LONDON – Abe Foxman was one year old when the Nazis ordered his parents to report to the Jewish ghetto in Vilnius, Lithuania, in 1941.
Her nanny, a Catholic, told them to leave the child with her, hoping they would be back several weeks later.
Foxman’s stay with her lasted for years, until her parents returned. He moved to America in 1950 at the age of 10 – but his childhood experience never left him.
“I am a survivor, an example of what good words can lead to,” said Foxman, 80. “My nanny risked her life for four years protecting and hiding me, giving me a false identity.”
Foxman, former director of the Anti-Defamation League, is one of many high profile survivors to join a new campaign, #ItStartedWithWords, which reflects on the origins of the Holocaust.
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The campaign is led by the New York-based nonprofit Claims Conference, which is working to secure survivor compensation from the German government. It is supported by United Nations and Holocaust museums around the world and launches Thursday to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day for the Jewish community.
And the new awareness drive comes as polls show an increase in anti-Semitism around the world, as well as a lack of awareness among adults under 40 about the Holocaust.
The Claims Conference interviewed 1,000 adults in what it said was the first 50-state survey of knowledge of the Holocaust among millennials and millennials. It found that nearly half of those polled did not could name only one of the concentration camps or ghettos established during World War II. More than half were unable to identify the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, and 11% believe Jews caused the Holocaust.
Meanwhile, the FBI reported that more than 60% of religion-based hate crimes were directed against Jews in 2019, and a poll released in March by the Anti-Defamation League and YouGov showed that 63% of Jews in America say they have either experienced or witnessed some form of anti-Semitism in the past five years.
“All over the world it has become more acceptable to hate, demonize, dehumanize others, and we are now seeing it with Asian Americans,” said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference.
“People don’t wake up one day to say I want to commit mass murder today, but it’s a process that over time people are dehumanized. It starts with words and ideas, ”he added.
A study released last month by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, showed that hate crimes targeting people of Asian descent increased by nearly 150% in 2020.
In a video produced for the Claims Conference, the former leader of the German Jewish community recalled that at the age of 4, she was no longer allowed to play with other children on the other side one day. from the street from her home in Munich.
“The manager of the apartment came out and shouted at me, ‘Jewish children are not allowed to play with our children,’ said Charlotte Knobloch, 88. “I didn’t even know what the Jews were.”
The campaign for the campaign has come from survivors, the youngest of whom are now 70 and fear the lessons of the Holocaust are now being forgotten.
“There is politicization, there is a lack of truth, the lies subside, there is no consensus on civility, no one is listening. All taboos have been broken on respect and tolerance, ”Foxman said. “Sadly, 75 years after the Holocaust, it’s time to remind people what words can do.”