The Wiener Holocaust Library condemns both Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Holocaust distortion used to justify it. As the world’s oldest institution devoted to the study of the Holocaust and genocide, created and supported by refugees from Nazism and their descendants, we call upon international and national organisations to support those fleeing Vladimir Putin’s violence. The history and memory of the Holocaust should never be abused to justify militarism and oppression.
Putin has spuriously declared his aim to be to save Eastern Ukrainians from genocide and “denazify” the country. Both claims are gross distortions of reality. Ukraine is a sovereign nation with a vibrant, pluralistic society. The evidence is clear that most Russian-speaking Ukrainians, even those sceptical of an orientation toward the EU, would not welcome a Russian puppet government, which could only be imposed upon the country with massive repression.
Putin’s bogus justifications for his war of aggression are underpinned by misrepresentations of history inherited from the Soviet era. These distortions downplay the suffering of Jews in the Holocaust, presenting Russians as the primary victims of Nazism, and indeed sometimes resort to antisemitic tropes. Putin’s depiction of Ukraine as a “Nazi state” is not a response to the activity of the far-right in Ukraine; it is a falsehood emanating from his incapability of acknowledging the right of Ukrainians, regardless of language or ethnicity, to define themselves as Ukrainians. The fact that Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, is Jewish, and that his grandfather fought the Nazis in the ranks of the Red Army, is an indication of how absurd and offensive these claims are.
The Wiener Holocaust Library, as Britain’s library of record of the Holocaust and genocide, will always actively refute the abuse of history, especially when used as a weapon of war.
Dr Toby Simpson