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Holocaust survivor, nationally known antisemitism expert visiting Santa Barbara concerned about rise in incidents

David Holifield

Abraham Foxman thinks the internet is providing major fuel to the crisis.

He’s a world-renown leader in the battle against antisemitism. But, Abraham Foxman is worried that years of progress has been undermined by the recent surge in hate speech and crimes.

Foxman has dedicated his life to the struggle. It’s a miracle he’s even alive. He was an infant when Nazi Germany invaded his native Poland, leading to the murder of millions of Jews.

"I was born in 1940, in Poland...not a good place for a Jewish kid to be born," said Foxman.

Foxman said a Catholic woman took him in, hiding him in plain sight from the Nazis. "She saved me...she protected me...she baptized me, and gave me a false identity, and protected me for four years. I was one of the lucky ones that survived."

Foxman said the woman’s selfless actions also ultimately saved his parents, because without him to care for, they were able to better fend for themselves.

His family emigrated to the United States, where he ended up dedicating his life to the fight against antisemitism. He was director of the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL is one the leading anti-hate organizations in the world.

Foxman said after the Holocaust, antisemitism was much less overt, but it was by no means gone. "It really never went away," said Foxman. "It's a 2000 year old disease that's served so many masters...the Communists, the Fascists...Jews were the classic scapegoats."

He said groups like the ADL which track and combat antisemitism noted it often went from something which was blatantly open to more subtle.

Foxman said there’s been a frightening resurgence. He contends what’s especially concerning is that the door to it was opened by people like former President Donald Trump, and rapper Kanye West.

"We were able to keep it in the sewers...but we've lost truth...and truth used to be the answer to antisemitism." He said the internet is one of the main issues, because of its ability to instantly spread rumors, and lies around the world.

Foxman has written a number of books on the subject. He admits there is no easy fix to stopping the spread of hate on the internet.

Foxman says the truth is the best answer to countering hate, and antisemitism. But, he notes with anyone able to post anything on the internet, and sometimes finding an audience with it, it can be hard to get people to the truth.

Foxman is part of a panel on the subject Monday night at the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara. The 6:30 p.m. event is already at capacity, but people can watch via Zoom.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.