WASHINGTON — US Vice President Mike Pence condemned on Thursday increasing anti-Semitic violence in Europe, lamenting the fact that French and German Jews have been advised not to publicly identify as Jewish.
Addressing a three-day conference on religious freedom at the State Department, Pence noted a string of vicious attacks against Jewish targets over the last several years, including the 2012 school shooting in Toulouse and the 2016 terrorist attack at a Paris kosher super market.
“The world has watched in horror as these attacks on Jewish people have taken place,” Pence said. “In France and Germany, things have gotten so bad that Jewish religious leaders have warned their followers not to wear kippahs in public for fear that they could be violently attacked, and in too many cases, that’s exactly what’s happened. ”
The Anti-Defamation League has tracked anti-Semitic incidents in the continent, and has said incidents are rising in several countries, including in the form of violent attacks, assaults and acts of vandalism.
France and Germany are the two European countries where these episodes have been most pervasive, according to the watchdog group.
Other countries that have seen an increase in anti-Semitic violence and rhetoric include Poland, Sweden, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Pence noted Thursday that some of the Jews in France are Holocaust survivors, and have seen a resurgence of anti-Semitism over the course of their lifetimes.
“It is remarkable to think that within the very lifetimes of some French Jews — the same French Jews that were forced by the Nazis to wear identifiable Jewish clothing — some of those same people are now being warned by their democratic leaders not to wear identifiable Jewish clothing,” he said.
“These acts of violence and hatred and anti-Semitism must end.”
US President Donald Trump, under whom Pence serves, has in the past been accused of failing to adequately condemn anti-Semitic incidents — as well as anti-Semites who support him politically. Most notably, he blamed “both sides” for the violence that erupted in Charlottesville last summer, and said there were “very fine people” marching along with the neo-Nazis and klansmen.
Concern about anti-Semitism is high in Germany, with some Jewish community leaders and politicians warning that anti-Jewish and extreme anti-Zionist attitudes among more than a million new refugees from the Middle East and North Africa are a ticking time bomb.
Germany was shocked by an anti-Semitic attack in April involving a Syrian migrant who lashed out with his belt at an Arab Israeli man who wore a kippa in a social experiment. A video of the street assault, filmed by the victim on his smartphone, sparked widespread public revulsion as it spread on social media, and triggered street rallies in solidarity with Jews.
Footage of the attack led the head of the umbrella organization of German Jews, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, to warn that Jewish men should avoid wearing kippot in public.
Earlier this month, an Israeli professor was attacked by a German of Palestinian descent, who shouted “No Jew in Germany” as he struck him and knocked the kippa off of his head.
In the wake of the recent attacks, thousands of Germans rallied at a “Berlin Wears Kippa” solidarity demonstration, matched by smaller events in several other German cities to denounce anti-Semitism.
Times of Israel staff and JTA contributed to this report.