Warning of serious antisemitism at European Championships in Kiev

By Marcus Dysch, May 31, 2012

There is a serious threat of antisemitic attacks increasing during this month’s European Football Championships in Poland and the Ukraine, the president of the World Forum of Russian Jewry has warned.

Alexander Levin wrote to Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, highlighting the possibility of “many more” attacks when football fans travel to matches in the coming weeks.

“Thousands of soccer fans that might be drunk in the streets of Ukraine can easily generate antisemitic attacks against the Jewish community of Kiev,” wrote Mr Levin.

“We appeal to you to do everything possible to prevent acts of terrorism, extremism and other illegal, xenophobic manifestations.”

His warning came as former England defender Sol Campbell advised fans not to travel to the tournament.

“Stay home, watch it on TV… don’t even risk [going],” he said during a BBC Panorama documentary which showed fans at domestic games giving Nazi salutes, taunting black players with monkey chants, and making antisemitic gestures.

John Mann MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, has repeatedly voiced his concerns to UEFA.

He said: “UEFA’s approach has been lacklustre, they are hiding away, eternally passing the buck.”

On Thursday, Holocaust survivors Zigi Shipper and Ben Helfgott met the senior England squad. Now 82, Mr Shipper went to Auschwitz in 1944 before being sent on a death march.

Mr Helfgott survived the Buchenwald concentration camp and later moved to Britain, where he became an Olympian, appearing in the weightlifting competitions at the 1956 and 1960 Games.

The Holocaust Educational Trust will accompany a group of England players, staff and FA executives on an Auschwitz visit next week. Players will light a candle of remembrance on the train tracks at Birkenau before later visiting Schindler’s factory in Krakow. HET and the FA will then create a DVD to be shown to children.

It will feature England stars discussing combating prejudice.

FA chairman David Bernstein said: “There are so many lessons to be learnt and understood. I am proud that Roy Hodgson and the England team are supporting such an important initiative.”

Last updated: 9:48am, June 1 2012