That changed when a man wielding a baseball bat chased him outside his synagogue in Graz, Austria. The building had been vandalized several times and as Rosen managed to reach his car and escape physically unharmed, he was deeply shaken.
“After the attack, these warnings from my grandparents had a kind of flashback,” he told CNN. “It made me very, very sorry and brought tears to my heart and my face,” he said.
“Being physically assaulted is a different dimension to being verbally assaulted, which I’m used to as anti-Semitism has increased over the past year. “
Violence and oppression against Jews and their faith has been a constant in Europe, but recorded incidents of anti-Semitism have seen an alarming increase, in part fueled by lockdowns to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Benjamin Nägele, general secretary of the Jewish Communities in Austria, said his figures showed a 6.4% increase in reports of anti-Semitic incidents in 2020, even though he said many people do not report every time someone does. ‘one uses an insult against them.
“We have seen a worrying trend not only in Austria, but across Europe with regard to anti-Semitism,” he said.
Nägele said verbal aggression comes first because it’s so easy, especially online. “You can do it anonymously. You can do it multiple times without fear of any prosecution, ”he said. “And then you’re encouraged to do it more, to be more aggressive, to add insult to injury, and at one point you radicalize so much that you then transfer it to the real world. “
Conspiracies against the coronavirus
Katharina von Schnurbein, European Commission anti-Semitism coordinator, said the problems were old but there had been new impetus to some of the hate.
“Anti-Semitic conspiracy myths have been around for centuries,” she told CNN. “Whenever there is a pandemic, they come back to the fore. What we are seeing is that, for example, during Covid, anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracy myths increased dramatically on social platforms. “
As people marched to protest the strict closures imposed by their leaders, the German organization RIAS, which tracks anti-Semitism, noted Jewish tropes among the signs.
At an event in Bavaria, RIAS said, protesters held up a photomontage of people forcibly vaccinated by people wearing uniforms wearing what looked like a Star of David and the word “Zion.”
In another case in Berlin, a man appeared to accept the false conspiracy theory that the pandemic was caused by Jews, shouting at two identifiable Jewish pedestrians: ‘Aren’t you ashamed of what you did, you? the Jews ? RIAS reported.
More than a quarter of documented anti-Semitic incidents were directly linked to the coronavirus, the group said in its annual report.
Violence between Israel and Hamas in May this year once again fueled anti-Jewish sentiment in Germany, RIAS found, with all Jews being targeted for actions by the government and the Israeli military.
“Stop doing what Hitler did to you,” said an English sign held up during a pro-Palestinian march in Berlin, the group said.
Benjamin Ward, deputy director of the Europe division of Human Rights Watch, acknowledged that anti-Semitism was often cyclical and propelled by events in the Middle East. But he added: “If we look more broadly at the phenomenon of anti-Semitism in Europe, we see that it is much older and also much broader. It is really a European problem.
Across Europe, anti-Semitic attacks have been increasing for years. France has seen many attacks: in 2012, three children and a teacher were shot dead in a Jewish school in Toulouse; in 2015, four people were shot dead and others taken hostage in a kosher supermarket in Paris; in 2018, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor was killed when she was stabbed 11 times, and then her Paris apartment was set on fire.
Jewish cemeteries from France to Poland are routinely desecrated, and nine in ten European Jews believe anti-Semitism is on the rise, according to a European Commission survey.
Different ways to fight hate
In Brussels, Rabbi Albert Guigui is one of those who react by trying to hide his very identity, to appear less Jewish.
“Of course I wear a kippah at home, but outside I prefer to cover my head in a less visible way,” he said, referring to the baseball cap he wears most. time. “It is not healthy to live in an atmosphere of fear and where you feel driven out. “
As those with living memory of the Holocaust fade away, Guigui fears more hatred will come.
“There is concern precisely because there is no longer this memory barrier,” he said. “Before, people couldn’t openly express their anti-Semitism because the memory of the Holocaust was there to remind people where such words lead. Now there has been a liberation of the very word which generates deeds. “
Returning to Austria, Karoline Edtstadler, the country’s EU Minister, said the government was worried because even as it tried to tackle the upsurge in anti-Jewish hatred, the number of incidents online and in the real life kept increasing.
“The positive thing, of course, is that we have to foster Jewish life,” she said.
This is the new tactic of Rosen, who goes against the advice of his grandparents and chooses to stand up as a member of Austria’s Jewish community, which now numbers around 15,000 people, a fraction of the 220,000 Jews estimated to have lived in Austria before Hitler’s rise to power.
He says his grandparents’ approach of keeping a low profile after the Holocaust, or Shoah, was understandable but wrong, and that it was time to show and introduce Jewish life and traditions to others.
“The post-Holocaust Jewish society often thought that being silent, not being too loud, would lead to better acceptance of Jews in mainstream society,” he explained, before saying that it clearly wasn’t working. .
“I will tell my son or my young Jews to be proud to be Jews and not to be silent. “
Journalist Adam Berry contributed to this story.