Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Why the Prague Declaration and attempts to make crimes of Stalin equivalent to crimes of Nazism is simply wrong

Roland Binet

The European Union has as one of its main tasks to promote the cordial understanding between the peoples of Europe and, consequently, must be careful about the history of the continent as it is being taught.  One of the reasons of the foundation of the Union was to erase the memory of the horrors committed during two world wars and to bring together peoples that were previously enemies.

A recent initiative regarding the European history dates back to September 23, 2008 when more than 400 MEPs  signed a common declaration supporting the proposal of the date of 23rd August as  "European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of  Stalinism and Nazism".  That declaration is founded on the "Prague Declaration " of June 3, 2008, with the following main objectives (1) recognize Communism and Nazism as a common legacy, (2) recognition that many crimes committed in the name of Communism should be assessed as crimes against humanity serving as a warning for future generations, in the same way Nazi crimes were assessed by the Nuremberg Tribunal, (3) ensuring the principle of equal treatment and non-discrimination of victims of all totalitarian regimes, (4) celebrating a day of remembrance of the victims of both  Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes.  This date of 23rd  August is not anodyne.  On that day, in 1939, the German-Soviet Pact was signed, a part of the secret clauses of that infamous pact foreseeing a territorial repartition between Nazi Germany and the USSR, and, in pursuance of these secret clauses, the USSR invaded part of Poland as soon as September 17,  1939, then, later the Baltic Republics in 1940.

Following the initial Declaration, the European Parliament will hold a day of debates on the matter of ensuring the principle of equal treatment of the victims of Communism and Nazism, on October 19, 2011.  In its initial report, the European Commission wrote in its preamble: « The memory of Europe's history is the common heritage of all Europeans, today and of future generations. Reconciliation with the legacy of the crimes committed by totalitarian regimes requires sharing and promoting this memory. »

When one reads all the preparatory texts (report from the Commission, conclusions from the same Commission, the Prague Declaration, etc.), one cannot shake off the global impression – even if the objective of the “Prague Process » is to be commended as it is the wish of the European Parliament and the Commission to educate the actual and future generations about what really happened in Europe  –, that a number of representatives from countries of the EU seem to be jealous of the continuous flow of information that the  Holocaust generates, to the detriment of the sufferings they had to endure under  Communist yoke.

Has that date of 23rd August a signification whatever for the Jews who had to bear the greater number of dead under Nazism?  Has the advice of the organs representative of the Jewish victims of Nazism been asked?    And, why limit itself  solely to Communism and Nazism as far as the history of Europe is concerned?  Greece, Spain, and Portugal have dealt with fascist regimes with, sometimes, bloody repressions and during entire decades for two of these countries (half a century for Portugal).

Should one wish to «share and promote the legacy of the crimes committed by totalitarian regimes » as well as talk about “equal treatment”, one should first and foremost be precise, it seems to me, and put the onus on the essential ideological differences between Nazi and Communist crimes and, therefore, may one envisage the idea to have a common day of remembrance in honour of the victims of two scourges that everything divided, from the origins to the consequences?

Stalin was in truth a paranoiac personality, imbued with power.  There is now an abundant documentation that analysed the mind of that serial killer on a European scale and the methods he used (biographies of Simon Sebag Montefiore; biography of Zhores and Roy Medvedev published in Russian –« the Unknown Stalin »; « The Great Terror » by Robert Conquest, etc.).  One knows that his crimes originated in his misled mind, even if these crimes sometimes had the effect of eradicating entire strata from society qualified as « enemies » (the kulaks, the Ukrainians at the time of the Great Famine, the Tatars, the Jewish doctors’ plot, Kirov’s murderers, the Red Army’s leaders, etc.). That bloody tyrant had no popular support, no power attributed to him according to free elections. There was only the secret police to carry out his Machiavellian schemes, with the passive assent from a continuously terrorised population. When the poet Yossip Mandelstam was arrested, deported and, subsequently, died in the Gulag, it was because he had displeased Stalin in writing and declaiming in public his « Ode to Stalin », one of the most acerb critics of the regime.  He was denounced not because the Soviet people had faith in Stalin, no, only because under that terror regime the one who did not denounce the other ran the risk of being denounced in his turn.

Hitler, also a paranoiac personality, had ample popular support because he was elected during free elections.  As soon as 1935, infamous laws put the Jews beyond the pale, and, subsequently within the occupied territories.  The « Commissars’ Order » (execution of the “Commissars”, the Communists and the Jews, in the  USSR), the green light given to the Einsatzgruppen and the Wannsee Conference of  January 20, 1942, gave, if not a strictly legal frame, at the least an order emanating from the Chief of the German armies – Hitler – so that the Jews, the Reds and all these persons deemed noxious to the survival of the Aryan race might be “eradicated”  (the Germans used the German word « ausrotten » that one would use for noxious animals).  Then, and this was totally different from what happened in the Soviet prisons and the Gulag, the Nazis sought the most expeditious methods, the less stressful for the executioners, annihilation methods of human beings deemed « Untermenschen » that were truly industrial.  And during the time of the Hitler regime, no German opposition movement was ever inspired by the dismay caused by the Shoah by bullets or by the automated industrialisation process of putting people to death, whose symbol became Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Worse, Guido Knopp (in "Die SS") gives this astounding figure: 85 % of all affairs the Gestapo worked on were on the basis of denunciations from German citizens.  If Anne Frank was captured in Holland and died in Bergen-Belsen, it was not only because of Hitler’s madness but because a whole German population supported him in this inane enterprise of killing the Jews but also collaborated in this.

Nevertheless, this perverse Nazi ideology dividing masters from slaves only worth being killed found followers in some occupied countries (too, in the case of Anne Frank).  One has only to look at the numbers of pogroms organised by civilian anti-Semites in occupied countries : Lvov in Poland
(4 000 Jews killed at the end of June 1941, by civilians, mostly Ukrainians ; source : "Die SS" by Guido Knopp) ; Kaunas in Lithuania (nearly 7 000 Jews killed during a mere two days according to Stahlecker, commanding officer of the Einsatzgruppe A, source: "The Massacre of the Jews of Lithuania" by Karen Sutton) ; in Latvia (nearly 35 000 Jews killed during the first100 days of occupation, of which 30 000 on the account of Latvian murderers, source:  Margers Vestermanis’s interview in Der Spiegel of 25/04/2005).  In Belgium and in Holland, fascist collaborators took part in the hunt for Jews, as well as the French police and the Vichy Government in France.  Not forgetting the atrocities committed by fascist movements in Hungary, Slovakia and Romania (as well as in Croatia, perhaps a future member-state of the Union)…

It is this particular aspect of the industrialisation on a huge scale of the process of killing with the active and voluntary participation of collaborators in some of the occupied countries – people motivated, most often, by a rabid anti-Semitism with firmly anchored roots -, that makes the Shoah unique and that renders it difficult – historically speaking – to put the victims of Nazism and Communism on an equal footing.  All the more if in order to reach this goal one puts the onus on the victims and not on the underlying ideologies at the basis of these crimes. From Hitler’s side, an ideology of a race supremacy of masters and the systematic destruction of those deemed of an inferior creed ; from Stalin’s side, the haughty madness of a man imbued with power without any ideological support whatsoever with the exception of his ravings.

The victims of Communism have the right to the historical recognition of their suffering, and I would be the first to admit it, as this is a matter I am cognizant with since the beginning of the ‘70s (having also known personally victims of Communism).  But, for these MEPs to try to have Communism recognised as “crime against humanity”, this is a lost cause, as the crimes committed under Stalin and his followers do not in no way correspond to the definition of that type of crimes given by article 7 of the Statute of Rome for the International Penal Court of Justice, in 1998.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the matter of putting these specific sufferings on a par with those the victims of the Shoah had to suffer, I think that it is not up to the MEPs to decide in this matter; the choice belongs only to the organs representative of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, as well as the choice of a remembrance day in honour of all the victims of totalitarian regimes (including the Spanish, Portuguese and Greek forms of fascism).

And frankly, it is now time to take a firm stand against such interference from the EU and the MEPs, from far-fetched ideas that have sprung from the minds of people who are simply jealous of the continuous publicity the Shoah receives and who try with whatever weapons at their disposal to displace the Jews from the rightful place in our collective memory where, alas, a bloody historical aberration has put them in.  It is time to react, time to stand up against all these rightist and extreme-right movements in Europe and the European lackeys within the EU kowtowing to these fools of modern history.

Roland Binet (Belgium) European citizen

Efraim Zuroff: “Don’t rehabilitate the guilty”

Recent events in four different Eastern European countries have once again highlighted the ongoing assault on the accepted Holocaust narrative in the post-communist world. Three attracted considerable attention, while the fourth, which perhaps affords us the best insight into the phenomenon of Eastern European attempts to rewrite World War II history, was virtually ignored, until it aroused a solitary Jewish protest.

In Kiev, Odessa and Lviv, on January 1, hundreds marched to mark the birthday of Ukrainian nationalist hero Stepan Bandera, who headed the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN ), which collaborated with the Nazis and actively participated in the mass murder of Jews following the German occupation of Ukraine in 1941. A few days later, the regional council of the Ukrainian oblast of Ivano-Frankivsk declared 2012 the year of the UPA, the military wing of the OUN.

From Estonia, on December 27, it was reported that the country’s defense ministry planned to submit a bill to parliament that would recognize Estonians who served in the 20th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division, which fought alongside German troops as “freedom fighters” for the country’s independence – despite the fact that Nazi Germany had no intention of granting Estonia freedom. While the Waffen-SS division did not participate in Holocaust crimes (by the time it was established the Jews of Estonia had already been murdered ), its members included men who had previously been involved in killing Jews and Gypsies.

In Zagreb and Split, Croatia, memorial masses were conducted on December 28 to honor Ante Pavelic, its World War II head of state, who bears responsibility for the mass murder of hundreds-of-thousands of Serbs, 30,000 Jews and several thousand Roma. Pavelic, who was installed by the Germans, created one of the most lethal and brutal regimes in Axis-dominated Europe.
The fourth event involved former Lithuanian foreign minister Vygaudas Usackas, currently the EU Special Representative to Afghanistan, who wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he characterized the Nazi occupation of his homeland during the years 1941-1945 as “a few years’ respite from the communists.”

In view of the fact that 96.4 percent of the 220,000 Lithuanian Jews who lived there under the German occupation were murdered (along with thousands more Jews deported there from Western and Central Europe ), many by local Nazi collaborators, Usackas’ description was grossly insensitive, if not outright outrageous. Yet in response to my criticism, Usackas issued a public statement in which he justified his original text by pointing to the unbalanced treatment in Western public opinion of “the crimes of Stalin’s regime … and the tragedy of its victims,” which had only recently received due legal recognition, “in contrast to Nazi crimes which have been universally condemned by all civilized humanity.” And while he did reiterate an earlier condemnation of Holocaust crimes in general, his comments did not mention a word about the tragic plight of Lithuanian Jewry or the horrific crimes committed by Lithuanians during the “respite” from Soviet occupation.

Such callous indifference to the fate of over 200,000 Lithuanian citizens, murdered in many cases by their own countrymen, may seem shocking coming from an official representative of the European Union, but recent events in Lithuania clearly indicate the government’s determination to rewrite the history books to cover up the crimes of local Nazi collaborators. In this regard, one example stands out: a conference held in the Seimas (Lithuanian parliament ) last June to mark the 70th anniversary of the German invasion. The conference’s main purpose was to glorify the Lithuanian Activist Front, a political group that collaborated with the Nazis in the hope of reestablishing Lithuanian independence, and that openly called for violence against the Jews. This incitement was a factor in the widespread attacks on Jews in 46 Lithuanian communities even before the arrival of Nazi troops – a well-documented phenomenon whose existence was denied at the conference.

All of the above cases can best be described as “Holocaust distortion” (as opposed to denial ), which seeks to promote the canard of historical equivalency between Nazi and communist crimes, thereby denying the Holocaust its rightful place as a unique case of genocide. Such distortion also minimizes the highly significant role of Hitler’s Eastern European collaborators in Holocaust crimes and paves the way for the rehabilitation of those who fought against the Soviets, regardless of any crimes they may have committed against Jews. It is this ideological foundation that spawned all four events described above.

This approach was originally formulated in the Prague Declaration of June 3, 2008, which can properly be categorized as the official “manifesto of Holocaust distortion.” The declaration’s original signatories – 27 leading Eastern European political leaders and intellectuals – openly warn that Europe will never be united until it “recognize[s] communism and Nazism as a common legacy,” and makes practical demands that if accepted would lead to a revolutionary reevaluation of World War II history, and turn the Holocaust into just another of many similar tragedies. Unfortunately, resolutions supporting these principles have already passed by a wide margin in the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

It is time for the Israeli government and Jewish defense organizations to begin actively combating these dangerous phenomena, lest the successes achieved during recent decades in Holocaust commemoration and education worldwide be erased by those trying to conceal the crimes of their countrymen.

Source: Haaretz

Dr. Efraim Zuroff is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Director of its Israel Office. His recent book, “Operation Last Chance: One Man’s Quest to Bring Nazi War Criminals to Justice,” deals extensively with the role of Eastern European Nazi collaborators in Holocaust crimes and the reluctance of post-Communist countries to bring these murderers to justice.
His website is http://www.operationlastchance.org/.

See also  http://www.timesofisrael.com:80/why-joachim-gauck-is-wrong-for-germany/  by Efraim Zuroff

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/14/conservatives-poland-right-wing  Eastern Europes long buried truths  By Efraim Zuroff

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/08/holocaust-baltic-lithuania-latvia   Halting Holocaust Obfuscation by Dovid Katz

http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2010-04-06-davoliute-en.html   by
Violeta Davoliute  History and politics between Left and Right, East and West

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