In Umeå, Sweden, a local branch of the Arbetarpartiet (Worker’s Party) are organizing an anti-Nazi event coinciding with the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass), which took place place on Nov. 9/10, 1938. Kristallnacht was a massive pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria, where approximately 30,000 Jews were arrested and/or incarcerated in concentration camps, over 1,000 synagogues were burned, and over 7,000 Jewish businesses were severely damaged, or destroyed. Some reports claim that approximately 100 Jews were killed, though many Holocaust historians cite that number as being much higher.
For 77 years now, memorials have taken place on this day to remember the atrocities committed by the Nazis and the Third Reich, and to never forget the horrors committed against Jews during the Holocaust.
While the Kristallnacht memorial taking place in Sweden boasts the tagline, “Umeå against Nazis,” event organizers have taken a rather interesting, albeit baffling, direction: they haven’t invited any Jews.
As reported by nt.se and the Jerusalem Post, event organizers declined to invite the country’s Jewish community, citing anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli behaviour at past events.
“In previous years, we have had a lot of Palestinian flags at these rallies, and even one banner where the Israeli flag was equated with a swastika,” organizer and Arbetarpartiet member Jan Hägglund told a local newspaper. “The Jewish community wasn’t invited because we assumed they might be uncomfortable around that sort of thing.”
Hägglund also noted that the event could “be perceived as unwelcoming or unsafe” for Jewish residents.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the Arbetarpartiet have faced severe criticism from critics and members of Sweden’s Jewish community, with many claiming that Hägglund only invited people who are critical of Israel to the event, creating a “security risk” for Jews.
“For Umeå’s left-wing politicians to choose Kristallnacht for a general anti-racism rally betrays startling insensitivity to the Jewish community and ignorance of the Holocaust’s history,” Andrew Srulevitch, the Anti-Defamation League’s director of European Affairs, said.
“Ironically, Sweden has been a leader in promoting Holocaust education internationally and domestically. Fortunately, proper Kristallnacht commemorations are being held in Stockholm, Malmo, and elsewhere in Sweden. Umeå’s event is an aberration, and we congratulate the political and civic leaders who will join the Umeå Jewish community’s alternative Kristallnacht commemoration.”
Carrine Sjöberg, head of the city’s Jewish community, said she was shocked at having not received an invite.
Hägglund, however, argued that Sjöberg was in fact invited to participate in the event, and declined due to a prior engagement.
“This kind of rally has been organized in Umeå for about 25 years. Sometimes the people responsible for the rally haven’t been clear on the question if they support the right of the Israeli state to exist or not. This year, it was my intention to change this,” Hägglund said.
“My intention was to make sure that the organizers, on the one hand, were very clear when it came to the question about the right of the Israeli state to exist. But of course, this could be complimented with the right to criticize Israeli government policy when it comes to the question of the conflict with, for example, Gaza. I think it’s important that you make a distinction between the Israeli government on one hand, and the Israeli people – together with Jews all over the world – on the other hand.”
Hägglund continued to say that there would be “no criticism” of the Israeli government at the Kristallnacht memorial.
Sjöberg, however, disagreed with Hägglund’s statement, claiming he “didn’t even bother to involve the Jewish community” and that he refused to apologize. She also cited his involvement in the Israeli-Arab conflict, stating that he’s cited Israeli “terror” against the people of Gaza in opinion pieces he’s penned in the past.