This is the third of a three-part newsletter investigating Russia’s stated reasons for invading and destroying Ukraine. President Putin and Russian media repeatedly stress that Ukraine is a fascist country run by neo-Nazis and anti-Semites. Is there any truth to these charges? This third newsletter weighs Ukraine’s history regarding anti-Semitism, fascism and neo-Nazi movements, and then offers some helpful conclusions and suggestions.
My Ukrainian Jewish family and the pogrom
My grandmother (in Yiddish, my bobbeh) Rivka was born in 1888 in Yasnohorodka, a small shtetl/village just west of Kyiv. She departed from Ukraine by ship in 1912 and came to Montreal, Canada (where my mother and I were born). One of her younger sisters, Raizl, remained behind in Kyiv and was murdered there in July 1919. During that pogrom, White Cossack bands ransacked and raped their way through the Jewish quarter of the city. One Cossack cut off Raizl’s arm with his sabre, and she bled to death on the pavestones. Rivka told me at another time how Orthodox priests had led a procession though their village, carrying a huge brass crucifix, setting off another pogrom against the Jews there. Ukrainian hatred of Jews was something that my family knew first-hand.
British author and Jewish leader Israel Zangwill described those days in the following wry quote – Jews were getting massacred from all sides, while being blamed by all sides for belonging to all sides:
- “It is as Bolsheviks that the Jews of South Russia have been massacred by the armies of Petliura [Army of the Ukrainian Republic], though the armies of Sokolov [Konstantin Sokolov, writer of the Constitution of the Volunteer Army] have massacred them as partisans of Petliura, the armies of Makhno as bourgeois capitalists, the armies of Gregoriev [Hetman Grigoeriev] as Communists, and the [Russian White Army] armies of Denikin at once as Bolsheviks, capitalists, and Ukrainian nationalists.”
Hetman on the move
Jews first moved into the area now known as Ukraine over 1,000 years ago, settling south of the Dnieper River in Crimea and Volhynia. Later on, Jews living in Germany fled anti-Semitic rioters who were accusing Jacob’s children of spreading the Black Death plague. These marauding bands pillaged and murdered Jewish communities in the Rhine Valley, stampeding a mass exodus of Hebrew people toward Poland and Ukraine.
Ukraine fell under Polish occupation with the Union of Lublin in 1569, and remained so until 1648-49, when the Cossack and Hetman (leader) Bohdan Khmelnytsky led the Khmelnytsky Uprising against the Polish Crown. In 1654 Khmelnytsky signed the Treaty of Pereyaslav Agreement, bending the Ukrainian Cossack knee in ‘autonomous’ submission to the Tsar of Moscow.
Before that uprising, the Jewish population in Ukraine had served as middlemen for the Polish nobility. They ran inns, operated distilleries, and collected rent and taxes from Ukrainians (the arenda system). Ukrainians considered this doubly objectionable – their Polish Catholic conquerors were considered heretics by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, while the Jews were considered infidels for not accepting Christianity, as well as hated collaborators with the Poles. The Jewish population in Ukraine had turned into a lightning rod for popular discontent, which would occasionally explode in murderous fashion. When Khmelnytsky revolted against the Polish overlords in 1648-49, his Cossack deputy Maksym Krivonis oversaw the horrendously sadistic torture, rape and massacre (approximately 18-20,000 murdered) of Ukraine’s Jews. For most Jews, Khmelnytsky’s massacres of the Jewish people is still considered one of the most terrible events in Jewish history.
Today Khmelnytsky is considered by Ukrainians to be their most important historical figure, yet his submission to Moscow is also regarded by Ukrainians as their second greatest historical disaster. In 1863 the sculptor Mikhail Mikeshin designed a Khmelnytsky statue, to be erected near Kyiv’s St. Sofia cathedral. The sculptor had to remove from the final bronze inscription the beloved lines of a Ukrainian folk song: “Oh, it will be better, Oh, it will be more beautiful, when in our Ukraine there are no Jews, no Poles, and no Union (of Polish-Lithuanian control).”
Haidamak and two centuries of pogroms
The Haidamak were Ukrainian peasants who fled from Polish landlords toward the eastern regions beyond the Dnieper River. They made a living ambushing travelers or attacking small farms and villages, strongly emphasizing Jewish targets. In the years 1734, 1742, 1750 and 1768 many murderous attacks occurred, and upwards of 20,000 Jews and Poles were massacred. A sobering historical illustration of that situation: in 1768 in the Ukrainian village of Lysyanka, a Jew, a Polish priest and a dog were hanged side by side. In 1841 the Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko wrote Haidamaky, in honor of the Haidamak brigands. In that work he portrayed Jews as agents of Polish landowners, and the bandits who killed Jews as national heroes.
Between 1764-1783 Catherine the Great of Russia annexed Ukraine and Crimea from the Polish Crown, a situation that lasted until October 1917, when the Pale of Settlement was abolished and Russia’s Tsar was overthrown by Lenin’s Bolsheviks. At that time some Jewish people supported the Bolsheviks, hoping that Communists might treat the Jews better than Cossacks, Haidamak or the Tsarist police had done up to that point.
Pogrom is a word of Russian origin, defined as an organized massacre for the destruction or annihilation of an ethnic group, primarily referring to attacks on Jews. A partial list of Ukrainian pogroms includes Odessa, Ukraine (1821, 1859, 1871, 1905); Elisavetgrad (Kirovgrad) in Kherson oblast (1881, on the week following Easter); Kiev (May 1881); Kishinev in Russia-controlled Bessarabia, neighboring Ukraine (on Easter 1903).
As a child, I was not aware that between March 1917 and 1921, the largest and bloodiest anti-Jewish massacres (prior to the Holocaust) occurred in Ukraine – the death toll was between 50,000 to 200,000. A further 100,000 Jews were permanently disabled or died of their wounds, and 200,000 Jewish children were orphaned. The Kiev pogroms of 1919 were typical in this regard, and those were the ones in which my relative Raizl was murdered. Some scholars see these pogroms as a foreshadowing prelude to the Holocaust.
In November 1918 part of Ukraine declared itself an independent nation, free from colonialist imperialism. That situation lasted for eight months until July 1919. By August 1920 Ukraine was swallowed up into the Soviet Union, the fine details ratified in March 1921 with the Treaty of Riga. In 1954, on the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav, Crimea was transferred from Russia’s control back to the Ukrainian SSR by Soviet First Secretary of the Communist Party Nikita Khrushchev (a Ukrainian by birth). Finally, on August 24, 1991 Ukraine’s parliament adopted the Act of Independence, becoming a sovereign country. Thirty-two years have passed since that event.
In 1913 Ukrainian fascist writer Dmytro Dontsov spearheaded a controversial program championing Ukraine’s separation from Russia and integration into Europe. In 1926 he published a pamphlet ‘Nationalism,’ anticipating a world conflict which the Germans would win and, as a result, the Russian Empire would be dismantled. He called this political philosophy ‘active nationalism.’ Dontsov advocated the totalitarian practices of Italian fascism and German national socialism, drawing on Nazi racial theory and anti-Semitism. He also translated the works of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler into Ukrainian. Dontsov is considered the intellectual Godfather of modern Ukrainian ultra-nationalism.
In the late 1920’s Dontsov said, “Jews are guilty, terribly guilty, because they helped consolidate Russian rule in Ukraine, but ‘the Jew is not guilty of everything.’ Russian imperialism is guilty of everything. Only when Russia falls in Ukraine, will we be able to settle the Jewish question in our country in a way that suits the interest of the Ukrainian people.”
The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, or OUN, was founded in 1929 (based on Dontsov’s teaching) as an ‘integral nationalist’ movement – explicitly totalitarian, endorsing political violence, racism, and an aggressive anti-Semitism. It cultivated close ties with Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, the Spanish Falange, and the Croatian Ustaše. Its goals included driving Polish landowners and officials out of eastern Galicia and Volhynia. There was no need, wrote an OUN ideologist in 1929, to list all the injuries that Jews had caused Ukrainians. “In addition to a number of external enemies, Ukraine also has an internal enemy . . . Jewry and its negative consequences for our liberation cause can be liquidated only by an organized collective effort.”
The first leader of OUN was Roman Shukhevych, who began his career with the assassination of a school principal (1926). A few years later in 1934 he murdered the Polish Minister of the Interior. In 1938 Shukhevych underwent training as an officer at the Nazi Military Academy in Munich, and in 1940 he and 120 other Ukrainians trained at a secret Abwehr Nazi espionage school in Zakopane.
After the OUN went through a succession split, Shukhevych’s inner circle included Stepan Bandera, one of the authors of the 1941 OUN-B blueprint ‘Struggle and Activities of the OUN-B at Times of War.’ That document called for the removal of all ‘non-Ukrainians’ living on Ukrainian territory and the liquidation of ‘Polish, Muscovite, and Jewish activists.’
Prior to the Nazi invasion of Russia, in Cracow on March, 2, 1941 German military intelligence established two Ukrainian military groups – the Sonderformation Nachtigall (Nightingale), and Battalion Ukrainische Gruppe Roland. Its members received Wehrmacht training at Neuhammer, Silesia, were given German uniforms and weapons, and were attached to the 1st Battalion of Regiment Brandenburg-800. Shukhevych was the highest-ranking Ukrainian officer in the Nachtigall Battalion, and had the greatest standing among its Ukrainian members. As company commander, Shukhevych and Nachtigall participated in the June, 1941 capture and pogrom-massacres of the Jews of Lviv, as well as massacres of the Jews of Vinnytsia (both areas in Ukraine). On June 29, 1941, the day when German troops occupied Lviv, Bandera’s OUN proclaimed a Ukrainian fascist state. Hitler immediately voided that short-lived declaration, as he had other plans for the Ukrainian fascist movement.
The Ukrainian People’s Militia under the OUN’s command immediately carried out pogroms in Lviv, massacring 6,000 Jews. OUN-B (‘B’ for Bandera) members trumpeted a slogan during that massacre (the slogan was recorded in Nazi documentation – the July 16, 1941 Einsatzgruppen report) which went as follows: “Long live Ukraine without Jews, Poles and Germans; Poles behind the river San, Germans to Berlin, and Jews to the gallows.” Documentary evidence relating to the first few days of the Wehrmacht’s advance reveals that approximately 140 pogroms were perpetrated in western Ukraine, in which 13,000 to 35,000 Jews were murdered, all with full Nachtigall participation.
The Nazis used Ukrainian collaborators to commit murders and acts of brutality that were too disturbing even for crack SS units. For example, SS task force 4-A in Ukraine confined itself to “the shooting of adults while commanding its Ukrainian helpers to shoot children.” Citing the Polish historian Grezegorz Motyka, Rossoliński-Liebe says that the UPA killed close to 100,000 Poles and thousands of Jews between 1943 and 1945, and that Orthodox priests blessed the axes, pitchforks, scythes, sickles, knives, and sticks that the peasants used to murder Jews and Poles. UPA also brutally tortured and executed those Ukrainian peasants who wanted to join the Soviet Union. The UPA (Ukraïns’ka Povstans’ka Armiia; Ukrainian Insurgent Army) went on to kill some 20,000 Ukrainians before its insurrection was completely crushed by the Soviets in 1953.
In May 1953 Soviet Deputy Chairman Lavrentiy Beria read out at a meeting of the Praesidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, a detailed description of the number of Ukrainians crushed by the Communists: “Between 1944-1952 in the western oblasts (regions) of the Ukraine, as many as 500,000 people were subjected to various forms of [Soviet] repression. In particular, more than 134,000 [Ukrainian] people were sent to the Gulag; more than 153,000 were killed; and more than 203,000 persons were deported from the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic for life.” The Soviet crushing of the Ukrainian fascist movement took nine years. It was bloody and brutal. In Russia today many continue to view Ukraine with suspicion – as a potentially fascist country and inveterate enemy of Moscow.
Ukraine – the flowering of Yiddish and Zionism
Before the explosion of murderous fascism in the three-year period of 1941-1944, Ukraine witnessed an amazing flowering of Jewish creativity, extending over a period of nearly 300 years. This include the Hasidic movement and the Ba’al Shem Tov, the Hovevei Zion and BILU Zionist movements, Am Olam, as well as many top Yiddish writers and Zionist thinkers like Sholem Aleichem (whose Anatevka village in Fiddler on the Roof is located in Ukraine), Vladimir Jabotinsky, Golda Meir, Natan Sharansky, etc.
As had transpired in Poland, where the Jewish people had grown to three million souls before being shot or gassed by the Nazis – so in Ukraine this incredible blossoming of Jewish culture flowered just before it was cruelly burnt to ashes by an unholy alliance of Nazi Germans and Ukrainian fascists.
Soviet-Ukrainian ‘friendship years’
In the 1930’s, Stalin’s decision to starve millions of Ukrainians to death in the ‘Holodomor’ (‘death famine’ in Ukrainian) brought about demographic devastation. All Ukrainians knowledgeable of their own history are aware that millions of their people were killed and terrorized in the 20th century by Europe’s two most murderous totalitarian regimes – the Soviets and the Nazis. At the same time, it is also true that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians were active collaborators with both of these killing machines.
One of the fathers of the Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky, wrote in 1939: “In the Ukraine, matters were further complicated by the massacre of national hopes. Nowhere did restrictions, purges, repressions and in general all forms of bureaucratic hooliganism assume such murderous sweep as they did in the Ukraine in the struggle against the powerful, deeply-rooted longings of the Ukrainian masses for greater freedom and independence.”
The democratic Euromaidan revolution (also called the Maidan Uprising; November 2013 – February 2014) had two core aspirations: Ukraine’s integration into liberal democratic Europe; and Ukraine’s independence from Russia. Both of these desires are still very active among Ukrainians, and both of these aspirations are considered anathema by the ruling powers in Moscow.
President Putin justifies his present imperialistic aggression against Ukraine and his 2014 invasion of Crimea by leveling accusations that Ukraine is a hotbed of anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism. In part two of this three-newsletter package, the evidence clearly shows that it is actually Russia which is the outstanding Slavic country manifesting a modern surge of highly visible neo-Nazi and fascist movements. But there is more to the story.
Ukrainian fascist survivors of WWII and their spiritual descendants (modern ultra-nationalist Ukrainians) have for years tried to side-step, deny or ignore the terrible crimes committed by pro-Nazi Ukrainian forces. Certainly, it is true that these fascists also had bitterly resisted the brutal take-over of Ukraine by Stalin’s Communists. And it is clear that many Ukrainians today see it as a badge of patriotism to honor ‘their’ ultra-nationalists, even if they are war criminals. Many Ukrainians have never been taught accurately about the great evils committed by people like Bandera or Shukhevych, or fascist organizations like the OUN, the UPA, Nachtigall Battalion, and the SS 1st Galician Division. Many Ukrainian patriots have the simple attitude, “Right or wrong, they are still our freedom-fighters and they will be honored!’
Some Ukrainians feel the need to defend and champion the reality of Ukrainian suffering at Russian hands, and as a result they unwittingly end up ‘competing with the Holocaust’ – on the one hand ignoring Jewish suffering, and on the other hand limiting the discussion to Ukrainian Gentile suffering. The OUN and the UPA are often portrayed in Ukrainian media as victims of oppression but rarely as perpetrators of oppression. The ultra-nationalist narrative of Ukrainian history is often presented as ‘the only true history,’ in contrast to what is called ‘false Soviet history’ or ‘Jewish history.’
In 1992, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko designated the fascist leader of the OUN Roman Shukhevych as a ‘Hero of the Ukraine’ in a public ceremony. This populist step certainly did not improve the status of Ukrainian-Jewish relations. Moshe Kantor, the head of the European Jewish Congress, responded by describing Shukhevych as a ‘Nazi collaborator’ and refused to accept a posthumous Order of ‘Hero of Ukraine’ from Yushchenko on behalf of Major Anatolii Shapiro, a Soviet Jewish commander who was one of the liberators of Auschwitz in 1944.
During President Yuschenko’s State visit to Israel the following month, he was sharply criticized for his decision to honor Shukhevych. At Israel’s Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem, Yushchenko was confronted by the Chairman of its Council, Tommy Lapid, a Holocaust survivor and former deputy Israeli Prime Minister. Lapid upbraided the President, stating that ‘sometimes you can be both a hero of Ukrainians and a murderer of Jews.’
One percent may be small, but it’s still problematic
Though part two of this three-part newsletter has clearly shown that the most anti-Semitic movements in the Slavic world are actually found in Russia and in Russia-occupied Crimea, it is also true that there are a handful of neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist movements operating in Ukraine. At the same time, over the past thirty years, most of these groups have faded off the scene.
During the Euromaidan protests, two far-right Ukrainian groups rose to prominence. The first, Pravy Sektor (or Right Sector), a nationalist group, manned barricades and clashed with riot police in Kiev’s Independence Square over the course of the uprising against Yanukovych. This militant organization failed to win any seats in the latest 2019 elections.
The second group was the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom), a political party founded in 1991, which draws upon the ideology of Yaroslav Stetsko, one of Bandera’s OUN allies during the war. It once held 37 seats in Ukraine’s 450-seat parliament, but today has nearly dropped out of existence, retaining only one parliamentary seat.
Matt Ford, former associate editor at The Atlantic, notes: “Russian officials are exaggerating both groups’ size, strength, and support. International news organizations, including the Associated Press, have reported no evidence of hate crimes committed after Yanukovych’s downfall, and Ukrainian rabbis have also denied Russian claims that anti-Semitic acts had taken place since the revolution. Ukraine’s UN ambassador, Yuri Sergeyev, pleaded with the international community earlier this month not to make generalizations about his people, stressing that ‘millions of Ukrainians in the West are normal European citizens.’” These matters take on heightened importance in light of Putin’s aggressive and skewed justification of his invasion of Ukraine.
Of wolves and angels
Between 2014 and 2016, a new political-military group named Azov came on the Ukrainian scene, formed from two neo-Nazi groups – Patriot of Ukraine, and Social-National Party. Its far-right leader Andriy Biletsky declared in 2010 that the nation’s mission was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade… against Semite-led sub-humans.” Azov’s official logo is the Nazi Wolfsangel rune of the ‘Das Reich’ division of the Waffen-SS, as well as the Black Sun (Schwartze Sonne) symbol, first employed by Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel (SS), at Wewelsburg Castle in Germany. Azov’s recruitment videos feature young recruits with shaved heads and beards marching in torchlit neo-pagan ceremonies behind a Black Sun shield.
While Azov has had little electoral success thus far (less than 1% of the popular vote), the toleration given to such groups (which are connected to hatred and violence) can create a dangerous precedent. Ukraine’s Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov – the second most powerful person in the state – does have close ties to the Azov group through Biletsky.
Is the neo-Nazi tumor metastasizing?
A massive Russian media campaign is actively manipulating the subjects of anti-Semitism and the extreme right in support of Moscow’s imperialistic strategies in Ukraine. The response of some has been: if the Russian media say that there is a problem, there can’t possibly be one! But a balanced response requires a more careful answer.
Modern Ukraine is not a country of anti-Semites. The Euromaidan revolution was not run by fascists. Russia has its own burgeoning problems with anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism. All these points are true. But it is necessary to ask other questions as well: How is Ukraine doing in extinguishing neo-Nazi poison, or in coming to terms with its fascist past and pro-Nazi collaborationists? What are the possible dangers lurking here?
In the middle of a cruel and destructive Russian military anschluss targeting Ukrainian civilians with verified war crimes, it is difficult to strike an accurate balance: How can one consider Ukrainian neo-fascism in a way which does not play into the Kremlin’s hands? Honest study and careful reflection are needed.
Vyacheslav Likhachev, scholar and head of the National Minorities Rights Monitoring Group, points out that “the worst years for acts of anti-Semitic violence were from 2005 to 2007, where there was a wave of dangerous street attacks. In 2005, 13 people were victims of such violence, while in 2004, and in both 2006 and 2007 there were eight victims. The number fell to five in 2008, then to one in 2009 and 2010 and none at all in 2011. In each of the following three years there were four victims, with this number falling to one in 2015 and 2016, and then none in 2017 and 2018.”
Based on his evidence, Likhachev concludes that there is little anti-Semitic violence in Ukraine and that, for the most part, Ukrainian Jews are not being confronted with direct physical danger. The main anti-Jewish crimes occurring in Ukraine involve “anti-Semitic propaganda in the public discourse, vandalism against Jewish sites such as cemeteries, Holocaust commemoration sites and communal institutions.” At the same time, Likhachev’s group noted, in the study ‘Two Years of War: Xenophobia in Ukraine 2015’ that, beginning in 2016, a dangerous increase in xenophobia occurred, specifically in Russian-occupied Crimea.
So, yes, there is anti-Semitism in Ukraine. The movement is small, yet outspoken. Most of its poison is spread by relatively small acts of violence, and by trying to influence the public debate. Canadian historian John-Paul Himka asks a sobering question for us to ponder: “Is it possible to adopt the [fascist] nationalist legacy as the national legacy and just forget about its dark side?”
Political scientist Andreas Umland points out that the anti-Semitism of the OUN and other Ukrainian fascist groups in WWII “were not only a result of German inspiration, initiation and instigation. They were also driven by home-grown Ukrainian prejudices against Jews, in particular by the crypto-racist conspiracy theory of ‘Judeo-Bolshevism’ – the obsession with the Jewish family background of some communist leaders.”
Kyiv’s emerging ‘official historical narrative’ whitewashed both Ukrainian WWII pro-Nazi fascism as well as murderous anti-Semitic and anti-Polish atrocities. It is flatly unacceptable to three significantly related countries: Poland cannot accept a denial or justification of the OUN/UPA’s massacre of tens of thousands of Polish civilians in Western Ukraine in 1943-1944. That is non-negotiable. Germany cannot accept that Nazi collaborators (including Ukrainians like OUN/UPA leader Roman Shukhevych – a Wehrmacht and Nachtigall Nazi officer) can be celebrated as war heroes. Israel and the Jewish world will not tolerate Ukraine honoring and exalting explicitly anti-Semitic pro-Nazi organizations and leaders as guiding examples for modern Ukraine.
Ukrainian Replacement Theology/History
Ultra-nationalist Ukrainian historians have created an Ersatzgeschichte – a false historical narrative – in a Cain-like attempt to conceal the blood of Jews and Poles shed on the soil of the motherland. They doggedly move the focus away from the murder of Jews and Poles, and instead focus on Ukrainian suffering. Not the Holocaust but Stalin’s Holodomor (enforced famines) takes the spotlight. Not the Nachtigall massacres and Babi Yar are considered, but the Russian NKVD (pre-KGB) slaughter of Ukrainian nationalists and fascists, is being emphasized. This ‘New Ukrainian Martyrdom’ is a cesspool for ethical historical researchers. It must be uncompromisingly challenged and rejected in the cold light of historical truth. Putin has neither the honesty, the scholarship nor the integrity to take on such a task. Nor does he have the international credibility to be accepted as a ‘high-school teacher’ who can freely hand out demerits or administer the strap to Ukraine’s leaders and innocent civilians.
Ukraine is not a perfect or even well-functioning liberal democracy. Yet, at the same time, a comparison study presented by the non-profit human rights advocacy/analysis group Freedom House gives Ukraine a ‘partially free’ rating, and a ‘global freedom score’ of 62 out of 100. Russia’s 2021 freedom score is 20 (‘not free’), while Russian-occupied Crimea (Eastern Donbas) received a score of 4 out of 100.
Fascists in the White House and at the Bundesnachrichtendienst
Toward the close of WWII, the intelligence services of Russia, U.S.A, and England were all looking to recruit or kidnap Nazi intelligence leaders and scientists. The rocket and atomic programs of these countries stood to gain much, if only the top Nazis in these fields would help their new masters win the Cold War. Rat Lines (Rattenlinien) were established by the Allies to help Nazis and fascists flee Axis countries and find professional restoration in Western countries.
Stepan Bandera, top Ukrainian ultra-nationalist fascist, made it to Munich, Germany, where he lived very close to the Bundesnachrichtendienst, West Germany’s Foreign Intelligence Service. Many ex-Nazis were actually employed by the BND at that time. Bandera was eventually located by the KGB and assassinated in 1959. His fascist co-worker Yaroslav Stetsko also lived in Munich, dying there of old age in 1986.
Stetsko was honored by President Reagan during his 1983 White House visit. Reagan proclaimed that Stetsko the Ukrainian fascist mass murderer was a true ‘freedom fighter’: “Your struggle is our struggle. Your dream is our dream.” The history of OSS (later, CIA) collaboration with ex-Nazis and Ukrainian fascists is a sordid page of bipartisan American political history, exposed in three excellent books: ‘The Secret War against the Jews’ and ‘Unholy Trinity,’ (both by John Loftus and Mark Aarons), and ‘Blowback’ (by Christopher Simpson).
Hidden truths in Paris
Many years ago, I was invited to be one of the main speakers at a Christian conference in Paris titled ‘Embrace Nos Coeurs’ (Embrace our hearts!). As I began to do research on my subject – France’s historical relationship with the Jews – I came across unexpected information. I had always seen France as a country of good food, amazing art, wonderful songs, and ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ – the national motto from the French Revolution. To my horror, I discovered that France’s treatment of the Jews (historically speaking) had as many anti-Semitic elements in it as did Germany’s history – just minus the gas chambers. There were French pogroms, riots, forced conversions, torture, exile and ghettos – an inglorious aspect of French history.
The same dynamics are true of many other countries as well – England, Spain, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, etc. And it bears remembering that both America and Canada closed their gates to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, as pointed out in ‘While Six Million Died’ by Arthur D. Morse, and ‘None Is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933 – 1948’, by Irving Abella and Harold Troper.
It is easy to point a finger, as some do, in accusation of another country and its anti-Semitic past or future. Unfortunately, there are few countries which can be classified as so free of sin, that ‘they can cast the first stone’ on this subject, as per John 8:7. Vladimir Putin has no spiritual authority or ethical integrity when he brings false and murderous charges against Ukraine. But Ukraine also has some business to do before the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There is a need for repentance regarding the horrific treatment of the Jewish people by both Russia and Ukraine. And, without blinking or averting ones’ eyes, many other countries near and far could be added to this list as needing to respond to this ‘altar call to repentance.’
- Let us not waste our time or anyone else’s, justifying ourselves by accusing others. But let us also not side-step our own need to deal firmly with our own national and individual sins. Let’s do business with God, and repent before Him for sticking our finger into the apple of God’s eye (Zechariah 2:8). Then we will remove the curse-aspect of Abraham’s covenant (Genesis 12:3) from our lives, the lives of our families, the lives of our faith communities and of our nations.
Following the Euromaidan revolution, Jews have been appointed to some of the top positions in the Ukrainian government, including Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. If Ukraine is being run by a ‘neo-Nazi junta’ as Putin maintains, it is the first such junta in history to give key posts to Jews and to have strong support from both the Ukrainian Jewish community and the Israeli government. It is the height of absurdity for Russian spokespersons to define the ‘Kiev authorities’ as a “Judeo–fascist coup” installed by the West.
This very brief look at Ukrainian and Ukrainian Jewish history reveals a tangled web of relationships, simultaneously tragic and heart-warming. Our challenge is not to lose sight of either of these two feelings as we walk through the present rubble of Ukraine’s cities, considering the future in light of the past.
How should we then pray?
- Pray for Ukraine’s leaders and common people, that God would give them a heart-changing revelation about the deep roots of anti-Semitism in Ukrainian history, and the gift for focused repentance about these specific issues
- Pray for all those around the world to receive a similar burden and a calling to pray for both Russia’s and Ukraine’s repentance on these (their own) issues
- Pray for the sparing of human life, wounding and destruction in Ukraine at the hands of Russian invasion forces
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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