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This article was published 6/1/2017 (1744 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Winnipeg family that received an anti-Semitic death threat on New Year’s Eve, which also was the last night of Hannukah, is still shaken and terrified for their well-being.
A rock with the message "DIE JEW BITCH. EINSATZGRUPPEN" written on it in bright red letters was left on the Wolseley homeowners’ doorstep, wrapped in a ribbon reading "Jude Bitch get out of our neighberhood (sic)." The rock also had a swastika painted on it.
The couple, who wishes to remain anonymous, call themselves "interfaith" and have a young child. While the wife is Jewish, the husband is Catholic, and in an interview with the Free Press Thursday, they went into the details of the incident, which Winnipeg police are investigating as a hate crime.
"We love the neighbourhood," the wife said, adding they’d lived there for several years with no troubles. "But this is very, very concerning," added the husband.
On New Year’s Eve, the couple returned home with friends at about 10 p.m. to find the rock and ribbon in a large gift bag in front of their house. Initially, they were excited that somebody had left them what they thought was a present, but when they looked inside, their excitement turned to horror.
They knew "einzatzgruppen" was a term related to the Nazis but didn’t immediately know it referred to a death squad responsible for the massacre of millions of Jews and other minority groups during the Holocaust.
"The first images revealed of this group (after searching the Internet) depict mountains of bodies on the streets, with surrounding (Nazi) officers," the wife said.
"As we unravelled it and saw the swastika and then we read the words, there was a moment of complete shock," the husband said. "We were hoping that this wasn’t a reality, here, now, in Winnipeg, to us," the wife said, adding, "It just did not feel real."
They then immediately checked the houses of other neighbours on their street — Jewish and non-Jewish alike — and realized they were the only ones who received such a "gift" bag.
After that realization, they recognized it was a targeted threat and called Winnipeg police, who showed up "rather swiftly." They then reached out to B’nai Brith Canada for advice and guidance, when they realized other Jewish families might receive similar death threats.
In a release Wednesday, B’nai Brith said while anti-Semitic incidents such as this one happen relatively frequently across Canada, the number of similar occurrences in Winnipeg had "dropped dramatically" in recent years.
"We needed to change our routines, question who it could be, what could possibly have invited a death threat? The obvious fears we had would be that next would be a break-in or an assault," the husband said. "It’s not something we could just brush off."
"It’s absolutely baseless hatred," he said later.
The couple, who admittedly are not overly involved within the Winnipeg Jewish community, have no obvious signs of their Jewish heritage on their house, or in it. They had lit the menorah to celebrate Hanukkah earlier that night, but it was not visible to the street. In fact, they have a Christmas tree clearly visible in their window.
The language used on the rock and ribbon, along with the swastika, is inherently hate-filled. Several members of the wife’s family were killed or displaced by the Holocaust.
The couple has made "tremendous" security upgrades, including 24-7 security cameras and an increased surveillance and alarm system.
They are not considering moving, but they say they remain terrified.
"‘Get out of neighbourhood and die’ begs the question that if we don’t leave, are we now as good as dead? To my mind, those are very direct threats," the wife added.
They are "completely at a loss" as to why they have been targeted and have no clue who might be responsible.
Since they received the threat, the couple says they’ve received outstanding support from friends, family and neighbours, and police have been very helpful in assuring their safety.
Shortly after they found the package on their property, guests began to arrive for a New Year’s get-together the couple hosted. For a few hours, surrounded by friends, the couple said they were able to feel secure after telling them what happened and speaking to police who had responded.
But when everyone went home, fear set in again.
"It is a death threat, so any time you’re left alone, you have to worry," the husband said. "The stakes are so high that you can’t just disregard it."
Neither the husband nor the wife could comprehend how or why somebody would do something like this.
"There’s some deliberateness to this. It’s far more than a random bit of graffiti," the husband said.
"People have been very shaken on the entire block," added the wife.
"It only takes one incident to shatter a whole neighbourhood’s sense of peace," the husband said.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.