The world recently commemorated the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp Auschwitz by the Red Army. And Swedish Television's investigative journalism programme “Uppdrag Granskning” recently demonstrated what happens when people wearing Jewish symbols, such as the kippah or the Star of David, walk the streets of Malmö. The programme's reporters were jeered at and had eggs thrown at them.
SWASTIKA ON HIS DESK
Mats Sellei started working for Vattenfall two years ago in the purchasing department. By that time, he had already decided to wear his kippah all the time. “I'm not an orthodox Jew but I live my life according to Halakha, the Jewish law. I'd been thinking about wearing my kippah for some time, and when my nine year old son David had a swastika drawn on his desk because he was going to talk about Judaism at school, my mind was made up.”
Mats Sellei describes starting to wear his kippah after the incident at his son's school as a bit like “coming out”. “I was annoyed and disappointed that only six parents came to talk about the school's values after the incident. Enough was enough. That's when I decided to start wearing my kippah. Actually, it was a real relief and now my kippah is a big part of who I am.”
TRY AND TALK
Mats Sellei says everyone at Vattenfall has been really positive about what he's doing, and he cites a number of examples of supportive comments both at Vattenfall and elsewhere. But not everyone's reaction is so positive.
“As long as people don't say anything too rude to me, I choose to interpret a comment as something positive, as a starting-point for a discussion with people I'd never have talked to otherwise. But people regularly shout ‘Sieg Heil’ at me or call me a ‘Jewish bastard’ or child killer, I'd say, once a month.”
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THAT HAPPENS?
“Most people don't seem to understand it when I stay put and try and talk to them. Some people just avoid me, others tell me to shut up, and others say they were only joking.”
“I don't report this sort of thing to the police, it would just become a statistic. But I do believe that all forms of violence must be reported to the police.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE SWEDEN AS A COUNTRY FOR JEWS TO LIVE IN?
“The climate in Sweden and in Europe as a whole has changed, even though it's only 70 years since the Holocaust. It's acceptable to say things to Jews and to dust off old conspiracy theories. If a Jew were to ask me if they should move to Sweden, I would say ‘don't do it’. I used to think that I would live in this country for the rest of my life because it was such an open-minded society where everybody's rights were respected. Now I'm no longer so sure.”