When commemorating the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht with an anti-Nazism rally, you’d think perhaps the most obvious people to invite would be Jewish citizens. Not so for organizers in one Swedish city, where a Monday evening event will transpire without the presence of local Jews.
“Umeå Against Nazism” is set to take place in Umeå’s Town Hall Square, timed to the anniversary of the 1938 violent pogrom largely seen as the start of the Holocaust. The event’s organizer, Jan Hägglund, is a local lawmaker and member of the local socialist Workers’ Party.
The decision not to invite local Jews, he said, was because the rally could “be perceived as unwelcoming or unsafe situation for them.” According to Norrköping Tidningar, previous rallies have included Palestinian flags and banners where the Star of David was equated with the Nazi swastika. Another Workers’ Party official told The Jerusalem Post that, in the past, this rally has been “a narrow affair for ‘leftists.’”
The event’s Facebook page acknowledged Kristallnacht as the moment when ”Nazis stepped up the violence against the Jewish population in Germany.” Additionally, the page beckoned, “Knowledge of the Nazi extermination of millions of Jews and Roma must be kept alive.”
Noting that Nazi activists marched on Umeå for the first time since World War II two years ago, the page declared that “our rally should be seen as a defense of Umeå as a city of openness towards people with different culture, religion and sexual orientation. As well as support for those forced to flee from war and hopes for a future in Umeå.”
Critics see that latter statement as a hint that the event has ulterior political motives.
“How much clearer can the anti-Semitism of the left be?” one Facebook commenter wrote. Another person added that not including Jews for a Kristallnacht memorial is like only including whites to take part in a demonstration against South African apartheid.
An unsigned Norrköping Tidningar editorial railed against the decision: “What is the point of a rally against Nazism if the relatives of the victims aren’t invited?” Another local lawmaker, Anders Ågren of the Moderate Party, said he will not participate in the event, and will instead gather with the local Jewish Association to light candles and have a moment of silence.
Hägglund claimed to The Jerusalem Post that Jewish groups were indeed invited, but declined due to a prior engagement. Local Jewish leader Carrine Sjöberg replied that she only received a formal extension after the controversy hit local papers.
In a personal blog post, Hägglund did not offer apologies for the controversy, instead writing about how pro-Netanyahu newspaper Israel Hayom negatively mentioned his name.
“I risk being despised among Israelis and Jews,” he wrote. Yeah, the newspaper shout-out will do that. Not, you know, the failure to include Jews in a Kristallnacht rally.