Log of anti-Semitism in Sweden: one family’s experiences over six months
On Tuesday 16 September, my 13-year old son took the tram as usual to his school in Gothenburg. Since he was wearing a silver Magen David around his neck, he was confronted by a large boy aged about 14-16 who demanded that my son, being a ”filthy Jew”, bow down to his superior. My son refused. Nobody on the tram intervened. The boy kept returning, repeating that it was a shame Hitler’s job hadn’t been completed. When my son got to his tram stop outside his school and opened the door to disembark, the boy rushed at him from behind and either pushed or kicked him in the small of the back, so he fell the metre or so down onto the pavement and part of his body ended up under the tram. Luckily he managed to pull himself back onto his feet before the tram moved off, so he was rather shaken but not physically hurt. When he looked back into the tram from outside, he saw that nobody had intervened with the boy who had thrown him off, who remained on board the tram.
On Wednesday 10 September, my son went as usual to his chess club, which he has been attending for a year. There he met, among other friends his age, 3 older and larger boys, one Swede and two Muslims (although apparently born here in Sweden) who sat right beside him and discussed among themselves what a pity it was that Hitler hadn’t finished off the job he’d started, and that they were proud to count themselves as anti-Semites. Another boy in the club overheard these same 3 boys discussing half an hour later a totally different subject, namely whether ghosts and spirits actually existed in the real world. One of the three replied that we human beings have a predetermined idea of what a ghost is, but that’s just a Hollywood representation – in his opinion ghosts can most certainly be found among us but that they don’t necessarily look the way they are depicted in films but can in fact appear as real people. Whereupon another of the three replied, “Perhaps you’re right, but surely they can’t appear as Jews, because Jews aren’t real people.”
In March this year, these same three boys were doing much the same thing directly to my son and loudly in his presence (he wears a Star of David around his neck and does not see any need to be intimidated into taking it off). When we spoke to the adult in charge of the chess club, both back in March and now, his response was that these three boys were “just letting off steam the way teenagers do, it’s all talk and nothing to get upset about”. Our response was that vulgar contempt for people on account of their religion is morally repugnant and in fact illegal. He said he would speak to the boys. The chess trainer’s response to another mother who protested about these boys’ behaviour was that if she or her son felt the situation was unpleasant, they were always free to go to another chess club.
On Saturday 23 August, my wife, son and I left the synagogue together at about 11.30 to return home after the Shabbat service. My wife and I cycled home, my son was going to take the bus home to a friend. He related later that evening when he returned home that already outside the synagogue, he saw two boys aged about 15-17 following him when they noticed his Magen David. They were Muslims. They kept calling after him and telling him what they would do when they got the chance, how no filthy Jews should be allowed to live or walk the streets, and other things of a similar nature. We have taught our children never to respond when spoken to in this kind of way. When their provocation did not have the desired effect, the two boys moved around in front of my son and blocked his way. He then spoke to them for the first time, telling them that this was a free country and that they could have any opinion they wanted and even express it in public, but that now he wanted to catch his bus and they were preventing him. One of them hit my son in the chest and raised his fist to hit him again, whereupon my son did as he has been taught and smashed his fist into his opponent’s face, severely cutting and possibly fracturing his cheekbone. The two ran away, with the second boy holding his friend’s face together and blood streaming from his cheek. My son continued by bus to his friend, with blood all over his hand. Luckily not his own, but he said it was very embarrassing being seen like that in public because nobody would sit near him at the bus stop or on the bus. He was able to wash the blood off when he got to his friend’s house.
All three events have been reported to the police, and all three have been officially classified in the police report as racial crimes. The matter is currently in the hands of the police and the public prosecutor.
We have since been informed by a large number of people that crimes of this nature are very commonplace, but are seldom reported because of fear of reprisals, insufficient interest by the victim in pursuing the matter through the legal channels and so on. We were beginning to worry that my son seemed to be more of a target than others, but the fact is that he is one of the only – if not in fact THE only – youngster his age who dares go out in public with a Star of David. Most parents forbid their children from wearing this, or a kippa or any other outward sign of their Jewishness, specifically in order to avoid provoking racist attacks.
My son refuses to bow down to such pressure, and we are fully behind him since this is his own decision. I now sit for an hour and a half outside the chess club premises every Wednesday to serve as his protection from racist attacks.