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Far-right antisemitism in Europe

Expressions of Far-right antisemitism in Europe
We can see, then, that antisemitism among the more mainstream Populist Right often often takes a veiled form. There are also parties belonging to this line, especially in Western Europe, that do not express a direct antisemitic stance at all. In fact, many make an effort to emphasize their objection to antisemitism. That being said, as is evident in our world today, their separatist rhetoric and actions pinpointing minority groups, does eventually encourage an outright display of hate and racism, including antisemitism. Parallel to the seemingly mainstream voices emanating from the Far-right, there still exists classic Far-right parties, belonging to the same disturbing movements that viewed Hitler and Nazi Germany as a shining example.
Immediately following the end of the war, there were voices in Germany that called for the reconstruction of Nazism. From the 1950s onwards, this Neo-Nazism found expressions outside of Germany as well, including in countries that had fought the Third Reich, such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Propagating white supremacy antisemitism, racism, xenophobia, and extremist nationalism, these movements, though in most cases marginal, often bring about vandalism and violence.
Targeting Jews, Blacks, Muslims, homosexuals, Roma and Sinti, and other groups perceived as “foreign” as a threat to the so-called “white race,” these radical movements continue to act, gaining online popularity and attracting crowds in Europe, and the United States Similar to the Right-Populist, there are those among the extreme Far-right that are attempting to portray a seemingly less radical front, thus gaining a wider support base and entering the mainstream political sphere. One such example is the “Golden Dawn” party in Greece. Making use of alleged Nazi symbolism and praising figures of Nazi Germany, the party has gained popularity throughout the early 2000s.
Despite determined actions taken by the Greek police against its leaders, the “Golden Dawn” maintains its strength, winning eighteen seats in the parliament in 2016. Following the extreme economic crisis and unemployment of the early 2010’s, the party used this public frustration to strengthen its power base, offering social assistance and launching a campaign against the European Union’s austerity measures. The campaign was accompanied by racist and antisemitic statements, which sometimes climaxed in acts of violence against Jews and immigrants. The Far-right has gained particular strength in Eastern Europe.
For example, in Hungary the Jobbik party, which is the third largest party in the Hungarian parliament, holds distinctly antisemitic and anti-Israeli stances - even if today its focus is directed mainly against the admittance of Muslim immigrants. In the past, its leaders even called for an in-depth examination of all the ministers and MPs to discover if they have Jewish roots or Israeli citizenship. Let’s hear more about the political Far-right in Eastern Europe and the place antisemitism holds in it, as well as the forms it takes.
In Eastern Europe, in what I would call the post-communist countries, the post- communist space, from a political point of view, if I would look at these developments from a political science, social science approach, I would say that we do not have one clear picture of the rise and decline or again the rise of extremist movements. Actually in all East European, in all former communist countries, we have the phenomena of right-wing extremist movements. Their policies are manifested or their ideas in several major aspects related to antisemitism. One is various forms of denial of the Holocaust or the minimization of the Holocaust by various means. One is to try to minimize the number of Jewish victims.
Another aspect is the attempt to re-legitimize, to rehabilitate, to whitewash the historical record of Second World War leaders of antisemitic movements. We see this trend in Hungary related to the image of Horthy, the wartime and before the wartime leader of Hungary. We see this in Slovakia in the attempts to rehabilitate the fascist state led by Jozef Tiso. We see this in Croatia by various attempts to rehabilitate the Ustaše legacy. In Romania we see this by the image Ion Antonescu, the wartime fascist dictator of Romania. So the right-wing movements are focusing very much on the rewriting of history, of whitewashing the historical past.
Another aspect by the right-wing groups in Eastern Europe is that “the Jews are trying now, through the process of asking, demanding compensation at the negotiations, they are trying to destroy us again after they, the Jews, have destroyed our nations during the communist regimes.” And of course the so-called accusation that “the Jews in fact who are to blame for the communist regimes played a major important part in the antisemitic discourse.” These groups are emphasizing very much the Jewish identity, the Jewish origins of communist leaders; like in Poland, in Czechoslovakia, in Romania and Hungary.
Indeed we may point out that in the post-war period or, for that matter, in the interwar period, some of the leaders of the communist movements in those specific countries were of Jewish origin but they did not act of course in the name of Judaism or the Jewish world. However, when such people in Hungary mention the name of Rákosi, who was the head of the Communist, Hungarian Communist Party and leader of Hungary in the late 40s - early 50s, they are emphasizing his Jewish origin and some of his other colleagues. In Romania they are emphasizing the name of Ana Pauker who was Romania’s Foreign Minister in the late 40s.
And thus we see a whole structure of discourse focusing on the “devastating,” from their point of view, “Jewish role” in the communist movements. Now although we are more than 27 years after the decline, the collapse of the communist regimes, this discourse is still, unfortunately, quite popular not only among the extremist groups but even among the wider public - I would say even from the center of the political spectrum - about the Jewish role in the secret police apparatus in those specific countries, again singling out the case of Romania, Hungary, Poland.
Another aspect is that even in the post- communist regimes the right-wing groups are pointing out people of Jewish origin or Jews who are still playing a major influence by either representing the State of Israel, the pressure of the United States, and so on. So we see a whole variety of discourses which are focusing on the “negative role,” “destabilizing role of the Jews” from a historical perspective, the rewriting of history or whitewashing the dark past and of not being able or ready to confront the realities of the past during the times of the Holocaust.

Dr. Raphael Vago

Parallel to the seemingly mainstream voices emanating from the Far-right, there still exist classic Far-right parties, belonging to the same disturbing movements that view Hitler and Nazi Germany as a shining example. In recent years, these Far-right voices have been gaining greater strength. Let’s begin our examination of the place antisemitism and other forms of hate hold for these groups and parties by first focusing on Europe in general and on Eastern Europe in particular.

How is antisemitism mainly expressed by Far-right parties and groups in Eastern Europe?

Please see Prof. Dina Porat’s article from spring 2018 on recent trends in the Polish National Memory in the “downloads” below.


  • Beauzamy, Brigitte, “Continuities of Fascist Discourses, Discontinuities of Extreme-Right Political Actors? Overt and Covert Antisemitism in the Contemporary French Radical Right,” in Ruth Wodak and John E. Richardson, eds., Analysing Fascist Discourse : European Fascism in Talk and Text (New York: Routledge, 2013), pp. 163 – 180.

  • Ellinas, Antonis A., “The Rise of Golden Dawn: The New Face of the Far Right in Greece,” South European Society and Politics, vol. 18, no. 4 (2013), pp. 543 – 565.

  • Himka, John-Paul and Joanna Beata Michlic, eds., Bringing the Dark Past to Light: The Reception of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe (Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 2013).

  • Kovács, András, “Antisemitic Prejudice and Political Antisemitism in Present-Day Hungary,” Journal for Study of Antisemitism, vol.4, no.2 (2012), pp. 443 – 468.

  • Vago, Raphael, “’Anti-Semites of the Continent Unite!’ Is The East Still Different?,” in Schoeps, Julius H. and Olaf Glöckner, eds., A Road to Nowhere?: Jewish Experiences in Unifying Europe (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 99. 207 – 220.

  • Wetzel, Juliane, “Antisemitism among Right-Wing Extremist Groups, Organizations, and Parties in Postunification Germany,” in Hermann Kurthen, Werner Bergmann and Rainer Erb, eds., Antisemitism and Xenophobia in Germany after Unification (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 159 – 173.

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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

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