The Jerusalem Post

Belarusian president: Whole world ‘bows’ to Jews due to Holocaust

- • By TZVI JOFFRE Reuters and Matt Siegel/JTA contribute­d to this report.

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko claimed the “whole world bows” to the Jews due to the Holocaust, during a memorial service for Soviet soldiers who fell during World War II last week.

“Jews were able to make the world remember [the Holocaust], and the whole world bows to them, being afraid of saying one wrong word to them,” said Lukashenko. “On our part, we, being tolerant and kind, did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings and let the things down to the point when they have started to hurt us.”

The speech focused on the role of Belarusian­s in fighting the Nazis alongside Soviet forces, with the Belarusian president stressing that more work was needed to ensure that people remember Belarus’s part in World War II. “This work has already begun with the investigat­ion into the crimes of Nazism on the Belarusian soil. This is akin to the Holocaust of the Belarusian people,” said Lukashenko.

Some 800,000 Jews (90% of the Jewish population) were killed in Belarus during the Holocaust, according to the European Jewish Congress. While in some other countries, the local population helped the Nazis massacre local Jews, Belarusian­s did not do the same and several individual­s and small groups even helped protect Jews, according to the US nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves.

On the same day Lukashenko made the comments, President Reuven Rivlin extended Independen­ce Day greetings to the Belarusian president, pointing to the relations between Jews and Belarus.

“Many representa­tives of the Jewish people have lived in Belarus

for centuries, immigrated to the State of Israel and made valuable contributi­ons to the education and developmen­t of the state. The community of natives of Belarus in Israel serves as a ‘living bridge’ that strengthen­s the relationsh­ip between our countries,” said Rivlin, according to the official website of the Belarusian president.

“Rivlin wished Aleksandr Lukashenko well-being and continued progress and prosperity to the Belarusian people,” according to the website.

This isn’t the first time the Belarusian leader has landed himself in hot water over antisemiti­c comments.

In 2015, Lukashenko criticized Semyon Shapiro, the Jewish governor of the Minsk region at the time, for not getting Belarusian Jews “under control.”

“I told you a year ago to get all the Jews of Belarus under control,” said Lukashenko to Shapiro, pointing out Yuri Zisser, the director of the website, as “not behaving correctly.” Zisser’s online publicatio­n had criticized a tax decree imposed by Lukashenko at the time.

In 2007, the Belarusian leader lashed out at Jewish residents of Bobruisk, a port city, saying that they had turned the city into a “pig sty.”

“This is a Jewish city, and the Jews are not concerned for the place they live in. They have turned Bobruisk into a pig sty. Look at Israel – I was there,” said Lukashenko.

Belarus has been the target of US and EU sanctions due to its crackdown on anti-government protests and the intercepti­on of a Ryanair flight as it traversed Belarusian airspace in order to arrest a dissident and journalist.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Israel