The conference, announced three weeks ago when Prime Minister Stefan Löfven launched his second term in government, will seek to shine new light on the systematic murder of six million European Jews by Nazi Germany, as well as looking at continuing racism against Jews today.
“We have a duty to never forget the holocaust and its millions of victims,” Roko Kursar, Malmö’s First Deputy Mayor, said in a statement. “Many refugees rejected by Sweden later met their deaths in Hitler’s extermination camps. Malmö then became a Harbour of Hope for those who came on Folke Bernadotte’s white buses.”
The conference is part of a wider Holocaust commemoration planned in Sweden which will also see young Swedes funded to visit Holocaust sites in Europe, and the establishment of a Swedish Holocaust museum.
Malmö’s former mayor Ilmar Reepalu was accused of antisemitism in 2010 when he called on Jews in Malmö to take a stand against Israeli attacks on the Gaza strip.
“Imagine if the Jewish community in Malmö, in the same way as a large number of Israelis in Jerusalem, took a stand against the breaches of human rights which the state of Israeli subjected the civilian population in Gaza,” he told the Skånskan newspaper. “Imagine the effect it would have!”
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, he then denied that there had been any attacks on Jews in Malmö .
“If Jews from the city want to move to Israel that is not a matter for Malmö,” he added.
Reepalu's successor Katrin Stjerneldt Jammeh has worked hard to repair Malmö’s reputation among Jews internationally, meeting Ira Forman, the US’s special envoy on antisemitism.
“Malmö wants to play a central role in this important work,” she said of the decision to host the conference. “I welcome the government’s initiative to exchange experiences and find more ways to combat antisemitism today.”
The Jewish Community of Malmö welcomed the municipality’s move.
“It is a fact that there is antisemitism in Malmö,” community member Fredrik Seieradzki told Sveriges Radio. “We have a problem and it’s generally recognised.”
But he said this was no reason not to host a Holocaust conference. “We consider that there is every reason to do it.”