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Sweden’s reputation as a tolerant, liberal nation is being threatened by a steep rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes in the city of Malmö.

When she first arrived in Sweden after her rescue from a Nazi concentration camp, Judith Popinski was treated with great kindness.

She raised a family in the city of Malmö, and for the next six decades lived happily in her adopted homeland – until last year.

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 The Sunday Telegraph.

“This new hatred comes from Muslim immigrants. The Jewish people are afraid now.”

Malmö’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.

The future looks so bleak that by one estimate, around 30 Jewish families have already left for Stockholm, England or Israel, and more are preparing to go.

With its young people planning new lives elsewhere, the remaining Jewish households, many of whom are made up of Holocaust survivors and their descendants, fear they will soon be gone altogether. Mrs Popinski, an 86-year-old widow, said she has even encountered hostility when invited to talk about the Holocaust in schools.

“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.”

Hate crimes, mainly directed against Jews, doubled last year with Malmö’s police recording 79 incidents and admitting that far more probably went unreported. As of yet, no direct attacks on people have been recorded but many Jews believe it is only a matter of time in the current climate.

The city’s synagogue has guards and rocket-proof glass in the windows, while the Jewish kindergarten can only be reached through thick steel security doors.

Muslims are now estimated to make up about a fifth of Malmö’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.”

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 Malmö 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 Malmö.”

Mr Eilenberg said he and his wife considered moving to Stockholm where Jews feel safer than in Malmo. “But we decided not to because in five years time I think it will be just as bad there,” he said. “This is happening all over Europe. I have cousins who are leaving their homes in Amsterdam and France for the same reason as me.”

Malmo’s Jews are not the only ones to suffer hate crimes.

At the city’s Islamic Centre, the director Bejzat Becirov pointed out a bullet hole in the window behind the main reception desk.

Mr Becirov, who arrived in 1962 from the former Yugoslavia, said that windows were regularly smashed, pig’s heads had been left outside the mosque, and outbuildings burnt down – probably the acts of Neo-Nazis who have also baited Jews in the past.

He said that the harassment of Jews by some young Muslims was “embarrassing” to his community. Many of them are unemployed and confined to life on bleak estates where the Scandinavian dream of prosperity and equality seemed far away.

For many of Malmö’s white Swedish population, meanwhile, the racial problems are bewildering after years of liberal immigration policies.

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Sweden’s National Public Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen) has been fined for discriminating against a Muslim man who had his benefits withdrawn after refusing to shake the hand of a female CEO.

According to a ruling in the Stockholm District Court on Monday, the agency has been ordered to pay 60,000 kronor ($8,000) to the man after it withdrew him from a labour market training scheme when he refused to shake the hand of a female CEO at a firm with which he was seeking work experience.

The court ruled that the agency was aware that the man’s religious convictions prevented him from shaking hands with women he did not know.

The company elected not to offer the man an internship, later arguing that the decision was taken due to his lack of appropriate skills and experience.

The man lost his job seeker’s allowance in May 2006 as a result of his withdrawal from the programme, and he reported the matter to the Discrimination Ombudsman (DO).

DO found in favour of the man’s assertion that he had been discriminated against and applied to the court to order the agency to pay 120,000 kronor in compensation.

According to Swedish law, after probable cause has been established for a case of discrimination, the onus is on the opponent to prove that it did not take place.

The court ruled that the agency had not been able to prove that the decision to withdraw him from the programme was not connected to his religion and thus ordered the payment of 60,000 kronor in compensation for violation of religious freedom.

The court conceded that although the violation appeared to have occurred unintentionally, the man had as a result suffered significant consequences and financial loss.

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