January 14th 2015 i24news.tv
Putin should be invited to Auschwitz

It didn't take long for the uplifting feelings so many people all over the world felt, in the wake of Sunday's million plus solidarity march in Paris, to dissipate. All one had to do was to take a close look at the first two rows of the marchers to understand that with all due respect and appreciation for the average Parisian, who came out to show respect and solidarity for Paris attacks' victims, among the heads of state and dignitaries in attendance were several whose country's human rights' records should have automatically disqualified them from participating, let alone being among those leading the march. Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan's King Abdullah II, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are the most blatant examples that come to mind.

Ironically, just as I was pondering this issue, I was contacted by a journalist who wanted my reaction to the breaking news that Vladimir Putin had not received "a full diplomatic invitation" from Poland to attend the ceremony marking the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp on January 27, which would include many world leaders, and consequently had decided not to participate. Unlike the unworthy foreign leaders at the Paris protest march on Sunday, who have no credentials to speak of when it comes to freedom of speech and religion, the Russian president is an especially important guest at the upcoming events to mark the liberation of the largest of the Nazis' six death camps, where approximately 1.3 million people were murdered, of whom approximately 1.1 million were Jews.

After all, it was the Red Army which liberated Auschwitz and effectively put an end to the mass murder at the camp that has become one of symbols of the tragedy of the Holocaust. It were the Soviet forces which played such an important role in the final defeat of the Third Reich, and without whose enormous contribution and sacrifices, who knows how much longer and with obviously terrible consequences World War II would have lasted. In other words, if anyone deserves to be present at the liberation anniversary ceremony, it is Vladimir Putin.

The rationale for not inviting him is ostensibly the current tension between the European Union and Russia over the annexation of Crimea and the ongoing Russian support for the insurgency in eastern Ukraine, which is indeed a serious problem. In the background of this decision, however, there might also be an ideological reason that relates directly to the ongoing bitter debate between Russia and post-Communist Eastern Europe over the history of World War II and the Holocaust. Ever since the admission of the Baltics and many other East European countries to the EU and NATO, we have witnessed a systematic campaign being waged to undermine the uniqueness of the Holocaust and promote the canard of equivalency between Nazi and Communist crimes. The motivation for this campaign is obvious, since in most Eastern European countries collaboration with the Nazis meant active participation in mass murder, and if given a choice between being branded as countries of perpetrators or of victims, it is clear what the new democracies prefer. So instead of honestly confronting their bloody Holocaust past, they opt to emphasize their own suffering under the Soviets and Communists and proceed to glorify freedom fighters against Communism, even if they mass murdered Jews during the Holocaust.

Putin's presence at the Auschwitz ceremony will be a stark reminder of the identity of the liberators of the camp, a fact which the EU members of Eastern Europe would prefer to forget, but that would not be the proper manner to mark the commemoration of the seventieth anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation. On that day, the message should be that the only way in which the Third Reich could have been defeated was through the cooperation of all the anti-Nazi forces, which temporarily put aside political and ideological differences to overcome the existential threat posed to the world by Nazi Germany. And that should be a lesson that we would also do well to apply to the current threat to the Western world posed by jihadist Islam