KahW_d[Êi b[WZ[h _d j^[ Ó]^j W]W_dij Jew-hate bends Holo­caust his­tory


LAST WEEK, a statue went up in Kiev. Such an oc­cur­rence would not nor­mally be worth not­ing but, in this case, the statue was a state memo­rial to Olena Teliha and the site of its erec­tion was Babi Yar, the ravine in which more than 33,000 Jews were shot dead in 1941.

Lit­tle known out­side Ukraine, Teliha was a poet, a news­pa­per ed­i­tor and a fighter for Ukrainian in­de­pen­dence who is widely ad­mired in the postSoviet state.

Killed by the Ger­mans, she has be­come an icon for a Ukrainian peo­ple search­ing for na­tional heroes dur­ing a time of re­newed con­flict.

There is a prob­lem with that nar­ra­tive, how­ever: Teliha was a mem­ber of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Ukrainian Na­tion­al­ists (OUN), an ex­treme na­tion­al­ist move­ment known for its col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Nazis and com­plic­ity in the mur­der of thou­sands of Jews and Poles dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

It is true that not long af­ter the killings of Jews be­gan, mem­bers of the OUN were also killed at Babi Yar, in­clud­ing Ivan Ro­hach, Teliha’s col­league and ed­i­tor of the rad­i­cal news­pa­per Ukrainske Slovo. He was memo­ri­alised with a sign at the site last Septem­ber dur­ing the govern­ment’s of­fi­cial com­mem­o­ra­tion of the mas­sacre. Con­text, how­ever, is crit­i­cal. The glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of the OUN and its off­shoot, the Ukrainian In­sur­gent Army (UPA), has been gather­ing steam since the 2014 Euro­maidan rev­o­lu­tion and sub­se­quent war with Rus­sian-backed sep­a­ratists. This ef­fort, how­ever, seems more con­nected to cre­at­ing a na­tional mythol­ogy than an­ti­semitism, and its pro­po­nents have made ef­forts to falsely por­tray Ukrainian wartime na­tion­al­ism as di­vorced from an­tipa­thy to­wards Jews.

Re­spond­ing to a rise in an­ti­semitic van­dal­ism and, quite likely, to largely base­less Rus­sian pro­pa­ganda por­tray­ing the country as over­run by neoNazis, Ukraine’s For­eign Min­istry last April an­nounced the ap­point­ment of Borys Zakharchuk, a ca­reer diplo­mat, as its first spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive for pre­vent­ing and com­bat­ing an­ti­semitism, racism and xeno­pho­bia.

Speak­ing to the JC, Mr Zakharchuk said his job was to co­or­di­nate Ukraine’s fight against an­ti­semitism at home and abroad.

How­ever, sev­eral of­fi­cials who fig­ure promi­nently in gov­ern­men­tal and civil so­ci­ety ef­forts to com­bat an­ti­semitism have said that they had not been con­tacted by Mr Zakharchuk and, in some cases, had never heard of him.

Ira For­man, who un­til re­cent served as the US State Depart­ment’s Spe­cial En­voy to Mon­i­tor and Com­bat An­ti­semitism, said he had never spo­ken to his Ukrainian coun­ter­part, as did both Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Co­or­di­na­tor on Com­bat­ing An­ti­semitism Katha­rina von Sch­nurbein and OSCE an­ti­semitism point-man Rabbi An­drew Baker.

And while Akiva Tor, who works on is­sues re­lated to an­ti­semitism for the Is­raeli For­eign Min­istry, told the JC that he had “never heard of this guy”, Is­raeli Am­bas­sador to Kiev Eli Belot­serkovsky said he had met Mr Zakharchuk on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. How­ever, he did not re­call any­thing sub­stan­tive com­ing out of their in­ter­ac­tions.

Mr Zakharchuk said that de­spite de­clin­ing to join the In­ter­na­tional Holo­caust Re­mem­brance Al­liance, Ukraine “co­op­er­ate[s] very closely” with the or­gan­i­sa­tion. How­ever, sources close to the body, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, said “there have been no of­fi­cial at­tempts by the Ukrainian govern­ment to work more closely with IHRA”.

Like­wise, re­sponses by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the lo­cal Jewish com­mu­nity were mixed, with Ed­uard Dolin­sky of the Ukrainian Jewish Com­mit­tee and lo­cal Chabad Rabbi Moshe Az­man stat­ing that they were un­fa­mil­iar with Mr Zakharchuk but Josef Zis­sels of the Vaad of Ukraine and Arkadiy Mona­s­tirsky of the Jewish Fund of Ukraine say­ing that they had met him. How­ever, like Belot­serkovsky, nei­ther Mr Zis­sels nor Mr Mona­s­tirsky re­called any sig­nif­i­cant dis­cus­sions that led to con­crete ac­tion on an­ti­semitism-re­lated is­sues.

Mr Zakharchuk said there had only been four cases of van­dal­ism at Babi Yar in 2015 and one in 2016. Ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal Jewish com­mu­nity, how­ever, the num­bers are six and three.

Turn­ing back to the is­sue of his­tor­i­cal mem­ory and Olena Teliha, Mr Zakharchuk made an as­ser­tion that is strongly re­jected by his­to­ri­ans of the pe­riod, telling the JC that he could pro­vide a ex­am­ples “of the Jewish peo­ple from Western Ukraine [who] also par­tic­i­pate[d] in UPA”.

This is a con­tro­ver­sial claim, said Dr Jared McBride, a his­tory lec­turer at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia spe­cial­is­ing in the pe­riod.

“Jews were not a part of the move­ment — there is no ev­i­dence to sup­port that point and that is a long-stand­ing myth,” he said, adding: “Rather, they ac­tively hunted down, tor­tured, and mur­dered Jews.”

“UPA’s Army North sys­tem­at­i­cally killed Jews,” agreed Pro­fes­sor John-Paul Himka, one of the fore­most schol­ars of the role of na­tion­al­ists in the Holo­caust.

Mr Himka has writ­ten that while some Jewish doc­tors did serve with Ukrainian par­ti­san units, there are “few indi­ca­tions that Jewish medics sur­vived their ser­vice with UPA”.

Main­tain­ing the party line, Mr Zakharchuk said Ukrainian na­tion­al­ists “did not have an aim to elim­i­nate Jews.”

How­ever, an OUN man­i­festo pub­lished in 1941 read: “Dur­ing the time of chaos and con­fu­sion, we should take the op­por­tu­nity to liq­ui­date un­de­sir­able Poles, Mus­covites and Jews, es­pe­cially the sup­port­ers of Bol­she­vik-Mus­covite im­pe­ri­al­ism.”

Mr Zakharchuk stated that “far-right or­gan­i­sa­tions in Ukraine haven’t the in­flu­ence that some peo­ple claim,” and that elec­torally, the na­tion­al­ist right was a mi­nor player.

This is true. Groups like the neo-Nazi Svoboda party, which once con­trolled about 10 per cent of the seats in par­lia­ment, have lost most of their sup­port. But it raises the ques­tion, if Kiev ab­hors the na­tion­al­ist fringe, why does it, and those it tasks with stamp­ing out an­ti­semitism, cel­e­brate their for­bears?

Idea that Jews were part of na­tion­al­ist army is W bed]# ijWdZ_d] myth

The Babi Yar memo­rial and (below) Zakharchuck

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