The Times of Israel has reported that Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel told the Israeli government recently to “butt out of the debate about honoring of Nazi collaborators.”
The Ukrainian ambassador was reacting to criticisms of the post-coup government’s toleration of a segment of influential Neo-Nazis, having gotten streets named after Ukrainian Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, who was responsible for the massacre of thousands of Jews and Poles during WWII. Monuments have also been erected to Bandera and his fellow traveler Andryi Melnyk. The Times of Israel provided the following details:
Last week, Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Lion, and his Polish counterpart Bartosz Cichocki wrote officials an open letter condemning the government-sponsored honoring of Stepan Bandera and Andryi Melnyk, two collaborators with the Third Reich.
The two have written on the subject before. In 2018, Lion wrote that he was shocked at an earlier act of veneration for Bandera, saying: “I cannot understand how the glorification of those directly involved in horrible anti-Semitic crimes helps fight anti-Semitism and xenophobia.”
Ukrainian diplomats had previously refrained from commenting publicly about Lion’s protests.
The veneration of Nazi collaborators, including killers of Jews, is a growing phenomenon in Eastern Europe, where many consider such individuals as heroes because they fought against Russian domination.
In a previous post, I quoted the Russian independent journalist, Yasha Levine, regarding a monument in connection with WWII he saw in Kiev during a trip in late 2018. At first glance, Levine thought some of the symbols looked dubious. When he got close enough to read the actual inscription, he saw that the monument – just a short distance away from Maidan Square – was glorifying members of the OUN/UPA who had collaborated with the Nazis during the war and took part in massacres of thousands of Jews and Poles. These war criminals were being heralded as heroes on behalf of Ukrainian independence.
From a distance, the exhibit looked unremarkable — one of those harmless national heritage displays you can find in any European historic city center. But as I got within reading distance, I saw that there was nothing harmless about it. The exhibit wasn’t just showcasing historical Ukrainian symbols, it was celebrating and promoting one of the bloodiest fascist movements in Eastern Europe: the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and its paramilitary offshoot, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (OUN/UPA) — groups that had played a central role in the genocide of over a million Ukrainian Jews during World War II.
These groups were notorious for their savagery. Their goal was to create a racially pure, fascist state that was free from Poles, Jews, and Russians. To achieve their aims, their leaders pledged allegiance to Adolf Hitler and received training from Nazi Germany. Many of their members had volunteered for the Ukrainian Waffen-SS division, joined Nazi auxiliary police battalions, and helped the Nazis administer occupied Ukraine. Aside from killing Jews, the OUN/UPA organized the slaughter entire Polish villages. Survivors of their atrocities told gut-wrenching tales. They cut babies from wombs, smashed children against walls in front of their mothers, hacked people to death with scythes, flayed their victims, and burned entire villages alive….
….Naturally, all this dark and bloody history was left out of the exhibit. Instead it spun a superficial revisionist tale, presenting Nazi collaborators and mass murderers as heroes and liberators. A big component of the whole thing was a series of agitprop woodcuts that glorified the struggle of OUN/UPA soldiers against both the Nazis and the Reds and pushed the fiction that these groups were not bent on genocide but were involved in liberating all the peoples of the Soviet Union from totalitarian oppression. They were multicultural! Tolerant!
I stood looking at the exhibit in shock.
This was more than just whitewashing. This was straight up Nazi collabo glorification and Holocaust revisionism — an extreme reinterpretation of Ukrainian history that has long been pushed by the country’s fascist movements and the influential Ukrainian nationalist diaspora in the United States and Canada.
But even more disturbing was who was included on the list of official sponsors of the exhibit: Radio Liberty.
For those who may not recall from the Cold War days, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (now consolidated and known as RFE/RL) were U.S. government funded media targeting the Soviet/Russian population. Levine continues:
As I leaned in for a closer look, I saw that it was produced by the Ukrainian government. Specifically: the Institute of National Memory, a state-funded organization closely linked to country’s top spy agency, the Security Service of Ukraine. What’s more: it had the backing of the United States. An info panel running along the bottom of one of the large displays proudly listed Radio Liberty — the U.S. government’s Ukrainian-language propaganda outlet — as a “media partner.”
Holocaust revisionism? Glorification of mass murderers and Nazi collaborators? Right out in the open in the center of Kiev? And endorsed by our very own government? What the hell was going on?
It’s not like the fascist and genocidal history of the OUN/UPA is open to interpretation. In the last decade, a huge body of amazing historical research has come out on the topic. Groups like the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Simon Wiesenthal Center both consider the OUN/UPA to be being major players in the genocide of Jews in Ukraine and have consistently criticized Ukraine’s attempts to erase and deny this history.
So why is a major federal agency funded by Congress helping push this revisionist Nazi bile on the Ukrainian people?
Nazis and Neo-Nazis have openly paraded around the streets of Ukraine since the overthrow of Yanukovich in 2014. Here are a few examples that can be found on YouTube:
Here is one in Mairupol from December, 2015:
Another one from April, 2016 in Ivano-Frankivsk:
And another from October, 2017 in Kiev:
The Nazi Azov battalion – leading all of these marches – was a battalion that fought against the Donbas rebels in the east of Ukraine. They were mobilized and used in the early fighting to compensate for the fact that most of the Ukrainian army draftees did not have the stomach to attack their fellow Ukrainians. The Azov battalion has since been officially incorporated into the Ukrainian national guard and has even received U.S. military aid and training.
Remember this next time someone tries to tell you that the Kiev government represents the good guys who must be given American weapons. Beware of national security state propagandists testifying before congress, comparing the Ukrainian government to the American revolutionaries.
Personally, I find this to be a total denigration of the memory of our WWII veterans, including both of my grandfathers, who were fighting against this disgusting and dangerous ideology (along with Japanese imperialism). At least, that’s the narrative we’ve all been given, right?
But then again, it wouldn’t be the first time that the U.S. government buddied up to Nazis after WWII. Look into Operation Paperclip.