to meet these new teenage inmates in their camps in the 1930s.
Boris Ginsburg was one of the many faceless Jews who struggled to reach the Yishuv and perished. In this year of anniversaries, we should also remember them. As the Baal Shem Tov commented, “Forgetfulness leads to exile while remembrance is the secret of redemption.”
This article is based on a talk given by Colin Shindler to Limmud FSU
NAZISM INFLICTED history’s most horrendous crimes against Jews. But Germany has by no means been history’s top purveyor of global antisemitism.
That distinction goes to Russia, which spread antisemitism more widely and durably.
German and Russian strands cannot, of course, be tidily separated. Nazi rhetoric of Jewish financial and political control and of Jewish bloodlust had roots throughout Europe. It received a mighty boost, however, through the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery attributed to the Tsarist secret police.
We cannot compare Russian and German patterns of antisemitism in quantitative terms without first noting their qualitative differences. For Nazism, Europe needed an ontological cleansing: not a single Jew was to remain. Russia, too, has known that kind of “pureblood”, nationalist antisemitism. But it never shaped official policy.
Russia’s state-directed antisemitism has historically taken more targeted, strategic forms — less frenzied nationalism than old-style imperialism. It has easily coexisted with Russian Jews holding positions of political or cultural prominence. And it has gone through phases: Soviets condemned Tsarist pogroms before turning antisemitism into a tool of their own.
The two types of antisemitism also differ over time. The Nazis achieved unparalleled depth with shocking speed. The Kremlin’s more calculated manoeuvres, by contrast, have spanned far greater geographical breadth, and over a longer period.
After the war, West Germany steadily acknowledged Nazi atrocities by promoting public education and independent enquiry.
Seeds of open scrutiny had sprouted in the East as well. By the early 1950s, however, the new Israeli state, first seen as a potential Kremlin ally, suddenly posed problems. Jews would want to leave Soviet-ruled lands in which they had faced historical discrimination. Any such mass emigration, however, would confirm Soviet rule as repressive. It also risked inciting breakaway movements among over 100 other ethnicities living under the dictatorship. The last thing the Soviets needed was sympathy for Jews.
The Holocaust was certainly never denied. What was crushed was any discussion of it as antisemitism — or indeed any open examination of historical antisemitism. A compulsory silence about antisemitism, encompassing hundreds of millions of people over a stunning landmass, persisted over decades. Few in the east, outside liberal elites, had ever confronted their nations’ antisemitic pasts, let alone their governments’ and