Date: November 9, 2023
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) solemnly marks the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht by condemning the rising antisemitism in Europe. In 1938, during a violent pogrom now known as Kristallnacht, the Nazi regime demolished and torched synagogues, Jewish-owned businesses, and homes across Germany and Austria. Today, Jews in Germany and across Europe are facing an exponential rise in antisemitism further exacerbated by Hamas’ early October attack on Israel. In Germany, the number of antisemitic attacks that have taken place in the past four weeks have exceeded the total number of incidents recorded in all of 2022. Many members of the European Jewish community consider the rise in antisemitism to be an existential threat, resulting in a recent surge in Jewish emigration from Europe.
“Antisemitism has once again reared its ugly head throughout Europe. On the anniversary of Kristallnacht, we are reminded to remain vigilant in the fight against antisemitism in all its forms. There is no excuse for such violence or antisemitic rhetoric,” said USCIRF Chair Abraham Cooper. “USCIRF applauds the German and Austrian leaders for boldly speaking out against the rise of antisemitism; they now must match their rhetoric with action. It is a moral imperative for the U.S. government to work with European leaders to ensure that ‘never again’ really means ‘never again.’”
The type of antisemitic violence occurring today is disturbingly reminiscent of the vandalism and destruction of Jewish homes, businesses, and holy sites that took place under the authority of the Nazis in the late 1930s. Over the past month, perpetrators have vandalized and set on fire a Jewish cemetery in Austria, branded Jewish homes in France with stars of David, and covered Jewish schools in the United Kingdom with red paint. Additionally, synagogues have been vandalized in countries including Portugal, Spain, and France.
The recent wave of vandalism has been accompanied by an increasing number of violent and antisemitic assaults and threats. For example, in France, an individual stabbed a Jewish woman in her home in an attack seemingly motivated by antisemitism. Likewise, an apartment marked by a Jewish mezuzah in Paris was doused with gasoline and set on fire and Jewish schools in the French capital have received bomb threats. In Germany, a synagogue was hit with Molotov cocktails, while in the United Kingdom, there have been several antisemitic assaults targeting Jews.
“It has been 85 years since the violence of Kristallnacht and it is reprehensible that Jews still cannot practice their religion and express their identity openly without fear of discrimination or violence,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Frederick A. Davie. “Governments must protect Jewish communities from antisemitic assaults and threats, which are on the rise around the world.”
In its 2023 Annual Report, USCIRF noted antisemitic incidents throughout Europe, as well as positive efforts to combat antisemitism globally. In July 2023, USCIRF released a report on religious freedom concerns in the European Union, which highlighted the rise of European antisemitism and other forms of religious discrimination.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a commissioner, please contact USCIRF at