MOSCOW, October 30 (RIA Novosti) - Eastern Europeans, who attempt to whitewash Nazi war crimes, try to liken Nazism to communism to create an illusion that the Soviet Union is as responsible for what happened during World War II as the Third Reich, Ephraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, warned in a discussion hosted by Radio VR’s moderator Dmitry Babich.
“There was a declaration of June 3, 2008, which was signed by 33 politicians and intellectuals, mostly from Eastern Europe. It called for rewriting of all European history textbooks in the spirit of equality between communism and Nazism. It also called for the creation of the European Institute of Memory and Conscience and for establishment of the Memorial Day for the Victims of Totalitarian Regimes. … The message was that the Soviet Union was just as guilty of the horrible results of World War II as the Nazis were,” Zuroff said, stressing that Nazism and communism cannot be compared, let alone equated to one another.
Many post-Soviet states have repeatedly attempted to whitewash the crimes of local collaborators, Zuroff warned. “At the same time, claims are being made that the crimes of communism were genocide. The [inferred conclusion] is that the Holocaust is not a unique case of genocide,” he added. Moreover, the expert is confident that “the motivation behind this campaign is to deflect the criticism and negative reactions to the record of these countries during the Holocaust.” If this trend continues, implications can be very serious, Zuroff stressed. “This is basically an attempt to rewrite history for political reasons and to hide the crimes of these local collaborators,” he said.
This is especially worrying in regard to Eastern European countries. “In every European country that the Nazis managed to occupy or ally they were able to enlist the help of local helpers. But only in Eastern Europe were those local helpers incorporated into the mechanism of mass annihilation. Only in Eastern Europe the locals actively participated in mass murders,” Zuroff explains.
It is not surprising then that “there is little political will in Eastern Europe, with the exception of Serbia, to bring Nazi war criminals to justice,” said director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization dedicated to tracking and bringing to justice Nazi criminals. He pointed out, however, that each country in the region differs in that respect.
“The most important trial of a Nazi war criminal after the fall of communism actually took place in Croatia. There we managed to bring Dinko Šakić to justice. He was one of the commanders of the infamous Jasenovac concentration camp, in which at least 100,000 innocent people were murdered by the Ustasha, the Croatian fascists,” Zuroff said. On the other hand, no investigation was conducted and no one was prosecuted for the mass murders of Jews in Ukraine, the expert pointed out. Investigations were carried out in Latvia, but war criminals have never been prosecuted. “I have to say that I am not satisfied with the way Eastern European countries deal with the issue [of tracking down former Nazis and preventing the rebirth of their ideology],” Zuroff said.
The expert dwelled upon the situation in Ukraine with respect to the rehabilitation of Nazism. He underlined that the current Ukrainian government is sending the wrong message to its people. “Just a few days ago, the Ukrainian president [Petro Poroshenko] called members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) heroes. One may remember how [Nazi collaborator Roman] Shukhevich was posthumously honored by Yushchenko’s government. The presidential decree was revoked by the Yanukovich administration, but still this is a problem in Ukraine,” Zuroff said.
If UPA members are considered heroes and statements to this effect are made by the government, then “this is definitely a wrong message,” the expert insisted. Zuroff also said he was concerned about education in Ukraine. “If the children in Ukraine are taught that Shukhevich is a hero and Stepan Bandera is a hero, that is a huge problem!” he said.
The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), as well as the UPA committed horrendous crimes against the Jews and other minorities in Ukraine during World War II. The Svoboda party, known as the National-Social Party of Ukraine until 2004, considers itself to be a successor to OUN. Four of its members are ministers in the current government. Members of other parties, such as Batkivshchina, openly say that the OUN and UPA members were heroes, even if they had once collaborated with Germans.