to ensure that their populations are appropriately educated about the Holocaust”, they said in a joint statement.

The UN experts pointed to attacks in the cities of Toulouse, Pittsburg, Brussels, Poway and Jersey City – from the Pacific to the heart of Europe – as “just some of the places where Jews have been murdered in recent years”.

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirms and protects the rights of all, is a key legacy of the Holocaust’s victims – including the six million Jews who, alongside other targeted groups, were systematically and brutally murdered.

The reports of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, which were presented to the UN General Assembly last year, outline a dramatic increase in antisemitism reported in many countries and online.

“We urge all concerned persons, all leaders to read them, study them and implement their recommendations as a matter of urgency”, advised the independent experts.

They also expressed alarm at reports documenting extensive Holocaust denial, particularly online, and surveys reflecting that large populations are ignorant of the dehumanization and persecution that occurred during the Holocaust.

Moreover, social media is being misused to perpetuate antisemitic stereotypes and prejudice.

‘Climate of fear’

“Around the world, violence, discrimination and expressions of hostility motivated by antisemitism have created a climate of fear among a substantial number of Jews, impairing their ability to enjoy their fundamental rights to liberty and security, equality and non-discrimination, and to freedom of religion”, the experts spelled out.

They called on all States to respond to these trends by “taking urgent action” to uphold their human rights obligations, including by more effectively monitoring and recording antisemitic incidents; ensure accountability for perpetrators of violence; and provide effective protection to Jewish people, communities and sites.

“We call on States to respond more effectively to incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence against Jews and members of other targeted groups”, they urged.

According to the nine Special Rapporteurs, to combat antisemitic stereotypes at all levels of society, States must identify all its various forms, raise awareness and prioritize Holocaust education.

“Antisemitism, fueled by political leaders and left unchecked, threatens not only Jews, but also other minority and vulnerable communities, and the very foundations of democratic societies”, they warned.

“Now, 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we mourn the victims of the Holocaust and solemnly call on States to redouble their commitment to fight this unacceptable yet recurring threat.”

About the experts

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Special Rapporteurs Ahmed Shaheed on freedom of religion or belief; Fernand de Varennes, on minority issues; David Kaye on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; E. Tendayi Achiume on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Clement Nyaletsossi Voule on the right to peaceful assembly and association; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Agnes Callamard on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Koumbou Boly-Barry on the right to education and Karima Bennoune in the field of cultural rights were signatories to this statement.

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