Puttin and the Bloodlands

Russian President Vladimir Puttin spoke at the Yad VaShem commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a date adopted by the UN as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In his speech he remarked that over 40% of the Jews killed during the Shoah were Russian citizens. I beg to differ with him in so many ways that I will have to go one-by-one...

FIRST: The assertion of 40% of the victims being Russian Citizens is not just historical revisionism... it is plainly wrong. The consensus among Holocaust Historians is that about 17% of the victims were from the Soviet Union, and this includes Ukranians and Bielorrusians as well...

SECOND: He claimed the Red Army liberated Auschwitz. This is correct.

THIRD: Russia pushed for January 27 to be adopted as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005 as opposed to Yom HaShoah. The differences are many... Yom HaShoah commemorates a specifically Jewish event during the Holocaust: The Warsaw Ghetto Rebellion; and the adoption of Yom HaShoah has strong Zionist undertones because of the way that rebellion has been woven into the psychy of Israelis. This is also why many |Jewish Orthodox groups which take an anti Zionist stand, commemorate the Shoah on the 9 of Av. The reason Russia pushed for Jan 27 was obviously their role in liberating Auschwitz, but also to convince the Arab countries to support the initiative and to make room for the recognition of the non Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

FOURTH: Puttin conveniently ignored Stalin's role in the extermination of the Jews and other victims. In a book by historian Timothy Snyder entitled "The Bloodlands: Between Hitler and Stalin", the author describes how Soviet policies over the decade preceding the Nazi occupation of Soviet territory, provoked starvation and mass displacements of population in the area that comprises today Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova - and that area comprises almost all of the Pale of Settlement where Jews used to live. Soviet policies took away food from those territories to send it to Russia proper in order to support the fiction that the Quinquenal Economic Plans of the Soviet State were actually working.

FIFTH: Puttin is now engage in a "memory war" with Poland about who owns the suffering of World War II. Poland insists that most of the victims were Polish, so Puttin counters that 40% of the victims were Russians... both ignore the fact that most of the people they now claim as their own were indeed Jews and that the local population often played a role in helping the Nazis (with the exception of course of those who helped the Jews - unfortunately a small minority)

What all this brings to my attention is how as the living witnesses (survivors and liberators) pass away, the Historical record is increasingly subject to reinterpretation. It reminds me of how the pre-Jesus Jewish history was appropriated by the Church and the pre-Muslim Jewish history appropriated by some Muslim groups. Can the same happen with the Holocaust? Can the 3,000,000 Polish Jews exterminated by the Nazis eventually become "Polish citizens" and their Jewish identity made irrelevant? It is not as farfetched as it sounds. In a recent poll, 40 % of American Adults did not know how many Jews were killed in World War II and 32 % were not sure what the Holocaust was. With this kind of waning memory, present-day Goebbles will have no probloem rewriting history...


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