O P I N I O N
by Efraim Zuroff
I hate to spoil the Havel and the Jews festival in the wake of his demise, but I feel that it is important to point out a terrible mistake Havel made which directly relates to Jewish affairs. I am referring to his signing the Prague Declaration of June 3, 2008 (along with 39 other East European politicians and intellectuals), which basically equates Communist crimes with those of the Nazis, warns that “Europe will not be united unless it is able to unite its history [and] recognize Communism and Nazism as a common legacy”and seeks to deny the Holocaust its deserved status as a unique case of genocide.
The Declaration calls for a joint memorial day for all victims of totalitarian regimes to be observed on August 23 (the day of the Soviet-Nazi non-aggression pact) and for a rewriting of history textbooks in the spirit of equality between the Nazis and Communists. It also calls for the establishment of an “Institute of European Memory and Conscience” which will operate on that basis.
In practical terms, the Declaration seeks to attribute equal blame for the horrific atrocities of World War II to the regime which planned, built and operated Auschwitz, as well as to the regime whose troops liberated the death camp which has become the symbol of a mass murder campaign unprecedented in the annals of mankind and played the leading role in the military defeat of the Third Reich. Such an initiative would certainly lead to the diminution or cancellation of Holocaust remembrance day and help undo decades of Holocaust education.
While it is certainly true that Communist crimes have been under-commemorated and prosecuted, the real reason behind this initiative is the hope of the post-Communist countries, whose nationals were active participants in the mass murder of Jews during the Shoa, to deflect attention and blame from their crimes and focus on their suffering. Havel, whose Czechs do not fit this description, unfortunately agreed to lend his prominence and prestige (his signature is listed first among the signees) to this very problematic initiative led by the Balts, whose Holocaust crimes are legendary.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff is director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Israel Office. See OperationLastChance.org.