There has been “a struggle going on for several years over the narrative of WWII and the Holocaust,” chief of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal center, Efraim Zuroff, told RT.
Zuroff says it is strange that a large majority of countries who suffered at the hands of Hitler choose to freely carry on naming streets after Nazis, erecting monuments in their honor and allowing neo-Nazi marches to take place.
“In many countries… that were under the Soviet Union or communist domination, there’s an effort now to rewrite the history of that period in order to do several things: one reason is to hide or minimize the role of local Nazi collaborators. Because in eastern Europe – unlike outside eastern Europe – collaboration with the Nazis in many countries meant active participation in mass murder – in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Croatia.”
In 2013 Estonia was bitterly criticized when its Defense Minister’s address to Estonian-born wartime veterans of the Waffen SS was criticized for saying that Soviets and Nazis were basically the same thing.
A similar narrative can be traced to Latvia – a country that to this day does not shy away from unambiguously glorifying fascist ideology.
In 2012, a video was released of two men in Waffen SS uniforms conducting a kindergarten lesson, complete with handouts, grenades and pistols. The lesson took place on March 16, the day commemorating the joining of hundreds of Latvians with the Waffen SS to fight against the Soviet Union.
The second point Zuroff makes is that “these countries are trying to divert attention from their collaboration with the Nazis and emphasize their victimhood… under the communist regime. The idea is to try to create a false symmetry between communist crimes and Nazi crimes, in order to try and free themselves from their guilt [and] get the sympathy compensation that comes to victims…but that’s not what happened.”
He believes this to be a scary distinction to make, because in the tendency for false oppositions, ideological differences between communists and Nazis are forgotten.
“It’s basically part of an attempt to undermine the uniqueness of the Holocaust to try and claim that [it] is no different from the communist crimes, which might even be worse… but that is of course not the truth: the Holocaust is a unique tragedy because of the fanatic ideology of the Nazis, who sought to absolutely annihilate an entire people – which was never the case with the Soviet Union or the communists – and industrialize mass murder… it’s never been replicated in any tragedy.”
What Zuroff is saying may well apply to Poland.
Although the EU has long condemned the communist past, no one went quite as far as Poland to highlight Soviet crimes, although the country had suffered much more from the Nazis, including the Ukrainian national Stepan Bandera, who murdered tens of thousands of Poles. In 2010 the country passed a law prohibiting the purchase of any communist symbols or memorabilia. This includes Che Guevara posters and T-shirts.
There is much confusion now over President Vladimir Putin’s attendance at the upcoming commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz. Initial rumors had it that invitations were being sent out, but that the Russian president wasn’t on the list. This created a media flurry of comments for and against Putin’s right to be present at a ceremony, which essentially owes its existence to Soviet efforts.
It later transpired that the duty of sending invitations was taken over by the Auschwitz museum – and not the government, like before. This created confusion, as invitations were swapped for informal notices, according to Polish media. Some have said this was a way to avoid the Russian head’s presence, as Moscow chose not to clarify whether Putin was indeed invited. The Russian ambassador will come in his stead. However, the president’s office pointed out that Putin takes any such ceremonies with the utmost seriousness, but had scheduling conflicts. It is also no secret that many who will be present take issue with Russia over Ukraine, something causing everyone much tension.
As for Ukraine, which many are using as a catalyst for Russia’s post-Soviet expansionism, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin had this to say: “It is deeply disturbing that the followers of [Stepan] Bandera are openly marching these days in Ukraine, displaying his portraits and fascist insignia, and are wielding considerable political power in Kiev.”
Attempts to whitewash them “are not only morally repulsive, they amount to encouraging nationalist ideology, extremism and intolerance,” Churkin stated.
Of note here is that recently the US, Canada and Ukraine refused to sign a Russian-backed resolution against the glorification of Nazi ideology. Many experts noted that their logic seemed to compare a non-existent Soviet Union with quite real and tangible expressions of Nazism in Ukraine, for which there is demonstrable evidence.
Analysts went further to stress that this refusal to sign a document that even Germany approved of is a reflection of political interests that these states would go very far to preserve.