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Despite efforts, anti-Semitism is practiced openly in Madrid

Story by Emily Pollak

MADRID – On a wild Saturday night in late May, thousands of chanting, screaming soccer fans fill the streets to support their local team, Real Madrid, as it plays for the championship in neighboring Portugal. But in the midst of the revelry, a disturbing symbol emerges. The swastika. Hundreds cheer around a man waving a flag bearing this universal symbol of anti-Semitism and hate. Nobody does a thing, or seems to care.

A Nazi flag is displayed as Real Madrid fans celebrate near the Bernabéu Stadium before the start of the UEFA Championship finals, on May 24 in Madrid, Spain. Real Madrid's now-disbanded hooligan group Ultras Sur has a long history of strong anti-semitism and violence.

A Nazi flag is displayed as Real Madrid fans celebrate near the Bernabéu Stadium before the start of the UEFA Championship finals on May 24 in Madrid, Spain. Real Madrid’s now-disbanded hooligan group Ultras Sur has a long history of strong anti-Semitism and violence. Photo by Maria Amasanti.

It has become an increasingly familiar sight in the capital city of Spain, a country with a history of showing hostility toward Jews. And not surprisingly, as a result, the rise of white power groups has unnerved human rights advocates, business owners and members of the region’s Jewish community, a minority that represents less than 1 percent of the population.

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