‘Ah, so you’re an Auschwitz boy then?’: UoB student subject to antisemitic abuse outside Fab
There has been a rise in antisemitism on campus
Larry Sobieraj, a Masters student in Mechanical Engineering, was subject to abusive, antisemitic comments as he was leaving Fab.
He describes how, whilst waiting for his girlfriend outside the fountain on Saturday 19th January, two boys came up to him. They started guessing where he was from, and when they guessed Poland they called him "Auschwitz boy". Larry told The Birmingham Tab: "They seemed friendly, and they were just drunk, they were trying to guess where I was from by looking at me. After they guessed Poland, they went 'ah, so you’re an Auschwitz boy then?' I didn’t want to get into an argument or a fight – I just wanted to go to bed, but they’d got my name and were like 'Larry, the Auschwitz legend.'"
The next day, he posted about the incident on the Fab N Fresh page, in the hope that the individuals who said it would see the post, in addition to raising awareness of incidents such as this. Larry said: "This stuff probably happens quite a lot, and people think it’s just a laugh. And it’s obviously not – there’s just a lack of sensitivity to it."
Although not Jewish himself, Larry told The Birmingham Tab how the attack felt vested in antisemitic attitudes, similar to those he’d seen online, and experienced by others on campus, including his girlfriend. "It felt shit", he said. "In their minds they weren’t even insulting me."
In a statement, The Guild said: "The Guild of Students condemns reports of abusive, antisemitic language used in remarks towards a student leaving Fab N Fresh on Saturday evening.
"The Guild of Students stands firmly opposed to any form of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism or similar discriminatory behaviour. Both the Guild and the university have a strict no-tolerance policy against any form of discrimination and we are committed to creating an inclusive and welcoming community for all. Hate crime, of any kind, is never acceptable.
"We believe that all students have the right to live and study in a safe and supportive environment and actions such as this have no place in our society, or on our campus. No student should feel afraid or intimidated whilst studying at Birmingham.
"We were really encouraged with the level of support shown to the student concerned, with fellow students offering words of encouragement and advice."
The Guild added students can go to the following places if they have been a victim of antisemitism, or want to report it:
– Guild Advice in the Guild of Students, where you can talk to a trained advisor
– The police – 999 in an emergency or 101 for non-emergencies
– Use the police online reporting tool, True Vision
– Visit the Campus Police Officer (based in University Centre, opposite Spa)
– Visit the University's Security Services
– Report online through Stop Hate UK