The Inversion Of The Holocaust in Europe

The utterly groundless belief that Israel is Nazi Germany reborn has wide purchase throughout Europe.

While Holocaust Denial is endemic throughout the Muslim world, a far more insidious form of hatred is spreading throughout Europe – ‘Holocaust Inversion’ • Around 40% of those polled in many European countries genuinely believes that Israelis are the new Nazis • A wake-up call before things get worse

ישראל היא הנאצי החדש; הפגנה מול הבית הלבן, 2010. צילום: The Q Speaks CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 VIA FLICKR
Israelis are the new Nazis. Demonstration at the White House, 2010. Photo: The Q Speaks CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 VIA FLICKR

The classic core theme of anti-Semitism is that the Jews embody absolute evil. Of course, the notion of what absolute evil is has mutated over the centuries as cultures evolved, and in contemporary Western societies, the main perception of absolute evil is behaving like the Nazis, or alternatively, committing genocide.

The massive presence of anti-Semites in the world regularly leads to accusations that Israel acts toward the Palestinians like the German Nazis and their allies behaved toward the Jews. I call this severely dangerous hate motif ‘Holocaust inversion’. Anti-Israel hate-mongering is strongest in many parts of the Arab and Muslim world. Even more shocking, Holocaust inversion is there often combined with Holocaust denial.[1]

A number of studies concerning several European countries show that Holocaust inversion is a mainstream phenomenon in the European Union. This is the case already for many years. Germany is the country where there are most studies available concerning this topic. They all show the presence of large numbers of Holocaust inverters.

The Shocking Numbers

A study by the German Social Democratic Friedrich Ebert Foundation published in 2015 found that in September 2014, 27% of Germans agreed with the statement that “What Israel does today toward the Palestinians is no different than what the Nazis did toward the Jews.” A second similar question was also asked – “Do you agree with the statement that Israel conducts a war of extermination against the Palestinians?” Almost 40% of Germans agreed to this statement.[2] This year the Bertelsmann foundation published a study which showed that a poll carried out by TNS in 2013 found that 41% of the Germans polled agreed with the statement that “How the state of Israel behaves today toward the Palestinians is in principle not different from what the Nazis in the Third Reich did with the Jews.”[3]

Other earlier studies show that while there may be a declining trend of Holocaust inversion, yet the figures remain extremely high. A study covering seven European countries was published in 2011 by the University of Bielefeld was carried out as well on behalf of the Ebert Foundation. Researchers polled one thousand people per country over the age of sixteen in fall 2008. One of the questions asked was whether they agreed with the assertion that Israel is carrying out a war of extermination against the Palestinians. The lowest percentages of those who agreed were in Italy and the Netherlands, with 38% and 39% respectively. Other percentages were: Hungary 41%, United Kingdom 42%, Germany 48%, and Portugal 49%. In Poland the figure was 63%.[4]

If one extrapolates these figures to the entire European Union one can conclude that out of its 400 million citizens of sixteen years and older, fully 150 million embrace a demonic view of Israel. Those who answered in the affirmative expressed deeply anti-Semitic views.

גרמניה מובילה בדמוניזציה. צילום: Uwe Hiksch CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 VIA FLICKR
Germany is a leader in Holocaust Inversion. Photo: Uwe Hiksch CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 VIA FLICKR

In the first years of this century the University of Bielefeld undertook a similar study, this one relating to Germany only. More than 2,500 people there were asked whether they agreed with the statement: “What the state of Israel does today to the Palestinians is in principle no different from what the Nazis did to the Jews in the Third Reich.” 51% answered in the affirmative. 68% agreed that: “Israel undertakes a war of destruction against the Palestinians.”[5]

The first comprehensive study of Norwegians’ attitudes toward minorities was carried out in 2011 and 2012 by the Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities at the request of the Norwegian government. The study found that 38% of Norwegians agree with the statement that Israel behaves toward the Palestinians in the same way that the Nazis acted toward the Jews.[6]  A study published in Switzerland in 2007 by Gfs Bern found that 50% of the Swiss population views Israel as “the Goliath” in the extermination war against the Palestinians.”[7]

The claim that Israel is exterminating the Palestinians is criminal slander. During the two years from the end of 1941 until the end of 1943 in the extermination camps Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor alone, 2 million Jews were murdered by the Germans. Technology – including that of murder — has greatly ‘advanced’ since then. If the genocidal accusations against Israel were true to any extent, the last Palestinian adults and children would have been dead long ago. To the contrary, the number of Palestinians has continued to increase greatly in the past decades. Palestinian children are born in Israeli hospitals and sick ones are treated by Israeli doctors.

Adding Fuel to the Fire

A few leading European politicians have compared Israelis to Nazis. One finds senior social democratic politicians among them, such as French President Francois Mitterrand,[8] Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme[9]  and Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou.[10] However, European politicians who accuse Israel of being ‘absolute evil’ by comparing it to Nazi Germany are the exceptions.

There are many other extreme cases of demonization of Israel in Germany. For example the German Holocaust foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility, Future” (EVZ) is meant to educate about the Holocaust. It has however also used public funds to finance extreme hatred of Israel. It provided more than 20,000 euros for a 2010-2011 student-exchange program. Participants included an East German high school and an Israeli Arab school. Project organizers published a brochure that demonized Israel and compared it to the former communist East German state.

סובל מ"אשמת ניצולים" חמורה; האיו מאייר. צילום מסך
Extreme “survivor guilt”; Hajo Meyer. Screencap.

The same agency financed a program for the Anne Frank School in Gutersloh that hosted a Dutch Jewish Holocaust survivor and known anti-Israel hatemonger, Hajo Meyer. There, Meyer equated the suffering of the Palestinians with the persecution and mass murder of Jews in the Holocaust. He also termed Israel a “criminal state.”[11] Leon de Winter, a best-selling Jewish Dutch novelist, said that Meyer suffers from extreme “survival guilt.” He added that all Israel-bashing groups love Meyer because of the combination of his being a Jew and a Holocaust survivor.[12]

The widespread anti-Semitism in Europe is coming increasingly in the open. The more it develops, the more Israel is accused by hatemongers or by using double standards against it. For many, Europeans this is a necessity in order to whitewash both the continent’s past and present. For some it serves to specifically cover their ancestors’ crimes.

There remains a final question. The Israeli government almost entirely ignores the Holocaust inversion in Europe. I have pointed this it out over the past few years to various high ranking officials. They listen politely but these conversation are never followed up by actions. It’s past time they did so.

Dr. Gerstenfeld is a scholar of antisemitism and former Chairman (2002-2012) for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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[1] Goetz Nordbruch, “The Socio-Historical Background of Holocaust Denial in Arab

Countries: Reactions to Roger Garaudy’s The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics,”

ACTA, 17 (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2001), 9

[2] page 70

[3], page 40.


[5] Aribert Heyder, Julia Iser, and Peter Schmidt, “Israelkritik oder Antisemitismus? Meinungsbildung zwischen Öffentlichkeit, Medien und Tabus,” in Wilhelm Heitmeyer, ed., Deutsche Zustände (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2005), 144ff. (German). GMF stands for Gruppenbezogene Menschenfeindlichkeit (Group-Targeted Misanthropy).

[6] “Antisemittisme i Norge? Den norske befolkningens holdninger til jøder og andre minoriteter, “ The Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities, 30 May 2012, [Norwegian]

[7] ”Kritik an Israel nicht deckungsgleich mit antisemitischen Haltungen,“ gfs.Bern 28 March 2007. [German]

[8] “Begin Hints that Mitterrand Remark Paved way for Terrorists’ Attack,” The New York Times, 11 August 1982.

[9]  Per Ahlmark, “Palme’s Legacy 15 Years On,” Project Syndicate, February 2001.

[10] “Israelis Assail Greek Leader for Likening them to Nazis,” The New York Times, 26 June 1982.


[11] Benjamin Weinthal, “German Program Uses Shoah Funds to Play Down Holocaust,” Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2011.

[12] Benjamin Weinthal, “Germans Use ‘Anti-Israel’ Jews to Soothe Holocaust Guilt,” Jerusalem Post, October 16, 2011.

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