In the course of remarks criticizing the current Ukrainian government for its human rights abuses, made in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper added words of praise for a visiting director of a Holocaust-distorting museum in Ukraine who was on a Canada lecture tour last week, and for the museum itself. The museum, in Lviv, Ukraine, glorifies and sanitizes some of the local Holocaust perpetrators and collaborators. An account of the prime minister’s remarks appeared in a 19 October 2012 report in the Toronto Sun.
There is no suggestion that the Canadian prime minister agrees with the Ukrainian Holocaust revisionists, or would wish to compliment those glorifying the local perpetrators. Instead, the episode is seen as yet another instance of a well-oiled lobby being able to confuse, combine and confound issues in dealings with Western personalities and institutions that stand far from these issues. Attempts to make heroes of the local Holocaust perpetrators and collaborators, in the spirit of antisemitic East European (ultra)nationalism, have also been documented this year in Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania.
In addition to joining in the widespread international indignation over the erosion of democracy in Ukraine, in thoroughly mainstream remarks, the Canadian prime minister may have unknowingly crossed the boundary into far-right Eastern European Holocaust-revisionist discourse when he actually praised by name the Lonsky Street Museum in Lviv, Ukraine, which features a photo-shopped Holocaust image in which the Jewish victims are covered over by circles containing statistics of Soviet crimes against Ukrainians, in a typical distortion of Holocaust history.
The two images were exposed in Dr. Per Ander Rudling’s critique of the museum director’s lecture tour in North America (the tour included a 19 October meeting with Prime Minister Harper). That critique led to a letter of complaint from Canada’s ultranationalist Ukrainian establishment, itself followed by Dr. Rudling’s reply and then, yesterday, by an open letter of support from a group of international scholars. Dr. Rudling is a historian at Lund University in Sweden.
According to the Toronto Sun, Prime Minister Harper singled out for praise the museum’s visiting director, and the museum itself for special recognition, immediately after protesting the imprisonment of former President Yulia Tymoshenko.
The juxtaposition of accurate criticism of current human rights abuses in Ukraine with the East European far right’s distortion of the Holocaust and legitimization of such distortions as occur in the museum singled out, is profoundly problematic. Such juxtapositions, cunningly coaxed out of unwitting Western politicians far from the issues on the ground in Eastern Europe, are invariably abused subsequently to legitimize the obfuscationist agenda of the antisemitic and racist far-right nationalist camps in the region.