One year ago, Russia invaded Ukraine, an independent and sovereign nation, justifying their aggression with spurious claims that they were “denazifying” the country. The Wiener Holocaust Library issued a statement at that time refuting the claims and condemning the abuse of the memory the Holocaust and the Nazi era as a weapon of war.
Since that time, Russia’s leaders have persistently and deliberately promoted a false version of history. Under the pretext of the law on ‘foreign agents’ Vladimir Putin’s regime has shut down Memorial and the Sakharov Centre, both internationally respected organisations dedicated to the open study of Russian and Soviet history. In this context, Putin’s 21 February speech to the Russian nation, full of blatant misrepresentations of the past and present, is a reminder to the world of the urgent need to resist the lies and propaganda in which he and his regime have long specialised.
Resisting deliberate distortion of reality demands critical thinking, civic engagement, and sustained work. It also requires the gathering and preservation of hard evidence. In Lviv and elsewhere, specialist archivists work around the clock to digitise the country’s most precious documents, protecting them from the damage of war and looting by Russian forces. Civil society groups and NGOs have developed several initiatives, including the Ukraine War Archive, an open access resource that invites the public to upload footage, photographs and testimony documenting the conflict.
The Wiener Holocaust Library has long experience of the vital importance of capturing, cataloguing, and preserving evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide. We are currently working with partners at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and the Kyiv School of Economics to support systematic gathering of physical and digital evidence of the Russo-Ukrainian war.
Our joint project, the Ukrainian War Research and Documentation Initiative, which aims to provide a sustainable basis for such gathering, needs your support. Please consider supporting this initiative with a donation, which can be given via our regular donation page and earmarked for this purpose by adding the message ‘UWRDI’. Donations earmarked in this way will go directly towards supporting ongoing work at the Kyiv School of Economics to document the conflict.
Dr Toby Simpson, Director of The Wiener Holocaust Library