On Europe’s Streets: Annual Marches Glorifying Nazism
In February 2023 alone, Nazi sympathizers marched in Budapest, Hungary; Sofia, Bulgaria; Madrid, Spain; and Dresden, Germany, to pay tribute to WWII-era war criminals and events. “The biggest far-right march in Europe” is the title proudly sought out by marches glorifying Nazism and fascism happening across the continent each year.
Despite existing Europe-wide legal frameworks that ban Holocaust denial, gross distortion of the Holocaust and hate speech inciting to violence, these and many other marches persist with impunity.
In the new report, titled “On Europe’s Streets: Annual Marches Glorifying Nazism,” B’nai B’rith International and the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, alongside experts from across Europe, take a deep dive into the ongoing phenomenon, its legal implications and its effects on the public space and vulnerable communities. The report will be launched on March 14, 2023, 3 p.m. Brussels (10 a.m. Washington D.C.), at the Brussels Press Club.
A look at the report:
Established far-right marches glorifying Nazism and fascism pose a particular threat to the public space. As the entries contained in the report show, these are an organized pan-European phenomenon, in which anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and distortion are not only by-products, but core elements.
The report describes 12 of the most notorious annual marches and meetings that glorify Nazism and/or fascism and take place across the European Union. It does so by cataloging displays of hatred, tracking instances of cross-border networks among far-right groups and tracking trends in attendance and detailing reactions by authorities and civil society.
Both international and European legal frameworks already include proper instruments for banning assemblies that promote totalitarian ideologies, racial or religious hatred, genocide denial, or incite to violence.
As the report details, national authorities of EU member states are not only allowed, but obliged to take action to criminalize the spreading of hatred and promotion of totalitarian regimes and ideologies. Even when appropriate laws exist, complaints concerning anti-Semitic incitement or Holocaust denial at the marches are often dismissed by prosecutors and judges. Where concerns have been taken seriously, and bans on marches have been instituted, they have rarely been effectively implemented.
A concerted effort against marches glorifying Nazism and fascism can have a lasting positive impact and ensure a sense of security for Europe’s vulnerable communities and society as a whole. The persistent nature of these marches is not a fait accompli. As laid out in the recommendations of the report, through legislation, enforcement, public pressure and education, these displays of hatred on Europe’s streets can be curbed.
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin notes: “Holocaust survivors still alive today must witness, on Europe’s streets, marches that pay tribute to Nazi war criminals and their collaborators—marches often permitted and sometimes even endorsed by the state—where chants “Jews out!” are commonplace. This is inexcusable. We have repeatedly called on governments to ban such demonstrations and commended efforts made so far to do so: but declarations are nothing without proper implementation of the law.”
B’nai B’rith International Director of EU Affairs Alina Bricman notes: “Annual marches that glorify Nazism and fascism are the core of an emergent far-right culture of remembrance that threatens European values and the memory of the Shoah. As Holocaust distortion and conspiracies run rampant, these marches are breeding grounds for transnational networks of extremists. They pose a real and clear security risk, as attendees—many boasting criminal records—recruit new members, exchange expertise, flaunt Nazi memorabilia and spew illegal hate speech. In the face of this Europe-wide challenge, we need a strong and unified European response from civil society and institutions alike.”
Dr. Robert J. Williams, Advisor to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and UNESCO Chair on Genocide Education, noted about the report: “This invaluable resource on notorious efforts to heroize fascist individuals and movements provides the foundations needed for a vigorous response by governments and civil society. It also demonstrates the international links between extremist movements, proving that there is a need for a global response to rising hatred and attempts to whitewash the past.”
In her foreword to the report, European Commission Coordinator on Combatting Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life Katharina von Schnurbein noted: “The full and correct transposition of this Framework Decision [on combatting racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law] is a top priority for the European Commission, and we have seen significant progress in the past years…We are thankful that B’nai B’rith International and the Amadeu Antonio Foundation—through the present publication—are contributing valuable insights and recommendations to ongoing efforts to secure a European public space free from hatred and antisemitism and which honors the memory of the Holocaust.”
For his part, Ambassador Robert Klinke, the Special Representative for Relations with Jewish Organisations, Issues relating to Antisemitism, International Sinti and Roma Affairs, and Holocaust Remembrance in the German Federal Foreign Office, noted: “It is vital that the sanction mechanisms of Europe’s democratic constitutional states allow targeted, controlled and effective action to be taken against crimes that glorify the Holocaust and create a solid foundation for the institutional criminalization of hatred and denial so that offenders can be held accountable. Equally, there must be a realistic and honest recognition of what our legal systems are not able to achieve, and where existing laws might need to be revised and new laws implemented.”