The last week’s Auschwitz ceremony marking 70 years since the notorious death camp’s liberation had a huge turnout. Three hundred survivors of the camp attended. Given the age of Holocaust survivors, the importance of passing their story on to new generations has never been greater.
Comparing politicians to Hitler or countries to nazi Germany has become a commonplace insult. But the unspeakable horrors unleashed by history’s most vicious regime bear no comparison.
The Holocaust marked a systematic effort to exterminate entire ethnic groups — most prominently the Jews but also the Roma and Sinti — alongside the slaughter of homosexuals and the disabled. Millions of prisoners of war from the Soviet Union, Polish civilians and political and religious opponents of the Nazis including communists, trade unionists, Freemasons and Jehovah’s Witnesses were also exterminated.
The world anti-fascist war which defeated the Nazis resulted in efforts to ensure such atrocities would never happen again.
But the collapse of the Soviet Union — which played by far the greatest part in defeating the fascist menace, as well as being the liberator of Auschwitz — has seen a deliberate attempt to rewrite history.
The European Parliament sponsors a Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, a pernicious attempt to equate communism with fascism.
As Russian communist Il Melnikov said yesterday, virulently anti-Russian regimes in the Baltic states openly celebrate Waffen SS veterans.
Monuments to the Red Army soldiers who, in Winston Churchill’s words, “tore the guts out of the Nazi war machine” have been torn down and broken up in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and, since the fascist-backed coup of February last year, in Ukraine.
Ukraine has seen the worst of the resurgence of fascism. New Year’s Day in Kiev saw rank upon rank of torch-bearing neo-Nazi thugs march in honour of Stepan Bandera, who murdered thousands of Ukrainian Jews and Poles during the second world war.
Far-right groups Right Sector and Svoboda do not even bother to hide their racism — but as allies of the pro-EU regime in the country are politely ignored by Western governments, deemed useful for crushing the anti-fascist resistance in the east which hampers attempts to bring Ukraine into the Nato military alliance.
That context explains Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s bizarre comments – during his recent visit to Germany – about the Soviets attacking Germany in the second world war, and the Polish foreign minister’s reluctance to acknowledge Russia’s role.
Anyone who dared to acknowledge the historical reality would have no choice but to disown the Kiev regime. The shameful and highly disturbing failure to invite Russia’s president was part and parcel of the same narrative that paints the Soviets out of the picture.
That is no comment on President Putin himself, a right-wing and authoritarian leader who presides over a corrupt neoliberal state. But freezing out the Russians indicates a further step away from the global anti-fascist unity established during World War II.
There are few signs that the lessons of that war have been learnt in the West. The United Nations, originally designed to prevent the world from sliding into war again, is increasingly sidelined as Washington, London and Paris ignore a body which cannot be relied on to approve the invasions and bombing sprees that are now a routine tool of Western foreign policy.
As war rather than peace is increasingly seen as the natural state of things, as violence, hate crimes and racism are again on the rise, we should use the anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation to remember where they lead.
MD Editorial Board
Polishing – Yes, but refurbishing – No!
The latest remarks of the Polish Foreign Minister, Grzegorz Schetyna, and the broader agenda they are part of – has invited international ridicule of his own by saying on Polish radio that it was Ukrainians, rather than the Russian Soviet Red Army, which liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp at the end of World War Two. However, this statement was not made by accident. His listeners were expected to draw a conclusion from it.
The Polish Foreign Minister’s remarks could not have been more ill-timed, against the backdrop of the carnage being carried out by Kiev in the East of its own country and its own people, which is turning the US-inspired local conflict into an effective proxy war between the US and Russia.
Russia has rightly accused Poland of engaging in a “mockery of history” to support the official US and NATO line on Ukraine. As UK-based journalist and writer Neil Clark recently said: “The fact of the matter is that it was the Soviet Red Army which liberated that appalling camp Auschwitz…Yet now in 2015 we are rewriting history to write out the role of the Red Army liberating Auschwitz for political purposes.”
All this was famously foreseen by George Orwell, who wrote: “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history” and “indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing off of one part of the world from another, which makes it more difficult to discover what is actually happening …facts will be so dishonestly set forth in that the ordinary reader can be forgiven either for swallowing lies or for failing to form an opinion.”
By kindness of the UK Morning Star Editor