Europe must fo­cus on Baltic hate

We must con­tinue to push the is­sue of Pol­ish, Lat­vian and Lithua­nian an­tisemitism

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis - JOHN MANN MP

NOW THAT the party con­fer­ence pan­tomime sea­son is out of the way, there needs to be a calm, col­lected and detailed look at what is hap­pen­ing with an­tisemitism and, in par­tic­u­lar, Holo­caust re­vi­sion­ism, in po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Poland, Lithua­nia and Latvia. When I vis­ited th­ese coun­tries in my ca­pac­ity as chair of the All-Party Group against An­tisemitism, I found ev­i­dence of wide­spread an­tisemitism. In Latvia in par­tic­u­lar, the Jewish com­mu­nity and, not least, Jewish schools told me that they feel them­selves un­der sus­tained at­tack. This de­fin­i­tive per­spec­tive was rather miss­ing from the po­lit­i­cal shenani­gans over the sum­mer and is where our at­ten­tions need be fo­cused.

I out­lined my con­cerns for the Lat­vian Jewish com­mu­nity in an an­tisemitism de­bate in Par­lia­ment. Latvia’s best-sell­ing book of Christ­mas 2007 was an overtly an­ti­semitic di­a­tribe by An­dris Gru­tups, the co­founder of, and lawyer for, the rul­ing party of Latvia. His book could be sum­marised as “the Jews had it com­ing be­cause they were all Com­mu­nists”.

Whilst William Hague and David Miliband crossed swords over the ques­tion of of­fence caused by Lat­vian Na­tion­al­ists com­mem­o­rat­ing their coun­try’s le­gion­naires whom, clothed in Waf­fen-SS uni­forms, went to bat­tle the Red Army in the Baltic in 1944, the Lat­vians’ of­fi­cial re­sponse was to point to “Soviet Pro­pa­ganda” as the cul­prit of such ru­mours. As one re­port to the Of­fice of the United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees ex­plained, there are con­tin­u­ing con­cerns about the at­ti­tudes of Latvia and the other Baltic states to­wards the role of the Ger­mans in the Sec­ond World War and the part they played in fight­ing the Soviet Union.

Ex­plor­ing this theme last week, Jonathan Freed­land noted that there has been a 20-year resur­gence of ul­tra­na­tion­al­ism in for­mer Soviet states re­sult­ing in a new nar­ra­tive of Stal­in­ism as the greater evil of the Sec­ond World War. He pointed to the Vil­nius Mu­seum of Geno­cide Vic­tims which com­mem­o­rates 74,500 Lithua­ni­ans per­se­cuted un­der Moscow rule while ig­nor­ing the 200,000 Jews killed by Lithua­ni­ans. This re­vi­sion­ist an­gle, where Lithua­ni­ans, Lat­vians and Poles were solely vic­tims rather than also be­ing per­pe­tra­tors, hin­ders ef­forts to move for­ward as a civ­i­liza­tion.

Pro­fes­sor Dovid Katz has done ex­ten­sive work in the Baltics and be­lieves that time to act is run­ning out. Writ­ing in this news­pa­per, he high­lighted the Prague Dec­la­ra­tion, cur­rently cir­cu­lat­ing through email ac­counts at the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. A sin­is­ter doc­u­ment, it uses the smoke­screen of le­git­i­mate con­cerns about the evils of Com­mu­nist regimes to in­sist that Soviet Com­mu­nism and Nazi Fas­cism be de­clared equal. Its rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude the re-writ­ing of text­books to “cor­rect” this his­tory. Its au­thors draw par­al­lels be­tween Nazi and Soviet crimes for West­ern Euro­pean audiences.

Ac­cord­ing to the Si­mon Weisen­thal Cen­tre, bo­gus ac­counts of over­whelm­ing Jewish com­plic­ity in Soviet rule is wide­spread, in­clud­ing the gloss­ing over of lo­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion in the killings, and sus­tained ef­forts to tar­nish the rep­u­ta­tion of Holo­caust vic­tims, sur­vivors and re­sis­tance fight­ers with an­ti­semitic stereotypes of “Jewish Bol­she­vik con­spir­a­cies”. In Lithua­nia, three Holo­caust sur­vivors are now part of a “pre-trial” in­ves­ti­ga­tion by state lawyers for al­leged “war crimes”. Lithua­nia, mean­while, has an ap­palling record of fail­ing to pros­e­cute Nazi war crim­i­nals.

This at­tempt to re­write his­tory is be­ing im­ported. As the CST ex­posed this Septem­ber, Lee John Barnes, the le­gal of­fi­cer for the BNP, is fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar line. His blog de­picts the Holo­caust as a de­fen­sive action against “Jewish Bol­she­viks”. Mean­while, only last week, Or­lando Figes of Birk­beck Uni­ver­sity con­ducted a de­bate on con­tem­po­rary at­ti­tudes to the Holo­caust in Som­er­set House. The blurb for the event con­tained the sen­tence “There is no Spiel­berg for the Soviet holo­caust”.

As a re­sult of our All-Party in­quiry into An­tisemitism, the For­eign Of­fice has been pur­su­ing an ac­tive pro­gramme of agenda-rais­ing us­ing the rel­e­vant Euro­pean or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­stru­ments, and has been hailed as a model of best prac­tice. I will be rais­ing this mat­ter at the cross-de­part­men­tal work­ing group on An­tisemitism and with the For­eign Sec­re­tary. It is our in­ten­tion to send a fur­ther fact-find­ing mis­sion to both Latvia and Poland in or­der to ev­i­dence more com­pre­hen­sively at­ti­tudes and ac­tiv­i­ties. Should th­ese mis­sions have im­pli­ca­tions for po­lit­i­cal par­ties in those coun­tries then I think that dis­crete but ro­bust pres­sure will be in or­der.

We must con­tinue to mon­i­tor and com­bat this evolv­ing form of an­tisemitism and should ex­pect the high­est stan­dards of both Bri­tish and Euro­pean of­fi­cials in com­bat­ing racism in all its forms.

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