Volodymyr Zelensky did a really great service for the Ukrainian people. Due to his Churchill-like determination to oppose Russian aggression, I offered him the Nobel Peace Prize. But in the recent past, he falsely denied the role of the Ukrainian people in the Holocaust. He used this argument to emphatically claim that … Israel owes Ukraine offensive weapon. A few days ago, he escalated his criticism, saying he was shocked that Israel failed to capitulate to his demands.
He never apologized for the statement he made in March: “Ukrainians made their choice 80 years ago, we saved Jews …” He is right that the Ukrainians made their choice 80 years ago, but not to save Jews.
Almost without exception, Ukrainians either took part in the mass m*rder of Jews or said nothing when their Jewish neighbors were arrested and m*rdered in places like Babi Yar. Many of them who pulled the trigger? they themselves were Ukrainians, recruited by the Nazis into mobile d*ath squads. Disappearingly few saved Jews.
Ukrainians’ complicity in these mass m*rders was greater than in most other countries.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Jews were m*rdered. It was also not the first time that the Ukrainians made a similar choice. in 1648, Bogdan Chmielnicki led the pogrom this resulted in the d*aths of tens of thousands of Jews, including infants, children, and mothers. It was a long time ago, but the monument to this genocidal killer is still standing in the center of Kiev, and his picture is still decorated with a Ukrainian five-dollar bill. It is now! Ukraine made a choice: to honor the memory of the mass m*rderer of Jews.
The Ukrainians made many other choices between the m*rder of Chmielnicki and the Holocaust: they carried out a pogrom after a pogrom of Jewish families. Anti-Semitism was rampant in Ukraine. That is why so many Ukrainian Jews immigrated to the United States and elsewhere.
The situation in Ukraine has improved significantly in recent years. Although they still are large number of anti-Semites in Ukraine – including some units armed forces – the memory of the Holocaust caused many Ukrainians to abandon the traditional anti-Semitism that plagued the country. They even voted for Zelensky, who is a man of Jewish descent.
If Zelenskiy made a nuanced statement confirming the true history of the Holocaust in Ukraine, while saying that the situation had improved, I would congratulate him on his honesty. However, he knows – after all, he is of Jewish origin himself – that the choice made by the Ukrainian people 80 years ago deserves condemnation, not praise.
The truth is said to be the first casualty of the war, but that does not justify the lie that has now spread throughout Eastern Europe: namely that Ukrainians, Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Romanians and Hungarians saved Jews. It is true that in each of these countries there were courageous men and women who, risking their lives, tried – mostly unsuccessfully – to save Jews.
In the latest film by Ken Burns about the American role in the Holocaust, a Polish Catholic I knew was honored Jan Karskiwho, risking his life, went to extermination camps and reported to the world what he had seen. Others have taken similar heroic actions. Many of them have been commemorated as righteous among the nations by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. But the righteous constituted an infinitely small percentage of the unrighteous in these countries. Ukraine could be the worst of all. She was certainly not one of the best.
In light of the current history, Zelensky’s reckless lie may well qualify as a form of Holocaust denial or Holocaust minimization. Denying the complicity of Ukrainians in the mass m*rder hundreds of thousands Ukrainian Jews had distorted history and memory.
I hope he understands that even desperate times – and he certainly presides over the country in desperate times – do not justify the erasure of the memory of Ukrainian Jews who died at the hands of other Ukrainians.
Zelenskiy is a great man, but great people often have great flaws. He has the opportunity to remedy his deep image of the memory of Jews killed as a result of immoral choices made 80 years ago by Ukrainians.
Perhaps some Ukrainians were forced or scared to participate in the Nazis, but many more willingly joined them precisely because they wanted to m*rder Jews, not because they had to. History and truth have their claims, and yesterday’s atrocities must not be erased in the name of today’s prevention.
It is likely that Zelenskiy will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Therefore, it is important for him to correct and acknowledge that the choice made by the “Ukrainians” was terrible and indefensible.
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