Rita Karlsen, HRS
Det er ikke første gang vi hører om problemene jødene har i Malmø, og det er heller ikke første gang vi hører om sosialdemokraten Ilmar Reepalus forunderlige politiske beslutninger. For eksempel da Sverige hadde invitert Israel til en tenniskamp bestemte Reepalu seg for at kampen skulle gå uten publikum, og det var et betydelig politioppbud, dertil med forsterkninger fra Danmark, som skulle se til at det ikke ble voldelige demonstrasjoner. Men det ble det. Også da spurte jøder om det var noen fremtid for dem i Sverige.
Siden har flere valgt å forlate. I gårdagens The Sunday Telegraph fortalte Judith Popinski (86) at da hun kom til Sverige etter å ha blitt reddet fra en nazistisk konsentrasjonsleir, ble hun tatt vel imot. I flere tiår har hun og familien levd trygt og godt i Sverige, helt til i fjor.
In 2009, a chapel serving the city’s 700-strong Jewish community was set ablaze. Jewish cemeteries were repeatedly desecrated, worshippers were abused on their way home from prayer, and «Hitler» was mockingly chanted in the streets by masked men.
«I never thought I would see this hatred again in my lifetime, not in Sweden anyway,» Mrs Popinski told.
«This new hatred comes from Muslim immigrants. The Jewish people are afraid now.»
Malmo’s Jews, however, do not just point the finger at bigoted Muslims and their fellow racists in the country’s Neo-Nazi fringe. They also accuse Ilmar Reepalu, the Left-wing mayor who has been in power for 15 years, of failing to protect them.
Mr Reepalu, who is blamed for lax policing, is at the centre of a growing controversy for saying that what the Jews perceive as naked anti-Semitism is in fact just a sad, but understandable consequence of Israeli policy in the Middle East.
While his views are far from unusual on the European liberal-left, which is often accused of a pro-Palestinian bias, his Jewish critics say they encourage young Muslim hotheads to abuse and harass them.
Popinski, som er en 86 år gammel enke, forteller at hun selv har møtt fiendtlige holdninger da hun var invitert til å snakke om Holocaust i skolen.
«Muslim schoolchildren often ignore me now when I talk about my experiences in the camps,» she said. «It is because of what their parents tell them about Jews. The hatreds of the Middle East have come to Malmo. Schools in Muslim areas of the city simply won’t invite Holocaust survivors to speak any more.»
Den registerte hatkriminaliteten mot jøder ble i fjor doblet til 79 hendelser, men politiet innrømmer store mørketall. Det er ikke blitt registrert direkte angrep på jøder, men jødene selv mener at ut fra dagens situasjon er det bare et spørsmål om tid. Byens synagoge er nå utstyrt med vakter og skuddsikre glass, og barnehagen har tykke ståldører.
Situasjonen har endret seg markant fra da Popinski kom til Sverige:
It is a far cry from the city Mrs Popinski arrived in 65 years ago, half-dead from starvation and typhus.
At Auschwitz she had been separated from her Polish family, all of whom were murdered. She escaped the gas chambers after being sent as a slave labourer. Then she was moved to a womens’ concentration camp, Ravensbrück, from where she was then evacuated in a release deal negotiated between the Swedish Red Cross and senior Nazis, who were by then trying to save their own lives.
After the war, just as liberal Sweden took in Jews who survived the Holocaust as a humanitarian act, it also took in new waves of refugees from tyranny and conflicts in the Middle East. Muslims are now estimated to make up about a fifth of Malmo’s population of nearly 300,000.
«This new hatred from a group 40,000-strong is focused on a small group of Jews,» Mrs Popinski said, speaking in a sitting room filled with paintings and Persian carpets.
«Some Swedish politicians are letting them do it, including the mayor. Of course the Muslims have more votes than the Jews.»
The worst incident was last year during Israel’s brief war in Gaza, when a small demonstration in favour of Israel was attacked by a screaming mob of Arabs and Swedish leftists, who threw bottles and firecrackers as the police looked on.
«I haven’t seen hatred like that for decades,» Mrs Popinski said. «It reminded me of what I saw in my youth. Jews feel vulnerable here now.»
Problemene i Malmø begynner å bli mer enn pinlig for Sveriges sosialdemokrater. Sosialdemokratens leder, Mona Sahlin, som mange mener kan bli Sveriges neste statsminister, møtte i forrige uke ledere i det jødiske samfunnet.
The problem is becoming an embarrassment for the Social Democrats, the mayor’s party.
Their national leader Mona Sahlin – the woman who is likely to become the next prime minister after an election later this year – last week travelled to Malmo to meet Jewish leaders, which they took to be a sign that at last politicians are waking to their plight. After the meeting, the mayor, Mr Reepalu, also promised to meet them.
A former architect, he has been credited with revitalising Malmo from a half-derelict shipbuilding centre into a vibrant, prosperous city with successful IT and biotech sectors.
His city was – until recently at least – a shining multicultural success story, and has taken in proportionally more refugees than anywhere else in Sweden, a record of which it is proud.
Sweden has had a long record of offering a safe haven to Jews, the first of whom arrived from the east in the mid-nineteenth century. Today the Jewish population is about 18,000 nationally, with around 3000 in southern Sweden.
The mayor insisted to The Sunday Telegraph that he was opposed to anti-Semitism, but added: «I believe these are anti-Israel attacks, connected to the war in Gaza.
«We want Malmo to be cosmopolitan and safe for everybody and we have taken action. I have started a dialogue forum. There haven’t been any attacks on Jewish people, and if Jews from the city want to move to Israel that is not a matter for Malmo.»
I dag teller jødiske befolkningen om lag 18.000 nasjonalt, med rundt 3.000 i Sør-Sverige. Men stadig flere jøder mener Sverige ikke lengre er en trygg havn.
“Jews came to Sweden to get away from persecution, and now they find it is no longer a safe haven,” said Rabbi Shneur Kesselman, 31. “That is a horrible feeling.”
En annen som har fått nok er Marcus Eilenberg, en 32-år gammel Malmøfødt advokat, som flytter til Israel i april med sin familie.
«Malmo has really changed in the past year,» he said. «I am optimistic by nature, but I have no faith in a future here for my children. There is definitely a threat.
«It started during the Gaza war when Jewish demonstrators were attacked. It was a horrible feeling, being attacked in your own city. Just as bad was the realisation that we were not being protected by our own leaders.»
Eilenberg og kona vurderer å flytte til Stockholm der jøder skal føle seg tryggere enn i Malmø. Samtidig tror Eilenberg at hatet kan nå dit også, derfor har de besluttet å gi Stockholm fem år.
«This is happening all over Europe. I have cousins who are leaving their homes in Amsterdam and France for the same reason as me.»
Men også muslimer hevder de blir utsatt for hatkriminalitet. Lederen Bejzat Becirov av Islamic Centre i Malmø, viser til at også senteret deres er beskutt og at vinduene jevnlig blir knust.
Og hva sies det om den etniske svenske befolkningen i Malmø? Jo, er ”forvirret”:
For many of Malmo’s white Swedish population, meanwhile, the racial problems are bewildering after years of liberal immigration policies.
Det kan vel kalles et understatement.