Ukraine — bonanza for upgraded Holocaust denial

Last Friday — November 21, 2014 — will go down in Western moral history as a day of infamy. Shamefully, the United States and Canada, along with Ukraine, made up the lonely threesome of nations at the UN who voted “No” on a resolution that called for: “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” How could this have happened? First, some background.

The tired old brand of Holocaust Denial (“it never really happened”) died its much-deserved death in mainstream, civilized Western society. Some in Europe even put a date to the death: when the British high court threw out denier David Irving’s libel suit against Holocaust studies professor Deborah Lipstadt back in April of 2000.

Few were then taking note that a new and much shrewder species of the virus was quietly being cultivated right within Western civilization, among the educated elites of a number of pro-Western East European countries in Eastern Europe. Without necessarily denying a single death, the new construct simply said: “There were two equal genocides. First the Soviets with their Jewish lackeys committed the first genocide, and then came the reaction, when the Nazis with their East European allies committed the second genocide.”

Politicians and academics have, as ever, put it all into elegant doubletalk that omits the unsavory bits and pieces, most famously in the 2008 Prague Declaration, which boasts the word “same” five times, insisting that Europe overhaul its history textbooks to reflect the new construct, that there be a unitary day for victims of Nazism and Communism, and most Orwellian of all, that the two regimes “must inform all European minds to the same extent.” (Full disclosure: I am proud to be a co-author of the European parliamentary response, the 2012 Seventy Years Declaration). The political motivation comes in part from ultranationalist efforts to expunge from history the massive volunteer killer forces Hitler found in parts of Eastern Europe, and in part from hatred of all things Russian, following the many decades of suffering under Soviet misrule.

But back to last Friday…

There were 115 votes for the UN resolution, those three against, as well as the 55 abstentions that included all of the European Union. The abstentions were eerily understandable because the resolution was moved by Russia, which is now entangled in the Ukraine conflict and has dubious and mixed motives at best for playing the cards of history. But by joining the Ukrainians in voting “No,” the United States and Canada have ignominiously put their seal of approval on the glorification of Nazi perpetrators and collaborators in some of the new eastern states in the European Union. In recent years, the cringe-inducing catalogue includes honoring of the Waffen SS in Estonia and Latviareburial with full honors of the Nazi puppet prime minister in Lithuania, and attempts to sanitize Hungary’s collaborators. (It is important to remember that these policies, championed by nationalist elites, do not reflect on the general populations of these countries, which have all become successful modern democracies, whose people’s suffering under communism verily deserves much more recognition worldwide, and whose inspiring young people are busy building a better future for all.)

Nowhere  has the situation been worse than in the non-EU, non-NATO and deeply divided Ukraine, whose nationalist elites glorify, among others, the major Holocaust mass murderer, Stepan Bandera, and his associated fascist groups, that have the blood of at least tens of thousands of Jews (and Poles) on their hands (in reality, rather more than that). Current scholarship by diverse specialists, including John-Paul Himka, Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe and Per Anders Rudling only confirms what was long known, notwithstanding the lame apologetics being mounted by the US State Department and driven by the American neo-Conservatives in the zeal of “Be against Russia on every last issue.” Putin’s Russia has acted disgracefully on many counts, and must be held accountable, but attempts to cover for the pro-Hitlerist (and inherently racist and anti-Semitic)  revisionism in parts of “anti-Russia” Eastern Europe by falsifying history and turning a blind eye to the concomitant rampant racism and anti-Semitism are a wrong way forward.

You know that something is wrong when it is Churchill and Roosevelt turning in their graves. The immeasurable sacrifices of the Anglo-American-Soviet alliance to bring down Nazism in Europe, and the justness of that achievement, cannot now be thrown into the rubbish because neocons in Washington and ultranationalists in Eastern Europe alike are looking for any and every stick against Russia (there are more than enough legitimate ones). When the actual genocide of the Holocaust got underway after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) in June 1941, in vast swaths of territory in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and its peoples provided the one prime hope for survival of any Jewish person. Indeed, right through to the end of the war on the eastern front (mostly in 1944), the Red Army and the Soviet-supported partisans were the only forces seriously fighting the Nazis (there were no American or British troops in these countries).

The obsession to distort and rewrite history reached its high point here in Lithuania, when anti-Semitic prosecutors started harassing and defaming Jewish Holocaust survivors as “war criminals” for having survived by escaping the ghetto to join up with the partisans in the forests. There were never any charges—it was all defamation—but in the absence of government apologies the defamation is widespread in new history books and the internet. This makes for the bogus symmetry between Nazi and Soviet crimes that is the heart of the Double Genocide movement, as the revisionist history is increasingly known. Incidentally, the first victim of the defamation campaign, Dr. Yitzhak Arad, former director of Yad Vashem, wrote an outstanding paper in 2012 that exposed the whole miserable effort to falsify history, down to a state-run commission based in Lithuania that is the engine of the mix-and-mush movement in Europe and beyond. Many of these efforts specialize in recruiting glory (and junket) hungry “Useful Jewish Idiots” (UJI’s) from the west, including community leaders and scholars who should know better. This makes for a sharp contrast with the very courageous Lithuanian citizens who are coming forward to tell the simple truth.

The usually robust Western media is lamentably lame when it comes to East European pro-fascist historiography and ideology. Yet again last week, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour repeated that only a tiny percent of Ukrainians voted for the far right openly fascist parties. That is absolutely true, but it fails to note the degree to which Ukraine’s government is happy to use neo-Nazi groups for military and security purposes. More importantly, it fails to note that the rot in Eastern Europe does not come from the nominal far right. It comes for the ostensible “mainstream” center that the West has uncritically over embraced. In deeply disturbing recent developments, Ukraine’s President Poroshenko tweeted support for glorifying the UPA (one of the nationalist groups that carried out mass murder of Jewish and Polish civilians) and went on to declare the group’s founding date as a national holiday!

Two bold American journalists, Mark Ames, and Michael Goldfarb have been among the tiny number to disregard the State Department’s wishes in reporting on Ukraine.

Lost in the melee last week was another set of confusing claims. Word spread that Congress had rejected an important amendment proposed by Michigan congressman John Conyers that would restrict American military aid to units in Ukraine that glorify Hitlerism and use swastikas and other fascist symbols. Anti-Zionist author Max Blumenthal has claimed, without evidence, that lobbyists for the ADL and the Simon Wiesenthal Center provided House leaders with cover for ditching Rep. Conyers’ amendment.

This, as they say, would be too much even for this whole weird saga. The fog of rumor and counter-rumor can be instantly dispelled by clear public statements from ADL and SWC headquarters in support of Rep. Conyers’ amendment. In the case of the Wiesenthal Center, we have made clear on these pages that its Israel office director, legendary Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, is also one of the world’s leading campaigners for truth about the Holocaust, and that goes for what concerns Ukraine too. It would be unthinkable that others in the SWC would be undermining his efforts.

The Western powers, and America in the first instance, need to speak up loud and clear against the movement to obfuscate the Holocaust via Double Genocide politics and the accompanying veil of silence for growing state-sponsored adulation of Hitler’s East European murderers and enablers. Jewish institutions must now rise to the occasion too, even if their leaders will have less fun-and-glory trips to the East European playground.

About the Author
Dovid Katz is the author of major works on Yiddish linguistics and Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) culture, and in recent years, on Holocaust obfuscation in Eastern Europe. A native of New York City, he led Yiddish studies at Oxford for many years, and after a stint at Yale, settled in Vilnius, where he was professor of Judaic studies at Vilnius University from 1999 to 2010. He now edits the Web journal Defending His personal website is
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