Sir, – Walking with my wife, Catherine, to see Lenny Abrahamson’s new film on Saturday at my local Omniplex in Rathmines, I spotted the words “Kalergi Plan” in large black capitals sprayed on a wall opposite the cinema, together with a Star of David in the blue colour of the Israeli flag. It’s almost a given that where graffiti includes any symbol representing Jews and/or Israel the message is almost always entirely negative.
My own Jewish refugee background makes me naturally very sensitive to such graffiti which had been orchestrated so effectively under the auspices of Joseph Goebbels in 1930s Nazi Germany and had culminated in Kristallnacht, the grotesque nationwide pogrom that many see as the beginning of the Holocaust and whose 80th anniversary arrives next month.
In fact, when I travelled to Poland in 1990, accompanying my mother to her country of birth for the first time since 1946, there was graffiti on a wall in Warsaw blaming Jews for the current economic malaise. At that time the official Jewish population was only 8,000 from a pre-war high of 3.2 million.
In Ireland we’ve seen mercifully little anti-Semitic graffiti. The shell of the planned Anglo Irish Bank headquarters on the quays was infamously vandalized with the words “Zionist Engineers/Global Financial Holocaust” five years ago, but this rightly drew condemnation and was removed.
Saturday’s message was a new one for me and required a little digging. Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi was a count of Austrian, Dutch, Greek and Japanese extraction. He was the founder of the Pan-European Union and a strident advocate for European federalism.
His goal was to create a Europe that was ethnically inter-connected and heterogeneous. This was designed as an antidote to the rising forces of nationalism in Europe. He was also a committed pacifist.
It is with depressing predictability that this philosophy has been hijacked by far-right groups who have distorted the message and repackaged it as a Jewish conspiracy. A brief search online led me to Golden Dawn’s website, the Greek version of neo-Nazism, and a Dutch website of equivalent credibility, both promoting the Kalergi Plan.
Here, in their racist philosophy, Jews are attempting to dilute and “mongrelise” the purity of nations by encouraging the mass immigration of refugees to destabilise countries and in order to benefit financially.
Jewish conspiracy theories concerning global domination still proliferate. It’s a sinister and centuries-old anti-Semitic trope that surfaces on both sides of the political spectrum.
The 1917 hoax the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a document claiming to prove that Jews were conspiring to control financial markets and the world’s media was used by the Nazis as a blueprint for their propaganda against the Jews and is still invoked by anti-Semites today and feeds the casual racism that permits the conflation of Jews and money.
Many are asking whether, with the rise of nativistic and populist forces in Europe once again, the spectre of the 1930s is upon us. It is sometimes hard to imagine that the same divisive politics is winning support within living memory of the Holocaust. It never ends well for the victims or indeed for those who embrace the politics of hate.
No one has claimed responsibility for the graffiti in Rathmines. Anonymity is often the purpose of graffiti. Banksy has made an extraordinary career out of it.
But in this case it’s a disgraceful, dishonest and humiliating slur on an ethnic minority whose rights are guaranteed by the State. It’s shocking to see in my own neighbourhood in Dublin. The local council need to remove it in haste. – Yours, etc,
(Former trustee of