When the Russian Federation declared its attack against Ukraine, it justified it with the need for “denazification” of the country’s politics. It referred to fascist organizations such as the Azov battalion, which had by then been incorporated into the regular army, and the public glorification of Bandera with monuments, holidays, and marches for SS volunteers. It cited as a particular drama the Ukrainian army’s military attacks against the People’s Republics in the Donbass in 2014-2021, which killed more than 14,000 people. Russia called this “genocide” against the Russian-speaking population. Although these were all indisputable facts, nevertheless, quite rightly, the International Camp Communities and the FIR objected to taking this as a legitimization for war and rejected the inappropriate use of the term “genocide.”
In the same clear words, today we must reject the media forms of Holocaust relativization, as it is made in recent days by the Ukrainian government. Not only the Ukrainian ambassador in the FRG, Andrij Melnyk, who is a defender of the Azov battalion, spoke in analogy to the fascist invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 of a “war of extermination”, which this time was directed not only against Ukraine, but against the whole free world. In the first days of the war, the Ukrainian government made the claim that the Russian army had desecrated the memory of the victims of the fascist mass murder by attacking the Babyn Yar memorial. First, a journalist of the “Jerusalem Times” proved with pictures from the place that far away from the memorial a transmission tower had been attacked and destroyed – the assertion of the attack on the memorial was thus pure propaganda.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj demonstrated the fact that the Ukrainian government deliberately uses the comparison to fascism to gain support for its own war policy during his video speeches in the German Bundestag and the Israeli Knesset.
In Jerusalem, Selensky took this form of historical revision to the extreme by linking the day of the Russian attack to the date of the founding of the Nazi Party NSDAP, as if that had been of any significance to the Russian government. Selensky then claimed that just as the Nazis had then spoken of a “final solution to the Jewish question,” there was now talk in Moscow of a “final solution to the Ukrainian question.” The threat is the same: for us and for you, the Ukrainian president continued, the total destruction of people, state, culture.
Contrary to Selensky’s expectations, this Holocaust relativization did not meet with approval in Israel and in their government. Neither had they forgotten the extent to which neo-fascist and anti-Semitic attacks had been a daily occurrence in today’s Ukraine in recent years, nor were they prepared to accept such an assertion. The war in Ukraine was truly horrific, replied Israel’s Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel; however, the comparison to the horrors of the Holocaust and the Final Solution was outrageous. MP and former Finance and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz noted that any comparison between a regular war and the extermination of millions of Jews in gas chambers “borders on Holocaust denial.”
The FIR reminds in this context also again of the fact that, 23 years ago, for the propagandistic legitimization of the NATO war against Yugoslavia also the Holocaust relativization was used. In 1999, the German Foreign Minister Josef Fischer accused the Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević of acting like Hitler. Fischer even claimed that the human crime of Auschwitz was in danger of being repeated in Kosovo. German survivors of the Shoah and the Nazi mass crime called this the “New Auschwitz Lie” at the time.
Such instrumentalization of fascism comparisons for military action is, in our view, not acceptable state historical revisionism.