I would like to use this occasion to express our support for the successful OSCE conference on anti-Semitism in the OSCE area, which was held in Rome on January 29. We are grateful to Mr Michele Galizia (Switzerland) for the report he has delivered on behalf of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which is currently chaired by Switzerland.
The Red Army liberated the Auschwitz (Oswiecim) death camp 73 years ago. In 2005, the UN officially proclaimed January 27 International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. I would like to mention that on January 27 we also marked the 74th anniversary of the lifting of the Nazi siege of Leningrad. This was yet another act of heroism by Soviet soldiers that we will never forget.
On January 27, 1945, the Soviet Army liberated one of the death camps where some 4 million people, including 1 million Jews, were systematically exterminated. Overall, there are over 6 million Holocaust victims. Honouring the memory of those terrible events is a national priority for the people of Russia, as well as for the other people of the multinational Soviet Union, which lost over 26 million lives fighting for victory in the Second World War.
Jews themselves made an invaluable contribution to victory over Nazism. Over half a million Jews fought for the Red Army, and more than 40,000 Jews joined the ranks of Soviet partisans. I would like to tell you about the heroic feat of Lieutenant Alexander Pechersky, who organised an uprising in the Sobibor death camp on October 14, 1943. It was the only successful uprising of prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp in the history of World War II. This year, we will mark the 75th anniversary of that event. Russia will continue working to ensure that its historical right to contribute to the renovation of the museum that was built in place of the concentration camp be respected.
A Commemoration Week for Holocaust Victims is held in Russia every year within the framework of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. One of the week’s events this year was the Yellow Stars concert organised by the Russian Jewish Congress with the support of the Moscow City government and Israel’s Nativ Liaison Bureau. The revenue will be invested in the Restoring Dignity project, under which 26 monuments to Holocaust victims are to be unveiled in Russia in 2018. The cornerstone for the first monument, which will commemorate resistance fighters in Nazi camps and ghettos, was laid by Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar on January 29.
The Holocaust: Devastation, Liberation, Salvation historical exhibition, which was recently presented at the UN Headquarters in New York by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, opened at the Federation Council.
The event high point was a Moscow visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during Holocaust commemoration week on January 29. The leaders of Russia and Israel visited the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre and toured the exhibition, Sobibor: Those Who Defeated Death. Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu also attended the first screening of the Russian war drama film Sobibor. The Israeli Prime Minister said that “Jewish life in Russia is thriving, largely owing to the support of the authorities and your personal support.”
I would like to point out that Israel’s Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora said in the anti-Semitism report for 2017 that last year “saw a continuation of the downward trend in the number of anti-Semitic attacks recorded in Russia.” Also, I would like to quote President of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder, who said three days ago at the Rome International Conference on the Responsibility of States, Institutions and Individuals in the Fight against Anti-Semitism in the OSCE Area that Russia is one of the safest places for Jewish people, and thanked Vladimir Putin for this.
We must always prevent a repetition of crimes like the Holocaust. Attempts to rewrite the history of World War II, to justify the crimes committed by the Nazis and their collaborators and to equalise the rights of victims and executioners are opening the door to a revival of a deadly ideology. A creeping rehabilitation of Nazism is underway in some OSCE countries. These activities challenge the post-war security architecture, which is based on the UN Charter, the decisions taken at the Nuremberg Trials and other inviolable international legal documents. Of special concern is the situation in Ukraine, where we again see the flags of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which were involved in the violent executions of Jews and people from other ethnic groups, including the gruesome Volhynia Massacre. Their criminal leaders – Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevich – are hailed as national heroes, along with members of the volunteer punitive division Waffen SS Galicia.
The cynical law on the status of World War II participants has become effective in Latvia, where marches of the Latvian Legion, part of the Waffen SS, are held every year.
Monuments to SS men have been opened and meetings of Waffen SS veterans and their followers are held annually in Estonia.
Monuments to the Red Army soldiers who died to put an end to the Holocaust have been dismantled or vandalised in Poland.
All this is a disgrace to the memory of the millions of victims of Nazism and fascism. President of the European Jewish Congress Moshe Kantor spoke about the rise of Nazism in EU countries in his speech at the annual ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the European Parliament on January 25.
Russia submits a resolution on combatting the glorification of Nazism to the UN General Assembly every year. The number of this resolution’s co-authors continues to grow. In 2017, only two countries, the Unites States and Ukraine, citing far-fetched pretexts, voted against a resolution that condemned the murderers of Jews and other ethnic groups. This reveals the true essence of Washington and Kiev’s policies.
It is our sacred duty not only to commemorate innocent victims but also to do our utmost to prevent a repetition of such tragedies.