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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
'We're British, and we're Jewish - and we're uneasy'
The UK's Jewish community is anxious, with reports of domestic anti-Semitism increasing as tensions mount in the Middle East. BBC News Online talks to two British Jews on their fears.

Leon Greenman
London-born Leon Greenman was deported from Holland by the invading Nazis and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp - where his wife and baby son died. Since his liberation in 1945, he has campaigned against racism and anti-Semitism.

If there is a small minority of vocal anti-Semites in Britain, there are many still in hiding. They'll come out if they see that the road's clear for them.

If racists win a seat on a council - as the British National Party is trying in Oldham - then people who share their views will break their silence and come out of the woodwork too. That's what happened in Holland when the Nazis arrived.

Leon Greenman's Auschwitz tattoo
Mr Greenman hoped hate would stop after Auschwitz
There has long been anti-Semitism in the UK. I saw Oswald Mosley speaking to his fascist Blackshirts in London in the 1930s.

One day my niece came home from school crying because the other children had taunted her for being a Jew.

In Auschwitz, I was the only Englishman and often tried to seek the company of the British prisoners of war held nearby. Some gave me cigarettes that I could trade for an extra bowl of watery camp soup.

One time I approached a British PoW and explained I was from London. He said: 'You and me are prisoners here, while the Jews in England are doing good business in the black market.'

That really slapped me in the face. We were both against the Nazis, but he could still say that about the Jews. This started me thinking there might be others who thought like him in Britain.

When I returned to London, I went to work on a market stall. While I was new to it, I was setting up when a fruit and veg seller shouted at me. I was used to being shouted at in the camps, but was shocked to be shouted at here.

Leon Greenman
Mr Greenman's home has been attacked
'Oi! What are you doing there? You can't sell here! Get back to Palestine!'

When we came out of the camps, the survivors thought people would treat each other with respect and that life would be better. I was disappointed.

I have been telling people about the Holocaust since 1946. Because of this the neo-Nazis attacked my house, throwing a brick through my window in 1994.

They told the local paper they would murder me. It doesn't matter to me, I keep doing what I do, though I now have grilles up over my window. I can't afford to replace too many smashed windows.

If attacks are going on because of the situation in Israel, I expect the attackers will keep a look out for me. I'm 91 now, so what can they really do to me?


Michael - not his real name - is a young professional and a father of two. Just days ago in north London, he was the victim of an anti-Semitic attack, which he says have become more common in recent weeks.

I was crossing the street to go to the station. A car that had been parked at the junction suddenly began driving straight at me. It was so close I had to dive for safety.

The driver shouted anti-Semitic abuse at me saying: 'I'll run you over next time!'

I reported it to the police, who took it seriously and are looking for the man. I had to report it, he landed a twin blow - virtually trying to kill me and then abusing me as well.

Palestinian demo in London
Some are comparing the Jews to the Nazis
Anti-Semitism has been getting worse here since the beginning of the year - when violence in Israel worsened. This is the most vulnerable I have felt as a British Jew in all my 30 years.

I stopped wearing my skull cap - putting on a baseball cap instead - but I only did that for a week. I shouldn't let this change the way I dress.

I don't want to get beaten up to prove a point, but I don't want to hide who I am either.

One of my children's teachers had her car window smashed just today, she says it was because she had a small Israeli flag stuck to the glass. The same has happened to others.

The Jewish community here is so small that everyone knows someone who has been a victim of anti-Semitism. If it happened to one person in the community, it's like it happened to you too.


British Jews aren't walking around terrified, but we are starting to get uneasy

Some Jews think that if we pretend this isn't happening, then anti-Semitism will go away. I don't think that will work.

Most people who criticise Israel are not anti-Semitic - they just disagree with Israel's policies. However, the current climate of criticism seems to have made anti-Semites more confident and emboldened those who have not been open about their views before.

I don't want to suggest British Jews are walking around terrified, we're not. But thanks to the fallout from the Middle East, we are starting to get uneasy.

See also:

05 Apr 02 | Europe
Detentions after Jewish attacks
18 Apr 02 | Middle East
Al-Qaeda suspected over Tunisia blast
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