Category Archives: Auschwitz

Not just Auschwitz but Holocaust in its entirety mainly ended by the Russians

27 January, the day in 1945 when Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz, is also instituted by the United Nations as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The fact that Vladimir Putin wasn’t invited to the 70 year commemoration of the liberation has attracted some attention, as we saw. But no greater interest in main media has been shown for the Soviet (mainly Russian) role in terminating the Nazi Holocaust altogether.

More important than discovering Auschwitz was to stop the Nazi murder machine that otherwise could have exterminated millions more. For this the Soviet Union had the overwhelmingly most important role by grinding down the up till then strongest military machinery in history, thus sacrificing around 25 million of its people, in addition to unbelievable destruction of half the country.

It would have been most appropriate to give Russia some recognition on a day like that. Not so in Sweden, although the day was commemorated with a prestigious ceremony in Stockholm’s largest synagogue in the presence of the Swedish King and Queen, the Prime minister, the US ambassador and a number of other dignitaries. Russia is expelled from the “international community” for reacting logical to a Nazi infected coup d’état in a neighboring country, while an ambassador representing a power responsible for major war crimes, the last ones most recently, is treated with outmost respect. Well, Jonathan Smith, you know how it is!

When Dagens Nyheter’s editor in chief Peter Wolodarski acknowledged this Stockholm ceremony in a lead article he did it with dedication and compassion. He described the anti-Semitism of today, and concluded: “The mechanisms of Holocaust must be recognized as latent dangers in all civilized societies. They require perpetual vigilance and resistance”. It’s all admirable, except that his statement challenges his own position on the contemporary Ukraine issue.

Wolodarski’s newspaper is blatantly propagandistic, blaming Russia for every evil event and for being the aggressor (no proof given), while keeping almost totally silent about everything that could cast a shadow on the Ukrainian actions. Among the neglected topics is the key role that Nazism plays in that country’s present and history, a main reason for the revolt in Donbas, where people know what it’s all about, many having lost parents and other relatives murdered by Nazis.

Wolodarski describes how ordinary people in the Holocaust era could be transformed into rapists and murderers, “prepared to shove the city’s Jewish citizens into a barn and set it on fire”. The military historian Anthony Beevor describes in fact this method as a Ukrainian specialty in his book on WWII, adding that Ukraine stood out as the country in which people most willingly and in largest numbers assisted the German Nazis in exterminating Jews, Communists, Poles and other unwanted creatures.

This “Ukrainian specialty” was duplicated in Odessa in 2014, where a group of pro-Russian Odessa inhabitants were captured in a building which was set on fire by pro-Nazi elements that then killed some who tried to flee. This mass murder of more than 40 people took place without DN paying any attention to the historical parallel which could be called ironic had it not been so outrageous. Instead Wolodarski naively writes about the same method of extermination months later, ignorant of its horrible implications.

Ukrainian Nazism has a long and ugly history, dating back to at least the 1930s when the so called Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) “began a campaign of assassinating and otherwise terrorizing people who didn’t agree with them”, according to Russ Bellant, interviewed in The Nation, March 2014. In his book Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party Bellant reveals astonishing facts about the collaboration between revered politicians and pure Nazi elements in USA.

At the end of WWII Eastern Europe was swarming with Nazi collaborators guilty of all kinds of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Looking forward to hard punishment by the Soviet justice system, not known for its humanity, their best option was to flee westwards, and many of them ended up in USA and Canada. There they were kindly taken care of and soon reached some prominence as anti-Soviets. Bellant deals in detail with their connections with the Republican Party and some of the Presidents from that party. His findings are too many to fit in this short blog post, but are very much worth reading (thenation.com).

My country had the “honor” of receiving a number of war criminals from the Baltic States, perpetrators guilty of killing Jews and other “unworthy” humans. They mixed with entirely decent refugees and were never hunted down by Swedish police. For this Sweden has received harsh criticism from the Simon Wiesenthal Center (so much for that civilized country).

The Ukrainian connection is interestingly reflected in a recent vote in the UN General Assembly on a resolution that condemned the glorification of Nazism, brought by Russia, undeniably in response to the raise of neofascism in Ukraine. Three countries voted against the resolution: USA, Canada and Ukraine! 155 voted for and 55 abstained, among them the European countries. A fact to consider: Israel voted for the resolution.

A column like this has no punch line, these battlefields will no doubt be revisited.

Celebrating a liberation without the liberator

Today we read about Putin and the 70th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz. I find two main versions of the story, the first one saying that Putin “Won’t attend…” (NYT) or “won’t go to…” (rt.com) the ceremonies in Poland. The main reason is claimed to be that no formal invitation has been sent to Russia. On the other hand, according to this version, no personal invitation has been sent to anyone, just notices to all embassies of EU nations and other countries that have contributed to the museum, among them Russia.

The other version is found in the usually very Russophobe Dagens Nyheter saying that Putin “is debarred from” the event. DN refers to a source in the Polish Foreign Office telling Reuters that formal invitations to specific countries have been sent by the authority responsible for the museum, together with the International Auschwitz Council. Countries not receiving a formal invitation, among them Russia, have just got an informal message, a so called nota verbale. The reason, according to the source, would be that Polish leaders didn’t want to formally invite Putin given the Ukraine conflict.

If the second version is the correct one, we will probably never hear about it again. In any case the commemoration of the liberation will take place with several heads of states and other distinguished officials, but in the absence of the proper representative of the liberator. It’s more remarkable than the US president being absent from a D-day 70 year commemoration. Russia had after all sacrificed millions and millions of lives before Auschwitz could be liberated, while their western allies had fought poorly motivated Germans on the west front for slightly more than half a year, during which time the Nazi army repeatedly had sent divisions from the west front to support the more important eastern front.

When they gather on January 27 it must feel odd for any of the highly distinguished guests attending – who happen to have some knowledge and scruples – that the highest representative for the nation in focus of the celebrations is not present. But on the other hand, our propaganda has worked persistently through the years, and the day will come when we are completely unaware of Russia’s role in WWII. Some are already there, like Hillary Clinton (at Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show) asserting that United States defeated the Nazis.