Zelensky’s lies cannot hide Ukraine’s bloody role in the Holocaust

Volodymyr Zelenskyy did a really great service on behalf of the Ukrainian people. I nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize because of his Churchill-like determination to resist Russian aggression. But he has in the recent past falsely denied the role of the Ukrainian people in the Holocaust. He has used this argument to forcefully claim that Israel owes Ukraine offensive arms. A few days ago he escalated his criticism, saying he was shocked that Israel had not backed down to his demands.

He has never apologized for the following statement he made last March: “Ukrainians made a choice 80 years ago, we saved the Jews…” He is right, the Ukrainian people made a choice 80 years ago , but it was not so save Jews.

Almost without exception, Ukrainians either participated in the mass murder of Jews or said nothing when their Jewish neighbors were rounded up and slaughtered in places like Babi Yar. Many of those who pulled the trigger were themselves Ukrainians recruited by the Nazis into mobile killing squads. Disappearing few rescued Jews.

Ukrainian complicity in these mass murders was greater than in most other countries.

Zelensky addresses the UN
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks via video link with world leaders as they attend the 77th UN General Assembly.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Jews were murdered. Nor was it the first time that the Ukrainian people made a similar decision. In 1648, Bogdan Chmielnicki led a pogrom that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews, including babies, children, and mothers. That was a long time ago, but the statue of the genocide still stands in central Kyiv, and his image still adorns the Ukrainian five-dollar bill. That is now! Ukraine has made a choice: to honor the memory of a mass murderer of Jews.

Between the Chmielnicki murders and the Holocaust, the Ukrainian people made many other decisions: they carried out pogrom after pogrom against Jewish families. Anti-Semitism was widespread throughout Ukraine. This is why so many Ukrainian Jews immigrated to the United States and elsewhere.

The situation in Ukraine has improved measurably in recent years. Although there are still large numbers of antisemites in Ukraine – including in certain units of the armed forces – the memory of the Holocaust has led many Ukrainians to abandon the traditional antisemitism that plagued the country. They even voted for Zelenskyi, who is a man of Jewish descent.

If Zelensky had made a nuanced statement acknowledging Ukraine’s true Holocaust story while saying that the situation has improved, I would congratulate him on his honesty. But he knows – after all, he is of Jewish descent himself – that the decision made by the Ukrainian people 80 years ago should be condemned, not praised.

It has been said that truth is the first casualty of war, but that is no excuse for spreading a lie that has now spread throughout Eastern Europe: namely, that Ukrainians, Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Romanians and Hungary saved Jews. It is true that in each of these countries there were courageous men and women who risked their lives to save Jews, often unsuccessfully.

Ken Burns’ recent film about America’s role in the Holocaust highlights a Polish Catholic I know named Jan Karski, who risked his life to go to death camps and tell the world what he saw. Others undertook similar exploits. Many of them were commemorated as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. But the just made up a tiny percentage of the unjust in these countries. Ukraine was perhaps the worst of all. It certainly wasn’t among the best.

In view of the actual story, Zelenskyj’s unwise lie can certainly be considered a variation on Holocaust denial or a downplaying of the Holocaust. By denying Ukrainian complicity in the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Jews, he has distorted history and memory.

I hope he understands that even desperate times – and he certainly presides over a country in desperate times – do not justify erasing the memory of the Ukrainian Jews who died at the hands of other Ukrainians.

Zelensky is a great man, but great men often make great mistakes. He has the opportunity to remove his deep insult to the memory of the Jews who were killed by Ukrainians 80 years ago because of immoral decisions.

It may be true that some Ukrainians were forced or intimidated to join the Nazis, but many others eagerly joined them precisely because they wanted to murder Jews, not because they had to. History and truth have their claim, and yesterday’s horrors must not be blotted out in the name of preventing today’s.

Zelenskyy is likely to become a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. It is therefore important that he corrects and acknowledges that the decision made by “the Ukrainians” was terrible and unjustifiable.

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

https://www.newsweek.com/zelenskys-lies-cant-hide-ukraines-bloody-role-holocaust-opinion-1747875 Zelensky’s lies cannot hide Ukraine’s bloody role in the Holocaust

Rick Schindler

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