KIEV—As DH readers know, the government of Ukraine led by Volodymyr Viatrovych’s “Ukrainian Institute of National Memory” (UINP) has been engaged in a breathtaking campaign to whitewash the troubling backgrounds of two major World War Two fascist organizations, the OUN and UPA. While these organizations and their leaders are glorified by Ukraine for their fight against the Soviets, along the way they were also involved in mass atrocities against Jewish and Polish civilians. Moreover the OUN-UPA ideology was deeply antisemitic, and was based on Ukrainian Integral Nationalism (kind of a fancy way of saying: fascism). Viatrovych also seeks to glorify Ukrainian World War One-era nationalist leader Symon Petliura whose troops engaged in mass pogroms during the Russian Civil War which killed between thirty-five and fifty thousand Jews.
While not necessarily directly related to whitewashing agenda of “Historical Memory Commissar” Viatrovych, Ukraine has also seen an upsurge in major antisemitic incidents including the desecration of Holocaust memorial sites and monuments, frequently with the use of swastikas and other Nazi iconography.
After long remaining silent, Western leaders and major Jewish organizations seem to have finally noticed what’s going on. Fifty-seven US Congressmen recently signed an Open Letter condemning Ukraine, noting that much of this Holocaust revisionism is state-sponsored. The US Holocaust Museum also decried anti-Roma violence in Ukraine while noting that “he continuing effort led by the leadership of the government’s Ukrainian Institute of National Memory to praise certain leaders of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and cleanse their murderous records raises doubts regarding the government’s intentions.” Meanwhile the World Jewish Congress has sharply critiqued Ukraine for the upsurge in desecrations of Holocaust memorials.
In response to the Congressional letter, one “classically compliant Jewish leader,” Joseph Zissels put out a statement asserting that no issues of antisemitism or state-sponsored Holocaust distortion existed in Ukraine and that any comments to the contrary just echo Russian propaganda. Zissels is not exactly an objective source however. He’s known to be close to Viatrovych — in a theatre of the absurd he actually accompanied Viatrovych to a Holocaust conference in Paris in March of 2017 — and in response to Zisels’ letter the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress actually threw Zissels out of their organization. In the United States, it came as little surprise several years ago when the head of Yivo in New York, a major apologist for East European Holocaust revisionism and antisemitism, gave a hero’s welcome to Zissels without the balance of inviting others with opposing views.
That was just the beginning though. In an unprecedented display, 41 key Ukrainian-Jewish leaders put out a statement explicitly supporting the congressional letter and chief initiator Rep. Ro Khanna; asked the Ukrainian Government to stand up and fight antisemitism; and strongly emphasizing that Zissels does not speak for them. One does not have to be a math genius to understand that forty-one is far greater than one. Of course, the question is now how will the West, the Ukrainian Government and Ukrainian nationalists like Viatrovych respond? A full English translation of the letter follows:
PUBLIC LETTER FROM 41 UKRAINIAN JEWISH LEADERS (TRANSLATION)
On May 17, 2018, a meeting of the heads of Jewish organizations and communities of Ukraine was held in the Presidential Hotel in Kiev. The meeting was attended by the representative of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Alexei Cesarsky and member of the European Parliament Rebecca Harms, who in their speeches greeted the participants of the meeting. In addition, Alexei Tsesarsky spoke about the work of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and informed the audience that Vadim Rabinovich became the First Vice-President of the EAJC.
As a result of intensive discussions and debates, leaders of Ukraine’s Jewish communities and organizations have agreed on the following:
(1) To express deep concern at the rise of anti-Semitic incidents and expressions of xenophobia and intolerance, including attacks on Roma communities.
(2) To welcome President Petro Poroshenko’s and Internal Minister Arsen Avakov’s statements that anti-Semitism is unacceptable and their readiness to decisively fight its expressions
(3) To call upon law enforcement agencies, including police, the Security Service of Ukraine, and prosecutors to exert all efforts in locating and bringing to justice those guilty of anti-Semitic crimes, vandalism of Holocaust sites and hate crimes.
(4) To express our gratitude for their support in the fight against anti-Semitism to Congressman Ro Khanna, Congressman David Cicilline, and other members of the US Congress; Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); World Jewish Congress; US Holocaust Memorial Museum; the Anti-Defamation League; Euro-Asian Jewish Congress; American Jewish Committee; National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry; the US Embassy in Ukraine; the German Embassy in Ukraine; and the Israeli Embassy in Ukraine.
(5) To strongly proclaim that Mr. Iosif Zissels and the organization Vaad do not represent the Jews of Ukraine. Mr. Zissels’s and Vaad’s statements do not express the position of the Jewish communities of Ukraine.
(6) To call upon the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to adopt the definition of anti-Semitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and to correct limitations to Article 161 of Criminal Code that makes it ineffective.
(7) To call upon the Ukrainian government to join the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
(8) To congratulate the State of Israel on her 70th anniversary and greet the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem – the eternal and undivided capital of Israel. To call upon Ukraine to follow the US example in moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, President of the All-Ukrainian Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations
Vadim Rabinovich, President of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress
Eduard Dolinsky, Director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee
Roksana Garmarnik, Chairwoman of the Jewish Fund of Ukraine
Victoria Dyakova, Head of the Leadership of the All-Ukrainian Association of MAKKABY Organizations
Iosif Akselroyd, Regional Director Hillel
Boris Fuksman, President of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine
Boris Zabarko, Chairman of the All-Ukrainian Association of Underage Inmates of Ghettos and Concentration Camps
Alexander Gaidar, Director of the United Association of Progressive Judaism
Mark Talyansky, Director of the Regional Jewish Community of Kiev
Leonid Turchin, President of the Regional Jewish Community of Dnipropetrovsk
Mikhail Galin, Director of the Zakarpattia “Hesed Shira”
Marina Kolesnik, President of the Zakarpattia “Chabad Lubavitch Zakarpattia”
Igor Banzeruk, Chairman of the “Jewish Community” regional organization of Ternopil
Igor Bargo, Chairman of the “Beis Menachem Lubavitch Vinnitsa” regional Jewish religious organization of Vinnitsa
Vladimir Borzhemsky, Chairman of the Jewish community of municipal Vinnitsa
Ilya Miretsky, President of the progressive Jewish community of Volyn region
Igor Ratyshniy, Chairman of the Jewish community of Khmelnytskyi region
Rabbi Alexander Feingold, Chairman of the Jewish community of Khmelnytskyi region
Petr Rashkovsky, President of the united Jewish organizations of Cherkassy region
Mikhail Goldenberg, Nikolayevskaya Regional Jewish Community
Leonid Broitman, Director of the Jewish religious community of Kamianske
Rabbi Moshe Taler, Chairman of Berdychev “Star”
Sergei Medvedev, Director of the Jewish religious community of Zhitomir
Inessa Nosenko, Director of “EGT Mazal Tov”
Anna Stetsenko, Chairwoman of the municipal Jewish community of Melitopol
Emma Spector, Chairwoman of “Activa” of Krapivniy
Adel Dianova, Chairwoman of the progressive Jewish community of L’viv
Leonid Sukhar, Chairman of the Jewish community of Poltava
Rabbi Dan Zakuta, Chairman of the Jewish religious community of Krapivniy
Rabbi Sholom Gottleib, Chairman of the Jewish religious community of Nikolayev
Mikhail Ruttgaizer, Chairman of the Jewish community of Mirgorod
Vladimir Mykota, Chairman of the Jewish community of Lyuben
Gennady Frierman, Chairman of municipal Jewish community of Rivne
Alexander Galinsky, Director of the municipal Jewish community of Sumy
Igor Sheshko, Chairman of the Jewish religious community of Glukhov
Alexander Vainer, Chairman of “Jewish Community ‘Star of David'” of Kherson
David Letichevky, Chairman of “United Jewish Community” of Cherkassy
Rabbi Moti Levenkhartz, Director of “Tsiarei Chabad for the Jewish Diaspora”
Roman Shwartzman, Deputy Chairman of the board of the international Jewish community center “Migdal”
Alexander Naivelt, Chairman of the “Mizvah” Jewish community of Belotserkov