Ukraine, Jews, Nazis and WWII

I hope this article is hooey cooked up by the Russians.
As far as I know, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency is reputable. According to this article, the Nazis were able to convince some Ukrainians during WWII that Jews were just as nasty as Russians, and should be treated accordingly. Again, according to the article, some Ukrainians helped the Nazis terrorize, beat and murder Jews. If true, this might make your basic Russian news reading Russian more ready to believe Putin’s lie that the Ukrainians are a bunch of Nazis.
I do hope that I am mistaken.

Well, Ukrainians voluntarily elected a Jewish president, by a substantial margin (73% of the vote, says Wikipedia). There may well be some misguided types who bought into that WWII propaganda, but they’re probably not a large chunk of the population (and that generation’s getting a bit old to cause trouble, I would expect).

And France was absolutely terrible towards Jewish people back then and in WWII.
And remember all those many many Russian pogroms against the Jews?
And etc.
Hell, the US wasn’t too great to Jewish People either.

Even if the article is 100% true, what does it mean compared to their record today with their Democratically elected Jewish President.

This is just pure garbage.

I’m wondering, though, if Russians would buy it, and think there are a bunch of Nazis running Ukraine.

The Russians seem to be buying a lot of bullshit. It is almost like they are listening to a Putin controlled media for most of their news.

Like Faux News x10.

This is why I am so fatigued of the term nazi. When a Jewish president-led country can be invaded in an act of “de-nazification,” we’ve gone horseshoe-theory.

The term nazi should have been retired a while ago except for occasions where it actually applied.

Do people waving swastika flags a trump rallies count? because it should.

“Antisemetic” doesn’t have the same connotation as “Nazi”. I think if they are waving swastikas around, they consider themselves to be Nazis.

Perhaps, but not very high.

I think there’s a big misconception about how some Russian misinformation works. Often, some real information is the foundation for a lie that is then built upon that information. It’s very effective because, like you, OP, people feel the need to decide between there being any factual accuracy to the claims, or the whole thing being invented propaganda.

In other words, the reason that Putin said he was trying to “deNazify” Ukraine was specifically because there is a problem and some history with anti-Semitism and Nazism in Ukraine. The problem isn’t that anyone who believes that that’s true has been tricked by Putin, the problem is that this is all just a fig leaf for Putin to pretend he can justify war crimes.

It’s like if someone declared war on the US and decided to claim they were doing it over white supremacy or black voter disenfranchisement. You wouldn’t want to say “oh geez, I guess racism isn’t real since Putin said it is,” you would just say yes, it’s true that exists, but also don’t do war crimes. The reason they would pick those things is specifically because there’s some degree of legitimacy to the existence of the problem.

According to actual Ukrainian Jews (i.e. those born and raised in Ukraine but who have emigrated to the US) that I’ve spoken to about this, it’s still the case today that Ukraine is a pretty anti-semitic society, for more so than Russia, and is pretty xenophobic in general.

I asked about Zelensky being Jewish, and was told that his Jewish identity is pretty muted in Ukraine. (It should also be noted that Barack Obama is black but his election did not prove to a lot of people that the US does not have systemic racism, and his ethnicity is a lot more apparent than Zelensky’s.)

Of course, none of this means that the reason for the Russian invasion has anything to do with Ukrainian anti-semitism, which it obviously does not. Though it is possible that Ukrainian anti-Russian sentiment may play a small part.

After the fall of the Russian Empire in 17-18, Ukraine (as the Baltic States) was occupied by the German Army.
And after 11/11/18 they were granted/took opportunity of independence (as Finland) with many men that were prisoners in Germany or ex-Russians returning to their land. And they were independent until in 20-22 when he Red Army came blazing from the East. The Baltics and Finland managed to stay independent, but Ukraine was taken in the West by Poland and in the East by USSR. The Polono-russian war ended in a draw and USSR did not expand further west. The Ukrainians were not pleased and in 32-33 Staline orchestrated/amplified a famine that killed 4 million Ukrainians. the official version was that" the Jews did it", so when Germany came back in 41; a lot of Ukrainians were on their side: anti-Jew, anti-communist and anti-Russian.
Yes, there as been pogroms in which locals participated alongside the Wehrmacht. That didn’t last long, since the Nazis were rough, killing, displacing or pillaging. That created a strong resistance movement, which continued after the war until 1954 (the UPA, that was also antisemitic and anti-polish). The Germans tried also to use (in 1943) an army Vlassov with former general but with little effect.
Recently, in the Maidan protests, there has been some neonazis with assorted flags, but they are a minority.
All in all, the whole “denazifying Ukraine” appeals to the fear and memories of the Russians, but is not grounded in reality.

So the point in OP’s article is a bit pedantic IMO. Yes the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 does not look like exactly like the 1941 German invasion of Ukraine. There are not literal Einsatzgruppen following right behind the front line Russian troops to immediately commit genocide either by themselves or with the help of anti-Semitic locals.

But in that respect the invasion of the USSR was different to other Nazi invasions, the invasions of France, Holland, etc. did not look like that, there was not an immediate organized genocide (though plenty of mass murder and war crimes) but they still led directly to genocide. The aggressive unjustified invasion of a neighboring country, as well as being a war crime in and of itself, the was the direct precursor to genocide.

My mother’s parents came from small towns outside of L’viv (at the time Lemberg in Austro-Hungary). This was before WWI. Any family who didn’t get out were vaporized by Nazi collaborating Poles and Ukrainians. Their possessions and homes were taken. They pulled the headstones out of the cemetery to make into gravel. It’s now a potato farm. The synagogue was taken over by someone and when my mom went there fifteen years ago it was a sausage factory. The second floor was used for storage. One of the storage rooms was the children’s school room. You could still see the peeling paint with the “ABCs” (actually Hebrew letters, of course) and animal cartoons.

None of this has anything to do with today.

It wasn’t just “the official version”, since a lot of leading communists were Jews, and Lazar Kaganovitch in particular played a leading role in organizing the Holodomor.

Similarly, the Chmelnitsky massacre of tens of thousands of Jews (possibly 1/3 of all Jews in Ukraine at the time) were due to Jews being identified as agents of the (absentee) Polish landlords.

But all those are just reasons.

Warning: 20 year old third hand anecdote follows. Raise skepticism and relevance shield accordingly.

My former roommate was a peace core volunteer in the Donetsk region of Ukraine in the early 2000’s, and he says that there was definitely a large amount of antisemitism particularly among the older generation. He was told by one of this fellow Peace Core volunteers who happened to be Jewish about an encounter he had where upon learning this asked her whether he could feel her horns. Not with any particular animosity but out or general anatomical curiosity.

But as Jimmy_Chitwood said the existence of antisemitism in some Ukrainians is not sufficient justification for Russia’s aggressive action especially given that antisemitism is also pretty darn endemic in Russia as well.

So I guess my main problem with the article in OP is this…

Yeah, comparing your situation to Nazi invasion and genocide if you are, say, complaining about having wear a mask to the store, is completely unacceptable and utter bullshit.

On the other hand, comparing your situation to Nazi invasion and genocide when you are the head of state of a country that’s just been the victim of a unjustified war of conquest by a powerful militaristic neighbor, that’s seen thousands of innocent civilians killed. That’s not completely ridiculous, even if the exact circumstances of the invasion don’t exactly match the circumstances of the last time your country was invaded by Nazis.

Russia could pull the “denazification” ruse in invading other countries in the region (Poland, Lithuania etc.) that have seen vicious anti-Semitism.

Employing such tactics requires major amnesia on the part of Russians toward their country’s own odorous history in that regard.

All my grandparents and all my wife’s grandparents are from various places in Eastern Europe including Ukraine, Poland, and Russia. And they all had regular pogroms, generally incited by the governments, or else they looked away. That’s all these grandparents left for the US (New York and Philly) long before WWI, let alone WWII. And all these countries, and the Baltic states were happy to collaborate with the Nazis to kill Jews (and steal their properties). But that was then. I am sure there is plenty of anti-semitism left, although it may well be worse in Russia where Jews are banned from the best universities. But to call them Nazis is to go well beyond what there is an evidence of.

I think it’s fair to say that none of the Eastern European nations exactly covered themselves in glory with regard to collaborating with the Holocaust, and all of them have long traditions of violent anti-Semitism.

I don’t think it would be fair to say that the Ukrainians were particularly worse than the Poles or Russians, and certainly it’s nonsense to imply that that history has anything to do with the present war.