As Kristallnacht is remembered, antisemitic violence still rising in Europe

NEW YORK – Tad Stahnke, Director of Human Rights First’s Fighting Discrimination Program and co-author of the group’s recent 2008 Hate Crimes Survey, released the following statement commemorating the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, a date being marked as antisemitism and other forms of violent hate crime are on the rise across Europe and North America.


“We join with others around the world in remembering the tragic events of Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” seventy years ago. On that night alone, more than two hundred synagogues were destroyed, many dozens of Jews were murdered and thousands arrested and sent to concentration camps.

Kristallnacht served as a prelude to the Holocaust, in which the Nazi regime systematically exterminated six million Jews. Thousands of others – including Slavs, Roma, religious minorities, sexual minorities, and disabled persons – were also brutally slaughtered en masse as a result of government-led antisemitic, racist, xenophobic, antireligious and antigay policies. The anniversary of Kristallnacht reminds us of the vigilance necessary still to ensure that such horrific incidents do not occur in the future.

Europe has changed dramatically in the past 70 years, yet millions of Jews and other minorities continue to face the threat of personal violence motivated by racist, antisemitic and other biases. Antisemitic and other forms of violent hate crime are on the rise, reflecting an increase in xenophobic attitudes across Europe and North America, a revival of antisemitism, and a continuation of prejudice against Muslims, Roma, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. Direct government policies are no longer the driving force behind this violence, but governments are largely failing to live up to their commitments in preventing and combating bias-motivated attacks.

On this anniversary of Kristallnacht, we urge European and North American governments to implement sound policies to combat antisemitic and other violent hate crimes, by condemning violent hate crimes whenever they occur, ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable for their crimes, investing in police and prosecutorial training, instituting systems of monitoring, data collection, and public reporting, and strengthening criminal laws to cover all forms of bias-motivated violence.”





Human Rights First’s 2008 Hate Crime Survey, released in September, showed that most governments have failed to establish systems to monitor and publicly report on hate crimes and to implement hate crime laws. More than 40 states among the 56 surveyed do not collect and publish data on violent hate crimes. At the same time, the problem is growing in many countries across the region, evidenced by the findings of the Survey:


  • Racially motivated violence in Russia rose 17.4 percent from 2006 to 2007, while racially motivated murders increased 36.5 percent.
  • The number of violent antisemitic assaults in the United Kingdom rose dramatically last year, making 2007 the worst year on record since monitoring began in 1984.
  • Incidents of violence against LGBT people in the United States rose 24 percent in 2007.
  • Despite ample evidence of acts of violence targeting Muslims and those perceived to be Muslims across Europe and North America, only five of the 56 member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) governments publicly report on such incidents.

Some key findings of the 2008 Hate Crime Survey pertaining to antisemitism are summarized in the Fact Sheet on Antisemitic Violence, which draws attention to the rise in such violence -manifested in the form of personal assaults on Jews and incidents of arson and attacks targeting Jewish cemeteries and synagogues – as well as the inadequate government response.


Published on November 10, 2008


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