Film director Steven Spielberg on Monday warned that Jews are again facing what he called the "perennial demons of intolerance", from anti-Semites who are provoking hate crimes and trying to strip Holocaust survivors of their identity, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
Spielberg’s warning was made in a speech to dozens of Auschwitz survivors the evening before official commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet army's liberation of the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
In a short speech, he spoke of how his own Jewish identity evolved, first as a boy learning to read numbers from the numbers tattooed on the arms of survivors, and as an adult when he filmed "Schindler's List" in Krakow.
He then warned of "anti-Semites, radical extremists, and religious fanatics" who are again provoking hate crimes, a warning that comes after radical Islamists massacred Jews at a kosher supermarket earlier this month in Paris.
Spielberg also noted that there are now Facebook pages that identify Jews and their geographic locations with the intention to attack them, and a growing effort to banish Jews from Europe.
"These people … want to all over again strip you of your past, of your story and of your identity," he said, according to AP, stressing the importance of countering that hatred with education and preserving Auschwitz and other historical sites.
Spielberg’s comments come amid growing anti-Semitism around the world, and particularly in Europe. Recent statistics found that hate crimes against Jews have risen 383% worldwide since 2013, including a 436% hate crime hike in Europe.
Anti-Semitism particularly reared its ugly head in the wake of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last summer.
During the operation, there were attacks on synagogues and Jewish businesses in France, as well as violent anti-Semitic demonstrations in Germany, where an imam in Berlin called on Muslims to "kill Zionist Jews."
About 300 survivors will gather with leaders from around the world on Tuesday to remember the 1.1 million people killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau and the millions of others killed in the Holocaust.
Tuesday is January 27, which was designated as a International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the United Nations General Assembly in 2005. It was on this date in 1945 that Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz death camp.
In 2013, the European Union incorporated International Holocaust Remembrance Day into its official calendar for the first time.