parliament recognizes militia that collaborated with Nazis
Jerusalem Post, 13-04-2015
The Simon Wiesenthal
Center condemned Ukraine's recognition of the group as well as a second
bill that equated communist and Nazi crimes.
Seventy years after the end of the Holocaust,
Ukraine's parliament has extended official recognition to a nationalist
militia that collaborated with the Germans during the Second World War.
According to a bill passed on Thursday,
the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, an ultra-nationalist faction that sought
to establish an independent Ukrainian state, would be eligible for official
government commemoration, according to the Kiev Post.
While the group, an offshoot of the Organization
of Ukrainian Nationalists, engaged in warfare against both the Soviet
Union and the Nazis, it also collaborated with Germany and took part
in actions against local Jews.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned
Ukraine's recognition of the group as well as a second bill that equated
Communist and Nazi crimes.
"The passage of a ban on Nazism
and Communism equates the most genocidal regime in human history with
the regime which liberated Auschwitz and helped end the reign of terror
of the Third Reich," said Wiesenthal Center director for Eastern
European Affairs Dr. Efraim Zuroff.
"In the same spirit the decision
to honor local Nazi collaborators and grant them special benefits turns
Hitler's henchmen into heroes despite their active and zealous participation
in the mass murder of innocent Jews. These attempts to rewrite history,
which are prevalent throughout post-Communist Eastern Europe, can never
erase the crimes committed by Nazi collaborators in these countries,
and only proves that they clearly lack the Western values which they
claim to have embraced upon their transition to democracy," he
This is not the first time that the wartime
Ukrainian nationalist movement, led by Stepan Bandera, has been the
center of controversy there.
In 2010 president Viktor Yushchenko declared
Bandera a hero of Ukraine in a decision that was subsequently rescinded
by his successor Viktor Yanukovych a year later.
The issue of Nazism has been central
to the recent Ukrainian-Russian conflict, with Moscow accusing the administration
in Kiev of neo-Nazi and fascist tendencies.
Ukraine has made efforts to deflect such
criticism and in January its Foreign Ministry announced that it was
planning on appointing a special envoy tasked with preventing and combating
anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
The most recent anti-Semitic incident
in the country occurred last month when a group of masked men yelling
racist slurs beat a Jewish surgeon in Kharkov.
And while a series of anti-Semitic attacks
during the 2013- 14 Maidan Revolution put communities around Ukraine
on edge, violence against Jews has not been a large concern over the
past year, especially when compared to the war raging between government
troops and separatists in the east, residents say.
Following the revolution the Svoboda
party, a neo-Nazi faction with significant parliamentary support, lost
most of its mandates, sidelining the far Right in the political sphere,
even as extreme nationalists found a place among the volunteer battalions
in combat against Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk region.
While Jewish worries over anti-Semitism
have been on the back burner due to the war, several recent developments
have shown that antipathy toward Jews, or at least indifference toward
such attitudes when held by important military or political figures,
still exists in Ukraine.
Last November Jewish organizations expressed
their displeasure when it was disclosed that the newly appointed police
chief for the Ukrainian province in which Kiev is located came under
fire after it was alleged that he had past ties with a neo-Nazi organization.
Meanwhile, last week local media reported
that the leader of a far Right nationalist movement that assembled the
bulk of the fighters involved in the 2013 Ukrainian revolution will
now advise the head of his country's armed forces.