The National Holocaust Centre and Museum hopes its new racism response unit will help to tackle rising antisemitism, which has become more pronounced since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7.
The Nottinghamshire-based institution has begun rolling out workshops and training sessions which are intended for public bodies such as universities, councils and the police.
Michael Newman, of the Anglo-Jewish Association, which is sponsoring the initiative, said, “The Israel-Hamas war has led to significant increases in antisemitism where Jews, including school pupils and students at universities have been abused and intimidated.
“We believe this new reactive education service can have a big impact on organisations and institutions as it enables them to recognise and act on anti-Jewish racism.”
Warwick University and another London college had already signed up for sessions, the museum’s chief executive, Mark Cave, said.
The new service is designed to help people better to recognise antisemitic themes and conspiracy theories, particularly when anti-Israel crosses the line into anti-Jewish hate.
Mr Cave explained that the need for the new service - which was trialled for a year at Nottingham University - became apparent when the previous conflict between Israel and Gaza led to a spike in antisemitism two years ago.
“If the Jewish state is the only state you criticise, you are a racist,” he said. “If you accuse the Jewish state of the same old libels [against the Jewish people], you are a racist.”
As an example of Israel-related antisemitism, he cited a graphic which circulated on social media this year, depicting Israeli Prime Benjamin Netanyahu as a vampire with a Magen David on his forehead, and blood dripping from his mouth . It was reminiscent of a Nazi caricature of Jewish people from Der Sturmer in the 1930s.
In another instance, a placard carried at an anti-Israel march in London two years ago showed the crucifixion with the slogan, “Do not let them do the same thing again today” - echoing Christian acccusations of deicide against the Jews.
While the museum has long been involved in Holocaust education, which is compulsory in English schools, Mr Cave said, he had become increasingly worried that “Holocaust education wasn’t linked to today. You can’t change history but you can use history to change the present.”
The Holocaust was not some, as some imagined it, to be a “crazy one-off carried out by guys in jackboots” but came out of the conspiracy theories that had long preceded it.
“The Holocaust did not happen out of the blue,” he said. “It did not begin or end with Nazis. It did not begin or end in Germany. It was the result of 2,000 years of anti-Jewish conspiracy theories across the whole of Europe. Some of the key ones were created in England and popularised globally.”
Those same racist conspiracy theories, he said, were “buoyant in the UK today, particularly among elements of the liberal left”.
The new service was intended to educate some of the people he believed to be “at the epicentre of the problem - not the students, but university staff”.