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 wasnâ€™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 Stockholmâ€™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 â€œinternational communityâ€ for reacting logical to a Nazi infected coup dâ€™Ã©tat 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 Nyheterâ€™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: â€œThe mechanisms of Holocaust must be recognized as latent dangers in all civilized societies. They require perpetual vigilance and resistanceâ€. Itâ€™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 countryâ€™s present and history, a main reason for the revolt in Donbas, where people know what itâ€™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, â€œprepared to shove the cityâ€™s Jewish citizens into a barn and set it on fireâ€. 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 â€œUkrainian specialtyâ€ 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) â€œbegan a campaign of assassinating and otherwise terrorizing people who didnâ€™t agree with themâ€, 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 â€œhonorâ€ of receiving a number of war criminals from the Baltic States, perpetrators guilty of killing Jews and other â€œunworthyâ€ 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 civilizedÂ 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 forÂ andÂ 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.