Interview of Crif President Francis Kalifat for the JDD – July 25, 2021
Protesters against the health pass or anti-vaccination wear yellow stars, and hold up signs with references to the Holocaust or Nazism. What do you think of these comparisons?
They only inspire me with disgust. These comparisons are shocking. I am revolted by the hijacking, but also the falsification of the use of the symbol of the persecution of Jews during World War II. We have the feeling that today, anyone who considers himself a victim is benchmarking his suffering against Nazism and the Holocaust. While we can obviously not in any way compare the implementation of the health pass, a tool intended to save lives, with the yellow star, which was itself the symbol of discrimination and the death of 6 million Jews went up in smoke in Nazi crematoria. It is an instrumentalization of history. I think of the survivors of the Shoah, of their families: for them, it is a real outrage. It’s bad enough to make it stop quickly.
How to stop it?
This phenomenon is not new. It is growing more and more. I recall that we had already seen yellow stars raised at the time of the demonstration of the CCIF (Collective against Islamophobia in France, dissolved in 2020). We are facing a trivialization of the Shoah, which calls for strong reactions. Those of the political and intellectual world, for the most part, have been. But indignation is no longer enough: we must put this painful history of our country back at the heart of education, resume teaching, explain and re-explain again and again.
How will Crif react?
In my speech for the commemoration of the Vel d’Hiv roundup last week, I stressed how much this instrumentalisation was an insult to the victims of Nazi barbarism and to their descendants. I alerted the French population in a press release to the danger posed by this amalgamation. But we must go further. What our lawyers are working on is the possibility of going through the legal process to put an end to these disorders.
“In a democracy, you can hold all the debates, express all the discontent and all the opposition, but you cannot trivialize a crime against humanity.”
Is it possible ?
I do not know yet. It’s quite complicated because there are two categories of people who use these symbols: on the one hand, those who know very well what they correspond to and who use them, on the other hand, those who sometimes have in good faith, often through ignorance or stupidity the feeling of being subjected to discrimination of the same nature. The former subscribe to an ideology, which could be assimilated to negationism: by dint of comparing and relativizing, we end up forgetting the uniqueness of the Shoah, and somehow denying it. Beyond silly comparisons, the objective of the promoters of this manipulation is to say: “if everything is Auschwitz, well in the end Auschwitz is not that bad! It is denial that does not speak its name.
Is there an antisemitic part in this movement?
Hard to say. You have to be very vigilant. There is no expressed antisemitism. But it is very present among those whose goal is to knowingly trivialize the symbols of the Holocaust. In a democracy, we can hold all the debates, express all the discontent and all the opposition, but we cannot trivialize a crime against humanity.
Last Sunday in Głogów, Poland, anti-vaccination protesters chanted that Jews were responsible for the epidemic … What does that inspire you?
This shocks me terribly. All the more so since it is a country of the European Union which had made notable progress on the importance of the place of the Jews in its history but which since the arrival of the PIS to power wants to establish a new national story. We are concerned to witness this resurgence of antsemitism facilitated by a rewriting of history and the criminalization of historical research into the role of Poland in World War II. If the Righteous Poles played a very important role in saving Jews, we also know that as in all European countries confronted with Nazism, there was also a contribution to the Shoah. It is time for the Polish leaders to accept, as France has done, to face the history of their country in the face and to do everything possible to avoid reconnecting with its long history of antisemitism.
Has the pandemic reactivated antisemitism?
Unfortunately, antisemitism has never been inactive. The pandemic therefore did not reactivate it. But it was the pretext for its amplification, especially through social networks, with a proliferation of conspiracy and conspiracy theories accusing Jews and Israel of having introduced the virus in order to then be able to benefit from the vaccine. In the history of the World, it is an old tune: that of the scapegoat. In every crisis There needs to be someone responsible, and the ideal culprit is always the Jew.