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FTR #985 Fascism: 2017 European Tour, Part 2

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This broad­cast was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Cas­a­Pound sup­port­er

Intro­duc­tion: Focus­ing on bur­geon­ing fas­cism in Europe, this pro­gram con­cen­trates pri­mar­i­ly on East­ern Europe. Mobi­liz­ing grass roots sup­port from eco­nom­i­cal­ly dis­ad­van­taged cit­i­zens suf­fer­ing the effects of aus­ter­i­ty, many ascend­ing fas­cist move­ments share xeno­pho­bic, anti-immi­grant/an­ti-Mus­lim sen­ti­ment. These ide­o­log­i­cal tenets are com­mon to sup­port­ers of Team Trump in the U.S.

  1. Begin­ning our tour in Poland, we note alarm­ing signs of that coun­try descend­ing into fas­cism, with anti-immi­grant, anti-Mus­lim xeno­pho­bia on the ide­o­log­i­cal front burn­er of the iron­i­cal­ly named Law and Jus­tice Par­ty: ” . . . . Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple — many of them young men with crew cuts, but some par­ents with chil­dren, too — flocked to the Pol­ish cap­i­tal to cel­e­brate Inde­pen­dence Day in a march orga­nized in part by two neo-fas­cist orga­ni­za­tionsThey waved white and red Pol­ish flags, they bran­dished burn­ing torch­es, and they wore “white pow­er” sym­bols. They car­ried ban­ners declar­ing, ‘Death to ene­mies of the home­land,’ and screamed, ‘Sieg Heil!’ and ‘Ku Klux Klan!’ . . . .”
  2. The treat­ment accord­ed female counter-demon­stra­tors exem­pli­fies the nature of the ral­ly: ” . . . . A dozen incred­i­bly coura­geous women showed up to protest the march. After mix­ing with the marchers, they unrav­eled a long strip of cloth embla­zoned with ‘Stop Fas­cism.’ They were imme­di­ate­ly attacked. Their ban­ner was ripped apart. Marchers pushed some of the women to the ground and kicked oth­ers. . . .”
  3. At an insti­tu­tion­al lev­el, the Law and Jus­tice Par­ty is imple­ment­ing an Orwellian mock­ery of its name: ” . . . Ever since the Law and Jus­tice Par­ty won both the pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in 2015, Poland has been under­go­ing a dis­turb­ing polit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion. Law and Jus­tice is an Orwellian name for a par­ty that con­stant­ly vio­lates the law, breaks con­sti­tu­tion­al pro­vi­sions and is hell­bent on sub­ject­ing the courts to its con­trol. The par­ty is dis­man­tling the insti­tu­tion­al frame­work of par­lia­men­tary democ­ra­cy piece by piece in order to remove any restraints on the per­son­al pow­er of its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczyn­s­ki. ‘Prezes,’ the Boss, peo­ple call him. . . .”
  4. The xeno­pho­bia uti­lized by the Law and Jus­tice Par­ty is a com­mon ele­ment in Euro­pean and Amer­i­can fas­cist move­ments: ” . . . . Two years ago, the par­ty bet that latch­ing onto the refugee cri­sis in Europe would give it pur­chase on the votes nec­es­sary to win. Its cal­cu­la­tion proved entire­ly cor­rect. One of the first insti­tu­tions the par­ty hijacked was pub­lic tele­vi­sion. Law and Jus­tice has turned it into Fox News on steroids, paid for by the tax­pay­ers. It feeds view­ers non­stop pro­pa­gan­da about the mount­ing threat to Poland’s sov­er­eign­ty from the Euro­pean Union, specif­i­cal­ly in the form of Mus­lim refugees. Those refugees present a threat to our way of life, the gov­ern­ment and the press insist. They will assault our women, they say, and they are car­ry­ing infec­tious dis­eases to boot. A year ago, a quar­ter of Poles opposed accept­ing any­one flee­ing the rav­ages of war in the Mid­dle East; after months of relent­less pro­pa­gan­da, 75 per­cent are now opposed. This year the coun­try has let in only 1,474 asy­lum seek­ers, near­ly all of them from Rus­sia or Ukraine. . . .”
  5. In Italy, Cas­a­Pound reca­pit­u­lates Italy’s fas­cist past, in res­o­nance with anti-immi­grant xeno­pho­bia exhib­it­ed by oth­er neo-fas­cist par­ties: ” . . . . But Cas­a­Pound is win­ning seats in a hand­ful of towns, and some of its core beliefs — a fond­ness for Rus­sia and sharp oppo­si­tion to the Euro­pean Union, glob­al­iza­tion and immi­gra­tion, which it believes sul­ly the nation­al iden­ti­ty and econ­o­my — are increas­ing­ly spread­ing through­out Italy. In Sici­ly, the new head­quar­ters of Broth­ers of Italy, a descen­dant of the post-fas­cist Ital­ian Social Move­ment, had the phrase ‘Ital­ians first’ writ­ten on the wall dur­ing its recent inau­gu­ra­tion. Anti-immi­gra­tion sen­ti­ment has grown so pop­u­lar that the once-seces­sion­ist North­ern League has dropped the word ‘North­ern’ from its name as it looks for inroads to the south. . . .”
  6. Much of our tour is in Ukraine, where the OUN/B fas­cists are rewrit­ing his­to­ry. The Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­ory, head­ed by Volodomyr Via­tro­vych, is stand­ing Ukrain­ian World War II his­to­ry on its head. ” . . . .The Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry (UINP) and its patrons in the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment in Kyiv are allow­ing us to study the process of nation­al­ist myth-mak­ing in real-time. Pres­i­dent Poroshenko has enabled nation­al­ist activists like Volodymyr Via­tro­vych, head of the Insti­tute, to sculpt Ukraine’s his­to­ry and mem­o­ry poli­cies. Part and par­cel of the Institute’s ‘decom­mu­niza­tion’ cam­paign to remove rem­nants of a Sovi­et past simul­ta­ne­ous­ly has been to lion­ize 20th cen­tu­ry Ukraini­ans who fought for Ukraine’s inde­pen­dence no mat­ter how prob­lem­at­ic their prob­lem­at­ic. In par­tic­u­lar, the Via­tro­vych and the Insti­tute have made white­wash­ing the image of World War Two Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists a pri­or­i­ty, not a small feat con­sid­er­ing their doc­u­ment­ed ties to, and com­plic­i­ty with, the Nazis. This nation­al­ist revi­sion­ism seeks to show that the main wartime nation­al­ist orga­ni­za­tions, the Orga­ni­za­tion of Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists (OUN) and its mil­i­tary wing, the Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army (UPA), were ulti­mate­ly mul­ti-eth­nic, ‘mul­ti-cul­tur­al,’ and demo­c­ra­t­ic. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, the nation­al­ists’ rela­tion­ship with Ukraine’s Jews has proved the biggest chal­lenge to this rein­ven­tion of Holo­caust co-per­pe­tra­tors and eth­nic cleansers as tol­er­ant inter­na­tion­al­ists. . . .”
  7. Via­tro­vych and his Insti­tute are mar­ket­ing a “pet Jew” to prove the open-mind­ed, polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect­ness of the UPA and the OUN/B: ” . . . . Much Ukrain­ian media ink has been spilled in recent years glo­ri­fy­ing the role of one Jew, who served with the nation­al­ists. His sto­ry encap­su­lates Ukraine’s war on mem­o­ry, and its eager attempts to write out anti-Semi­tism from its wartime his­to­ry. Lei­ba-Itsko Iosi­fovich Dobrovskii has been tout­ed as a Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist who also hap­pened to be Jew­ish. That was to make the point that Ukrain­ian nation­al­ism and Jew­ish­ness were not mutu­al­ly exclu­sive. These days, we’d call the re-engi­neer­ing of facts about Dobrovskii a fake news sto­ry. But it is instruc­tive to trace its ori­gins. . . .”
  8. Via­tro­vy­ch’s UPA “pet Jew” has an inter­est­ing polit­i­cal gen­e­sis: ” . . . .The leg­end of Lei­ba Dobrovskii, Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist Jew, orig­i­nat­ed not in World War Two but the mid-2000s, when he was first briefly men­tioned in a book in 2006 by his­to­ri­an and activist Volodymyr Via­tro­vych. Via­tro­vych made ref­er­ence to a “Jew” in the UPA, who helped write leaflets for the UPA in 1942 and 1943 and even­tu­al­ly was arrest­ed by the Sovi­ets. In 2008 the Dobrovskii leg­end grew, thanks to the exhi­bi­tion ‘Jews in the Ukrain­ian Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment,’ staged by the Ukrain­ian Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice and the Insti­tute for Nation­al Mem­o­ry with the assis­tance of Via­tro­vych. Draw­ing on Dobrovskii’s arrest file in the archives of the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice, the exhi­bi­tion high­light­ed his line-up pic­ture and alleged role in the UPA, while notably offer­ing no more details. . . . ”
  9. The myth of the UPA’s Pet Jew has been ampli­fied by the inter­na­tion­al media. ” . . . .  At this point, the myth of Jews hap­pi­ly serv­ing with Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists in WW2 began to be report­ed in pres­ti­gious out­lets like BBC Ukraine. After the Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion of 2014, and Viatrovych’s fur­ther rise with­in the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment, the Dobrovskii leg­end flour­ished. . . .”
  10. The truth about Dubrovskii dif­fers from the Via­tro­vych nar­ra­tive: . . . .As a Red Army sol­dier, he was cap­tured in 1941 and changed his name to Leonid Dubrovskii to appear Ukrain­ian. In this guise, he got out of cap­tiv­i­ty and went to north-west­ern Ukraine, where he acci­dent­ly met local Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists con­nect­ed to the local col­lab­o­ra­tionist police and admin­is­tra­tion, includ­ing the local may­or and lat­er UPA mem­ber, Myko­la Kryzhanovskii. Note­wor­thy is that Kryzhanovskii was well-known for his bru­tal­i­ty towards Jews. Not sus­pect­ing that Dobrovskii was Jew­ish and appre­ci­at­ing his edu­ca­tion, the nation­al­ists recruit­ed him to pro­duce pro­pa­gan­da. In con­trast to the shiny new nation­al­ist leg­end, Dobrovskii actu­al­ly con­cealed his Jew­ish­ness to his nation­al­ist ‘com­pa­tri­ots’ and was no enthu­si­as­tic sup­port­er of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ism. In fact, he was scared that they would find out who he real­ly was. . . .”
  11. The UPA’s Pet Jew had some inter­est­ing obser­va­tions about the nature of the orga­ni­za­tion: “. . . . Dobrovskii had well-found­ed rea­sons for his reluc­tance and fear. He felt that Ukraine’s nation­al­ists, who delib­er­ate­ly helped staff local police forces under the Ger­man Nazi forces, were com­plic­it in the geno­cide of the Jews. In 1943, he not­ed, nation­al­ist detach­ments ‘car­ried out the mass mur­der of the Pol­ish pop­u­la­tion’ in west­ern Ukraine. He described the rad­i­cal­iz­ing influ­ence of West Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists on Ukrain­ian youth and observed that they spread ‘enmi­ty toward Jews, Rus­sians and Poles.’ He also observed nation­al­ist vio­lence and ‘ter­ror’ against Ukraini­ans, includ­ing the mur­der of two church lead­ers by UPA. He did not even believe in the nation­al­ist claims that they were fight­ing the Ger­mans, remark­ing that they “did not kill a sin­gle local Ger­man [Nazi] leader in the area” of Vol­hy­nia. . . .”
  12. Whole­sale sup­port for Via­tro­vy­ch’s Orwellian re-write of Ukrain­ian his­to­ry has come from Poroshenko gov­ern­ment: “. . . . The con­tro­ver­sy cen­ters on a telling of World War II his­to­ry that ampli­fies Sovi­et crimes and glo­ri­fies Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist fight­ers while dis­miss­ing the vital part they played in eth­nic cleans­ing of Poles and Jews from 1941 to 1945 after the Nazi inva­sion of the for­mer Sovi­et Union. . . . And more point­ed­ly, schol­ars now fear that they risk reprisal for not toe­ing the offi­cial line — or call­ing Via­tro­vych on his his­tor­i­cal dis­tor­tions. Under Viatrovych’s reign, the coun­try could be head­ed for a new, and fright­en­ing, era of cen­sor­ship. . . .
  13. More about Via­tro­vy­ch’s his­tor­i­cal pro­pa­gan­da: “. . . . To that effect, Via­tro­vych has dis­missed his­tor­i­cal events not com­port­ing with this nar­ra­tive as ‘Sovi­et pro­pa­gan­da.’ [This is true of infor­ma­tion pre­sent­ed by any­one that tells the truth about the OUN/B heirs now in pow­er in Ukraine–they are dis­missed as ‘Russ­ian dupes’ or “tools of the Krem­lin’ etc.–D.E.] In his 2006 book, The OUN’s Posi­tion Towards the Jews: For­mu­la­tion of a posi­tion against the back­drop of a cat­a­stro­phe, he attempt­ed to exon­er­ate the OUN from its col­lab­o­ra­tion in the Holo­caust by ignor­ing the over­whelm­ing mass of his­tor­i­cal lit­er­a­ture. . . .”
  14. The Pol­ish fas­cists described above have remained silent about Via­tro­vy­ch’s aca­d­e­m­ic coverup of the Ukrain­ian fas­cists’ exter­mi­na­tion of eth­nic Poles dur­ing World War 2: “. . . . UPA supreme com­man­der Dmytro Kliachkivs’kyi explic­it­ly stat­ed: ‘We should car­ry out a large-scale liq­ui­da­tion action against Pol­ish ele­ments. Dur­ing the evac­u­a­tion of the Ger­man Army, we should find an appro­pri­ate moment to liq­ui­date the entire male pop­u­la­tion between 16 and 60 years old.’ Giv­en that over 70 per­cent of the lead­ing UPA cadres pos­sessed a back­ground as Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors, none of this is sur­pris­ing. . . .”
  15. Ukraine’s Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion is echo­ing and ampli­fy­ing Via­tro­vy­ch’s nar­ra­tive: “. . . . Sev­en­ty his­to­ri­ans signed an open let­ter to Poroshenko ask­ing him to veto the draft law that bans crit­i­cism of the OUN-UPA. . . . After the open let­ter was pub­lished, the legislation’s spon­sor, Yuri Shukhevych, react­ed furi­ous­ly. Shukhevych, the son of UPA leader Roman Shukhevych and a long­time far-right polit­i­cal activist him­self, fired off a let­ter to Min­is­ter of Edu­ca­tion Ser­hiy Kvit claim­ing, ‘Russ­ian spe­cial ser­vices’ pro­duced the let­ter and demand­ed that ‘patri­ot­ic’ his­to­ri­ans rebuff it. Kvit, also a long­time far-right activist and author of an admir­ing biog­ra­phy one of the key the­o­reti­cians of Ukrain­ian eth­nic nation­al­ism, in turn omi­nous­ly high­light­ed the sig­na­to­ries of Ukrain­ian his­to­ri­ans on his copy of the let­ter. . . .”
  16. More about Min­is­ter of Edu­ca­tion Kvit, and Via­tro­vych: “. . . . Last June, Kvit’s Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion issued a direc­tive to teach­ers regard­ing the ‘neces­si­ty to accen­tu­ate the patri­o­tism and moral­i­ty of the activists of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment,’ includ­ing depict­ing the UPA as a ‘sym­bol of patri­o­tism and sac­ri­fi­cial spir­it in the strug­gle for an inde­pen­dent Ukraine’ and Ban­dera as an ‘out­stand­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive’ of the Ukrain­ian peo­ple.’ More recent­ly, Viatrovych’s Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry pro­posed that the city of Kiev rename two streets after Ban­dera and the for­mer supreme com­man­der of both the UPA and the Nazi-super­vised Schutz­mannschaft Roman Shukhevych. . . .”
  17. In keep­ing with the re-writ­ing of Ukraine’s wartime his­to­ry, the city of Lvov [Lviv or Lem­berg, when it was part of Poland] has estab­lished a fes­ti­val in hon­or of Roman Shukhevych, the head of the Ein­satz­gruppe Nachti­gall or Nightin­gale Bat­tal­ion, on the anniver­sary of the begin­ning of a pogrom that he led. More about this pogrom:
  18. “The Ukrain­ian city of Lviv will hold a fes­ti­val cel­e­brat­ing a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor on the anniver­sary of a major pogrom against the city’s Jews. . . . On June 30, 1941, Ukrain­ian troops, includ­ing mili­ti­a­men loy­al to Shukhevych’s, began a series of pogroms against Jews, which they per­pe­trat­ed under the aus­pices of the Ger­man army, accord­ing to Yale Uni­ver­si­ty his­to­ry pro­fes­sor Tim­o­thy Sny­der and oth­er schol­ars. They mur­dered approx­i­mate­ly 6,000 Jews in those pogroms. . . .”
  19. The Ein­satz­gruppe Nachti­gall was an SS exter­mi­na­tion unit. “. . . . In 1959 [SS offi­cer Theodor] Ober­laen­der was the cen­ter of a storm that final­ly forced his res­ig­na­tion in May 1960. He was blamed for the mass mur­der of thou­sands of Jews and Pol­ish intel­lec­tu­als who had been liq­ui­dat­ed in July 1941 when a spe­cial SS task force under his com­mand occu­pied the Pol­ish city of Lem­berg (Lvov). . . . As briefly men­tioned in a pre­vi­ous chap­ter, Min­is­ter Ober­laen­der is accused of hav­ing been involved in the so-called “Lem­berg mas­sacre,” in which sev­er­al thou­sand Poles and more than 5,000 Jews were slaugh­tered. Dr. Ober­laen­der does not deny a] that he was the com­mand­ing offi­cer of a spe­cial SS task force, the Nightin­gale Bat­tal­ion, made up of nation­al­ist Ukraini­ans; and b] that this bat­tal­ion was the first Ger­man unit to move into the Pol­ish city of Lem­berg on June 29, 1941, where it remained for six or sev­en days. . . .”
  20. The offi­cial found­ing of the UPA (Octo­ber 14)–the group whose troops com­prised the Ein­satz­gruppe Nachtigall–is now a nation­al holdiay Ukraine: ” . . . . Thou­sands of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists have marched through the cap­i­tal, Kyiv, to mark the 75th anniver­sary of the cre­ation of the con­tro­ver­sial Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army (UPA). March orga­niz­ers said as many as 20,000 peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Octo­ber 14 march, which was sup­port­ed by the right-wing Free­dom, Right Sec­tor, and Nation­al Corp polit­i­cal par­ties. . . . Jour­nal­ists report­ed see­ing some marchers giv­ing Nazi salutes. Since 2015, the Octo­ber 14 anniver­sary has been marked as the Defend­er of Ukraine Day pub­lic hol­i­day. . . . .”
  21. We return to the sub­ject of the Lithuan­ian Rifle­man’s Union, who are engag­ing with maneu­vers with sim­i­lar orga­ni­za­tions from Latvia and Lithua­nia.
  22. Review­ing infor­ma­tion about the Lithuan­ian Rifle­men’s Union, we high­light its activ­i­ties as part of the Nazi mil­i­tary effort in the Baltic states, includ­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in admin­is­ter­ing Hitler’s “Final Solu­tion.”
  23. Rem­i­nis­cent of the Nazi “pun­ish­er bat­tal­ions,” the Lithuan­ian Rifle­man’s Union–a fas­cist militia–has been expand­ed to meet the so-called “Russ­ian threat.” Like the OUN/B’s mil­i­tary wing–the UPA–the Lithuan­ian Rifle­man’s Union con­tin­ued the com­bat of World War II until the ear­ly 1950’s. Formed dur­ing the wan­ing days of the Sec­ond World War, they jumped from the Third Reich to the Office of Pol­i­cy Coor­di­na­tion, a CIA/State Depart­ment oper­a­tional direc­torate. (This is cov­ered in FTR #777, as well as AFA #1.)
  24. Review of info­ra­tion from FTR #779, not­ing that Svo­bo­da was net­work­ing with Rober­to Fiore’s Forza Nuo­va.

1a. You know things are get­ting bad when op-ed pieces in The New York Times inveighs against bur­geon­ing fas­cism.

“Poles Cry for ‘Pure Blood’ Again” by Jan T. Gross; The New York Times; 11/17/2017.

If you want a sense of where Poland could be head­ing, look no fur­ther than the events last Sat­ur­day in War­saw. Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple — many of them young men with crew cuts, but some par­ents with chil­dren, too — flocked to the Pol­ish cap­i­tal to cel­e­brate Inde­pen­dence Day in a march orga­nized in part by two neo-fas­cist orga­ni­za­tions.

They waved white and red Pol­ish flags, they bran­dished burn­ing torch­es, and they wore “white pow­er” sym­bols. They car­ried ban­ners declar­ing, “Death to ene­mies of the home­land,” and screamed, “Sieg Heil!” and “Ku Klux Klan!” The offi­cial slo­gan of the march was “We want God” — words from an old hymn that Pres­i­dent Trump quot­ed dur­ing his speech in War­saw in July. A dozen incred­i­bly coura­geous women showed up to protest the march.

After mix­ing with the marchers, they unrav­eled a long strip of cloth embla­zoned with “Stop Fas­cism.” They were imme­di­ate­ly attacked. Their ban­ner was ripped apart. Marchers pushed some of the women to the ground and kicked oth­ers. Were these women exag­ger­at­ing in call­ing the march fas­cist? Or are we in fact wit­ness­ing a resur­gence of fas­cism in Poland? To steal a phrase: I believe the women.

Though the Pol­ish pres­i­dent, Andrzej Duda, con­demned the march, say­ing Poland has no place for “sick nation­al­ism,” the inte­ri­or min­is­ter, Mar­iusz Blaszczak, called it “a beau­ti­ful sight.” He added: “We are proud that so many Poles have decid­ed to take part in a cel­e­bra­tion con­nect­ed to the Inde­pen­dence Day hol­i­day.” Giv­en what tran­spired, this sounds shock­ing. But for those of us who fol­low Pol­ish pol­i­tics, the minister’s take didn’t come as a sur­prise.

Ever since the Law and Jus­tice Par­ty won both the pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in 2015, Poland has been under­go­ing a dis­turb­ing polit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion. Law and Jus­tice is an Orwellian name for a par­ty that con­stant­ly vio­lates the law, breaks con­sti­tu­tion­al pro­vi­sions and is hell­bent on sub­ject­ing the courts to its con­trol. The par­ty is dis­man­tling the insti­tu­tion­al frame­work of par­lia­men­tary democ­ra­cy piece by piece in order to remove any restraints on the per­son­al pow­er of its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczyn­s­ki. “Prezes,” the Boss, peo­ple call him.

Two years ago, the par­ty bet that latch­ing onto the refugee cri­sis in Europe would give it pur­chase on the votes nec­es­sary to win. Its cal­cu­la­tion proved entire­ly cor­rect.

One of the first insti­tu­tions the par­ty hijacked was pub­lic tele­vi­sion. Law and Jus­tice has turned it into Fox News on steroids, paid for by the tax­pay­ers. It feeds view­ers non­stop pro­pa­gan­da about the mount­ing threat to Poland’s sov­er­eign­ty from the Euro­pean Union, specif­i­cal­ly in the form of Mus­lim refugees.

Those refugees present a threat to our way of life, the gov­ern­ment and the press insist. They will assault our women, they say, and they are car­ry­ing infec­tious dis­eases to boot. A year ago, a quar­ter of Poles opposed accept­ing any­one flee­ing the rav­ages of war in the Mid­dle East; after months of relent­less pro­pa­gan­da, 75 per­cent are now opposed. This year the coun­try has let in only 1,474 asy­lum seek­ers, near­ly all of them from Rus­sia or Ukraine.

Yet the marchers in War­saw seem to feel that their coun­try is being over­whelmed. “We don’t want Mus­lims here,” they cried. “No to Islam.” And “refugees get out.”

Until very recent­ly, Poles had nev­er giv­en much thought to Islam beyond occa­sion­al­ly a sense of his­tor­i­cal pride that a Pol­ish king, Jan Sobies­ki, defeat­ed the Turks in a 17th cen­tu­ry bat­tle for Vien­na, thus sav­ing Chris­t­ian Europe from the infi­dels.

This fits a recur­rent theme in Pol­ish nation­al mythol­o­gy: Poland as a ram­part of Chris­tian­i­ty, the Christ of Nations. Poland, accord­ing to this trope, has repeat­ed­ly, and hero­ical­ly, suf­fered for the sake of oth­ers, espe­cial­ly the rest of Chris­t­ian Europe.

While the War­saw demon­stra­tors parad­ed with burn­ing torch­es, Mr. Kaczyn­s­ki gave a speech in Krakow express­ing a new twist on this famil­iar nar­ra­tive: The Poles’ mis­sion now is to save a “sick Europe” from itself. The neo-fas­cist marchers in War­saw sug­gest­ed, as if on cue, how it could be done: “Pure Blood,” read one ban­ner. “White Europe,” anoth­er said.

But most Poles couldn’t tell a Mus­lim or a Bud­dhist from Jesus. Their ani­mus, which car­ries Pol­ish nation­al­ism into such an aggres­sive­ly xeno­pho­bic artic­u­la­tion, springs pri­mar­i­ly from a deep pool of eth­nic-cum-reli­gious hatred, which is indige­nous to Poland and has his­tor­i­cal­ly been aimed at Jews.

Anti-Semi­tism is a deeply entrenched and his­tor­i­cal­ly root­ed ele­ment of this Pol­ish nation­al­ist world­view. It was the ide­o­log­i­cal cor­ner­stone of the pre­war Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Roman Dmows­ki, at whose stat­ue the Inde­pen­dence Day march began this year. A youth orga­ni­za­tion that helped orga­nize the march in War­saw is a descen­dant of a fas­cist off­shoot of the par­ty, whose mem­bers took to the streets in the 1930s to beat Jews and to slash them with razor blades affixed to wood­en canes. Those who marched on Sat­ur­day are the heirs to this vile lega­cy.

Poland’s lead­ers have let an evil genie out of the bot­tle. What we’ve wit­nessed on the streets of War­saw rep­re­sents a threat not only to lib­er­al democ­ra­cy in Poland but also to the sta­bil­i­ty and wel­fare of the Euro­pean Union. Half of the six mil­lion Jew­ish vic­tims of the Holo­caust were Poles. Two mil­lion more Poles were killed dur­ing the Ger­man occu­pa­tion. How many deaths are required for lead­ers to learn that words and ideas can kill?

1b.The demon­stra­tion saw par­tic­i­pa­tion of Euro­pean fas­cists from oth­er coun­tries,  includ­ing Rober­to Fiore of the P‑2 nexus in Italy.

“60,000 Peo­ple Join Far-Right March on Poland’s Inde­pen­dence Day” by Vanes­sa Gera [AP]; Talk­ing Points Memo; 11/11/2017.

. . . . Some par­tic­i­pants expressed sym­pa­thy for xeno­pho­bic or white suprema­cist ideas, with one ban­ner read­ing, “White Europe of broth­er­ly nations.” . . . .

. . . . Some also car­ried ban­ners depict­ing a falan­ga, a far-right sym­bol dat­ing to the 1930s. . . .

. . . . The march has become one of the largest such demon­stra­tion in Europe, and on Sat­ur­day it drew far-right lead­ers from else­where in Europe, includ­ing Tom­my Robin­son from Britain and Rober­to Fiore from Italy. . . .

State broad­cast­er TVP, which reflects the con­ser­v­a­tive government’s line, called it a “great march of patri­ots,” and in its broad­casts described the event as one that drew most­ly reg­u­lar Poles express­ing their love of Polands, not extrem­ists.

“It was a beau­ti­ful sight,” Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Mar­iusz Blaszczak said. “We are proud that so many Poles have decid­ed to take part in a cel­e­bra­tion con­nect­ed to the Inde­pen­dence Day hol­i­day.”

A small­er counter-protest by an anti-fas­cist move­ment also took place. Orga­niz­ers kept the two groups apart to pre­vent vio­lence.

Cas­a­Pound sup­port­er

1c. A news sto­ry in the Times is worth not­ing as well.

Points of inter­est here are:

  1. The com­mon “anti-immi­grant” themes of neo-fas­cist par­ties, from “Team Trump” to the Pol­ish fas­cists above fig­ure promi­nent­ly in Cas­a­Pound ide­ol­o­gy.
  2. The rav­ages of aus­ter­i­ty are among the chief caus­es of the evi­dent, and very real dis­tress being expe­ri­enced by work­ing peo­ple in dis­tressed economies like Italy. Orga­ni­za­tions like Cas­a­Pound offer them hope and, in some cas­es at least, appo­site assis­tance in that regard.
  3. There are direct ide­o­log­i­cal links to the fas­cism of the World War II and pre-war peri­ods, as is the case with the 1930s-era Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Poland.
  4. Focus on “neo-fas­cist” par­ties like Cas­a­Pound eclipses the insti­tu­tion­al­ized fas­cism evi­denced in the dom­i­nant, long-stand­ing oper­a­tions of the Pro­pa­gan­da Due net­work in Ital­ian gov­ern­ment and soci­ety. Head­ed by Mus­soli­ni backer Licio Gel­li, P‑2 wield­ed deci­sive influ­ence in Italy for decades, and was promi­nent in polit­i­cal devel­op­ments around the globe. P‑2’s sphere of influ­ence stretched from George H.W. Bush and Ronald Rea­gan, to the Vat­i­can to dom­i­nant ele­ments in the post­war Ital­ian eco­nom­ic and nation­al secu­ri­ty stra­ta.

“In Italy, a Neo-Fas­cist Par­ty’s Small Win Cre­ates Big Unease” by Jason Horowitz; The New York Times; 11/17/2017.

When a can­di­date for a neo-fas­cist par­ty, Cas­a­Pound, won a seat this month on the munic­i­pal coun­cil of the Roman sub­urb of Ostia, many Ital­ians were star­tled

But they real­ly took notice days lat­er when a tele­vi­sion reporter arrived to inter­view a Cas­a­Pound sup­port­er — a sup­port­er who hap­pened to belong to one of the area’s most feared crime fam­i­lies — and received a vicious, nation­al­ly broad­cast head butt that broke his nose.

Last week, Ital­ian jour­nal­ists trekked to Ostia to solemn­ly protest at the scene of the assault. Around the cor­ner, res­i­dents were still cel­e­brat­ing, shrug­ging off the party’s claims to be the direct descen­dant of Ben­i­to Mussolini’s Fas­cist Par­ty.

“Look at what I’ll show you,” said one, Gian­lu­ca Antonuc­ci, as he unzipped his jack­et to reveal a black shirt fea­tur­ing Mussolini’s gran­ite face. “Il Duce.” For a while, this coun­try seemed an out­lier as nation­al­ist and xeno­pho­bic forces made gains across Europe. But now some fear that Italy, the birth­place of fas­cism, is catch­ing up with its neigh­bors.

This month, thou­sands of Poles chant­ed “White Europe” dur­ing Inde­pen­dence Day march­es, and the Free­dom Par­ty, found­ed by ex-Nazis, is in nego­ti­a­tions to join a coali­tion gov­ern­ment in Aus­tria. In Ger­many, the far-right Alter­na­tive for Ger­many now sits in the Bun­destag.

“In every state we want nation­al­ist forces to win,” said Luca Marsel­la, CasaPound’s new­ly elect­ed coun­cil mem­ber, who won 9 per­cent of the vote. “If this hap­pens in oth­er cities, we’ll have a chance to go into Par­lia­ment to defend our nation.” That is a long, long way off.

The par­ty, named after the Amer­i­can poet Ezra Pound, who sup­port­ed Mus­soli­ni, is still sta­tis­ti­cal­ly irrel­e­vant on the nation­al lev­el. But Cas­a­Pound is win­ning seats in a hand­ful of towns, and some of its core beliefs — a fond­ness for Rus­sia and sharp oppo­si­tion to the Euro­pean Union, glob­al­iza­tion and immi­gra­tion, which it believes sul­ly the nation­al iden­ti­ty and econ­o­my — are increas­ing­ly spread­ing through­out Italy.

In Sici­ly, the new head­quar­ters of Broth­ers of Italy, a descen­dant of the post-fas­cist Ital­ian Social Move­ment, had the phrase “Ital­ians first” writ­ten on the wall dur­ing its recent inau­gu­ra­tion. Anti-immi­gra­tion sen­ti­ment has grown so pop­u­lar that the once-seces­sion­ist North­ern League has dropped the word “North­ern’” from its name as it looks for inroads to the south.

The anti-estab­lish­ment Five Star Move­ment, while ide­o­log­i­cal­ly amor­phous, has charis­mat­ic fire­brand lead­ers who take the stage to the chant­i­ng of their nick­names and then rile up crowds with a mes­sage of resent­ment.

All of this makes CasaPound’s lead­ers hope­ful that Italy is new­ly fer­tile ground for fas­cism. The Ital­ian Con­sti­tu­tion bans “the reor­ga­ni­za­tion in any form of the dis­solved Fas­cist Par­ty.”

But Cas­a­Pound and oth­er neo-fas­cist move­ments have skirt­ed the law by call­ing them­selves the descen­dants of Mus­soli­ni. They insist that they believe in democ­ra­cy and not a fas­cist dic­ta­tor­ship.

Cas­a­Pound began 14 years ago as a sort of fas­cist ver­sion of the pop­ulist Rent Is Too Damn High Par­ty in New York. It now has thou­sands of chap­ters around the coun­try. “We are a young and clean polit­i­cal force,” said Simone Di Ste­fano, the party’s vice pres­i­dent, as he stood under posters of Mus­soli­ni in its Roman head­quar­ters.

The build­ing, which sits incon­gru­ous­ly in the heart of an immi­grant neigh­bor­hood in cen­tral Rome, has served as the party’s home since its leader, Gian­lu­ca Ian­none, a tat­tooed and extrav­a­gant­ly beard­ed mem­ber of a right-wing punk band, led fol­low­ers to occu­py the apart­ments.

On a recent after­noon, chil­dren of the rough­ly 20 fam­i­lies now resid­ing there ran in its entry­way, bright­ly dec­o­rat­ed with the names of the movement’s heroes, includ­ing Julius Cae­sar, Mus­soli­ni and the right-wing philoso­pher Julius Evola.

Of course, there was also Pound, who rant­ed against Jews on Ital­ian radio and was impris­oned for trea­son dur­ing the war. (The daugh­ter of the poet has tried to make the par­ty change its name.) Mem­bers with black boots, tat­tooed necks and shorn hair guard floors dec­o­rat­ed with pic­tures of Fas­cist-era march­es and ban­ners read­ing “Arm Your Soul.”

Cas­a­Pound has a more sec­u­lar and social­ly tol­er­ant approach than its hard-right cousin Forza Nuo­va, which Italy’s inte­ri­or min­is­ter, Mar­co Min­ni­ti, banned from reen­act­ing Mussolini’s “March on Rome” last month. But its mem­bers exhib­it the same fond­ness for Roman salutes and myth­ic glo­ry days.

CasaPound’s lead­ers shrug off Mussolini’s racial laws and alliance with Hitler with a nobody’s‑perfect non­cha­lance. They instead pre­fer to focus on Fascism’s role in Ital­ian mod­ern­iza­tion and mil­i­tary might. “That spir­it of the nation bloomed in this coun­try dur­ing those years,” Mr. Di Ste­fano said. “And I would like to bring that feel­ing back today.”

That is espe­cial­ly so in Ostia, a sub­urb of 230,000, home to job­less­ness, resent­ment toward immi­grants, and an orga­nized crime prob­lem so insid­i­ous that the police dis­band­ed the local gov­ern­ment two years ago. The jour­nal­ist who was head-butted was try­ing to inter­view a mem­ber of a pow­er­ful local clan called the Spadas, which had thrown its sup­port behind Cas­a­Pound.

“I vot­ed for Cas­a­Pound, and I’m proud of it,” said Mari­na Luglu, as she walked out of Bar Music, owned by the head-but­ter, Rober­to Spa­da, whom she admir­ing­ly called “Mr. Rober­to.” Vot­ers here reward­ed the par­ty for its engage­ment with their run­down hous­ing projects. Cas­a­Pound pro­vid­ed a food bank to hun­dreds of fam­i­lies, sent handy­men to fix ele­va­tors and lawyers to locals in need.

Viviana Pru­den­zi, a 34-year-old house clean­er walk­ing down a sea­side street with her moth­er, said she vot­ed for Cas­a­Pound because its mem­bers were “the only ones who are here help­ing — help­ing the Ital­ians.” “They call them fas­cists because they think of Ital­ians and not the for­eign­ers,” she said.

This sum­mer, Mr. Marsel­la, the Cas­a­Pound can­di­date, led a beach patrol of par­ty mem­bers in red vests. They forced unli­censed and immi­grant ven­dors, some vis­i­bly ter­ri­fied, off the beach. Left­ist activists have accused them of beat­ings. For recre­ation, par­ty mem­bers whip each oth­er with belts in mosh pits. “We don’t rec­og­nize vio­lence as a polit­i­cal tool, but if we are attacked, we respond,” said Mr. Marsel­la, a soft-spo­ken 32-year-old I.T. con­sul­tant. Asked whether he had pre­vailed in his clash­es with left­ist activists, he cracked a smile. “Oh, yeah.”

Over the sum­mer, Mr. Marsel­la and oth­er mem­bers of Cas­a­Pound clashed with the riot police in Rome as they protest­ed a pro­pos­al to grant cit­i­zen­ship to the Ital­ian-born chil­dren of immi­grants.

“We want­ed the Sen­ate to feel besieged,” Mr. Di Ste­fano said at the time. A video he post­ed of the clash­es on his Face­book page received more than 300,000 likes. That his­to­ry of vio­lence did not both­er a group of women gath­ered in front of one of the Spa­da family’s gyms.

They hailed the Cas­a­Pound activists as “good­fel­las.” When the Rev. Fran­co De Don­no, a priest known for his works against the Mafia and on behalf of immi­grants, walked by, they cursed him as “dis­gust­ing” for tak­ing a leave of absence from his sacra­men­tal duties to run for office.

They near­ly attacked a woman who urged them to acknowl­edge the drugs and vio­lence that rid­dled their neigh­bor­hood. Five Cara­binieri patrol cars came to her aid. Father De Don­no, who also earned a seat in the munic­i­pal gov­ern­ment, said one of his sup­port­ers had been beat­en by mem­bers of Cas­a­Pound, includ­ing Mr. Marsel­la.

(Mr. Marsel­la denied this.) “I hope that enter­ing in the insti­tu­tion, Luca Marsel­la lim­its his recourse to vio­lent meth­ods,” the priest said. On Sun­day, amid an increased police pres­ence, res­i­dents will vote in a runoff to decide who will become coun­cil pres­i­dent. Giu­liana Di Pil­lo, the lead­ing can­di­date of the Five Star Move­ment, acknowl­edged that Cas­a­Pound had siphoned sup­port from her and her cen­ter-right oppo­nent. She admit­ted to some trep­i­da­tion about serv­ing with a fas­cist. “Cer­tain­ly, it wor­ries me,” she said

2a. Next, we jour­ney to Ukraine, to take in the lat­est piece of WWII his­to­ry that Volodomyr Via­tro­vych and Ukraine’s Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry are craft­ing: In order to char­ac­ter­ize the UPA as mul­ti-eth­nic, mul­ti-cul­tur­al, and demo­c­ra­t­ic, Via­tro­vych appears to have con­coct­ed a com­plete fan­ta­sy ver­sion of his­to­ry around Lei­ba-Itsko Iosi­fovich Dobrovskii, a Jew who worked with the UPA.

This fan­ta­sy ver­sion of Dobrovskii as a will­ing and eager UPA mem­ber was start­ed in 2006 when that Via­tro­vych wrote about him in a book, alleged­ly based on his arrest file of the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice. But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, that file isn’t exclu­sive­ly avail­able to Via­tro­vych. And, of course, when the fol­low­ing author decid­ed to look into those files for him­self he found that Dobrovskii hat­ed the UPA, was basi­cal­ly forced to work with them, and the only rea­son they didn’t per­se­cute him for being a Jew was because he was hid­ing his Jew­ish back­ground the entire time:

“Ukraine’s Invent­ed a ‘Jew­ish-Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ist’ to White­wash Its Nazi-era Past” by Jared McBride; Haaretz; 11/09/2017

Myth-mak­ing efforts by the Ukraine to glo­ri­fy the WWII role of one ‘arche­typ­al’ Jew, Lei­ba Dubrovskii, is part of Kyiv’s war on mem­o­ry: its eager attempts to erase anti-Semi­tism, bru­tal­i­ty and com­plic­i­ty with the Nazis from its wartime his­to­ry

For a prac­ti­cal les­son in nation­al­ism that white­wash­es an incon­ve­nient past, includ­ing ties to the Nazis, racism, anti-Semi­tism, involve­ment in the Holo­caust, eth­nic cleans­ing and oth­er vio­lence against a country’s own cit­i­zens – look no fur­ther than Ukraine.

The Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry (UINP) and its patrons in the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment in Kyiv are allow­ing us to study the process of nation­al­ist myth-mak­ing in real-time.

Pres­i­dent Poroshenko has enabled nation­al­ist activists like Volodymyr Via­tro­vych, head of the Insti­tute, to sculpt Ukraine’s his­to­ry and mem­o­ry poli­cies. Part and par­cel of the Institute’s “decom­mu­niza­tion” cam­paign to remove rem­nants of a Sovi­et past simul­ta­ne­ous­ly has been to lion­ize 20th cen­tu­ry Ukraini­ans who fought for Ukraine’s inde­pen­dence no mat­ter how prob­lem­at­ic their prob­lem­at­ic.

In par­tic­u­lar, the Via­tro­vych and the Insti­tute have made white­wash­ing the image of World War Two Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists a pri­or­i­ty, not a small feat con­sid­er­ing their doc­u­ment­ed ties to, and com­plic­i­ty with, the Nazis.

This nation­al­ist revi­sion­ism seeks to show that the main wartime nation­al­ist orga­ni­za­tions, the Orga­ni­za­tion of Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists (OUN) and its mil­i­tary wing, the Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army (UPA), were ulti­mate­ly mul­ti-eth­nic, “mul­ti-cul­tur­al,” and demo­c­ra­t­ic.

Unsur­pris­ing­ly, the nation­al­ists’ rela­tion­ship with Ukraine’s Jews has proved the biggest chal­lenge to this rein­ven­tion of Holo­caust co-per­pe­tra­tors and eth­nic cleansers as tol­er­ant inter­na­tion­al­ists.

Its pro­mot­ers have recent­ly dou­bled down on these efforts, spurred on by the annu­al ‘Defend­ers of Ukraine’ hol­i­day, cel­e­brat­ing a fic­ti­tious foun­da­tion date of the nation­al­ists’ army, the UPA.

The Poroshenko gov­ern­ment cir­cu­lat­ed instruc­tions on the eve of the hol­i­day, empha­siz­ing the need to “pro­vide cit­i­zens with objec­tive infor­ma­tion.” But a his­tor­i­cal adden­dum pre­pared by the Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry does the oppo­site by claim­ing that: “Jews and Belaru­sians also fought in the ranks” of the UPA and that “many Jews” joined them vol­un­tar­i­ly to prove them­selves “as seri­ous fight­ers and doc­tors.”

Much Ukrain­ian media ink has been spilled in recent years glo­ri­fy­ing the role of one Jew, who served with the nation­al­ists. His sto­ry encap­su­lates Ukraine’s war on mem­o­ry, and its eager attempts to write out anti-Semi­tism from its wartime his­to­ry.

Lei­ba-Itsko Iosi­fovich Dobrovskii has been tout­ed as a Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist who also hap­pened to be Jew­ish. That was to make the point that Ukrain­ian nation­al­ism and Jew­ish­ness were not mutu­al­ly exclu­sive. These days, we’d call the re-engi­neer­ing of facts about Dobrovskii a fake news sto­ry. But it is instruc­tive to trace its ori­gins.

The leg­end of Lei­ba Dobrovskii, Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist Jew, orig­i­nat­ed not in World War Two but the mid-2000s, when he was first briefly men­tioned in a book in 2006 by his­to­ri­an and activist Volodymyr Via­tro­vych.

Via­tro­vych made ref­er­ence to a “Jew” in the UPA, who helped write leaflets for the UPA in 1942 and 1943 and even­tu­al­ly was arrest­ed by the Sovi­ets. In 2008 the Dobrovskii leg­end grew, thanks to the exhi­bi­tion “Jews in the Ukrain­ian Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment,” staged by the Ukrain­ian Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice and the Insti­tute for Nation­al Mem­o­ry with the assis­tance of Via­tro­vych. Draw­ing on Dobrovskii’s arrest file in the archives of the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice, the exhi­bi­tion high­light­ed his line-up pic­ture and alleged role in the UPA, while notably offer­ing no more details.

At this point, the myth of Jews hap­pi­ly serv­ing with Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists in WW2 began to be report­ed in pres­ti­gious out­lets like BBC Ukraine.

After the Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion of 2014, and Viatrovych’s fur­ther rise with­in the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment, the Dobrovskii leg­end flour­ished. In 2015, at the promi­nent Kyiv-Mohy­la Uni­ver­si­ty, Via­tro­vych gave a lec­ture pre­sent­ing Dobrovskii as the arche­typ­al “Ukrain­ian Jew” in the UPA. Anoth­er exhi­bi­tion this past May again used Dobrovskii in the same vein. Even the largest Holo­caust Muse­um in Ukraine, locat­ed in Dnipro, high­lights Dobrovskii as a Jew “in the OUN-UPA.” 

With this October’s hol­i­day, his pho­to and brief sto­ry has appeared fre­quent­ly in local pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing at the West­ern fund­ed Radio Svo­bo­da oper­at­ed by Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty (RFE/RL), which also pro­motes the myth of a Nation­al­ist Inter­na­tion­al. Dobrovskii’s name and pic­ture have become sym­bols of the alleged tol­er­ance and mul­ti-cul­tur­al­ism of Ukrain­ian World War Two nation­al­ism.

How­ev­er, when I actu­al­ly read Dobrovskii’s file, the leg­end of the Jew eager to join the Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists quick­ly evap­o­rat­ed.

Dobrovskii grew up in the Kyiv region, fin­ished law school, and was a Com­mu­nist par­ty mem­ber from 1929. As a Red Army sol­dier, he was cap­tured in 1941 and changed his name to Leonid Dubrovskii to appear Ukrain­ian.

In this guise, he got out of cap­tiv­i­ty and went to north-west­ern Ukraine, where he acci­dent­ly met local Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists con­nect­ed to the local col­lab­o­ra­tionist police and admin­is­tra­tion, includ­ing the local may­or and lat­er UPA mem­ber, Myko­la Kryzhanovskii. Note­wor­thy is that Kryzhanovskii was well-known for his bru­tal­i­ty towards Jews. Not sus­pect­ing that Dobrovskii was Jew­ish and appre­ci­at­ing his edu­ca­tion, the nation­al­ists recruit­ed him to pro­duce pro­pa­gan­da.

In con­trast to the shiny new nation­al­ist leg­end, Dobrovskii actu­al­ly con­cealed his Jew­ish­ness to his nation­al­ist ‘com­pa­tri­ots’ and was no enthu­si­as­tic sup­port­er of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ism. In fact, he was scared that they would find out who he real­ly was.

When asked in his inter­ro­ga­tion about the rela­tion­ship between Jews and the nation­al­ists in gen­er­al, Dobrovskii not­ed that “Jews could not for­mal­ly” join the Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists. He feared nation­al­ist ret­ri­bu­tion against his wife and child. Dobrovskii also tried to feign sick­ness to avoid work­ing for the nation­al­ists and on numer­ous occa­sions tried to avoid con­tact, but was pres­sured to con­tin­ue his ser­vice. On mul­ti­ple occa­sions, sol­diers came to his home to bring him to meet­ings.

Dobrovskii had well-found­ed rea­sons for his reluc­tance and fear. He felt that Ukraine’s nation­al­ists, who delib­er­ate­ly helped staff local police forces under the Ger­man Nazi forces, were com­plic­it in the geno­cide of the Jews.

In 1943, he not­ed, nation­al­ist detach­ments “car­ried out the mass mur­der of the Pol­ish pop­u­la­tion” in west­ern Ukraine. He described the rad­i­cal­iz­ing influ­ence of West Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists on Ukrain­ian youth and observed that they spread “enmi­ty toward Jews, Rus­sians and Poles.” He also observed nation­al­ist vio­lence and “ter­ror” against Ukraini­ans, includ­ing the mur­der of two church lead­ers by UPA.

He did not even believe in the nation­al­ist claims that they were fight­ing the Ger­mans, remark­ing that they “did not kill a sin­gle local Ger­man [Nazi] leader in the area” of Vol­hy­nia.

We might ask: Did Via­tro­vych and his sup­port­ers think that no one would ever read Dobrovskii’s arrest file? Did they them­selves read the entire file? Did they arbi­trar­i­ly choose to dis­miss all evi­dence of his fear of the nation­al­ists, and of their bru­tal­i­ty, as ‘Sovi­et dis­tor­tions’?

In that case, one would think they would at least men­tion and address a source that mas­sive­ly con­tra­dicts the myth they’ve have been embell­ish­ing and spread­ing. Archives are not buf­fets from which nation­al­ist pub­lic rela­tions activists can choose the most appeal­ing morsels. Instead, research requires con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion, not to men­tion cross-check­ing.

Sad­ly, we know this is not the first time that nation­al­ist activists have spread a fake nar­ra­tive about Jews and nation­al­ists, as in the case of Stel­la Krentsbakh/Kreutzbach, a fic­ti­tious Jew­ess who, accord­ing to her ‘auto­bi­og­ra­phy’, forged by a nation­al­ist pro­pa­gan­dist in the 1950s, thanked “God and the Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army” for hav­ing sur­vived the war and the Holo­caust.

Sim­i­lar­ly, how is it that for almost a decade now Ukrain­ian media and parts of acad­e­mia have sim­ply trust­ed the state­ments of high­ly – and trans­par­ent­ly – moti­vat­ed nation­al­ist activists with­out both­er­ing to check their sto­ry? The archives are open, after all. Are Ukrain­ian media and west­ern out­lets like Radio Svo­bo­da inca­pable or unwill­ing to check infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by a Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment body offi­cial­ly ded­i­cat­ed to the Ukrain­ian his­tor­i­cal record?

In a post-Maid­an land­scape where an inde­pen­dent media and acad­e­my are vital to the integri­ty of Ukrain­ian democ­ra­cy and its inte­gra­tion in Europe, this case should force some reassess­ment of the degree to which Ukraine’s pub­lic can access facts and not pro­pa­gan­da.

Shock­ing as this case may be, Ukraine is hard­ly alone in its efforts to white­wash its past and ele­vate con­tro­ver­sial nation­al­ist lead­ers. Through­out East­ern Europe, be it in Hun­gary, Poland, or Lithua­nia, the strug­gle to deal with a dif­fi­cult, often anti-Semit­ic past in an hon­est, pro­duc­tive man­ner in an uncer­tain present looms large for the future of the region.

3b. In numer­ous broad­casts, we have not­ed the Orwellian rewrite of Ukrain­ian his­to­ry to deny the per­pe­tra­tors of the Holo­caust in that coun­try and white­wash the Nazi-allied OUN/B and UPA.

A recent arti­cle in For­eign Pol­i­cy, fur­ther devel­ops the activ­i­ties of Volodymyr Via­tro­vych, appoint­ed as head of the Insti­tute of Nation­al mem­o­ry by Vik­tor Yuschenko and then re-appoint­ed by Petro Pet­roshenko. CORRECTION: For­eign Pol­i­cy is not pub­lished by the Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions, as pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed. The CFR’s quar­ter­ly pub­li­ca­tion is “For­eign Affairs,” not “For­eign Pol­i­cy.”)

After the Yushc­neko gov­ern­ment left pow­er and pri­or to the Maid­an coup, Via­tro­vych was in the U.S., work­ing as a fel­low at Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty’s Ukrain­ian Research Insti­tute. This is in line with the fun­da­men­tal role of the OUN/B‑based Amer­i­can emi­gre com­mu­ni­ty in the gen­er­a­tion of the Orange Rev­o­lu­tion and the Maid­an coup.

. . . . Dur­ing this peri­od Via­tro­vych spent time in North Amer­i­ca on a series of lec­ture tours, as well as a short sojourn as a research fel­low at the Har­vard Ukrain­ian Research Insti­tute (HURI). He also con­tin­ued his aca­d­e­m­ic activism, writ­ing books and arti­cles pro­mot­ing the hero­ic nar­ra­tive of the OUN-UPA. In 2013 he tried to crash and dis­rupt a work­shop on Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian nation­al­ism tak­ing place at the Har­ri­man Insti­tute at Colum­bia. When the Maid­an Rev­o­lu­tion swept Yanukovych out of pow­er in Feb­ru­ary 2014, Via­tro­vych returned to promi­nence. . . .

Recall that Yuschenko mar­ried the for­mer Yka­te­ri­na Chu­machenko–Rea­gan’s Deputy Direc­tor of Pub­lic Liai­son and a key oper­a­tive of the OUN/B’s Amer­i­can front orga­niz­tion the U.C.C.A.–and had Roman Zvarych (Jaroslav Stet­sko’s per­son­al sec­re­tary in the ear­ly 1980’s) as his Min­is­ter of Jus­tice.

Note, also, that Ser­hiy Kvit, the Ukrain­ian Min­is­ter of Edu­ca­tion is a bird of the same feath­er as Via­tro­vych.  . . . . Last June, Kvit’s Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion issued a direc­tive to teach­ers regard­ing the ‘neces­si­ty to accen­tu­ate the patri­o­tism and moral­i­ty of the activists of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment,’ includ­ing depict­ing the UPA as a ‘sym­bol of patri­o­tism and sac­ri­fi­cial spir­it in the strug­gle for an inde­pen­dent Ukraine” and Ban­dera as an ‘out­stand­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive’ of the Ukrain­ian peo­ple. . . .’ ”

The mea­sure of the revi­sion­ism under­way in Ukraine can be gauged by this: “. . . . UPA supreme com­man­der Dmytro Kliachkivs’kyi explic­it­ly stat­ed: ‘We should car­ry out a large-scale liq­ui­da­tion action against Pol­ish ele­ments. Dur­ing the evac­u­a­tion of the Ger­man Army, we should find an appro­pri­ate moment to liq­ui­date the entire male pop­u­la­tion between 16 and 60 years old.’ Giv­en that over 70 per­cent of the lead­ing UPA cadres pos­sessed a back­ground as Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors, none of this is sur­pris­ing. . . .”

It is depress­ing and remark­able to see such ele­ments being por­trayed as “hero­ic!”

“The His­to­ri­an White­wash­ing Ukraine’s Past” by Josh Cohen; For­eign Pol­i­cy; 5/02/2016.

. . . . Advo­cat­ing a nation­al­ist, revi­sion­ist his­to­ry that glo­ri­fies the country’s move to inde­pen­dence — and purges bloody and oppor­tunis­tic chap­ters — [Volodymyr] Via­tro­vych has attempt­ed to redraft the country’s mod­ern his­to­ry to white­wash Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist groups’ involve­ment in the Holo­caust and mass eth­nic cleans­ing of Poles dur­ing World War II. And right now, he’s win­ning. . . .

. . . . In May 2015, Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko signed a law that man­dat­ed the trans­fer of the country’s com­plete set of archives, from the “Sovi­et organs of repres­sion,” such as the KGB and its dece­dent, the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice of Ukraine (SBU), to a gov­ern­ment orga­ni­za­tion called the Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry. . . .

. . . . The con­tro­ver­sy cen­ters on a telling of World War II his­to­ry that ampli­fies Sovi­et crimes and glo­ri­fies Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist fight­ers while dis­miss­ing the vital part they played in eth­nic cleans­ing of Poles and Jews from 1941 to 1945 after the Nazi inva­sion of the for­mer Sovi­et Union. . . .

. . . . And more point­ed­ly, schol­ars now fear that they risk reprisal for not toe­ing the offi­cial line — or call­ing Via­tro­vych on his his­tor­i­cal dis­tor­tions. Under Viatrovych’s reign, the coun­try could be head­ed for a new, and fright­en­ing, era of cen­sor­ship. . . .

. . . . The revi­sion­ism focus­es on two Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist groups: the Orga­ni­za­tion of Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists (OUN) and the Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army (UPA), which fought to estab­lish an inde­pen­dent Ukraine. Dur­ing the war, these groups killed tens of thou­sands of Jews and car­ried out a bru­tal cam­paign of eth­nic cleans­ing that killed as many as 100,000 Poles. Cre­at­ed in 1929 to free Ukraine from Sovi­et con­trol, the OUN embraced the notion of an eth­ni­cal­ly pure Ukrain­ian nation. When the Nazis invad­ed the Sovi­et Union in 1941, the OUN and its charis­mat­ic leader, Stepan Ban­dera, wel­comed the inva­sion as a step toward Ukrain­ian inde­pen­dence. [This is mod­i­fied lim­it­ed hang­out. The OUN/B was part of the Third Reich’s polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary order of battle.–D.E.] Its mem­bers car­ried out a pogrom in Lviv that killed 5,000 Jews, and OUN mili­tias played a major role in vio­lence against the Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion in west­ern Ukraine that claimed the lives of up to 35,000 Jews. . . . [A street in the Lviv dis­trict has been renamed in hon­or of the Ein­satz­gruppe Nachti­gall or Nachti­gall Bat­tal­ion, com­mand­ed by Roman Shukhevych (named a “Hero of Ukraine” and the father of Yuri Shukhevych, a top archi­tect of the cur­rent Ukrain­ian polit­i­cal landscape.)–D.E.]

. . . . The new law, which promis­es that peo­ple who “pub­licly exhib­it a dis­re­spect­ful atti­tude” toward these groups or “deny the legit­i­ma­cy” of Ukraine’s 20th cen­tu­ry strug­gle for inde­pen­dence will be pros­e­cut­ed (though no pun­ish­ment is spec­i­fied) also means that inde­pen­dent Ukraine is being par­tial­ly built on a fal­si­fied nar­ra­tive of the Holo­caust.

By trans­fer­ring con­trol of the nation’s archives to Via­tro­vych, Ukraine’s nation­al­ists assured them­selves that man­age­ment of the nation’s his­tor­i­cal mem­o­ry is now in the “cor­rect” hands. . . .

. . . . In 2008, in addi­tion to his role at TsD­VR, Vik­tor Yushchenko, then pres­i­dent, appoint­ed Via­tro­vych head of the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice of Ukraine’s (SBU) archives. Yuschenko made the pro­mo­tion of OUN-UPA mythol­o­gy a fun­da­men­tal part of his lega­cy, rewrit­ing school text­books, renam­ing streets, and hon­or­ing OUN-UPA lead­ers as “heroes of Ukraine.” As Yuschenko’s lead­ing mem­o­ry man­ag­er — both at TsD­VR and the SBU — Via­tro­vych was his right-hand man in this cru­sade. He con­tin­ued to push the state-spon­sored hero­ic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the OUN-UPA and their lead­ers Ban­dera, Yaroslav Stet­sko, and Roman Shukhevych. . . .

. . . . After Vik­tor Yanukovych was elect­ed pres­i­dent in 2010, Via­tro­vych fad­ed from view. . . . Dur­ing this peri­od Via­tro­vych spent time in North Amer­i­ca on a series of lec­ture tours, as well as a short sojourn as a research fel­low at the Har­vard Ukrain­ian Research Insti­tute (HURI). He also con­tin­ued his aca­d­e­m­ic activism, writ­ing books and arti­cles pro­mot­ing the hero­ic nar­ra­tive of the OUN-UPA. In 2013 he tried to crash and dis­rupt a work­shop on Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian nation­al­ism tak­ing place at the Har­ri­man Insti­tute at Colum­bia. When the Maid­an Rev­o­lu­tion swept Yanukovych out of pow­er in Feb­ru­ary 2014, Via­tro­vych returned to promi­nence. . . .

. . . . The new pres­i­dent, Poroshenko, appoint­ed Via­tro­vych to head the Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry — a pres­ti­gious appoint­ment for a rel­a­tive­ly young schol­ar. . . .

. . . . To that effect, Via­tro­vych has dis­missed his­tor­i­cal events not com­port­ing with this nar­ra­tive as “Sovi­et pro­pa­gan­da.” [This is true of infor­ma­tion pre­sent­ed by any­one that tells the truth about the OUN/B heirs now in pow­er in Ukraine–they are dis­missed as “Russ­ian dupes” or “tools of the Krem­lin” etc.–D.E.] In his 2006 book, The OUN’s Posi­tion Towards the Jews: For­mu­la­tion of a posi­tion against the back­drop of a cat­a­stro­phe, he attempt­ed to exon­er­ate the OUN from its col­lab­o­ra­tion in the Holo­caust by ignor­ing the over­whelm­ing mass of his­tor­i­cal lit­er­a­ture. The book was wide­ly panned by West­ern his­to­ri­ans. Uni­ver­si­ty of Alber­ta pro­fes­sor John-Paul Him­ka, one of the lead­ing schol­ars of Ukrain­ian his­to­ry for three decades, described it as “employ­ing a series of dubi­ous pro­ce­dures: reject­ing sources that com­pro­mise the OUN, accept­ing uncrit­i­cal­ly cen­sored sources ema­nat­ing from émi­gré OUN cir­cles, fail­ing to rec­og­nize anti-Semi­tism in OUN texts.” . . . . Even more wor­ri­some for the future integri­ty of Ukraine’s archives under Via­tro­vych is his noto­ri­ety among West­ern his­to­ri­ans for his will­ing­ness to alleged­ly ignore or even fal­si­fy his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments. “Schol­ars on his staff pub­lish doc­u­ment col­lec­tions that are fal­si­fied,” said Jef­frey Burds, a pro­fes­sor of Russ­ian and Sovi­et his­to­ry at North­east­ern Uni­ver­si­ty.“ I know this because I have seen the orig­i­nals, made copies, and have com­pared their tran­scrip­tions to the orig­i­nals.” . . .

. . . . Sev­en­ty his­to­ri­ans signed an open let­ter to Poroshenko ask­ing him to veto the draft law that bans crit­i­cism of the OUN-UPA. . . .

. . . . After the open let­ter was pub­lished, the legislation’s spon­sor, Yuri Shukhevych, react­ed furi­ous­ly. Shukhevych, the son of UPA leader Roman Shukhevych and a long­time far-right polit­i­cal activist him­self, fired off a let­ter to Min­is­ter of Edu­ca­tion Ser­hiy Kvit claim­ing, “Russ­ian spe­cial ser­vices” pro­duced the let­ter and demand­ed that “patri­ot­ic” his­to­ri­ans rebuff it. Kvit, also a long­time far-right activist and author of an admir­ing biog­ra­phy one of the key the­o­reti­cians of Ukrain­ian eth­nic nation­al­ism, in turn omi­nous­ly high­light­ed the sig­na­to­ries of Ukrain­ian his­to­ri­ans on his copy of the let­ter. . . .

. . . . UPA supreme com­man­der Dmytro Kliachkivs’kyi explic­it­ly stat­ed: “We should car­ry out a large-scale liq­ui­da­tion action against Pol­ish ele­ments. Dur­ing the evac­u­a­tion of the Ger­man Army, we should find an appro­pri­ate moment to liq­ui­date the entire male pop­u­la­tion between 16 and 60 years old.” Giv­en that over 70 per­cent of the lead­ing UPA cadres pos­sessed a back­ground as Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors, none of this is sur­pris­ing. . . .

 . . . . Last June, Kvit’s Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion issued a direc­tive to teach­ers regard­ing the “neces­si­ty to accen­tu­ate the patri­o­tism and moral­i­ty of the activists of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment,” includ­ing depict­ing the UPA as a “sym­bol of patri­o­tism and sac­ri­fi­cial spir­it in the strug­gle for an inde­pen­dent Ukraine” and Ban­dera as an “out­stand­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive” of the Ukrain­ian peo­ple.” More recent­ly, Viatrovych’s Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry pro­posed that the city of Kiev rename two streets after Ban­dera and the for­mer supreme com­man­der of both the UPA and the Nazi-super­vised Schutz­mannschaft Roman Shukhevych. . . .

8a. June 30th has been estab­lished as a com­mem­o­ra­tive cel­e­bra­tion in Lvov [Lviv]. It was on June 30, 1941, when the OUN‑B announced an inde­pen­dent Ukrain­ian state in the city of Lviv. That same day marked the start of the Lviv Pograms that led to the death of thou­sands of Jews.

The hol­i­day cel­e­brates Roman Shukhevych, com­man­der of the Nachti­gall Bat­tal­ion that car­ried out the mass killings. The city of Lviv is start­ing “Shukhevy­ch­fest” to be held in Lviv on June 30th, com­mem­o­rat­ing the pogrom. Shukhevy­ch’s birth­day. Shukhevych was named a “Hero of the Ukraine” by Vik­tor Yuschenko.

In past posts and pro­grams, we have dis­cussed Volodomir Vya­tro­vich, head of the Orwellian Insti­tute of Nation­al Remem­brance. He defend­ed Shukhevych and the pub­lic dis­play­ing of the sym­bol of the Gali­cian Divi­sion (14th Waf­fen SS Divi­sion.)

Lvov Pogrom, 1941--Einsatzgruppe Nachtigall youth in action.

Lvov Pogrom, 1941–Einsatzgruppe Nachti­gall in action, 6/30/1941.

“Ukraine City to Hold Fes­ti­val in Hon­or of Nazi Col­lab­o­ra­tor Whose Troops Killed Jews”; Jew­ish Tele­graph Agency; 06/28/2017

The Ukrain­ian city of Lviv will hold a fes­ti­val cel­e­brat­ing a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor on the anniver­sary of a major pogrom against the city’s Jews. (Pho­tos to the right depict some of the excess­es of the unit, an exem­plary tac­tic that came to be known as “street humil­i­a­tions.” Do you believe the women?)

Shukhevy­ch­fest, an event named for Roman Shukhevych fea­tur­ing music and the­ater shows, will be held Fri­day.

Eduard Dolin­sky, the direc­tor of the Ukrain­ian Jew­ish Com­mit­tee, in a state­ment called the event “dis­grace­ful.”

On June 30, 1941, Ukrain­ian troops, includ­ing mili­ti­a­men loy­al to Shukhevych’s, began a series of pogroms against Jews, which they per­pe­trat­ed under the aus­pices of the Ger­man army, accord­ing to Yale Uni­ver­si­ty his­to­ry pro­fes­sor Tim­o­thy Sny­der and oth­er schol­ars. They mur­dered approx­i­mate­ly 6,000 Jews in those pogroms.

The day of the fes­ti­val is the 110th birth­day of Shukhevych, a leader of the OUN‑B nation­al­ist group and lat­er of the UPA insur­gency mili­tia, which col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Nazis against the Sovi­et Union before it turned against the Nazis.

Roman Shukhevy­ch’s Ein­satz­gruppe Nachti­gall (Nachti­gall Bat­tal­ion) in action in Lvov in 1941. The cadre was part of the UPA.

Shukhevy­ch­fest is part of a series of ges­tures hon­or­ing nation­al­ists in Ukraine fol­low­ing the 2014 rev­o­lu­tion, in which nation­al­ists played a lead­ing role. They brought down the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovuch, whose crit­ics said was a cor­rupt Russ­ian stooge.

On June 13, a Kiev admin­is­tra­tive court par­tial­ly upheld a motion by par­ties opposed to the ven­er­a­tion of Shukhevych in the city and sus­pend­ed the renam­ing of a street after Shukhevych. The city coun­cil approved the renam­ing ear­li­er this month.

In a relat­ed debate, the direc­tor of Ukraine’s Insti­tute of Nation­al Remem­brance, Vladimir Vya­tro­vich, who recent­ly described Shukhevych as an “emi­nent per­son­al­i­ty,” last month defend­ed the dis­play­ing in pub­lic of the sym­bol of the Gali­cian SS divi­sion. Respon­si­ble for count­less mur­ders of Jews, Nazi Germany’s most elite unit was com­prised of Ukrain­ian vol­un­teers.

Dis­play­ing Nazi sym­bols is ille­gal in Ukraine but the Gali­cian SS division’s sym­bol is “in accor­dance with the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion of Ukraine,” Vya­tro­vich said. . . .

8b. The Nightin­gale (Nachti­gall) Bat­tal­ion was known to this writer, orig­i­nal­ly, as the Ein­satz­gruppe Nachti­gall–it was an SS exter­mi­na­tion unit, head­ed by an very impor­tant SS offi­cer (and for­mer Ger­man cab­i­net min­is­ter) named Theodor Ober­lan­der.

A mem­ber of Charles Willough­by’s Inter­na­tion­al Com­mit­tee for the Defense of Chris­t­ian Cul­ture, Ober­laen­der was a chief archi­tect of the Third Reich’s use of dis­si­dent Sovi­et eth­nic minor­i­ty groups as com­bat­ant ele­ments dur­ing World War II and in the Cold War peri­od.

(In the Tetens text, Ober­lan­der’s last name is spelled with an “e”–“Oberlaender.” We have seen both spellings and read­ers con­duct­ing inter­net search­es should use both in their efforts.)

The New Ger­many and the Old Nazis by T.H. Tetens; Ran­dom House [HC]; Copy­right 1961 by T.H. Tetens; p. 52; pp. 191–192.

. . . . In 1959 Ober­laen­der was the cen­ter of a storm that final­ly forced his res­ig­na­tion in May 1960. He was blamed for the mass mur­der of thou­sands of Jews and Pol­ish intel­lec­tu­als who had been liq­ui­dat­ed in July 1941 when a spe­cial SS task force under his com­mand occu­pied the Pol­ish city of Lem­berg (Lvov). . . .

. . . . As briefly men­tioned in a pre­vi­ous chap­ter, Min­is­ter Ober­laen­der is accused of hav­ing been involved in the so-called “Lem­berg mas­sacre,” in which sev­er­al thou­sand Poles and more than 5,000 Jews were slaugh­tered. Dr. Ober­laen­der does not deny a] that he was the com­mand­ing offi­cer of a spe­cial SS task force, the Nightin­gale Bat­tal­ion, made up of nation­al­ist Ukraini­ans; and b] that this bat­tal­ion was the first Ger­man unit to move into the Pol­ish city of Lem­berg on June 29, 1941, where it remained for six or sev­en days. Dr. Obe­rI­aen­der does deny that his troops com­mit­ted any atroc­i­ties in Lem­berg. He has said that dur­ing his stay in that city “not a shot was fired.”

This is not even accept­ed by his CDU par­ty col­leagues; they believe only that Ober­laen­der him­self took no part in the mas­sacre. Although for­mal com­plaints were launched against the Refugee Min­is­ter, and although wit­ness­es in West Ger­many, in Israel, and in Poland were will­ing to tes­ti­fy, the Ger­man author­i­ties delayed as long as pos­si­ble before con­sid­er­ing offi­cial court action. 2 In the Bun­destag debate of Decem­ber 10, 1959, a gov­ern­ment spokesman declared: “Dr. Ober­laen­der has the full con­fi­dence of the Ade­nauer cab­i­net.” . . . .

8c. Ukraine decid­ed to for­mal­ly hon­or Symon Petliu­ra, whose troops killed tens of thou­sands of Jew­ish civil­ians in pogroms fol­low­ing WWI, with a stat­ue not far from a syn­a­gogue. Ukrain­ian Jews are rais­ing their voic­es in protest.

Those Jew­ish dis­si­dents have been overt­ly threat­ened by a region­al offi­cial of the Svo­bo­da Par­ty, one of the OUN/B‑redux ele­ments promi­nent in the Ukrain­ian polit­i­cal pan­theon. In FTR #779, we not­ed that Svo­bo­da was net­work­ing with Rober­to Fiore’s Forza Nuo­va.

“Region­al Leader of Ukraine’s Svo­bo­da Par­ty Threat­ens Jews who Dis­agree with a Pub­lic Mon­u­ment for Pogrom-meis­ter Petliu­ra”; Defend­ing His­to­ry; 10/23/2017

UKRAINE | ANTISEMITISM | FREE SPEECH | GLORIFICATION OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY

As report­ed last week, in con­nec­tion with a protest from the World Jew­ish Con­gress, author­i­ties in Ukraine recent­ly inau­gu­rat­ed a stat­ue to Symon Petliu­ra in the city of Vin­nit­sa. Petliu­ra (1879—1926) was a Ukrain­ian whose troops killed tens of thou­sands of Jew­ish civil­ians in a dev­as­tat­ing series of pogroms in Ukraine dur­ing the Russ­ian Rev­o­lu­tion and the civ­il war that fol­lowed it.

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, quite a few Ukrain­ian Jews object­ed to the Petliu­ra stat­ue, espe­cial­ly as it was erect­ed with­in a short dis­tance of a still func­tion­ing Jew­ish syn­a­gogue. While it seems per­fect­ly rea­son­able that many Jews might have an issue with a stat­ue to Petliu­ra, not every­one appre­ci­at­ed Ukrain­ian Jews’ express­ing their objec­tions.

In a Face­book rant, a region­al leader of the extrem­ist Svo­bo­da par­ty, whose leader was once pho­tographed mak­ing the Nazi salute, issued a blood­cur­dling Face­book threat to Ukraine’s Jews, telling them to fall in line or face the con­se­quences. Below is the Svo­bo­da leader’s post in Eng­lish trans­la­tion with our com­ments, fol­lowed by a screen-shot of the orig­i­nal. Jew­ish activists plan to com­plain to the police, but giv­en recent prece­dent it is con­sid­ered doubt­ful that any seri­ous action will be tak­en.

Trans­la­tion of the Svo­bo­da post with com­men­tary added in square brack­ets [ ]:

Again, these peo­ple are inter­fer­ing with our coun­try!!! “Peace­ful­ly coex­ist­ed” — Is that when they orga­nized the Holodomor?!!! [the charge that “the Jews” caused the ear­ly 1930s Holodomor famine in Ukraine is a recur­ring anti­se­mit­ic trope in Ukraine]. And now Israel won’t acknowl­edge the mas­sive killing of Ukraini­ans [in the Holodomor] as geno­cide!???

“The only time we com­fort­ably coex­ist­ed with kikes is in Kolivshi­na [an 18th cen­tu­ry pogrom in which Ukraini­ans butchered Jews — he is say­ing that this mas­sacre was the only time Ukraini­ans and Jews coex­ist­ed hap­pi­ly].

“I hope Ukraini­ans will remem­ber who is in charge of their land, and put all minori­ties in their place!!! Do not tell us how to live and to whom to put up mon­u­ments in our land. Do not tell us which lan­guage to speak and in which lan­guage to edu­cate our chil­dren!!! We are Ukraini­ans! That’s all you need to know — you are guests. If you want to live next to us, then get used to our rules; if not, go to your places [go to oth­er nations], or else you’ll be pun­ished.

[see screen­shot of Face­book post]

9. Octo­ber 14th is now an offi­cial hol­i­day in Ukraine, cel­e­brat­ing the found­ing of the UPA.

“Nation­al­ists Mark 75th Anniver­sary Of Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army”; Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty; 10/14/20

Thou­sands of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists have marched through the cap­i­tal, Kyiv, to mark the 75th anniver­sary of the cre­ation of the con­tro­ver­sial Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army (UPA).

March orga­niz­ers said as many as 20,000 peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Octo­ber 14 march, which was sup­port­ed by the right-wing Free­dom, Right Sec­tor, and Nation­al Corp polit­i­cal par­ties.

Some 5,000 police were on hand to keep order. Jour­nal­ists report­ed see­ing some marchers giv­ing Nazi salutes.

Since 2015, the Octo­ber 14 anniver­sary has been marked as the Defend­er of Ukraine Day pub­lic hol­i­day.

The UPA was found­ed in west­ern Ukraine dur­ing the Nazi occu­pa­tion of the coun­try in World War II and fought against both the Nazis and the Sovi­et Red Army. Its fight­ers car­ried out vicious acts of eth­nic cleans­ing in which tens of thou­sands of eth­nic Poles in the region were killed. . . .

10a.  Next, we return to the sub­ject of the Lithuan­ian Rifle­men, who are engag­ing with maneu­vers with sim­i­lar orga­ni­za­tions from Latvia and Lithua­nia.

“Baltic Min­ute­men Fight Russ­ian Foe” by Jonathan Brown; Politico.EU; 12/06/2016

Peer­ing past the black tarps cov­er­ing the win­dows of the bar­ri­cad­ed house, the men in cam­ou­flage could see day­light grad­u­al­ly illu­mi­nate the fresh snow.

For two days, speak­ers out­side the bar­ri­cad­ed build­ings had blast­ed Sovi­et-era jin­gles: “Put down your guns! Your lead­ers have for­got­ten you! While you stand here and freeze, oth­er men are hav­ing fun with your women!”

The sep­a­ratists holed up in their head­quar­ters had been get­ting defens­es ready for the day­break assault, nois­i­ly load­ing blanks into the mag­a­zines of their semi-auto­mat­ic weapons and assem­bling dud IEDs.

In this joint train­ing exer­cise with the country’s mil­i­tary, the Lithuan­ian Rifle­men played the role of sep­a­ratists declar­ing a break­away repub­lic, much like the Moscow-backed rebels did in east­ern Ukraine in 2014 — a sce­nario some fear may be repli­cat­ed here.

Indeed, since Russia’s annex­a­tion of Crimea two years ago and the ensu­ing con­flict in east­ern Ukraine, the Riflemen’s Union, a para­mil­i­tary group con­ceived almost a cen­tu­ry ago, has seen a sharp rise in mem­ber­ship. The group, which boasts more than 10,000 mem­bers, aspires to rebuild its post-World War I mem­ber­ship of more than 80,000 in a coun­try of 2.8 mil­lion peo­ple.

Anoth­er EU and NATO mem­ber might be unnerved by the grow­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of a para­mil­i­tary force oper­at­ing with­in its bor­ders. But since Lithua­nia gained inde­pen­dence from the Sovi­et Union in the ear­ly nineties, the para­mil­i­tary group has foment­ed close ties with the mil­i­tary.

The Union’s code of con­duct aligns it with Lithuania’s armed forces, and it has so far proven to be a fierce­ly loy­al part­ner. When a Riflemen’s Union leader last year crit­i­cized the mil­i­tary for rein­stat­ing con­scrip­tion, he became the sub­ject of an embar­rass­ing and pub­lic vote of no con­fi­dence.

“We have to look to the con­sti­tu­tion of the Repub­lic of Lithua­nia,” said Major Ged­im­i­nas Latvys of the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces in Vil­nius. “It says that the defense of the coun­try, in the event of an armed attack, is the right and the duty of every cit­i­zen. We see the Riflemen’s Union as one orga­ni­za­tion that helps peo­ple to ful­fill this duty.”

The may­or of Vil­nius, a semi-celebri­ty mem­ber of the Riflemen’s Union, was among those to join after the “events in Ukraine.” Remigi­jus Sima­sius’ moti­va­tion for vol­un­teer­ing, he said at in his skyrise office in Vil­nius, was “not relat­ed to the fear of whether Rus­sia would attack, but more about the gen­er­al prin­ci­ple of being ready and being pre­pared.”

“Peo­ple have to con­tribute to their own safe­ty,” he said. Nation­al secu­ri­ty “is not just a func­tion of the state.” Ref­er­enc­ing the Sovi­et takeover of Lithua­nia in 1940, when the country’s mil­i­tary laid down arms, he said, “some­times the state gives up, but that doesn’t mean soci­ety gives up.”

Min­dau­gas Petraitis, 34, is a trans­la­tor in his civil­ian life — oth­er Rifle­men are tax con­sul­tants and small busi­ness own­ers — and says he was among the first wave of men and women to join the para­mil­i­taries in 2014.

After wit­ness­ing Russia’s annex­a­tion of Crimea and the ensu­ing con­flict in Ukraine, “we felt very strong­ly that we have to pre­pare while we still have time,” he said. “We rarely use the pre­cise word for our ene­my in a mil­i­tary set­ting, but inside every­one knows who the ene­my is,” he added, refrain­ing from using the word “Rus­sia.”

Since 2014, the Lithuan­ian Min­istry of Defense has issued a year­ly man­u­al of what to do in case of inva­sion. This year’s edi­tion, with a print run of 30,000 dis­trib­uted to schools and libraries around the coun­try, unam­bigu­ous­ly iden­ti­fies what it believes to be the pri­ma­ry threat to Lithuania’s nation­al secu­ri­ty. “Most atten­tion should be paid towards the actions of our neigh­bor­ing state Rus­sia,” the man­u­al states. “This nation does not shy away from using armed pow­er against its neigh­bors. At this time, in prin­ci­ple, it con­tin­ues mil­i­tary aggres­sion against Ukraine.”

Beyond advis­ing cit­i­zens on how to resist an occu­py­ing pow­er — point­ers include iden­ti­fy­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors and hand­ing them over to resis­tance groups — the man­u­al encour­ages civil­ian readi­ness by com­plet­ing basic mil­i­tary train­ing or join­ing the Riflemen’s Union.

The rise of para­mil­i­tary groups across East­ern and Cen­tral Europe appears to be “a nat­ur­al response to the con­flu­ence of two forces,” said Michael Kof­man, a research sci­en­tist at the Cen­tre for Naval Analy­sis and a fel­low at the Wil­son Cen­ter. “A gen­er­al increase of nation­al­ist sen­ti­ments across Europe and the per­cep­tion of greater threat from Rus­sia.”

Sim­i­lar groups in the neigh­bor­ing Baltic states of Latvia and Esto­nia have also seen increased mem­ber­ship since the annex­a­tion of Crimea, and the Lithuan­ian Riflemen’s Union is in the process of for­mal­iz­ing rela­tion­ships with the youth wings of both the Lat­vian Nation­al Guard and Esto­nia Defense League.

In Cen­tral Europe, groups in Poland, Slo­va­kia, the Czech Repub­lic and Hun­gary have sprung up along­side a rise in right-wing sen­ti­ment in the region and the refugee cri­sis in Europe.

Para­mil­i­tary groups across East­ern and Cen­tral Europe, “encom­pass a diverse array of orga­ni­za­tions,” said Arthur de Liedek­erke, an exter­nal ana­lyst for the Brus­sels-based Glob­al Gov­er­nance Insti­tute. “Their means, objec­tives and rela­tion to the state often vary con­sid­er­ably.”

Para­mil­i­tary “will chal­lenge gov­ern­ment author­i­ty on the mar­gins and must be care­ful­ly trimmed in pow­er,” said Kof­man. “Play­ing with nation­al­ism is like hold­ing a tiger by the tail.”

The Union’s lead­er­ship encour­ages mem­bers to arm them­selves with hand­guns, specif­i­cal­ly Glock 17s, which cur­rent Lithuan­ian gun laws allows. Rifle­men can pur­chase the pis­tols at a dis­count and store them in safes at home.

But “what can you do with a pis­tol?” asked a Rifle­man (jok­ing­ly) who was pre­vi­ous­ly a sniper in the police spe­cial forces. “Shoot your way to a rifle,” he added, deliv­er­ing his own punch­line.

Lithuania’s already lib­er­al gun own­er­ship laws are set to be relaxed fur­ther. By Jan­u­ary, mem­bers of the Riflemen’s Union will be encour­aged to pur­chase semi-auto­mat­ic rifles under new laws that allow gun pos­ses­sion for the express pur­pose of “coun­try defense.”

“I think deter­rence is the pri­ma­ry aim of any country’s defense sys­tem — to deter, not to fight,” said Liu­das Gumbi­nas, com­man­der of the Riflemen’s Union, whose salary is paid by the Min­istry of Defense.

Along with the Riflemen’s strate­gic alliances with the armed forces, its deci­sion to invite mem­bers to arm them­selves with semi-auto­mat­ic weapons, Gumbi­nas said, is part of strength­en­ing that deter­rent, a pol­i­cy he said is akin to “not just shout­ing, but actu­al­ly doing some­thing.”

But he is quick to point out that the Union is more than a gun tot­ing boy’s club. With near­ly half of the Riflemen’s Union mem­bers under the age of 18, the Union’s free sum­mer youth camps, which he likens to the Scouts, famil­iar­ize thou­sands of Lithuania’s youth with mil­i­tary val­ues and struc­tures.

“We are build­ing the youth to become good cit­i­zens,” Gumbi­nas said of the camps, which take place at mil­i­tary facil­i­ties and aim to devel­op children’s “lead­er­ship skills, nature sur­vival skills, self-con­fi­dence, but all under a mil­i­tary frame­work.”

Kof­man said that gov­ern­ments should always be con­cerned by the rise of para­mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tions, espe­cial­ly since such groups often rise in response to a threat. “But the threat in most cas­es nev­er mate­ri­al­izes [and so] they look to occu­py them­selves. Some tran­si­tion into pol­i­tics and form far-right par­ties, oth­ers may choose to serve as mus­cle for crim­i­nal ele­ments.”

The Riflemen’s Union has been an inte­gral part of Neiman­tas Psilen­skis’ life since he joined 10 years ago. When the 24-year-old descend­ed the steps of the Gar­ri­son church in Kau­nas, arm in arm with his new wife last month, the Union’s Hon­orary Guard salut­ed the young cou­ple in full regalia and World War II-era bay­o­net­ed rifles.

Psilen­skis, a part-time employ­ee of the Riflemen’s Union and part-time con­struc­tion work­er, said his sense of patri­o­tism and loy­al­ty towards the Union was nour­ished as a young mem­ber.

“I’m a patri­ot,” Psilen­skis said. “No one would need to ask me if I would defend my home­land. Just give me a gun. You don’t need to ask. Maybe the fact that I came to the Riflemen’s Union at a young age formed these instincts.”

10b. Review­ing infor­ma­tion about the Lithuan­ian Rifle­men’s Union, we high­light its activ­i­ties as part of the Nazi mil­i­tary effort in the Baltic states, includ­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in admin­is­ter­ing Hitler’s “Final Solu­tion.”

Rem­i­nis­cent of the Nazi “pun­ish­er bat­tal­ions,” the Lithuan­ian Rifle­man’s Union–a fas­cist militia–has been expand­ed to meet the so-called “Russ­ian threat.” Like the OUN/B’s mil­i­tary wing–the UPA–the Lithuan­ian Rifle­man’s Union con­tin­ued the com­bat of World War II until the ear­ly 1950’s. Formed dur­ing the wan­ing days of the Sec­ond World War, they jumped from the Third Reich to the Office of Pol­i­cy Coor­di­na­tion, a CIA/State Depart­ment oper­a­tional direc­torate. (This is cov­ered in FTR #777, as well as AFA #1.)

“Russ­ian Threat Sees Rebirth of Lithua­nia Para­mil­i­tary Group” [Agence France-Presse]; Glob­al Post; 9/2/2014.

In thick pine forests hid­den in the remote wilder­ness of east­ern Lithua­nia, young pro­fes­sion­als are ditch­ing their suits and ties for cam­ou­flage gear, and swap­ping iPads for rifles.

These week­end war­riors also proud­ly wear bracelets with emblems of green fir trees on their wrists, sym­bols of their small Baltic country’s wartime resis­tance against the Sovi­et Union, which occu­pied it in 1940.

Now, Russia’s takeover of Crimea and increas­ing signs of its involve­ment in Ukraine’s east, cou­pled with sabre rat­tling in its Kalin­ingrad exclave bor­der­ing Lithua­nia, are spark­ing a sharp rise in para­mil­i­tary recruits here.

Like oth­ers in the region, Lithua­nia is call­ing on NATO to put per­ma­nent boots on the ground in the Baltics to ward off any poten­tial threat from their Sovi­et-era mas­ter.

But while they await a deci­sion that could come at a key two-day alliance sum­mit start­ing Thurs­day in Wales, Lithuan­ian civil­ians are lac­ing up their own com­bat boots.

Stu­dents, busi­ness­men, civ­il ser­vants, jour­nal­ists and even politi­cians are among the hun­dreds who have joined the gov­ern­ment-spon­sored Lithua­nia Riflemen’s Union, a group first set up in 1919 but banned in 1940 under Sovi­et rule.

“The Vil­nius unit has tripled in size since the begin­ning of the cri­sis in Ukraine,” says Min­dau­gas Bal­ci­auskas, unit com­man­der of the group which boasts about 7,000 mem­bers in the nation of three mil­lion, a num­ber almost on par with its 7,000 mil­i­tary per­son­nel and 4,200 reservists.

- ‘Take up arms’ -

Pres­i­dent Dalia Gry­bauskaite, a karate black belt dubbed Lithuania’s ‘Iron Lady’ for her tough stance on Rus­sia, has also sworn to “take up arms” her­self in the unlike­ly case Moscow would attack this 2004 NATO and EU mem­ber of three mil­lion.

“Being in a para­mil­i­tary unit will give me priv­i­leged access to infor­ma­tion and make me bet­ter pre­pared than those who don’t join,” Arturas Bortke­vi­cius, a 37-year-old finance spe­cial­ist, told AFP, adding that he wants to learn the skills he needs to defend his coun­try and fam­i­ly.

Mem­bers spend week­ends on manoeu­vres deep in the woods or at a mil­i­tary train­ing range in Pabrade, north of the cap­i­tal Vil­nius.

Lib­eral MP Remigi­jus Sima­sius says that while his place “would be in par­lia­ment” giv­en a cri­sis, he joined the rifle­men in the wake of Russia’s Crimea land grab in the hope of encour­ag­ing oth­ers to fol­low suit.

Even some Lithua­ni­ans with Russ­ian roots have joined up amid the Ukraine cri­sis.

“I’m a Lithuan­ian cit­i­zen of Russ­ian ori­gin. I am who I am, and I am Lithuan­ian patri­ot,” pho­tog­ra­pher Vladimi­ras Ivanovas, 40, who also joined up, told AFP.

- Check­ered past -

The Rifleman’s Union “has left an indeli­ble mark on the his­tory of Lithua­nia,” says his­to­rian Arvy­das Anusauskas.

It was cre­ated after World War I in 1919 dur­ing a series of “Wars of Inde­pen­dence” fought by Lithua­ni­ans in 1918–1920 against Russ­ian Bol­she­viks, mixed Russ­ian and Ger­man forces and Poles.

Aside from Lithua­ni­ans, from 1919–1940 research shows its mem­bers also includ­ed Russ­ian, Poles, Jews and even Chi­nese, reflect­ing the eth­nic com­plex­ity of and ten­sions in the region.

Its rep­u­ta­tion is how­ever taint­ed by alle­ga­tions that cer­tain mem­bers were involved in a series of Nazi mas­sacres between 1940–44 that claimed the lives of an esti­mated 80,000–100,000 Jews, Poles and Rus­sians in Panierai, a sub­urb skirt­ing the cap­i­tal Vil­nius.

The Riflemen’s Union was banned in 1940 by the Sovi­et Union when the Red Army swept in from the east to occu­py Lithua­nia dur­ing World War II, but mem­bers fought a gueril­la war against the Sovi­ets until the ear­ly 1950s.

Its revival in 1989 came as the Sovi­et bloc began to crum­ble and now its large new crop of mem­bers say they are will­ing to fight again should their coun­try come under attack. . . .

 

———-

Discussion

21 comments for “FTR #985 Fascism: 2017 European Tour, Part 2”

  1. Here’s anoth­er instance of some­one fac­ing per­se­cu­tion in a Baltic nation for chal­leng­ing one of the nation­al myths. The per­son in ques­tion, Ruta Vana­gaite, a Lithuan­ian author who pub­lished a best-sell­ing book about how the Holo­caust in Lithua­nia was large­ly car­ried out by local col­lab­o­ra­tors and not the Nazi occu­piers. But that book was­n’t what destroyed her career. Instead, it was a com­ment she made dur­ing an inter­view in response to a ques­tion about her views on the gov­ern­men­t’s deci­sion to declare 2018 the year of Adol­fas Ramanauskas, a leg­endary Lithuan­ian anti-Sovi­et resis­tance fight­er. Accord­ing to Vana­gaite’s research, Ramanauskas agreed to be a KGB infor­mant at one point and he may not have been the hero Lithua­nia holds him to be. And that was it. The next day she was informed that her pub­lish­er pulled ALL her books and she’s basi­cal­ly not wel­come in Lithua­nia any­more and might face pros­e­cu­tion.

    So that gives us a sense of how intense­ly anti-Sovi­et sen­ti­ments define the Lithuan­ian zeit­geist these days: It was fine for Vana­gaite to pub­lish a book about domes­tic col­lab­o­ra­tors car­ry­ing out the Holo­caust, but sug­gest that some­one like Ramanauskas was a KGB infor­mant and your career is destroyed and you’ll poten­tial­ly face pros­e­cu­tion:

    The New York­er

    How a Sin­gle Remark Stole a Lithuan­ian Writer’s Liveli­hood

    By Masha Gessen

    Decem­ber 15, 2017

    The title page of Ruta Vanagaite’s best-known book con­tains two pic­tures of young men. “This one is a Jew,” she said, point­ing at the pic­ture on the left. “He was a bicy­cle-rac­ing cham­pi­on. Good enough to rep­re­sent Lithua­nia in inter­na­tion­al com­pe­ti­tions, but not good enough to live.” He was exe­cut­ed dur­ing the Holo­caust. The man in the pic­ture on the right was a Lithuan­ian exe­cu­tion­er. “They are both us,” Vana­gaite explained. “But Lithua­ni­ans don’t like to think of them as ‘us,’ because one is a Jew and the oth­er is a killer.” Her book is called “Us.” (The title has also been trans­lat­ed as “Our Peo­ple.”)

    I met Vana­gaite at a New York City cof­fee shop on Wednes­day. After a few weeks in the Unit­ed States, she was sched­uled to return to Lithua­nia on Fri­day. As we talked, she sound­ed alter­nate­ly cav­a­lier and fright­ened at the prospect of going home. “I want to try every­thing,” she said at one point. “I’m sup­posed to go in to the prosecutor’s office for ques­tion­ing next week. I’ve nev­er expe­ri­enced inter­ro­ga­tion before. Life should be inter­est­ing.” In a less upbeat exchange, when I asked her about her next project, Vana­gaite said, “Try­ing to avoid prison.” It was unclear what Vana­gaite might go to prison for—she had not been for­mal­ly charged—but it has some­thing to do with des­e­crat­ing the mem­o­ry of one of Lithuania’s nation­al heroes.

    In hind­sight, it’s clear that she had been hurtling toward this moment for a few years. In 2016, Vana­gaite, then six­ty-one, was known as a the­atre crit­ic, a polit­i­cal pub­lic-rela­tions con­sul­tant, an event orga­niz­er, and the author of pop­u­lar non­fic­tion, espe­cial­ly a 2013 book for and about women in and past mid­dle age. The book, which advo­cat­ed liv­ing life to the fullest, was a phe­nom­e­nal best-sell­er. Vana­gaite told me that her pub­lish­er asked her to fol­low up with a book about men. “I said I would do it, but first I have some­thing else I want to write,” she said.

    That project was “Us.” Vana­gaite had become obsessed with some­thing she had learned from a his­to­ri­an: that the Holo­caust in Lithua­nia was car­ried out large­ly not by Ger­man occu­piers but by Lithua­ni­ans them­selves. “It involved a huge num­ber of peo­ple rather than a hand­ful of freaks, as I’d always thought,” she told me. She set out to learn what her own rel­a­tives had done dur­ing the war. Her grand­fa­ther, a civ­il ser­vant, had tak­en part in mak­ing a list of eleven unde­sir­ables, all of whom hap­pened to be Jew­ish, and all of whom were exe­cut­ed. It was con­ceiv­able that he didn’t quite know what the list was for. The case of Vanagaite’s aunt’s hus­band was less ambigu­ous: he served as a chief of police under the Nazi occu­pa­tion.

    Vana­gaite spent six months doing archival research and then set off to see the sites of mass exe­cu­tions. She cast about for an intern to accom­pa­ny her on the road, and end­ed up with an unex­pect­ed com­pan­ion: Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesen­thal Center—and the last of the Nazi hunters. “Us” has a sub­ti­tle: “Trav­els with the Ene­my.” The mean­ing of “ene­my” is as unsta­ble as the mean­ing of “us”: the col­lab­o­ra­tors and exe­cu­tion­ers are the ene­my here, and so are the Nazi occu­piers. But Zuroff, who is a descen­dant of Lithuan­ian Jews, and Vana­gaite were also his­tor­i­cal ene­mies. Togeth­er, they vis­it­ed forty exe­cu­tion sites in Lithuania—about a fifth of the total number—and sev­en more in what is now Belarus.

    As it hap­pens, I inter­viewed Zuroff, in Jerusalem, for anoth­er sto­ry about five years ago. He told me that, after the col­lapse of the Sovi­et Union, in 1991, he had had high hopes for find­ing Nazi crim­i­nals in the three new­ly lib­er­at­ed Baltic states. He placed ads in local papers, offer­ing a gen­er­ous reward for infor­ma­tion that would lead to the arrest of col­lab­o­ra­tors. He got a total of zero tips, and when we spoke he was still unsure about what had stopped peo­ple from com­ing for­ward. Was it a dis­taste for snitch­ing, a sense of sol­i­dar­i­ty with fel­low-cit­i­zens, or a fear of ret­ri­bu­tion? It was prob­a­bly all of these things. Vana­gaite told me that, in her book, she didn’t thank the Lithuan­ian his­to­ri­ans who helped her nav­i­gate the archives because they feared the atten­tion that a pop­u­lar book might bring.

    ...

    “Us,” pub­lished last year, was a best-sell­er. Vana­gaite made new ene­mies, to be sure, but she kept her friends and fam­i­ly, and gained thou­sands of read­ers. She wrote the book about men that she had promised her pub­lish­er, and then she wrote a mem­oir, which she titled “A Chick­en with the Head of a Her­ring.” This was an epi­thet that one of her online crit­ics had used, and she thought that it com­mu­ni­cat­ed an appro­pri­ate­ly iron­ic atti­tude toward the self-aggran­diz­ing enter­prise of an auto­bi­og­ra­phy. Vana­gaite had achieved an exceed­ing­ly rare lev­el of lit­er­ary suc­cess: she lived off the roy­al­ties from her books.

    The day before the launch for her auto­bi­og­ra­phy, in late Octo­ber, Vana­gaite was doing inter­views. One jour­nal­ist asked her about the government’s plans to declare 2018 the year of Adol­fas Ramanauskas, a leg­endary Lithuan­ian anti-Sovi­et resis­tance fight­er. Ramanauskas led a guer­ril­la unit from 1945 to 1952 and lived under an alias for anoth­er five years before being arrest­ed and exe­cut­ed. Vana­gaite had stud­ied Ramanauskas’s K.G.B. file, and now she told the jour­nal­ist what she had found in it: it seemed that Ramanauskas had at one point agreed to be a K.G.B. infor­mant. She said that he may not have been the hero Lithua­nia holds him to be.

    On Octo­ber 26th, Vanagaite’s mem­oir was launched with a lav­ish par­ty. There was chick­en, her­ring, and bub­bly. The fol­low­ing morn­ing, Vana­gaite got a call from a jour­nal­ist ask­ing for her reac­tion to her publisher’s announce­ment that it was with­draw­ing all of her titles from all book­stores. Thou­sands of copies would be pulped. Vanagaite’s source of liveli­hood was gone.

    Gone, too, was her abil­i­ty to ven­ture out­side her home. She tried—after the ini­tial bar­rage of phone calls, she went out, accom­pa­nied by her nephew, and was imme­di­ate­ly accost­ed by passers­by. “They called me a pro-Putin Jew­ish whore,” she said. What does Vladimir Putin have to do with it? The post-Sovi­et Lithuan­ian nar­ra­tive cen­ters on oth­er­ing all the hor­rors of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry: in this sto­ry, Lithua­ni­ans are a good, pure, and free­dom-lov­ing peo­ple who suf­fered under the Sovi­et occu­pa­tion of 1940 to 1941, the Ger­man occu­pa­tion of 1941 to 1944, and the Sovi­et occu­pa­tion of 1945 to 1991. In its broad out­lines, the sto­ry is undoubt­ed­ly true, but, like any his­tor­i­cal myth, it’s an over­sim­pli­fi­ca­tion: thou­sands of Lithua­ni­ans col­lab­o­rat­ed with the occu­pa­tions. Some Lithua­ni­ans are will­ing to accept the fact that their coun­try­men col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Ger­man occu­pa­tion, but the Sovi­et occupation—which last­ed near­ly half a cen­tu­ry, and still hasn’t been acknowl­edged by Russia—is a sto­ry that tol­er­ates no chal­lenge.

    Like most Euro­pean states, Lithua­nia leg­is­lates mem­o­ry. In a new book called “Mem­o­ry Laws, Mem­o­ry Wars: The Pol­i­tics of the Past in Europe and Rus­sia,” Niko­lay Koposov, a Russ­ian exile who teach­es at Emory Uni­ver­si­ty, in Atlanta—and who has some sym­pa­thy for the project of set­ting legal bound­aries of his­tor­i­cal discourse—calls the Lithuan­ian law “an extreme exam­ple of the ten­den­cy to use mem­o­ry laws to pro­mote nation­al nar­ra­tives and shift the blame for crimes against human­i­ty to oth­ers.” The law, enact­ed in 2010, was used the fol­low­ing year to pros­e­cute Algir­das Paleck­is, a Lithuan­ian diplo­mat who sug­gest­ed that Moscow author­i­ties who cracked down on Lithua­nia in Jan­u­ary, 1991, had been aid­ed by Lithuan­ian col­lab­o­ra­tors. Paleck­is paid a fine, and his polit­i­cal career was effec­tive­ly end­ed. If there have been oth­er pros­e­cu­tions since, none has been as high-pro­file as Paleckis’s—or as Vanagaite’s will be, if she is charged.

    Vana­gaite stopped going out­side; she had food deliv­ered. After about two weeks, she left the coun­try, assum­ing that, after a few weeks, the con­tro­ver­sy would die down. It did not. Vana­gaite issued a pub­lic apol­o­gy, and when she talked to me she sound­ed if not con­trite then at least under­stand­ing. “I real­ize that I’ve crossed a line,” she said. “When I was writ­ing my book, I thought every­thing through. But in this inter­view I was very arro­gant. What I should have phrased as a ques­tion I said as an affir­ma­tive state­ment. I should have asked if Ramanauskas is the hero we think he is. Instead, I said, ‘He is no hero.’?” The dis­tinc­tion is not mere­ly gram­mat­i­cal. K.G.B. archives are noto­ri­ous­ly unreliable—Ramanauskas may indeed have been an agent, or the per­son who claimed to have recruit­ed him may have been lying. Vanagaite’s sources among his­to­ri­ans believe that Ramanauskas went into the for­est, where he became a guer­ril­la fight­er, imme­di­ate­ly after agree­ing to be an infor­mant.

    “I’ve destroyed every­thing,” Vana­gaite said. “I’ve destroyed my career as a writer, because no pub­lish­er will sign me now and no book­store will agree to dis­trib­ute my books.” She said that none of her friends will pub­licly sup­port her now; her fam­i­ly stands by her, but she is afraid that the asso­ci­a­tion will harm them. “Every coun­try needs its pos­i­tive myth. Ours was that we had the longest-run­ning resis­tance move­ment in the world,” she said. Ramanauskas, who is said to have stayed in the for­est, fight­ing, for sev­en years, embod­ied this myth. “Now I’ve destroyed that, too.”

    ...

    ———-

    “How a Sin­gle Remark Stole a Lithuan­ian Writer’s Liveli­hood” by Masha Gessen; The New York­er; 12/15/2017

    “The day before the launch for her auto­bi­og­ra­phy, in late Octo­ber, Vana­gaite was doing inter­views. One jour­nal­ist asked her about the government’s plans to declare 2018 the year of Adol­fas Ramanauskas, a leg­endary Lithuan­ian anti-Sovi­et resis­tance fight­er. Ramanauskas led a guer­ril­la unit from 1945 to 1952 and lived under an alias for anoth­er five years before being arrest­ed and exe­cut­ed. Vana­gaite had stud­ied Ramanauskas’s K.G.B. file, and now she told the jour­nal­ist what she had found in it: it seemed that Ramanauskas had at one point agreed to be a K.G.B. infor­mant. She said that he may not have been the hero Lithua­nia holds him to be.”

    So now you know: if you hap­pen to find your­self in Lithua­nia, don’t say any­thing neg­a­tive about Adol­fas Ramanauskas, espe­cial­ly in 2018 since that’s offi­cial­ly going to be the year of Adol­fas Ramanauskas:

    ...
    On Octo­ber 26th, Vanagaite’s mem­oir was launched with a lav­ish par­ty. There was chick­en, her­ring, and bub­bly. The fol­low­ing morn­ing, Vana­gaite got a call from a jour­nal­ist ask­ing for her reac­tion to her publisher’s announce­ment that it was with­draw­ing all of her titles from all book­stores. Thou­sands of copies would be pulped. Vanagaite’s source of liveli­hood was gone.

    Gone, too, was her abil­i­ty to ven­ture out­side her home. She tried—after the ini­tial bar­rage of phone calls, she went out, accom­pa­nied by her nephew, and was imme­di­ate­ly accost­ed by passers­by. “They called me a pro-Putin Jew­ish whore,” she said. What does Vladimir Putin have to do with it? The post-Sovi­et Lithuan­ian nar­ra­tive cen­ters on oth­er­ing all the hor­rors of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry: in this sto­ry, Lithua­ni­ans are a good, pure, and free­dom-lov­ing peo­ple who suf­fered under the Sovi­et occu­pa­tion of 1940 to 1941, the Ger­man occu­pa­tion of 1941 to 1944, and the Sovi­et occu­pa­tion of 1945 to 1991. In its broad out­lines, the sto­ry is undoubt­ed­ly true, but, like any his­tor­i­cal myth, it’s an over­sim­pli­fi­ca­tion: thou­sands of Lithua­ni­ans col­lab­o­rat­ed with the occu­pa­tions. Some Lithua­ni­ans are will­ing to accept the fact that their coun­try­men col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Ger­man occu­pa­tion, but the Sovi­et occupation—which last­ed near­ly half a cen­tu­ry, and still hasn’t been acknowl­edged by Russia—is a sto­ry that tol­er­ates no chal­lenge.
    ...

    “Some Lithua­ni­ans are will­ing to accept the fact that their coun­try­men col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Ger­man occu­pa­tion, but the Sovi­et occupation—which last­ed near­ly half a cen­tu­ry, and still hasn’t been acknowl­edged by Russia—is a sto­ry that tol­er­ates no chal­lenge.”

    And while Vana­gaite has­n’t been for­mal­ly charged with a crime yet, she still might be and it would­n’t be with­out prece­dent:

    ...
    Like most Euro­pean states, Lithua­nia leg­is­lates mem­o­ry. In a new book called “Mem­o­ry Laws, Mem­o­ry Wars: The Pol­i­tics of the Past in Europe and Rus­sia,” Niko­lay Koposov, a Russ­ian exile who teach­es at Emory Uni­ver­si­ty, in Atlanta—and who has some sym­pa­thy for the project of set­ting legal bound­aries of his­tor­i­cal discourse—calls the Lithuan­ian law “an extreme exam­ple of the ten­den­cy to use mem­o­ry laws to pro­mote nation­al nar­ra­tives and shift the blame for crimes against human­i­ty to oth­ers.” The law, enact­ed in 2010, was used the fol­low­ing year to pros­e­cute Algir­das Paleck­is, a Lithuan­ian diplo­mat who sug­gest­ed that Moscow author­i­ties who cracked down on Lithua­nia in Jan­u­ary, 1991, had been aid­ed by Lithuan­ian col­lab­o­ra­tors. Paleck­is paid a fine, and his polit­i­cal career was effec­tive­ly end­ed. If there have been oth­er pros­e­cu­tions since, none has been as high-pro­file as Paleckis’s—or as Vanagaite’s will be, if she is charged.
    ...

    And that a reminds us of one of the more dan­ger­ous dynam­ics in the Baltics and Ukraine today: the per­ceived need for a pos­i­tive nation­al myth that appears to be almost exclu­sive­ly root­ed in mythol­o­giz­ing the resis­tance to the Sovi­et occu­pa­tion. Any­thing that bol­sters that myth is wel­comed and any­thing that under­mines it is attacked as an attack on the nation itself. Which, of course, is one of those ‘warn­ing signs of creep­ing fas­cism’ kinds of things.

    So let’s hope we don’t end up see­ing a new peri­od of extreme far-right vio­lence in the Baltics. If we that does hap­pen, hope­ful­ly peo­ple like Ruta Vana­gaite will be treat­ed bet­ter by future nation­al myth-builders than she is cur­rent­ly. Bet­ter yet, hope­ful­ly there won’t be nation­al myth-builders. Because nation­al myths that every­one actu­al­ly believes with­out ques­tion is just stu­pid. By def­i­n­i­tion.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 18, 2017, 4:33 pm
  2. The secrets of Ukraine’s shame­ful ‘Holo­caust of Bul­lets’ | Dai­ly Mail Online

    By Will Stew­art for MailOn­line
    PUBLISHED: 06:12 EST, 24 August 2015 | UPDATED: 11:44 EST, 6 May 2016

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3205754/Blood-oozed-soil-grave-sites-pits-alive-secrets-Ukraine-s-shameful-Holocaust-Bullets-killing-centre‑1–6million-Jews-executed.html#ixzz52r47MdR5
    Fol­low us: @MailOnline on Twit­ter | Dai­ly­Mail on Face­book

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3205754/Blood-oozed-soil-grave-sites-pits-alive-secrets-Ukraine-s-shameful-Holocaust-Bullets-killing-centre‑1–6million-Jews-executed.html

    ‘Blood oozed through the soil at grave sites. You could see the pits move, some of them were still alive’: The secrets of Ukraine’s shame­ful ‘Holo­caust of Bul­lets’ killing cen­tre where 1.6million Jews were exe­cut­ed
    Sev­en­ty years on from the end of the Sec­ond World War the full, shock­ing scale of the Nazi-inspired Holo­caust in Ukraine is final­ly being revealed — thanks to pio­neer­ing work by a French Catholic priest to research the truth of the indus­tri­al-scale killing.

    Around 2,000 mass graves of Jew­ish vic­tims have been locat­ed where men, women and chil­dren were shot and buried by the Ger­mans and their col­lab­o­ra­tors.

    But there maybe up to 6,000 more sites to uncov­er, with vic­tims of this ‘Holo­caust of bul­lets’ — so called because unlike in Poland and Ger­many where gas cham­bers were used as the means of slaugh­ter — here most were sum­mar­i­ly shot and buried near­by.

    In many cas­es, the Jews were ordered to dig pits and then to strip naked before they were mown down by their mur­der­ers.

    Some were buried in the unmarked plots while still alive.

    Scroll down for video

    Geno­cide: Between 1.4million and 1.6million Jew­ish peo­ple were killed in Ukraine dur­ing the sec­ond World War and buried in mass graves like this one in Kami­anets-Podil­skyi
    Geno­cide: Between 1.4million and 1.6million Jew­ish peo­ple were killed in Ukraine dur­ing the sec­ond World War and buried in mass graves like this one in Kami­anets-Podil­skyi

    Cru­el­ty: The Nazis mowed peo­ple down in a ‘Holo­caust of Bul­lets’ and also sub­ject­ed Jews to hor­ren­dous pub­lic humil­i­a­tion by forc­ing them to strip in the streets (pic­tured) before beat­ing them
    Cru­el­ty: The Nazis mowed peo­ple down in a ‘Holo­caust of Bul­lets’ and also sub­ject­ed Jews to hor­ren­dous pub­lic humil­i­a­tion by forc­ing them to strip in the streets (pic­tured) before beat­ing them

    Vio­lence: A Jew­ish man is kicked to the ground dur­ing a pogrom in the Ukrain­ian city of Lviv in 1941
    Vio­lence: A Jew­ish man is kicked to the ground dur­ing a pogrom in the Ukrain­ian city of Lviv in 1941

    Unthink­able: Wit­ness­es have told of how the Nazis killed Ukrain­ian Jews (pic­tured) ‘for fun’, ‘out of anger, bore­dom, drunk­en­ness’, or ‘to rape the girls’
    Unthink­able: Wit­ness­es have told of how the Nazis killed Ukrain­ian Jews (pic­tured) ‘for fun’, ‘out of anger, bore­dom, drunk­en­ness’, or ‘to rape the girls’

    Blood oozed through the soil at sites of these graves, accord­ing to accounts assid­u­ous­ly col­lect­ed by French Catholic priest, Father Patrick Des­bois, who began his search by seek­ing to trace his grand­fa­ther’s expe­ri­ence as a pris­on­er of war held in a con­cen­tra­tion camp by the Nazis in Ukraine dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

    He uncov­ered accounts of how Jews were killed by the Nazis ‘for fun’, or ‘out of anger, bore­dom, drunk­en­ness’, or ‘to rape the girls’.

    Yet the Sovi­et Union, for its own motives, obscured the full scale of the Holo­caust on its own ter­ri­to­ry.

    Lead­ing his­to­ri­an Mikhail Tyaglyy told MailOn­line the num­ber of Jew­ish vic­tims in Ukraine is between 1.4million and 1.6million, sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er than the oft-quot­ed fig­ure of around one mil­lion.

    The priest’s search took him to four sites around Rava Rus­ka, close to the Ukrain­ian bor­der with Poland, where 15,000 Jews were slain, and also the site of a Nazi camp where his grand­fa­ther Claudius Des­bois had been held as a pris­on­er of war.

    Grad­u­al­ly, elder­ly locals who had kept qui­et all their lives — main­ly under Sovi­et rule — opened up to him, as hun­dreds more did in many oth­er vil­lages and towns in Ukraine.

    One account from Rava Rus­ka was of a Nazi offi­cer who spot­ted a young Jew­ish woman run­ning out of the ghet­to to buy but­ter at the mar­ket. He ordered her to be stripped naked, and demand­ed the trad­er smear her with the but­ter after which he decreed her beat­en to death with sticks.

    Atroc­i­ty: Some­times the Nazis would make the Jews dig the pits before they shot them to death — and many of the vic­tims were buried in unmarked plots (pic­tured)
    Atroc­i­ty: Some­times the Nazis would make the Jews dig the pits before they shot them to death — and many of the vic­tims were buried in unmarked plots (pic­tured)

    Assault: Not only were the Jews in Ukraine mowed down by Nazi shoot­ers, many were sub­ject to bru­tal pub­lic beat­ings on the coun­try’s streets (pic­tured)
    Assault: Not only were the Jews in Ukraine mowed down by Nazi shoot­ers, many were sub­ject to bru­tal pub­lic beat­ings on the coun­try’s streets (pic­tured)

    Infan­ti­cide: The beat­ing of Jew­ish women in the streets of Ukraine (pic­tured) was a reg­u­lar occur­rence and one wit­ness told how a cru­el Nazi grabbed a wom­an’s two-year-old child and beat its head against a wall
    Infan­ti­cide: The beat­ing of Jew­ish women in the streets of Ukraine (pic­tured) was a reg­u­lar occur­rence and one wit­ness told how a cru­el Nazi grabbed a wom­an’s two-year-old child and beat its head against a wall

    In anoth­er case he recount­ed how ‘an unspeak­ably cru­el Ger­man sol­dier grabbed a Jew­ish wom­an’s child from her’.

    He added: ‘He was bare­ly two years old, and he took him and banged his head repeat­ed­ly against the wall... The child died in pools of blood in front of the par­en­t’s eyes.’

    In sep­a­rate tes­ti­mo­ny, an elder­ly wit­ness called Yaroslav showed him to a site out­side the town, and told him how he wit­nessed the hor­ror of mass killing as a 13 year old boy in 1942.

    A Ger­man arrived alone on a motor­cy­cle. He rode around the vil­lage. Every­one won­dered why. It turned out, he was plan­ning the site of what would become Rava Ruska’s Jew­ish mass grave
    Father Patrick Des­bois, Catholic priest
    He was the first of the elder­ly vil­lagers to speak: many oth­ers fol­lowed him, here and in oth­er loca­tions.

    Yaroslav described how the Jews arrived on foot and were forced to undress before being marched to ‘the side of a grave’ in Rava Rus­ka.

    ‘Yaroslav brought me in the for­est with 50 farm­ers, very old peo­ple who were present at the killings,’ Father Des­bois said.

    ‘They described one by one what hap­pened. One per­son said a Ger­man arrived alone on a motor­cy­cle.

    ‘He rode around the vil­lage. At the time, every­one won­dered why. It turned out, he was plan­ning the site of what would become Rava Ruska’s Jew­ish mass grave.’

    On this occa­sion, some 1,500 Jews were marched to the huge pit, dug ear­li­er by oth­er Jews who had been killed with explo­sives.

    The group seen by Yaroslav were then shot, their bod­ies lay­ered on top of each oth­er and cov­ered by local youths from the vil­lage who had been req­ui­si­tioned by the Ger­mans.

    Their clothes were ran­sacked for cash and valu­ables.

    Organ­ised attacks: The pogroms were a part of sys­tem­at­ic anti-Semit­ic vio­lence that includ­ed beat­ings and killings which led to the deaths of 4,000 Jews in Lviv (pic­tured) — 31 miles from of Rava Rus­ka.
    Organ­ised attacks: The pogroms were a part of sys­tem­at­ic anti-Semit­ic vio­lence that includ­ed beat­ings and killings which led to the deaths of 4,000 Jews in Lviv (pic­tured) — 31 miles from of Rava Rus­ka.

    Open­ing up: Elder­ly Ukraini­ans who wit­nessed the hor­ror of mass killings and pub­lic beat­ings (pic­tured) are now end­ing their vow of silence
    Open­ing up: Elder­ly Ukraini­ans who wit­nessed the hor­ror of mass killings and pub­lic beat­ings (pic­tured) are now end­ing their vow of silence

    Help­less: A bad­ly-injured Jew­ish man strug­gles to stand up after being beat­en at a pogrom in Lviv, Ukraine in 1941
    Help­less: A bad­ly-injured Jew­ish man strug­gles to stand up after being beat­en at a pogrom in Lviv, Ukraine in 1941

    Tricked: The Ger­mans claimed that all the Jews of Rawa Rus­ka (pic­tured today) would be sent to work camps but they were instead tak­en to the for­est at Borove and exe­cut­ed
    Tricked: The Ger­mans claimed that all the Jews of Rawa Rus­ka (pic­tured today) would be sent to work camps but they were instead tak­en to the for­est at Borove and exe­cut­ed

    Chill­ing past: An elder­ly wit­ness called Yaroslav showed the priest a site out­side the town of Rava Rus­ka (pic­tured today) and told him how he wit­nessed the hor­ror of mass killing as a 13 year old boy in 1942
    Chill­ing past: An elder­ly wit­ness called Yaroslav showed the priest a site out­side the town of Rava Rus­ka (pic­tured today) and told him how he wit­nessed the hor­ror of mass killing as a 13 year old boy in 1942

    After the bur­ial ‘the earth moved’ from the help­less last strug­gles for life of those wound­ed but buried alive in this mass grave.

    A week lat­er, blood was still seep­ing out from this macabre site.

    Elder­ly Olha Havryliv­na — aged 12 when she wit­nessed the chill­ing atroc­i­ty here — remem­bered: ‘We saw arrests, killings, exe­cu­tions.

    They brought them to the edge of a pit and shot them. But you could see the pit move, because some of them were still alive
    Olha Havryliv­na, wit­nessed killings in
    ‘They brought them to the edge of a pit and shot them. But you could see the pit move, because some of them were still alive. We were young and it was hard to watch. It was a tragedy, a great tragedy.

    ‘The day we came to see they brought a lot of Jews here. There must have been 60 or 70. We looked on. We did­n’t go too near, we stayed over there, but we chil­dren could still see every­thing.’

    Olha told of how 15 Ger­man sol­diers stood all around the pit where their cap­tives were stand­ing in groups.

    The opened fire on the help­less Jews who dropped back-first into the pits.

    Anoth­er wit­ness, Gre­go­ry Haven, recalled how the Ger­mans had before the killings how they ‘ordered all the Jews in the vil­lage to wear an arm­band on their right arm with the Star of David.

    The cloth was white and the star black. The Jews had to give up the milk from their cows’.

    Deceased: A group of blood­ied Jew­ish vic­tims lie did after a night of vio­lence at a pogrom in Lviv
    Deceased: A group of blood­ied Jew­ish vic­tims lie did after a night of vio­lence at a pogrom in Lviv

    Doomed: The priest’s search took him to four sites around Rava Rus­ka (pic­tured), close to the Ukrain­ian bor­der with Poland, where 15,000 Jews were slain
    Doomed: The priest’s search took him to four sites around Rava Rus­ka (pic­tured), close to the Ukrain­ian bor­der with Poland, where 15,000 Jews were slain

    The Nazis ‘began by shoot­ing old peo­ple and chil­dren, they left peo­ple between the ages of 18 and 45 to make them work’.

    ‘Three kilo­me­tres away, they killed them, peo­ple fell like flies. I did­n’t see them but I heard the shots. I saw a young Jew who brought corpses in a cart to the Jew­ish ceme­tery. It was dur­ing the win­ter of 1942, there was blood and the ground was red.’

    After one of the mass killings, in the evening, he recalled: ‘We began to smell an odour and then, as it smelled of death, they forced peo­ple who had carts and hors­es to bring sand there.

    Many peo­ple were req­ui­si­tioned to dig the mass graves, to fill them, to bring the Jews in horse-drawn carts, to bring back their suits, to sell the suits, to put ash­es on the blood
    Father Patrick Des­bois, Catholic priest
    ‘They also put chlo­rine, that allowed them to low­er the lev­el of the pit by one metre, and the blood stopped run­ning’.

    Locals went there ‘because the Jews had undressed there and peo­ple saw the Ger­mans tak­ing the civil­ian clothes of women and men, they came to see if they could find some­thing — mon­ey, rings, gold watch­es’.

    The priest’s grand­fa­ther, a French polit­i­cal pris­on­er, went home after his intern­ment dur­ing which he sur­vived eat­ing dan­de­lions and grass.

    Des­bois said: ‘He nev­er spoke. He only said that out­side the camp was worse than in the camp. I want­ed to under­stand why, and I dis­cov­ered that 18,000 Jews were shot in this vil­lage, Rava Rus­ka.’

    It became clear to him that elder­ly Ukraini­ans like Yaroslav, wit­ness­es to this hor­ror, want­ed to end their vow of silence on the ter­ri­ble things they had seen in their youth.

    ‘Peo­ple who were present at the killings want­ed to speak before they die,’ he said.

    ‘Many peo­ple were req­ui­si­tioned to dig the mass graves, to fill them, to bring the Jews in horse-drawn carts, to bring back their suits, to sell the suits, to put ash­es on the blood. Fifty dif­fer­ent jobs.’

    Bloody: Blood oozed through the soil at sites of mass graves (pic­tured), accord­ing to accounts assid­u­ous­ly col­lect­ed by French Catholic priest Father Patrick Des­bois
    Bloody: Blood oozed through the soil at sites of mass graves (pic­tured), accord­ing to accounts assid­u­ous­ly col­lect­ed by French Catholic priest Father Patrick Des­bois

    Wit­ness­es: The har­row­ing accounts of those who sur­vived the mas­sacre in Rava Rus­ka (pic­tured) have been col­lect­ed by a French Catholic priest, Father Patrick Des­bois
    Wit­ness­es: The har­row­ing accounts of those who sur­vived the mas­sacre in Rava Rus­ka (pic­tured) have been col­lect­ed by a French Catholic priest, Father Patrick Des­bois

    Mass exter­mi­na­tion: The Nazis used gas cham­bers to cru­el­ly kill mil­lions in Ger­many but in Ukraine, they shot Jew­ish peo­ple and buried them near­by
    Mass exter­mi­na­tion: The Nazis used gas cham­bers to cru­el­ly kill mil­lions in Ger­many but in Ukraine, they shot Jew­ish peo­ple and buried them near­by

    Dark his­to­ry: This pile of bones was dis­cov­ered in the Ukrain­ian town of Belzec, around 10 miles away from the site of four mass graves in Rava Rus­ka
    Dark his­to­ry: This pile of bones was dis­cov­ered in the Ukrain­ian town of Belzec, around 10 miles away from the site of four mass graves in Rava Rus­ka

    He explained: ‘Thir­teen Ger­man pri­vate truck­ing com­pa­nies came to work in Rava-Rus­ka.

    ‘The Nazi killers hired these Ger­man com­pa­nies to move the bod­ies to mass graves. Peo­ple must under­stand, Rava Rus­ka was a huge killing cen­tre: first for the Jews, then for polit­i­cal pris­on­ers, and then for the local pop­u­la­tion and the Roma. Each per­son who was killed here was an indi­vid­ual. We can­not for­get this.’

    Some 32,000 were buried around Rava Rus­ka and in neigh­bour­ing towns like Bakhiv, where for years farm­ers have dug up human remains — and in so doing found mass graves — as they ploughed the fields.

    One vet­er­an Tikhon Leshchuk, now 89, recalled how his father, a priest, hid a Jew­ish girl in their house through­out Nazi occu­pa­tion.

    ‘On 27 June 1941, Ger­man troops came into Rava Rus­ka. The sol­ders destroyed the Jew­ish ceme­tery and soon made a Jew­ish ghet­to in the town cen­tre.

    ‘The mar­ket square and the Jew­ish quar­ters around it became a ghet­to. All the Jews from Rava Rus­ka and the near by vil­lages were brought there,’ he said.

    His best friend at school — a Jew — sud­den­ly van­ished, pre­sum­ably shot by the Nazis.

    ‘One day when we were in the vil­lage my father’s friend came. She was a Jew and she brought her 10 year old girl and asked my father to let her stay with us.

    ‘My father agree and Anna, the girl, hid with us all through the years of Ger­man rule. I’m not sure what hap­pened with her moth­er but Anna sur­vived and lat­er became a school teacher in Rava Rus­ka.’

    A wit­ness from Bakhiv, Temofis Ryz­vanuk, then 14, told him how Ger­mans beat the Jews with whips to force them to dig the holes into which they would be buried.

    ‘We were so afraid of the Ger­mans. They had things on their caps, they were ter­ri­fy­ing.

    ‘My father’s broth­er said: “Don’t be afraid, no one is going to kill you. They’re only killing Jews. And they real­ized that they were going to be killed”.

    Coura­geous: One vet­er­an Tikhon Leshchuk (pic­tured), now 89, recalled how his father, a priest, hid a Jew­ish girl in their house through­out Nazi occu­pa­tion
    Coura­geous: One vet­er­an Tikhon Leshchuk (pic­tured), now 89, recalled how his father, a priest, hid a Jew­ish girl in their house through­out Nazi occu­pa­tion

    Memo­r­i­al: There was also a mass grave at Pecho­ra (pic­tured), Ukraine, where many Jews were mur­dered
    Memo­r­i­al: There was also a mass grave at Pecho­ra (pic­tured), Ukraine, where many Jews were mur­dered

    Vic­tim: Women in Lviv (pic­tured) were beat­en rou­tine­ly while one sur­vivor from Rava Rus­ka has told of how a Nazi ordered a woman to be stripped naked, smeared with but­ter and beat­en to death
    Vic­tim: Women in Lviv (pic­tured) were beat­en rou­tine­ly while one sur­vivor from Rava Rus­ka has told of how a Nazi ordered a woman to be stripped naked, smeared with but­ter and beat­en to death

    Ger­man WW2 sol­diers wel­comed to war-town Lviv in Ukraine

    ‘They stripped them naked, men and women. When they had killed them, they put them beside each oth­er, head to head, to pile in as many as pos­si­ble, to save space. The Ger­mans had auto­mat­ic rifles and when they got close to the pit they shot them.’

    Temofis described the bloody exe­cu­tion as a ‘pro­duc­tion line’ that was ‘so well organ­ised’ that it only took a few min­utes for every­one to be killed.

    ‘They had bare­ly got out when they fell and were pushed in and piled togeth­er, head to head like her­rings. Then the next wag­on-load arrived, and then the next,’ he said.

    They stripped them naked, men and women. When they had killed them, they put them beside each oth­er, head to head, to pile in as many as pos­si­ble, to save space. The Ger­mans had auto­mat­ic rifles and when they got close to the pit they shot them
    Temofis Ryz­vanuk, wit­ness of mass killing of Jews in Ukraine
    Des­bois warned: ‘A whole part of the geno­cide has not been declared.

    ‘The chal­lenge is to col­lect the max­i­mum amount of evi­dence about the killing of the Jews in these coun­tries and find out about the mass graves.

    ‘Tomor­row the wit­ness­es will dis­ap­pear and the deniers will over­re­act, say­ing that the Jews fal­si­fied the sto­ry.

    ‘I always say, the Holo­caust was not a tsuna­mi. It was a crime. And when there’s a crime you have evi­dence. It’s very easy to find evi­dence in these vil­lages.’

    In all, more one mil­lion Ukrain­ian Jews were mur­dered by Hitler’s troops, and Father Des­bois and his human­i­tar­i­an organ­i­sa­tion Yahad, in Unum, are seek­ing to iden­ti­fy the sites and erect memo­ri­als but also to help rel­a­tives track where their ances­tors were slain, and now lie buried.

    ‘Twen­ty five years ago, I learned that in Rava Rus­ka there was a camp where 25,000 Sovi­et pris­on­ers were killed by the Ger­mans,’ he said in this vil­lage, once a thriv­ing town with 42 per cent of its pop­u­la­tion Jew­ish.

    ‘There was a memo­r­i­al for the Sovi­et pris­on­ers. But there were no memo­ri­als for the mass graves of the Jews.’

    He had now ensured there is a memo­r­i­al here — erect­ed in May this year — and that the graves, and the mem­o­ry of what hap­pened are pro­tect­ed.

    Self­less task: Father Des­bois (pic­tured) is seek­ing to iden­ti­fy the sites of mass graves and erect memo­ri­als but also to help rel­a­tives track where their ances­tors were slain
    Self­less task: Father Des­bois (pic­tured) is seek­ing to iden­ti­fy the sites of mass graves and erect memo­ri­als but also to help rel­a­tives track where their ances­tors were slain

    Oblig­a­tion: ‘We will come back to the last grave where they killed the Jews... We have a duty to vic­tims because each and every one of them had a name,’ Father Des­bois told MailOn­line
    Oblig­a­tion: ‘We will come back to the last grave where they killed the Jews... We have a duty to vic­tims because each and every one of them had a name,’ Father Des­bois told MailOn­line

    Inhu­mane: Backed by their new Nazi occu­piers, Ukrain­ian mobs would rip wom­en’s clothes off in the streets dur­ing organ­ised riots known as Pogroms
    Inhu­mane: Backed by their new Nazi occu­piers, Ukrain­ian mobs would rip wom­en’s clothes off in the streets dur­ing organ­ised riots known as Pogroms

    But it was his expe­ri­ence in Rava Rus­ka — which was also on the main rail­way line to the death camp of Belzec in Nazi-occu­pied Poland where up to 600,000 were exter­mi­nat­ed in gas cham­bers — that led him to expand his search across the coun­try.

    ‘We want to show that we will come back.’ he said.

    ‘We will come back to the last grave where they killed the Jews... We have a duty to vic­tims because each and every one of them had a name.’

    He has esti­mat­ed that there may be anoth­er 6,000 sites still to find, report­ed Deutsche Welle.

    Else­where in Ukraine, he heard from Niko­la Kris­titch, who was aged eight in 1942, when he saw a vision of hell that haunt­ed him for the rest of his life.

    He was hid­ing in the trees when he saw dead chil­dren being thrown by hand into a pit — a mass grave.

    Adults ‘were com­plete­ly naked and walked with the Rab­bi at their head. He gave a ser­mon, to all those who were already there. And the cars kept com­ing, there were more and more peo­ple and they went into the pit in rows. They all lay down like her­rings.

    ‘They lay down and there was one sub-machine gun and two Ger­mans, they had the skull and cross­bones on their caps. They fired a burst at the peo­ple lying there, and then more went in and anoth­er burst.

    ‘They kept shoot­ing them until night­fall. And we watched. Then the Ger­mans went back again to get the vil­lagers to cov­er the grave. Peo­ple hid to escape doing it. And us kids, we hid in the bush­es, out of curios­i­ty, to see.

    ‘That night, the peo­ple cov­ered it in, but the ground was still mov­ing, for anoth­er two days. The ground heaved. I remem­bered one of the girls, a young girl. Her panties were around her ankles.

    Remem­brance: The loca­tion of a mass grave in Pikov (pic­tured), Ukraine, was turned into a memo­r­i­al after the war
    Remem­brance: The loca­tion of a mass grave in Pikov (pic­tured), Ukraine, was turned into a memo­r­i­al after the war

    Death machine: A map of the exter­mi­na­tion camp in Belzec, around 17km away from Rava-Rus­ka
    Death machine: A map of the exter­mi­na­tion camp in Belzec, around 17km away from Rava-Rus­ka

    ‘A Ger­man fired at her and her hair caught fire. She screamed and he took an auto­mat­ic rifle, got into the grave and fired.

    ‘The bul­let ric­o­cheted off his knee and he bled every­where. He ban­daged his knee, he was half undressed and then he emp­tied his round. He even killed Jews who still had their clothes on, he could­n’t wait he was so crazed with rage. He fired at every­body, he was crazy.’

    A sign of what was to come under the Ger­mans was seen in the Lviv Pogrom of June 1941 imme­di­ate­ly after the Nazi entered the city after push­ing out the Red Army.

    A Ukrain­ian mob, eager­ly backed by the new occu­piers, stripped and beat Jew­ish women in the streets who were sub­ject­ed to pub­lic humil­i­a­tion.

    This was part of an orgy of anti-Semit­ic vio­lence that includ­ed beat­ings and killings which led to the deaths of 4,000 Jews in Lviv (also known as Lvov), which is 31 miles south-east of Rava Rus­ka.

    ‘The top­ic of the Holo­caust was almost banned in Sovi­et times,’ Mikhail Tyaglyy, his­to­ri­an of the Ukrain­ian Cen­tre of Holo­caust Study, told MailOn­line.

    For mod­ern Ukraine the sub­ject is dif­fi­cult, too, because it means admit­ting a role for nation­al­ists in col­lud­ing the Nazis, in part because some pre­ferred a Ger­man occu­pa­tion to Stal­in’s as the less­er of two evils.

    Sovi­et his­to­ry neglect­ed the anti-Semit­ic aspect of the Jew­ish killings, lump­ing these deaths togeth­er with total loss­es in the USSR.

    Death: Six mil­lion Jews were killed in the Holo­caust in Europe, accord­ing to the co-pres­i­dent of Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Organ­i­sa­tions and Soci­eties in Ukraine
    Death: Six mil­lion Jews were killed in the Holo­caust in Europe, accord­ing to the co-pres­i­dent of Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Organ­i­sa­tions and Soci­eties in Ukraine

    Cat­a­lysts: ‘The Nazis did their best to inspire pogroms (pic­tured) every­where they came,’ a his­to­ri­an at the Ukrain­ian Cen­tre of Holo­caust Study told MailOn­line
    Cat­a­lysts: ‘The Nazis did their best to inspire pogroms (pic­tured) every­where they came,’ a his­to­ri­an at the Ukrain­ian Cen­tre of Holo­caust Study told MailOn­line

    Wide­spread: Iosif Zisels, co-pres­i­dent of Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Organ­i­sa­tions and Soci­eties in Ukraine, said that one in four Jews killed dur­ing the Holo­caust were Ukrain­ian Jews (pic­tured)
    Wide­spread: Iosif Zisels, co-pres­i­dent of Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Organ­i­sa­tions and Soci­eties in Ukraine, said that one in four Jews killed dur­ing the Holo­caust were Ukrain­ian Jews (pic­tured)

    Inhu­mane: A woman is cru­el­ly stripped naked dur­ing a pogrom, where large num­bers of peo­ple would gath­er to attack Jew­ish peo­ple and their shops
    Inhu­mane: A woman is cru­el­ly stripped naked dur­ing a pogrom, where large num­bers of peo­ple would gath­er to attack Jew­ish peo­ple and their shops

    Sovi­et his­to­ry has large­ly neglect­ed the anti-Semit­ic aspect of the Jew­ish killings, lump­ing these deaths togeth­er with total loss­es in the USSR.
    Sovi­et his­to­ry has large­ly neglect­ed the anti-Semit­ic aspect of the Jew­ish killings, lump­ing these deaths togeth­er with total loss­es in the USSR.

    Death: By 1945, some three mil­lion non-Jew­ish Ukraini­ans had been mur­dered by the Ger­mans, in addi­tion to the Holo­caust
    Death: By 1945, some three mil­lion non-Jew­ish Ukraini­ans had been mur­dered by the Ger­mans, in addi­tion to the Holo­caust

    ‘We are touch­ing the top­ic of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ism here and it is a com­pli­cat­ed mat­ter. The sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine was not so dif­fer­ent to what was going on in oth­er Sovi­et regions which were occu­pied by Nazis — every­where they relied on local nation­al­ists, who often blamed Jews for sup­port­ing the “Moscow-Bol­she­vik regime”, as they said at the time.

    ‘Such atti­tude eas­i­ly inspired pogroms as we had in West­ern Ukraine.

    ‘The Nazis did their best to inspire pogroms every­where they came. But pogroms is one thing, and sys­tem­at­ic exter­mi­na­tion of the Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion which was organ­ised pure­ly by the Ger­man Nazis is anoth­er.

    ‘It is true that rad­i­cal nation­al­ists helped Nazis in guard­ing and per­formed oth­er tasks. But Nazis did not trust mass killing of Jews to locals.’

    Tyaglyy added: ‘It is vital for all Ukraini­ans to keep mem­o­ries of what hap­pened in Ukraine, to come back to it, because this expe­ri­ence can teach us many impor­tant lessons need­ed nowa­days. ’

    He said: ‘There may be dif­fer­ences in cal­cu­lat­ing the num­ber of Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion in Ukraine before the war, it is about includ­ing or not includ­ing the East­ern regions of Poland after Molo­tov-Ribben­trop pact, but in gen­er­al we can say that at least a half — if not more — of all Ukrain­ian Jews were killed in Holo­caust at our ter­ri­to­ry.’

    Iosif Zisels, co-pres­i­dent of Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Organ­i­sa­tions and Soci­eties in Ukraine, said that six mil­lion Jews were killed in the Holo­caust in Europe.

    ‘Of these, 1.5million to 1.6million were Ukrain­ian Jews,’ he said, ‘In oth­er words, one in four were Ukrain­ian Jews.’

    He added: ‘There are cer­tain stereo­types about par­tic­i­pa­tion of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists in pogroms in the ear­ly war years which were plant­ed by Sovi­et his­to­ry.

    Killers: Although some ‘rad­i­cal nation­al­ists’ helped the Nazis, they did most of the killing of local Jews in Ukraine (pic­tured) them­selves
    Killers: Although some ‘rad­i­cal nation­al­ists’ helped the Nazis, they did most of the killing of local Jews in Ukraine (pic­tured) them­selves

    After­math: Some his­to­ri­ans claim that 5,000 Jews died as a result of these pogroms in Lviv
    After­math: Some his­to­ri­ans claim that 5,000 Jews died as a result of these pogroms in Lviv

    Bru­tal: They also claim that in addi­tion to these 5,000 killed, anoth­er 3,000 peo­ple who were most­ly Jews were exe­cut­ed in the munic­i­pal sta­di­um by the Ger­mans
    Bru­tal: They also claim that in addi­tion to these 5,000 killed, anoth­er 3,000 peo­ple who were most­ly Jews were exe­cut­ed in the munic­i­pal sta­di­um by the Ger­mans

    Extin­guished: Fol­low­ing the 1941 pogroms, the harsh con­di­tions in Lviv (pic­tured) and the depor­ta­tions of Jews to con­cen­tra­tion camps all but erad­i­cat­ed the local Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion
    Extin­guished: Fol­low­ing the 1941 pogroms, the harsh con­di­tions in Lviv (pic­tured) and the depor­ta­tions of Jews to con­cen­tra­tion camps all but erad­i­cat­ed the local Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion

    ‘It is true that the local pop­u­la­tion did coop­er­ate with Ger­man Nazis in the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries but the major­i­ty of them were Russ­ian.

    ‘Rus­sia makes a point about Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists because it is keen to divert sus­pi­cion from itself.’

    The notion of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists col­lud­ing with the Nazis was a vivid hor­ror played on by Sovi­et pro­pa­gan­da, and now seized on again by the Russ­ian author­i­ties in brand­ing ‘fas­cist’ those who cur­rent­ly want to be out­side Moscow’s sphere of con­trol.

    Hitler had planned to erad­i­cate over half of Ukraine’s pop­u­la­tion so that the coun­try’s rich farm­land could be repop­u­lat­ed with Ger­mans in their so-called quest for Leben­sraum.

    By 1945, some three mil­lion non-Jew­ish Ukraini­ans had been mur­dered by the Ger­mans in addi­tion to those killed in the Holo­caust.

    The priest is unapolo­getic over his cam­paign in Ukraine.

    ‘Why do we come back to Ukraine?’ he asked. ‘Because one day we will have to go back to Iraq, because one day we will have to go back to the last mass grave in Dar­fur.’

    Unless the les­son is learned from the Holo­caust ‘tomor­row will be the same sto­ry’.

    Yahad’s exec­u­tive direc­tor Mar­co Gon­za­lez warned: ‘Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this form of geno­cide, the ‘Holo­caust by Bul­lets’, is the mod­el for mass killings today.

    ‘The lessons to be learned are prac­ti­cal and the details need to be exposed for all to see and under­stand.’

    His­to­ri­an Mikhail Tyaglyy said the truth about the Holo­caust in Ukraine must be taught to young peo­ple.

    ‘It is impor­tant to all times and all gen­er­a­tions. Rad­i­cal extrem­ism and anti-Smitism still exists, and this is why it must be taught.

    ‘If we look at mod­ern Ger­man soci­ety, we can hard­ly see any signs of anti-Semi­tism and xeno­pho­bia there, but it became pos­si­ble because of long term wise edu­ca­tion­al, cul­tur­al and his­tor­i­cal poli­cies of the Ger­man state with­in the last decades. ’

    Posted by Mary Benton | December 31, 2017, 7:59 am
  3. Oh look at that: a senior law­mak­er in Vik­tor Orban’s gov­ern­ment was plan­ning on attend­ing a cer­e­mo­ny hon­or­ing the Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor Mik­los Hor­thy, the Regent of Hun­gary who even­tu­al­ly presided over Ger­man-occu­pied Hun­gary and the mass depor­ta­tions of Jews to con­cen­tra­tion camps. And this senior law­mak­er will be joined by the head of the Ver­i­tas His­tor­i­cal Research Insti­tute, the offi­cial gov­ern­ment his­tor­i­cal research agency start­ed by Orban in 2013 (pre­sum­ably for revi­sion­ism pur­pos­es). That all sounds pret­ty con­tro­ver­sial, right? Well, the fact that these two gov­ern­ment fig­ures are attend­ing a cer­e­mo­ny hon­or­ing Hor­thy isn’t the most the con­tro­ver­sial part. It’s the fact that this cer­e­mo­ny was sched­uled for Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day that trig­gered all the out­rage:

    Jew­ish Tele­graph Agency

    Top Hun­gary law­mak­er to hon­or Hitler ally on Holo­caust Remem­brance Day — report

    Deputy speak­er of Hun­gar­i­an par­lia­ment San­dor Lezsak to take part in church cer­e­mo­ny cel­e­brat­ing birth of wartime leader Mik­los Hor­thy, who over­saw mur­der of half a mil­lion Jews
    By JTA 24 Jan­u­ary 2018, 5:32 pm

    Church­go­ers in Budapest said a senior law­mak­er will attend a cer­e­mo­ny hon­or­ing the Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor Mik­los Hor­thy that they are orga­niz­ing on Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day.

    The KESZ group, a Chris­t­ian orga­ni­za­tion, said this in an invi­ta­tion for the Jan­u­ary 27 event at Budapest’s Main Parish Church of the Assump­tion, not­ing it will be attend­ed by San­dor Lezsak, who is deputy speak­er of the Nation­al Assem­bly, which is the Hun­gar­i­an par­lia­ment, and who is also a mem­ber of the Fidesz rul­ing par­ty.

    “In the Holy Mass, we remem­ber with affec­tion and respect the late gov­er­nor Mik­los Hor­thy (1868–1957), who was born 150 years ago,” read the invi­ta­tion, accord­ing to a report Tues­day in Szom­bat, the Jew­ish Hun­gar­i­an week­ly. The edi­to­ri­al­ized arti­cle said the event was “provoca­tive” though it is not yet clear whether it was planned to take place on Jan­u­ary 27 for the date’s sym­bol­ic sig­nif­i­cance.

    Also sched­uled to attend is San­dor Sza­kaly, who in the 2014 gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban was appoint­ed to head the Ver­i­tas His­tor­i­cal Research Insti­tute. Sza­kaly said in an inter­view that year that the 1941 depor­ta­tion and sub­se­quent mur­der of tens of thou­sands of Jews was an “action of the immi­gra­tion author­i­ties against ille­gal aliens.”

    In June, Hun­gar­i­an Jews protest­ed Orban’s inclu­sion of Hor­thy, who over­saw the mur­der of more than 500,000 Holo­caust vic­tims togeth­er with Nazi Ger­many, in a speech among those he called “excep­tion­al states­men” in Hun­gary for lead­ing the coun­try fol­low­ing the dis­in­te­gra­tion of the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­i­an Empire after World War I.

    ...

    ———-

    “Top Hun­gary law­mak­er to hon­or Hitler ally on Holo­caust Remem­brance Day — report” by JTA; Jew­ish Tele­graph Agency; 01/24/2018

    ““In the Holy Mass, we remem­ber with affec­tion and respect the late gov­er­nor Mik­los Hor­thy (1868–1957), who was born 150 years ago,” read the invi­ta­tion, accord­ing to a report Tues­day in Szom­bat, the Jew­ish Hun­gar­i­an week­ly. The edi­to­ri­al­ized arti­cle said the event was “provoca­tive” though it is not yet clear whether it was planned to take place on Jan­u­ary 27 for the date’s sym­bol­ic sig­nif­i­cance.”

    Yeah, that’s pret­ty provoca­tive. Espe­cial­ly when you have a senior law­mak­er and the offi­cial gov­ern­ment his­to­ri­an plan­ning on attend­ing:

    ...
    The KESZ group, a Chris­t­ian orga­ni­za­tion, said this in an invi­ta­tion for the Jan­u­ary 27 event at Budapest’s Main Parish Church of the Assump­tion, not­ing it will be attend­ed by San­dor Lezsak, who is deputy speak­er of the Nation­al Assem­bly, which is the Hun­gar­i­an par­lia­ment, and who is also a mem­ber of the Fidesz rul­ing par­ty.

    ...

    Also sched­uled to attend is San­dor Sza­kaly, who in the 2014 gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban was appoint­ed to head the Ver­i­tas His­tor­i­cal Research Insti­tute. Sza­kaly said in an inter­view that year that the 1941 depor­ta­tion and sub­se­quent mur­der of tens of thou­sands of Jews was an “action of the immi­gra­tion author­i­ties against ille­gal aliens.”
    ...

    So how did this cer­e­mo­ny of “affec­tion and respect” for Mik­los Hor­thy turn out after all the uproar it caused? Well, it was can­celled. But the parish priest at the church, Zoltan Osztie, who also hap­pens to be a leader of event orga­niz­ers the Asso­ci­a­tion of Chris­t­ian Pro­fes­sion­als (KESZ), assures every­one that it was all a total­ly inno­cent mis­take and they had no idea at all that their cel­e­bra­tion of Hor­thy hap­pened to fall on Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day:

    AFP

    Hun­gary church scraps mass for Nazi ally on Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Day
    Main Hun­gar­i­an Jew­ish group said planned par­tic­i­pa­tion of rul­ing par­ty law­mak­er at event ‘tram­ples on the mem­o­ry of all the Hun­gar­i­an vic­tims’

    By AFP 25 Jan­u­ary 2018, 4:58 pm

    BUDAPEST, Hun­gary — A Budapest church said Thurs­day it had can­celed a con­tro­ver­sial mass and memo­r­i­al for Hungary’s Nazi-allied wartime leader Mik­los Hor­thy sched­uled for the Unit­ed Nations Holo­caust day.

    The event is sched­uled for Jan­u­ary 27, des­ig­nat­ed by the UN in 2005 as Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day. The date marks the 1945 lib­er­a­tion of Auschwitz-Birke­nau, the largest of the Nazi death camps.

    “It didn’t enter our heads when we began orga­niz­ing that it fell on that date,” Zoltan Osztie, parish priest at the church and leader of event orga­niz­ers the Asso­ci­a­tion of Chris­t­ian Pro­fes­sion­als (KESZ), told a reli­gious affairs web­site.

    Hungary’s main Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tion Mazsi­hisz crit­i­cized KESZ Wednes­day as well as San­dor Lezsak, a law­mak­er with Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban’s rul­ing Fidesz par­ty, who was sched­uled to make a speech there.

    Mazsi­hisz said the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Lezsak, also a deputy speak­er of the Hun­gar­i­an par­lia­ment, “tram­ples on the mem­o­ry of all the Hun­gar­i­an vic­tims.”

    Urg­ing Orban to per­son­al­ly inter­vene, Ronald Laud­er, head of the World Jew­ish Con­gress, said Thurs­day that it was “tru­ly dis­turb­ing that (the event) is being giv­en legit­i­ma­cy through the par­tic­i­pa­tion of a high dig­ni­tary of Hun­gary.”

    Hor­thy, an auto­crat who ruled Hun­gary from 1920 to 1944, passed anti-Jew­ish laws and over­saw the depor­ta­tions of sev­er­al hun­dred thou­sand Hun­gar­i­an Jews to Nazi Ger­man death camps.

    Almost a third of the approx­i­mate­ly 1.1 mil­lion vic­tims at Auschwitz were Hun­gar­i­an Jews, accord­ing to Mazsi­hisz.

    An esti­mat­ed total of 600,000 Hun­gar­i­an Jews per­ished dur­ing the Holo­caust.

    ...

    The late leader is revered by far-right groups and some pub­lic fig­ures for oppos­ing a short-lived com­mu­nist rev­o­lu­tion in 1919 and restor­ing some of the ter­ri­to­ry lost by Hun­gary at the 1920 Tri­anon Peace Treaty.

    Last year Orban called Hor­thy an “excep­tion­al states­man” in the peri­od after World War I, though he has repeat­ed­ly said his gov­ern­ment has a pol­i­cy of “zero anti-Semi­tism.”

    ———-

    “Hun­gary church scraps mass for Nazi ally on Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Day” by AFP; AFP; 01/25/2018

    ““It didn’t enter our heads when we began orga­niz­ing that it fell on that date,” Zoltan Osztie, parish priest at the church and leader of event orga­niz­ers the Asso­ci­a­tion of Chris­t­ian Pro­fes­sion­als (KESZ), told a reli­gious affairs web­site.”

    Bwah! Yeah, it was all total­ly an acci­dent that the date of the cel­e­bra­tion for a fig­ure revered by far-right groups just hap­pened to fall on Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day. Total­ly an inno­cent mis­take!

    Although, in fair­ness Zoltan Osztie did point out that this cer­e­mo­ny is an annu­al thing that has been held for years. So it’s not as if they just went ahead an decid­ed to cre­ate an entire­ly new cel­e­bra­tion of Hor­thy this year and place it on Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day. At the same time, if this is an annu­al cel­e­bra­tion, it’s hard to imag­ine that the awk­ward tim­ing of it right around Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day has­n’t come up in pri­or years giv­en that Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day was announced in 2005. But that’s part of the excuse: this is an annu­al cer­e­mo­ny so they just weren’t think­ing about the date:

    Reuters

    Hun­gar­i­an mass hon­or­ing Nazi ally can­celed after Jew­ish protests

    Reuters Staff
    Jan­u­ary 25, 2018 / 6:57 AM

    BUDAPEST (Reuters) — A Budapest church has called off a memo­r­i­al mass it was plan­ning to hold in hon­or of a for­mer Hun­gar­i­an leader and Nazi ally on Sat­ur­day — Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day — after protests from Hun­gar­i­an Jews and the World Jew­ish Con­gress.

    Parliament’s deputy speak­er who is mem­ber of the rul­ing Fidesz par­ty of Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban, had been due to speak at the event called in mem­o­ry of inter­war Gov­er­nor Mik­los Hor­thy.

    ...

    Zoltan Osztie, the priest of the Budapest church, said the church had a tra­di­tion of orga­niz­ing a mass for Hor­thy each year and nobody had noticed that Sat­ur­day was also Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance mark­ing the day in 1945 when the Auschwitz-Birke­nau death camp was lib­er­at­ed.

    “We could be blamed for this per­haps, but these two events can not be jux­ta­posed. Nonethe­less, after dis­cus­sion with church lead­ers a deci­sion has been made that nei­ther the memo­r­i­al cer­e­mo­ny nor the mass will take place,” he told szemlelek.blog.hu.

    ...

    ———-

    “Hun­gar­i­an mass hon­or­ing Nazi ally can­celed after Jew­ish protests” by Reuters Staff; Reuters; 01/25/2018

    “Zoltan Osztie, the priest of the Budapest church, said the church had a tra­di­tion of orga­niz­ing a mass for Hor­thy each year and nobody had noticed that Sat­ur­day was also Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance mark­ing the day in 1945 when the Auschwitz-Birke­nau death camp was lib­er­at­ed.”

    So how laugh­able is that expla­na­tion? Well, here’s a very infor­ma­tive post from the Hun­gar­i­an Spec­trum blog that looks at the close ties between the Orban gov­ern­ment and the lead­ers of KESZ (the group behind this cer­e­mo­ny). As as the post notes, there was some­thing else this group claimed to be memo­ri­al­iz­ing dur­ing this cer­e­mo­ny before all the uproar: the vic­tims of the Holo­caust. Yep, the orga­niz­ers actu­al­ly stat­ed that, “the goal of our mass is to prove that there is no con­tra­dic­tion between hon­or­ing the gov­er­nor and remem­ber­ing the vic­tims.” So they were seri­ous­ly plan­ning on a joint ‘Hor­thy + Holo­caust’ memo­r­i­al cer­e­mo­ny on Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day:

    Hun­gar­i­an Spec­trum

    “Memo­r­i­al mass” for Mik­lós Hor­thy can­celled

    Jan­u­ary 26, 2018

    Gov­er­nor Mik­lós Hor­thy, Hungary’s regent between 1920 and 1944, is in the news again thanks to the Keresztény Értelmiségiek Szövetsége/KÉSZ (Asso­ci­a­tion of Chris­t­ian Pro­fes­sion­als), whose Budapest down­town chap­ter decid­ed to hold a “memo­r­i­al mass” in hon­or of the gov­er­nor and his daugh­ter-in-law, Count­ess Ilona Edelsheim-Gyu­lai, “who were born 150 and 100 years ago respec­tive­ly.” The con­nec­tion between the lead­ers of KÉSZ and the Orbán gov­ern­ment is very close. For instance, KÉSZ held its most recent con­fer­ence in the for­mer cham­ber of the Hun­gar­i­an Upper House in the par­lia­ment build­ing. Vik­tor Orbán was the keynote speak­er with a ring­ing speech about the dan­gers threat­en­ing Chris­t­ian Europe.

    This “memo­r­i­al mass” is an annu­al affair, nor­mal­ly held at this time of the year. The idea for it most like­ly came from the long-stand­ing pres­i­dent of the orga­ni­za­tion Zoltán Osztie, a Catholic priest of decid­ed­ly reac­tionary views. He is known for his hatred of lib­er­al­ism, which he calls the result of “the devil’s destruc­tive fury.” He is a great admir­er of the Hor­thy regime because, under Hor­thy, the rela­tion­ship between church and state was the clos­est in Hungary’s mod­ern his­to­ry. He finds the anti-Semit­ic Prime Min­is­ter Pál Tele­ki, the extreme right-wing Bálint Hóman, and Ottokár Pro­hász­ka, the spir­i­tu­al father of Hun­garism, “won­der­ful peo­ple who with the help of God res­ur­rect­ed the dead, muti­lat­ed coun­try.” His church in Dis­trict V has been the scene of sev­er­al memo­r­i­al mass­es for Hor­thy, not just by KÉSZ but, for exam­ple, by an orga­ni­za­tion called Nobil­i­tas Carpathi­ae, which is main­tained by the noble fam­i­lies of Upper Hun­gary — that is, Slo­va­kia. You get the idea.

    Not every year, but on occa­sion, the media has picked up on Osztie’s pen­chant for hold­ing mass­es for Hor­thy despite Orbán’s most recent word on the sub­ject: Hor­thy should not be hon­ored because he remained in his post after the Ger­man occu­pa­tion of the coun­try on March 19, 1944. This obvi­ous­ly hasn’t deterred Osztie, who is fond of cel­e­brat­ing mass­es to hon­or for­mer and present politi­cians. In 2013, for exam­ple, he sent out invi­ta­tions to a mass of thanks­giv­ing in hon­or of Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orbán’s fifti­eth birth­day. Here and there the Hun­gar­i­an media semi-jok­ing­ly report­ed on his activ­i­ties.

    But no one found this year’s announce­ment of the “memo­r­i­al mass” that was sup­posed to take place on Jan­u­ary 27 amus­ing. Since 2005 Jan­u­ary 27 has been rec­og­nized as Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Day. It was on that day in 1945 that the Red Army lib­er­at­ed Auschwitz-Birke­nau. That a priest would cel­e­brate a mass in remem­brance of Hor­thy on Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Day was jar­ring enough. But when the pub­lic found out that Sán­dor Lezsák, one of the vice-pres­i­dents of par­lia­ment, Péter Boross, for­mer prime min­is­ter, and Sán­dor Sza­ká­ly, direc­tor of the Ver­i­tas Insti­tute, the Orbán regime’s very own his­tor­i­cal research group, would be deliv­er­ing speech­es, pre­sum­ably in praise of Hor­thy, a well-deserved storm of protest broke out.

    András Heisler, pres­i­dent of Mazsi­hisz, the umbrel­la orga­ni­za­tion of Jew­ish groups, wrote a let­ter to Sán­dor Lezsák in which he expressed his seri­ous mis­giv­ings about the Hun­gar­i­an government’s involve­ment in the affair. Heisler point­ed out that “every­body deserves prayers for their sal­va­tion and every reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty has the right to offer them. But doing that on Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Day requires a fal­si­fi­ca­tion of his­to­ry.” Mik­lós Hor­thy was com­plic­it in the deaths of the over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of Hun­gar­i­an Jew­ry.

    Heisler’s let­ter didn’t change the minds of the invit­ed guests or the orga­niz­er, who pre­sum­ably would have been offi­ci­at­ing at the mass. Osztie claimed that they were unaware of the day’s sig­nif­i­cance, but he announced that the “memo­r­i­al mass” will also be cel­e­brat­ed for the vic­tims of the Holo­caust. In fact, accord­ing to the orga­niz­ers, “the goal of our mass is to prove that there is no con­tra­dic­tion between hon­or­ing the gov­er­nor and remem­ber­ing the vic­tims.” But as an edi­to­r­i­al in Szom­bat, a Jew­ish peri­od­i­cal, point­ed out, how can one hon­or a man who assist­ed in the depor­ta­tion of all Hun­gar­i­an Jews liv­ing out­side of Budapest?

    In any case, Sán­dor Lezsák was not moved by Heisler’s let­ter. He announced that, in accor­dance with plans, he will attend and deliv­er his speech. Péter Boross was a bit more cir­cum­spect, although he also planned to attend. In his inter­pre­ta­tion, the sched­ul­ing of the “memo­r­i­al mass” was a mis­take, but, as he said, he “hates cow­ardice” and is ready to take the con­se­quences of that deci­sion. He was plan­ning to talk about the Ger­man occu­pa­tion, the depor­ta­tion of Hun­gar­i­an Jews, and the vic­tims of the Holo­caust. And he would talk about Hor­thy, “who alone was brave enough to stop the depor­ta­tion of Jews.” With­out going into the his­tor­i­cal details, let me sim­ply say that this asser­tion by Boross is with­out foun­da­tion.

    But then some­thing hap­pened behind the scenes. In short order, Zoltán Osztie announced that nei­ther the mass nor a remem­brance will be held in his church. Of course, he blamed those “who are full of hate and divide the coun­try and cre­ate hys­te­ria” for the upheaval when noth­ing extra­or­di­nary hap­pened. The event has been part of a year­ly rou­tine.

    This sud­den change of heart looked sus­pi­cious, and ques­tions were raised about the per­son or per­sons behind the deci­sion to can­cel the event. Giv­en the cen­tral­ized nature of Orbán’s polit­i­cal sys­tem, in which almost every­thing orig­i­nates with the prime min­is­ter, peo­ple sus­pect­ed that Orbán, who is very sen­si­tive about his regime being labeled anti-Semit­ic, felt that it was time to inter­vene. Per­haps his deci­sion was expe­dit­ed by Rab­bi Slomó Köves’s con­dem­na­tion of the memo­r­i­al mass. Köves is the “exec­u­tive” rab­bi of the Uni­fied Hun­gar­i­an Jew­ish Con­gre­ga­tion, which is an affil­i­ate of Chabad Lubav­itch. He is cer­tain­ly Vik­tor Orbán’s favorite Jew­ish reli­gious leader. Orbán might not be moved by Mazsi­hisz, but Köves’s com­mu­ni­ty is some­thing else.

    The oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ty is that Vik­tor Orbán was helped along in com­ing to the con­clu­sion that this memo­r­i­al mass must be can­celled by Ronald S. Laud­er, head of the World Jew­ish Con­gress, who, accord­ing to the Israel Nation­al News, “urged Orbán to per­son­al­ly inter­vene” because he found it “tru­ly dis­turb­ing that the event is being giv­en legit­i­ma­cy through the par­tic­i­pa­tion of a high dig­ni­tary of Hun­gary,” mean­ing Sán­dor Lezsák. Then today, Nép­sza­va learned that Car­di­nal Péter Erdo, arch­bish­op of Eszter­gom-Budapest and pri­mate of Hun­gary, per­son­al­ly asked Zoltán Osztie to can­cel the event. Appar­ent­ly, Osztie con­firmed that he act­ed at Erdo’s request. That may be so, but I sus­pect that Erdo received, if not an order, strong prod­ding from Vik­tor Orbán him­self.

    Final­ly, a ques­tion and obser­va­tion about the abort­ed memo­r­i­al mass. Zsuzsan­na Toronyi, direc­tor of the Hun­gar­i­an Jew­ish Muse­um and Archives, asked an obvi­ous ques­tion in a tele­vi­sion inter­view. Why would Hor­thy, who came from a long line of devot­ed Protes­tants with roots in the Hun­gar­i­an Reformed Church, be hon­ored by a Catholic mass? He mar­ried a deeply reli­gious Catholic, but his sons were bap­tized in a Hun­gar­i­an Reformed Church. His son, István, who also mar­ried a Catholic, insist­ed on a Protes­tant wed­ding.

    ...

    Final­ly, I would like to call atten­tion to a short opin­ion piece by Tamás Bauer, one of my favorite Hun­gar­i­an com­men­ta­tors, which appeared today in HVG. Fine, so “there is no mass, there will be no demon­stra­tion. Can we be relieved? Of course not,” starts Bauer. Would it be all right if Osztie and friends set anoth­er date for their “memo­r­i­al mass”? Of course it wouldn’t be. By focus­ing on the date of the gath­er­ing, the dis­cus­sion dealt only with Horthy’s respon­si­bil­i­ty for the Jew­ish vic­tims when he was guilty of so many oth­er things as well: anti-Semi­tism through­out the years between 1920 and 1944, anti-Jew­ish laws, revi­sion­ist for­eign pol­i­cy, enter­ing the war against the Sovi­et Union, send­ing poor­ly equipped sol­diers to the front, and herd­ing Jews into labor bat­tal­ions. All peo­ple who find Orbán’s regime abhor­rent should stand fast against the Hor­thy cult that has been cul­ti­vat­ed by Fidesz politi­cians, includ­ing Vik­tor Orbán.

    ———-

    ““Memo­r­i­al mass” for Mik­lós Hor­thy can­celled” by Hun­gar­i­an Spec­trum; Hun­gar­i­an Spec­trum; 01/26/2018

    This “memo­r­i­al mass” is an annu­al affair, nor­mal­ly held at this time of the year. The idea for it most like­ly came from the long-stand­ing pres­i­dent of the orga­ni­za­tion Zoltán Osztie, a Catholic priest of decid­ed­ly reac­tionary views. He is known for his hatred of lib­er­al­ism, which he calls the result of “the devil’s destruc­tive fury.” He is a great admir­er of the Hor­thy regime because, under Hor­thy, the rela­tion­ship between church and state was the clos­est in Hungary’s mod­ern his­to­ry. He finds the anti-Semit­ic Prime Min­is­ter Pál Tele­ki, the extreme right-wing Bálint Hóman, and Ottokár Pro­hász­ka, the spir­i­tu­al father of Hun­garism, “won­der­ful peo­ple who with the help of God res­ur­rect­ed the dead, muti­lat­ed coun­try.” His church in Dis­trict V has been the scene of sev­er­al memo­r­i­al mass­es for Hor­thy, not just by KÉSZ but, for exam­ple, by an orga­ni­za­tion called Nobil­i­tas Carpathi­ae, which is main­tained by the noble fam­i­lies of Upper Hun­gary — that is, Slo­va­kia. You get the idea.”

    Yes, this “memo­r­i­al mass” is indeed an annu­al affair nor­mal­ly held at this time of the year. And yet in all those pre­vi­ous years they man­aged to avoid hold­ing on Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day. Per­haps that was just luck and the dates nev­er coin­cid­ed before? Who knows, but it would be a lot eas­i­er to give them the ben­e­fit of the doubt if they did­n’t announce that this year’s memo­r­i­al mass would also cel­e­brate the vic­tims of the Holo­caust, “to prove that there is no con­tra­dic­tion between hon­or­ing the gov­er­nor and remem­ber­ing the vic­tims”:

    ...
    But no one found this year’s announce­ment of the “memo­r­i­al mass” that was sup­posed to take place on Jan­u­ary 27 amus­ing. Since 2005 Jan­u­ary 27 has been rec­og­nized as Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Day. It was on that day in 1945 that the Red Army lib­er­at­ed Auschwitz-Birke­nau. That a priest would cel­e­brate a mass in remem­brance of Hor­thy on Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Day was jar­ring enough. But when the pub­lic found out that Sán­dor Lezsák, one of the vice-pres­i­dents of par­lia­ment, Péter Boross, for­mer prime min­is­ter, and Sán­dor Sza­ká­ly, direc­tor of the Ver­i­tas Insti­tute, the Orbán regime’s very own his­tor­i­cal research group, would be deliv­er­ing speech­es, pre­sum­ably in praise of Hor­thy, a well-deserved storm of protest broke out.

    András Heisler, pres­i­dent of Mazsi­hisz, the umbrel­la orga­ni­za­tion of Jew­ish groups, wrote a let­ter to Sán­dor Lezsák in which he expressed his seri­ous mis­giv­ings about the Hun­gar­i­an government’s involve­ment in the affair. Heisler point­ed out that “every­body deserves prayers for their sal­va­tion and every reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty has the right to offer them. But doing that on Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Day requires a fal­si­fi­ca­tion of his­to­ry.” Mik­lós Hor­thy was com­plic­it in the deaths of the over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of Hun­gar­i­an Jew­ry.

    Heisler’s let­ter didn’t change the minds of the invit­ed guests or the orga­niz­er, who pre­sum­ably would have been offi­ci­at­ing at the mass. Osztie claimed that they were unaware of the day’s sig­nif­i­cance, but he announced that the “memo­r­i­al mass” will also be cel­e­brat­ed for the vic­tims of the Holo­caust. In fact, accord­ing to the orga­niz­ers, “the goal of our mass is to prove that there is no con­tra­dic­tion between hon­or­ing the gov­er­nor and remem­ber­ing the vic­tims.” But as an edi­to­r­i­al in Szom­bat, a Jew­ish peri­od­i­cal, point­ed out, how can one hon­or a man who assist­ed in the depor­ta­tion of all Hun­gar­i­an Jews liv­ing out­side of Budapest?

    In any case, Sán­dor Lezsák was not moved by Heisler’s let­ter. He announced that, in accor­dance with plans, he will attend and deliv­er his speech. Péter Boross was a bit more cir­cum­spect, although he also planned to attend. In his inter­pre­ta­tion, the sched­ul­ing of the “memo­r­i­al mass” was a mis­take, but, as he said, he “hates cow­ardice” and is ready to take the con­se­quences of that deci­sion. He was plan­ning to talk about the Ger­man occu­pa­tion, the depor­ta­tion of Hun­gar­i­an Jews, and the vic­tims of the Holo­caust. And he would talk about Hor­thy, “who alone was brave enough to stop the depor­ta­tion of Jews.” With­out going into the his­tor­i­cal details, let me sim­ply say that this asser­tion by Boross is with­out foun­da­tion.
    ...

    “Heisler’s let­ter didn’t change the minds of the invit­ed guests or the orga­niz­er, who pre­sum­ably would have been offi­ci­at­ing at the mass. Osztie claimed that they were unaware of the day’s sig­nif­i­cance, but he announced that the “memo­r­i­al mass” will also be cel­e­brat­ed for the vic­tims of the Holo­caust. In fact, accord­ing to the orga­niz­ers, “the goal of our mass is to prove that there is no con­tra­dic­tion between hon­or­ing the gov­er­nor and remem­ber­ing the vic­tims.” But as an edi­to­r­i­al in Szom­bat, a Jew­ish peri­od­i­cal, point­ed out, how can one hon­or a man who assist­ed in the depor­ta­tion of all Hun­gar­i­an Jews liv­ing out­side of Budapest?”

    So that’s how this group, which is close­ly con­nect­ed to Orban’s gov­ern­ment, was plan­ning on spin­ning their memo­r­i­al mass for Hor­thy: It’s actu­al­ly a cel­e­bra­tion of one of the key fig­ures behind the Holo­caust and a cel­e­bra­tion for the vic­tims of the Holo­caust. Which, giv­en the far-right back­ground of the fig­ures involved, sure looks like a sick attempt to pub­licly cel­e­brate the Holo­caust.

    But as the piece notes at the end, it’s not the ill-cho­sen date is the pri­ma­ry rea­son to be out­raged over this memo­r­i­al mass for Hor­thy. That’s just the icing on the fas­cist cake. Giv­en Hor­thy’s his­to­ry as a repres­sive dic­ta­tor, every memo­r­i­al mass for Hor­thy backed by the gov­ern­ment is rea­son for out­rage:

    ...
    Final­ly, I would like to call atten­tion to a short opin­ion piece by Tamás Bauer, one of my favorite Hun­gar­i­an com­men­ta­tors, which appeared today in HVG. Fine, so “there is no mass, there will be no demon­stra­tion. Can we be relieved? Of course not,” starts Bauer. Would it be all right if Osztie and friends set anoth­er date for their “memo­r­i­al mass”? Of course it wouldn’t be. By focus­ing on the date of the gath­er­ing, the dis­cus­sion dealt only with Horthy’s respon­si­bil­i­ty for the Jew­ish vic­tims when he was guilty of so many oth­er things as well: anti-Semi­tism through­out the years between 1920 and 1944, anti-Jew­ish laws, revi­sion­ist for­eign pol­i­cy, enter­ing the war against the Sovi­et Union, send­ing poor­ly equipped sol­diers to the front, and herd­ing Jews into labor bat­tal­ions. All peo­ple who find Orbán’s regime abhor­rent should stand fast against the Hor­thy cult that has been cul­ti­vat­ed by Fidesz politi­cians, includ­ing Vik­tor Orbán.

    Yep, it’s hard to ignore the real­i­ty that, had this church sim­ply cho­sen a dif­fer­ent day for their “memo­r­i­al mass” almost no one would care about any of this. It would­n’t be inter­na­tion­al news. It would just be a large­ly local news sto­ry that almost no one cares about. It’s a reminder of the extent to which the far-right has man­aged to nor­mal­ize the his­tor­i­cal reha­bil­i­ta­tion of their his­tor­i­cal heroes: his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism is fine, just don’t do it on Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day. That’s more or less where ‘the line’ is these days.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 30, 2018, 4:41 pm
  4. It looks Ukraine has some com­pe­ti­tion in the area of offi­cial WWII his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism: Poland just made it pun­ish­able for up to three years for any­one to sug­gest that there could have been a Pol­ish role in the Holo­caust:

    Haaretz

    Despite Promise to Israel, Pol­ish Sen­ate Pass­es Bill Crim­i­nal­iz­ing Men­tion of Pol­ish Nation’s Par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Holo­caust

    The bill, which still requires the approval of the Pol­ish pres­i­dent to become law, calls for up to 3 years behind bars for those cit­ing the Pol­ish nation’s involve­ment in the Nazis’ crimes

    Ofer Aderet and The Asso­ci­at­ed Press Feb 01, 2018 5:33 AM

    The upper house of the Pol­ish par­lia­ment, the Sen­ate, has approved the con­tro­ver­sial bill crim­i­nal­iz­ing alle­ga­tions of Pol­ish com­plic­i­ty in the Holo­caust. The bill has caused a storm of oppo­si­tion in Israel.

    “We have to send a clear sig­nal to the world that we won’t allow for Poland to con­tin­ue being insult­ed,” Patryk Jaki, a deputy jus­tice min­is­ter, told reporters in par­lia­ment.

    The Sen­ate vot­ed on the draft bill in the ear­ly hours on Thurs­day and it will now be sent to Pres­i­dent Andrzej Duda for a final sig­na­ture.

    Poland’s PAP news agency report­ed 57 sen­a­tors vot­ed for the draft bill, with 23 against and two absten­tions.

    The Sen­ate’s approval of the bill came despite Pol­ish assur­ances that a dia­logue on the leg­is­la­tion would be held with Israel before a vote on it in the Sen­ate. It had pre­vi­ous­ly been approved by the low­er house of par­lia­ment.

    The leg­is­la­tion, which still requires the approval by Poland’s pres­i­dent to become law, bans any claims that the Pol­ish peo­ple or Pol­ish state were respon­si­ble or com­plic­it in the Nazis’ crimes, crimes against human­i­ty or war crimes. The bill also bans min­i­miz­ing the respon­si­bil­i­ty of “the real per­pe­tra­tors” for these crimes.

    In explana­to­ry notes accom­pa­ny­ing the bill, it was not­ed that it aims to fight expres­sions such as “Pol­ish exter­mi­na­tion camps,” which pur­port­ed­ly attribute guilt for the Nazis’ crimes to the Poles — rather than ref­er­ence Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps in Poland. The bill calls for an impris­on­ment of up to three years for vio­la­tions of the leg­is­la­tion.

    The low­er house of par­lia­ment passed the bill last Fri­day. Media reports of the low­er house­’s pas­sage of the bill cre­at­ed polit­i­cal, pub­lic and media storm in Israel. Israelis offi­cials took sev­er­al steps in response, includ­ing a tele­phone call between Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu and his Pol­ish coun­ter­part, Mateusz Moraw­iec­ki. The Pol­ish deputy ambas­sador in Israel was sum­moned to the Israeli For­eign Min­istry for clar­i­fi­ca­tions, and Israel’s ambas­sador in War­saw had con­tacts on the mat­ter with the Pol­ish pres­i­den­t’s office.

    The con­tacts result­ed in the two coun­tries agree­ing to set up a joint task­force to dis­cuss the mat­ter, but even before the sides began their work, the Pol­ish Sen­ate approved the bill. The last stage of the Pol­ish leg­isla­tive process is its approval by Pol­ish Pres­i­dent Andrzej Duda, who has the pow­er to request changes to the leg­is­la­tion or even veto it. In recent com­ments, how­ev­er, Duda has expressed sup­port for the leg­is­la­tion, which he said cor­rects a his­toric wrong and defends Poland’s rep­u­ta­tion.

    The leg­is­la­tion carves out an excep­tion for “artis­tic and sci­en­tif­ic” activ­i­ty. The Pol­ish For­eign Min­istry has said that law would also not lim­it the free­dom to con­duct research or to hold his­tor­i­cal debate. The pres­i­den­t’s chief of staff, Krzysztof said the pur­pose of the law was “pre­vent­ing lies and base­less accu­sa­tions direct­ed at the Pol­ish peo­ple and the Pol­ish state.” For its part, the Pol­ish For­eign Min­istry said it was meant “to pre­vent the delib­er­ate defama­tion of Poland.”

    Ear­li­er the pres­i­den­t’s office attempt­ed to calm con­cerns in Israel, stat­ing: “Any­one who has a true per­son­al mem­o­ry or his­tor­i­cal research on crimes and on improp­er con­duct that took place in the past with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Poles has the full right to ver­i­fy this.”

    The Unit­ed States asked Poland to rethink plans to enact pro­posed leg­is­la­tion, argu­ing Wednes­day that if it pass­es it could hurt free­dom of speech as well as strate­gic rela­tion­ships.

    U.S. State Depart­ment spokes­woman Neather Nauert voiced her gov­ern­men­t’s con­cerns, say­ing that the U.S. under­stands that phras­es like “Pol­ish death camps” are “inac­cu­rate, mis­lead­ing, and hurt­ful” but voiced con­cern the leg­is­la­tion could “under­mine free speech and aca­d­e­m­ic dis­course.”

    “We are also con­cerned about the reper­cus­sions this draft leg­is­la­tion, if enact­ed, could have on Poland’s strate­gic inter­ests and rela­tion­ships — includ­ing with the Unit­ed States and Israel. The result­ing divi­sions that may arise among our allies ben­e­fit only our rivals,” Nauert said.

    “We encour­age Poland to reeval­u­ate the leg­is­la­tion in light of its poten­tial impact on the prin­ci­ple of free speech and on our abil­i­ty to be effec­tive part­ners.”

    Nauert’s state­ment came only days after U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son vis­it­ed War­saw, where he paid respects to Jew­ish and Pol­ish vic­tims of the war on Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day.

    ...

    The low­er house of the Pol­ish par­lia­ment approved the bill on Fri­day, a day before Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day, tim­ing that has also been crit­i­cized as insen­si­tive.

    ———–

    “Despite Promise to Israel, Pol­ish Sen­ate Pass­es Bill Crim­i­nal­iz­ing Men­tion of Pol­ish Nation’s Par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Holo­caust” by Ofer Aderet and The Asso­ci­at­ed Press; Haaretz; 02/01/2018

    The leg­is­la­tion, which still requires the approval by Poland’s pres­i­dent to become law, bans any claims that the Pol­ish peo­ple or Pol­ish state were respon­si­ble or com­plic­it in the Nazis’ crimes, crimes against human­i­ty or war crimes. The bill also bans min­i­miz­ing the respon­si­bil­i­ty of “the real per­pe­tra­tors” for these crimes

    So it’s about to become ille­gal to make any claims that “that the Pol­ish peo­ple or Pol­ish state were respon­si­ble or com­plic­it in the Nazis’ crimes, crimes against human­i­ty or war crimes.” Any claims to the con­trary are now ille­gal and pun­ish­able with up to three years of prison.

    And while it’s true that the Pol­ish gov­ern­ment was in exile dur­ing WWII and the death camps were set up and admin­is­tered by Nazi occu­piers, it’s not as if the non-Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion was­n’t gripped with an intense anti-Semi­tism and there weren’t numer­ous instances of indi­vid­ual Poles turn­ing their Jew­ish neigh­bors into the Nazi author­i­ties. But mak­ing those kinds of points will now poten­tial­ly open you up to legal reper­cus­sions in Poland. Unless you do it in the form of an “artis­tic” or “sci­en­tif­ic” activ­i­ty:

    ...
    The leg­is­la­tion carves out an excep­tion for “artis­tic and sci­en­tif­ic” activ­i­ty. The Pol­ish For­eign Min­istry has said that law would also not lim­it the free­dom to con­duct research or to hold his­tor­i­cal debate. The pres­i­den­t’s chief of staff, Krzysztof said the pur­pose of the law was “pre­vent­ing lies and base­less accu­sa­tions direct­ed at the Pol­ish peo­ple and the Pol­ish state.” For its part, the Pol­ish For­eign Min­istry said it was meant “to pre­vent the delib­er­ate defama­tion of Poland.”
    ...

    So if you’re going to bring up, say, the his­to­ry of how more than 300 Jews were burned alive in a barn by their Pol­ish neigh­bors, do it artis­ti­cal­ly and/or sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly.

    And note how Poland’s Pres­i­dent has already expressed sup­port for the leg­is­la­tion and the low­er house of the par­lia­ment already passed the bill (one day before Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day). So the final pas­sage of this law is fore­gone con­clu­sion at this point:

    ...
    The con­tacts result­ed in the two coun­tries agree­ing to set up a joint task­force to dis­cuss the mat­ter, but even before the sides began their work, the Pol­ish Sen­ate approved the bill. The last stage of the Pol­ish leg­isla­tive process is its approval by Pol­ish Pres­i­dent Andrzej Duda, who has the pow­er to request changes to the leg­is­la­tion or even veto it. In recent com­ments, how­ev­er, Duda has expressed sup­port for the leg­is­la­tion, which he said cor­rects a his­toric wrong and defends Poland’s rep­u­ta­tion.

    ...

    The low­er house of the Pol­ish par­lia­ment approved the bill on Fri­day, a day before Inter­na­tion­al Holo­caust Remem­brance Day, tim­ing that has also been crit­i­cized as insen­si­tive.

    So what’s the inter­na­tion­al response going to be to this bill? Obvi­ous­ly Israel isn’t going to be pleased. And as we just saw, the US was high­ly crit­i­cal of it, although large­ly over fears that it would play into the hands of the Russ­ian nar­ra­tive that East­ern Europe was expe­ri­enc­ing a groundswell of far-right pro-Nazi sen­ti­ments in recent years (which is objec­tive­ly true).

    But if there’s one nation that’s going to be extra pissed about this law, it’s per­haps fit­ting and not at all sur­pris­ing that it’s one of Poland’s neigh­bor who have been engaged in even more egre­gious fits of offi­cial­ly sanc­tioned his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism: Ukraine. And that’s because Poland’s new law does­n’t just ban ref­er­ences to “Pol­ish death camps.” It also bans the his­tor­i­cal denial­ism of the role Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists played in Poland’s Holo­caust:

    UNIAN

    Pol­ish Sejm bans “Ban­dera ide­ol­o­gy”

    The new leg­is­la­tion defines “crimes of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists and Ukrain­ian units who col­lab­o­rat­ed with the III Reich.”

    15:50, 26 Jan­u­ary 2018

    The Pol­ish Sejm on Fri­day vot­ed for the bill sub­mit­ted by the Kukiz’15 par­ty set­ting a ban on pro­mot­ing the so-called “Ban­dera ide­ol­o­gy”, with its his­toric roots stem­ming from Ukraine.

    “The Sejm has just vot­ed for the law sub­mit­ted by the Kukiz’15 par­ty, which pro­hibits the pro­pa­gan­da of Ban­derism in Poland! We were wait­ing from July 6, 2016! Final­ly!” the leader of the par­ty Pawel Kuk­iz wrote on Twit­ter, as report­ed by Radio Poland.

    ...

    The bill defines “the crimes of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists and Ukrain­ian units who col­lab­o­rat­ed with the III Reich”, intro­duc­ing a pos­si­bil­i­ty of launch­ing crim­i­nal probes against deniers of such crimes.

    “We do not want this in Poland; we want the ide­olo­gies, in which the Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry has been engaged in the fields of edu­ca­tion, pre­ven­tion and pros­e­cu­tion, like Nazi, Hitler’s, and Com­mu­nism, also include this ide­ol­o­gy of the Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists and Ukrain­ian units who col­lab­o­rat­ed with the III Ger­man Reich,” said Tomasz Rzymkows­ki, MP from the Kukiz’15 par­ty.

    ———-

    “Pol­ish Sejm bans “Ban­dera ide­ol­o­gy””; UNIAN; 01/26/2018

    “The bill defines “the crimes of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists and Ukrain­ian units who col­lab­o­rat­ed with the III Reich”, intro­duc­ing a pos­si­bil­i­ty of launch­ing crim­i­nal probes against deniers of such crimes.”

    So how has Ukraine respond­ed to a bill that out­laws the denial of the role Ban­dera and the OUN‑B played in Holo­caust in Poland/Ukraine giv­en that Ukraine out­lawed any men­tion of the role these groups played in the Holo­caust back in 2015? Well, check out the response from Volodymyr Via­tro­vych, the direc­tor of the Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry and a lead­ing fig­ure behind Ukraine’s own laws ban­ning crit­i­cism of Ban­dera and the OUN‑B: Via­tro­vych calls Poland’s new law cen­sor­ship:

    Irony is indeed dead:l....Head of #Ukraine Mem­o­ry Insti­tute Via­tro­vych — dri­ving force behind UA law crim­i­nal­iz­ing crit­i­cism of nation­al­ist WW2 col­lab­o­ra­tors Ban­der­a/OUN-UPA — says new #Poland law pro­hibit­ing pro­mo­tion of Ban­dera is “cen­sor­ship” https://t.co/qTbHXUTrhL— Defend­ing His­to­ry (@DefendingHistor) Jan­u­ary 30, 2018

    And yes, Poland’s new law is indeed cen­sor­ship. It’s just that there are some peo­ple who prob­a­bly should­n’t be mak­ing that point. Espe­cial­ly Volodymyr Via­tro­vych.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 1, 2018, 4:01 pm
  5. Blam­ing the vic­tim is nev­er a great a look. But it’s hard to out do the recent vic­tim blam­ing on dis­play by an advi­sor to Poland’s right-wing pres­i­dent: in respond­ing to Israeli crit­i­cism over the new Pol­ish Holo­caust law — the law bans, under the threat of jail, pub­lic talk of the role the Pol­ish peo­ple may have played in the Holo­caust — an advis­er to Poland’s pres­i­dent just sug­gest­ed that the Jews are just being sen­si­tive over a “feel­ing of shame at the pas­siv­i­ty of the Jews dur­ing the Holo­caust”:

    Times of Israel

    Top Pol­ish offi­cial accus­es Jews of ‘pas­siv­i­ty’ in Holo­caust
    Andrzej Zyber­tow­icz, an advis­er to Pres­i­dent Duda, says harsh Jerusalem response to con­tro­ver­sial Holo­caust leg­is­la­tion stems from ‘feel­ing of shame’

    By AP and TOI staff
    10 Feb­ru­ary 2018, 12:48 pm

    WARSAW, Poland — An advis­er to Poland’s pres­i­dent has said that Israel’s reac­tion to a law crim­i­nal­iz­ing some state­ments about Poland’s actions dur­ing World War II stems from a “feel­ing of shame at the pas­siv­i­ty of the Jews dur­ing the Holo­caust.”

    Andrzej Zyber­tow­icz made the remark in an inter­view pub­lished Fri­day in the Pol­s­ka-The Times news­pa­per. Zyber­tow­icz tweet­ed a link to the arti­cle on Fri­day.

    The bill pro­hibit­ing blam­ing the Pol­ish nation for Holo­caust crimes was signed into law Tues­day by Pres­i­dent Andrzej Duda but has yet to receive final approval from the country’s Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court.

    The law has sparked anger in Israel, where Holo­caust sur­vivors and oth­ers with roots in Poland fear it will allow the gov­ern­ment to white­wash the role some Poles had in killing Jews dur­ing WWII.

    Israeli oppo­si­tion to the law has sparked anti-Semit­ic state­ments from offi­cials and oth­ers in Poland, with some accus­ing Jews of speak­ing out against the bill for mon­e­tary gain.

    On Wednes­day, a small group of far-right advo­cates demon­strat­ed in front of the pres­i­den­tial palace demand­ing that he okay the bill. The demon­stra­tors held a ban­ner read­ing “Take off your yarmulke. Sign the bill.”

    Bea­ta Mazurek, the spokes­woman for the con­ser­v­a­tive Law and Jus­tice and a deputy par­lia­ment speak­er, this week tweet­ed a quote by a Catholic priest who had said that the Israeli ambassador’s crit­i­cism of the bill “made it hard for me to look at Jews with sym­pa­thy and kind­ness.”

    Many of Poland’s con­ser­v­a­tive law­mak­ers and com­men­ta­tors are now accus­ing Israelis and Amer­i­can Jews of using the issue as a pre­text for get­ting mon­ey from Poland for pre­war Jew­ish prop­er­ty seized in the com­mu­nist era.

    Jerzy Czer­win­s­ki, a sen­a­tor with the rul­ing par­ty, said on state radio Mon­day that he saw a “hid­den agen­da” in the oppo­si­tion.

    “After all, we know that Jew­ish cir­cles, includ­ing Amer­i­can, but most­ly the state of Israel, are try­ing to get resti­tu­tion of prop­er­ty or at least com­pen­sa­tion,” he said.

    Last week, Israel’s embassy in War­saw denounced what it said was a “wave of anti-Semit­ic state­ments” sweep­ing across Poland, many of them direct­ed at the Israeli ambas­sador, Anna Azari.

    In one instance last week, the head of a state-run chan­nel sug­gest­ed refer­ring to Auschwitz as a “Jew­ish death camp,” in response to an out­cry over use of the term “Pol­ish death camp” to describe the Nazi killing site in Ger­man-occu­pied Poland.

    As cur­rent­ly writ­ten, the leg­is­la­tion calls for prison terms of up to three years for attribut­ing the crimes of Nazi Ger­many to the Pol­ish state or nation. The bill would also set fines or a max­i­mum three-year jail term for any­one who refers to Nazi Ger­man death camps as Pol­ish.

    ...

    ———-

    “Top Pol­ish offi­cial accus­es Jews of ‘pas­siv­i­ty’ in Holo­caust” by AP and TOI staff; Times of Israel; 02/10/2018

    “An advis­er to Poland’s pres­i­dent has said that Israel’s reac­tion to a law crim­i­nal­iz­ing some state­ments about Poland’s actions dur­ing World War II stems from a “feel­ing of shame at the pas­siv­i­ty of the Jews dur­ing the Holo­caust.”

    So is this going to be the new far-right line on the Holo­caust? That it was real­ly the Jews’ fault because they did­n’t fight back enough? We’ll see how the Pol­ish response to Jew­ish crit­i­cism evolves but it’s look­ing like the Israeli response is being turned into a right-wing excuse to now rev­el in all sorts of anti-Semi­tism:

    ...
    Israeli oppo­si­tion to the law has sparked anti-Semit­ic state­ments from offi­cials and oth­ers in Poland, with some accus­ing Jews of speak­ing out against the bill for mon­e­tary gain.

    On Wednes­day, a small group of far-right advo­cates demon­strat­ed in front of the pres­i­den­tial palace demand­ing that he okay the bill. The demon­stra­tors held a ban­ner read­ing “Take off your yarmulke. Sign the bill.”

    Bea­ta Mazurek, the spokes­woman for the con­ser­v­a­tive Law and Jus­tice and a deputy par­lia­ment speak­er, this week tweet­ed a quote by a Catholic priest who had said that the Israeli ambassador’s crit­i­cism of the bill “made it hard for me to look at Jews with sym­pa­thy and kind­ness.”‘
    ...

    “Bea­ta Mazurek, the spokes­woman for the con­ser­v­a­tive Law and Jus­tice and a deputy par­lia­ment speak­er, this week tweet­ed a quote by a Catholic priest who had said that the Israeli ambassador’s crit­i­cism of the bill “made it hard for me to look at Jews with sym­pa­thy and kind­ness.”‘”

    Yes, a deputy par­lia­ment speak­er from the rul­ing Law and Jus­tice par­ty tweet­ed a quote by a Catholic priest about how these crit­i­cism made it dif­fi­cult to look at Jews with sym­pa­thy. And that was in response to the total­ly expect­ed Israeli crit­i­cism of a new Holo­caust revi­sion­ism law. Hence the Pol­ish Prime Min­is­ter ask­ing Poles to refrain from anti-Semit­ic state­ments:

    Times of Israel

    Pol­ish PM tells his peo­ple to avoid anti-Semit­ic remarks
    Moraw­ieck­i’s com­ments come after Israel points out uptick in slurs against Jews since Holo­caust bill was raised

    By AFP and TOI staff 11 Feb­ru­ary 2018, 5:16 pm

    Pol­ish Prime Min­is­ter Mateusz Moraw­iec­ki on Sun­day called on Poles to refrain from mak­ing anti-Semit­ic state­ments at a time when the coun­try is under fire over a con­tro­ver­sial Holo­caust law.

    “I would like to invite every one of you to con­tribute to pos­i­tive think­ing… to avoid anti-Semit­ic state­ments, because they are grist to the mill for our ene­mies, for our adver­saries,” Moraw­iec­ki said at a town hall meet­ing in the east­ern city of Chelm.

    “Let’s avoid it like the plague, even the dumb, unnec­es­sary jokes. Most impor­tant­ly, let’s all explain togeth­er how things real­ly were.”

    The new law sets fines or a max­i­mum three-year jail term for any­one ascrib­ing “respon­si­bil­i­ty or co-respon­si­bil­i­ty to the Pol­ish nation or state for crimes com­mit­ted by the Ger­man Third Reich — or oth­er crimes against human­i­ty and war crimes” and set off crit­i­cism from Israel, the Unit­ed States and France.

    Morawiecki’s com­ments echo those of the influ­en­tial head of the gov­ern­ing right-wing Law and Jus­tice (PiS) par­ty, Jaroslaw Kaczyn­s­ki.

    “Today, the ene­mies of Poland, one can even say the Dev­il, are try­ing a very bad recipe… This sick­ness is anti-Semi­tism. We must reject it res­olute­ly,” Kaczyn­s­ki said on Sat­ur­day.

    Israel this month said it had observed a “wave of anti-Semit­ic state­ments” on the inter­net in Poland, and even in the country’s main­stream media.

    A recent com­men­ta­tor on the state-run TVP sta­tion had made the iron­ic state­ment that “we could say these camps were nei­ther Ger­man nor Pol­ish but Jew­ish. Because who oper­at­ed the cre­ma­to­ria? And who died there?”

    Anoth­er com­men­ta­tor had sent out a tweet using an offen­sive term against Jews that trans­lates to “greedy kike.”

    ...
    ———-

    “Pol­ish PM tells his peo­ple to avoid anti-Semit­ic remarks” by AFP and TOI staff; Times of Israel; 02/11/2018

    “A recent com­men­ta­tor on the state-run TVP sta­tion had made the iron­ic state­ment that “we could say these camps were nei­ther Ger­man nor Pol­ish but Jew­ish. Because who oper­at­ed the cre­ma­to­ria? And who died there?””

    So a Holo­caust revi­sion­ism law gets put in place, the expect­ed crit­i­cism arrives, and in response those crit­i­cism we see a back­lash wave of trolling and anti-Semi­tism that’s so strong the Prime Min­is­ter needs to make a pub­lic plea for it to stop. That’s the dynam­ic at work here. Which is the kind of dynam­ic the back­ers of this law are prob­a­bly very pleased to see.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 12, 2018, 3:40 pm
  6. Fas­cism is back in Italy and it’s paralysing the polit­i­cal sys­tem

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/11/fascism-is-back-in-italy-and-its-paralysing-politics?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

    by Rober­to Saviano,
    The Guardian 02/11/2018
    Par­ties on right and left are urg­ing peo­ple not to talk about an inci­dent in which six immi­grants were shot. They are afraid of alien­at­ing an increas­ing­ly xeno­pho­bic elec­torate

    Late last Sat­ur­day morn­ing, 3 Feb­ru­ary, news start­ed to come in from Mac­er­a­ta, a small coun­ty town in cen­tral Italy – shots had been fired from a mov­ing black Alfa Romeo 147. On Face­book, the may­or encour­aged every­one to stay indoors because “an armed man has opened fire from a car”.

    A cou­ple of days ear­li­er in Mac­er­a­ta, the body, cut up in pieces, of a young woman, Pamela Mas­tropi­etro, had been found in a suit­case and a Niger­ian drug-push­er, Inno­cent Oseghale, had been arrest­ed for mur­der. Oseghale is still in prison, accused of con­tempt and con­ceal­ing the corpse.

    But to return to that Sat­ur­day: uncer­tain­ty reigned only very briefly before the first pic­tures began to cir­cu­late of a young man by the name of Luca Trai­ni, picked up by the cara­binieri, the Ital­ian tri­colour draped around his shoul­ders. There are six wound­ed, all immi­grants. Shots had also been fired at the head­quar­ters of the cen­tre-left Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty (PD) in Mac­er­a­ta. Shoot­ing at immi­grants, the fas­cist salute, the tri­colour – what more do you need to call what hap­pened by its true name?

    So why did the Ital­ian media have such trou­ble defin­ing what hap­pened as a fas­cist-inspired ter­ror­ist attack? I was imme­di­ate­ly put in mind of a tweet that Mat­teo Salvi­ni, the leader of the Lega Nord, the xeno­pho­bic par­ty allied to Sil­vio Berlus­coni in the forth­com­ing elec­tions, had post­ed two days pri­or to the attack, ref­er­enc­ing the death of Pamela Mas­tropi­etro and the arrest of Oseghale: “What was this worm still doing in Italy? […] The Left has blood on its hands.”

    The moral insti­ga­tor of the Mac­er­a­ta attack was then Mat­teo Salvi­ni, who for years now has been sow­ing hatred with­out a thought for the con­se­quences of his words. But why such timid­i­ty from the media and oth­er politi­cians?

    “The act of a mad­man”; “Let’s not talk fas­cism”; “Keep qui­et so as to avoid it being exploit­ed.” These are some of the com­ments that were made – some imme­di­ate and off the cuff, but oth­ers cool and con­sid­ered. Very few politi­cians talk about the vic­tims of the attack because to take the side of the immi­grants means los­ing votes. Only one small par­ty, the Potere al popo­lo (Pow­er to the peo­ple), straight after the attack vis­it­ed the wound­ed in hos­pi­tal. Wil­son, Jen­nifer, Gideon, Mahamadou, Fes­tus and Omar are their names, all very young peo­ple try­ing to make their way in Italy.

    Social phan­toms always emerge in moments of cri­sis. Hatred of the for­eign­er is the result of a lethal cock­tail of bad pol­i­tics, irre­spon­si­ble infor­ma­tion and eco­nom­ic cri­sis. Now in Italy all bear­ings have been com­plete­ly lost and a cli­mate of end­less elec­toral cam­paign­ing has trig­gered a chain reac­tion that no one seems able to keep in check: the entire polit­i­cal cam­paign is focused on the sub­ject of immi­gra­tion.

    Immi­grants are per­ceived as the prime rea­son for the longevi­ty of the eco­nom­ic cri­sis and even of the risk of attacks tak­ing place. Though it should be not­ed that the only attack that could be con­sid­ered a gen­uine mas­sacre has been per­pe­trat­ed by an Ital­ian against for­eign­ers.

    But you might have read this before, cer­tain­ly in Italy – it crops up in arti­cles that end by say­ing: “But if Ital­ians are afraid, there must be a rea­son for it.” It’s almost a waste of time pro­vid­ing data and stress­ing that immi­gra­tion is not a cri­sis, but a phe­nom­e­non that, when man­aged respon­si­bly and with fore­sight, we are able to con­trol.

    A waste also to note that there exists some­thing called good prac­tice and that there are excel­lent exam­ples we could fol­low. It’s also point­less to com­ment on the falling crime rates because, some­one will assert – and they will have much less trou­ble than I do at sound­ing a pop­u­lar note – that if Ital­ians feel at risk there must be a rea­son for it. Today, feel­ings – what­ev­er they are – are more impor­tant than real­i­ty.

    And then there are the voic­es of cau­tion: care should be tak­en not to attach too much impor­tance to a vio­lent episode. The more I talk of migrants, the more I am accused of encour­ag­ing hatred of them. It’s a kind of back-to-front log­ic: how is it pos­si­ble, I won­der, that if I relate what is hap­pen­ing in Libya in the deten­tion cen­tres, if I speak of the mud-sling­ing machine against the NGOs who are oper­at­ing in the Mediter­ranean, I man­age the oppo­site of what I am try­ing to achieve?

    Even if you explain that migrants are a fun­da­men­tal resource in an Italy that is demo­graph­i­cal­ly mori­bund, I hear the earnest plea: keep mum, don’t men­tion it, find some­thing else to do.

    The sto­ries that are told about migrants are the result of elec­toral cal­cu­la­tion and one that has emerged to fill the space that has always belonged to the Lega Nord and which the Five Star Move­ment (M5S) has slipped into with a new nar­ra­tive, one that goes as fol­lows: right and left no longer exist; what does exist, though, are Ital­ians with prob­lems and who come before every­one else.

    After the attack, some­thing hap­pened which in Europe up to now has been unprece­dent­ed: Mat­teo Ren­zi, sec­re­tary of the PD and Lui­gi Di Maio, leader of the M5S, urged every­one to keep silent about the events. Why? So as not to lose the votes of the xeno­pho­bic elec­torate: this is their fear, the con­se­quence of a now vac­u­ous polit­i­cal sys­tem.

    Does not the fact that Luca Trai­ni, the ter­ror­ist who opened fire on unarmed indi­vid­u­als sim­ply because they were Africans, and who had been a can­di­date for Lega Nord, tell us that Salvini’s par­ty is putting up crim­i­nal and vio­lent extrem­ist can­di­dates for elec­tion? Absolute­ly not – it tells us some­thing that is valid about all the par­ties, and that is that there is no longer any sub­stance to them, that they can no longer field can­di­dates on the ground because they have now lost all con­tact with the real world.

    Nowa­days, when a politi­cian, a jour­nal­ist or an intel­lec­tu­al starts out with state­ments such as: “What­ev­er you think about immi­gra­tion”, they must realise that they are act­ing irre­spon­si­bly. In a peri­od as del­i­cate as the one we are liv­ing through, no flip­pan­cy can be tol­er­at­ed. On paper, on the small screen and on social media, each and every word should be weighed – and weighed heav­i­ly.

    Rober­to Saviano is the author of Gomor­rah: Italy’s Oth­er Mafia

    Posted by Mary Benton | February 13, 2018, 8:34 pm
  7. Check out two of the speak­ers invit­ed to this year’s Con­ser­v­a­tive Polit­i­cal Action Con­fer­ence (CPAC): Nigel Farage from the UKIP move­ment and Mar­i­on Marechal-Le Pen.

    Nei­ther of these invites are par­tic­u­lar­ly sur­pris­ing. Farage has long been a Trump backer and vice ver­sa. Trump even called for Farage to be made the UK’s ambas­sador to the US. Marechal-Le Pen’s speech is only real­ly sur­pris­ing because she announced her retire­ment from French pol­i­tics last year fol­low­ing her aun­t’s loss, mak­ing her speech a pos­si­ble sign that she’s com­ing out of polit­i­cal retire­ment soon.

    But while their atten­dance was­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly sur­pris­ing, it’s still notable as a con­fir­ma­tion that the GOP posi­tions of the past on issues like immi­gra­tion are increas­ing­ly ‘Trumpian’ in nature. Where, in the past, nativist sen­ti­ments in the GOP were papered over with rhetoric that immi­gra­tion was offi­cial­ly embraced as good for Amer­i­ca, that’s changed in the age of Trump. Today, the Trumpian style of open­ly and aggres­sive­ly scape­goat­ing immi­grants as a threat to soci­ety, some­thing famil­iar in Euro­pean coun­tries, is increas­ing­ly the GOP’s new norm. So as this CPAC con­fer­ence demon­strates, when it comes to immi­gra­tion and nativism, the Amer­i­can right-wing is becom­ing much more ‘Euro­pean’:

    Bloomberg Pol­i­tics

    Trump Steers Right-Wing Sum­mit on Pop­ulist Path Blazed in Europe

    By Sahil Kapur
    Feb­ru­ary 22, 2018, 3:00 AM CST Updat­ed on Feb­ru­ary 22, 2018, 12:36 PM CST

    * Stars of U.K., French nation­al­ist move­ments address CPAC
    * Annu­al gath­er­ing of con­ser­v­a­tives often sig­nals GOP direc­tion

    Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has pushed the Repub­li­can Par­ty toward a Euro­pean-style pop­ulism that is amply evi­dent in the line-up at an annu­al con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton that long has reflect­ed the pulse of the Amer­i­can right.

    The list of speak­ers at the Con­ser­v­a­tive Polit­i­cal Action Con­fer­ence that opened Thurs­day includes two Euro­pean nativists, Mar­i­on Marechal-Le Pen and Nigel Farage, who are address­ing the gath­er­ing between pan­els and events on the dan­gers of immi­gra­tion, Sharia law and “law­less” gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

    The pres­ence of Marechal-Le Pen and Farage is an indi­ca­tor of how Trump’s “Amer­i­ca First” agen­da par­al­lels tra­di­tion­al Euro­pean nation­al­ism, said Ben­jamin Had­dad, a research fel­low at the Hud­son Insti­tute who stud­ies Euro­pean pop­ulism and transat­lantic affairs.

    “You do see a con­ver­gence with the Trump move­ment — when it comes to closed bor­ders, pro­tec­tion­ism, the nativism and anti-immi­gra­tion dis­course, the focus on Islam,” Had­dad said. “It’s what we’ve seen in Euro­pean move­ments for years.”

    Over the three-day run of the con­fer­ence, which often reflects the direc­tion of the GOP, audi­ences will hear from Trump, who’s promised to appear every year he is pres­i­dent; Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, the kick-off speak­er on Thurs­day; and a cross-sec­tion of Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials pop­u­lar with con­ser­v­a­tives.

    Marechal-Le Pen, the far-right French politi­cian and niece of Nation­al Front leader Marine Le Pen, said nation­al­ist move­ments are part of the broad­er fight for free­dom and inde­pen­dence.

    “I’m not offend­ed when I hear Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump say Amer­i­ca first,” she said, draw­ing cheers from the crowd. “In fact, I want Amer­i­ca first for the Amer­i­can peo­ple. I want Britain first for the British peo­ple. And I want France first for the French peo­ple.”

    “All I want is the sur­vival of my nation,” she said, prompt­ing a shout of “Vive la France!” from an audi­ence mem­ber.

    Con­tro­ver­sial Invi­ta­tion

    The deci­sion by CPAC to invite Marechal-Le Pen to speak has gen­er­at­ed blow­back from some con­ser­v­a­tives.

    CPAC orga­niz­er Matt Schlapp addressed crit­ics who said Marechal-Le Pen defies core pre­cepts of Amer­i­can con­ser­vatism, writ­ing on Twit­ter: “Part of @CPAC is hear­ing peo­ple out. Debate is good for democ­ra­cy and we are hon­ored to have her address our activists.”

    Jamie Wein­stein, a con­ser­v­a­tive com­men­ta­tor based in Wash­ing­ton, respond­ed to Schlapp’s mes­sage with a tweet say­ing he’s all for a healthy debate, but “I’m afraid what @CPAC is doing w/ Le Pen is allow­ing her to steal man­tle of con­ser­vatism for an ide­ol­o­gy that is any­thing but, at least as defined in Amer­i­ca.”

    Polit­i­cal Dynasty

    The 28-year-old Marechal-Le Pen is a scion of the nativist polit­i­cal dynasty that began with her grand­fa­ther Jean-Marie Le Pen, who found­ed the Nation­al Front in 1972. She has cham­pi­oned a hard­er line on immi­gra­tion and nation­al iden­ti­ty than her aunt, who was defeat­ed by Emmanuel Macron for the French pres­i­den­cy last year. Short­ly after the elec­tion, Marechal-Le Pen said she was retir­ing from polit­i­cal life, though she didn’t close the door on a return.

    “She’s young, she’s a fire­brand speak­er, she’s clear­ly a good spokesper­son for this,” Had­dad said, adding that her phi­los­o­phy is clos­er to her grandfather’s than that of her aunt, who tried to steer the par­ty away from some of its most racial­ly charged ele­ments and toward pop­ulist eco­nom­ic issues like trade pro­tec­tion­ism and min­i­mum wage increas­es.

    Farage, the British politi­cian who was a force behind the suc­cess­ful Brex­it ref­er­en­dum, will take the stage on Fri­day.

    Trump Ally

    The for­mer U.K. Inde­pen­dence Par­ty leader has aligned him­self with Trump, who has returned the embrace. Short­ly after the Amer­i­can pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Trump sug­gest­ed Farage should be Britain’s ambas­sador to the U.S. That was reject­ed by Prime Min­is­ter There­sa May, who has had a some­times frosty rela­tion­ship with the pres­i­dent.

    Thomas Wright, the direc­tor of the Brook­ings Institution’s Cen­ter on the Unit­ed States and Europe, said Marechal-Le Pen and Farage are “birds of a feath­er” and “not friends of the U.S. and Europe.” He said the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Marechal-Le Pen in par­tic­u­lar “rais­es ques­tions” as to whether CPAC is “aware of the var­i­ous anti-Amer­i­can things she’s said.”

    “Every­one should be very clear-eyed about what it is they stand for, which is a very anti-Amer­i­can view and a pro-Russ­ian view of pol­i­tics, and of the Unit­ed States role in Europe,” Wright said. “It’s a wor­ry­ing ges­ture. It rais­es sig­nif­i­cant con­cerns.”

    Trump on Tues­day praised Schlapp for orga­niz­ing what he said would be an “excit­ing event.”

    Con­verg­ing

    The pres­ence of nativist sen­ti­ments isn’t new in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, but until recent years they’ve large­ly been rel­e­gat­ed to the fringes. Pre­vi­ous Repub­li­can Par­ty lead­ers have instead empha­sized plu­ral­ism over iden­ti­ty, along­side free mar­kets and lim­it­ed gov­ern­ment. The rise of Trump appears to be a reflec­tion of the poten­cy of pop­ulism in a coun­try that has been dom­i­nat­ed by Euro­pean immi­grants and now is becom­ing more racial­ly and eth­ni­cal­ly diverse.

    “It does send a mes­sage that the Repub­li­can Par­ty seems to be con­verg­ing more with Trump,” Wright said.

    ...

    ———-

    “Trump Steers Right-Wing Sum­mit on Pop­ulist Path Blazed in Europe” by Sahil Kapur; Bloomberg Pol­i­tics; 02/22/2018

    “The pres­ence of nativist sen­ti­ments isn’t new in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, but until recent years they’ve large­ly been rel­e­gat­ed to the fringes. Pre­vi­ous Repub­li­can Par­ty lead­ers have instead empha­sized plu­ral­ism over iden­ti­ty, along­side free mar­kets and lim­it­ed gov­ern­ment. The rise of Trump appears to be a reflec­tion of the poten­cy of pop­ulism in a coun­try that has been dom­i­nat­ed by Euro­pean immi­grants and now is becom­ing more racial­ly and eth­ni­cal­ly diverse.

    For Amer­i­can con­ser­v­a­tives, it’s ‘out with old, in the new’. And the ‘new’ is old-style Euro­pean right-wing nativism:

    ...
    The list of speak­ers at the Con­ser­v­a­tive Polit­i­cal Action Con­fer­ence that opened Thurs­day includes two Euro­pean nativists, Mar­i­on Marechal-Le Pen and Nigel Farage, who are address­ing the gath­er­ing between pan­els and events on the dan­gers of immi­gra­tion, Sharia law and “law­less” gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

    The pres­ence of Marechal-Le Pen and Farage is an indi­ca­tor of how Trump’s “Amer­i­ca First” agen­da par­al­lels tra­di­tion­al Euro­pean nation­al­ism, said Ben­jamin Had­dad, a research fel­low at the Hud­son Insti­tute who stud­ies Euro­pean pop­ulism and transat­lantic affairs.

    “You do see a con­ver­gence with the Trump move­ment — when it comes to closed bor­ders, pro­tec­tion­ism, the nativism and anti-immi­gra­tion dis­course, the focus on Islam,” Had­dad said. “It’s what we’ve seen in Euro­pean move­ments for years.”
    ...

    And notice how invit­ing Mar­i­on Marechal-Le Pen was­n’t like invit­ing Marine Le Pen to CSPAC. It was like invit­ing Jean-Marie Le Pen. And even by CPAC stan­dards that’s still a some­what con­tro­ver­sial invite. Just not near­ly con­tro­ver­sial enough to block it:

    ...
    Con­tro­ver­sial Invi­ta­tion

    The deci­sion by CPAC to invite Marechal-Le Pen to speak has gen­er­at­ed blow­back from some con­ser­v­a­tives.

    CPAC orga­niz­er Matt Schlapp addressed crit­ics who said Marechal-Le Pen defies core pre­cepts of Amer­i­can con­ser­vatism, writ­ing on Twit­ter: “Part of @CPAC is hear­ing peo­ple out. Debate is good for democ­ra­cy and we are hon­ored to have her address our activists.”

    Jamie Wein­stein, a con­ser­v­a­tive com­men­ta­tor based in Wash­ing­ton, respond­ed to Schlapp’s mes­sage with a tweet say­ing he’s all for a healthy debate, but “I’m afraid what @CPAC is doing w/ Le Pen is allow­ing her to steal man­tle of con­ser­vatism for an ide­ol­o­gy that is any­thing but, at least as defined in Amer­i­ca.”

    Polit­i­cal Dynasty

    The 28-year-old Marechal-Le Pen is a scion of the nativist polit­i­cal dynasty that began with her grand­fa­ther Jean-Marie Le Pen, who found­ed the Nation­al Front in 1972. She has cham­pi­oned a hard­er line on immi­gra­tion and nation­al iden­ti­ty than her aunt, who was defeat­ed by Emmanuel Macron for the French pres­i­den­cy last year. Short­ly after the elec­tion, Marechal-Le Pen said she was retir­ing from polit­i­cal life, though she didn’t close the door on a return.

    “She’s young, she’s a fire­brand speak­er, she’s clear­ly a good spokesper­son for this,” Had­dad said, adding that her phi­los­o­phy is clos­er to her grandfather’s than that of her aunt, who tried to steer the par­ty away from some of its most racial­ly charged ele­ments and toward pop­ulist eco­nom­ic issues like trade pro­tec­tion­ism and min­i­mum wage increas­es.
    ...

    So that’s an update on this rel­a­tive­ly new trend for Amer­i­ca’s con­ser­v­a­tives. But it’s trend that did­n’t just start with Trump. He’s mere­ly the biggest ben­e­fi­cia­ry of the trend that’s been build­ing for years. Because as the fol­low­ing arti­cle — about a Cato Insti­tute ana­lyst who was shout­ed down dur­ing a CPAC immi­gra­tion pan­el dis­cus­sion for not­ing that the actu­al data on immi­gra­tion reveals that immi­grants have low­er crime rates than native-born Amer­i­cans — makes clear, the audi­ences of CPAC have long embraced open anti-immi­grant sen­ti­ments for most of this decade:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    DC

    Data Clash­es With Emo­tion As CPAC Immi­gra­tion Pan­el Goes Off The Rails

    By Alice Oll­stein | Feb­ru­ary 23, 2018 12:25 pm

    NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — The only pan­el ded­i­cat­ed to immi­gra­tion at this year’s Con­ser­v­a­tive Polit­i­cal Action Con­fer­ence quick­ly went off the rails Thurs­day, with audi­ence mem­bers drown­ing out pan­elists’ pre­sen­ta­tion of data about the ben­e­fits of immi­gra­tion with boos, laugh­ter, and sto­ries of “obvi­ous ille­gal immi­grants defe­cat­ing in the woods, for­ni­cat­ing in the woods.”

    As David Bier, a pol­i­cy ana­lyst with the lib­er­tar­i­an Cato Insti­tute, attempt­ed to lay out research prov­ing that immi­grants actu­al­ly have low­er crime rates than native-born Amer­i­cans, con­tribute sig­nif­i­cant­ly to the econ­o­my and are assim­i­lat­ing just as well or bet­ter than past gen­er­a­tions of immi­grants, his fel­low pan­elists derid­ed his state­ments as “nut­ty” and angry audi­ence mem­bers shout­ed him down.

    “Sweet­ie, you’re too young to know,” one woman called out as Bier said that the econ­o­my has his­tor­i­cal­ly done well dur­ing peri­ods of high immi­gra­tion to the Unit­ed States.

    When he not­ed that the U.S. pro­por­tion­al­ly takes in very few immi­grants and refugees com­pared to oth­er nations, a man inter­ject­ed, “You’re a dream­er!” and much of the crowd broke out in applause and jeers.

    Though this year’s CPAC fell square­ly amid a legal and polit­i­cal bat­tle over the fate of near­ly 2 mil­lion young immi­grants known as Dream­ers, the issue was far from the top of the agen­da at the annu­al gath­er­ing. The only pan­el ded­i­cat­ed to the top­ic was held in a small, win­dow­less room at 5 p.m. on Thursday—after many atten­dees had already left for one of the conference’s many boozy recep­tions.

    And though the pan­el was titled, “You May Say You’re a DREAM­er But You’re Not the Only One,” it focused very lit­tle on the DREAM­er population—the group of upwards of 1 mil­lion undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants who were brought to the U.S. as chil­dren whose legal pro­tec­tions were rescind­ed by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion last year and will expire in ear­ly March.

    Instead, the event became a gen­er­al air­ing of fears and griev­ances about both legal and ille­gal immi­gra­tion. The panel’s mod­er­a­tor, Christo­pher Malag­isi, claimed, with­out evi­dence, a “ploy” by Democ­rats to offer immi­grants a path to cit­i­zen­ship in exchange for their votes.

    Rep. Michael Burgess (R‑TX), who faces a pri­ma­ry from a Trumpian hard-right new­com­er, sim­i­lar­ly accused Democ­rats of putting the eco­nom­ic inter­ests of young immi­grants over those of young Amer­i­can cit­i­zens. When­ev­er Bier cit­ed research to counter incor­rect claims from his fel­low pan­elists and the audi­ence that recent immi­grants are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly crim­i­nal, are an eco­nom­ic drain on gov­ern­ment or take sev­er­al gen­er­a­tion to learn Eng­lish, he was met with vocal hos­til­i­ty.

    Dur­ing a heat­ed ques­tion and answer ses­sion dur­ing the immi­gra­tion pan­el, a man from Four Cor­ners, Vir­ginia went on an extend­ed dia­tribe about a Lati­no man who once crashed his car in front of his house.

    “I had to go down to court to tes­ti­fy, and I was the only white face in the crowd oth­er than the lawyers being paid to trans­late for these peo­ple,” he said. “You can go down to Four Cor­ners Park and see obvi­ous ille­gal immi­grants defe­cat­ing in the woods, for­ni­cat­ing in the woods, and on and on and on. These peo­ple are not the immi­grants of the 20s and 30s. They will nev­er be able to get good jobs here and be good cit­i­zens. Is that in your study?”

    Strug­gling to be heard over the loud applause that ensued, Bier respond­ed, “If you look at the data, the peo­ple com­mit­ting crimes are over­whelm­ing­ly native-born Amer­i­cans. So if you want to talk about the effect of immi­grants on the crime rate, they actu­al­ly low­er the crime rate, result­ing in a safer soci­ety. Obvi­ous­ly there are some immi­grants who do com­mit crimes, just like there were some who com­mit­ted crimes back when the Irish were the ones com­ing in.”

    “Oh, I’m Irish, don’t you talk about the Irish,” an old­er woman angri­ly called out.

    “Guys, guys, let him respond,” the mod­er­a­tor plead­ed with the audi­ence as the crosstalk and scoff­ing grew loud­er.

    Only a small hand­ful of peo­ple came up to Bier after­ward to offer sup­port and sym­pa­thy. Among them was Car­olyn Mead­ows, the vice chair of the Amer­i­can Con­ser­v­a­tive Union, which orga­nizes on CPAC.

    ...

    Still, speak­ing to TPM after the pan­el wrapped up, Bier said he still believes in the pow­er of facts and research to con­vince con­ser­v­a­tives of the ben­e­fits of immi­gra­tion.

    “The data is the thing that’s going to win peo­ple over,” he said. “It’s just about show­ing them that immi­grants are not what they think they are and hop­ing that falls on recep­tive ears. There are peo­ple who can be con­vinced, peo­ple who know immi­grants per­son­al­ly, who know they are con­tribut­ing to soci­ety and they’re not all defe­cat­ing in the woods.”

    But hav­ing attend­ed CPAC for the last six years, Bier con­ced­ed that the Repub­li­can base’s atti­tude toward immi­grants has not sig­nif­i­cant­ly shift­ed.

    “I don’t think it’s that dif­fer­ent [from past years],” he said. “There’s always a very large con­tin­gent most pas­sion­ate about immigration—about oppos­ing it. It cer­tain­ly seems like the pas­sion is always with the side that wants to restrict it and not with the side that wants it to be more open.”

    ———-

    “Data Clash­es With Emo­tion As CPAC Immi­gra­tion Pan­el Goes Off The Rails” by Alice Oll­stein; Talk­ing Points Memo; 02/23/2018

    ““I don’t think it’s that dif­fer­ent [from past years],” he said. “There’s always a very large con­tin­gent most pas­sion­ate about immigration—about oppos­ing it. It cer­tain­ly seems like the pas­sion is always with the side that wants to restrict it and not with the side that wants it to be more open.””

    Wel­come to CPAC. Except for immi­grants. They aren’t wel­come. At least non-white immi­grants. Data be damned:

    ...
    As David Bier, a pol­i­cy ana­lyst with the lib­er­tar­i­an Cato Insti­tute, attempt­ed to lay out research prov­ing that immi­grants actu­al­ly have low­er crime rates than native-born Amer­i­cans, con­tribute sig­nif­i­cant­ly to the econ­o­my and are assim­i­lat­ing just as well or bet­ter than past gen­er­a­tions of immi­grants, his fel­low pan­elists derid­ed his state­ments as “nut­ty” and angry audi­ence mem­bers shout­ed him down.

    “Sweet­ie, you’re too young to know,” one woman called out as Bier said that the econ­o­my has his­tor­i­cal­ly done well dur­ing peri­ods of high immi­gra­tion to the Unit­ed States.

    When he not­ed that the U.S. pro­por­tion­al­ly takes in very few immi­grants and refugees com­pared to oth­er nations, a man inter­ject­ed, “You’re a dream­er!” and much of the crowd broke out in applause and jeers.
    ...

    And in place of data, the CPAC audi­ence clear­ly pre­ferred scary anec­dotes:

    ...
    Dur­ing a heat­ed ques­tion and answer ses­sion dur­ing the immi­gra­tion pan­el, a man from Four Cor­ners, Vir­ginia went on an extend­ed dia­tribe about a Lati­no man who once crashed his car in front of his house.

    “I had to go down to court to tes­ti­fy, and I was the only white face in the crowd oth­er than the lawyers being paid to trans­late for these peo­ple,” he said. “You can go down to Four Cor­ners Park and see obvi­ous ille­gal immi­grants defe­cat­ing in the woods, for­ni­cat­ing in the woods, and on and on and on. These peo­ple are not the immi­grants of the 20s and 30s. They will nev­er be able to get good jobs here and be good cit­i­zens. Is that in your study?”

    Strug­gling to be heard over the loud applause that ensued, Bier respond­ed, “If you look at the data, the peo­ple com­mit­ting crimes are over­whelm­ing­ly native-born Amer­i­cans. So if you want to talk about the effect of immi­grants on the crime rate, they actu­al­ly low­er the crime rate, result­ing in a safer soci­ety. Obvi­ous­ly there are some immi­grants who do com­mit crimes, just like there were some who com­mit­ted crimes back when the Irish were the ones com­ing in.”

    “Oh, I’m Irish, don’t you talk about the Irish,” an old­er woman angri­ly called out.

    “Guys, guys, let him respond,” the mod­er­a­tor plead­ed with the audi­ence as the crosstalk and scoff­ing grew loud­er.
    ...

    And, again, none of this is real­ly new. At least for CPAC audi­ences. What’s new is that the stan­dard bear­er of the Repub­li­can Par­ty open­ly and aggres­sive­ly push­es this world­view and, in doing so, has pro­pelled what used to be con­sid­ered a fringe-ele­ment of the GOP to the cen­ter of the par­ty. A fringe-ele­ment that was nev­er actu­al­ly all that fringe with­in the par­ty. It was just bet­ter hid­den. It’s a remind that Trump is less of an anom­aly and more of an inevitabil­i­ty.

    So what’s next for the GOP in the main­stream­ing of fringe ele­ments that aren’t actu­al­ly fringe ele­ments? We’ll see. Trag­i­cal­ly.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 23, 2018, 4:36 pm
  8. Fol­low­ing up on the enthu­si­as­tic embrace of Mar­i­on Marechal-Le Pen at this year’s Con­ser­v­a­tive Polit­i­cal Action Con­fer­ence (CPAC), it turns out there was indeed push­back from some of the CPAC pan­elists. Well, ok, one pan­elist.

    But to her cred­it, Mona Charen slammed the deci­sion to invite Marechal-Le Pen to the con­fer­ence, plain­ly stat­ing that, “She’s a young, no-longer-in-office politi­cian from France. I think the only rea­son she was here is that she’s named Le Pen. And the Le Pen name is a dis­grace. Her grand­fa­ther is a racist and a Nazi.”

    How did the CPAC crowd respond to this? Well, she actu­al­ly did get some applause. Ok, two peo­ple clapped. Even­tu­al­ly become four. As they were get­ting drowned out by all the boos. And at the end of her pan­el dis­cus­sion Charen was escort­ed out of the build­ing by secu­ri­ty. So that’s how the offi­cial push­back to Mar­i­on Marechal-Le Pen’s invi­ta­tion to CPAC end­ed: a pro­tec­tive escort out by secu­ri­ty:

    The Week­ly Stan­dard

    Going Rogue at CPAC: Mona Charen Slams Sex­ist Hypocrisy and Racism at CPAC; Calls invi­ta­tion of Le Pen a ‘Dis­grace’
    Con­ser­v­a­tive writer calls Mar­i­on Le Pen “a dis­grace,” Repub­li­cans anti-woman for Moore sup­port.

    3:55 PM, Feb 24, 2018 | By Alice B. Lloyd

    One stal­wart Trump crit­ic dared to take the stage at this year’s CPAC. “If we want an audi­ence with young peo­ple, we have to sep­a­rate our­selves from the men on our side who’ve behaved atro­cious­ly toward women,” said con­ser­v­a­tive writer Mona Charen—a think tank fel­low, and TWS contributor—during a pan­el dis­cus­sion of con­ser­v­a­tive women’s fem­i­nist cri­sis.

    “I’m dis­ap­point­ed in the peo­ple on our side for being hyp­ocrites about sex­u­al harassers and abusers of women who are in our par­ty who are sit­ting in the White House who brag about their extra­mar­i­tal affairs, who brag about mis­treat­ing women,” Charen chal­lenged. “Because he hap­pens to have an ‘R’ after his name, we look the oth­er way.”

    And then she called Mar­i­on Le Pen’s invi­ta­tion to speak at CPAC a “dis­grace.”

    It’s been an inter­est­ing 24 hours at CPAC.

    On Fri­day night, still high on the rhetoric of the French far-right, atten­dees booed the claim that Mex­i­cans com­ing to Amer­i­ca have more in com­mon with con­ser­v­a­tives than lib­er­als and shout­ed down a sug­ges­tion that Repub­li­cans, like Democ­rats, ought to recruit vot­ers at nat­u­ral­iza­tion cer­e­monies. Then, when THE WEEKLY STANDARD’s Fred Barnes point­ed out that many Mex­i­can immi­grants share these val­ues, he like­wise drew ire from the crowd.

    By Sat­ur­day after­noon, the con­ven­tion audi­ence had dwin­dled to “diehards,” accord­ing to the man work­ing media reg­is­tra­tion. And Charen was ready to take the stage.

    In an email on Fri­day night, Charen explained to me that “There remains a siz­able con­tin­gent of con­ser­v­a­tives in Amer­i­ca who have not drunk the Trump kool aid and they are very thin on the ground at CPAC.” She con­tin­ued: “I feel an oblig­a­tion as one of the only Trump crit­ics on the pro­gram to express dis­may at some of the invi­ta­tions CPAC has extend­ed.”

    ...

    Mid­way through her pan­el, Charen warned, “I’m going to twist this around a bit.” The mod­er­a­tor had just asked which immoral excess of mod­ern fem­i­nism makes her blood boil. And Charen went rogue.

    “This is the par­ty that endorsed the Roy Moore for the Sen­ate in the state of Alaba­ma, even though he was a cred­i­bly-accused child moles­ter,” she said. “You can­not claim that you stand for women and be all right with that.”

    At this state­ment, two young men thun­der­ous­ly applaud­ed, while many more booed and shout­ed, “Not true! Not true!” (From my van­tage, I did not see any of the young women in the audi­ence react­ing audi­bly.)

    Lat­er, the dis­cus­sion turned to talk about the influ­ence of sex pan­ic on young men. And Charen turned her atten­tion to Le Pen. “Speak­ing of bad guys,” she said, “there was quite an inter­est­ing per­son who was on this stage the oth­er day. Her name is Mar­i­on Le Pen. Why was she here?”

    Boos and grum­bles rose from the crowd. “Why are you here?!” a male voice boomed.

    “She’s a young, no-longer-in-office politi­cian from France. I think the only rea­son she was here is that she’s named Le Pen. And the Le Pen name is a dis­grace. Her grand­fa­ther is a racist and a Nazi.” Here, a smat­ter­ing of applause swelled to bat­tle the boos, and Charen strained to talk over them. “The fact is she stands for him. The fact that CPAC invit­ed her was a dis­grace.”

    More boos cas­cad­ed down, but the num­ber of young men applaud­ing her dou­bled to four, and they were stand­ing.

    As the pan­el wound down, I searched the audi­ence for this quar­tet, but they were lost in the crowd. When I asked some of the atten­dees if they were the ones who had applaud­ed Charen, the only respons­es I got were angry glares.

    And as she made her way out of the hall, Charen had to be escort­ed by three secu­ri­ty guards, for her pro­tec­tion.

    ———-

    “Going Rogue at CPAC: Mona Charen Slams Sex­ist Hypocrisy and Racism at CPAC; Calls invi­ta­tion of Le Pen a ‘Dis­grace’ ” by Alice B. Lloyd; The Week­ly Stan­dard; 02/24/2018

    “And as she made her way out of the hall, Charen had to be escort­ed by three secu­ri­ty guards, for her pro­tec­tion.”

    So now we know what kind of extrem­ism gets you thrown out of CPAC: point­ing out in extreme­ly blunt terms that the con­fer­ence is extrem­ist. At that point you bet­ter leave. For your own safe­ty.

    But it was­n’t just the cri­tiques of the Marechal-Le Pen invite that made the sit­u­a­tion unsafe for Charen. Point­ing out that the GOP has no stand­ing for cri­tiquing mod­ern fem­i­nism after the par­ty endorsed and defend­ed Roy Moore for the Alaba­ma Sen­ate did­n’t help. Ok, it helped, in the sense that it need­ed to be said. But it prob­a­bly did­n’t help Charen’s safe­ty at the con­fer­ence:

    ...
    Mid­way through her pan­el, Charen warned, “I’m going to twist this around a bit.” The mod­er­a­tor had just asked which immoral excess of mod­ern fem­i­nism makes her blood boil. And Charen went rogue.

    “This is the par­ty that endorsed the Roy Moore for the Sen­ate in the state of Alaba­ma, even though he was a cred­i­bly-accused child moles­ter,” she said. “You can­not claim that you stand for women and be all right with that.”

    At this state­ment, two young men thun­der­ous­ly applaud­ed, while many more booed and shout­ed, “Not true! Not true!” (From my van­tage, I did not see any of the young women in the audi­ence react­ing audi­bly.)
    ...

    And then Charen moves on to call the invi­ta­tion of Marechel-Le Pen a dis­grace. And parts of the crowd comes to her defense. Specif­i­cal­ly, four peo­ple. The rest appeared to be drown­ing her out in boos:

    ...
    Lat­er, the dis­cus­sion turned to talk about the influ­ence of sex pan­ic on young men. And Charen turned her atten­tion to Le Pen. “Speak­ing of bad guys,” she said, “there was quite an inter­est­ing per­son who was on this stage the oth­er day. Her name is Mar­i­on Le Pen. Why was she here?”

    Boos and grum­bles rose from the crowd. “Why are you here?!” a male voice boomed.

    “She’s a young, no-longer-in-office politi­cian from France. I think the only rea­son she was here is that she’s named Le Pen. And the Le Pen name is a dis­grace. Her grand­fa­ther is a racist and a Nazi.” Here, a smat­ter­ing of applause swelled to bat­tle the boos, and Charen strained to talk over them. “The fact is she stands for him. The fact that CPAC invit­ed her was a dis­grace.”

    More boos cas­cad­ed down, but the num­ber of young men applaud­ing her dou­bled to four, and they were stand­ing.
    ...

    And then she gets escort­ed out.

    It was­n’t the best moment for CPAC. Although, by CPAC stan­dards, it was­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly the worst moment either. There’s no short­age of com­pe­ti­tion for that title.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 24, 2018, 2:34 pm
  9. Here’s an update on how Poland’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty is deal­ing with the gov­ern­men­t’s new Holo­caust revi­sion­ism laws that would crim­i­nal­ize the pub­lic sug­ges­tion that Poles played a role in the Holo­caust: Poland’s Jews are start­ing to ques­tion whether or not there’s a future for them in the coun­try.

    But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, it’s note the pas­sage of these revi­sion­ism laws that’s the pri­ma­ry dri­ver lead­ing to this lev­el of anx­i­ety in the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. It’s the fact that the gov­ern­ment appears to want to do noth­ing about the mas­sive wave of anti-Semi­tism that the pas­sage of these laws has unleashed that is fill­ing Poland’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty with despair about their coun­try:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Poland’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty had rebound­ed, but now there’s ‘a grow­ing feel­ing of unease’

    By James McAuley
    Feb­ru­ary 27, 2018 at 5:00 AM

    WARSAW — On any giv­en Fri­day night, the only syn­a­gogue in this city to sur­vive the Holo­caust draws enough wor­shipers for a minyan, the oblig­a­tory quo­rum of 10 Jew­ish adults. Not too long ago, Rab­bi Michael Schu­drich said, that would have been unthink­able.

    On the eve of World War II, War­saw was home to Europe’s largest Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. But the liq­ui­da­tion of Pol­ish Jew­ry dur­ing the Holo­caust, fol­lowed by an anti-Semit­ic cam­paign that drove thou­sands of Jews from the coun­try in 1968, meant that for decades the com­mu­ni­ty exist­ed most­ly as a fad­ing mem­o­ry. Very few Jews were left, and some nev­er told their chil­dren they were Jews. In recent years, though, and against all odds, Jew­ish life has revived in Poland.

    Now a new threat has emerged, putting that frag­ile and hard-won progress in jeop­ardy. The government’s “Holo­caust law,” crim­i­nal­iz­ing any sug­ges­tion that Pol­ish cit­i­zens par­tic­i­pat­ed in Nazi atroc­i­ties, is due to go into effect around the begin­ning of March, and Jew­ish lead­ers say it has already pro­voked an erup­tion of prej­u­dice.

    For some, the par­al­lels with the rhetoric of March 1968, when Poland’s com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment used anti-Semi­tism to shore up nation­al­ist sup­port, are hard to ignore.

    At the Munich Secu­ri­ty Con­fer­ence on Sat­ur­day, Poland’s prime min­is­ter, Mateusz Moraw­iec­ki, called for an “open debate” about the Holo­caust and declared that “there were Jew­ish per­pe­tra­tors.” His com­ment came days after a Pol­ish pres­i­den­tial advis­er, Andrzej Zyber­tow­icz, said that Israel’s out­rage about the new law derived from a “feel­ing of shame at the pas­siv­i­ty of Jews dur­ing the Holo­caust.”

    In addi­tion to a law polic­ing Holo­caust speech, the gov­ern­ment has also recent­ly pro­posed anoth­er bill that would lim­it kosher and halal slaugh­ter.

    “In every­thing that’s hap­pened in the last two years, there’s been a grow­ing feel­ing of unease, and this has only esca­lat­ed that feel­ing of unease,” said Schu­drich, the chief rab­bi of Poland, refer­ring to the gen­er­al cli­mate.

    The peri­od spec­i­fied by Schu­drich cov­ers the rise of the right-wing Law and Jus­tice par­ty, which assumed con­trol of the Pol­ish pres­i­den­cy and Par­lia­ment in 2015 and has since attempt­ed to rein in the judi­cia­ry and con­trol local media. Although Schu­drich acknowl­edges that the gov­ern­ment has shown some inter­est in pre­serv­ing Poland’s Jew­ish her­itage, notably Jew­ish ceme­ter­ies, he says its recent pub­lic state­ments have tak­en their toll.

    “For the first time, I hear peo­ple say­ing that maybe there’s no future for us in Poland,” he said. Schu­drich arrived in War­saw from the Unit­ed States in 1990, a year after the fall of com­mu­nism.

    Many mem­bers of Poland’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty say they do not believe the Holo­caust law was con­ceived with the explic­it goal of antag­o­niz­ing Jews. Instead, they con­tend, the gov­ern­ment meant it as an olive branch to appease the rul­ing party’s fer­vent­ly nation­al­ist base and thus cement its hold on pow­er.

    What has stung, though, is the government’s appar­ent refusal to denounce the wave of anti-Semit­ic threats that fol­lowed the leg­is­la­tion.

    Anna Chipczyn­s­ka, pres­i­dent of the War­saw Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, said that since the bill was pro­posed, Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions in Poland have been flood­ed with hate mail, and anti-Semit­ic attacks have explod­ed on social media.

    “I don’t think this gov­ern­ment wants to see anti-Semi­tism in the streets, but they don’t want to pay the polit­i­cal price to con­demn it, either,” said Kon­stan­ty Gebert, a promi­nent Pol­ish jour­nal­ist who has been involved in Jew­ish caus­es here since before the fall of com­mu­nism.

    When pressed, Jaroslaw Kaczyn­s­ki, the leader of the Law and Jus­tice par­ty, has con­demned anti-Semi­tism — but only in the abstract, crit­ics say. Nei­ther he nor his allies stopped sup­port­ers who took part in an Inde­pen­dence Day march in War­saw in Novem­ber from chant­i­ng: “Pure Poland, Jew-free Poland” and “Jews out of Poland,” among oth­er slurs.

    A sim­i­lar demon­stra­tion occurred when Pres­i­dent Andrzej Duda signed the new law this month, and again gov­ern­ment offi­cials said noth­ing sub­stan­tive.

    Chipczyn­s­ka said she wor­ries that peo­ple might hide their Jew­ish ori­gins or refrain from explor­ing them, as many Pol­ish Jews did dur­ing the com­mu­nist peri­od.

    “They might see a stig­ma,” Chipczyn­s­ka said. “And there­fore there is a legit­i­mate risk that peo­ple will hide and cov­er their iden­ti­ties, their back­grounds. It’s extreme­ly con­cern­ing.”

    ...

    ———-

    “Poland’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty had rebound­ed, but now there’s ‘a grow­ing feel­ing of unease’” by James McAuley; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 02/27/2018

    “For the first time, I hear peo­ple say­ing that maybe there’s no future for us in Poland,” he said. Schu­drich arrived in War­saw from the Unit­ed States in 1990, a year after the fall of com­mu­nism.”

    No hope for the future. That’s how bad the sit­u­a­tion is get­ting in Poland. And it’s not hard to see where this despair is com­ing from because it’s not like there’s a rea­son to assume it’s going to get bet­ter when the gov­ern­ment is doing all of these things for the pur­pose of main­tain­ing its grip on pow­er. ‘Kick­ing the Jews’ is good pol­i­tics in Poland these days:

    ...
    Many mem­bers of Poland’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty say they do not believe the Holo­caust law was con­ceived with the explic­it goal of antag­o­niz­ing Jews. Instead, they con­tend, the gov­ern­ment meant it as an olive branch to appease the rul­ing party’s fer­vent­ly nation­al­ist base and thus cement its hold on pow­er.

    What has stung, though, is the government’s appar­ent refusal to denounce the wave of anti-Semit­ic threats that fol­lowed the leg­is­la­tion.

    Anna Chipczyn­s­ka, pres­i­dent of the War­saw Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, said that since the bill was pro­posed, Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions in Poland have been flood­ed with hate mail, and anti-Semit­ic attacks have explod­ed on social media.

    “I don’t think this gov­ern­ment wants to see anti-Semi­tism in the streets, but they don’t want to pay the polit­i­cal price to con­demn it, either,” said Kon­stan­ty Gebert, a promi­nent Pol­ish jour­nal­ist who has been involved in Jew­ish caus­es here since before the fall of com­mu­nism.

    When pressed, Jaroslaw Kaczyn­s­ki, the leader of the Law and Jus­tice par­ty, has con­demned anti-Semi­tism — but only in the abstract, crit­ics say. Nei­ther he nor his allies stopped sup­port­ers who took part in an Inde­pen­dence Day march in War­saw in Novem­ber from chant­i­ng: “Pure Poland, Jew-free Poland” and “Jews out of Poland,” among oth­er slurs.

    A sim­i­lar demon­stra­tion occurred when Pres­i­dent Andrzej Duda signed the new law this month, and again gov­ern­ment offi­cials said noth­ing sub­stan­tive.
    ...

    “When pressed, Jaroslaw Kaczyn­s­ki, the leader of the Law and Jus­tice par­ty, has con­demned anti-Semi­tism — but only in the abstract, crit­ics say. Nei­ther he nor his allies stopped sup­port­ers who took part in an Inde­pen­dence Day march in War­saw in Novem­ber from chant­i­ng: “Pure Poland, Jew-free Poland” and “Jews out of Poland,” among oth­er slurs.”

    Yeah, it’s kind of hard to see where the hope is going to come from for Poland’s Jews when the rul­ing par­ty won’t even do any­thing to stop sup­port­ers from chant­i­ng “Pure Poland, Jew-free Poland” dur­ing an Inde­pen­dence Day march. After all, those marchers are clear­ly express­ing a desire to repeat the Holo­caust. And stok­ing those sen­ti­ments is good pol­i­tics. And don’t for­get that this is the rul­ing par­ty in Poland. This is pop­u­lar.

    And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, the rul­ing Law and Jus­tice par­ty isn’t just pass­ing Holo­caust revi­sion­ism laws and stok­ing “Jew-free Poland” sen­ti­ments in order to please its hard core base of far-right sup­port­ers. It’s rewrit­ing his­to­ry in order to frame itself as the hero. In par­tic­u­lar, it’s the hero of the anti-Com­mu­nist resis­tance. All of the work of the social­ists to oppose Com­mu­nism is being writ­ten out of this new his­to­ry.

    But the par­ty is fram­ing itself as the hero of the post-Sovi­et era too. In fact, the Law and Jus­tice par­ty has long claimed that only now, under its rule, is Poland actu­al­ly gain­ing real sov­er­eign­ty. And what about the rest of the post-Sovi­et peri­od before the Law and Jus­tice par­ty won con­trol? Well, dur­ing that peri­od, Poland was a pup­pet state serv­ing the inter­ests of for­eign pow­ers and lib­er­al cos­mopoli­tans. Yep, that’s the nar­ra­tive. And when far-right move­ments warn of ‘inter­na­tion­al cos­mopoli­tans’ pulling pup­pet-strings, that’s more or less a slight­ly cod­ed ver­sion of ‘the Inter­na­tion­al Jew’.

    And all of this revi­sion­ism is being pro­duced and endorsed by offi­cial state media and the Insti­tute of Nation­al Remem­brance. So the Law and Jus­tice is rewrit­ing his­to­ry so that it alone lib­er­at­ed the Poles from Com­mu­nists and ‘inter­na­tion­al cos­mopoli­tans’ (the Jews):

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Poland’s right-wing gov­ern­ment is rewrit­ing his­to­ry — with itself as hero

    by Mateusz Mazz­i­ni
    Feb­ru­ary 27, 2018 at 5:00 AM

    Poland is in the midst of a pitched bat­tle over its col­lec­tive mem­o­ry. The rul­ing par­ty has recent­ly stirred an inter­na­tion­al con­tro­ver­sy by pass­ing a bill crim­i­nal­iz­ing the use of the phrase “Pol­ish death camps.” But in many ways, those inter­na­tion­al rifts are just col­lat­er­al dam­age. The real bat­tle is at home and is over what counts as legit­i­mate polit­i­cal author­i­ty, and who can wield it.

    Poland’s gov­ern­ment is sug­gest­ing that the present-day cos­mopoli­tan lib­er­als who want to acknowl­edge Pol­ish col­lab­o­ra­tors in crimes against Jews are trai­tors, like the Com­mu­nists, will­ing to sell the nation to the high­est inter­na­tion­al bid­der. And such nation­al myth­mak­ing has more real-world pow­er than many under­stand.

    The “Pol­ish death camps” law

    For the past two weeks, the rul­ing Law and Jus­tice par­ty has been chas­tised inter­na­tion­al­ly — includ­ing an unprece­dent­ed break­down of rela­tions with Israel — for its new amend­ment to the law on the Nation­al Insti­tute of Remem­brance (IPN). The IPN is a gov­ern­ment insti­tu­tion estab­lished in 1998 to safe­guard the archives of the Com­mu­nist secret ser­vices and to pros­e­cute crimes com­mit­ted by past total­i­tar­i­an regimes.

    The new amend­ment makes it a crime to refer to Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps estab­lished dur­ing World War II in Poland as “Pol­ish.” It also threat­ens legal pun­ish­ment for any­one who pub­licly implies Poles’ involve­ment in Nazi crimes against Jews “against the estab­lished his­tor­i­cal facts.”

    It’s impor­tant to look more close­ly at that last phrase. Since tak­ing pow­er in Octo­ber 2015, the gov­ern­ment of the con­ser­v­a­tive Law and Jus­tice (PiS) par­ty has been con­scious­ly weaponiz­ing Pol­ish col­lec­tive mem­o­ry, turn­ing it into an instru­ment of domes­tic pol­i­tics and par­ti­san polar­iza­tion. PiS is estab­lish­ing an offi­cial his­to­ry that will shore up its own author­i­ty — and dele­git­imize its oppo­si­tion.

    Con­trol of the offi­cial his­to­ry gives more con­trol over con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics

    ...

    Since its all-out elec­toral vic­to­ry in Octo­ber 2015, PiS has been pur­su­ing a con­sis­tent strat­e­gy of mem­o­ry. Con­sid­er what hap­pened in Decem­ber 2016, dur­ing a par­lia­men­tary cri­sis that brought tens of thou­sands of Poles into the streets. PiS enact­ed a reg­u­la­tion restrict­ing jour­nal­ists’ abil­i­ty to cov­er par­lia­men­tary ses­sions. In protest, the oppo­si­tion blocked access to the main par­lia­men­tary cham­ber. So PiS deputies assem­bled the par­lia­men­tar­i­ans in a dif­fer­ent cham­ber to pass the 2017 bud­get. A mas­sive pub­lic protest out­side the build­ing ques­tioned whether, hav­ing been passed with­out a quo­rum that includ­ed the oppo­si­tion, the bill was legal.

    But Law and Jus­tice pulled a sleight of hand: It also passed a bill to sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce pen­sion ben­e­fits for all Com­mu­nist-era employ­ees whose salaries had come through the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs. By vot­ing on those bills at once, PiS was able to argue that the pro­test­ers weren’t fight­ing for democ­ra­cy — but were defend­ing the post-com­mu­nist bureau­crats. The pol­i­tics of the past was used as a weapon in the pol­i­tics of the present.

    Sug­gest­ing that Poland hasn’t been a real democ­ra­cy until now

    Since then, the con­flict over Pol­ish col­lec­tive mem­o­ry has expand­ed. In Sep­tem­ber 2017, the Insti­tute of Nation­al Remem­brance com­mis­sioned a four-minute com­put­er ani­ma­tion called “The Uncon­quered,” with a hero­ic his­to­ry of Poland since 1939. The short film has a mod­ern look; its Eng­lish ver­sion is nar­rat­ed by Sean Bean of “Game of Thrones.”

    But the movie gives a large­ly revi­sion­ist his­to­ry. It focus­es pri­mar­i­ly on the wartime under­ground state and goes no fur­ther toward the present than the 1979 papal vis­it of John Paul II. “The Uncon­quered” makes no men­tion of the Sol­i­dar­i­ty trade union that was so sig­nif­i­cant in bring­ing down the Com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment. It doesn’t even men­tion Solidarity’s for­mer pres­i­dent, Lech Wale­sa, a Nobel Peace Prize lau­re­ate whom PiS has almost entire­ly erased from the pub­lic debate since files emerged that alleged­ly proved he col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Com­mu­nist secret ser­vice. PiS uses that col­lab­o­ra­tion to replace Wale­sa as hero of the tran­si­tion with the late Lech Kaczyn­s­ki, for­mer Pol­ish pres­i­dent and twin broth­er of the PiS chair­man.

    So why would PiS leave out Sol­i­dar­i­ty and Wale­sa? Because it is paint­ing itself as the heir to the noble Pol­ish wartime resis­tance and the exclu­sive suc­ces­sor to the anti-Com­mu­nist oppo­si­tion. The found­ing myth of the PiS world­view is that the 1989 Round Table talks between the demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­si­tion and Com­mu­nist author­i­ties, which laid foun­da­tions for Poland’s non­vi­o­lent tran­si­tion to democ­ra­cy, were in fact a betray­al — that the intel­lec­tu­als and par­ty big­wigs con­spired to share pow­er in the new regime.

    PiS Chair­man Jaroslaw Kaczyn­s­ki argues that Poland nev­er ful­ly made a tran­si­tion to democ­ra­cy. Rather, in PiS’s view, since 1989 the coun­try has been a para-democ­ra­cy, a pup­pet state serv­ing the inter­ests of for­eign pow­ers. As the par­ty politi­cians have sstat­ed many times in pub­lic, Poland gained com­plete sov­er­eign­ty only when PiS took pow­er — and is only now shak­ing off the author­i­tar­i­an or oli­garchic grip of the pre­vi­ous regimes. That’s why PiS is equat­ing itself with the World War II-era resis­tance fight­ers, who saw their ene­my clear­ly. It’s giv­ing its con­stituen­cy a noble myth in which they have been suf­fer­ing under — and resist­ing — oppres­sion since the Nazi inva­sion.

    All this is what the soci­o­log­i­cal lit­er­a­ture calls “mem­o­ry lay­er­ing.” Dif­fer­ent, unre­lat­ed his­tor­i­cal events are pre­sent­ed as if they were seam­less­ly part of one uni­fied sto­ry.

    As recent­ly as Decem­ber 2017, after Pres­i­dent Andrzej Duda signed the laws ful­ly sub­ject­ing the judi­cia­ry to polit­i­cal con­trol, the cur­rent defense min­is­ter, Mar­iusz Blaszczak, announced the offi­cial end of com­mu­nism in Poland. Last week, Prime Min­is­ter Mateusz Moraw­iec­ki said that “Poland did not exist” in 1968, when Com­mu­nist author­i­ties expelled thou­sands of Jews from the coun­try: That crime was a crime of the Com­mu­nists, not of true Poles. In the PiS his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive, while Poland was under occu­pa­tion — first by the Nazis, then by the Com­mu­nists, then by the cos­mopoli­tans — it was not respon­si­ble for those occu­piers’ crimes.

    It’s in that spir­it that the new law bans any use of “Pol­ish death camps” — not to annoy oth­er nations, but to crim­i­nal­ize oppo­nents who want to imply oth­er­wise. The goal is to fur­ther polar­ize the nation polit­i­cal­ly, to enno­ble its vot­ers, and to quash the oppo­si­tion. And with its sup­port approach­ing 50 per­cent in polls, PiS is very unlike­ly to back down, no mat­ter the out­side pres­sure.

    ———-

    “Poland’s right-wing gov­ern­ment is rewrit­ing his­to­ry — with itself as hero” by Mateusz Mazz­i­ni; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 02/27/2018

    “It’s impor­tant to look more close­ly at that last phrase. Since tak­ing pow­er in Octo­ber 2015, the gov­ern­ment of the con­ser­v­a­tive Law and Jus­tice (PiS) par­ty has been con­scious­ly weaponiz­ing Pol­ish col­lec­tive mem­o­ry, turn­ing it into an instru­ment of domes­tic pol­i­tics and par­ti­san polar­iza­tion. PiS is estab­lish­ing an offi­cial his­to­ry that will shore up its own author­i­ty — and dele­git­imize its oppo­si­tion.”

    Only under the Law and Jus­tice (PiS) is Poland tru­ly free. It’s a cen­tral mes­sage to this rewrit­ing of his­to­ry and mes­sage that implic­it­ly frames the left-wing Pol­ish par­ties as part of an inter­na­tion­al cos­mopoli­tan con­spir­a­cy:

    ...
    Sug­gest­ing that Poland hasn’t been a real democ­ra­cy until now

    Since then, the con­flict over Pol­ish col­lec­tive mem­o­ry has expand­ed. In Sep­tem­ber 2017, the Insti­tute of Nation­al Remem­brance com­mis­sioned a four-minute com­put­er ani­ma­tion called “The Uncon­quered,” with a hero­ic his­to­ry of Poland since 1939. The short film has a mod­ern look; its Eng­lish ver­sion is nar­rat­ed by Sean Bean of “Game of Thrones.”

    But the movie gives a large­ly revi­sion­ist his­to­ry. It focus­es pri­mar­i­ly on the wartime under­ground state and goes no fur­ther toward the present than the 1979 papal vis­it of John Paul II. “The Uncon­quered” makes no men­tion of the Sol­i­dar­i­ty trade union that was so sig­nif­i­cant in bring­ing down the Com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment. It doesn’t even men­tion Solidarity’s for­mer pres­i­dent, Lech Wale­sa, a Nobel Peace Prize lau­re­ate whom PiS has almost entire­ly erased from the pub­lic debate since files emerged that alleged­ly proved he col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Com­mu­nist secret ser­vice. PiS uses that col­lab­o­ra­tion to replace Wale­sa as hero of the tran­si­tion with the late Lech Kaczyn­s­ki, for­mer Pol­ish pres­i­dent and twin broth­er of the PiS chair­man.

    So why would PiS leave out Sol­i­dar­i­ty and Wale­sa? Because it is paint­ing itself as the heir to the noble Pol­ish wartime resis­tance and the exclu­sive suc­ces­sor to the anti-Com­mu­nist oppo­si­tion. The found­ing myth of the PiS world­view is that the 1989 Round Table talks between the demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­si­tion and Com­mu­nist author­i­ties, which laid foun­da­tions for Poland’s non­vi­o­lent tran­si­tion to democ­ra­cy, were in fact a betray­al — that the intel­lec­tu­als and par­ty big­wigs con­spired to share pow­er in the new regime.

    PiS Chair­man Jaroslaw Kaczyn­s­ki argues that Poland nev­er ful­ly made a tran­si­tion to democ­ra­cy. Rather, in PiS’s view, since 1989 the coun­try has been a para-democ­ra­cy, a pup­pet state serv­ing the inter­ests of for­eign pow­ers. As the par­ty politi­cians have sstat­ed many times in pub­lic, Poland gained com­plete sov­er­eign­ty only when PiS took pow­er — and is only now shak­ing off the author­i­tar­i­an or oli­garchic grip of the pre­vi­ous regimes. That’s why PiS is equat­ing itself with the World War II-era resis­tance fight­ers, who saw their ene­my clear­ly. It’s giv­ing its con­stituen­cy a noble myth in which they have been suf­fer­ing under — and resist­ing — oppres­sion since the Nazi inva­sion.

    All this is what the soci­o­log­i­cal lit­er­a­ture calls “mem­o­ry lay­er­ing.” Dif­fer­ent, unre­lat­ed his­tor­i­cal events are pre­sent­ed as if they were seam­less­ly part of one uni­fied sto­ry.
    ...

    “PiS Chair­man Jaroslaw Kaczyn­s­ki argues that Poland nev­er ful­ly made a tran­si­tion to democ­ra­cy. Rather, in PiS’s view, since 1989 the coun­try has been a para-democ­ra­cy, a pup­pet state serv­ing the inter­ests of for­eign pow­ers. As the par­ty politi­cians have sstat­ed many times in pub­lic, Poland gained com­plete sov­er­eign­ty only when PiS took pow­er — and is only now shak­ing off the author­i­tar­i­an or oli­garchic grip of the pre­vi­ous regimes. That’s why PiS is equat­ing itself with the World War II-era resis­tance fight­ers, who saw their ene­my clear­ly. It’s giv­ing its con­stituen­cy a noble myth in which they have been suf­fer­ing under — and resist­ing — oppres­sion since the Nazi inva­sion.

    Accord­ing to this nar­ra­tive, first Poland was occu­pied by the Nazis, then the Com­mu­nists, and then the cos­mopoli­tans. And only now, under the PiS, is Poland free:

    ...
    As recent­ly as Decem­ber 2017, after Pres­i­dent Andrzej Duda signed the laws ful­ly sub­ject­ing the judi­cia­ry to polit­i­cal con­trol, the cur­rent defense min­is­ter, Mar­iusz Blaszczak, announced the offi­cial end of com­mu­nism in Poland. Last week, Prime Min­is­ter Mateusz Moraw­iec­ki said that “Poland did not exist” in 1968, when Com­mu­nist author­i­ties expelled thou­sands of Jews from the coun­try: That crime was a crime of the Com­mu­nists, not of true Poles. In the PiS his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive, while Poland was under occu­pa­tion — first by the Nazis, then by the Com­mu­nists, then by the cos­mopoli­tans — it was not respon­si­ble for those occu­piers’ crimes.
    ...

    And one of the signs of this ‘lib­er­al cos­mopoli­tan’ treach­ery is a desire to acknowl­edge the exis­tence of Pol­ish col­lab­o­ra­tors in the Holo­caust:

    ...
    Poland’s gov­ern­ment is sug­gest­ing that the present-day cos­mopoli­tan lib­er­als who want to acknowl­edge Pol­ish col­lab­o­ra­tors in crimes against Jews are trai­tors, like the Com­mu­nists, will­ing to sell the nation to the high­est inter­na­tion­al bid­der. And such nation­al myth­mak­ing has more real-world pow­er than many under­stand.
    ...

    So, that’s all one more rea­son we should­n’t expect Poland’s offi­cial embrace of anti-Semi­tism to fade any time soon: when you’re run­ning a cam­paign to dis­cred­it your polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion as ‘inter­na­tion­al cos­mopoli­tan’ col­lab­o­ra­tors, ram­pant anti-Semi­tism is pret­ty much the per­fect ingre­di­ent.

    And that’s all one more rea­son for Poland’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty to despair: the ram­pant anti-Semi­tism isn’t just an expres­sion of ram­pant anti-Semi­tism. It’s also a pow­er­ful polit­i­cal tool. Because of course.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 27, 2018, 4:28 pm
  10. There’s a grow­ing out­cry in Ger­many over alle­ga­tions that lead­ers of a rel­a­tive­ly small and new union, Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil, are neo-Nazis who are plan­ning to use the union to show­case their views. And these neo-Nazi lead­ers appear to have con­nec­tion to the Nation­al Social­ist Under­ground (NSU) neo-Nazi ter­ror cell that killed nine immi­grants and a police offi­cer in a series of attacks between 2000 and 2007. The founder of Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil, Oliv­er Hilburg­er, is the for­mer lead gui­tarist for an alleged neo-Nazi rock group called Noie Werte. Hilburg­er and anoth­er elect­ed union rep­re­sen­ta­tive had to tes­ti­fy before a par­lia­men­tary inquiry into the NSU. Hilburg­er also applied at one point for per­mis­sion to vis­it a sus­pect­ed NSU sup­port­er who was being held in police cus­tody. In addi­tion, Hilburg­er shared a stage at a pub­lic event with one of the AfD’s most con­tro­ver­sial fig­ures, Björn Höcke, who called for a “180 degree turn” in Germany’s atti­tude to the Sec­ond World War.

    Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil bills itself as “the alter­na­tive employ­ee rep­re­sen­ta­tion for employ­ees in the auto­mo­tive industy”. In oth­er words, it’s an ‘Alt Union’. That’s appar­ent­ly a thing now:

    The Tele­graph

    Fears neo-Nazis are seek­ing influ­ence at one of Ger­many’s biggest car mak­ers in threat to trade union

    by Justin Hug­gler, in Berlin
    22 Feb­ru­ary 2018 • 7:21pm

    Con­cerns are grow­ing in Ger­many that alleged neo-Nazi groups may be seek­ing to influ­ence the country’s icon­ic car indus­try by infil­trat­ing work­ers’ groups and set­ting up their own alter­na­tive trade union.

    Alle­ga­tions in the Ger­man press in recent weeks have linked elect­ed work­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives at Mercedes-Benz’s main engine fac­to­ry with a neo-Nazi ter­ror cell respon­si­ble for the deaths of ten peo­ple, as well as a pri­vate­ly cir­cu­lat­ed email which con­tained a swasti­ka and the mes­sage: “The true Ger­man greet­ing is ‘Heil Hitler!’”

    So seri­ous are the fears that Daim­ler, the com­pa­ny that makes Mer­cedes, has issued a state­ment say­ing it is fol­low­ing devel­op­ments at the fac­to­ry “with con­cern”.

    Oth­er mem­bers of the offi­cial works coun­cil at the fac­to­ry this week released their own state­ment accus­ing the alleged extrem­ists of threat­en­ing jobs and try­ing to turn the fac­to­ry into a “show­case for far-Right extrem­ism”.

    The alle­ga­tions con­cern a pri­vate organ­i­sa­tion called Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil, which bills itself as “the alter­na­tive employ­ee rep­re­sen­ta­tion for employ­ees in the auto­mo­tive industy” and is seek­ing to set itself up as a rival to the main Ger­man car work­ers’ trade union, IG Met­all.

    The group already has four elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the offi­cial­ly recog­nised work­ers’ coun­cil at the main Mer­cedes engine fac­to­ry in Untertürkheim. It is seek­ing to expand its influ­ence in annu­al elec­tions to the work­ers’ coun­cils next month, when it plans to put for­ward can­di­dates at oth­er fac­to­ries belong­ing to Daim­ler, BMW and Audi.

    ...

    Alle­ga­tions made about the organ­i­sa­tion in the Ger­man press in recent weeks include that its for­mer leader, Andreas Brand­meier, sent an email to mem­bers with a swasti­ka and the mes­sage “The true Ger­man greet­ing is ‘Heil Hitler!’” The organ­i­sa­tion has denied this and says the email is a forgery.

    The founder of Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil, Oliv­er Hilburg­er, is the for­mer lead gui­tarist for an alleged neo-Nazi rock group called Noie Werte. The band’s con­certs were known for Hitler salutes and songs about sub­jects such as Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess. Mr Hilburg­er has denied the band’s songs had neo-Nazi con­tent.

    “You call them Nazi songs, we see it dif­fer­ent­ly,” he told the Ger­man press. He says he has left the band, although he took part in a recent reunion con­cert.

    More seri­ous are alleged links between Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil and the Nation­al Social­ist Under­ground (NSU), a neo-Nazi ter­ror cell that killed nine immi­grants and a police offi­cer in a series of attacks between 2000 and 2007.

    Mr Hilburg­er and anoth­er of the group’s elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the Mer­cedes fac­to­ry work­ers’ coun­cil had to tes­ti­fy before a par­lia­men­tary inquiry into the ter­ror cell, but nei­ther has ever been charged with any crime in con­nec­tion with the ter­ror group.

    Mr Hilburg­er was asked why he had applied for per­mis­sion to vis­it a sus­pect­ed NSU sup­port­er who was being held in police cus­tody.

    Con­cerns have also been raised over alleged links to the Alter­na­tive for Ger­many par­ty (AfD), which became the first nation­al­ist par­ty to win seats in the Ger­man par­lia­ment since the six­ties last year.

    Mr Hilburg­er shared a stage at a pub­lic event with one of the AfD’s most con­tro­ver­sial fig­ures, Björn Höcke, last year. Mr Höcke pro­voked con­tro­ver­sy last year when he called for a “180-degree turn” in Germany’s atti­tude to the Sec­ond World War.

    Anoth­er speak­er at the event pre­dict­ed that soon Auto­mo­bil Zen­trum would be able to call strikes and “Every­thing will come to a stand­still when the blue arm demands it. Blue is the offi­cial colour of the AfD, not Auto­mo­bil Zen­trum, whose logo is green.

    Auto­mo­bil Zen­trum has made no secret of the fact it aspires to rival the offi­cial­ly recog­nised trade union, IG Met­all, and bar­gain col­lec­tive­ly on behalf of its mem­bers. Win­ning more seats on the work­ers’ coun­cils is one route to this: under Ger­man law, busi­ness­es have to recog­nise work­ers’ coun­cils and many have rep­re­sen­ta­tion on com­pa­ny boards.

    The oth­er 41 mem­bers of the work­ers’ coun­cil at the Mer­cedes fac­to­ry in Untertürkheim took a stand against Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil this week.

    “It appears as if Untertuerkheim is to become a show­case for the far-Right,” they said in a state­ment. “The work­ers’ coun­cil of Untertuerkheim cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly oppos­es such an abuse of our man­date for far-Right pur­pos­es”.

    The Ger­man Trade Union Con­fed­er­a­tion (DGB) has tak­en a more san­guine view. “The fact that some ide­o­logues are try­ing to hijack the work­ers’ coun­cil elec­tions with fool­ish slo­gans is not sur­pris­ing,” its leader, Rein­er Hoff­mann said. “They have noth­ing behind them, their ini­tia­tives will burst like bub­bles — because of sheer incom­pe­tence”.

    ———-

    “Fears neo-Nazis are seek­ing influ­ence at one of Ger­many’s biggest car mak­ers in threat to trade union” by Justin Hug­gler; The Tele­graph; 02/22/2018

    “The alle­ga­tions con­cern a pri­vate organ­i­sa­tion called Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil, which bills itself as “the alter­na­tive employ­ee rep­re­sen­ta­tion for employ­ees in the auto­mo­tive industy” and is seek­ing to set itself up as a rival to the main Ger­man car work­ers’ trade union, IG Met­all.”

    “The alter­na­tive employ­ee rep­re­sen­ta­tion for employ­ees in the auto­mo­tive industy.” That’s how Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil describes itself: it’s an ‘alter­na­tive’ union.

    Oth­er mem­bers of the offi­cial works coun­cil at this Daim­ler fac­to­ry have a dif­fer­ent way of describe the union: an attempt to turn the fac­to­ry into a “show­case for far-Right extrem­ism”:

    ...
    So seri­ous are the fears that Daim­ler, the com­pa­ny that makes Mer­cedes, has issued a state­ment say­ing it is fol­low­ing devel­op­ments at the fac­to­ry “with con­cern”.

    Oth­er mem­bers of the offi­cial works coun­cil at the fac­to­ry this week released their own state­ment accus­ing the alleged extrem­ists of threat­en­ing jobs and try­ing to turn the fac­to­ry into a “show­case for far-Right extrem­ism”.
    ...

    And when you look at the lead­er­ship of Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil, it’s not hard to accept these alle­ga­tions: its for­mer leader, Andreas Brand­meier, sent an email to mem­bers with a swasti­ka and the mes­sage “The true Ger­man greet­ing is ‘Heil Hitler!’” And the founder of the union, Oliber Hilburg­er, was the lead gui­tarist in a neo-Nazi rock bank and appears to know the peo­ple in the NSU neo-Nazi ter­ror cell:

    ...
    Alle­ga­tions made about the organ­i­sa­tion in the Ger­man press in recent weeks include that its for­mer leader, Andreas Brand­meier, sent an email to mem­bers with a swasti­ka and the mes­sage “The true Ger­man greet­ing is ‘Heil Hitler!’” The organ­i­sa­tion has denied this and says the email is a forgery.

    The founder of Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil, Oliv­er Hilburg­er, is the for­mer lead gui­tarist for an alleged neo-Nazi rock group called Noie Werte. The band’s con­certs were known for Hitler salutes and songs about sub­jects such as Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess. Mr Hilburg­er has denied the band’s songs had neo-Nazi con­tent.

    “You call them Nazi songs, we see it dif­fer­ent­ly,” he told the Ger­man press. He says he has left the band, although he took part in a recent reunion con­cert.

    More seri­ous are alleged links between Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil and the Nation­al Social­ist Under­ground (NSU), a neo-Nazi ter­ror cell that killed nine immi­grants and a police offi­cer in a series of attacks between 2000 and 2007.

    Mr Hilburg­er and anoth­er of the group’s elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the Mer­cedes fac­to­ry work­ers’ coun­cil had to tes­ti­fy before a par­lia­men­tary inquiry into the ter­ror cell, but nei­ther has ever been charged with any crime in con­nec­tion with the ter­ror group.

    Mr Hilburg­er was asked why he had applied for per­mis­sion to vis­it a sus­pect­ed NSU sup­port­er who was being held in police cus­tody.
    ...

    And, of course, Mr. Hilburg­er has been palling around with the AfD:

    ...
    Con­cerns have also been raised over alleged links to the Alter­na­tive for Ger­many par­ty (AfD), which became the first nation­al­ist par­ty to win seats in the Ger­man par­lia­ment since the six­ties last year.

    Mr Hilburg­er shared a stage at a pub­lic event with one of the AfD’s most con­tro­ver­sial fig­ures, Björn Höcke, last year. Mr Höcke pro­voked con­tro­ver­sy last year when he called for a “180-degree turn” in Germany’s atti­tude to the Sec­ond World War.

    Anoth­er speak­er at the event pre­dict­ed that soon Auto­mo­bil Zen­trum would be able to call strikes and “Every­thing will come to a stand­still when the blue arm demands it. Blue is the offi­cial colour of the AfD, not Auto­mo­bil Zen­trum, whose logo is green.
    ...

    So how far along is Zen­trum in its goals of tak­ing over the union rep­re­sen­ta­tion at this fac­to­ry? Well, last month it only had 4 of 41 elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the plant:

    ...
    The group already has four elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the offi­cial­ly recog­nised work­ers’ coun­cil at the main Mer­cedes engine fac­to­ry in Untertürkheim. It is seek­ing to expand its influ­ence in annu­al elec­tions to the work­ers’ coun­cils next month, when it plans to put for­ward can­di­dates at oth­er fac­to­ries belong­ing to Daim­ler, BMW and Audi.

    ...

    Auto­mo­bil Zen­trum has made no secret of the fact it aspires to rival the offi­cial­ly recog­nised trade union, IG Met­all, and bar­gain col­lec­tive­ly on behalf of its mem­bers. Win­ning more seats on the work­ers’ coun­cils is one route to this: under Ger­man law, busi­ness­es have to recog­nise work­ers’ coun­cils and many have rep­re­sen­ta­tion on com­pa­ny boards.

    The oth­er 41 mem­bers of the work­ers’ coun­cil at the Mer­cedes fac­to­ry in Untertürkheim took a stand against Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil this week.
    ...

    But that was last month. And new elec­tions at the plant just took place. So how did Auto­mo­bil Zen­trum do? Sure­ly all those reports about the neo-Nazi past of its lead­er­ship will lead to a rout, right? Well, actu­al­ly, Zen­trum picked up a cou­ple of seats so now it has 6 out of 41 elect­ed union rep­re­sen­ta­tives at this fac­to­ry:

    Reuters

    Far-right union wins more seats on Daim­ler plan­t’s works coun­cil

    Reuters Staff
    March 6, 2018 / 11:05 AM / Updat­ed

    DUESSELDORF (Reuters) — A Ger­man trade union accused by rival labor rep­re­sen­ta­tives of har­bor­ing neo-Nazis has expand­ed its pres­ence on the works coun­cil of a key plant oper­at­ed by lux­u­ry car­mak­er Daim­ler (DAIGn.DE), elec­tion results showed on Tues­day.

    The Daim­ler works coun­cil at the Untertuerkheim plant in south­ern Ger­many last month accused neo-Nazis of using the Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil union as a base, with the aim of turn­ing the fac­to­ry into a show­case for their views.

    In a vote to elect new rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the Ger­man carmaker’s works coun­cil, which nego­ti­ates with man­age­ment, Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil added two seats to bring its total to six, while the IG Met­all union extend­ed its lead to 37 seats out of a total of 47.

    Ger­man media has report­ed that sev­er­al labor rep­re­sen­ta­tives at Daimler’s head­quar­ters in Untertuerkheim, which employs about 19,000 staff, were affil­i­at­ed with neo-Nazi groups and have voiced xeno­pho­bic views.

    The reports come at a time of height­ened con­cern about the far-right after the rise of the anti-immi­grant Alter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) par­ty, which has sur­passed the cen­ter-left Social Democ­rats in a nation­wide opin­ion poll.

    Work­ers found­ed the Zen­trum union in 2009, four years before the AfD was set up. Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil has said it oppos­es export­ing jobs abroad and accused IG Met­all of col­lud­ing with man­age­ment to the detri­ment of work­ers.

    ...

    The car­mak­er pro­duced arma­ments for the Nazis before and dur­ing World War Two, mak­ing the issue of pos­si­ble far-right infil­tra­tion par­tic­u­lar­ly sen­si­tive for the com­pa­ny.

    ———-

    “Far-right union wins more seats on Daim­ler plan­t’s works coun­cil” by Reuters Staff; Reuters; 03/06/2018

    “In a vote to elect new rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the Ger­man carmaker’s works coun­cil, which nego­ti­ates with man­age­ment, Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil added two seats to bring its total to six, while the IG Met­all union extend­ed its lead to 37 seats out of a total of 47.”

    So, on the one hand, they only picked up two rep­re­sen­ta­tives. On the oth­er hand, when you start off with four seats, pick­ing up two more is 50 per­cent growth.

    And while 6 seats leaves them far from being able to dic­tate union pol­i­cy at this plant, keep in mind how young Zen­trum is: It was only start­ed in 2009:

    ...
    Work­ers found­ed the Zen­trum union in 2009, four years before the AfD was set up. Zen­trum Auto­mo­bil has said it oppos­es export­ing jobs abroad and accused IG Met­all of col­lud­ing with man­age­ment to the detri­ment of work­ers.
    ...

    Also note the larg­er polit­i­cal con­text: the neo-Nazi AfD just over­took the cen­ter-left SPD in Ger­many’s polls for the first time a cou­ple weeks ago (16% for the AfD vs 15.5% for the SPD). And it’s in that con­text that we have a neo-Nazi union, that was start­ed up less than a decade ago, and it’s already got 6 out of 41 seats on the works coun­cil of a key Daim­ler plant. And some of that growth took place after the neo-Nazi back­ground of this ‘alt union’ was revealed.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 6, 2018, 3:11 pm
  11. Latvia just had its lat­est Remem­brance Day of the Lat­vian Legion­naires last week, a day for memo­ri­al­iz­ing the sol­diers from the 15th Waf­fen Grenadier Divi­sion and 19th Waf­fen Grenadier Divi­sion of the SS.

    It sounds like the march was large­ly unevent­ful, although there was one arrest: A guy who held up a poster of sol­diers killing Jews was the per­son arrest­ed:

    Jew­ish Tele­graph Agency

    Hun­dreds march with Nazi SS vet­er­ans in Latvia

    By Cnaan Liphshiz
    March 16, 2018 7:07am

    RIGA, Latvia (JTA) — Police arrest­ed a man for dis­play­ing a poster of sol­diers killing Jews at the annu­al march by local vet­er­ans of two SS divi­sions that made up the Lat­vian Legion dur­ing World War II.

    The man was arrest­ed Fri­day morn­ing on the mar­gins of the annu­al march of the Remem­brance Day of the Lat­vian Legion­naires — sol­diers from the 15th Waf­fen Grenadier Divi­sion of the SS and the 19th Waf­fen Grenadier Divi­sion of the SS (the 1st and 2nd Lat­vian, respec­tive­ly). A hand­ful of vet­er­ans, flanked by hun­dreds of sup­port­ers wav­ing Lat­vian flags, gath­ered around Free­dom Mon­u­ment for the march under heavy police guard.

    The march in Latvia, a mem­ber of the NATO alliance and the Euro­pean Union, is cur­rent­ly the only pub­lic event in Europe and beyond hon­or­ing those who fought under the ban­ner of SS, Nazi Germany’s elite secu­ri­ty force. Occur­ring amid ris­ing ten­sions with Rus­sia, it is part of numer­ous expres­sions across East­ern Europe of admi­ra­tion for those, includ­ing Holo­caust per­pe­tra­tors, who col­lab­o­rat­ed with Ger­many against the Sovi­et Union.

    Sev­er­al pro­test­ers from the Latvia With­out Fas­cism group demon­strat­ed against the event by car­ry­ing signs read­ing “They fought for Hitler” and “If they looked like Nazis, and act­ed like Nazis – they were Nazi.” None of those pro­test­ers was arrest­ed.

    Police did not allow a counter protest by Latvia With­out Fas­cism, a leader of that group, Joseph Koren, told JTA. Hun­dreds of police cor­doned off the Free­dom Mon­u­ment as vet­er­ans, includ­ing some in uni­form, sang patri­ot­ic songs and laid wreaths for their fall­en com­rades. Orga­niz­ers of the event from sev­er­al nation­al­ist groups then drove the vet­er­ans to a ceme­tery where many of their com­rades are buried.

    “It’s a dis­grace that this is hap­pen­ing in Europe,” Alek­se­js Saripovs of the Latvia With­out Fas­cism group told JTA. “The Euro­pean Union needs to pres­sure Latvia into aban­don­ing this shame­ful event, but so far there is total silence.”

    ...

    Advo­cates of the vet­er­ans and their sup­port­ers claim that Lat­vian Legion sol­diers were not involved in atroc­i­ties against Jews, despite evi­dence to the con­trary. Accord­ing to the Lat­vian gov­ern­ment, the Lat­vian Legion was not real­ly an SS unit and the legion­naires who were not force­ful­ly con­script­ed mere­ly sought inde­pen­dence for Latvia when they joined Hitler’s army.

    Ger­man Nazis and col­lab­o­ra­tors led to the near anni­hi­la­tion of 70,000 Jews who had lived in Latvia before the Holo­caust.

    On Wednes­day, the par­lia­ment vot­ed down a bill propos­ing to make March 16 a nation­al Lat­vian Legion Day.

    ———-

    “Hun­dreds march with Nazi SS vet­er­ans in Latvia” by Cnaan Liphshiz; Jew­ish Tele­graph Agency; 03/16/2018

    “Police arrest­ed a man for dis­play­ing a poster of sol­diers killing Jews at the annu­al march by local vet­er­ans of two SS divi­sions that made up the Lat­vian Legion dur­ing World War II.”

    The one guy to get arrest­ed is the per­son with a poster of sol­diers killing Jews at a march of a bunch of Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors. Because that’s the offi­cial response to this his­tor­i­cal chap­ter in Latvia these days. And the sup­port­ers of these Lat­vian Legion assert that these guys were real­ly mem­bers of the SS and mere­ly fought for inde­pen­dence:

    ...
    The man was arrest­ed Fri­day morn­ing on the mar­gins of the annu­al march of the Remem­brance Day of the Lat­vian Legion­naires — sol­diers from the 15th Waf­fen Grenadier Divi­sion of the SS and the 19th Waf­fen Grenadier Divi­sion of the SS (the 1st and 2nd Lat­vian, respec­tive­ly). A hand­ful of vet­er­ans, flanked by hun­dreds of sup­port­ers wav­ing Lat­vian flags, gath­ered around Free­dom Mon­u­ment for the march under heavy police guard.

    The march in Latvia, a mem­ber of the NATO alliance and the Euro­pean Union, is cur­rent­ly the only pub­lic event in Europe and beyond hon­or­ing those who fought under the ban­ner of SS, Nazi Germany’s elite secu­ri­ty force. Occur­ring amid ris­ing ten­sions with Rus­sia, it is part of numer­ous expres­sions across East­ern Europe of admi­ra­tion for those, includ­ing Holo­caust per­pe­tra­tors, who col­lab­o­rat­ed with Ger­many against the Sovi­et Union.

    ...

    Advo­cates of the vet­er­ans and their sup­port­ers claim that Lat­vian Legion sol­diers were not involved in atroc­i­ties against Jews, despite evi­dence to the con­trary. Accord­ing to the Lat­vian gov­ern­ment, the Lat­vian Legion was not real­ly an SS unit and the legion­naires who were not force­ful­ly con­script­ed mere­ly sought inde­pen­dence for Latvia when they joined Hitler’s army.
    ...

    Recall that this argu­ment that they were real­ly Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors and actu­al­ly just want­ed to fight for their inde­pen­dence is exact­ly the same argu­ment used by Ukraine’s offi­cial his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ists.

    And, of course, police did­n’t even allow a counter protest:

    ...
    Police did not allow a counter protest by Latvia With­out Fas­cism, a leader of that group, Joseph Koren, told JTA. Hun­dreds of police cor­doned off the Free­dom Mon­u­ment as vet­er­ans, includ­ing some in uni­form, sang patri­ot­ic songs and laid wreaths for their fall­en com­rades. Orga­niz­ers of the event from sev­er­al nation­al­ist groups then drove the vet­er­ans to a ceme­tery where many of their com­rades are buried.
    ...

    So with that offi­cial cel­e­bra­tion of Latvi­a’s SS units in mind, here’s an arti­cle from last month that points out that, of all the EU coun­tries engaged in this kind of offi­cial his­tor­i­cal revi­sions, only Poland’s new laws have received any mean­ing­ful protest by oth­er West­ern gov­ern­ment. When Ukraine, Latvia, and Lithua­nia
    did pret­ty much exact­ly the same thing it’s been met with silence. And that includes silence when Latvi­a’s pres­i­dent recent­ly gave the final approval for a law that offers finan­cial ben­e­fits to all World War II vet­er­ans – includ­ing SS vol­un­teers who mur­dered Jews. So these Lat­vian Legion Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors don’t just receive an annu­al cel­e­bra­to­ry march any­more. They’re get­ting a gov­ern­ment vet­er­an’s ben­e­fit too:

    Jew­ish Tele­graph­ic Agency

    Poland isn’t the only coun­try try­ing to police what can be said about the Holo­caust

    By Cnaan Liphshiz
    Feb­ru­ary 6, 2018 4:35pm

    (JTA) — In 2015, Ukraine’s pres­i­dent signed a law whose crit­ics say sti­fles debate on the his­tor­i­cal record of World War II and white­wash­es local per­pe­tra­tors of the Holo­caust.

    Law 2538–1 crim­i­nal­ized any rhetoric insult­ing to the mem­o­ry of anti-com­mu­nist par­ti­sans. And it cel­e­brates the lega­cy of such com­bat­ants – osten­si­bly includ­ing the ones who mur­dered count­less Jew­ish and Pol­ish cit­i­zens while col­lab­o­rat­ing with Nazi Ger­many.

    The law gen­er­at­ed some back­lash, includ­ing an open let­ter by more than 70 his­to­ri­ans who said it “con­tra­dicts the right to free­dom of speech,” ignores com­plic­i­ty in the Holo­caust and would “dam­age Ukraine’s nation­al secu­ri­ty.”

    But as with sim­i­lar mea­sures in Europe’s ex-com­mu­nist nations, the Ukraine law gen­er­at­ed lit­tle oppo­si­tion or even atten­tion inter­na­tion­al­ly — espe­cial­ly when com­pared to the loud objec­tions to a sim­i­lar mea­sure in Poland that was signed into law on Tues­day by the pres­i­dent. The law had passed both hous­es of par­lia­ment in recent days. The Unit­ed States and Israel joined his­to­ri­ans and Israel’s Yad Vashem Holo­caust author­i­ty in decry­ing the bill.

    “The Ukrain­ian and Pol­ish laws are sim­i­lar, but in Ukraine’s case we didn’t see any­thing even close” to the avalanche of con­dem­na­tions that Poland received, said Eduard Dolin­sky, direc­tor of the Ukrain­ian Jew­ish Com­mit­tee and a long­time cam­paign­er against Holo­caust revi­sion in Ukraine. “I wish we had; maybe this law could have been stopped in Ukraine.”

    To activists like Dolin­sky, the sin­gling out of Poland reflects the ongo­ing politi­ciza­tion of the debate on East­ern Europe’s bloody World War II his­to­ry. They say the con­ver­sa­tion is dis­tort­ed by geopo­lit­i­cal ten­sions involv­ing Rus­sia, pop­ulism, igno­rance and unre­solved nation­al trau­mas.

    There are clear sim­i­lar­i­ties between the Ukrain­ian and Pol­ish laws, accord­ing to Alex Ryvchin, a Kiev-born Aus­tralian-Jew­ish jour­nal­ist and author who has writ­ten about the pol­i­tics of mem­o­ry in East­ern Europe.

    “Both seek to use the legit­i­ma­cy and force of law to enshrine an offi­cial nar­ra­tive of vic­tim­hood, hero­ism and right­eous­ness while crim­i­nal­iz­ing pub­lic dis­cus­sion of his­tor­i­cal truths that con­tra­dict or under­mine these nar­ra­tives,” he said. Yet, he not­ed, “The reac­tion to the Pol­ish law has indeed dwarfed the response to per­sis­tent state revi­sion­ism else­where in Europe in spite of the fact that the rate of col­lab­o­ra­tion was gen­er­al­ly low­er in Poland than in Ukraine and Latvia.”

    The Baltic nations of Lithua­nia and Latvia were pio­neers in nation­al­ist leg­is­la­tion that lim­its dis­course about the Holo­caust in their ter­ri­to­ries. Crit­ics say these laws also shift the blame for the mur­der of Jews, which was done with local helpers, to Nazi Ger­many alone. They also seem to equate the Nazi geno­cide with polit­i­cal repres­sion by the Sovi­et Union – which many in the for­mer Sovi­et Union blame on Jew­ish com­mu­nists.

    In 2010 Lithua­nia — a coun­try where Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors vir­tu­al­ly wiped out a Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty of 250,000 — amend­ed its crim­i­nal code, pre­scrib­ing up to two years in jail to any­one who “denies or gross­ly under­es­ti­mates” the crime of geno­cide or “oth­er crimes against human­i­ty or war crimes com­mit­ted by the USSR or Nazi Ger­many against Lithuan­ian res­i­dents.”

    Sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion in Latvia from 2014 impos­es up to five years in jail for those who deny the role of “the for­eign pow­ers that have per­pe­trat­ed crimes against Latvia and the Lat­vian nation,” with­out men­tion­ing the involve­ment of Lat­vian SS vol­un­teers in mur­der­ing near­ly all of the country’s 70,000 Jews.

    The denial of local cul­pa­bil­i­ty dur­ing the Holo­caust is at the root of oppo­si­tion to Poland’s law, which sets a max­i­mum of six years in jail for “who­ev­er accus­es, pub­licly and against the facts, the Pol­ish nation or the Pol­ish state of being respon­si­ble or com­plic­it in the Nazi crimes com­mit­ted by the Third Reich” or ”gross­ly dimin­ish­es the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the actu­al per­pe­tra­tors.” On Tues­day, Pres­i­dent Andrzej Duda said he would sign the laws (which he did lat­er in the day), final­iz­ing them, but also refer them for review by Poland’s high­est court.

    Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu, who in the past has been crit­i­cized for not call­ing out his country’s East­ern Euro­pean allies on these issues, called the Pol­ish leg­is­la­tion “base­less” and said Israel opposed it. The U.S. State Depart­ment in a state­ment sug­gest­ed it could have “reper­cus­sions” for bilat­er­al rela­tions with Poland.

    Israeli Edu­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naf­tali Bennett’s sched­uled vis­it to Poland this week was can­celed after he crit­i­cized the law, which Israel’s embassy in Poland said was gen­er­at­ing anti-Semit­ic hate speech in the media.

    Back in Israel, the Pol­ish Embassy con­demned what it called igno­rant remarks by Yair Lapid, a promi­nent oppo­si­tion leader. Cit­ing his cre­den­tials as the son of a Holo­caust sur­vivor, Lapid said the Pol­ish law is designed to hide how Poland was “a part­ner in the Holo­caust.”

    Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing the Simon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter, said for their part that they under­stand the Pol­ish frus­tra­tion with terms like “Pol­ish death camps,” which seem to shift the blame for Nazi war crimes to Poland – one of the few Nazi-occu­pied coun­tries where the Nazis did not allow any mea­sure of self-rule or inte­grate locals into the geno­cide.

    And the term is espe­cial­ly offen­sive in Poland, where the Nazis killed at least 1.9 mil­lion non-Jews in addi­tion to at least 3 mil­lion Jews.

    But, many Jew­ish groups added, the leg­is­la­tion in Poland ignores how many Poles betrayed or killed Jews and is there­fore detri­men­tal to the preser­va­tion of his­tor­i­cal record and free speech.

    Dolin­sky in Ukraine isn’t a fan of the Pol­ish leg­is­la­tion, either.

    “But I don’t quite under­stand why it and only it pro­voked such a strong reac­tion,” he added. “We need­ed that strong reac­tion two years ago in Ukraine. This fight needs to apply to all these cas­es. For the pres­sure to be effec­tive, it shouldn’t be selec­tive.”

    Dolin­sky believes that Ukraine — which, unlike Poland, shares a bor­der with Rus­sia — is get­ting a free pass from the West because it is sub­ject­ed to hos­til­i­ty from Rus­sia under Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

    In 2014, Rus­sia annexed Crimea from Ukraine amid ongo­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare against the Baltic nations, often involv­ing the deploy­ment of Russia’s mighty army around those coun­tries in blunt loud­speak­er diplo­ma­cy.

    “There is a lot of Rus­so­pho­bic sen­ti­ment world­wide and it means inter­na­tion­al silence on coun­tries with a con­flict with Rus­sia,” said Joseph Koren, chair­man of the Latvia With­out Nazism group.

    “Poland and Hun­gary are in a dif­fer­ent cat­e­go­ry,” agreed Dovid Katz, a schol­ar of Yid­dish in Lithua­nia and long­time cam­paign­er against Holo­caust dis­tor­tion there. The sin­gling out of Poland and Hun­gary, he said, is “not least because the issues of the Holo­caust, anti-Semi­tism and restric­tions on demo­c­ra­t­ic expres­sion in these coun­tries have nev­er been per­ceived pri­mar­i­ly through the same bina­ry lens of pro-and anti-Putin.”

    Under that alleged cov­er of silence, in Ukraine and the Baltic coun­tries there is a rapid lift­ing on taboos that had been in place for decades on the hon­or­ing of war crim­i­nals, even includ­ing SS vol­un­teers who enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the mass killings of Jews and Poles.

    Large­ly ignored by the inter­na­tion­al media, Lat­vian Pres­i­dent Rai­monds Vejo­nis last week gave the final approval for a law that offers finan­cial ben­e­fits to all World War II vet­er­ans – includ­ing SS vol­un­teers who mur­dered Jews. Latvia is the only coun­try in the world known to have an annu­al march by SS vet­er­ans, which takes place with the approval of author­i­ties’ on the country’s nation­al day in the cen­ter of its cap­i­tal, some­times with main­stream politi­cians in atten­dance.

    Last year, the munic­i­pal­i­ty of Kalush near Lviv in Ukraine decid­ed to name a street for Dmytro Pali­iv, a com­man­der of the 14th Waf­fen Grenadier Divi­sion of the SS, also known as the 1st Gali­cian.

    Ukraine’s state tele­vi­sion observed a moment of silence for the first time last year for Symon Petliu­ra, a nation­al­ist killed by a Jew­ish com­mu­nist for Petliura’s role in the mur­der of 35,000 to 50,000 Jews in a series of pogroms between 1918 and 1921, when Petliu­ra was head of the Ukrain­ian People’s Repub­lic.

    “There is less will­ing­ness to speak out on Ukraine in media, in the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty and in West­ern gov­ern­ments, so it seems,” Dolin­sky said.

    ...

    To Ryvchin, the Aus­tralian author, the “par­tic­u­lar­ly force­ful reac­tion to the Pol­ish law is like­ly because Poland is seen as the epi­cen­ter of the Holo­caust,” he said. The Ger­mans built exter­mi­na­tion camps only in Poland, accord­ing to Holo­caust his­to­ri­an Efraim Zuroff.

    “Any attempt to dis­tort or dis­guise what hap­pened in Poland is seen as a par­tic­u­lar­ly egre­gious attack on the his­to­ry of the Holo­caust and the mem­o­ries of the dead,” Ryvchin said.

    Iron­i­cal­ly, Poland is per­haps sin­gled out for crit­i­cism because of the country’s vocal civ­il soci­ety and the live­ly debate it is gen­er­at­ing over the pol­i­tics of mem­o­ry, Katz sug­gest­ed.

    Even today, he said, Poland and Hun­gary “have robust lib­er­al move­ments that them­selves counter offi­cial gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy on many issues — unlike the Baltics, where dis­sent is often quashed using the full force of the law.”
    ———-

    “Poland isn’t the only coun­try try­ing to police what can be said about the Holo­caust” by Cnaan Liphshiz; Jew­ish Tele­graph­ic Agency; 02/06/2018

    “But as with sim­i­lar mea­sures in Europe’s ex-com­mu­nist nations, the Ukraine law gen­er­at­ed lit­tle oppo­si­tion or even atten­tion inter­na­tion­al­ly — espe­cial­ly when com­pared to the loud objec­tions to a sim­i­lar mea­sure in Poland that was signed into law on Tues­day by the pres­i­dent. The law had passed both hous­es of par­lia­ment in recent days. The Unit­ed States and Israel joined his­to­ri­ans and Israel’s Yad Vashem Holo­caust author­i­ty in decry­ing the bill.”

    Yep, while there was at least some inter­na­tion­al atten­tion giv­en to Poland’s recent ‘Holo­caust laws’, some­how almost all the oth­er very sim­i­lar laws in Europe are met with silence. Silence that appears to be heav­i­ly by geopo­lit­i­cal ten­sions involv­ing Rus­sia that’s result­ing in a “free pass” from the West for these kinds of laws:

    ...
    “The Ukrain­ian and Pol­ish laws are sim­i­lar, but in Ukraine’s case we didn’t see any­thing even close” to the avalanche of con­dem­na­tions that Poland received, said Eduard Dolin­sky, direc­tor of the Ukrain­ian Jew­ish Com­mit­tee and a long­time cam­paign­er against Holo­caust revi­sion in Ukraine. “I wish we had; maybe this law could have been stopped in Ukraine.”

    To activists like Dolin­sky, the sin­gling out of Poland reflects the ongo­ing politi­ciza­tion of the debate on East­ern Europe’s bloody World War II his­to­ry. They say the con­ver­sa­tion is dis­tort­ed by geopo­lit­i­cal ten­sions involv­ing Rus­sia, pop­ulism, igno­rance and unre­solved nation­al trau­mas.

    ...

    Dolin­sky in Ukraine isn’t a fan of the Pol­ish leg­is­la­tion, either.

    “But I don’t quite under­stand why it and only it pro­voked such a strong reac­tion,” he added. “We need­ed that strong reac­tion two years ago in Ukraine. This fight needs to apply to all these cas­es. For the pres­sure to be effec­tive, it shouldn’t be selec­tive.”

    Dolin­sky believes that Ukraine — which, unlike Poland, shares a bor­der with Rus­sia — is get­ting a free pass from the West because it is sub­ject­ed to hos­til­i­ty from Rus­sia under Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.
    ...

    And this silence has been going on for years. Lithua­nia and Lati­va were pio­neers for these kinds of his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism laws:

    ...
    The Baltic nations of Lithua­nia and Latvia were pio­neers in nation­al­ist leg­is­la­tion that lim­its dis­course about the Holo­caust in their ter­ri­to­ries. Crit­ics say these laws also shift the blame for the mur­der of Jews, which was done with local helpers, to Nazi Ger­many alone. They also seem to equate the Nazi geno­cide with polit­i­cal repres­sion by the Sovi­et Union – which many in the for­mer Sovi­et Union blame on Jew­ish com­mu­nists.

    In 2010 Lithua­nia — a coun­try where Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors vir­tu­al­ly wiped out a Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty of 250,000 — amend­ed its crim­i­nal code, pre­scrib­ing up to two years in jail to any­one who “denies or gross­ly under­es­ti­mates” the crime of geno­cide or “oth­er crimes against human­i­ty or war crimes com­mit­ted by the USSR or Nazi Ger­many against Lithuan­ian res­i­dents.”

    Sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion in Latvia from 2014 impos­es up to five years in jail for those who deny the role of “the for­eign pow­ers that have per­pe­trat­ed crimes against Latvia and the Lat­vian nation,” with­out men­tion­ing the involve­ment of Lat­vian SS vol­un­teers in mur­der­ing near­ly all of the country’s 70,000 Jews.

    The denial of local cul­pa­bil­i­ty dur­ing the Holo­caust is at the root of oppo­si­tion to Poland’s law, which sets a max­i­mum of six years in jail for “who­ev­er accus­es, pub­licly and against the facts, the Pol­ish nation or the Pol­ish state of being respon­si­ble or com­plic­it in the Nazi crimes com­mit­ted by the Third Reich” or ”gross­ly dimin­ish­es the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the actu­al per­pe­tra­tors.” On Tues­day, Pres­i­dent Andrzej Duda said he would sign the laws (which he did lat­er in the day), final­iz­ing them, but also refer them for review by Poland’s high­est court.
    ...

    And as a result of this inter­na­tion­al silence, we’re now see­ing a rapid shift in taboos on hon­or­ing war crim­i­nals. Includ­ing the Lat­vian pres­i­dent offer­ing finan­cial ben­e­fits ALL WWII vet­er­ans, includ­ing these SS vol­un­teers:

    ...
    Under that alleged cov­er of silence, in Ukraine and the Baltic coun­tries there is a rapid lift­ing on taboos that had been in place for decades on the hon­or­ing of war crim­i­nals, even includ­ing SS vol­un­teers who enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the mass killings of Jews and Poles.

    Large­ly ignored by the inter­na­tion­al media, Lat­vian Pres­i­dent Rai­monds Vejo­nis last week gave the final approval for a law that offers finan­cial ben­e­fits to all World War II vet­er­ans – includ­ing SS vol­un­teers who mur­dered Jews. Latvia is the only coun­try in the world known to have an annu­al march by SS vet­er­ans, which takes place with the approval of author­i­ties’ on the country’s nation­al day in the cen­ter of its cap­i­tal, some­times with main­stream politi­cians in atten­dance.
    ...

    So as we can see, across East­ern Europe the nar­ra­tive that has emerged is that there weren’t actu­al­ly any Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors as all. Sure, there were local mem­bers of SS divi­sions. But they weren’t actu­al­ly Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors. That’s the offi­cial­ly sanc­tioned nar­ra­tive and if you chal­lenge it you bet­ter have your bail mon­ey ready.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 22, 2018, 3:26 pm
  12. Pres­i­dent Trump met with the lead­ers of Baltic nations on Tues­day. And while there is jus­ti­fi­ably much cov­er­age the stu­pid and irre­spon­si­ble things Trump said dur­ing this meet­ing, one of the things that’s easy to for­get about Trump is that it’s not just what he says that’s prob­lem­at­ic. What Trump does­n’t say in his role as pres­i­dent can be harm­ful too. When it comes to pres­i­den­tial com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Trump is ‘damned if he does, damned if he does­n’t’ in a lit­er­al sense because he’s that bad at being pres­i­den­tial.

    So it’s worth not­ing that the vis­i­ta­tion by the Baltic lead­ers — who lead coun­tries in the midst of an aggres­sive col­lec­tive dri­ve to enact a far right white­wash­ing of WWII his­to­ry in an alarm­ing­ly Orwellian man­ner — pre­sent­ed one of those sit­u­a­tions where the US pres­i­dent should say some­thing but it’s prob­a­bly still for the best some­thing was­n’t said because it would be Trump doing the talk­ing and that would­n’t have gone well.

    But if Pres­i­dent Trump was to use his bul­ly pul­pit to raise the issue of major his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism by NATO mem­bers, as the fol­low­ing arti­cle makes clear, a good place for him to start that crit­i­cism would be point­ing out the fact the Holo­caust Muse­um of Lithua­nia did­n’t actu­al­ly men­tion the WWII Holo­caust until a few years ago when that con­tent was added to a small room. The rest of the muse­um is exclu­sive­ly ded­i­cat­ed to the crimes of the Sovi­et era. That’s likes a ‘wow, did that hap­pen?’ lev­el of Holo­caust denial­ism.

    And Lithua­nia is also the coun­try that start­ed the offi­cial Holo­caust revi­sion law trend in Europe back in 2010 when it passed the “Red Brown” law that gave jail sen­tences of up to two years for any­one ques­tion­ing whether the Sovi­et crimes were also a Holo­caust.

    Keep in mind that Lithua­nia is the coun­try where the Holo­caust was the most exten­sive both in raw num­bers of the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty killed and per­cent­age of the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty that was killed (over 90 per­cent of Lithua­ni­a’s Jews died). And much of that slaugh­ter was car­ried out by the local pop­u­lace. So, yeah, the Holo­caust muse­um that did­n’t men­tion the Jew­ish Holo­caust is pret­ty bru­tal.

    The of the pos­si­ble respons­es to the crit­i­cisms of this muse­um that is under con­sid­er­a­tion is to change it to a muse­um ded­i­cat­ed exclu­sive­ly to Sovi­et crimes (in oth­er words, get rid of the small room).

    So, yeah, while it’s prob­a­bly for the best Trump did­n’t bring this up this up when the Baltic lead­ers vis­it­ed because he’s Trump. But if he was to bring it up, the Holo­caust Muse­um of Lithua­nia would be a good place to start:

    The New York Times

    Where the Geno­cide Muse­um Is (Most­ly) Mum on the Fate of Jews

    By ROD NORDLAND
    MARCH 30, 2018

    VILNIUS, Lithua­nia — Dur­ing the Holo­caust, many Lithuan­ian Jews were not killed in Nazi death camps, but by their neigh­bors, usu­al­ly shot or even beat­en to death. In all, 90 per­cent of an esti­mat­ed 250,000 Jews per­ished, wip­ing out a com­mu­ni­ty that had been part of Lithuan­ian life for five cen­turies.

    So it may come as a sur­prise that in Vil­nius, the country’s cap­i­tal, there is a thriv­ing Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter (includ­ing a cafe serv­ing bagels), an expand­ed new Jew­ish Muse­um and ful­ly func­tion­ing syn­a­gogue — ben­e­fi­cia­ries of a West­ern-look­ing gov­ern­ment that encour­ages Lit­vak Jews to return and has pro­posed to declare 2019 “The Year of the Jew.”

    In the Ponary neigh­bor­hood, on the out­skirts of town, there is a memo­r­i­al, which even­tu­al­ly includ­ed the 70,000 Jews who were stripped naked and shot to death in the for­est there. And in the city, there is a huge Muse­um of Geno­cide Vic­tims.

    That, how­ev­er, is where the glow­ing pic­ture sud­den­ly becomes murky.

    Until recent years, the muse­um, in what was once the head­quar­ters for the Nazi S.S. and lat­er the K.G.B., the Sovi­et secret police and intel­li­gence appa­ra­tus, did not even men­tion the Holo­caust, in which the Ger­man Nazis used Lithuan­ian par­ti­sans and police to round up and kill the country’s Jews.

    More Jews were killed in Lithua­nia, in actu­al num­bers as well as per­cent­ages, than Ger­man Jews who died in far more pop­u­lous Ger­many.

    The word geno­cide in the museum’s name refers to what the Sovi­ets did after their occu­pa­tion of the coun­try upon the Nazi defeat in 1945. While Sovi­et rule was bru­tal, few his­to­ri­ans would clas­si­fy it as a geno­cide.

    Some 20,000 Lithua­ni­ans were killed in Stal­in­ist purges and in Siber­ian camps, where a quar­ter mil­lion Lithua­ni­ans were deport­ed. There was nev­er an effort to wipe out the Lithuan­ian pop­u­la­tion.

    In 2011, after inter­na­tion­al crit­i­cism, the muse­um added a sin­gle room, in a small K.G.B. inter­ro­ga­tion cell in the base­ment, devot­ed to the geno­cide of Jews. But it stuck to describ­ing what Rus­sia did as “geno­cide” in the rest of its three floors of exhibits, in a build­ing that takes up much of a city block.

    Dovid Katz, a Jew­ish schol­ar of Yid­dish and a his­to­ri­an with Lithuan­ian ances­try, called the muse­um “a 21st-cen­tu­ry ver­sion of Holo­caust denial.” Mr. Katz, an Amer­i­can who lives in Vil­nius, edits the Defend­ing His­to­ry web­site, devot­ed to chal­leng­ing what he sees as Lithuania’s revi­sion­ist approach to the Holo­caust.

    “Call­ing what the Sovi­ets did a geno­cide is a lot of dou­ble-talk sophistry to turn all the vic­tims into crim­i­nals, and all the mur­der­ers into heroes,” he said.

    But Ronal­das Racin­skas, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Inter­na­tion­al Com­mis­sion for the Eval­u­a­tion of the Nazi and Sovi­et Occu­pa­tion Regimes in Lithua­nia, said, “We should avoid an ‘Olympics of suf­fer­ing’ by ask­ing ques­tions like ‘Who suf­fered more?’ or ‘Which occu­pa­tion is bet­ter or worse?’ ” Crit­ics of the com­mis­sion have said it is designed to make the Sovi­et occu­pa­tion equiv­a­lent to the Holo­caust.

    Much in Vil­nius, which had once been world famous as a cen­ter of Jew­ish cul­ture and schol­ar­ship, makes Lithuan­ian Jews uncom­fort­able. Streets are named after peo­ple like Kazys Skir­pa, who advo­cat­ed rid­ding Lithua­nia of Jews even before the Holo­caust began, and after dates like the 23rd of June, the day the Ger­man inva­sion and Lithuan­ian Holo­caust began.

    One of the capital’s most promi­nent church­es, the Evan­gel­i­cal Reformed Church, which is ecu­meni­cal­ly relat­ed to the Amer­i­can Pres­by­ter­ian denom­i­na­tion, has its main front steps formed of head­stones from Jew­ish ceme­ter­ies, some with Hebrew inscrip­tions clear­ly vis­i­ble.

    A church spokesman, Ner­i­jus Krikscikas, laid the blame for that on the Sovi­et author­i­ties, who had seized the church and rebuilt it. He said the author­i­ties hoped to even­tu­al­ly remove the head­stones but were ham­pered because it was a reg­is­tered his­tor­i­cal place.

    ...

    On a big­ger scale, the giant Sovi­et-built Palace of Con­certs and Sports, where Lithuania’s famous­ly pop­u­lar bas­ket­ball stars play, is built over an ancient Jew­ish ceme­tery. The gov­ern­ment wants to expand it, rather than tear it down.

    The small Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty in Lithua­nia, num­ber­ing some 3,000 to 4,000, is deeply divid­ed over how to respond on such issues. Renal­das Vais­bro­das, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Lithuan­ian Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty asso­ci­a­tion, a nation­al group, said he expect­ed the church’s Jew­ish head­stones would even­tu­al­ly be returned, as part of a process hap­pen­ing through­out the city with such arti­facts.

    “This was done dur­ing the Sovi­et times when head­stones were used in all sorts of build­ing projects,” he said. “We must also acknowl­edge in past years a won­der­ful project by local author­i­ties to replace and gath­er them up in a prop­er place, so the head­stones are slow­ly return­ing.”

    Simonas Gure­vi­cius, head of the Vil­nius Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty asso­ci­a­tion, a local group that has split from the nation­al asso­ci­a­tion, said the ceme­tery itself had enor­mous his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance, with most of its remains intact, even if all the head­stones were used for build­ing mate­ri­als.

    “The Sovi­ets didn’t build just coin­ci­den­tal­ly the Sports Palace there, they built it as part of an anti-Semit­ic cam­paign of destruc­tion of Jew­ish sites,” he said. “Is this Sovi­et despo­tism a part of the her­itage we would like to keep?”

    This painful debate is part of a broad­er one as East­ern Euro­pean nations con­tin­ue to grap­ple with the lega­cy of the Holo­caust.

    Mr. Katz, the schol­ar, is among those who has described the Lithuan­ian approach to its his­to­ry as “dou­ble geno­cide” — mean­ing an effort to equate the Sovi­et occu­pa­tions in East­ern Europe with the Holo­caust by, for exam­ple, hav­ing nation­al hol­i­days com­mem­o­rat­ing both Nazi and Sovi­et evils on the same day.

    Long before Poland aroused con­tro­ver­sy this year with a law mak­ing it a crime to blame Poles for com­plic­i­ty in the Holo­caust, Lithua­nia has had an even broad­er such law on its books. Since 2010 Lithua­nia has crim­i­nal­ized “denial or gross triv­i­al­iz­ing” of either Sovi­et or Nazi geno­cide or crimes against human­i­ty.

    Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter’s chief Nazi hunter, said that the cen­ter had the names of 20,000 Lithua­ni­ans who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Holo­caust but that only three were ever pros­e­cut­ed and con­vict­ed — and of those, none ever served jail time. “It’s a joke,” he said.

    “Until recent­ly, Lithua­nia was real­ly the loco­mo­tive pulling this whole train of Holo­caust dis­tor­tion in East­ern Europe,” he said. Now Poland, Hun­gary and Ukraine all have engaged in try­ing to min­i­mize the Holo­caust, he said.

    “If everyone’s guilty, no one’s guilty,” he added.

    Mr. Katz con­sid­ers the Lithuan­ian com­mis­sion one of the founders of the dou­ble geno­cide con­ceit.

    “It’s a mas­sive effort to rewrite his­to­ry,” he said. “Dou­ble geno­cide makes it sound so uni­ver­sal and non­con­tro­ver­sial that peo­ple don’t know they’re sign­ing up for a far-right revi­sion of his­to­ry that turns mur­der­ers into heroes. Vir­tu­al­ly all of the East­ern Euro­pean mur­der­ers were anti-Sovi­et.”

    Mr. Racin­skas, the commission’s exec­u­tive direc­tor, said the group had a sep­a­rate sub-com­mis­sion on the Holo­caust that includ­ed inter­na­tion­al Jew­ish rep­re­sen­ta­tives, like mem­bers from Yad Vashem, the Holo­caust remem­brance cen­ter in Israel.

    Last week, the Lithuan­ian Par­lia­ment react­ed to the con­tro­ver­sy over the Muse­um of Geno­cide Vic­tims by vot­ing to con­sid­er a mea­sure that would change the museum’s name to the Muse­um of Occu­pa­tion. The bill has yet to pass.

    Moni­ka Kare­ni­auskaite, the chief his­to­ri­an for the museum’s par­ent orga­ni­za­tion, the Geno­cide and Resis­tance Research Cen­ter, said the muse­um had focused on Sovi­et crimes part­ly because the build­ing is where many of the K.G.B.’s tor­ture and killings took place, where­as Holo­caust crimes took place else­where.

    “Today we would be hap­py also to change it and focus more on Nazi crimes and Holo­caust,” she said, but fund­ing is short and, she added, many old­er Lithua­ni­ans and par­tic­u­lar­ly for­mer polit­i­cal pris­on­ers insist on keep­ing the focus on what they view as “Sovi­et geno­cide.”

    Mr. Katz, the schol­ar, scoffed. “Con­grat­u­la­tions on aban­don­ing the mis­con­ceived cam­paign to set up a fake geno­cide to obfus­cate the real one that took place here,” he said. “It needs to go much fur­ther than fix its name.”

    ———-

    “Where the Geno­cide Muse­um Is (Most­ly) Mum on the Fate of Jews” by ROD NORDLAND; The New York Times; 03/30/2018

    Until recent years, the muse­um, in what was once the head­quar­ters for the Nazi S.S. and lat­er the K.G.B., the Sovi­et secret police and intel­li­gence appa­ra­tus, did not even men­tion the Holo­caust, in which the Ger­man Nazis used Lithuan­ian par­ti­sans and police to round up and kill the country’s Jews.”

    That’s right, in the mid­dle of Lithua­ni­a’s cap­i­tal sits the huge Muse­um of Geno­cide Vic­tims. A muse­um that did­n’t even men­tion the actu­al Holo­caust. Accord­ing to the Muse­um Sovi­et rule was “the Holo­caust” and the Holo­caust nev­er hap­pened.

    And then, after inter­na­tion­al out­cry in 2011, the muse­um added a sin­gle room, in a small K.G.B. inter­ro­ga­tion cell in the base­ment, ded­i­cat­ed to the actu­al Holo­caust:

    ...
    The word geno­cide in the museum’s name refers to what the Sovi­ets did after their occu­pa­tion of the coun­try upon the Nazi defeat in 1945. While Sovi­et rule was bru­tal, few his­to­ri­ans would clas­si­fy it as a geno­cide.

    Some 20,000 Lithua­ni­ans were killed in Stal­in­ist purges and in Siber­ian camps, where a quar­ter mil­lion Lithua­ni­ans were deport­ed. There was nev­er an effort to wipe out the Lithuan­ian pop­u­la­tion.

    In 2011, after inter­na­tion­al crit­i­cism, the muse­um added a sin­gle room, in a small K.G.B. inter­ro­ga­tion cell in the base­ment, devot­ed to the geno­cide of Jews. But it stuck to describ­ing what Rus­sia did as “geno­cide” in the rest of its three floors of exhibits, in a build­ing that takes up much of a city block.
    ...

    And this twist­ed design of Lithua­ni­a’s Holo­caust Muse­um is basi­cal­ly the Holo­caust denial­ism method of choice in 21st cen­tu­ry East­ern Europe. By fram­ing the Sovi­et occu­pa­tion as basi­cal­ly the equiv­a­lent of the Holo­caust — which would have to assume that the Sovi­ets were lit­er­al­ly try­ing to wipe out all Lithua­ni­ans off the face of the earth — the mem­o­ry of the Holo­caust can essen­tial­ly be sup­plant­ed by a focus on the crimes of the Sovi­ets. It’s the “dou­ble geno­cide” approach to 20the cen­tu­ry his­to­ry where a ‘geno­cide’ is used to obscure an actu­al geno­cide:

    ...
    Dovid Katz, a Jew­ish schol­ar of Yid­dish and a his­to­ri­an with Lithuan­ian ances­try, called the muse­um “a 21st-cen­tu­ry ver­sion of Holo­caust denial.” Mr. Katz, an Amer­i­can who lives in Vil­nius, edits the Defend­ing His­to­ry web­site, devot­ed to chal­leng­ing what he sees as Lithuania’s revi­sion­ist approach to the Holo­caust.

    “Call­ing what the Sovi­ets did a geno­cide is a lot of dou­ble-talk sophistry to turn all the vic­tims into crim­i­nals, and all the mur­der­ers into heroes,” he said.

    But Ronal­das Racin­skas, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Inter­na­tion­al Com­mis­sion for the Eval­u­a­tion of the Nazi and Sovi­et Occu­pa­tion Regimes in Lithua­nia, said, “We should avoid an ‘Olympics of suf­fer­ing’ by ask­ing ques­tions like ‘Who suf­fered more?’ or ‘Which occu­pa­tion is bet­ter or worse?’ ” Crit­ics of the com­mis­sion have said it is designed to make the Sovi­et occu­pa­tion equiv­a­lent to the Holo­caust.
    ...

    And Lithua­nia has been lead­ing the way in Europe with laws that make this ‘dou­ble geno­cide’ dis­tor­tion of his­to­ry enforced by law with a 2010 that crim­i­nal­ized the “denial or gross triv­i­al­iz­ing” of either Sovi­et or Nazi geno­cide or crimes against human­i­ty. In oth­er words, if you say some­thing like, “hey, I’m not sure the Sovi­et rule actu­al­ly amounts to an attempt­ed geno­cide” that’s against the law:

    ...
    Mr. Katz, the schol­ar, is among those who has described the Lithuan­ian approach to its his­to­ry as “dou­ble geno­cide” — mean­ing an effort to equate the Sovi­et occu­pa­tions in East­ern Europe with the Holo­caust by, for exam­ple, hav­ing nation­al hol­i­days com­mem­o­rat­ing both Nazi and Sovi­et evils on the same day.

    Long before Poland aroused con­tro­ver­sy this year with a law mak­ing it a crime to blame Poles for com­plic­i­ty in the Holo­caust, Lithua­nia has had an even broad­er such law on its books. Since 2010 Lithua­nia has crim­i­nal­ized “denial or gross triv­i­al­iz­ing” of either Sovi­et or Nazi geno­cide or crimes against human­i­ty.

    ...

    Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter’s chief Nazi hunter, said that the cen­ter had the names of 20,000 Lithua­ni­ans who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Holo­caust but that only three were ever pros­e­cut­ed and con­vict­ed — and of those, none ever served jail time. “It’s a joke,” he said.

    “Until recent­ly, Lithua­nia was real­ly the loco­mo­tive pulling this whole train of Holo­caust dis­tor­tion in East­ern Europe,” he said. Now Poland, Hun­gary and Ukraine all have engaged in try­ing to min­i­mize the Holo­caust, he said.

    “If everyone’s guilty, no one’s guilty,” he added.

    Mr. Katz con­sid­ers the Lithuan­ian com­mis­sion one of the founders of the dou­ble geno­cide con­ceit.

    “It’s a mas­sive effort to rewrite his­to­ry,” he said. “Dou­ble geno­cide makes it sound so uni­ver­sal and non­con­tro­ver­sial that peo­ple don’t know they’re sign­ing up for a far-right revi­sion of his­to­ry that turns mur­der­ers into heroes. Vir­tu­al­ly all of the East­ern Euro­pean mur­der­ers were anti-Sovi­et.”
    ...

    And, again, this is in the coun­try where the Holo­caust was not only the most dev­as­tat­ing but also wide­ly car­ried out by the local pop­u­lace:

    ...
    Dur­ing the Holo­caust, many Lithuan­ian Jews were not killed in Nazi death camps, but by their neigh­bors, usu­al­ly shot or even beat­en to death. In all, 90 per­cent of an esti­mat­ed 250,000 Jews per­ished, wip­ing out a com­mu­ni­ty that had been part of Lithuan­ian life for five cen­turies.

    ...

    Much in Vil­nius, which had once been world famous as a cen­ter of Jew­ish cul­ture and schol­ar­ship, makes Lithuan­ian Jews uncom­fort­able. Streets are named after peo­ple like Kazys Skir­pa, who advo­cat­ed rid­ding Lithua­nia of Jews even before the Holo­caust began, and after dates like the 23rd of June, the day the Ger­man inva­sion and Lithuan­ian Holo­caust began.
    ...

    So how is the gov­ern­ment respond­ing to the ongo­ing crit­i­cisms of the Holo­caust Muse­um and it’s mut­ed acknowl­edge­ment of the actu­al Holo­caust? Well, it looks like the gov­ern­ment is plan­ning on remov­ing the tiny room in the base­ment that cov­ers the Holo­caust and renam­ing it the Muse­um of Occu­pa­tion. Accord­ing to the chief his­to­ri­an for the museum’s par­ent orga­ni­za­tion they would like to have the muse­um focus more on the Holo­caust but they just don’t have the avail­able funds:

    ...
    Mr. Racin­skas, the commission’s exec­u­tive direc­tor, said the group had a sep­a­rate sub-com­mis­sion on the Holo­caust that includ­ed inter­na­tion­al Jew­ish rep­re­sen­ta­tives, like mem­bers from Yad Vashem, the Holo­caust remem­brance cen­ter in Israel.

    Last week, the Lithuan­ian Par­lia­ment react­ed to the con­tro­ver­sy over the Muse­um of Geno­cide Vic­tims by vot­ing to con­sid­er a mea­sure that would change the museum’s name to the Muse­um of Occu­pa­tion. The bill has yet to pass.

    Moni­ka Kare­ni­auskaite, the chief his­to­ri­an for the museum’s par­ent orga­ni­za­tion, the Geno­cide and Resis­tance Research Cen­ter, said the muse­um had focused on Sovi­et crimes part­ly because the build­ing is where many of the K.G.B.’s tor­ture and killings took place, where­as Holo­caust crimes took place else­where.

    “Today we would be hap­py also to change it and focus more on Nazi crimes and Holo­caust,” she said, but fund­ing is short and, she added, many old­er Lithua­ni­ans and par­tic­u­lar­ly for­mer polit­i­cal pris­on­ers insist on keep­ing the focus on what they view as “Sovi­et geno­cide.”

    Mr. Katz, the schol­ar, scoffed. “Con­grat­u­la­tions on aban­don­ing the mis­con­ceived cam­paign to set up a fake geno­cide to obfus­cate the real one that took place here,” he said. “It needs to go much fur­ther than fix its name.”

    So as we can see, the gov­ern­ment of Lithua­nia, and Lithuan­ian soci­ety in gen­er­al, has lit­tle inter­est in chal­leng­ing this his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism and thanks to that 2010 law it’s poten­tial­ly crim­i­nal if you do.

    And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle makes clear, the crim­i­nal­iza­tion of chal­leng­ing this revi­sion­ism isn’t going to be lim­it­ed to chal­leng­ing the notion of the “dou­ble geno­cide” a bill the par­lia­ment is con­sid­er­ing becomes law: In 2016, the book “Our Peo­ple” was pub­lished about the Holo­caust in Lithua­nia. And it did actu­al­ly break some taboos in Lithuan­ian soci­ety about col­lab­o­ra­tion dur­ing World War II. So much so that some Lithuan­ian nation­al­ists call it an insult to the Lithuan­ian nation. And, sur­prise!, the Lithuan­ian par­lia­ment is prepar­ing to vote on bill that will ban the sell­ing of mate­r­i­al that “dis­torts his­tor­i­cal facts” about the nation and it’s wide­ly seen as a response to this book:

    Jew­ish Tele­graph Agency

    A Holo­caust exposé angered Lithuan­ian nation­al­ists. Now law­mak­ers want to ban crit­i­cal schol­ar­ship.

    April 3, 2018 6:13am

    (JTA) — The Lithuan­ian par­lia­ment is prepar­ing to vote on a gov­ern­ment-spon­sored bill that would ban sell­ing mate­r­i­al that “dis­torts his­tor­i­cal facts” about the nation.

    The bill, which Econ­o­my Min­is­ter Vir­gini­jus Sinke­vi­cius sub­mit­ted Mon­day, is wide­ly seen as a response to the con­tro­ver­sy in Lithua­nia around the pub­li­ca­tion of a 2016 book about the Holo­caust titled “Our Peo­ple.” Viewed by some nation­al­ists as an insult to the Lithuan­ian nation, it is also cred­it­ed with break­ing some taboos in Lithuan­ian soci­ety about col­lab­o­ra­tion dur­ing World War II.

    The bill, which accord­ing to the Delfi news agency is an amend­ment to the Law on Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion, pro­voked pas­sion­ate con­dem­na­tions in Lithua­nia and beyond by crit­ics who said it cur­tails free­dom of speech and debate about the geno­cide, in which 90 per­cent of Lithuan­ian Jews were killed, most­ly by oth­er Lithua­ni­ans.

    Where­as sev­er­al East­ern Euro­pean coun­tries have laws that lim­it free speech about the Holo­caust, includ­ing Poland, Ukraine and Latvia, the bill tar­get­ing the sale of crit­i­cal books “would be, if passed into law, one of the most bla­tant and harsh­est of them all,” said Holo­caust his­to­ri­an Efraim Zuroff, who co-authored “Our Peo­ple” with Ruta Vana­gaite, a best-sell­ing nov­el­ist.

    Last year, the Alma Lit­tera pub­lish­ing house in Lithua­nia recalled anoth­er book by Vana­gaite after she spoke in an inter­view about Adol­fas Ramanauskas, an anti-Sovi­et com­bat­ant dur­ing the war, who admit­ted to com­mand­ing troops that wit­ness­es said butchered Jews in the ghet­to of Druskininkai, 75 miles south­west of Vil­nius.

    Vanagaite’s con­tro­ver­sial state­ment was not about the Holo­caust. She said her research into Ramanauskas’ death in 1957 sug­gest­ed he com­mit­ted sui­cide after betray­ing the names of fel­low nation­al­ists to the KGB, which cap­tured Ramanauskas the pre­vi­ous year.

    “Ruta Vanagaite’s state­ments are unac­cept­able to us and incom­pat­i­ble with the val­ues of the Alma Lit­tera pub­lish­ing house,” its CEO, Dan­guole Vil­i­u­niene, said in a state­ment. Vana­gaite has since left Lithua­nia.

    ...

    ———-

    “A Holo­caust exposé angered Lithuan­ian nation­al­ists. Now law­mak­ers want to ban crit­i­cal schol­ar­ship.”; Jew­ish Tele­graph Agency; 04/03/2018

    The bill, which Econ­o­my Min­is­ter Vir­gini­jus Sinke­vi­cius sub­mit­ted Mon­day, is wide­ly seen as a response to the con­tro­ver­sy in Lithua­nia around the pub­li­ca­tion of a 2016 book about the Holo­caust titled “Our Peo­ple.” Viewed by some nation­al­ists as an insult to the Lithuan­ian nation, it is also cred­it­ed with break­ing some taboos in Lithuan­ian soci­ety about col­lab­o­ra­tion dur­ing World War II.”

    Attempt­ing to hon­est­ly deal with the lega­cy of the Holo­caust is a taboo in the Lithua­nia. That is the state of affairs in this NATO mem­ber. A state of affairs mir­rored by sim­i­lar new laws across East­ern Europe and a large­ly com­pli­ant EU that does­n’t appear to have any plans to seri­ous­ly address the creep­ing his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism tak­ing place with­in its bor­ders.

    So that’s all the kind of stuff that an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent real­ly should bring up at some point with the lead­ers of Lithua­nia. But it’s still prob­a­bly for the best Trump did­n’t say any­thing. Because that obvi­ous­ly would­n’t have gone well.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 5, 2018, 8:15 pm
  13. Here’s an arti­cle that address­es one of the more omi­nous aspects of the rise of the far right across Europe: Euro­pean intel­li­gence agen­cies are now com­ing under the con­trol of Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers. At least that’s the case now in Aus­tria and Italy.

    In Italy Mat­teo Salvi­ni of the far right North­ern League is now head of Italy’s inte­ri­or min­istry, which han­dles inter­nal secu­ri­ty and ter­ror­ism. Salvi­ni has pre­vi­ous­ly called for “mass cleans­ing, street by street, quar­ter by quar­ter” to get rid of migrants and one of his first acts as inte­ri­or min­is­ter was to announce a cen­sus for the Roma minor­i­ty, declar­ing that Roma with­out Ital­ian cit­i­zen­ship would have to leave the coun­try. So there’s a pret­ty mas­sive and obvi­ous poten­tial for abuse hand­ing him that kind of pow­er.

    In Aus­tria, where the Free­dom Par­ty (FPÖ) recent­ly joined the gov­ern­ment, Her­bert Kickl has been Austria’s inte­ri­or min­is­ter. Kickl used to write speech­es and gags for Jorge Haider and is described as the “mas­ter­mind” behind the elec­toral suc­cess­es of the FPÖ that allowed it to enter into a coali­tion gov­ern­ment. In March this year, a police unit head­ed by a Free­dom Par­ty mem­ber raid­ed the homes of four staffers and an office of the BVT (Bun­de­samt für Ver­fas­sungss­chutz und Ter­ror­is­mus Bekämp­fung, i.e., Fed­er­al Bureau for the Pro­tec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion and for Coun­tert­er­ror­ism). And that just hap­pens to be the bureau that deals with right-wing extrem­ism. The head of the BVT was fired sev­er­al days after the raids. He had been the object of a vir­u­lent cam­paign by a web­site unzensuriert.at which known as “the Aus­tri­an Bre­it­bart”. And the for­mer edi­tor in chief of unzensuriert.at is now Kickl’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor. That’s the kind of sit­u­a­tion that’s emerge in Aus­tria just months after mak­ing a neo-Nazi the inte­ri­or min­is­ter.

    As the arti­cle also points out, hav­ing the far right in charge of Aus­tri­a’s and Italy’s domes­tic intel­li­gence agen­cies does­n’t just put the anti-extrem­ist oper­a­tions of Aus­tria and Italy at risk. Because there are data-shar­ing agree­ments across Europe, so they’re also learn­ing what, for instance, Ger­many’s domes­tic intel­li­gence ser­vices decid­ed to share with Aus­tria and Italy.

    The arti­cle also includes some oblig­a­tory con­cern that the far right are secret­ly all work­ing for the Krem­lin, which must please the far right to no end since it implic­it­ly assumes that they are only a threat if act­ing as Krem­lin prox­ies. But at least Olga Olik­er, direc­tor of the Rus­sia and Eura­sia pro­gram at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies, points out the obvi­ous, that “there are all sorts of rea­sons to be con­cerned about far-right groups tak­ing con­trol of intel­li­gence agen­cies that have noth­ing to do with Rus­sia. They tend to be high on repres­sion and low on cit­i­zens’ rights.” It sad that we have to be remind­ed that Nazis in charge of domes­tic intel­li­gence agen­cies is a ter­ri­fy­ing sit­u­a­tion, with or with­out Krem­lin con­tacts, but that’s where we are:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    Nazi Sym­pa­thiz­ers Push­ing to Take Over Europe’s Spy Agen­cies
    Far-right politi­cians have tak­en over the secu­ri­ty appa­ra­tus in Aus­tria and Italy. Next on their list: the intel­li­gence agen­cies.

    Christo­pher Dick­ey
    Josephine Huetlin
    Bethany Allen-Ebrahimi­an
    06.26.18 9:00 PM ET

    A slow-sim­mer­ing scan­dal in Aus­tria has brought into pub­lic view poten­tial­ly dis­as­trous divi­sions among West­ern intel­li­gence agen­cies. As far-right politi­cians have joined coali­tion gov­ern­ments in Aus­tria and Italy and tak­en min­is­te­r­i­al posi­tions in charge of secu­ri­ty and law enforce­ment, con­cerns have grown among intel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als that they will ignore or even encour­age the threat of vio­lent ultra-right extrem­ists.

    The extreme right is now in charge of the inte­ri­or min­istries in both Vien­na and Rome, putting con­spic­u­ous pres­sure on the intel­li­gence ser­vices. In Aus­tria, there have even been police raids on the homes and offices of top intel­li­gence ser­vice staffers.

    Already, at least some intel­li­gence shar­ing between Ger­many and Aus­tria appears to have been cur­tailed, and the rela­tion­ship between Italy’s extreme-right-wing inte­ri­or min­is­ter Mat­teo Salvi­ni and oth­er major Euro­pean coun­tries is severe­ly, pub­licly strained. French Pres­i­dent Emmanuel Macron last week likened the rise of such pop­ulists to “lep­rosy all across Europe.”

    At the same time, these far-right politi­cians’ open friend­li­ness toward Russia’s Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, the KGB vet­er­an who may have helped some of them get elect­ed, rais­es grave secu­ri­ty issues for the NATO alliance. And the fact that right-wing U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump appears to be play­ing a sim­i­lar game—trying to dis­cred­it U.S. intel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als while flirt­ing with Putin—greatly height­ens the sense of alarm.

    The rise of far-right par­ties across Europe and their con­trol of intel­li­gence agen­cies is a real cause for con­cern, says Mike Car­pen­ter, a for­mer deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense and now the senior direc­tor of the Biden Cen­ter for Diplo­ma­cy and Glob­al Engage­ment at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia.

    Far-right groups and polit­i­cal par­ties across Europe have close ties to Rus­sia and may be spon­sored by the Krem­lin. Some even have close links to Russ­ian intel­li­gence ser­vices, said Car­pen­ter. So for these groups to head the intel­li­gence ser­vices charged with pro­tect­ing their coun­tries from for­eign med­dling is “like the fox guard­ing the hen­house,” said Car­pen­ter. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

    It also has impli­ca­tions for the U.S. gov­ern­ment. “On the intel­li­gence side, it rais­es alarms because of the nature of the sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion we share with our allies and part­ners,” said Car­pen­ter. “That’s some­thing that could poten­tial­ly com­pro­mise sources and meth­ods.

    “Take a look at some of these politi­cians who have now been put in front of intel­li­gence ser­vices and min­istries of the inte­ri­or, dig into their back­grounds and see if any of them have links to Rus­sia,” said Car­pen­ter.

    Affin­i­ty for Rus­sia is a well-known fea­ture of far-right groups across Europe. “There is a ten­den­cy among Euro­pean far-right par­ties to ide­al­ize Rus­sia as a white suprema­cist far-right state, though that’s not accu­rate,” said Olga Olik­er, direc­tor of the Rus­sia and Eura­sia pro­gram at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies. “But it is some­thing that Rus­sia has been hap­py to take advan­tage of.

    “If there are peo­ple who like Rus­sia in these orga­ni­za­tions, there is an increased risk that this infor­ma­tion could be passed to Rus­sia,” said Olik­er. But, she added, “There are all sorts of rea­sons to be con­cerned about far-right groups tak­ing con­trol of intel that have noth­ing to do with Rus­sia. They tend to be high on repres­sion and low on cit­i­zens’ rights.”

    ...

    In the past, even when there were major polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences among allies (as there were, for instance, between the Amer­i­cans and the French in the run-up to the 2003 inva­sion of Iraq), the coop­er­a­tion among the pro­fes­sion­al intel­li­gence agen­cies remained strong. But that may no longer be the case, accord­ing to sev­er­al vet­er­an intel­li­gence sources.

    “I don’t think it is just about the intel­li­gence agen­cies and their rela­tion­ships wax­ing or wan­ing,” a for­mer senior mil­i­tary com­man­der and leader in the field of U.S. intel­li­gence said in an email to The Dai­ly Beast. “We’ve had chal­lenges in the past when agen­cies per­sist­ed in keep­ing their heads in the sand over issues we thought quite clear­ly evi­dent but which our coun­ter­parts found uncom­fort­able polit­i­cal­ly.

    “Rather, this is about ultra-nation­al­ist lead­ers with author­i­tar­i­an lean­ings hijack­ing the insti­tu­tions of state that used to pro­vide checks and bal­ances. And noth­ing fuels that bet­ter than an ‘exter­nal’ threat to one’s exis­tence as a nation­al cul­ture, with all that fol­lows. Need­less to say, Hitler per­fect­ed this. And oth­er would-be author­i­tar­i­ans are doing like­wise.

    “But the truth is that Euro­pean coun­tries real­ly do need to come to grips with the unprece­dent­ed influx of refugees and immi­grants of dif­fer­ent eth­nic and sec­tar­i­an group­ings and deter­mine how to turn some away humane­ly and accept oth­ers with­out the country’s own sense of iden­ti­ty and cul­ture being erod­ed.”

    Two years ago, Patrick Cal­var, the then-head of France’s Gen­er­al Direc­torate of Inter­nal Secu­ri­ty (DGSI), warned a com­mis­sion at the Nation­al Assem­bly in Paris that Euro­pean soci­ety was at a tip­ping point after the Jan­u­ary 2015 mas­sacres at the Paris offices of the satir­i­cal mag­a­zine Char­lie Heb­do and at a kosher super­mar­ket, the Novem­ber 2015 car­nage at Paris cafés and the Bat­a­clan con­cert hall and oth­er inci­dents. And the prob­lem was not just with Mus­lim ter­ror­ists, but with anti-Mus­lim, anti-immi­grant extrem­ists on what he called the “ultra-right.”

    Calvar’s closed-door ses­sion with the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee report­ed­ly paint­ed an extreme­ly bleak pic­ture: “We are on the verge of a civ­il war,” he said. His pub­lic tes­ti­mo­ny was hard­ly more opti­mistic. “Europe is in great dan­ger,” Cal­var said. “Extrem­ism is ris­ing all over and we are—we, the inter­nal secu­ri­ty services—are in the process of rede­ploy­ing resources to focus on the ultra-right that is wait­ing for noth­ing but a con­fronta­tion.”

    Also in 2016, Ger­man spy chief Hans-Georg Maassen warned that right-wing extrem­ists in Ger­many were now net­work­ing with sim­i­lar groups across Europe.

    Just last week­end, 10 peo­ple were arrest­ed in France under sus­pi­cion they were plan­ning attacks on mosques, rad­i­cal mus­lim lead­ers, and women wear­ing veils picked at ran­dom. Their web­site, called “Guerre de France,” or war for France, advo­cates prepa­ra­tion for the war to come, and not only against Mus­lims but against Jews as well.

    In Italy, far-right politi­cian Mat­teo Salvi­ni now serves as head of Italy’s inte­ri­or min­istry, which han­dles inter­nal secu­ri­ty and ter­ror­ism. Salvi­ni, who assumed office on June 1, pre­vi­ous­ly has called for “mass cleans­ing, street by street, quar­ter by quar­ter” to get rid of migrants. One of his first acts as inte­ri­or min­is­ter was to announce a cen­sus for the Roma minor­i­ty, declar­ing that Roma with­out Ital­ian cit­i­zen­ship would have to leave the coun­try.

    In Aus­tria, the spe­cif­ic inci­dent that has crys­tal­lized wider con­cerns in the world of espi­onage and coun­teres­pi­onage as well as coun­tert­er­ror was a series of raids ordered by the far-right inte­ri­or min­is­ter ear­li­er this year on the offices of the pro­fes­sion­al domes­tic intel­li­gence chief, whose orga­ni­za­tion had in the past con­duct­ed and coor­di­nat­ed with Ger­many its sur­veil­lance of right-wing extrem­ists.

    Although there is no offi­cial con­fir­ma­tion, sev­er­al reports indi­cate Ger­many has since quit shar­ing such sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion with Aus­tria. And as one long-time secu­ri­ty advis­er to sev­er­al French pres­i­dents told The Dai­ly Beast, “The Aus­tri­an oper­a­tion against the intel­li­gence ser­vice by the min­istry of inte­ri­or had an impact on every oth­er intel­li­gence ser­vice in the West.” It was seen as, poten­tial­ly, the shape of things to come.

    Austria’s far-right Free­dom Par­ty (FPÖ) gained con­trol of the inte­ri­or min­istry in Decem­ber, after the cen­ter-right par­ty agreed to form a rul­ing coali­tion with the once-scorned FPÖ.

    Found­ed in 1956, the FPÖ has a strong Nazi pedi­gree. Its first leader was a for­mer SS offi­cer and the par­ty has nev­er real­ly strayed far from its roots.

    The annu­al Ulrichs­berg gath­er­ing for the “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” of World War II vet­er­ans in the south­ern Aus­tri­an province of Carinthia was for a long time a nos­tal­gia-fest for for­mer SS offi­cers and oth­er Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors from across Europe. In recent years a new gen­er­a­tion of right-wing extrem­ists have joined in, too.

    The gold­en days of Ulrichs­berg fea­tured the charis­mat­ic but self-destruc­tive leader of Austria’s far-right Free­dom Par­ty (FPÖ), Jörg Haider, who gave an infa­mous speech in 1995 prais­ing SS vet­er­ans as “decent men of char­ac­ter” who “stand by their con­vic­tions even in the strongest head­winds.” To say oth­er­wise, accord­ing to Haider, was to be “polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect.”

    Haider was killed in a car crash in 2010, but the gath­er­ing in Ulrichs­berg already had been can­celed the year before because one of the orga­niz­ers was caught trad­ing Nazi mem­o­ra­bil­ia on the inter­net (a swasti­ka and var­i­ous medals, all adver­tised as being “orig­i­nal and in excel­lent con­di­tion”). By 2012 it was start­ing to make a come­back, how­ev­er, and one par­tic­i­pant is among the most noto­ri­ous fig­ures of the Ger­man-speak­ing neo-Nazi scene: Got­tfried Küs­sel was twice impris­oned in Aus­tria for “Nazi revival­ism” and his rotund body, it has to be said, is rather rem­i­nis­cent of the late Her­mann Göring’s.

    The first time the FPÖ entered gov­ern­ment, in 2000, it caused a major con­ti­nent-wide cri­sis. The Euro­pean Union levied sanc­tions on Aus­tria. Amid inter­na­tion­al pres­sure, Haider ced­ed the chan­cel­lor­ship to a less con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure. The sanc­tions were lift­ed only after the FPÖ demon­strat­ed that it met cer­tain human rights stan­dards.

    But the polit­i­cal winds have changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly since then. The FPÖ joined the rul­ing coali­tion in Decem­ber 2017, after polit­i­cal star Sebas­t­ian Kurz revi­tal­ized Austria’s fail­ing cen­ter-right par­ty by dilut­ing far-right poli­cies to make them more palat­able for the gen­er­al pop­u­lace. When the FPÖ came in sec­ond, a coali­tion with Kurz’s par­ty seemed nat­ur­al. And with far-right pop­ulist par­ties advanc­ing across the con­ti­nent, Europe was in no posi­tion to sanc­tion Aus­tria this time around.

    Since Decem­ber, the FPÖ’s Her­bert Kickl has been Austria’s inte­ri­or min­is­ter. Kickl, whose lean, griz­zled face and wire-rim glass­es make him look like a rad­i­cal con­spir­a­tor out of cen­tral cast­ing, used to write speech­es and gags for Haider. The for­mer pres­i­dent of the Vien­nese Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, Ariel Muz­i­cant, said in 2009 that Kickl’s texts remind­ed him of Joseph Goebbels.

    In 2016, Kickl appeared at an extreme-right con­gress dubbed “Defend­ers of Europe.” The atten­dees were a mix of pan-Ger­man­ist frat-boy types who work for the Free­dom Par­ty, “new right” blog­gers with uni­ver­si­ty degrees who call them­selves “iden­ti­tar­i­ans,” and edi­tors from var­i­ous Ger­man and Aus­tri­an alter­na­tive news out­lets. One was a pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny from Graz that described Nation­al Social­ism (that is, Nazi ide­ol­o­gy) as “Europe’s attempt to prove itself against inter­na­tion­al super­pow­ers in the east and west.” Kickl gave the keynote speech and told the crowd: “I see the audi­ence that I wish for here, bet­ter than in the par­lia­ment.”

    Today, Kickl often is described as the “mas­ter­mind” behind the elec­toral suc­cess­es of the FPÖ that allowed it to enter into a coali­tion gov­ern­ment with the some­what more main­stream Chris­t­ian Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Prime Min­is­ter Kurz.

    As junior coali­tion part­ner, the Free­dom Par­ty now con­trols the defense, inte­ri­or and for­eign min­istries. Kurz has been cred­it­ed by some with best­ing the far right by embrac­ing its agen­da, which is a dubi­ous propo­si­tion when talk­ing about a par­ty that has nev­er real­ly shak­en off its Nazi her­itage. (Hack­ers dis­cov­ered that the party’s chair­man, Johann Gude­nus, who is not in the cur­rent gov­ern­ment, once had the Face­book pass­word “ heil­heil ”). The par­ty also has a friend­ship con­tract with Putin’s rul­ing Unit­ed Rus­sia par­ty, which it signed two years ago when it was not in pow­er and Putin already was the go-to guy for would-be right-wing author­i­tar­i­ans.

    In March this year, a police unit head­ed by a Free­dom Par­ty mem­ber raid­ed the homes of four staffers and an office of the domes­tic intel­li­gence agency known as the BVT (Bun­de­samt für Ver­fas­sungss­chutz und Ter­ror­is­mus Bekämp­fung, i.e., Fed­er­al Bureau for the Pro­tec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion and for Coun­tert­er­ror­ism). The bureau deals with, among oth­er things, right-wing extrem­ism.

    The raids were jus­ti­fied as part of an inves­ti­ga­tion into alleged cor­rup­tion in the BVT. But this “inves­ti­ga­tion” was based on dubi­ous “insid­er info”: doc­u­ments that con­tained embar­rass­ing tales of sex par­ties and cliquish­ness but hard­ly any legal­ly rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion about actu­al oper­a­tions of the BVT. The mate­r­i­al, sup­pos­ed­ly writ­ten by a BVT employ­ee, was first offered around to the press in Vien­na a year ago, but no one was interested—until Kickl took over the inte­ri­or min­istry. Since he took over, he has appeared intent on dis­cred­it­ing the BVT and replac­ing its lead­er­ship with peo­ple loy­al to the FPÖ.

    Peter Gridling, known as the stub­born but polit­i­cal­ly col­or­less head of the BVT for the last 10 years, was fired sev­er­al days after the raids. He had been the object of a vir­u­lent cam­paign by the web­site unzensuriert.at (known as “the Aus­tri­an Bre­it­bart”). The for­mer edi­tor in chief of unzensuriert.at is now Kickl’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor.

    Gridling, along with intel­li­gence chiefs Cal­var in France and Maasen in Ger­many, warned in 2016 about a “dra­mat­ic rise” in right-wing extrem­ist crime. Sibylle Geissler, who direct­ed the BVT’s oper­a­tion watch­ing right-wing extrem­ism, wrote a report about unzensuriert.at and the 2016 “Defend Europe” con­fer­ence men­tioned ear­li­er.

    Geissler report­ed that the Defend Europe con­gress is a “net­work­ing for the extreme right scene” and that unzensuriert.at pub­lish­es con­tent which is “in part extreme­ly xeno­pho­bic” and has “anti-Semit­ic ten­den­cies.” She also wrote that unzensuriert.at “rep­re­sents con­spir­a­to­r­i­al approach­es and a pro-Russ­ian ide­ol­o­gy.” Appar­ent­ly by mis­take, Geissler’s report was made pub­lic and quot­ed in the media.

    Some of Geissler’s files were tak­en in the police raids launched by Kickl this year. And last month she wrote in an email, which was leaked to the Aus­tri­an week­ly mag­a­zine Fal­ter, that she is now sub­ject to a “witch hunt” by the inte­ri­or min­istry, which pre­vents her from con­tin­u­ing to do her job effec­tive­ly.

    The police raids were clum­sy, but Kickl’s inte­ri­or min­istry still appears to have suc­ceed­ed in obstruct­ing the sur­veil­lance of right-wing extrem­ism in Aus­tria.

    After the news went pub­lic, the Ger­man intel­li­gence ser­vice (BfV) asked the Aus­tri­an ser­vice if the pros­e­cu­tors had seized any of Germany’s shared intel­li­gence dur­ing the raids. The Ger­man inte­ri­or min­istry told the Ger­man Left Par­ty politi­cian Andrej Hunko that if this is the case, then “there needs to be a new inquiry about how coop­er­a­tion with the BVT can be con­tin­ued in the future.”

    Aus­tria and Ger­many also trade intel via inter­na­tion­al forums like the CTG (Counter Ter­ror­ism Group). In a more recent inquiry by Hunko about the CTG, the Ger­man inte­ri­or min­istry con­firmed that a for­eign intel­li­gence agency that pass­es on Ger­man intel to a third par­ty, domes­tic or for­eign, with­out Germany’s per­mis­sion is a like­ly deal break­er, but said that one con­cern about ceas­ing coop­er­a­tion was that the leak or shar­ing with unde­sir­able third par­ties could be made worse.

    Hunko tells The Dai­ly Beast he is specif­i­cal­ly con­cerned that Kickl and his peo­ple would be able to acquire intel­li­gence about left­ist activists who oppose right-wing extrem­ism: “It is unthink­able what would hap­pen if secret infor­ma­tion about anti-fas­cist activ­i­ties falls into the hands of the extreme right via Austria’s con­ser­v­a­tive-far right gov­ern­ment.”

    He adds: “The same applies for Italy, above all with the neo-fas­cist Salvi­ni. I know that the Ger­man intel­li­gence has writ­ten reports on the sea res­cuers, some of whom are left-wing activists. It is a big prob­lem, if the heirs of fas­cist par­ties and move­ments now con­trol the intel­li­gence ser­vices and can pur­sue these activists with this infor­ma­tion.”

    A few days after the BfV’s request in March for more infor­ma­tion about what the police took from the intel­li­gence agency, Chris­t­ian Pil­nacek, the sec­re­tary gen­er­al of the Aus­tri­an Min­istry of Jus­tice, denied that any Ger­man intel was tak­en in the raids. But last week, Pil­nacek admit­ted that offi­cers took a DVD labeled “Pho­tos Ulrichs­berg 2015,” which came orig­i­nal­ly from the BfV. The disc appar­ent­ly shows which peo­ple took part at the 2015 Ulrichs­berg gath­er­ing in Carinthia. Pil­nacek said that, from the DVD’s title, it was not clear that this was Germany’s infor­ma­tion. And he said that the DVD has now been returned to the BVT extrem­ism depart­ment. But of course the police under Kickl may now know details about Ger­man sources and meth­ods they might not have known before.

    In the raid, the pros­e­cu­tors also took data from the “Nep­tune” net­work, which the BVT uses to com­mu­ni­cate with oth­er Euro­pean intel­li­gence agen­cies.

    In light of the BVT affair, oppo­si­tion par­ties tried unsuc­cess­ful­ly to pass a motion of no con­fi­dence against Kickl. “No sane intel­li­gence ser­vice in the world will con­tin­ue to share infor­ma­tion with us, apart from maybe the weath­er fore­cast,” said Jan Krain­er from the Social Democ­rats.

    BVT boss Peter Gridling, now rein­stat­ed, told the Ö1 Mor­gen­jour­nal (the morn­ing news) on Mon­day that “with­out a doubt” coop­er­a­tion with for­eign intel­li­gence has become “dif­fi­cult.”

    Kickl has tried to assure every­one that he still has the trust of for­eign secu­ri­ty ser­vices. His evi­dence: that Vien­na is being con­sid­ered as the loca­tion for Trump and Putin to meet. This shows, accord­ing to Kickl, that “all the talk about secu­ri­ty and inter­na­tion­al iso­la­tion is a pure­ly par­ty polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed show.”

    ———-

    “Nazi Sym­pa­thiz­ers Push­ing to Take Over Europe’s Spy Agen­cies” by Christo­pher Dick­ey, Josephine Huetlin, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimi­an; The Dai­ly Beast; 06/26/2018

    “A slow-sim­mer­ing scan­dal in Aus­tria has brought into pub­lic view poten­tial­ly dis­as­trous divi­sions among West­ern intel­li­gence agen­cies. As far-right politi­cians have joined coali­tion gov­ern­ments in Aus­tria and Italy and tak­en min­is­te­r­i­al posi­tions in charge of secu­ri­ty and law enforce­ment, con­cerns have grown among intel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als that they will ignore or even encour­age the threat of vio­lent ultra-right extrem­ists.”

    Yeah, con­cerns over the pos­si­bil­i­ty that putting neo-Nazis and their sym­pa­thiz­ers in charge of the agen­cies inves­ti­gat­ing extrem­ist groups might lead to the ignor­ing of extrem­ist threats seems like a pret­ty valid con­cern. But Europe’s vot­ers are increas­ing­ly embrac­ing the far right, and putting Nazis in charge of domes­tic intel­li­gence comes with the Nazi pack­age.

    Not sur­pris­ing­ly, this is led to a sud­den cut­back in intel­li­gence shar­ing with Aus­tria and Italy:

    ...
    The extreme right is now in charge of the inte­ri­or min­istries in both Vien­na and Rome, putting con­spic­u­ous pres­sure on the intel­li­gence ser­vices. In Aus­tria, there have even been police raids on the homes and offices of top intel­li­gence ser­vice staffers.

    Already, at least some intel­li­gence shar­ing between Ger­many and Aus­tria appears to have been cur­tailed, and the rela­tion­ship between Italy’s extreme-right-wing inte­ri­or min­is­ter Mat­teo Salvi­ni and oth­er major Euro­pean coun­tries is severe­ly, pub­licly strained. French Pres­i­dent Emmanuel Macron last week likened the rise of such pop­ulists to “lep­rosy all across Europe.”
    ...

    Just two years ago, the head of France’s Gen­er­al Direc­torate of Inter­nal Secu­ri­ty (DGSI) warned a com­mis­sion at the Nation­al Assem­bly in Paris that Euro­pean soci­ety was at a tip­ping point on extrem­ism, not just with Mus­lim ter­ror­ists, but with anti-Mus­lim, anti-immi­grant extrem­ists too. Euro­pean intel­li­gence ser­vices con­tin­ue to uncov­er attack plans by far right extrem­ists. And now those extrem­ists are gain­ing con­trol of the very insti­tu­tions tasked with watch­ing them:

    ...
    Two years ago, Patrick Cal­var, the then-head of France’s Gen­er­al Direc­torate of Inter­nal Secu­ri­ty (DGSI), warned a com­mis­sion at the Nation­al Assem­bly in Paris that Euro­pean soci­ety was at a tip­ping point after the Jan­u­ary 2015 mas­sacres at the Paris offices of the satir­i­cal mag­a­zine Char­lie Heb­do and at a kosher super­mar­ket, the Novem­ber 2015 car­nage at Paris cafés and the Bat­a­clan con­cert hall and oth­er inci­dents. And the prob­lem was not just with Mus­lim ter­ror­ists, but with anti-Mus­lim, anti-immi­grant extrem­ists on what he called the “ultra-right.”

    Calvar’s closed-door ses­sion with the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee report­ed­ly paint­ed an extreme­ly bleak pic­ture: “We are on the verge of a civ­il war,” he said. His pub­lic tes­ti­mo­ny was hard­ly more opti­mistic. “Europe is in great dan­ger,” Cal­var said. “Extrem­ism is ris­ing all over and we are—we, the inter­nal secu­ri­ty services—are in the process of rede­ploy­ing resources to focus on the ultra-right that is wait­ing for noth­ing but a con­fronta­tion.”

    Also in 2016, Ger­man spy chief Hans-Georg Maassen warned that right-wing extrem­ists in Ger­many were now net­work­ing with sim­i­lar groups across Europe.

    Just last week­end, 10 peo­ple were arrest­ed in France under sus­pi­cion they were plan­ning attacks on mosques, rad­i­cal mus­lim lead­ers, and women wear­ing veils picked at ran­dom. Their web­site, called “Guerre de France,” or war for France, advo­cates prepa­ra­tion for the war to come, and not only against Mus­lims but against Jews as well.
    ...

    And as one for­mer senior mil­i­tary com­man­der and leader in the field of U.S. intel­li­gence, when you had neo-Nazis con­trol over these intel­li­gence agen­cies, it gives them the per­fect tool to undo nor­mal gov­ern­men­tal checks and bal­ances because con­jur­ing up some sort of ‘threat’ is the stan­dard far right recipe for tak­ing over a coun­try and now the agen­cies in charge of watch­ing out for threats are com­ing under far right con­trol:

    ...
    In the past, even when there were major polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences among allies (as there were, for instance, between the Amer­i­cans and the French in the run-up to the 2003 inva­sion of Iraq), the coop­er­a­tion among the pro­fes­sion­al intel­li­gence agen­cies remained strong. But that may no longer be the case, accord­ing to sev­er­al vet­er­an intel­li­gence sources.

    “I don’t think it is just about the intel­li­gence agen­cies and their rela­tion­ships wax­ing or wan­ing,” a for­mer senior mil­i­tary com­man­der and leader in the field of U.S. intel­li­gence said in an email to The Dai­ly Beast. “We’ve had chal­lenges in the past when agen­cies per­sist­ed in keep­ing their heads in the sand over issues we thought quite clear­ly evi­dent but which our coun­ter­parts found uncom­fort­able polit­i­cal­ly.

    “Rather, this is about ultra-nation­al­ist lead­ers with author­i­tar­i­an lean­ings hijack­ing the insti­tu­tions of state that used to pro­vide checks and bal­ances. And noth­ing fuels that bet­ter than an ‘exter­nal’ threat to one’s exis­tence as a nation­al cul­ture, with all that fol­lows. Need­less to say, Hitler per­fect­ed this. And oth­er would-be author­i­tar­i­ans are doing like­wise.

    “But the truth is that Euro­pean coun­tries real­ly do need to come to grips with the unprece­dent­ed influx of refugees and immi­grants of dif­fer­ent eth­nic and sec­tar­i­an group­ings and deter­mine how to turn some away humane­ly and accept oth­ers with­out the country’s own sense of iden­ti­ty and cul­ture being erod­ed.”
    ...

    So in Italy was have Mat­teo Salvi­ni, who has pre­vi­ous­ly called for a “mass cleans­ing, street by street, quar­ter by quar­ter” to get rid of migrants, now the head of Italy’s inte­ri­or min­istry. And one of his first acts was to call for a cen­sus of specif­i­cal­ly the Roma:

    ...
    In Italy, far-right politi­cian Mat­teo Salvi­ni now serves as head of Italy’s inte­ri­or min­istry, which han­dles inter­nal secu­ri­ty and ter­ror­ism. Salvi­ni, who assumed office on June 1, pre­vi­ous­ly has called for “mass cleans­ing, street by street, quar­ter by quar­ter” to get rid of migrants. One of his first acts as inte­ri­or min­is­ter was to announce a cen­sus for the Roma minor­i­ty, declar­ing that Roma with­out Ital­ian cit­i­zen­ship would have to leave the coun­try.
    ...

    And in Aus­tria was have the first speech write for Jorge Haider head­ing up the inte­ri­or min­istry:

    ...
    In Aus­tria, the spe­cif­ic inci­dent that has crys­tal­lized wider con­cerns in the world of espi­onage and coun­teres­pi­onage as well as coun­tert­er­ror was a series of raids ordered by the far-right inte­ri­or min­is­ter ear­li­er this year on the offices of the pro­fes­sion­al domes­tic intel­li­gence chief, whose orga­ni­za­tion had in the past con­duct­ed and coor­di­nat­ed with Ger­many its sur­veil­lance of right-wing extrem­ists.

    Although there is no offi­cial con­fir­ma­tion, sev­er­al reports indi­cate Ger­many has since quit shar­ing such sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion with Aus­tria. And as one long-time secu­ri­ty advis­er to sev­er­al French pres­i­dents told The Dai­ly Beast, “The Aus­tri­an oper­a­tion against the intel­li­gence ser­vice by the min­istry of inte­ri­or had an impact on every oth­er intel­li­gence ser­vice in the West.” It was seen as, poten­tial­ly, the shape of things to come.

    Austria’s far-right Free­dom Par­ty (FPÖ) gained con­trol of the inte­ri­or min­istry in Decem­ber, after the cen­ter-right par­ty agreed to form a rul­ing coali­tion with the once-scorned FPÖ.

    ...

    Since Decem­ber, the FPÖ’s Her­bert Kickl has been Austria’s inte­ri­or min­is­ter. Kickl, whose lean, griz­zled face and wire-rim glass­es make him look like a rad­i­cal con­spir­a­tor out of cen­tral cast­ing, used to write speech­es and gags for Haider. The for­mer pres­i­dent of the Vien­nese Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, Ariel Muz­i­cant, said in 2009 that Kickl’s texts remind­ed him of Joseph Goebbels.

    In 2016, Kickl appeared at an extreme-right con­gress dubbed “Defend­ers of Europe.” The atten­dees were a mix of pan-Ger­man­ist frat-boy types who work for the Free­dom Par­ty, “new right” blog­gers with uni­ver­si­ty degrees who call them­selves “iden­ti­tar­i­ans,” and edi­tors from var­i­ous Ger­man and Aus­tri­an alter­na­tive news out­lets. One was a pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny from Graz that described Nation­al Social­ism (that is, Nazi ide­ol­o­gy) as “Europe’s attempt to prove itself against inter­na­tion­al super­pow­ers in the east and west.” Kickl gave the keynote speech and told the crowd: “I see the audi­ence that I wish for here, bet­ter than in the par­lia­ment.”

    Today, Kickl often is described as the “mas­ter­mind” behind the elec­toral suc­cess­es of the FPÖ that allowed it to enter into a coali­tion gov­ern­ment with the some­what more main­stream Chris­t­ian Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Prime Min­is­ter Kurz.

    As junior coali­tion part­ner, the Free­dom Par­ty now con­trols the defense, inte­ri­or and for­eign min­istries. Kurz has been cred­it­ed by some with best­ing the far right by embrac­ing its agen­da, which is a dubi­ous propo­si­tion when talk­ing about a par­ty that has nev­er real­ly shak­en off its Nazi her­itage. (Hack­ers dis­cov­ered that the party’s chair­man, Johann Gude­nus, who is not in the cur­rent gov­ern­ment, once had the Face­book pass­word “ heil­heil ”). The par­ty also has a friend­ship con­tract with Putin’s rul­ing Unit­ed Rus­sia par­ty, which it signed two years ago when it was not in pow­er and Putin already was the go-to guy for would-be right-wing author­i­tar­i­ans.
    ...

    And, as we should have expect­ed, this pow­er was almost imme­di­ate­ly used to neu­tral­ize the domes­tic intel­li­gence agency known as the BVT which is in charge of sur­veilling far right orga­ni­za­tions:

    ...
    In March this year, a police unit head­ed by a Free­dom Par­ty mem­ber raid­ed the homes of four staffers and an office of the domes­tic intel­li­gence agency known as the BVT (Bun­de­samt für Ver­fas­sungss­chutz und Ter­ror­is­mus Bekämp­fung, i.e., Fed­er­al Bureau for the Pro­tec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion and for Coun­tert­er­ror­ism). The bureau deals with, among oth­er things, right-wing extrem­ism.

    The raids were jus­ti­fied as part of an inves­ti­ga­tion into alleged cor­rup­tion in the BVT. But this “inves­ti­ga­tion” was based on dubi­ous “insid­er info”: doc­u­ments that con­tained embar­rass­ing tales of sex par­ties and cliquish­ness but hard­ly any legal­ly rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion about actu­al oper­a­tions of the BVT. The mate­r­i­al, sup­pos­ed­ly writ­ten by a BVT employ­ee, was first offered around to the press in Vien­na a year ago, but no one was interested—until Kickl took over the inte­ri­or min­istry. Since he took over, he has appeared intent on dis­cred­it­ing the BVT and replac­ing its lead­er­ship with peo­ple loy­al to the FPÖ.

    Peter Gridling, known as the stub­born but polit­i­cal­ly col­or­less head of the BVT for the last 10 years, was fired sev­er­al days after the raids. He had been the object of a vir­u­lent cam­paign by the web­site unzensuriert.at (known as “the Aus­tri­an Bre­it­bart”). The for­mer edi­tor in chief of unzensuriert.at is now Kickl’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor.

    Gridling, along with intel­li­gence chiefs Cal­var in France and Maasen in Ger­many, warned in 2016 about a “dra­mat­ic rise” in right-wing extrem­ist crime. Sibylle Geissler, who direct­ed the BVT’s oper­a­tion watch­ing right-wing extrem­ism, wrote a report about unzensuriert.at and the 2016 “Defend Europe” con­fer­ence men­tioned ear­li­er.

    Geissler report­ed that the Defend Europe con­gress is a “net­work­ing for the extreme right scene” and that unzensuriert.at pub­lish­es con­tent which is “in part extreme­ly xeno­pho­bic” and has “anti-Semit­ic ten­den­cies.” She also wrote that unzensuriert.at “rep­re­sents con­spir­a­to­r­i­al approach­es and a pro-Russ­ian ide­ol­o­gy.” Appar­ent­ly by mis­take, Geissler’s report was made pub­lic and quot­ed in the media.

    Some of Geissler’s files were tak­en in the police raids launched by Kickl this year. And last month she wrote in an email, which was leaked to the Aus­tri­an week­ly mag­a­zine Fal­ter, that she is now sub­ject to a “witch hunt” by the inte­ri­or min­istry, which pre­vents her from con­tin­u­ing to do her job effec­tive­ly.

    The police raids were clum­sy, but Kickl’s inte­ri­or min­istry still appears to have suc­ceed­ed in obstruct­ing the sur­veil­lance of right-wing extrem­ism in Aus­tria.
    ...

    And as we should have also expect­ed, this is result­ing is a sud­den col­lapse in the will­ing­ness of oth­er Euro­pean intel­li­gence agen­cies to share infor­ma­tion with Aus­tria or Italy:

    ...
    After the news went pub­lic, the Ger­man intel­li­gence ser­vice (BfV) asked the Aus­tri­an ser­vice if the pros­e­cu­tors had seized any of Germany’s shared intel­li­gence dur­ing the raids. The Ger­man inte­ri­or min­istry told the Ger­man Left Par­ty politi­cian Andrej Hunko that if this is the case, then “there needs to be a new inquiry about how coop­er­a­tion with the BVT can be con­tin­ued in the future.”

    Aus­tria and Ger­many also trade intel via inter­na­tion­al forums like the CTG (Counter Ter­ror­ism Group). In a more recent inquiry by Hunko about the CTG, the Ger­man inte­ri­or min­istry con­firmed that a for­eign intel­li­gence agency that pass­es on Ger­man intel to a third par­ty, domes­tic or for­eign, with­out Germany’s per­mis­sion is a like­ly deal break­er, but said that one con­cern about ceas­ing coop­er­a­tion was that the leak or shar­ing with unde­sir­able third par­ties could be made worse.

    Hunko tells The Dai­ly Beast he is specif­i­cal­ly con­cerned that Kickl and his peo­ple would be able to acquire intel­li­gence about left­ist activists who oppose right-wing extrem­ism: “It is unthink­able what would hap­pen if secret infor­ma­tion about anti-fas­cist activ­i­ties falls into the hands of the extreme right via Austria’s con­ser­v­a­tive-far right gov­ern­ment.”

    He adds: “The same applies for Italy, above all with the neo-fas­cist Salvi­ni. I know that the Ger­man intel­li­gence has writ­ten reports on the sea res­cuers, some of whom are left-wing activists. It is a big prob­lem, if the heirs of fas­cist par­ties and move­ments now con­trol the intel­li­gence ser­vices and can pur­sue these activists with this infor­ma­tion.”

    A few days after the BfV’s request in March for more infor­ma­tion about what the police took from the intel­li­gence agency, Chris­t­ian Pil­nacek, the sec­re­tary gen­er­al of the Aus­tri­an Min­istry of Jus­tice, denied that any Ger­man intel was tak­en in the raids. But last week, Pil­nacek admit­ted that offi­cers took a DVD labeled “Pho­tos Ulrichs­berg 2015,” which came orig­i­nal­ly from the BfV. The disc appar­ent­ly shows which peo­ple took part at the 2015 Ulrichs­berg gath­er­ing in Carinthia. Pil­nacek said that, from the DVD’s title, it was not clear that this was Germany’s infor­ma­tion. And he said that the DVD has now been returned to the BVT extrem­ism depart­ment. But of course the police under Kickl may now know details about Ger­man sources and meth­ods they might not have known before.

    In the raid, the pros­e­cu­tors also took data from the “Nep­tune” net­work, which the BVT uses to com­mu­ni­cate with oth­er Euro­pean intel­li­gence agen­cies.

    In light of the BVT affair, oppo­si­tion par­ties tried unsuc­cess­ful­ly to pass a motion of no con­fi­dence against Kickl. “No sane intel­li­gence ser­vice in the world will con­tin­ue to share infor­ma­tion with us, apart from maybe the weath­er fore­cast,” said Jan Krain­er from the Social Democ­rats.

    BVT boss Peter Gridling, now rein­stat­ed, told the Ö1 Mor­gen­jour­nal (the morn­ing news) on Mon­day that “with­out a doubt” coop­er­a­tion with for­eign intel­li­gence has become “dif­fi­cult.”
    ...

    And, of course, there’s a big fix­a­tion on the rela­tion­ship between Euro­pean’s far right and the Krem­lin, as if that’s the main thing to be wor­ried about when Nazis get con­trol of your nation’s intel­li­gence agen­cies:

    ...
    At the same time, these far-right politi­cians’ open friend­li­ness toward Russia’s Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, the KGB vet­er­an who may have helped some of them get elect­ed, rais­es grave secu­ri­ty issues for the NATO alliance. And the fact that right-wing U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump appears to be play­ing a sim­i­lar game—trying to dis­cred­it U.S. intel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als while flirt­ing with Putin—greatly height­ens the sense of alarm.

    The rise of far-right par­ties across Europe and their con­trol of intel­li­gence agen­cies is a real cause for con­cern, says Mike Car­pen­ter, a for­mer deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense and now the senior direc­tor of the Biden Cen­ter for Diplo­ma­cy and Glob­al Engage­ment at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia.

    Far-right groups and polit­i­cal par­ties across Europe have close ties to Rus­sia and may be spon­sored by the Krem­lin. Some even have close links to Russ­ian intel­li­gence ser­vices, said Car­pen­ter. So for these groups to head the intel­li­gence ser­vices charged with pro­tect­ing their coun­tries from for­eign med­dling is “like the fox guard­ing the hen­house,” said Car­pen­ter. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

    It also has impli­ca­tions for the U.S. gov­ern­ment. “On the intel­li­gence side, it rais­es alarms because of the nature of the sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion we share with our allies and part­ners,” said Car­pen­ter. “That’s some­thing that could poten­tial­ly com­pro­mise sources and meth­ods.

    “Take a look at some of these politi­cians who have now been put in front of intel­li­gence ser­vices and min­istries of the inte­ri­or, dig into their back­grounds and see if any of them have links to Rus­sia,” said Car­pen­ter.
    ...

    But at least Olga Olik­er, direc­tor of the Rus­sia and Eura­sia pro­gram at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies, points out that neo-Nazis in charge of intel­li­gence agen­cies is rea­son alone for con­cern:

    ...
    Affin­i­ty for Rus­sia is a well-known fea­ture of far-right groups across Europe. “There is a ten­den­cy among Euro­pean far-right par­ties to ide­al­ize Rus­sia as a white suprema­cist far-right state, though that’s not accu­rate,” said Olga Olik­er, direc­tor of the Rus­sia and Eura­sia pro­gram at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies. “But it is some­thing that Rus­sia has been hap­py to take advan­tage of.

    “If there are peo­ple who like Rus­sia in these orga­ni­za­tions, there is an increased risk that this infor­ma­tion could be passed to Rus­sia,” said Olik­er. But, she added, “There are all sorts of rea­sons to be con­cerned about far-right groups tak­ing con­trol of intel that have noth­ing to do with Rus­sia. They tend to be high on repres­sion and low on cit­i­zens’ rights.”
    ...

    And keep in mind that this is prob­a­bly just the start of a trend. There could eas­i­ly be quite a few more Euro­pean coun­tries that end up hand­ing over their secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ties to Nazis and their fel­low trav­el­ers in com­ing years. Which prob­a­bly means there’s going to be quite a few more far right ter­ror attacks too. Or false flag oper­a­tions. Recall the plot that was uncov­ered last year where Ger­man neo-Nazis were going to car­ry­ing out a ter­ror attack designed to be blamed on Syr­i­an refugees. It seems like we’re going to be A LOT more like­ly to see some­thing like that. Don’t for­get what the for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cer (and his­to­ry) warns: cre­at­ing a ‘threat’ that jus­ti­fies the seizure of more pow­er is one of the basic strate­gies of these move­ments. And in Aus­tria and Italy they’ve just been giv­en all the tools nec­es­sary to do exact­ly that.

    On the plus side, at least Steve Ban­non is no longer on Pres­i­dent Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty coun­cil. Although his depar­ture from the White House has sim­ply left him more time to focus on the rad­i­cal­iza­tion of Europe. So, you know, it’s not all hor­ri­ble news when it comes to the neo-Nazi cor­rup­tion of the agen­cies tasked with stop­ping neo-Nazi attacks, but still most­ly hor­ri­ble.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 2, 2018, 12:26 pm
  14. We did­n’t real­ly need anoth­er reminder of the par­al­lels between neo-Nazi groups and groups like ISIS or al Qae­da pose to soci­eties, but here’s anoth­er reminder any­way because they just keep com­ing:

    The Inde­pen­dent

    Nation­al Action tri­al: Alleged leader ‘urged neo-Nazi to kill Amber Rudd in ter­ror attack’, court hears

    Jack Ren­shaw admit­ted plot­ting to mur­der his local Labour MP, Rosie Coop­er, after alleged­ly say­ing the home sec­re­tary would be too well-pro­tect­ed

    Lizzie Dear­den Home Affairs Cor­re­spon­dent
    Wednes­day 13 June 2018 20:21

    The alleged leader of a neo-Nazi ter­ror­ist group urged one of his sub­or­di­nates to assas­si­nate the for­mer home sec­re­tary Amber Rudd, a court has heard.

    Christo­pher Lyth­goe “smiled and nod­ded” as alleged Nation­al Action mem­ber Jack Ren­shaw revealed plans to mur­der his local MP, Rosie Coop­er, with a machete.

    But the Old Bai­ley heard Mr Lyth­goe con­sid­ered the Labour politi­cian a “nobody” and thought tar­get­ing a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter would make more of an impact.

    Rob­bie Mullen, who was at the meet­ing in War­ring­ton on 1 July last year, told the court that Mr Lyth­goe “sug­gest­ed Ren­shaw do Amber Rudd, the home sec­re­tary” but the plot­ter thought she would be too well-pro­tect­ed.

    “He said he’d planned it all out and he wasn’t going to prison no mat­ter what,” Mr Mullen said.

    “[Mr Lyth­goe] was hap­py, he was smil­ing, he was just nod­ding his head.

    “He asked Jack [Ren­shaw] if he was he sure, and he said he was and had thought it through. Then Chris [Lyth­goe] said to him ‘make sure you don’t f*** it up’.”

    Mr Lyth­goe alleged­ly sug­gest­ed Ren­shaw com­mit the attack in the name of Nation­al Action as a bloody sig­nal after it became the first extreme right-wing group to be banned in the UK. Ren­shaw said he would make a “white jihad” video out­lin­ing his beliefs to be viewed after his death.

    Mr Mullen said anoth­er defen­dant, Matthew Han­k­in­son, said Ren­shaw should tar­get a syn­a­gogue – even if there were chil­dren inside – because “all Jews are the same, they’re all ver­min”.

    The for­mer Nation­al Action mem­ber, who had become an infor­mant for counter-extrem­ism group Hope Not Hate months before, told the jury Ren­shaw detailed how he was going to mur­der Ms Coop­er with a machete before tak­ing hostages in a pub.

    Ren­shaw, who admit­ted to the plan, want­ed to lure a female police offi­cer who had pre­vi­ous­ly inves­ti­gat­ed him for alleged child groom­ing and hate crimes there and kill her too, before forc­ing police offi­cers to shoot him dead by wear­ing a fake sui­cide vest.

    Mr Mullen alert­ed Hope Not Hate to the plot the fol­low­ing morn­ing, who con­tact­ed Labour MP Ruth Smeeth to get a mes­sage to Ms Coop­er.

    Mr Lyth­goe denied giv­ing per­mis­sion for the attack, while he, Ren­shaw and their four co-defen­dants have plead­ed not guilty to remain­ing mem­bers of Nation­al Action after it was banned.

    The gov­ern­ment out­lawed the organ­i­sa­tion in Decem­ber 2016 for its “vir­u­lent­ly racist, anti­se­mit­ic and homo­pho­bic ide­ol­o­gy”, which includ­ed prepa­ra­tions for a race war.

    But the Old Bai­ley heard that Nation­al Action mere­ly split into region­al fac­tions to evade author­i­ties, includ­ing the since-banned Scot­tish Dawn and NS131.

    The six defen­dants on tri­al were alleged­ly part of the north­west divi­sion and attend­ed protests where mem­bers made anti­se­mit­ic speech­es and per­formed Nazi salutes, while car­ry­ing ban­ners read­ing “Cleanse Britain of par­a­sites” and “Hitler was right”.

    A police offi­cer tes­ti­fied that a man filmed giv­ing a speech call­ing on white men to “stand up and set our peo­ple free” was Mr Han­k­in­son.

    “Blood must be shed, the blood of trai­tors, the blood of our ene­mies,” he said.

    Mr Mullen, who was for­mer­ly an organ­is­er for the fac­tion, told the court they want­ed to achieve a “white Britain by any means nec­es­sary… war, any­thing”.

    Asked what Nation­al Action was against, Mr Mullen replied: “Basi­cal­ly every­one… Jews, blacks, Asians, every non-white race.”

    He told the jury mem­bers trained in box­ing, mixed mar­tial arts and knife fight­ing at gyms in War­ring­ton and rur­al train­ing camps, before set­ting up their own head­quar­ters fol­low­ing the ban.

    As the pro­scrip­tion approached, Mr Lyth­goe alleged­ly wrote mem­bers an encrypt­ed email say­ing they were mere­ly “shed­ding one skin for anoth­er”.

    The court heard the self-declared leader claim the group would oper­ate under­ground with­out the name Nation­al Action and con­tin­ued to arrange meet­ings and recruit new mem­bers, includ­ing some through the Dai­ly Stormer web­site.

    Mr Mullen said neo-Nazis com­mu­ni­cat­ed used encrypt­ed Tutan­o­ta emails and the mes­sag­ing apps Telegram and Wire in efforts to hide their mes­sages from the secu­ri­ty ser­vices.

    Ren­shaw has admit­ted prepar­ing an act of ter­ror­ism and threat­en­ing to kill police offi­cer Vic­to­ria Hen­der­son, but denies mem­ber­ship of a pro­scribed organ­i­sa­tion.

    Co-defen­dants Gar­ron Helm, 24, of Seaforth, Mersey­side, Mr Han­k­in­son, 24, of New­ton-le-Wil­lows, Mersey­side, Andrew Clarke, 33, Mr Lyth­goe, 32, and Michal Tru­bi­ni, 35, all of War­ring­ton, also plead not guilty to mem­ber­ship of a pro­scribed group.

    Mr Lyth­goe addi­tion­al­ly pleads not guilty to encour­ag­ing mur­der.

    ...

    ———-

    “Nation­al Action tri­al: Alleged leader ‘urged neo-Nazi to kill Amber Rudd in ter­ror attack’, court hears” by Lizzie Dear­den; The Inde­pen­dent; 06/13/2018

    “The alleged leader of a neo-Nazi ter­ror­ist group urged one of his sub­or­di­nates to assas­si­nate the for­mer home sec­re­tary Amber Rudd, a court has heard.”

    Neo-Nazis plot­ting polit­i­cal assas­si­na­tions, it’s a sto­ry as old as, well, the Nazis. It’s what they do.

    In this case, we have Christo­pher Lyth­goe, the leader of the banned Nation­al Action neo-Nazi group, alleged­ly telling Nation­al Action mem­ber Jack Ren­shaw to assas­si­nate UK home sec­re­tary Amber Rudd instead of the local MP Ren­shaw was plan­ning on killing:

    ...
    Christo­pher Lyth­goe “smiled and nod­ded” as alleged Nation­al Action mem­ber Jack Ren­shaw revealed plans to mur­der his local MP, Rosie Coop­er, with a machete.

    But the Old Bai­ley heard Mr Lyth­goe con­sid­ered the Labour politi­cian a “nobody” and thought tar­get­ing a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter would make more of an impact.

    Rob­bie Mullen, who was at the meet­ing in War­ring­ton on 1 July last year, told the court that Mr Lyth­goe “sug­gest­ed Ren­shaw do Amber Rudd, the home sec­re­tary” but the plot­ter thought she would be too well-pro­tect­ed.

    “He said he’d planned it all out and he wasn’t going to prison no mat­ter what,” Mr Mullen said.

    “[Mr Lyth­goe] was hap­py, he was smil­ing, he was just nod­ding his head.

    “He asked Jack [Ren­shaw] if he was he sure, and he said he was and had thought it through. Then Chris [Lyth­goe] said to him ‘make sure you don’t f*** it up’.”
    ...

    So what was the goal of this assas­si­na­tion? In part as revenge for Nation­al Action being the first far right group to be banned and declared a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion in the UK when Rudd banned the group in 2016 for pub­licly cel­e­brat­ing the far right mur­der of Labour MP Jo Cox. So the revenge for being banned as a ter­ror­ist group is to com­mit an act of ter­ror. Of course. OH, and Ren­shaw was plan­ning on mak­ing a “white jihad” video out­lin­ing his Nazi beliefs. ISIS and al Qae­da would no doubt be proud:

    ...
    Mr Lyth­goe alleged­ly sug­gest­ed Ren­shaw com­mit the attack in the name of Nation­al Action as a bloody sig­nal after it became the first extreme right-wing group to be banned in the UK. Ren­shaw said he would make a “white jihad” video out­lin­ing his beliefs to be viewed after his death.

    Mr Mullen said anoth­er defen­dant, Matthew Han­k­in­son, said Ren­shaw should tar­get a syn­a­gogue – even if there were chil­dren inside – because “all Jews are the same, they’re all ver­min”.
    ...

    Note that the “white jihad” video idea was­n’t just some­thing Ren­shaw came up with. Nation­al Action itself put out a “white jihad” video in ear­ly 2016 as part of recruit­ment dri­ve. Also recall how aspir­ing neo-Nazi nuclear ter­ror­ists Atom­waf­fen pro­duce ISIS-style videos encour­ag­ing peo­ple to engage in lone wolf vio­lent attacks. So neo-Nazis them­selves are doing a pret­ty good job of draw­ing par­al­lels betweene neo-Nazis and groups like ISIS these days.

    But Ren­shaw was­n’t just plan­ning on mur­der­ing Rosie Coop­er with a machete. His plans then involved tak­ing hostage at a pub in order to lure a police offi­cer there to kill her too before get­ting police to shoot him by wear­ing a fake sui­cide vest. And this offi­cer he want­ed to lure there hap­pened to have pre­vi­ous­ly inves­ti­gat­ed him for child groom­ing:

    ...
    The for­mer Nation­al Action mem­ber, who had become an infor­mant for counter-extrem­ism group Hope Not Hate months before, told the jury Ren­shaw detailed how he was going to mur­der Ms Coop­er with a machete before tak­ing hostages in a pub.

    Ren­shaw, who admit­ted to the plan, want­ed to lure a female police offi­cer who had pre­vi­ous­ly inves­ti­gat­ed him for alleged child groom­ing and hate crimes there and kill her too, before forc­ing police offi­cers to shoot him dead by wear­ing a fake sui­cide vest.
    ...

    Keep in mind that Ren­shaw’s plot involved a machete, and not a gun or explo­sives. So when you read about his plan­ning on using a fake a sui­cide vest don’t for­get that a real one prob­a­bly was­n’t an option.

    And note how this par­tic­u­lar group was just one of the region­al orga­ni­za­tions of for­mer Nation­al Action mem­bers who went under­ground after the group was for­mal­ly banned. So there are pre­sum­ably a bunch of oth­er region­al for­mer Nation­al Action orga­ni­za­tions with a sim­i­lar mind set. A mind set focused on spark­ing a race war and kill all non-whites in the UK:

    ...
    Mr Lyth­goe denied giv­ing per­mis­sion for the attack, while he, Ren­shaw and their four co-defen­dants have plead­ed not guilty to remain­ing mem­bers of Nation­al Action after it was banned.

    The gov­ern­ment out­lawed the organ­i­sa­tion in Decem­ber 2016 for its “vir­u­lent­ly racist, anti­se­mit­ic and homo­pho­bic ide­ol­o­gy”, which includ­ed prepa­ra­tions for a race war.

    But the Old Bai­ley heard that Nation­al Action mere­ly split into region­al fac­tions to evade author­i­ties, includ­ing the since-banned Scot­tish Dawn and NS131.

    The six defen­dants on tri­al were alleged­ly part of the north­west divi­sion and attend­ed protests where mem­bers made anti­se­mit­ic speech­es and per­formed Nazi salutes, while car­ry­ing ban­ners read­ing “Cleanse Britain of par­a­sites” and “Hitler was right”.

    A police offi­cer tes­ti­fied that a man filmed giv­ing a speech call­ing on white men to “stand up and set our peo­ple free” was Mr Han­k­in­son.

    “Blood must be shed, the blood of trai­tors, the blood of our ene­mies,” he said.

    Mr Mullen, who was for­mer­ly an organ­is­er for the fac­tion, told the court they want­ed to achieve a “white Britain by any means nec­es­sary… war, any­thing”.

    Asked what Nation­al Action was against, Mr Mullen replied: “Basi­cal­ly every­one… Jews, blacks, Asians, every non-white race.”

    He told the jury mem­bers trained in box­ing, mixed mar­tial arts and knife fight­ing at gyms in War­ring­ton and rur­al train­ing camps, before set­ting up their own head­quar­ters fol­low­ing the ban.
    ...

    And note how this mur­der plot appears to have been dis­cov­ered due to Rob­bie Mullen, one of the Nation­al Action mem­bers at the meet­ing where the mur­der plot was dis­cussed, secret­ly inform­ing the anti-fas­cist Hate Not Hope orga­ni­za­tion. And as Mullen told the court, these mem­bers were using encrypt­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions to not just remain in con­tact with each oth­er after being for­mal­ly banned but also recruit new mem­bers from places like the Dai­ly Stormer:

    ...
    Mr Mullen alert­ed Hope Not Hate to the plot the fol­low­ing morn­ing, who con­tact­ed Labour MP Ruth Smeeth to get a mes­sage to Ms Coop­er.

    ...

    As the pro­scrip­tion approached, Mr Lyth­goe alleged­ly wrote mem­bers an encrypt­ed email say­ing they were mere­ly “shed­ding one skin for anoth­er”.

    The court heard the self-declared leader claim the group would oper­ate under­ground with­out the name Nation­al Action and con­tin­ued to arrange meet­ings and recruit new mem­bers, includ­ing some through the Dai­ly Stormer web­site.

    Mr Mullen said neo-Nazis com­mu­ni­cat­ed used encrypt­ed Tutan­o­ta emails and the mes­sag­ing apps Telegram and Wire in efforts to hide their mes­sages from the secu­ri­ty ser­vices.

    Ren­shaw has admit­ted prepar­ing an act of ter­ror­ism and threat­en­ing to kill police offi­cer Vic­to­ria Hen­der­son, but denies mem­ber­ship of a pro­scribed organ­i­sa­tion.

    Co-defen­dants Gar­ron Helm, 24, of Seaforth, Mersey­side, Mr Han­k­in­son, 24, of New­ton-le-Wil­lows, Mersey­side, Andrew Clarke, 33, Mr Lyth­goe, 32, and Michal Tru­bi­ni, 35, all of War­ring­ton, also plead not guilty to mem­ber­ship of a pro­scribed group.

    Mr Lyth­goe addi­tion­al­ly pleads not guilty to encour­ag­ing mur­der.
    ...

    So we have a sui­cide plot by a Nazi to kill a local MP and a police offi­cer who inves­ti­gat­ed him for child groom­ing and leave behind a “white jihad” video explain­ing his views. And the leader of this Nazi cell encour­aged him to aim high­er and kill the UK’s home sec­re­tary as revenge for ban­ning the group as a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion. ISIS should be so proud.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 5, 2018, 1:21 pm
  15. Here’s a sto­ry that might sound like good news for ani­mal rights in Aus­tria but is prob­a­bly going to end up being excep­tion­al­ly bad news: Aus­tri­a’s far right neo-Nazi Free­dom Par­ty (FPO) appears to attempt­ing to tem­per its extrem­ist image by cham­pi­oning ani­mal rights. But, of course, being Nazis, they’re cham­pi­oning ani­mal rights in the worst pos­si­ble way. For exam­ple, Got­tfried Wald­hausl, an FPO MP in the State Assem­bly of Low­er Aus­tria, recent­ly brought up dan­ger immi­grant dogs pose to Aus­tri­a’s domes­tic dogs by tak­ing up space in ani­mal shel­ters, mak­ing the case that the FPO’s anti-immi­grant poli­cies aren’t just about pro­tect­ing Aus­tria from human immi­grants but also ani­mal immi­grants:

    Dai­ly Mail

    Far-right Aus­tri­an politi­cian is mocked for claim­ing immi­grant DOGS are steal­ing the places of native ani­mals at shel­ters

    Got­tfried Wald­hausl went on a bizarre rant at a cam­paign ral­ly in Melk, Aus­tria
    Defend­ed par­ty’s anti-immi­gra­tion poli­cies say­ing they also help ani­mals
    Social media users mocked him, jok­ing Aus­tria need­ed migrant camps for dogs
    His par­ty is the junior part­ner in Aus­tri­a’s rul­ing coali­tion with right-wing OVP

    By Nic White For Mailon­line

    Pub­lished: 07:47 EDT, 1 June 2018 | Updat­ed: 15:32 EDT, 1 June 2018

    A far-right politi­cian has been wide­ly ridiculed for warn­ing crowds that immi­grant dogs are steal­ing the places of native dogs at ani­mal shel­ters.

    The bizarre state­ment was made by state MP Got­tfried Wald­hausl, who sits in the State Assem­bly of Low­er Aus­tria for the far-right Aus­tri­an Free­dom Par­ty (FPO).

    The sub­ject was broached dur­ing a cam­paign event in the north­east­ern city of Melk, where Wald­hausl was dis­cussing secu­ri­ty poli­cies with his col­league Peter Huber.

    Wald­hausl claimed the FPO took ani­mal wel­fare very seri­ous­ly and their par­ty’s secu­ri­ty and immi­gra­tion poli­cies were not just to pro­tect the coun­try from human immi­grants, but also ani­mals.

    ‘Dogs with a migra­tion back­ground often take the places of our ani­mals in our town’s shel­ters,’ he said.

    The MP was wide­ly ridiculed on social media for his com­ments after the bizarre rant left the crowd bewil­dered.

    ‘I am hap­py that the FPO has final­ly founds its core com­pe­tence: The clos­ing of the dan­ger­ous dog migra­tion route,’ one view­er wrote online.

    Anoth­er user wrote: ‘Do we now need asy­lum cen­tres for dogs?’

    The far-right FPO has cam­paigned in recent years on restrict­ing immi­gra­tion and the clos­ing of migra­tion routes into Europe.

    On a nation­al lev­el, the FPO is the junior part­ner in the gov­ern­ing coali­tion of Chan­cel­lor Sebas­t­ian Kurz of the con­ser­v­a­tive Aus­tri­an Peo­ple’s Par­ty (OVP).

    Since offi­cial­ly assum­ing office on Decem­ber 18, 2017, Kurz and his OVP-FPO coali­tion have intro­duced strict anti-immi­gra­tion mea­sures and slashed ben­e­fits for new arrivals into the coun­try.

    Aus­tria, which is due to take up the EU pres­i­den­cy in the sec­ond half of 2018, is also push­ing for the EU to over­haul migra­tion poli­cies.

    ...

    ———-

    “Far-right Aus­tri­an politi­cian is mocked for claim­ing immi­grant DOGS are steal­ing the places of native ani­mals at shel­ters” by Nic White; Dai­ly Mail; 06/01/2018

    “A far-right politi­cian has been wide­ly ridiculed for warn­ing crowds that immi­grant dogs are steal­ing the places of native dogs at ani­mal shel­ters.

    Beware those shifty immi­grant dogs, no doubt bring­ing in all sorts of par­a­sites and dis­ease that Aus­tri­a’s whole­some domes­tic dogs will have to deal with. And this was all brought up dur­ing a cam­paign event where Wald­hausl made the case that the FPO takes ani­mal wel­fare very seri­ous­ly and the FPO anti-immi­grant poli­cies are intend­ed, in part, to pro­tect ani­mals too:

    ...
    The bizarre state­ment was made by state MP Got­tfried Wald­hausl, who sits in the State Assem­bly of Low­er Aus­tria for the far-right Aus­tri­an Free­dom Par­ty (FPO).

    The sub­ject was broached dur­ing a cam­paign event in the north­east­ern city of Melk, where Wald­hausl was dis­cussing secu­ri­ty poli­cies with his col­league Peter Huber.

    Wald­hausl claimed the FPO took ani­mal wel­fare very seri­ous­ly and their par­ty’s secu­ri­ty and immi­gra­tion poli­cies were not just to pro­tect the coun­try from human immi­grants, but also ani­mals.

    ‘Dogs with a migra­tion back­ground often take the places of our ani­mals in our town’s shel­ters,’ he said.
    ...

    And, of course, the FPO is now a junior mem­ber of the Aus­tri­an gov­ern­ment and Aus­tria took over the EU pres­i­den­cy in July, so mod­er­at­ing the FPO’s image is going to be pri­or­i­ty:

    ...
    The far-right FPO has cam­paigned in recent years on restrict­ing immi­gra­tion and the clos­ing of migra­tion routes into Europe.

    On a nation­al lev­el, the FPO is the junior part­ner in the gov­ern­ing coali­tion of Chan­cel­lor Sebas­t­ian Kurz of the con­ser­v­a­tive Aus­tri­an Peo­ple’s Par­ty (OVP).

    Since offi­cial­ly assum­ing office on Decem­ber 18, 2017, Kurz and his OVP-FPO coali­tion have intro­duced strict anti-immi­gra­tion mea­sures and slashed ben­e­fits for new arrivals into the coun­try.

    Aus­tria, which is due to take up the EU pres­i­den­cy in the sec­ond half of 2018, is also push­ing for the EU to over­haul migra­tion poli­cies.
    ...

    And then we get the this week’s moment of neo-Nazi ‘ani­mal rights’: the FPO for the state of Low­er Aus­tria (Wald­haus­l’s state), just pro­posed a law that any­one who wants to buy kosher or halal meat must prove that they are an obser­vant mem­ber of the ortho­dox Jew­ish or Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties. Sales would be restrict­ed to a cer­tain amount of meat per week, and restau­rants would effec­tive­ly have to stop offer­ing halal or kosher dish­es and any­one who wants to buy halal or kosher meat would have to reg­is­ter with the gov­ern­ment. But the FPO assures every­one that this isn’t some new way to harass Jews and Mus­lims and essen­tial­ly force them to put them­selves on a list. It’s about pro­tect­ing ani­mals:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Aus­tri­an state wants to force meat-con­sum­ing Jews and Mus­lims to reg­is­ter, draw­ing Nazi com­par­isons

    by Rick Noack
    July 20, 2018 at 9:56 AM

    BERLIN — Nazi com­par­isons have become so fre­quent around the world that they rarely draw atten­tion these days. But in Adolf Hitler’s birth coun­try, Aus­tria, they can still strike a nerve.

    They cer­tain­ly did so this week, after Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions crit­i­cized the far-right Free­dom Par­ty of Aus­tria (FPÖ), the rul­ing coali­tion par­ty in the state of Low­er Aus­tria, over a pro­pos­al that would require Jews to reg­is­ter with the gov­ern­ment if they seek to pur­chase kosher meat. The same rules would apply to Mus­lims buy­ing halal meat.

    “This con­sti­tutes an attack on Jew­ish and Mus­lim life,” the Berlin-based Amer­i­can Jew­ish Com­mit­tee wrote in a response. “Soon with a star on the chest?” the Jew­ish advo­ca­cy group asked, refer­ring to the Star of David badges that Jews were forced to wear dur­ing parts of the Nazi era. Strik­ing a sim­i­lar tone, Vien­na’s Israeli Cul­tur­al Com­mu­ni­ty asso­ci­a­tion brand­ed the law pro­pos­al an “Aryan para­graph.”

    Aus­tri­a’s FPÖ has had a num­ber of Nazi scan­dals in recent years and has been accused of stir­ring anti-Semit­ic sen­ti­ments, but this time the right-wing pop­ulists say they have been treat­ed unfair­ly by their crit­ics. “This law pro­pos­al dates back to 2017, when it was draft­ed by the Social Demo­c­rat dur­ing his last days in office,” Alexan­der Murl­a­sits, an FPÖ spokesman, told The Wash­ing­ton Post on Thurs­day. “All we’re doing now is to fol­low the rules. This is absolute­ly not about reli­gion — it’s about ani­mal pro­tec­tion.”

    Murl­a­sits was refer­ring to a pro­pos­al by the min­is­ter’s social demo­c­ra­t­ic pre­de­ces­sor that relat­ed only to butch­ers. That plan, accord­ing to the Social Democ­rats, would have required only kosher and halal butch­ers them­selves to com­ply with cer­tain rules. Unlike the pro­pos­al that is now being pur­sued by Low­er Aus­tri­a’s FPÖ, it was nev­er the inten­tion for the orig­i­nal pro­pos­al to apply reg­is­tra­tion rules to cus­tomers.

    On Fri­day, how­ev­er, a spokesman for Aus­tri­a’s coali­tion gov­ern­ment con­tra­dict­ed the region­al FPÖ min­is­ter, writ­ing in a state­ment that “a reg­is­tra­tion of end con­sumers who want to pur­chase kosher (and halal) meat will cer­tain­ly not take place in Aus­tria.”

    As of Fri­day, it was unclear whether the nation­al gov­ern­men­t’s con­cerns would result in an imme­di­ate with­draw­al of the pro­posed region­al law.

    “The Pres­i­dent of the Aus­tri­an Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty has been informed that all his fears regard­ing the ques­tion of the avail­abil­i­ty of kosher meat will be allayed,” the state­ment by the Aus­tri­an gov­ern­ment read.

    The FPÖ’s coali­tion part­ner, the con­ser­v­a­tive Aus­tri­an Peo­ple’s Par­ty (ÖVP), has strug­gled at times to over­come its hes­i­ta­tions to team up with a par­ty so con­tro­ver­sial that Israeli offi­cials refuse to com­mu­ni­cate with its mem­bers. Since join­ing the Aus­tri­an right-wing gov­ern­ment coali­tion last year, FPÖ offi­cials have refrained from open­ly embrac­ing some of the anti-Semit­ic rhetoric that the par­ty has been accused of employ­ing in the past. But for years, its top mem­bers paid for adver­tise­ments in a right-wing extrem­ist mag­a­zine that is hos­tile to Jews, accord­ing to a study by sev­er­al research insti­tutes and a human rights orga­ni­za­tion. The study, pub­lished ear­li­er this year, found sup­port for anti-Semit­ic hate speech among at least some FPÖ mem­bers.

    Mean­while, the Social Democ­rats who were vot­ed out of office last year are deny­ing the FPÖ’s accu­sa­tions that they are behind the most recent leg­is­la­tion.

    While both kosher and halal meats are pro­duced with­out pre-stun­ning the ani­mals, the tech­niques are in fact meant to reduce the ani­mals’ suf­fer­ing, Jew­ish and Mus­lim advo­cates say. Crit­ics have doubt­ed that halal and kosher slaugh­ter is indeed less painful than the more wide­ly used pro­ce­dures.

    In a let­ter sent to a Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion in Aus­tria, Low­er Aus­tria FPÖ cab­i­net min­is­ter Got­tfried Wald­häusl indi­cat­ed that he shared the ani­mal rights con­cerns but would not seek a gen­er­al ban on kosher and halal meat. Free­dom of reli­gion is “of course some­thing that should nev­er be ques­tioned,” he wrote.

    Under the law pro­pos­al, Jews and Mus­lims would still be allowed to pur­chase kosher and halal food, but only if they can prove that they live in Low­er Aus­tria and are obser­vant mem­bers of their reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties. Sales would be restrict­ed to a cer­tain amount of meat per week. Effec­tive­ly, this means that restau­rants would no longer be able to offer halal or kosher options.

    ...

    ———-

    “Aus­tri­an state wants to force meat-con­sum­ing Jews and Mus­lims to reg­is­ter, draw­ing Nazi com­par­isons” by Rick Noack; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 07/20/2018

    “Under the law pro­pos­al, Jews and Mus­lims would still be allowed to pur­chase kosher and halal food, but only if they can prove that they live in Low­er Aus­tria and are obser­vant mem­bers of their reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties. Sales would be restrict­ed to a cer­tain amount of meat per week. Effec­tive­ly, this means that restau­rants would no longer be able to offer halal or kosher options.”

    And note how peo­ple won’t just need to some­how show the butch­er some sort of proof of their reli­gios­i­ty. They’ll have to reg­is­ter as an obser­vant mem­ber of the com­mu­ni­ty with the gov­ern­ment:

    ...
    Nazi com­par­isons have become so fre­quent around the world that they rarely draw atten­tion these days. But in Adolf Hitler’s birth coun­try, Aus­tria, they can still strike a nerve.

    They cer­tain­ly did so this week, after Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions crit­i­cized the far-right Free­dom Par­ty of Aus­tria (FPÖ), the rul­ing coali­tion par­ty in the state of Low­er Aus­tria, over a pro­pos­al that would require Jews to reg­is­ter with the gov­ern­ment if they seek to pur­chase kosher meat. The same rules would apply to Mus­lims buy­ing halal meat.

    “This con­sti­tutes an attack on Jew­ish and Mus­lim life,” the Berlin-based Amer­i­can Jew­ish Com­mit­tee wrote in a response. “Soon with a star on the chest?” the Jew­ish advo­ca­cy group asked, refer­ring to the Star of David badges that Jews were forced to wear dur­ing parts of the Nazi era. Strik­ing a sim­i­lar tone, Vien­na’s Israeli Cul­tur­al Com­mu­ni­ty asso­ci­a­tion brand­ed the law pro­pos­al an “Aryan para­graph.”
    ...

    And note how Got­tfried Wald­häusl tried to assure peo­ple that there would be no “gen­er­al ban on kosher and halal meat” because free­dom of reli­gion is “of course some­thing that should nev­er be ques­tioned.” So he’s spun this attempt to com­pel Jews and Mus­lims to reg­is­ter with the gov­ern­ment as a show of how he sup­ports free­dom of reli­gion because he does­n’t sup­port ban­ning halal and kosher meat entire­ly:

    ...
    In a let­ter sent to a Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion in Aus­tria, Low­er Aus­tria FPÖ cab­i­net min­is­ter Got­tfried Wald­häusl indi­cat­ed that he shared the ani­mal rights con­cerns but would not seek a gen­er­al ban on kosher and halal meat. Free­dom of reli­gion is “of course some­thing that should nev­er be ques­tioned,” he wrote.
    ...

    And, of course, the FPO lied to every­one by say­ing that this was the same law that the Social Democ­rats pro­posed last year, except that law only applied to the actu­al butch­ers and required that they com­ply with cer­tain rules, which is noth­ing remote­ly like what the FPO pro­posed:

    ...
    Aus­tri­a’s FPÖ has had a num­ber of Nazi scan­dals in recent years and has been accused of stir­ring anti-Semit­ic sen­ti­ments, but this time the right-wing pop­ulists say they have been treat­ed unfair­ly by their crit­ics. “This law pro­pos­al dates back to 2017, when it was draft­ed by the Social Demo­c­rat dur­ing his last days in office,” Alexan­der Murl­a­sits, an FPÖ spokesman, told The Wash­ing­ton Post on Thurs­day. “All we’re doing now is to fol­low the rules. This is absolute­ly not about reli­gion — it’s about ani­mal pro­tec­tion.”

    Murl­a­sits was refer­ring to a pro­pos­al by the min­is­ter’s social demo­c­ra­t­ic pre­de­ces­sor that relat­ed only to butch­ers. That plan, accord­ing to the Social Democ­rats, would have required only kosher and halal butch­ers them­selves to com­ply with cer­tain rules. Unlike the pro­pos­al that is now being pur­sued by Low­er Aus­tri­a’s FPÖ, it was nev­er the inten­tion for the orig­i­nal pro­pos­al to apply reg­is­tra­tion rules to cus­tomers.
    ...

    Keep in mind that if the FPO was actu­al­ly inter­est­ed in ani­mal rights, it would have sim­ply pro­posed some­thing like what the Social Democ­rats pro­posed: reg­u­lat­ing the actu­al butch­ers who are actu­al­ly han­dling the ani­mals. But since we’re talk­ing about a neo-Nazi par­ty, we instead get a per­ver­sion of ani­mal rights advo­ca­cy for the pur­pose of fur­ther­ing their Nazi agen­da.

    So what’s next for the FPO’s ani­mal rights agen­da? We’ll see, but it does­n’t look like it’s going to involve the actu­al pro­tec­tion of ani­mals. Or peo­ple, of course.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 20, 2018, 2:47 pm
  16. There was a poten­tial­ly sig­nif­i­cant announce­ment in Italy this week. Poten­tial­ly sig­nif­i­cant and unam­bigu­ous­ly omi­nous: Mat­teo Salvi­ni, Italy’s far right Deputy Prime Min­is­ter, is try­ing to form a new pan-EU far right par­ty. The ini­tia­tive appears to have the sup­port of Marine Le Pen and France’s far right. Ger­many’s neo-Nazi-lite AfD is also on board. The goal is to cre­ate a sin­gle far right par­ty that can take pow­er in the upcom­ing EU par­lia­ment elec­tions in May.

    But it’s not yet clear that all of Europe’s far right par­ties are going to join this new alliance. Notably, Vik­tor Orban’s Fidesz par­ty is cur­rent­ly a mem­ber of the cen­ter-right Euro­pean People’s Par­ty that cur­rent­ly leads the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.

    Orban is also notable in that he is vehe­ment­ly opposed to one of Salvini’s key demands: the oth­er EU mem­bers accept their fair share of refugees to reduce the strain on Italy, one of the coun­tries that’s tak­en in the most refugees thus far. Orban, of course, is doing every­thing he can to ensure Hun­gary takes as few refugees as pos­si­ble. And that’s just one exam­ple of the chal­lenges the Euro­pean far right is going to have in form­ing a coali­tion.

    Anoth­er chal­lenge fac­ing a Euro­pean far right alliance is that some of these par­ties, like Salvini’s North­ern League, lean towards neolib­er­al­ism while oth­ers, like France’s far right is far more inclined towards eco­nom­ic pro­tec­tion­ism.

    So it remains to be seen if this new alliance will be able to form before the May elec­tions. There’s a lot the puta­tive mem­bers don’t agree on. But they all agree that they real­ly, real­ly, real­ly, real­ly hate immi­grants so we’ll see if that’s enough:

    The New York Times

    Mat­teo Salvi­ni Announces New Euro­pean Alliance of Far-Right Pop­ulists

    By Jason Horowitz
    April 8, 2019

    TREVISO, Italy — Mat­teo Salvi­ni, the anti-immi­grant politi­cian who is the most pow­er­ful fig­ure in Italy’s gov­ern­ment, on Mon­day announced the for­ma­tion of a new Euro­pean alliance of pop­ulist and far-right par­ties ahead of crit­i­cal Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions in May.

    “Oth­ers will join between now and the 26th of May,” the last day of vot­ing, Mr. Salvi­ni, leader of the League par­ty in Italy, said at an event in Milan with allies from Den­mark, Fin­land and Ger­many. “Our objec­tive is to be the force of gov­ern­ment and change in Europe.”

    The elec­tions in May have become a ral­ly­ing point for Euro­pean pop­ulist par­ties, once rel­e­gat­ed to the mar­gins, to seize their build­ing momen­tum and expand their pow­er across the con­ti­nent.

    Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Nation­al Gath­er­ing par­ty, did not attend the announce­ment on Mon­day, though she has sig­naled her sup­port for the new group.

    ???????? En pleine forme et prêts pour gag­n­er les élec­tions européennes le 26 mai prochain avec @matteosalvinimi ???? ! MLP pic.twitter.com/2bp6jy8372
    — Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) April 5, 2019

    But it is still unclear how pop­u­lous the new pop­ulist alliance will be.

    Notice­ably absent from the event were some polit­i­cal fig­ures who would appear to have an affin­i­ty with the project, like Hungary’s prime min­is­ter, Vik­tor Orban. Mr. Orban’s Fidesz par­ty still belongs to the Euro­pean People’s Par­ty group, the alliance of cen­ter-right par­ties that leads the 28-nation Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.

    Under a sign that read, in four lan­guages, “Towards a Com­mon Sense Europe! Peo­ple Rise Up,” Mr. Salvi­ni main­tained that he was a stand-in for his Aus­tri­an, Bel­gian, French and oth­er poten­tial part­ners, because it would have been unwieldy to have a news con­fer­ence with so many peo­ple. And he said that the full strength of the alliance would be demon­strat­ed on May 18 dur­ing a large event in the Piaz­za Duo­mo in Milan.

    “We are work­ing for a big par­ty for the new Europe,” said Mr. Salvi­ni, Italy’s deputy prime min­is­ter and inte­ri­or min­is­ter, whose efforts over­lap with those of Steve Ban­non, the for­mer strate­gist for Pres­i­dent Trump.

    Jörg Meuthen, a leader of the far-right Alter­na­tive for Ger­many par­ty, or AfD, said at the news con­fer­ence that there were absent part­ners “who will join us soon.” Imme­di­ate­ly after the elec­tions in May, he said, the allied par­ties will form a new group in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment called the Euro­pean Alliance of Peo­ples and Nations, the result of numer­ous meet­ings over recent months.

    Olli Kotro, a mem­ber of the Finns Par­ty who attend­ed the event, was more cau­tious, say­ing, “It remains to be seen who will join us.”

    While they share com­mon ground when it comes to strong bor­ders against migra­tion and an empha­sis on tra­di­tion­al, nation­al iden­ti­ties, Europe’s far-right pop­ulists also dis­agree on many points of pol­i­cy. Mr. Salvini’s Ger­man and Scan­di­na­vian part­ners lean toward free-mar­ket eco­nom­ics, while their French allies are more pro­tec­tion­ist.

    Mr. Salvi­ni has argued repeat­ed­ly that oth­er Euro­pean Union mem­bers must take their fair share of migrants, but some coun­tries, like Hun­gary, have slammed the door shut. And Poland does not share the warmth that Mr. Salvi­ni and oth­er pop­ulists have toward Rus­sia.

    On Mon­day, Mr. Salvi­ni reject­ed the sug­ges­tion that he and his allies were extrem­ists and said they all had a “clear mem­o­ry of what hap­pened in the past, but the tired debate of left and right, fas­cists, com­mu­nists, that’s not what we are pas­sion­ate about or what 500 mil­lion Euro­pean cit­i­zens are pas­sion­ate about. The debate on the past we will leave to the his­to­ri­ans.”

    For Mr. Salvi­ni, the Euro­pean elec­tions could affect his stand­ing at home, as well as across the con­ti­nent. A strong show­ing in May would help him con­sol­i­date pow­er in Italy’s gov­ern­ing coali­tion, where he is tech­ni­cal­ly a junior part­ner to the anti-estab­lish­ment Five Star Move­ment, which has hem­or­rhaged sup­port since the elec­tion in March 2018.

    But his Ital­ian allies are less than pleased with his inter­na­tion­al project.

    On Mon­day, Mr. Salvini’s strug­gling coali­tion part­ner, Lui­gi Di Maio, the Five Star leader, wrote an open let­ter to Cor­riere del­la Sera, Italy’s lead­ing news­pa­per, argu­ing that ahead of the Euro­pean elec­tions in May he found it “para­dox­i­cal” that Mr. Salvi­ni was seek­ing a for­mal alliance “with those coun­tries who refuse to accept the redis­tri­b­u­tion of migrants who arrive in Italy.”

    He added, “It would be non­sense to com­plain to the Euro­pean Union that they don’t accept the quo­tas and then hold close to par­ties from the same coun­tries (I’m think­ing of Orban) that are the cause of our emer­gency. Coun­tries that snub us, vio­late the laws and lack respect for Italy and the Ital­ians.”

    Asked about those com­ments, Mr. Salvi­ni said “with all due respect for the sen­si­bil­i­ties of who­ev­er, we have a big plan.”

    “I don’t com­ment on what my gov­ern­ment allies do,” he said, before doing pre­cise­ly that, remind­ing reporters of Mr. Di Maio’s attempts to form an alliance with the Yel­low Vest move­ment in France, dam­ag­ing rela­tions with the French gov­ern­ment.

    When Mr. Di Maio “goes to Paris and meets some­one who then puts in dif­fi­cul­ty the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment, I don’t com­ment,” Mr. Salvi­ni said. He then not­ed that while Mr. Di Maio now crit­i­cized the League’s alliance with the AfD, “in the past years, the path of Five Star was with our friends in AfD.”

    For now, Mr. Salvi­ni said, his goal is for the aligned par­ties to win as many votes as pos­si­ble and take con­trol of the machin­ery of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. He elid­ed ques­tions about whether he or Ms. Le Pen would be the leader of the new group.

    ...

    ———-

    “Mat­teo Salvi­ni Announces New Euro­pean Alliance of Far-Right Pop­ulists” by Jason Horowitz; The New York Times; 04/08/2019

    “For now, Mr. Salvi­ni said, his goal is for the aligned par­ties to win as many votes as pos­si­ble and take con­trol of the machin­ery of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. He elid­ed ques­tions about whether he or Ms. Le Pen would be the leader of the new group.”

    It’s a pret­ty straight­for­ward goal: form a par­ty that can hope­ful­ly take con­trol of the machin­ery of the EU par­lia­ment. Keep in mind that tak­ing con­trol of “the machin­ery” of the EU par­lia­ment does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly require tak­ing con­trol of the par­lia­ment as a whole. Win­ning enough votes to be in a king-mak­er posi­tion might be ade­quate for accom­plish­ing that goal, as Salvini’s own par­ty demon­strates with its junior par­ty sta­tus in Italy’s coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

    And it sounds like they’re already made quite a bit of progress towards the ini­tial goal of actu­al­ly get­ting all of the EU far right par­ties on board with the plan. The far right of France, Aus­tria, Bel­gium, Fin­land, and Ger­many already appear to be on board with the plan:

    ...
    Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Nation­al Gath­er­ing par­ty, did not attend the announce­ment on Mon­day, though she has sig­naled her sup­port for the new group.

    ...

    Under a sign that read, in four lan­guages, “Towards a Com­mon Sense Europe! Peo­ple Rise Up,” Mr. Salvi­ni main­tained that he was a stand-in for his Aus­tri­an, Bel­gian, French and oth­er poten­tial part­ners, because it would have been unwieldy to have a news con­fer­ence with so many peo­ple. And he said that the full strength of the alliance would be demon­strat­ed on May 18 dur­ing a large event in the Piaz­za Duo­mo in Milan.

    ...

    Jörg Meuthen, a leader of the far-right Alter­na­tive for Ger­many par­ty, or AfD, said at the news con­fer­ence that there were absent part­ners “who will join us soon.” Imme­di­ate­ly after the elec­tions in May, he said, the allied par­ties will form a new group in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment called the Euro­pean Alliance of Peo­ples and Nations, the result of numer­ous meet­ings over recent months.

    Olli Kotro, a mem­ber of the Finns Par­ty who attend­ed the event, was more cau­tious, say­ing, “It remains to be seen who will join us.”
    ...

    But Hun­gary’s Fidesz par­ty is still a mem­ber of the cen­ter-right Euro­pean People’s Par­ty and it’s unclear how Salvini’s demands that EU mem­bers take their fair share of refugees could be resolved with Orban’s pol­i­tics of keep­ing as many refugees out of Hun­gary as pos­si­ble. It also remains to be seen how the sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences in eco­nom­ic poli­cies between all over the var­i­ous mem­bers will get resolved:

    ...
    But it is still unclear how pop­u­lous the new pop­ulist alliance will be.

    Notice­ably absent from the event were some polit­i­cal fig­ures who would appear to have an affin­i­ty with the project, like Hungary’s prime min­is­ter, Vik­tor Orban. Mr. Orban’s Fidesz par­ty still belongs to the Euro­pean People’s Par­ty group, the alliance of cen­ter-right par­ties that leads the 28-nation Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.

    ...

    While they share com­mon ground when it comes to strong bor­ders against migra­tion and an empha­sis on tra­di­tion­al, nation­al iden­ti­ties, Europe’s far-right pop­ulists also dis­agree on many points of pol­i­cy. Mr. Salvini’s Ger­man and Scan­di­na­vian part­ners lean toward free-mar­ket eco­nom­ics, while their French allies are more pro­tec­tion­ist.

    Mr. Salvi­ni has argued repeat­ed­ly that oth­er Euro­pean Union mem­bers must take their fair share of migrants, but some coun­tries, like Hun­gary, have slammed the door shut. And Poland does not share the warmth that Mr. Salvi­ni and oth­er pop­ulists have toward Rus­sia.
    ...

    So we’ll see if hate of ‘the oth­er’ can be the glue to keep this alliance togeth­er.

    It’s also quite notable that this new alliance appar­ent­ly over­laps with Steve Ban­non’s efforts in Europe but does­n’t appear to be part of it:

    ...
    “We are work­ing for a big par­ty for the new Europe,” said Mr. Salvi­ni, Italy’s deputy prime min­is­ter and inte­ri­or min­is­ter, whose efforts over­lap with those of Steve Ban­non, the for­mer strate­gist for Pres­i­dent Trump.
    ...

    Part of what make that notable is the fact that, back in Sep­tem­ber, we were told that Salvi­ni was actu­al­ly join­ing Ban­non’s work to unite the Euro­pean far right under a sin­gle ban­ner:

    The Guardian

    Italy’s Mat­teo Salvi­ni joins Ban­non’s Euro­pean pop­ulist group
    This arti­cle is more than 6 months old

    Inte­ri­or min­is­ter pledges sup­port to the Move­ment after meet­ing in Rome

    Loren­zo Ton­do

    Sat 8 Sep 2018 09.07 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Sat 8 Sep 2018 10.45 EDT

    Mat­teo Salvi­ni, Italy’s inte­ri­or min­is­ter and pop­ulist leader, has met Steve Ban­non and joined the anti-Euro­pean estab­lish­ment group, the Move­ment, found­ed by Don­ald Trump’s for­mer chief strate­gist.

    “He is in!” tweet­ed Mis­chaël Mod­rika­men, the Bel­gian politi­cian and co-founder of the People’s par­ty, who is also a mem­ber of Bannon’s group which unites Euroscep­ti­cand pop­ulist forces.

    Meet­ing this morn­ing with Steve Ban­non and Mat­teo Salvi­ni. The Move­ment : He is in! pic.twitter.com/3RszHAIEwY— Mis­chaël Mod­rika­men (@modrikamen) Sep­tem­ber 7, 2018

    Accord­ing to Ital­ian media, Ban­non has sug­gest­ed the upcom­ing Euro­pean elec­tions in 2019 could open the way for new pop­ulist move­ments to fight the influ­ence of the Ger­man chan­cel­lor, Angela Merkel, and the French pres­i­dent, Emmanuel Macron.

    The meet­ing in Rome on Fri­day fol­lows recent talks between Salvi­ni and the Hun­gar­i­an prime min­is­ter, Vik­tor Orbán, anoth­er leader of Euro­pean pop­ulism who shares an anti-migra­tion stance.

    After their meet­ing, on 28 August, Salvi­ni and Orbán claimed they were “walk­ing down the same path” after dis­cussing the for­ma­tion of a com­mon anti-migra­tion front to oppose the poli­cies of Macron.

    Ban­non is not new to Euro­pean pol­i­tics, being close to Nigel Farage, the for­mer Ukip leader, who has cred­it­ed him with boost­ing the suc­cess­ful British cam­paign to leave the EU. The for­mer White House strate­gist, who is a Catholic with ties to con­ser­v­a­tives in the Vat­i­can, had trav­elled to Rome in March to sup­port Salvi­ni before the Ital­ian elec­tions. Salvi­ni, the leader of the rightwing par­ty the League, gov­erns in coali­tion with the anti-estab­lish­ment Five Star Move­ment.

    On Wednes­day, Ban­non met anoth­er far-right Ital­ian leader in Venice: Gior­gia Mel­oni, the founder of the Broth­ers of Italy par­ty who is close to Salvi­ni and the for­mer prime min­is­ter Sil­vio Berlus­coni.

    ...

    ———-

    “Italy’s Mat­teo Salvi­ni joins Ban­non’s Euro­pean pop­ulist group” by Loren­zo Ton­do; The Guardian; 09/08/2018

    “Mat­teo Salvi­ni, Italy’s inte­ri­or min­is­ter and pop­ulist leader, has met Steve Ban­non and joined the anti-Euro­pean estab­lish­ment group, the Move­ment, found­ed by Don­ald Trump’s for­mer chief strate­gist.

    So it sounds like Salvi­ni was on board. It also sounds like Salvi­ni and Orban were “walk­ing down the same path” on devel­op­ing an anti-immi­grant front:

    ...
    The meet­ing in Rome on Fri­day fol­lows recent talks between Salvi­ni and the Hun­gar­i­an prime min­is­ter, Vik­tor Orbán, anoth­er leader of Euro­pean pop­ulism who shares an anti-migra­tion stance.

    After their meet­ing, on 28 August, Salvi­ni and Orbán claimed they were “walk­ing down the same path” after dis­cussing the for­ma­tion of a com­mon anti-migra­tion front to oppose the poli­cies of Macron.
    ...

    And that fact that Salvi­ni and Orban were talk­ing about a clos­er alliance last fall is worth keep­ing in mind regard­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Fidesz might even­tu­al­ly leave the EPP join Salvini’s new pan-EU far right par­lia­men­tary group of par­ties.

    So what explains Salvi­ni start­ing a far right group sep­a­rate from Ban­non’s? Well, in Decem­ber of 2018, Salvi­ni appears to have cooled some­what on Ban­non’s project, telling reporters, “He’s stim­u­lat­ing. But I believe Europe has so much diver­si­ty and orig­i­nal­i­ty that some­times the oth­er side of the Atlantic doesn’t get it.” So it appears that Salvi­ni far more inter­est­ed in lead­ing a pan-EU far right move­ment on his own rather than fol­low­ing Steve Ban­non’s lead. Or per­haps this is all the­atrics designed to put a Euro­pean stamp on Ban­non’s project. But the fol­low­ing arti­cle also notes anoth­er rev­e­la­tion that prob­a­bly explains the Salvini’s sud­den sour­ing on Ban­non: Ban­non’s whole project may vio­late EU elec­tion laws:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Italy’s Salvi­ni on Ban­non: stim­u­lat­ing, but not Euro­pean

    Decem­ber 10, 2018

    ROME (AP) — Italy’s right-wing inte­ri­or min­is­ter says for­mer Trump admin­is­tra­tion advis­er Steve Ban­non has inter­est­ing ideas but that he doesn’t under­stand Europe’s com­plex­i­ties.

    Mat­teo Salvi­ni met over the sum­mer with Ban­non, who is report­ed to be plan­ning a polit­i­cal con­sult­ing strat­e­gy to advance far-right par­ties in Europe. The Guardian news­pa­per has report­ed that the effort could be ille­gal in many EU coun­tries.

    Salvi­ni told reporters Mon­day that “the des­tiny of Europe is in the hands of Euro­peans, no one else.”

    ...

    He said of the for­mer Trump advis­er: “He’s stim­u­lat­ing. But I believe Europe has so much diver­si­ty and orig­i­nal­i­ty that some­times the oth­er side of the Atlantic doesn’t get it.”

    ———-

    “Italy’s Salvi­ni on Ban­non: stim­u­lat­ing, but not Euro­pean”; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 12/10/2018

    “He said of the for­mer Trump advis­er: “He’s stim­u­lat­ing. But I believe Europe has so much diver­si­ty and orig­i­nal­i­ty that some­times the oth­er side of the Atlantic doesn’t get it.””

    So Salivi­ni was all aboard Ban­non’s project in Sep­tem­ber but by Decem­ber he was talk­ing about how Ban­non just does­n’t “get it”. What hap­pened? Well, the fact that Ban­non’s project might break EU laws about accept­ing for­eign cam­paign help hap­pened:

    ...
    Mat­teo Salvi­ni met over the sum­mer with Ban­non, who is report­ed to be plan­ning a polit­i­cal con­sult­ing strat­e­gy to advance far-right par­ties in Europe. The Guardian news­pa­per has report­ed that the effort could be ille­gal in many EU coun­tries.
    ...

    And that seems like a very like­ly rea­son for Salvini’s deci­sion to start his own par­al­lel pan-EU far right par­lia­men­tary move­ment: Ban­non’s “Move­ment” that Salvi­ni signed on to in Sep­tem­ber like­ly breaks elec­tion laws about receiv­ing for­eign cam­paign assis­tance in most EU coun­tries. In fact, only the Nether­lands and Italy appear to have both elec­tion laws that are lax enough for Ban­non’s scheme and far right politi­cians will­ing to work with him:

    The Guardian

    Steve Ban­non’s far-right Europe oper­a­tion under­mined by elec­tion laws

    Exclu­sive: ambi­tious plan to cam­paign in EU elec­tions would fall foul of laws in nine of 13 tar­get­ed states

    Paul Lewis in Rome and Jen­nifer Rankin in Brus­sels

    Wed 21 Nov 2018 09.00 EST

    Steve Bannon’s polit­i­cal oper­a­tion to help rightwing pop­ulists tri­umph in next year’s Euro­pean par­lia­men­tary elec­tions is in dis­ar­ray after he con­ced­ed that his cam­paign efforts could be ille­gal in most of the coun­tries in which he planned to inter­vene.

    The for­mer chief strate­gist to Don­ald Trump has spent months try­ing to recruit Euro­pean par­ties to his Brus­sels-based group, the Move­ment, which he promised would oper­ate as kind of a polit­i­cal con­sul­tan­cy for like-mind­ed par­ties cam­paign­ing in the bloc-wide vote in May 2019.

    But the Guardian has estab­lished that Ban­non would be barred or pre­vent­ed from doing any mean­ing­ful work in nine of the in which he is seek­ing to cam­paign, accord­ing to nation­al elec­toral bod­ies and rel­e­vant min­istries. Con­front­ed with the find­ings, Ban­non acknowl­edged he was tak­ing legal advice on the mat­ter.

    “I’m not total­ly dis­agree­ing with you,” he told the Guardian in Paris. “I think there is more flex­i­bil­i­ty in some areas. But there’s no chance we would ever break the law.”

    Fur­ther dis­clo­sures about Bannon’s oper­a­tion to foment a Trump-style pop­ulist insur­gency in Europe are revealed in a Guardian doc­u­men­tary.

    Bannon’s inter­ven­tion in Euro­pean pol­i­tics comes amid height­ened sen­si­tiv­i­ty about for­eign involve­ment in elec­tions. Ques­tions have been mount­ing over the scale of Rus­sia’s influ­ence over the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and the UK’s ref­er­en­dum to leave the EU.

    How­ev­er, in an inter­view with the Guardian, Ban­non reject­ed the com­par­i­son between his move­ment and med­dling by for­eign states. “It’s very dif­fer­ent from Rus­sia, or Chi­nese, or oth­er peo­ple try­ing to have influ­ence, because I’m a pri­vate cit­i­zen,” he said. “I’m not asso­ci­at­ed with the White House.”

    A for­mer invest­ment banker with a report­ed net worth of about $50m (£40m), Ban­non is per­son­al­ly bankrolling his Euro­pean oper­a­tion. He has pledged to spend mil­lions of dol­lars to pro­vide nativist and ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive Euro­pean par­ties free access to spe­cialised polling data, ana­lyt­ics, social media advice and help with can­di­date selec­tion.

    But offi­cials work­ing on elec­toral law and inde­pen­dent experts in mul­ti­ple coun­tries said this kind of assis­tance would be con­sid­ered in-kind dona­tions.

    Pro­fes­sion­al ser­vices that have a mon­e­tary val­ue and are pro­vid­ed by for­eign sources are banned in France, Spain, Poland, Czech Repub­lic, Hun­gary and Fin­land. In Ger­many and Aus­tria, in-kind ser­vices must be val­ued and are includ­ed in the lim­it­ed sums par­ties may take from for­eign donors.

    In Octo­ber, Ban­non told the Guardian he had already spent $1m of his mon­ey on polling he planned to pro­vide for free to par­ties in sev­en Euro­pean coun­tries. He described it as the most sig­nif­i­cant and most expen­sive polit­i­cal polling ever under­tak­en in Europe, and said it would be used by polit­i­cal con­sul­tants with expe­ri­ence in data ana­lyt­ics to help tar­get vot­ers in the Euro­pean elec­tions.

    By the time the elec­tions con­clude in May 2019, Ban­non esti­mat­ed, the project would have spent between $5m and $15m. There are no oth­er known finan­cial back­ers to his oper­a­tion, although he has repeat­ed­ly referred to oth­er uniden­ti­fied donors who are “quite inter­est­ed in what hap­pens in Europe”. Asked recent­ly if any of his donors were Russ­ian, Ban­non replied: “This will all be Euro­peans,” he said. “And me.”

    Bannon’s project was already in tur­moil after par­ties he was court­ing in Swe­den, Den­mark, Fin­land, Aus­tria, Poland, the Czech Repub­lic and Ger­many indi­cat­ed they will not join his project. He now faces the chal­lenge of per­suad­ing prospec­tive recruits that they will not risk sanc­tions for receiv­ing help from a Brus­sels-based group bankrolled by an Amer­i­can.

    Ban­non insist­ed his oper­a­tion was not fail­ing and that he had time to recruit more par­ties. “Some peo­ple may not ever admit they’re signed up until after the Euro­pean elec­tions,” he said. “I’m doing all the polling whether there’s a coun­try offi­cial­ly in or not. I’m doing all the data ana­lyt­ics whether the coun­try is in or not.”

    The scale of legal chal­lenges fac­ing Bannon’s oper­a­tion emerged six weeks ago, when his part­ner, the Bel­gian far-right politi­cian Mis­chaël Mod­rika­men, told the Guardian his own par­ty was for­bid­den under Belgium’s elec­toral law from receiv­ing con­tri­bu­tions from the Move­ment. “It is a bit frus­trat­ing for me,” he said. “I would have loved to have a god­fa­ther … a bene­fac­tor.”

    A for­mer cor­po­rate lawyer, Mod­rika­men con­fessed he did not know what elec­toral laws per­mit­ted in Ger­many, Italy or France, say­ing he was focused on recruit­ing par­ties to their oper­a­tion. “For me right now I’m focus­ing more on get­ting the mem­bers,” he said. “I’m a bit frus­trat­ed because I have no time.”

    In the weeks since, the Guardian con­duct­ed a review of the domes­tic laws in the 13 Euro­pean Union coun­tries in which Ban­non and Mod­rika­men had sig­nalled they want­ed to oper­ate. It revealed that par­ties in France, Fin­land, Bel­gium, Spain, Hun­gary and Czech Repub­lic would risk sanc­tions for breach­es of elec­toral law if they agreed to accept the assis­tance of the for­mer Trump strate­gist.

    Par­ties in Ger­many and Aus­tria can only accept such small sums that his war chest would be use­less. Bannon’s activ­i­ties would be per­mit­ted in Den­mark and Swe­den, but the par­ties he want­ed to recruit in both Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries have declined his offers of help.

    The only EU coun­tries where Ban­non has both will­ing part­ners and suf­fi­cient­ly lax elec­toral laws to allow him to boost par­ty cam­paigns are the Nether­lands and Italy.

    Ban­non has poured most of his efforts into Italy, which elect­ed a pop­ulist coali­tion gov­ern­ment this year. His efforts to recruit the anti-estab­lish­ment Five Star Move­ment have so far been rebuffed, but he has suc­ceed­ed in enlist­ing the inte­ri­or min­is­ter, Mat­teo Salvi­ni, the leader of the far-right League, and Gior­gia Mel­oni of the small­er par­ty Broth­ers of Italy.

    How­ev­er, leg­is­la­tion being con­sid­ered by the Ital­ian par­lia­ment would pro­hib­it for­eign dona­tions to par­ties in the coun­try. Should it be passed into law as expect­ed, Bannon’s grand Euro­pean project would in effect be restrict­ed to the Nether­lands, where the anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders appears keen to coop­er­ate.

    Informed about the find­ings of the Guardian’s research, Mod­rika­men said: “There is cer­tain­ly a prob­lem, as you say, with con­tri­bu­tions in-kind.” He added there may have been “some over-enthu­si­asm” in Bannon’s pub­lic dec­la­ra­tions about turn­ing the Move­ment into a non­prof­it to help with cam­paign­ing in the Euro­pean elec­tions.

    When the find­ings were relayed to Ban­non, dur­ing a meet­ing in Paris last week, he con­ced­ed that the polling, data ana­lyt­ics, and help with social media he had promised far-right par­ties in Europe may turn out to be unlaw­ful. “We’ve got coun­sel look­ing at the same thing,” he said. “What we’re not going to do is any­thing that vio­lates elec­tions laws in those coun­tries.”

    When it was sug­gest­ed that Bannon’s Euro­pean project may be restrict­ed to pro­vid­ing cam­paign help to one Dutch MP, he replied: “It’s a start.”

    He added that if lawyers advised his oper­a­tion was “close” to vio­lat­ing laws ban­ning for­eign inter­fer­ence “then there’s no chance we’ll do it”.

    ...

    ———-

    “Steve Ban­non’s far-right Europe oper­a­tion under­mined by elec­tion laws” by Paul Lewis and Jen­nifer Rankin; The Guardian; 11/21/2018

    But the Guardian has estab­lished that Ban­non would be barred or pre­vent­ed from doing any mean­ing­ful work in nine of the in which he is seek­ing to cam­paign, accord­ing to nation­al elec­toral bod­ies and rel­e­vant min­istries. Con­front­ed with the find­ings, Ban­non acknowl­edged he was tak­ing legal advice on the mat­ter.”

    Isn’t that a legal delight: EU laws might bar Ban­non from doing any mean­ing­ful polit­i­cal work in 9 of the 13 tar­get­ed coun­tries. And that’s because this legal work is con­sid­ered an in-kind dona­tion which makes Ban­non’s work effec­tive­ly a for­eign cam­paign dona­tion:

    ...
    A for­mer invest­ment banker with a report­ed net worth of about $50m (£40m), Ban­non is per­son­al­ly bankrolling his Euro­pean oper­a­tion. He has pledged to spend mil­lions of dol­lars to pro­vide nativist and ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive Euro­pean par­ties free access to spe­cialised polling data, ana­lyt­ics, social media advice and help with can­di­date selec­tion.

    But offi­cials work­ing on elec­toral law and inde­pen­dent experts in mul­ti­ple coun­tries said this kind of assis­tance would be con­sid­ered in-kind dona­tions.

    Pro­fes­sion­al ser­vices that have a mon­e­tary val­ue and are pro­vid­ed by for­eign sources are banned in France, Spain, Poland, Czech Repub­lic, Hun­gary and Fin­land. In Ger­many and Aus­tria, in-kind ser­vices must be val­ued and are includ­ed in the lim­it­ed sums par­ties may take from for­eign donors.
    ...

    And even before these poten­tial legal issues were dis­cov­ered, Ban­non was already find­ing that a large num­ber of the par­ties he’s been recruit­ing won’t join his ‘Move­ment’. Only Italy and the Nether­lands had both lax enough laws and will­ing far right politi­cians who were will­ing to join Ban­non’s Move­ment:

    ...
    Bannon’s project was already in tur­moil after par­ties he was court­ing in Swe­den, Den­mark, Fin­land, Aus­tria, Poland, the Czech Repub­lic and Ger­many indi­cat­ed they will not join his project. He now faces the chal­lenge of per­suad­ing prospec­tive recruits that they will not risk sanc­tions for receiv­ing help from a Brus­sels-based group bankrolled by an Amer­i­can.

    ...

    The only EU coun­tries where Ban­non has both will­ing part­ners and suf­fi­cient­ly lax elec­toral laws to allow him to boost par­ty cam­paigns are the Nether­lands and Italy.

    Ban­non has poured most of his efforts into Italy, which elect­ed a pop­ulist coali­tion gov­ern­ment this year. His efforts to recruit the anti-estab­lish­ment Five Star Move­ment have so far been rebuffed, but he has suc­ceed­ed in enlist­ing the inte­ri­or min­is­ter, Mat­teo Salvi­ni, the leader of the far-right League, and Gior­gia Mel­oni of the small­er par­ty Broth­ers of Italy.

    How­ev­er, leg­is­la­tion being con­sid­ered by the Ital­ian par­lia­ment would pro­hib­it for­eign dona­tions to par­ties in the coun­try. Should it be passed into law as expect­ed, Bannon’s grand Euro­pean project would in effect be restrict­ed to the Nether­lands, where the anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders appears keen to coop­er­ate.
    ...

    So it’s look­ing like Ban­non’s Euro­pean project is run­ning into a num­ber of head­winds, the strongest being that it might be ille­gal.

    Was Salvini’s sud­den dis­tanc­ing of him­self from Ban­non in Decem­ber a response to these rev­e­la­tions that Ban­non’s pan-EU project might be lim­it­ed to Italy and the Nether­lands? That seems like a safe bet. But if so, and giv­en that Salvi­ni was pre­vi­ous­ly on board with Ban­non’s project, that also rais­es the prospect that Salvini’s new ini­tia­tive is basi­cal­ly intend­ed to be a legal replace­ment for Ban­non’s project. And that pos­si­bil­i­ty, in turn, rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not Ban­non is qui­et­ly involved in Salvini’s new effort. Or per­haps Ban­non’s mys­te­ri­ous unnamed Euro­pean part­ners are involved:

    ...
    By the time the elec­tions con­clude in May 2019, Ban­non esti­mat­ed, the project would have spent between $5m and $15m. There are no oth­er known finan­cial back­ers to his oper­a­tion, although he has repeat­ed­ly referred to oth­er uniden­ti­fied donors who are “quite inter­est­ed in what hap­pens in Europe”. Asked recent­ly if any of his donors were Russ­ian, Ban­non replied: “This will all be Euro­peans,” he said. “And me.”
    ...

    So that’s all going to be one of the more inter­est­ing things to watch as Salvini’s new far right group takes shape: will there be signs that Salvini’s group is employ­ing the kind of sophis­ti­cat­ed polling that Ban­non was pre­vi­ous­ly brag­ging about with his project? We’ll see, but it’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine that Ban­non isn’t involved in this on some lev­el.

    It’s also worth not­ing that, while Salvi­ni is like­ly posi­tion­ing his new far right group to be a king­mak­er par­ty in the EU par­lia­ment (i.e. they won’t win a major­i­ty but they win enough to become impor­tant for estab­lish­ing rul­ing coali­tions), keep in mind that Vik­tor Orban’s Fidesz par­ty might be in an espe­cial­ly pow­er­ful king­mak­er posi­tion after the upcom­ing May elec­tions. Because don’t for­get that Fidesz is going to have the option of leav­ing the rul­ing EPP and join­ing Salvini’s par­ty. And Fidesz was almost kicked out of the EPP just last month after the par­ty ran an anti-migra­tion bill­board cam­paign fea­tur­ing Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Junck­er. Junck­er is a senior mem­ber of the EPP. So the idea of Fidesz leav­ing the EPP after the elec­tions next month is far from unthink­able at this point.

    So we’ll see if Salvi­ni suc­ceeds in form­ing in pan-EU far right par­lia­men­tary group before elec­tions and what kind of clout it ends up hav­ing. But at least Steve Ban­non appears to have been tem­porar­i­ly thwart­ed so it’s not all bad news. Unless Salvini’s new group is actu­al­ly a Ban­non-backed front-group designed to get around elec­tion laws, in which case it is all bad news.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 10, 2019, 3:36 pm
  17. Here’s a trou­bling update on the increas­ing main­stream­ing of the far right in Europe: Esto­nia recent­ly had elec­tions with the ‘lib­er­al’ (cen­ter-right neolib­er­al) Reform par­ty com­ing in first place and edg­ing out the rul­ing cen­ter-left Cen­tre par­ty. But it does­n’t look like the Reform par­ty is going to be able to suc­cess­ful­ly form a major­i­ty coali­tion, giv­ing the Cen­tre par­ty an oppor­tu­ni­ty to form a major­i­ty coali­tion of its own and stay in pow­er. And that’s exact­ly what appears to be hap­pen­ing, thanks to the Cen­tre par­ty agree­ing to form a coali­tion gov­ern­ment with the right-wing Father­land par­ty and the far right EKRE par­ty. Recall how EKRE’s youth move­ment has been involved with orga­niz­ing far right torch­light march­es in Esto­ni­a’s cap­i­tal in recent years.

    Both Cen­tre and Reform pledged to not form any coali­tions with EKRE, but fol­low­ing the elec­tion results Cen­tre decid­ed to drop that pledge. EKRE’s intense anti-immi­grant mes­sage won it 19 seats out of the 101 seat par­lia­ment, a dou­bling of its sup­port from the last elec­tion due to strong sup­port in rur­al areas. So almost 20 per­cent of the Eston­ian par­lia­ment is con­trolled by this far right par­ty. Reform got 34 seats and Cen­tre 26, mak­ing EKRE the third place fin­ish­er. As part of the pro­posed coali­tion, EKRE will get to lead the min­istries of Finance, Inte­ri­or, Envi­ron­ment, Rur­al Affairs and For­eign Trade. Esto­nia would also refuse to take any refugees as part of EKRE’s demands. So we can add Esto­nia to the list of coun­tries where the far right is now offi­cial­ly shar­ing pow­er.

    First, here’s an arti­cle from a week and a half ago about the sud­den emer­gence of the pos­si­bil­i­ty a Cen­tre coali­tion with EKRE and the two week time­line for Reform to come up with its own major­i­ty coali­tion that appears to be elu­sive:

    Reuters

    Three Eston­ian par­ties, includ­ing far-right EKRE, agree on coali­tion plan

    Tar­mo Vir­ki
    April 6, 2019 / 9:46 AM

    TALLINN (Reuters) — Eston­ian Prime Min­is­ter Juri Ratas unveiled a three-way coali­tion agree­ment with the con­ser­v­a­tive Father­land par­ty and the far-right EKRE group, which could see him hold pow­er despite his Cen­tre par­ty hav­ing come sec­ond in an incon­clu­sive elec­tion.

    The three par­ties, which have a total of 56 seats in the frag­ment­ed 101-mem­ber par­lia­ment, approved the coali­tion plan on Sat­ur­day, steal­ing the momen­tum from Estonia’s largest polit­i­cal par­ty, Reform, a day after the pres­i­dent had asked its leader to form a gov­ern­ment.

    Ratas invit­ed EKRE to coali­tion talks on March 11, break­ing a promise to block the anti-immi­gra­tion par­ty from the cab­i­net.

    The 36-page coali­tion plan includes some of EKRE’s strict immi­gra­tion polices and pledges Esto­nia will not take in any refugees as part of a Euro­pean Union-wide quo­ta.

    The par­ties agreed on wider use of ref­er­en­dums, and that Esto­nia will hold a ref­er­en­dum in 2021 on whether a mar­riage should be defined in law as between a man and a woman.

    The par­ties also shared min­istries between them – with Finance, Inte­ri­or, Envi­ron­ment, Rur­al Affairs and For­eign Trade going to EKRE.

    The coali­tion pact includes a deci­sion to sell off state assets such as road main­te­nance com­pa­ny Eesti Teed, and an up to 49 per­cent stake in freight logis­tics firm Operail.

    Reform leader Kaja Kallas pulled off a sur­prise win over the cen­ter-left gov­ern­ment in a March 3 vote for par­lia­ment, but fell short of a major­i­ty.

    She has two weeks to present a plan for form­ing a cab­i­net. If she fails, Pres­i­dent Ker­sti Kalju­laid can turn to Ratas’ coali­tion.

    While she won back­ing in coali­tion talks with the Social Democ­rats, she failed to secure sup­port from Father­land or Cen­tre.

    Kallas said Reform and the Social Democ­rats, which togeth­er have 44 seats in par­lia­ment, would seek sup­port from indi­vid­ual mem­bers of the Cen­tre and the Father­land par­ties, some of whom oppose the tie up with the far right.

    ...

    EKRE, whose fierce­ly anti-immi­grant mes­sage lift­ed its sup­port dur­ing the Euro­pean migra­tion cri­sis in 2015, got 19 seats in the March 3 vote, more than dou­ble the num­ber from the pre­vi­ous elec­tion, win­ning broad sup­port in rur­al areas.

    Reform won 34 seats in the 101-seat par­lia­ment, while left-lean­ing Cen­tre got 26 seats – but one mem­ber has already left the par­ty, the con­ser­v­a­tive Father­land par­ty got 12 seats and the Social Democ­rats 10.

    ————

    “Three Eston­ian par­ties, includ­ing far-right EKRE, agree on coali­tion plan” by Tar­mo Vir­ki; Reuters; 04/06/2019

    “EKRE, whose fierce­ly anti-immi­grant mes­sage lift­ed its sup­port dur­ing the Euro­pean migra­tion cri­sis in 2015, got 19 seats in the March 3 vote, more than dou­ble the num­ber from the pre­vi­ous elec­tion, win­ning broad sup­port in rur­al areas.

    19 out of 101 seats went to the far right, a dou­bling from the last elec­tion. Those are some rather omi­nous polit­i­cal trends for Esto­nia. And if this coali­tion does hap­pen, EKRE isn’t going to end up run­ning the min­istries of Finance, Inte­ri­or, Envi­ron­ment, Rur­al Affairs and For­eign Trade. The coali­tion is also agree­ing to a vari­ety of oth­er EKRE politi­cies, like a pledge to not take any refugees an to have a 2021 ref­er­en­dum on gay mar­riage:

    ...
    The 36-page coali­tion plan includes some of EKRE’s strict immi­gra­tion polices and pledges Esto­nia will not take in any refugees as part of a Euro­pean Union-wide quo­ta.

    The par­ties agreed on wider use of ref­er­en­dums, and that Esto­nia will hold a ref­er­en­dum in 2021 on whether a mar­riage should be defined in law as between a man and a woman.

    The par­ties also shared min­istries between them – with Finance, Inte­ri­or, Envi­ron­ment, Rur­al Affairs and For­eign Trade going to EKRE.

    ...

    And Reform was left with a cou­ple weeks for find an alter­na­tive coali­tion major­i­ty. If that does­n’t hap­pen, the Centre/EKRE/Fatherland coali­tion get its chance:

    ...
    Reform leader Kaja Kallas pulled off a sur­prise win over the cen­ter-left gov­ern­ment in a March 3 vote for par­lia­ment, but fell short of a major­i­ty.

    She has two weeks to present a plan for form­ing a cab­i­net. If she fails, Pres­i­dent Ker­sti Kalju­laid can turn to Ratas’ coali­tion.
    ...

    So was Reform able to cob­ble togeth­er a major­i­ty in time? Nope:

    bne IntelliNews

    Win­ner of Eston­ian elec­tion los­es bid to form gov­ern­ment

    By bne IntelliNews
    April 15, 2019

    Estonia’s Reform par­ty, which won the elec­tion in ear­ly March, failed to secure a par­lia­men­tary major­i­ty on April 15, the vote’s result now open­ing a pos­si­bil­i­ty for the run­ner-up Cen­tre par­ty to bid for pow­er.

    Reform, led by Kaja Kallas – who would have become Estonia’s first woman prime min­is­ter if she had won the vote – received sup­port of just 45 MPs in the 101-seat Eston­ian par­lia­ment, the Riigikogu.

    Reform emerged vic­to­ri­ous in the March elec­tion, hav­ing won 34 seats in the par­lia­ment, but has strug­gled to build a coali­tion.

    Kallas only man­aged to secure sup­port of the social demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty SDE – which has 10 seats – while her bid lost steam ear­li­er this month after Cen­tre par­ty offered the far-right group EKRE par­tic­i­pa­tion in a coali­tion with con­ser­v­a­tive par­ty Father­land.

    Eston­ian Pres­i­dent Ker­sti Kalju­laid now needs to nom­i­nate a new PM can­di­date in sev­en days. The obvi­ous pick will be Centre’s leader and still incum­bent PM Juri Ratas.

    “Con­sid­er for a moment whether you came here for this — whether this is what will make Esto­nia bet­ter,” Kallas told MPs in a speech fol­low­ing the rejec­tion of her bid for PM, ERR report­ed.

    Ratas’ par­ty looks cer­tain to secure a major­i­ty in the Riigikogu, hav­ing already agreed coali­tion terms with EKRE and Father­land. The coali­tion would have 56 seats.

    Dur­ing the cam­paign before the March elec­tion, both Reform and Cen­tre par­ties pledged no coop­er­a­tion with EKRE.

    But the prospect – how­ev­er fee­ble – of Reform strik­ing a coali­tion deal with SDE and Father­land, who are Centre’s part­ners in the out­go­ing gov­ern­ment, pushed Ratas to con­sid­er ignor­ing the polit­i­cal con­sen­sus to remain in pow­er.

    Until now, the wide con­sen­sus in Eston­ian pol­i­tics has been one of unwa­ver­ing sup­port for the EU and coop­er­a­tion with­in the bloc.

    Sim­i­lar­ly to oth­er right-wing pop­ulists that have gained in pop­u­lar­i­ty in the Euro­pean Union recent­ly, EKRE is a Euroscep­tic par­ty fierce­ly opposed to immi­gra­tion.

    ...

    ———-

    “Win­ner of Eston­ian elec­tion los­es bid to form gov­ern­ment” By bne IntelliNews; bne IntelliNews; 04/15/2019

    “Eston­ian Pres­i­dent Ker­sti Kalju­laid now needs to nom­i­nate a new PM can­di­date in sev­en days. The obvi­ous pick will be Centre’s leader and still incum­bent PM Juri Ratas.”

    In sev­en days, Esto­ni­a’s pres­i­dent has to nom­i­nate a new Prime Min­is­ter can­di­date as a result of Refor­m’s leader being unable to form a coali­tion and the only con­ceiv­able new can­di­date is the incum­bent PM Juri Ratas whose Cen­tre par­ty already agreed to coali­tion terms with EKRE and Father­land. A coali­tion that was formed despite pledges dur­ing the elec­tion not to coop­er­ate with EKRE:

    ...
    Ratas’ par­ty looks cer­tain to secure a major­i­ty in the Riigikogu, hav­ing already agreed coali­tion terms with EKRE and Father­land. The coali­tion would have 56 seats.

    Dur­ing the cam­paign before the March elec­tion, both Reform and Cen­tre par­ties pledged no coop­er­a­tion with EKRE.

    But the prospect – how­ev­er fee­ble – of Reform strik­ing a coali­tion deal with SDE and Father­land, who are Centre’s part­ners in the out­go­ing gov­ern­ment, pushed Ratas to con­sid­er ignor­ing the polit­i­cal con­sen­sus to remain in pow­er.

    Until now, the wide con­sen­sus in Eston­ian pol­i­tics has been one of unwa­ver­ing sup­port for the EU and coop­er­a­tion with­in the bloc.

    Sim­i­lar­ly to oth­er right-wing pop­ulists that have gained in pop­u­lar­i­ty in the Euro­pean Union recent­ly, EKRE is a Euroscep­tic par­ty fierce­ly opposed to immi­gra­tion.
    ...

    So what are the con­se­quences going to be a a surg­ing Eston­ian far right enter­ing gov­ern­ment? We’ll see, but as the fol­low­ing Jacobin arti­cle points out, it’s hard to avoid the enor­mous pol­i­cy par­al­lels between EKRE and Hun­gary’s Fidesz par­ty and the fact that EKRE has trans­lat­ed the overt anti-immi­grant big­otries into polit­i­cal suc­cess sug­gests Esto­nia could look a lot more Hun­gar­i­an going for­ward:

    Jacobin

    E‑Votes for the Far Right

    The far-right EKRE par­ty tripled its vote in this month’s Eston­ian elec­tions. It could soon be in coali­tion gov­ern­ment — and Esto­nia might start look­ing like Vik­tor Orbán’s Hun­gary.

    By Piret Kar­ro
    03.24.2019

    If any­thing about Esto­nia is known inter­na­tion­al­ly, it is prob­a­bly the country’s e‑voting sys­tem, which allows cit­i­zens to par­tic­i­pate in elec­tions online using a smart card read­er. It is also known for estab­lish­ing the sys­tem of e‑residency, which pro­vides for­eign entre­pre­neurs with a dig­i­tal iden­ti­ty to reg­is­ter an EU-based com­pa­ny.

    With such tech­ni­cal inno­va­tions, this land of 1.3 mil­lion peo­ple has por­trayed itself as the most pro­gres­sive and lib­er­al among the post-Sovi­et coun­tries. But at this month’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, a sig­nif­i­cant share of Estonia’s cit­i­zens logged on to vote for the most chau­vin­ist par­ty run­ning — the Con­ser­v­a­tive People’s Par­ty of Esto­nia (Eesti Kon­ser­vati­ivne Rah­vaer­akond, EKRE).

    Indeed, when the results came in on March 3, EKRE was the sym­bol­ic “win­ner,” secur­ing a rise unpar­al­leled in scale any­where in Europe. Near­ly tripling its rep­re­sen­ta­tion, the far-right par­ty received 18 per­cent of the vote. Its advance con­trast­ed with the flatlin­ing scores for the oth­er par­ties eli­gi­ble for the new par­lia­ment — The Reform Par­ty, The Cen­ter Par­ty, and Pro Patria — all of whose results remained with­in 2 per­cent of their scores in the 2015 con­test.

    This con­trast­ed with the set­back for the cen­ter-left: the Social Democ­rats’ sup­port dropped by a third and it became the small­est force in par­lia­ment, with 10 of 101 seats. Eco­nom­i­cal­ly or social­ly right-wing par­ties (the vic­to­ri­ous right-wing lib­er­al Reform; the mod­er­ate con­ser­v­a­tive Pro Patria; and the rad­i­cal con­ser­v­a­tive EKRE) togeth­er fill two-thirds of the par­lia­men­tary bench­es. In the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment, Prime Min­is­ter Jüri Ratas’s Cen­ter Par­ty had relied on a coali­tion with the small­er Social Democ­rats and Pro Patria.

    In his vic­to­ry speech, EKRE’s leader, Mart Helme, cel­e­brat­ed his suc­cess “doing a Trump” in Esto­nia. Yet the ques­tion is whether the far right’s tri­umph is also a step towards mak­ing the Baltic coun­try the next Hun­gary or Poland — not just express­ing auto­crat­ic impuls­es but begin­ning to dis­man­tle the insti­tu­tion­al and civ­il-soci­ety bar­ri­ers to them.

    EKRE: “For Esto­nia!”

    EKRE’s nation­al­ist dis­course is built on rad­i­cal anti-immi­gra­tion rhetoric. Helme made clear that his desire to com­pare him­self to Trump espe­cial­ly cen­ters on the idea of inde­pen­dent bor­der con­trols. His par­ty, like nation­al­ist forces on the rise around Europe (and beyond), bases itself on both oppo­si­tion to inter­na­tion­al immi­gra­tion and fram­ing migra­tion as a secu­ri­ty threat. EKRE mem­bers’ com­ments are often col­ored by explic­it racism. One mem­ber of par­lia­ment, Mar­tin Helme (who is also the son of the party’s leader), summed up this atti­tude as, “If you’re black, go back.”

    EKRE was estab­lished in its cur­rent form in 2012, pledg­ing loy­al­ty to the Eston­ian nation and its tra­di­tions and val­ues, as against the exist­ing “ultra-lib­er­al” par­ties. It has hijacked a num­ber of Eston­ian nation­al sym­bols, includ­ing the corn­flower, as the party’s logo and the blue-black-white trio of the nation­al flag as its iden­ti­fy­ing col­ors.

    In its core state­ments for the elec­tions, the par­ty empha­sized “tra­di­tion­al fam­i­ly val­ues” by promis­ing to estab­lish a con­sti­tu­tion­al def­i­n­i­tion of mar­riage as a union between a man and a woman and to with­draw the gen­der-neu­tral Civ­il Part­ner­ship Act. This lat­ter — cur­rent­ly the only legal means for same-sex cou­ples to doc­u­ment their part­ner­ship — took effect in 2016. As for immi­gra­tion, the par­ty pro­pos­es to deport res­i­dents who have been grant­ed asy­lum or pro­tec­tion by the state (even though at the end of 2017, this num­ber stood at just 445).

    Some of the points in EKRE’s pro­gram bear a strik­ing resem­blance to those recent­ly imple­ment­ed in Hun­gary under the far-right Fidesz gov­ern­ment. While EKRE has not pub­licly admit­ted imi­tat­ing Hungary’s poli­cies, it has sent a let­ter in sup­port of Vik­tor Orbán’s gov­ern­ment, and received a thank-you note in return, signed by Hungary’s for­eign min­is­ter. For exam­ple, the sup­port to young fam­i­lies invoked in EKRE’s pro­gram would be real­ized by reduc­ing par­ents’ income tax by one-quar­ter per child, leav­ing the par­ents of four or more chil­dren with no oblig­a­tion to pay this tax at all.

    An iden­ti­cal pol­i­cy was recent­ly intro­duced by Orbán to sup­port Hun­gar­i­an fam­i­lies hav­ing more chil­dren, which was framed as a “rem­e­dy against immi­gra­tion.” Hun­gary has also estab­lished a new sys­tem of admin­is­tra­tive courts, which con­tra­dicts the prin­ci­ple of the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers, e.g. allow­ing the min­is­ter of jus­tice to have direct con­trol over the appoint­ment of judges. EKRE would like to fol­low suit: it has pro­posed cre­at­ing fur­ther state con­trol over the judi­cial sys­tem, allow­ing par­lia­ment to exer­cise pow­er over courts and the pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor.

    In addi­tion to these evi­dent com­par­isons with the Fidesz regime in Hun­gary, EKRE’s pro­gram has clear far-right traits: migrants and nat­u­ral­ized cit­i­zens will be deport­ed, abor­tions will be exclud­ed from pub­lic health care ser­vices, and infor­ma­tion chan­nels that pub­lish or broad­cast “anti-Eston­ian pro­pa­gan­da” will be closed down. In the local media, par­ty mem­bers have made explic­it their dis­con­tent with left­ist cul­tur­al pub­li­ca­tions, insist­ing that state fund­ing should be cut from sev­er­al cul­tur­al month­lies and a the­ater, which it deems non-com­pli­ant with con­ser­v­a­tive nation­al­ist val­ues.

    More­over, the party’s youth group leader is known to have pub­licly praised Hitler. This has brought him a ban from local bars, but not from the Eston­ian Par­lia­ment.

    Nation­al­ist Tri­umph

    The rise of EKRE marks a set­back for the more estab­lished nation­al-con­ser­v­a­tive par­ty in par­lia­ment, Pro Patria. Unlike EKRE, which tends to oppose EU poli­cies in their rhetoric, the some­what more lib­er­al Pro Patria’s 2019 pro­gram por­trayed Esto­nia as part of a wider “West­ern cul­ture.” Nev­er­the­less, this par­ty also stands for “fam­i­ly val­ues,” for edu­ca­tion only in Eston­ian (rather than includ­ing the choice of the minor­i­ty Russ­ian lan­guage), and greater invest­ment in the mil­i­tary. In this year’s elec­tions, its sup­port fell by 2.3 per­cent, most like­ly due to the strong cam­paign­ing by EKRE.

    Com­bined with EKRE’s MPs, nation­al-con­ser­v­a­tives hold one-third of all seats. How­ev­er, EKRE’s rise also marks a rad­i­cal­iza­tion. As author and pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al Rein Raud put it: “The his­tor­i­cal mis­sion of Pro Patria through­out the time of inde­pen­dence [since 1991] was to keep the real Nazis in the clos­et. They have failed.”

    EKRE’s cam­paign struck a chord for vot­ers lean­ing towards the con­ser­v­a­tive right, gain­ing votes from Pro Patria, but also all of the par­ties except, per­haps, the Social Democ­rats (a force allied to the UK Labour Par­ty in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment). EKRE vot­ers are notably young (the most pop­u­lar among eigh­teen to twen­ty-four-year-olds), male, eth­nic Eston­ian (as opposed to res­i­dents of Russ­ian descent), with sec­ondary edu­ca­tion, and most­ly from rur­al areas in South and West Esto­nia.

    Its pro­pa­gan­da emo­tion­al­ly invoked the “nation­al awak­en­ing” of the era of inde­pen­dence at the turn of the 1990s. For exam­ple, on Inde­pen­dence Day on Feb­ru­ary 24, EKRE marched through Tallinn Old Town with thou­sands of sup­port­ers, car­ry­ing torch­es and singing nation­al songs. Its appeal to young male vot­ers draws on its per­for­ma­tive machis­mo — includ­ing on social media, where mem­bers of the EKRE youth group Blue Awak­en­ing have con­fessed to trolling pro­gres­sive groups under false iden­ti­ties.

    At the same time, it seems to have grown from a feel­ing of aban­don­ment among cit­i­zens, par­tic­u­lar­ly in rur­al areas, who have seen the state pros­per­ing while they have remained in rel­a­tive stag­na­tion. EKRE pro­vides these lat­ter a nar­ra­tive of empow­er­ment based on nation­al­i­ty.

    A nar­ra­tive of vic­tim­iza­tion is wide­spread in the state­ments of EKRE lead­ers, for whom “the Eston­ian nation” is a homoge­nous group that has been sup­pressed by over­ly pro-Euro­pean politi­cians. EKRE pos­es itself as the defend­er of the will of “the major­i­ty of the peo­ple.” In fact, in Estonia’s 2003 ref­er­en­dum on Euro­pean Union mem­ber­ship, near­ly two-thirds of the pop­u­la­tion backed join­ing, and recent­ly this lev­el of sup­port has ranged even high­er. The vote took place twelve years after inde­pen­dence from the Sovi­et Union, but in the “No” cam­paign anti-EU argu­ments over­lapped with anti­com­mu­nist talk­ing points regard­ing left­ist redis­tri­b­u­tion poli­cies, paci­fism, cos­mopoli­tanism, and mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.

    EKRE’s counter-argu­ment to evi­dence of pop­u­lar pro-Euro­peanism is that this Euro­pean Union is not the one the peo­ple vot­ed for join­ing six­teen years ago, now that it is sup­pos­ed­ly forc­ing its over­ly lib­er­al immi­gra­tion poli­cies and LGBT rights on Esto­nia. EKRE regards the Euro­pean Union as one of the ene­mies of the autonomous nation state that it is fight­ing for. It is no exag­ger­a­tion to speak of “ene­mies” and “fight­ing”: the par­ty mem­bers’ state­ments give an impres­sion that an exter­nal force is imme­di­ate­ly threat­en­ing not only cit­i­zens’ safe­ty, but the nation’s very exis­tence.

    This sort of para­noia is not new to Eston­ian soci­ety. A cer­tain fear of war has endured ever since the dec­la­ra­tion of inde­pen­dence from the col­laps­ing Sovi­et Union in 1991. Bor­der­ing with Rus­sia, the state can per­haps nev­er real­ly shake off the lin­ger­ing feel­ing of “some­thing might hap­pen.” This fear is appar­ent in EKRE’s pro­gram, which demands a bil­lion dol­lars in US invest­ment to sup­port the devel­op­ment of the Eston­ian mil­i­tary.

    Impli­ca­tions of the Sovi­et Past

    The lin­ger­ing fear has tak­en a clear­ly anti­com­mu­nist form. This is not sur­pris­ing for a small coun­try that has gone through the trau­ma of sev­er­al inva­sions and five decades of Sovi­et occu­pa­tion. While the expe­ri­ence of liv­ing in the Sovi­et Union was com­pli­cat­ed and con­tro­ver­sial, there is today a grow­ing trend to exploit the mem­o­ry of Sovi­et occu­pa­tion to nation­al­ist ends. EKRE, but also some local con­ser­v­a­tive jour­nal­ists, have com­pared the migra­tion poli­cies com­ing from Brus­sels to the unchal­lenge­able decrees that used to come from Moscow.

    This anti­com­mu­nism plays into the hands of both the nation­al­ists and the neolib­er­als. In Esto­nia, and in the Cen­tral-East­ern Euro­pean region gen­er­al­ly, the terms kom­mu­nist and neo­mark­sist are often used to attack those artic­u­lat­ing crit­i­cism of cap­i­tal­ism and eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty. Those in favor of the cur­rent pro­gres­sive income tax have been com­pared with those who once seized the kulaks’ prop­er­ty and live­stock in Stal­in-era Sovi­et Union. This helps gal­va­nize the base of free-mar­ket cen­ter-right forces like the Reform Par­ty, as do mea­sures tak­en by such par­ties that aid the upper mid­dle class.

    It is dif­fi­cult to pro­mote left­ist pol­i­tics in a soci­ety that has become dis­il­lu­sioned with the idea of social­ism. Yet on the oth­er side of the polit­i­cal divide, the ghost of com­mu­nism is often res­ur­rect­ed as a means of advanc­ing the free mar­ket.

    One recent exam­ple of how inter­na­tion­al migra­tion poli­cies have been crit­i­cized through the lens of “total­i­tar­i­an­ism” was the pub­lic debate around the Mar­rakech migra­tion pact nego­ti­at­ed at the Unit­ed Nations. The pact intends to ensure mem­ber states’ col­lab­o­ra­tion in ensur­ing safe legal migra­tion — i.e. not regard­ing asy­lum seek­ers or war migrants — and is not legal­ly bind­ing. In late 2018, EKRE col­lect­ed ten thou­sand sig­na­tures for a peti­tion against Esto­nia join­ing the pact, and orga­nized a protest in front of the Eston­ian Par­lia­ment as nego­ti­a­tions went on inside the build­ing. In its inter­pre­ta­tion, the “glob­al­ist” agree­ment would be fatal to Eston­ian sov­er­eign­ty.

    Sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments were voiced by politi­cians of oth­er par­ties fur­ther to the right, who claimed that the spir­it of such a pact tal­lies with “the every­day prac­tices of total­i­tar­i­an regimes.” How­ev­er, the agree­ment was accept­ed by the out­go­ing par­lia­ment in late 2018.

    ...

    Coali­tion Talks

    A gov­ern­ment is expect­ed to be formed by the end of March. The cen­ter-right Reform Par­ty has ruled out EKRE as a coali­tion part­ner, and the Cen­ter Par­ty has declined any pact giv­en Reform’s plan to bring back the flat-tax sys­tem.

    The coali­tion talks were at first dis­cussed between Reform, the Social Democ­rats, and Pro Patria, but were quick­ly over­run by the Cen­ter Par­ty invit­ing EKRE and Pro Patria to nego­ti­a­tions, cre­at­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a far-right ele­ment in the gov­ern­ment. This has cre­at­ed a back­lash and raised ques­tions about the trust­wor­thi­ness of Jüri Ratas, who a few months ear­li­er had insist­ed that he would not col­lab­o­rate with the racist EKRE, whose ani­mos­i­ty also tar­gets local Rus­sians. Ratas has been crit­i­cized for seek­ing to remain the prime min­is­ter by any means nec­es­sary, and for betray­ing the Russ­ian elec­torate, which makes up around 70 per­cent of the Cen­ter Party’s vot­ers. How­ev­er, this could also divide the Cen­ter Par­ty, with the Russ­ian MPs boy­cotting EKRE’s reforms.

    Despite the cur­rent far-right scare, there are some con­straints on Esto­nia becom­ing anoth­er Hun­gary or Poland. The elec­toral sys­tem allows for a par­lia­ment with five or six par­ties, and the fact that two par­ties with the high­est results rep­re­sent no more than two-thirds of seats rules out the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a sin­gle par­ty dom­i­nat­ing the gov­ern­ment. Sec­ond­ly, Eston­ian politi­cians can only go so far with their crit­i­cism of the EU or rhetoric about leav­ing, giv­en the ever-present fear of — and pos­si­ble threat com­ing from — Rus­sia. Third­ly, there is still a high lev­el of media free­dom, and though the right-pop­ulist par­ties do have their pro­pa­gan­da chan­nels, they do not own any of the main broad­cast­ing chan­nels yet. Final­ly, one can hope that the local non-Eston­ian minor­i­ty, rep­re­sent­ing near­ly 30 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, will nev­er vote for a par­ty with an exclu­sivist def­i­n­i­tion of the Eston­ian nation.

    What is more like­ly, and hard­er to detect, is a sur­rep­ti­tious change with­in the wider polit­i­cal dis­course. EKRE has tak­en the lib­er­ty of using foul rhetoric, mak­ing explic­it­ly racist claims, and attack­ing the sys­tems that have main­tained the country’s sta­bil­i­ty since inde­pen­dence. With the party’s suc­cess, this lan­guage could grad­u­al­ly become nor­mal­ized, espe­cial­ly if the eco­nom­ic hard­ship of left-behind Esto­ni­ans allows them to be seduced by rad­i­cal nation­al­ism.

    ———-

    “E‑Votes for the Far Right” by Piret Kar­ro; Jacobin; 03/24/2019

    “In his vic­to­ry speech, EKRE’s leader, Mart Helme, cel­e­brat­ed his suc­cess “doing a Trump” in Esto­nia. Yet the ques­tion is whether the far right’s tri­umph is also a step towards mak­ing the Baltic coun­try the next Hun­gary or Poland — not just express­ing auto­crat­ic impuls­es but begin­ning to dis­man­tle the insti­tu­tion­al and civ­il-soci­ety bar­ri­ers to them.

    That’s the big ques­tion for Esto­nia going for­ward: will the fas­cist rhetoric of EKRE remain large­ly lim­it­ed to rhetoric now that it’s enter­ing gov­ern­ment or will we see the dis­man­tling of the insti­tu­tion­al and civ­il-soci­ety bar­ri­ers that nor­mal­ly comes with the far right tak­ing pow­er? The answer pre­sum­ably depends on whether or not EKRE’s appeal con­tin­ues to grow. But there’s no avoid­ing the fact that EKRE’s agen­da looks A LOT like the Orban agen­da in Hun­gary and that’s an agen­da that’s proven to be both polit­i­cal­ly pop­u­lar and high­ly destruc­tive to Hun­gary’s civ­il insti­tu­tions. So it does­n’t bode well for Esto­nia:

    ...
    EKRE: “For Esto­nia!”

    EKRE’s nation­al­ist dis­course is built on rad­i­cal anti-immi­gra­tion rhetoric. Helme made clear that his desire to com­pare him­self to Trump espe­cial­ly cen­ters on the idea of inde­pen­dent bor­der con­trols. His par­ty, like nation­al­ist forces on the rise around Europe (and beyond), bases itself on both oppo­si­tion to inter­na­tion­al immi­gra­tion and fram­ing migra­tion as a secu­ri­ty threat. EKRE mem­bers’ com­ments are often col­ored by explic­it racism. One mem­ber of par­lia­ment, Mar­tin Helme (who is also the son of the party’s leader), summed up this atti­tude as, “If you’re black, go back.”

    ...

    Some of the points in EKRE’s pro­gram bear a strik­ing resem­blance to those recent­ly imple­ment­ed in Hun­gary under the far-right Fidesz gov­ern­ment. While EKRE has not pub­licly admit­ted imi­tat­ing Hungary’s poli­cies, it has sent a let­ter in sup­port of Vik­tor Orbán’s gov­ern­ment, and received a thank-you note in return, signed by Hungary’s for­eign min­is­ter. For exam­ple, the sup­port to young fam­i­lies invoked in EKRE’s pro­gram would be real­ized by reduc­ing par­ents’ income tax by one-quar­ter per child, leav­ing the par­ents of four or more chil­dren with no oblig­a­tion to pay this tax at all.

    An iden­ti­cal pol­i­cy was recent­ly intro­duced by Orbán to sup­port Hun­gar­i­an fam­i­lies hav­ing more chil­dren, which was framed as a “rem­e­dy against immi­gra­tion.” Hun­gary has also estab­lished a new sys­tem of admin­is­tra­tive courts, which con­tra­dicts the prin­ci­ple of the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers, e.g. allow­ing the min­is­ter of jus­tice to have direct con­trol over the appoint­ment of judges. EKRE would like to fol­low suit: it has pro­posed cre­at­ing fur­ther state con­trol over the judi­cial sys­tem, allow­ing par­lia­ment to exer­cise pow­er over courts and the pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor.

    In addi­tion to these evi­dent com­par­isons with the Fidesz regime in Hun­gary, EKRE’s pro­gram has clear far-right traits: migrants and nat­u­ral­ized cit­i­zens will be deport­ed, abor­tions will be exclud­ed from pub­lic health care ser­vices, and infor­ma­tion chan­nels that pub­lish or broad­cast “anti-Eston­ian pro­pa­gan­da” will be closed down. In the local media, par­ty mem­bers have made explic­it their dis­con­tent with left­ist cul­tur­al pub­li­ca­tions, insist­ing that state fund­ing should be cut from sev­er­al cul­tur­al month­lies and a the­ater, which it deems non-com­pli­ant with con­ser­v­a­tive nation­al­ist val­ues.

    More­over, the party’s youth group leader is known to have pub­licly praised Hitler. This has brought him a ban from local bars, but not from the Eston­ian Par­lia­ment.
    ...

    And note how EKRE is the most pop­u­lar par­ty for the 18–24 year old vot­ers and appears to be exploit­ing an urban-vs-rur­al social divide that’s fueled by a sense of griev­ances in the areas out­side of the big cities about being eco­nom­i­cal­ly left behind that pre­dictably encour­ages nativist sen­ti­ments and a sense that the EU is oppress­ing them. Giv­en the gen­er­al fail­ure with­in the EU to address these kind of griev­ances it’s hard to imag­ine this urban-vs-rur­al divide is going to go away any time soon:

    ...
    EKRE’s cam­paign struck a chord for vot­ers lean­ing towards the con­ser­v­a­tive right, gain­ing votes from Pro Patria, but also all of the par­ties except, per­haps, the Social Democ­rats (a force allied to the UK Labour Par­ty in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment). EKRE vot­ers are notably young (the most pop­u­lar among eigh­teen to twen­ty-four-year-olds), male, eth­nic Eston­ian (as opposed to res­i­dents of Russ­ian descent), with sec­ondary edu­ca­tion, and most­ly from rur­al areas in South and West Esto­nia.

    Its pro­pa­gan­da emo­tion­al­ly invoked the “nation­al awak­en­ing” of the era of inde­pen­dence at the turn of the 1990s. For exam­ple, on Inde­pen­dence Day on Feb­ru­ary 24, EKRE marched through Tallinn Old Town with thou­sands of sup­port­ers, car­ry­ing torch­es and singing nation­al songs. Its appeal to young male vot­ers draws on its per­for­ma­tive machis­mo — includ­ing on social media, where mem­bers of the EKRE youth group Blue Awak­en­ing have con­fessed to trolling pro­gres­sive groups under false iden­ti­ties.

    At the same time, it seems to have grown from a feel­ing of aban­don­ment among cit­i­zens, par­tic­u­lar­ly in rur­al areas, who have seen the state pros­per­ing while they have remained in rel­a­tive stag­na­tion. EKRE pro­vides these lat­ter a nar­ra­tive of empow­er­ment based on nation­al­i­ty.

    A nar­ra­tive of vic­tim­iza­tion is wide­spread in the state­ments of EKRE lead­ers, for whom “the Eston­ian nation” is a homoge­nous group that has been sup­pressed by over­ly pro-Euro­pean politi­cians. EKRE pos­es itself as the defend­er of the will of “the major­i­ty of the peo­ple.” In fact, in Estonia’s 2003 ref­er­en­dum on Euro­pean Union mem­ber­ship, near­ly two-thirds of the pop­u­la­tion backed join­ing, and recent­ly this lev­el of sup­port has ranged even high­er. The vote took place twelve years after inde­pen­dence from the Sovi­et Union, but in the “No” cam­paign anti-EU argu­ments over­lapped with anti­com­mu­nist talk­ing points regard­ing left­ist redis­tri­b­u­tion poli­cies, paci­fism, cos­mopoli­tanism, and mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.
    ...

    So that’s the direc­tion polit­i­cal trends are head­ing in Esto­nia: towards Hun­gary. Yikes.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 16, 2019, 3:38 pm
  18. Here’s an update on the var­i­ous efforts to reor­ga­nize the EU far right par­ties under new umbrel­la orga­ni­za­tions. First, recall how Steve Ban­non has been work­ing on uni­fy­ing Europe’s far right, and claimed to have wealth Euro­pean bene­fac­tors back­ing his efforts. Ban­non also appeared to already have the back­ing Italy’s Mat­teo Salvi­ni. But then Ban­non his a snag: his plan for cre­at­ing a cen­tral orga­ni­za­tion that far right par­ties can to turn for assis­tance with the polling and mes­sag­ing might run break EU law regard for­eign cam­paign dona­tions. So then we learn that Salvi­ni wants to cre­ate a new far right umbrel­la par­ty for the EU par­lia­ment appar­ent­ly with­out Ban­non’s help. Also recall how Vik­tor Orban’s Fidesz Par­ty was recent­ly dis­ci­plined by the cen­ter-right EPP that cur­rent­ly con­trols the EU par­lia­ment, and how the future of Fidesz as an EPP mem­ber is some­what in doubt which iron­i­cal­ly puts Fidesz in a king-mak­er posi­tion because Fidesz can threat­en to leave for Salvini’s new par­ty ad EPP does­n’t have a major­i­ty on its own and needs the sup­port of Fidesz.

    So the ques­tion of what role Steve Ban­non might be play­ing in the for­ma­tion of a pen-EU far right move­ment remains an open ques­tion, along with the ques­tion of whether of how Orban will use the threat of leav­ing the EPP to join with Salvini’s new alliance to gen­er­al­ly pro­mote the far right. Now we’re learn­ing that Steve Ban­non was just invit­ed by Ger­many’s the AfD to attend a May 11 event enti­tled “1. Con­fer­ence of the Free Media.” Ban­non is going to talk about how to bet­ter and more effi­cient­ly shape infor­ma­tion in future. Keep in mind that improv­ing the use of infor­ma­tion is basi­cal­ly what Ban­non’s goals were for his project where he pledges to pro­vide far right par­ties free access to spe­cial­ized polling data, ana­lyt­ics, social media advice and help with can­di­date selec­tion, so it would appear that Ban­non and the EU far right are con­tin­u­ing with that joint effort in some form:

    Reuters

    Ger­many’s AfD invites ex-Trump aide Ban­non to media con­fer­ence

    April 23, 2019 / 9:50 AM

    BERLIN (Reuters) — Germany’s far-right Alter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) has invit­ed U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­mer strate­gist Steve Ban­non to a media con­fer­ence in Berlin for right-wing jour­nal­ists and blog­gers just two weeks before Euro­pean elec­tions.

    The office of AfD law­mak­er Petr Bystron con­firmed a report in Der Spiegel mag­a­zine that the invi­ta­tion to the May 11 event enti­tled “1. Con­fer­ence of the Free Media” would dis­cuss how to bet­ter and more effi­cient­ly shape infor­ma­tion in future.

    “We are now dis­cussing the details,” Bystron was quot­ed by Spiegel as say­ing and the mag­a­zine said Ban­non had been invit­ed to the Bun­destag low­er house of par­lia­ment.

    Ban­non, a for­mer chair­man of the right-wing Breitbart.com web­site, has met sev­er­al of Europe’s pop­ulist groups with the aim of advis­ing them before May’s Euro­pean elec­tions but his efforts to act as a pow­er bro­ker have so far fall­en flat.

    Last year, he met France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen and he has said he plans to work with right-wing Hun­gar­i­an Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban.

    Euroscep­tic, nation­al­ist par­ties, includ­ing the AfD, are expect­ed to make big gains in the elec­tions to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment on May 26.

    One poll last month pub­lished in Ger­man dai­ly Bild said far-right par­ties could dou­ble the num­ber of their seats.

    ...

    It was the third biggest par­ty in Germany’s 2017 fed­er­al elec­tion and is the offi­cial oppo­si­tion, cur­rent­ly polling at around 13 per­cent in opin­ion polls.

    ———-

    “Ger­many’s AfD invites ex-Trump aide Ban­non to media con­fer­ence”; Reuters; 04/23/2019

    “The office of AfD law­mak­er Petr Bystron con­firmed a report in Der Spiegel mag­a­zine that the invi­ta­tion to the May 11 event enti­tled “1. Con­fer­ence of the Free Media” would dis­cuss how to bet­ter and more effi­cient­ly shape infor­ma­tion in future.

    Will Ban­non help the AfD and the rest of the EU far right effec­tive­ly hone their mes­sages for the final round of cam­paign­ing before the May 26 EU par­lia­ment elec­tions? It’s a dis­turb­ing pos­si­bil­i­ty.

    And if there are big gains for the far right as expect­ed, don’t for­get that Vik­tor Orban will be left in an even more pow­er­ful king-mak­er posi­tion giv­en his threat of pulling Fidesz out of the EPP. And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle makes clear, Orban rec­og­nizes the kind of pow­er he has right now. Because while he is main­tain­ing that he would like to see Fidesz stay in the EPP, Orban is now demand­ing that the EPP had bet­ter drop its aver­sion to the far right. He’s also demand­ing that the EPP drop its will­ing­ness to form coali­tions with the cen­ter-left Social­ists. This is a key demand for Orban because if the upcom­ing vote goes as expect­ed, the EPP will have the most mem­bers in par­lia­ment but not a major­i­ty and so will be forced into a coali­tion. Will it be a coali­tion with the Social­ists, as exists today? Or will it be an EPP coali­tion with the far right, as Orban is now demand­ing?

    Reuters

    EU con­ser­v­a­tives must work with pop­ulists, shun left, Orban says

    May 1, 2019 / 7:46 AM / Updat­ed

    ROME (Reuters) — The Euro­pean Parliament’s main cen­ter-right group must forge an alliance with pop­ulist, nation­al­ist groups after the forth­com­ing Euro­pean Union elec­tions and shun the left, Hun­gar­i­an Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban said.

    Orban’s rul­ing Fidesz Par­ty was sus­pend­ed from the main­stream Euro­pean People’s Par­ty (EPP) in March over its record on rule of law, free­dom of the press and minori­ties rights.

    Orban has denied vio­lat­ing any EU prin­ci­ples and has said he wants to remain part of the EPP. But in an inter­view with La Stam­pa news­pa­per pub­lished on Wednes­day, he said the group had to drop its aver­sion to the far right.

    “The EPP is prepar­ing to com­mit sui­cide and wants to tie itself to the left,” Orban said.

    “We need to find anoth­er path via co-oper­a­tion with Europe’s right wing,” he added, refer­ring to a Europe-wide alliance of nation­al­ist, anti-immi­gra­tion par­ties that Mat­teo Salvi­ni, head of Italy’s far-right League, is try­ing to put togeth­er.

    Vot­ers in the 28-nation EU vote lat­er this month to elect a new Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. The EPP is expect­ed to win the biggest share of seats but fall short of a major­i­ty, mean­ing it will need to form part­ner­ships with oth­er groups to con­trol the cham­ber and shape the EU for years to come.

    EPP leader Man­fred Weber has made clear he prefers hook­ing up with pro-Euro­pean Social­ists and Lib­er­als rather than the euroscep­tic, sov­er­eignist forces drawn to Salvini’s flag.

    “The nation­al­ists will be our ene­mies,” Weber said last month, launch­ing his EU elec­tion cam­paign.

    ...

    Orban has shown no sign of want­i­ng to leave the EPP, which gives him main­stream respectabil­i­ty and influ­ence that oth­er Euro­pean pop­ulists lack.

    But he heaped praise on Salvi­ni and applaud­ed him for hav­ing dras­ti­cal­ly reduced the flow of migrants look­ing to leave Libya and reach Europe over the past year.

    “For this, I think Salvi­ni is the most impor­tant per­son in Europe today,” he said.

    ———-

    “EU con­ser­v­a­tives must work with pop­ulists, shun left, Orban says”; Reuters; 05/01/2019

    “Orban has denied vio­lat­ing any EU prin­ci­ples and has said he wants to remain part of the EPP. But in an inter­view with La Stam­pa news­pa­per pub­lished on Wednes­day, he said the group had to drop its aver­sion to the far right.”

    Orban would like to remain part of the EPP, but only if the EPP drops its aver­sion to the far right, refer­ring to Salvini’s new EU-wide alliance of far right par­ties. Orban also demands that the EPP refuse to work with the left. Which, in the con­text of the upcom­ing elec­tions, is a demand that the EPP form a new gov­ern­ing coali­tion with the far right after the elec­tions assum­ing the EPP gets the most seats but not a major­i­ty:

    ...
    “The EPP is prepar­ing to com­mit sui­cide and wants to tie itself to the left,” Orban said.

    “We need to find anoth­er path via co-oper­a­tion with Europe’s right wing,” he added, refer­ring to a Europe-wide alliance of nation­al­ist, anti-immi­gra­tion par­ties that Mat­teo Salvi­ni, head of Italy’s far-right League, is try­ing to put togeth­er.

    Vot­ers in the 28-nation EU vote lat­er this month to elect a new Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. The EPP is expect­ed to win the biggest share of seats but fall short of a major­i­ty, mean­ing it will need to form part­ner­ships with oth­er groups to con­trol the cham­ber and shape the EU for years to come.
    ...

    Then Orban goes on to call Salvi­ni “the most impor­tant per­son in Europe today” for Salvini’s anti-refugee efforts:

    ...
    Orban has shown no sign of want­i­ng to leave the EPP, which gives him main­stream respectabil­i­ty and influ­ence that oth­er Euro­pean pop­ulists lack.

    But he heaped praise on Salvi­ni and applaud­ed him for hav­ing dras­ti­cal­ly reduced the flow of migrants look­ing to leave Libya and reach Europe over the past year.

    “For this, I think Salvi­ni is the most impor­tant per­son in Europe today,” he said. ...

    So it would appear that Orban has already decid­ed how he’s going to use his king-mak­er sta­tus: by annoint­ing Mat­teo Salvi­ni the most impor­tant per­son in Europe. Of course, for Orban to real­ly be a king-mak­er we’re going to have to see a sit­u­a­tion where the EPP needs the votes from Fidesz to main­tain pow­er. While it’s unclear what the odds are of that hap­pen­ing, the fact that EPP recent­ly sus­pend­ed, but did­n’t kick out, Fidesz under­scores a sense with­in the EPP that the par­ty can’t afford to lose Fidesz’s sup­port. And that’s all part of why the most impor­tant per­son in Europe prob­a­bly isn’t Mat­teo Salvi­ni but instead Vik­tor Orban.

    Of course, with the head of the EPP, Man­fred Weber, declar­ing that the far right par­ties will be seen as the EPP’s ene­mies and will nev­er be con­sid­ered for a coali­tion, it’s pos­si­ble Orban real­ly does­n’t have very much bar­gain­ing pow­er:

    ...
    EPP leader Man­fred Weber has made clear he prefers hook­ing up with pro-Euro­pean Social­ists and Lib­er­als rather than the euroscep­tic, sov­er­eignist forces drawn to Salvini’s flag.

    “The nation­al­ists will be our ene­mies,” Weber said last month, launch­ing his EU elec­tion cam­paign.
    ...

    But elec­tions have a fun­ny way of get­ting politi­cians to change their minds. For exam­ple, if the far right surges in the upcom­ing elec­tion and the cen­ter-left Social­ists dis­ap­point, will Weber still con­sid­er Salvini’s new far right alliance the EPP’s ene­mies? Well, while Weber may have seemed like he was defin­i­tive­ly rul­ing out any pos­si­ble coali­tion with the far right when he launch his cam­paign last month, back in Sep­tem­ber when Weber put him­self for­wards as the next Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent he struck a dif­fer­ent tone: “Euro­pean con­ser­v­a­tives can’t shut out Orbán, Salvi­ni”:

    Politico.eu

    Man­fred Weber: Euro­pean con­ser­v­a­tives can’t shut out Orbán, Salvi­ni

    EPP leader describes him­self as a ‘bridge builder’ and calls on con­ser­v­a­tives to ‘lis­ten’ to pop­ulist lead­ers.

    By Esther King

    9/7/18, 12:35 PM CET

    Updat­ed 4/19/19, 1:40 AM CET

    Man­fred Weber, the leader of Europe’s largest group in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, will reach out to Vik­tor Orbán and Mat­teo Salvi­ni ahead of next year’s Euro­pean elec­tion in a bid to “lis­ten to each oth­er” and “find com­pro­mis­es.”

    “If I look at the polit­i­cal panora­ma today, I see Salvi­ni in Italy, [Jaroslaw] Kaczyn­s­ki in Poland, the Roman­ian Social­ists, Orbán,” the Ger­man con­ser­v­a­tive politi­cian said in an inter­view with Euro­pean news­pa­pers, includ­ing La Stam­pa and Süd­deutsche Zeitung. “We might desire some­thing else, sure. But this is the real­i­ty.”

    Weber on Wednes­day threw his hat into the ring to be Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent after next year’s Euro­pean elec­tion. If he secures the nom­i­na­tion at a par­ty con­gress in Novem­ber, the 46-year-old Bavar­i­an will offi­cial­ly be the Euro­pean People’s Par­ty can­di­date for the top Com­mis­sion job under the so-called Spitzenkan­di­dat, or “lead can­di­date,” sys­tem.

    “I believe it’s nec­es­sary to sit at a table and lis­ten to each oth­er, and then find com­pro­mis­es,” Weber said, describ­ing him­self as a “bridge-builder.”

    “Let’s not for­get some­thing: The point of depar­ture for Brex­it was the deci­sion by [David] Cameron to leave the EPP. I don’t want that to hap­pen in oth­er coun­tries,” he added. “I want to keep Europe unit­ed.”

    Asked whether he would accept sup­port from Italy’s far-right League, which is head­ed by Salvi­ni, Weber said he would not com­ment on indi­vid­ual par­ties, adding that the Euro­pean cen­ter is a place for “politi­cians that have a pro-EU ori­en­ta­tion” and that “these par­ties are the base for the future.”

    “But we need to remem­ber that the pro-EU coali­tion that elect­ed [cur­rent Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude] Junck­er four years ago — social­ist, con­ser­v­a­tive and lib­er­al — only had 45 more votes than were nec­es­sary. And this year the pop­ulist wave will be even stronger.”

    Weber pre­dict­ed “the iden­ti­ty ques­tion” would dom­i­nate the elec­toral cam­paign, say­ing: “There is a Euro­pean way of life, a Euro­pean iden­ti­ty” that includes sec­u­lar val­ues, democ­ra­cy, the rule of law and press free­dom.

    ...

    ———

    “Man­fred Weber: Euro­pean con­ser­v­a­tives can’t shut out Orbán, Salvi­ni” by Esther King; Politico.eu; 09/07/2018

    “But we need to remem­ber that the pro-EU coali­tion that elect­ed [cur­rent Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude] Junck­er four years ago — social­ist, con­ser­v­a­tive and lib­er­al — only had 45 more votes than were nec­es­sary. And this year the pop­ulist wave will be even stronger.”

    Those were Weber’s words of cau­tion back in Sep­tem­ber. Words that cau­tioned against not reach­ing out and work­ing with the far right because the sim­ple polit­i­cal cal­cu­lus was that the exist­ing coali­tion was achieved with a slim mar­gin and that slim mar­gin is only going to get slim­mer if there’s a far right ‘pop­ulist’ wave as expect­ed.

    And that’s all why we can’t dis­miss Orban’s demands as pure blus­ter. The EPP just might need Fidesz’s votes. Espe­cial­ly if, as the fol­low­ing arti­cle describes, the cen­ter-left and cen­ter-right par­ties end up with less than 50 per­cent of the vote for the first time ever:

    The Globe Post

    Euro­pean People’s Par­ty and Fidesz: Which Way for Europe’s Cen­ter Right?

    by Natal­ie Mast
    April 6, 2019

    The Euro­pean People’s Par­ty (EPP), a cen­ter-right par­ty alliance tra­di­tion­al­ly dom­i­nat­ed by Chris­t­ian Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ties, finds itself at a cross­roads. As the bound­aries of the Euro­pean Union have expand­ed east­ward and tra­di­tion­al cen­ter-right par­ties like Italy’s Chris­t­ian Democ­rats have lost influ­ence, the EPP now includes mem­bers who are fur­ther to the right of the polit­i­cal spec­trum.

    Just how far to the right the EPP itself is will­ing to move is now in ques­tion. A recent sus­pen­sion might give some insight. On March 20, the alliance vot­ed by a mar­gin of 190 to 3 to sus­pend the mem­ber­ship of Hungary’s rul­ing pop­ulist, right-wing par­ty led by Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban.

    ...

    The sus­pen­sion will stay in place until a three-mem­ber eval­u­a­tion com­mit­tee deter­mines if Fidesz con­forms to EPP val­ues and meets stip­u­la­tions set forth by the EPP, includ­ing end­ing per­ceived anti-Brus­sels cam­paigns in Hun­gary. The report isn’t expect­ed until after the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions in late May.

    The sus­pen­sion was a com­pro­mise after 13 Euro­pean mem­ber par­ties wrote to EPP Pres­i­dent Joseph Daul in late Feb­ru­ary, request­ing Fidesz be expelled. The trig­ger for the call was a poster cam­paign in Hun­gary sug­gest­ing that E.U. Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Junck­er, him­self a mem­ber of the EPP, is sup­port­ing dan­ger­ous lev­els of migra­tion and is a pup­pet of investor and phil­an­thropist George Soros, who is vil­i­fied by Orban.

    Orban’s nation­al­ist, anti-immi­gra­tion, and seem­ing­ly Euroscep­tic com­ments have been a cause of dis­com­fort for his EPP brethren and with­in the E.U. more wide­ly. The increas­ing­ly pop­ulist poli­cies of Fidesz in Hun­gary have led to claims of a weak­en­ing of the checks and bal­ances required in a healthy democ­ra­cy.

    In Sep­tem­ber 2018, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, includ­ing mem­bers of the EPP Group, called upon the Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union to deter­mine whether Hun­gary should be sanc­tioned for con­tra­ven­ing of Arti­cle 2 of the Treaty of the Euro­pean Union, which states that the E.U. is found­ed on val­ues such as democ­ra­cy, equal­i­ty, and the rule of law. The Coun­cil is yet to respond.

    Orban claims that the Fidesz sus­pen­sion was a joint deci­sion and while the eval­u­a­tion com­mit­tee inves­ti­gates, the focus is now on work­ing with the EPP in the forth­com­ing Euro­pean Par­lia­ment (EP) elec­tions.

    Euro­pean Par­lia­ment

    With­in the EP, there are cur­rent­ly eight par­ty groups rough­ly orga­nized with­in the cham­ber accord­ing to their posi­tion on the polit­i­cal spec­trum. A group must con­sist of at least 25 MEPs from a quar­ter of the mem­ber states. The more MEPs with­in a group, the larg­er its influ­ence with­in the EP.

    Some par­ty groups exist only with­in the EP, but oth­ers belong to an over­ar­ch­ing polit­i­cal par­ty, such as the Pro­gres­sive Alliance of Social­ists and Democ­rats Group (S&D Group), which is affil­i­at­ed with the Par­ty of Euro­pean Social­ists (PES), and the Euro­pean People’s Par­ty Group (EPP Group) which is linked to the EPP.

    While a gov­ern­ment is not formed in the EP, there are incen­tives to belong­ing to a par­ty group, such as access to key posi­tions in the EP, the groups them­selves, and with­in the EP’s com­mit­tees, where the bulk of the Parliament’s work takes place.

    Euro­pean People’s Par­ty and Fidesz

    While Fidesz has been sus­pend­ed from the EPP, the sus­pen­sion has not extend­ed to the EPP Group, which includes 11 Mem­bers of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment (MEPs) from Fidesz. Not sus­pend­ing Fidesz from the EPP Group allows the Group to main­tain all of its posi­tions with­in the EP. Giv­en the impend­ing elec­tion and the lack of cer­tain­ty as to the future of the EPP’s ongo­ing rela­tion­ship with Fidesz, this deci­sion is prag­ma­tism at its finest.

    In a lengthy inter­view fol­low­ing the announce­ment of the sus­pen­sion, Orban stressed Fidesz’s uni­ty with the EPP:

    “… hav­ing the entire spec­trum of the EPP is impor­tant. So, the more Lib­er­al North­ern mem­bers have their place, and the more con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian mem­ber par­ties have their place as well. I think this is a good bal­ance when it comes to the elec­tions. I think after the elec­tions… we will have to see how we are going to posi­tion our­selves.”

    It is that posi­tion­ing which will cause the most con­cern for the EPP. Orban acknowl­edged that the big ques­tion here is: what kind of coali­tion will the EPP pro­pose after the elec­tions? Will the alliance move to the left, and col­lab­o­rate with lib­er­als and greens, or try and find part­ners on the right? If the EPP wants to keep uni­ty dur­ing the cam­paign, this ques­tion should not be raised, Orban claimed. Unsaid was that if Fidesz was not hap­py it could leave the EPP Group and either join one of the two right-wing par­ty groups oper­at­ing in the EP or form a new par­ty group, there­by decreas­ing the pow­er of the cen­ter-right.

    While Orban claims he wants to stay in the EPP and the EPP Group, it has been report­ed that his par­ty has been in talks Europe of Nations and Free­dom Group, a far-right group includ­ing mem­bers from Italy’s Lega Nord (North­ern League), France’s Rassem­ble­ment Nation­al (for­mer­ly Nation­al Front), and the Aus­tri­an Frei­heitliche Partei (Free­dom Par­ty). Fidesz also seems to be close to Poland’s Law and Jus­tice Par­ty, which cur­rent­ly sits in the Euro­pean Con­ser­v­a­tives and Reformists Group.

    ...

    2019 EP Elec­tions: Size Mat­ters

    An aggre­gate of polls shows that despite a swing against it, the EPP Group will remain the largest fol­low­ing the Euro­pean elec­tions in May, with a pro­ject­ed 179 (out of 751) seats. Fidesz is on track to win 13 seats, rep­re­sent­ing 7 per­cent of the antic­i­pat­ed EPP Group seats.

    It is assumed that for the first time, the cen­ter-left S&D Group and the EPP Group will account for less than 50 per­cent of the cham­ber, and thus any grand coali­tion required for key leg­is­la­tion will need to involve addi­tion­al par­ty groups. There is a siz­able bloc of MEPs to the right of the EPP Group and the loss of Fidesz MEPs to the right would be a sig­nif­i­cant blow to the Group. A relat­ed con­cern is that with­out Fidesz, the appoint­ment of the EPP’s can­di­date for the pres­i­den­cy of the E.U. Com­mis­sion, Man­fred Weber, could face dif­fi­cul­ties.

    ...

    Almost two months out from the EP elec­tions and it seems like­ly that the far-right and cen­ter (Lib­er­al Democ­rats) groups will expe­ri­ence the most sig­nif­i­cant gains, pro­vid­ing the EPP Group with a real choice of mov­ing towards the cen­ter or the right when seek­ing to pass key leg­is­la­tion.

    At that point, we will see how much the EPP and the EPP Group are pre­pared to sac­ri­fice to keep Fidesz in the alliance and main­tain the increas­ing­ly frag­ile accord between the cen­ter-right and right-wing par­ties oper­at­ing with­in.
    ———-

    “Euro­pean People’s Par­ty and Fidesz: Which Way for Europe’s Cen­ter Right?” by Natal­ie Mast; The Globe Post; 04/06/2019

    It is assumed that for the first time, the cen­ter-left S&D Group and the EPP Group will account for less than 50 per­cent of the cham­ber, and thus any grand coali­tion required for key leg­is­la­tion will need to involve addi­tion­al par­ty groups. There is a siz­able bloc of MEPs to the right of the EPP Group and the loss of Fidesz MEPs to the right would be a sig­nif­i­cant blow to the Group. A relat­ed con­cern is that with­out Fidesz, the appoint­ment of the EPP’s can­di­date for the pres­i­den­cy of the E.U. Com­mis­sion, Man­fred Weber, could face dif­fi­cul­ties.

    Yep, not only are the two main cen­ter-left and cen­ter-right par­ties expect­ed to get less than 50 per­cent of the EU par­lia­ment for the first time ever, but there are con­cerns that Man­fred Weber’s quest to become EU Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent could face dif­fi­cul­ties with­out Fidesz’s sup­port. And that’s all why a bet­ter choice for the most impor­tant man in Europe today may have been Vik­tor Orban him­self.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 1, 2019, 3:28 pm
  19. Oh look at that, two of the new mem­bers of the Eston­ian coali­tion gov­ern­ment who hap­pen to hail from the far right Con­ser­v­a­tive Peo­ple’s Par­ty (EKRE) decid­ed to flash “OK” signs with their hands dur­ing their swear­ing in cer­e­mo­ny. The “OK” sign also just hap­pens to have been co-opt­ed by white suprema­cists in recent years as a sym­bol of the let­ters “W” and “P” (for “white pow­er”). Sur­prise!

    So was this just an inno­cent “OK” sign that these two new far right min­is­ters, Mar­tin and Mart Helme (father and son), just coin­ci­den­tal­ly made dur­ing the swear­ing in cer­e­mo­ny with­out real­iz­ing that it’s become a white suprema­cist sym­bol? Well, con­sid­er the fact that Mar­tin Helm told Politi­co before this swear­ing in cer­e­mo­ny that “No one will tell us what words we can say or what signs we can make.” And that makes the con­text pret­ty clear, espe­cial­ly giv­en that Mar­tin Helme has a his­to­ry of say­ing things like “If you’re black, go back.” The guy does­n’t hide his racism. So when that guy tells reporters that he won’t be told what signs he an make and then pro­ceeds to flash a sign that might be inter­pret­ed as a white pow­er sign, the intent becomes unam­bigu­ous­ly clear: the “OK” was clear­ly intend­ed to be a defi­ant mid­dle-fin­ger to any­one who does­n’t sup­port EKRE’s open white suprema­cy. And that’s the mes­sage the EKRE decid­ed to send dur­ing their swear­ing in cer­e­mo­ny:

    The New York Times

    Esto­nia Min­is­ters’ Ges­ture Rais­es Fears of Sup­port for White Suprema­cy

    By Palko Karasz
    May 1, 2019

    When Mar­tin and Mart Helme were sworn in as law­mak­ers in the Eston­ian Par­lia­ment this week, they accom­pa­nied their broad grins with a ges­ture — mak­ing a cir­cle with the thumb and index fin­ger and hold­ing the oth­er three fin­gers out­stretched.

    To some, that would reg­is­ter as the fair­ly ano­dyne, uni­ver­sal sig­nal for “O.K.” — under­stand­able, giv­en the cel­e­bra­to­ry mood.

    But to oth­ers, the signs rep­re­sent­ed some­thing much more sin­is­ter.

    The Helmes — Mart is Martin’s father — are lead­ing fig­ures in the far-right Con­ser­v­a­tive People’s Par­ty, or EKRE, which mined anti-immi­grant feel­ing dur­ing elec­tions in March to win 19 seats in Par­lia­ment, more than dou­bling its rep­re­sen­ta­tion and earn­ing it a place in Estonia’s coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

    Giv­en that con­text, the ges­ture was inter­pret­ed as show­ing alle­giance to the doc­trine of white pow­er, and it shocked many com­men­ta­tors.

    Toomas Hen­drik Ilves, the country’s for­mer pres­i­dent, post­ed pho­tographs on Twit­ter of the min­is­ters giv­ing the hand sig­nals. “Eston­ian min­is­ters of Finance and Inter­nal Affairs, giv­ing the white pow­er sign at their swear­ing-in cer­e­mo­ny before Par­lia­ment today,” he wrote.

    Carl Bildt, a Swedish for­mer for­eign min­is­ter, also expressed con­cern on Twit­ter, writ­ing, “I get gen­uine­ly wor­ried when I see this behav­ior by two mem­bers of the new gov­ern­ment in Esto­nia.”

    The appro­pri­a­tion of the “O.K.” ges­ture by white suprema­cists seems to have start­ed in the Unit­ed States. Orga­ni­za­tions such as the Anti-Defama­tion League have linked it to a cam­paign by mem­bers of the anony­mous online mes­sage board 4chan. In 2017, 4chan users were encour­aged to post online claim­ing that the ges­ture rep­re­sent­ed the let­ters “W.P.” for “white pow­er,” accord­ing to the league. The ges­ture has also been used by oth­er nation­al­ist, far-right and anti-immi­grant activists, accord­ing to KnowYourMeme, a data­base of online trends.

    In this inter­net age of viral memes and hid­den sig­nal, the gesture’s res­o­nance does not seem to have been lost in Esto­nia.

    “No one will tell us what words we can say or what signs we can make,” Mar­tin Helme told Politi­co before the swear­ing-in cer­e­mo­ny on Mon­day. (Footage of the cer­e­mo­ny was avail­able on the the Eston­ian Parliament’s YouTube chan­nel.)

    Esto­nia is the north­ern­most of the three Baltic nations in north­east­ern Europe, all of which are mem­bers of the Euro­pean Union. The suc­cess of the Con­ser­v­a­tive People’s Par­ty in elec­tions in March echoed a series of recent vic­to­ries for anti-immi­gra­tion par­ties else­where on the Con­ti­nent.

    Prime Min­is­ter Juri Ratas of the Eston­ian Cen­ter Par­ty secured his sec­ond term after form­ing a coali­tion includ­ing the Con­ser­v­a­tive People’s Par­ty, which is the sec­ond-largest group in the new gov­ern­ing alliance. The cen­ter-right Eston­ian Reform Par­ty won most seats in the elec­tion but fell short of a major­i­ty and was unable to form a gov­ern­ment.

    The Con­ser­v­a­tive People’s Par­ty were giv­en five min­is­ters in the new cab­i­net, includ­ing those for the inte­ri­or, which went to Mart Helme, the party’s chair­man; and for finance, which went to Mar­tin Helme. The coali­tion agree­ment con­tained a pledge not to refuse manda­to­ry quo­tas for the set­tle­ment of migrants in the Euro­pean Union, which went against a pledge by the right­ist par­ty dur­ing the cam­paign.

    ...

    A spokes­woman for the Eston­ian gov­ern­ment said the issue was a mat­ter for the par­ty in ques­tion to com­ment on. The Con­ser­v­a­tive People’s Par­ty did not imme­di­ate­ly respond to a request for com­ment on Wednes­day.

    His­tor­i­cal­ly, Esto­ni­ans have usu­al­ly been more exer­cised by sus­pi­cion of the country’s neigh­bor Rus­sia, but the Euro­pean migrant cri­sis gave nation­al­ists a dif­fer­ent fear to appeal to.

    In 2013, Mar­tin Helme said a large influx of migrants would lead to the “pil­lag­ing and rap­ing” of Eston­ian towns, in remarks cit­ed by ERR, Estonia’s pub­lic broad­cast­er. “And then we are told what racists we are and why we don’t get along with them,” he added.

    It has been a rocky start to gov­ern­ment for the Con­ser­v­a­tive People’s Par­ty. As well as the ges­tures by the Helmes, anoth­er min­is­ter from the par­ty, Mar­ti Kuusik, was relieved of his duties on Tues­day after the police began an inves­ti­ga­tion into news reports link­ing him to domes­tic vio­lence, Reuters report­ed.

    Mr. Kuusik, who was the min­is­ter for for­eign trade, has denied the accu­sa­tions, call­ing them “slan­der,” ERR report­ed. “I am giv­ing up the office of min­is­ter, not because the accu­sa­tions against me are true, but, on the con­trary, in order to focus on defend­ing myself in the crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings and restor­ing my good name,” he said.

    ———–

    “Esto­nia Min­is­ters’ Ges­ture Rais­es Fears of Sup­port for White Suprema­cy” by Palko Karasz; The New York Times; 05/01/2019

    “No one will tell us what words we can say or what signs we can make,” Mar­tin Helme told Politi­co before the swear­ing-in cer­e­mo­ny on Mon­day. (Footage of the cer­e­mo­ny was avail­able on the the Eston­ian Parliament’s YouTube chan­nel.)”

    Telling a reporter “No one will tell us what words we can say or what signs we can make,” and then flash­ing a hand sign co-opt­ed by white suprema­cists does­n’t exact­ly leave a lot of mys­tery. The only mys­tery is why they did­n’t just give Sieg Heil for the cam­eras.

    And regard­ing Mar­ti Kuusik, the oth­er EKRE min­is­ter who was relieved of his duties after the police start­ed an inves­ti­ga­tion into news reports link­ing him to domes­tic vio­lence, when Kuusik was being sworn in the pres­i­dent of Esto­nia, Ker­sti Kalju­laid, walked out dur­ing his swear­ing in cer­e­mo­ny and returned when he was done. Mart Helme respond­ed to this by declar­ing that Kalju­laid is an “emo­tion­al­ly heat­ed woman.” So in addi­tion to flash­ing a white pow­er sign, Helme man­aged to fit in some sex­ism too:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Esto­nia min­is­ter calls pres­i­dent ‘emo­tion­al­ly heat­ed woman’

    By JARI TANNER
    05/02/2019

    HELSINKI (AP) — The new inte­ri­or min­is­ter of Esto­nia on Thurs­day called the country’s first female pres­i­dent an “emo­tion­al­ly heat­ed woman” for walk­ing out dur­ing the swear­ing-in of a Cab­i­net min­is­ter accused of domes­tic vio­lence.

    Mart Helme made the sex­ist remark at a news con­fer­ence where he also accused Eston­ian news out­lets of apply­ing a dou­ble stan­dard in cov­er­ing abuse alle­ga­tions against the now-for­mer min­is­ter from his far-right par­ty.

    Pres­i­dent Ker­sti Kalju­laid, the first woman to serve as the Baltic country’s head of state, left a Mon­day swear­ing-in cer­e­mo­ny for a new three-par­ty gov­ern­ment when it was time for the appointee at issue to take the oath of office.

    Mar­ti Kuusik was sworn in as tech­nol­o­gy and for­eign trade min­is­ter along with the rest of Prime Min­is­ter Juri Ratas’ Cab­i­net after news reports fea­tured the domes­tic vio­lence alle­ga­tions.

    Police opened an inves­ti­ga­tion to review the alle­ga­tions hours lat­er. Kuusik, a mem­ber of Helme’s Eston­ian Con­ser­v­a­tive People’s Par­ty, resigned the next day, say­ing the probe was based on “slan­der” and “a ter­ri­fy­ing media attack” against him.

    Helme called the report­ing “an uncon­sti­tu­tion­al witch hunt.” He also made clear his dim view of the president’s deci­sion to walk out dur­ing the cer­e­mo­ny and return to her seat when it was the next minister’s turn.

    “An emo­tion­al­ly heat­ed woman can afford to do that,” Helme told reporters. “But Ker­sti Kalju­laid is not sim­ply a woman, but the pres­i­dent of the repub­lic.”

    “She reads one arti­cle, becomes so emo­tion­al­ly upset as a woman that she makes a deci­sion right away,” he added.

    Kalju­laid, who has been pres­i­dent since Octo­ber 2016, did not respond Thurs­day to Helme’s com­ments.

    She attend­ed the Cab­i­net cer­e­mo­ny wear­ing a sweater print­ed with “Sona on vaba,” which is Eston­ian for “Speech is free.”

    Helme and his son, new­ly appoint­ed Finance Min­is­ter Mar­tin Helme, have accused the news media before of dis­play­ing a neg­a­tive bias toward the Eston­ian Con­ser­v­a­tive People’s Par­ty, or ERKE.

    The par­ty has advo­cat­ed abol­ish­ing legal recog­ni­tion for same-sex civ­il unions, demand­ed changes to the abor­tion law and fierce­ly opposed Euro­pean Union quo­tas for tak­ing in asy­lum-seek­ers.

    Pho­tographs of the two flash­ing the OK hand sign at Monday’s swear­ing-in cer­e­mo­ny have received atten­tion from oth­er politi­cians. The use of the famil­iar ges­ture by some extreme-right activists and white suprema­cists has giv­en it an alter­na­tive mean­ing.

    Mart Helme hasn’t respond­ed to ques­tions about his and his son’s hand motions.

    ...

    ———–

    “Esto­nia min­is­ter calls pres­i­dent ‘emo­tion­al­ly heat­ed woman’” by JARI TANNER; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 05/02/2019

    “Pres­i­dent Ker­sti Kalju­laid, the first woman to serve as the Baltic country’s head of state, left a Mon­day swear­ing-in cer­e­mo­ny for a new three-par­ty gov­ern­ment when it was time for the appointee at issue to take the oath of office.”

    So Mar­ti Kuusik is get­ting sworn in, pres­i­dent Kalju­laid walks in out protest, and Mart Helme com­plains that this was because she was “so emo­tion­al­ly upset as a woman that she makes a deci­sion right away”:

    ...
    Helme called the report­ing “an uncon­sti­tu­tion­al witch hunt.” He also made clear his dim view of the president’s deci­sion to walk out dur­ing the cer­e­mo­ny and return to her seat when it was the next minister’s turn.

    “An emo­tion­al­ly heat­ed woman can afford to do that,” Helme told reporters. “But Ker­sti Kalju­laid is not sim­ply a woman, but the pres­i­dent of the repub­lic.”

    “She reads one arti­cle, becomes so emo­tion­al­ly upset as a woman that she makes a deci­sion right away,” he added.
    ...

    So in the con­text of his com­plaints about dou­ble stan­dards, Helme lev­els one of the all time clas­sic dou­ble stan­dards used against women every­where.

    It’s even more iron­ic when you con­sid­er how get­ting high­ly emo­tion­al­ly the­atrics, griev­ance pol­i­tics, pro­jec­tions of machis­mo and strength, and and mytholo­gies designed to short­cut ratio­nal thought are fun­da­men­tal to the pop­u­lar appeal of the far right. Includ­ing acts like com­plain­ing about peo­ple telling you what kinds of signs you can use and then pro­ceed­ing to flash white pow­er signs dur­ing your swear­ing in cer­e­mo­ny like a mis­chie­vous tod­dlers. And that’s the kind of troll­ish and high­ly emo­tion­al lead­er­ship that’s appar­ent­ly becom­ing increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar in Esto­nia with the rise of EKRE.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 2, 2019, 2:34 pm
  20. This next arti­cle from the 04/19/2019 Guardian is about how the Ger­man Far-Right Par­ty (Code word for Nazi), Alter­na­tive for Deutsch­land (AfD), is attack­ing cli­mate change sci­ence. Is there more to this strat­e­gy than just attack­ing main­stream media and dis­cred­it­ing sci­ence. In the Book Mar­tin Bor­mann, Nazi in Exile, by Paul Man­ning, he said that the Bor­mann orga­ni­za­tion (the Under­ground Reich or Nazi Par­ty) owned more stock in Exxon than the Rock­e­feller fam­i­ly. Exxon merged with Mobile who had pre­vi­ous­ly merged with Amo­co. This is the largest oil com­pa­ny in the US. Exxon is lead­ing the fight against cli­mate change sci­ence in the courts. It is not clear that there is any con­nec­tion with Exxon and AfD’s attack against cli­mate change sci­ence but they are clear­ly on the same side with this issue. Here is the arti­cle:

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/14/germanys-afd-attacks-greta-thunberg-as-it-embraces-climate-denial?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

    Germany’s AfD turns on Gre­ta Thun­berg as it embraces cli­mate denial

    Rightwing pop­ulists to launch attack on cli­mate sci­ence in vote dri­ve before EU elec­tions

    Kate Con­nol­ly in Berlin
    Tue 14 May 2019 09.16 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Wed 15 May 2019 05.52 EDT

    Germany’s rightwing pop­ulists are embrac­ing cli­mate change denial as the lat­est top­ic with which to boost their elec­toral sup­port, team­ing up with sci­en­tists who claim hys­te­ria is dri­ving the glob­al warm­ing debate and ridi­cul­ing the Swedish cli­mate activist Gre­ta Thun­berg as “men­tal­ly chal­lenged” and a fraud.

    The Alter­na­tive für Deutsch­land par­ty (AfD) is expect­ed to launch its biggest attack yet on main­stream cli­mate sci­ence at a sym­po­sium in par­lia­ment on Tues­day sup­port­ed by a promi­nent cli­mate change denial body linked by researchers to promi­nent con­ser­v­a­tive groups in the US.

    The AfD’s focus on cli­mate change has increased since it entered the Bun­destag in autumn 2017. It has added a scep­ti­cal voice to the ris­ing num­ber of par­lia­men­tary debates on the top­ic and con­cen­trat­ed its oppo­si­tion specif­i­cal­ly on the scan­dal over diesel car emis­sions and plans to phase out brown coal.

    But the atten­tion the par­ty paid to the top­ic has been notice­ably ramped up since the emer­gence last August of Gre­ta, the teenage cli­mate activist who has appeared at cli­mate ral­lies across Europe, includ­ing in Ger­many.

    A joint inves­ti­ga­tion by Green­peace Unearthed and the counter-extrem­ism organ­i­sa­tion the Insti­tute for Strate­gic Dia­logue (ISD) has shown a surge in AfD dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion on cli­mate issues. While cli­mate change bare­ly got a men­tion on its social media chan­nels when the AfD was first found­ed in 2013, it men­tioned the top­ic on its chan­nels about 300 times in 2017–18, and that has tripled over the past year to more than 900, with its main focus on Gre­ta.

    The par­ty, whose mem­bers have been seen hand­ing out cli­mate change denial leaflets at school cli­mate strikes, has ratch­eted up its anti-Thun­berg rhetoric ahead of the EU par­lia­men­tary elec­tions this month. Its can­di­dates have made com­par­isons between the Swedish teenag­er and a mem­ber of a Nazi youth organ­i­sa­tion and called for her to seek treat­ment for what Max­i­m­il­ian Krah, an AfD can­di­date for the EU elec­tions, called her “psy­chosis”.

    It has also been repeat­ed­ly claimed on AfD’s Face­book page that she is the leader of a cli­mate move­ment cult. Posts on the page make repeat­ed use of terms such as “CO2Kult” (CO2 cult), “Kli­mawan­del­panik” (cli­mate change pan­ic) and “Klim­age­hirn­wäsche” (cli­mate brain wash­ing).

    Jakob Guhl, an ISD researcher, said cli­mate change denial had become key to the party’s polit­i­cal plat­form. “The AfD has been deny­ing human-made cli­mate change on its social media pages since 2016, and while it has not shift­ed its posi­tion it is clear that the par­ty decid­ed to com­mu­ni­cate it more fre­quent­ly.

    “The fact that many main­stream politi­cians from across the polit­i­cal divide in Ger­many sup­port­ed a 16-year-old female activist who was vir­tu­al­ly unknown until a few months ago, allowed the par­ty to present belief in cli­mate change as irra­tional, hys­te­ria, pan­ic, cult-like or even as a replace­ment reli­gion. Attack­ing Gre­ta, at times in fair­ly vicious ways, includ­ing mock­ing her for her autism, became a way to por­tray the AfD’s polit­i­cal oppo­nents as irra­tional.”

    The party’s sym­po­sium at the Bun­destag is backed by the Euro­pean Insti­tute of Cli­mate and Ener­gy (EIKE), a group that rejects main­stream sci­en­tif­ic con­sen­sus that cli­mate change is man-made and has links to promi­nent con­ser­v­a­tive groups in the US.

    EIKE’s annu­al cli­mate con­fer­ence is co-spon­sored by the Heart­land Insti­tute, a fos­sil fuel indus­try-fund­ed US think­tank that has a his­to­ry of fund­ing projects aimed at weak­en­ing pub­lic con­fi­dence in cli­mate sci­ence, the inves­ti­ga­tion found. EIKE’s pres­i­dent, Hol­ger Thuss, co-found­ed the Euro­pean branch of anoth­er US cli­mate change denial pres­sure group, Com­mit­tee for a Con­struc­tive Tomor­row (CFACT).

    Who is Gre­ta Thun­berg?
    ‘Nev­er too small to make a dif­fer­ence’
    Thun­berg (16) began a solo cli­mate protest by strik­ing from school in Swe­den in August 2018. She has since been joined by tens of thou­sands of school and uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents in Aus­tralia, Bel­gium, Ger­many, the Unit­ed States, Japan and more than a dozen oth­er coun­tries.

    ‘Irre­spon­si­ble chil­dren’
    Speak­ing at the Unit­ed Nations cli­mate con­fer­ence in Decem­ber 2018, she berat­ed world lead­ers for behav­ing like irre­spon­si­ble chil­dren. And in Jan­u­ary 2019 she round­ed on the glob­al busi­ness elite in Davos: “Some peo­ple, some com­pa­nies, some deci­sion-mak­ers in par­tic­u­lar, have known exact­ly what price­less val­ues they have been sac­ri­fic­ing to con­tin­ue mak­ing unimag­in­able amounts of mon­ey. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of peo­ple.”
    Inspi­ra­tion

    Vet­er­an cli­mate cam­paign­ers are aston­ished by what has been achieved in such a short time. Thun­berg has described the rapid spread of school strikes for cli­mate around the world as amaz­ing. “It proves you are nev­er too small to make a dif­fer­ence,” she said. Her protests were inspired by US stu­dents who staged walk-outs to demand bet­ter gun con­trols in the wake of mul­ti­ple school shoot­ings.

    Fam­i­ly
    Her moth­er, Male­na Ern­man, has giv­en up her inter­na­tion­al career as an opera singer because of the cli­mate effects of avi­a­tion. Her father is actor Svante Thun­ber. Gre­ta has Asperger’s syn­drome, which in the past has affect­ed her health, he says. She sees her con­di­tion not as a dis­abil­i­ty but as a gift which has helped open her eyes to the cli­mate cri­sis.

    CFACT Europe received finan­cial sup­port from its US coun­ter­part, accord­ing to doc­u­ments seen by the Guardian.

    Thuss acknowl­edged to Green­peace Unearthed that he was “one of Heartland’s many experts”, and did not deny finan­cial links between Heart­land and EIKE but was keen to stress he was a mem­ber of Angela Merkel’s Chris­t­ian Democ­rats and not the AfD.

    He told Green­peace Unearthed that CFACT Europe had been dis­band­ed, although he did not say when, and denied that EIKE was sup­port­ing the AfD’s sym­po­sium, despite it pro­mot­ing it on the home­page of its web­site as as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to “set facts against CO2 hys­te­ria and cli­mate activism”.

    EIKE’s vice-pres­i­dent, Michael Lim­burg, who has pre­vi­ous­ly run as a can­di­date for the AfD, has insist­ed EIKE was not polit­i­cal­ly affil­i­at­ed, but admit­ted “loose ties” between EIKE, Heart­lands and CFACT.

    Among the sched­uled speak­ers at the AfD event are the Tirolean glaciol­o­gist Ger­not Patzelt, the Dan­ish atmos­pher­ic physi­cist Hen­rik Svens­mark, and Christo­pher Mon­ck­ton, 3rd Vis­count Mon­ck­ton of Brench­ley, a for­mer Ukip can­di­date described as a hered­i­tary peer, hob­by math­e­mati­cian and for­mer advis­er to Mar­garet Thatch­er, who claims mod­els used to mea­sure cli­mate change are flawed.

    Pro­mo­tion­al mate­ri­als for the event cite Gre­ta as some­one placed on the front­line of cli­mate activism “by PR pro­fes­sion­als seek­ing to bedev­il the plant-nutri­ent car­bon diox­ide” and describe the AfD as “the only par­ty in Ger­many not will­ing to back the sup­posed cli­mate con­sen­sus”.

    The AfD did not respond to requests for com­ment.
    Karsten Smid, a cli­mate cam­paign­er for Green­peace Ger­many, told the Guardian: “The AfD is using the Bun­destag as a stage for its dis­sem­i­na­tion of cli­mate lies. They invite fake experts to a so-called sym­po­sium on cli­mate change to gen­er­ate con­tent for mass dis­sem­i­na­tion via social media chan­nels and stir up hatred and anger on the inter­net.

    “We are expe­ri­enc­ing a shift to the right on social media and in soci­ety. In a short peri­od of time, the new right has estab­lished its own counter-soci­ety on cli­mate issues. With troll armies, agi­tat­ing mag­a­zines and the sup­port of cli­mate scep­tics like EIKE, it has cre­at­ed its own sphere that is mas­sive­ly under­es­ti­mat­ed.”

    Posted by Mary Benton | May 17, 2019, 7:55 pm
  21. Here’s a pair of sto­ries out of Esto­nia that are very much in the ‘Walk­ing the Snake’ theme of the reha­bil­i­ta­tion of the image of the Nazis and far right ide­olo­gies: First, recall how Esto­ni­a’s new coali­tion gov­ern­ment includes the far right EKRE par­ty. EKRE is led by the father and son pair Mair and Mar­tin Helme who both decid­ed to flash the “OK” hand sign, which has now effec­tive­ly been appro­pri­at­ed by white suprema­cists, dur­ing their inau­gu­ra­tion and when Esto­ni­a’s Pres­i­dent Ker­sti Kalju­laid walked out in protest Mart Helme claimed it was because Kalju­laid is a woman and there­fore over­ly emo­tion­al. That’s part of the recent polit­i­cal con­text for the fol­low­ing pair of sto­ries. Anoth­er part of the con­text is the fact that EKRE just won its first ever MP in the EU par­lia­ment fol­low­ing the recent par­lia­men­tary elec­tions where it gar­nered over 12 per­cent of the vote, com­pared to 4 per­cent in 2014.

    First, here’s anoth­er sto­ry describ­ing some of the imme­di­ate con­se­quences of the polit­i­cal rise of EKRE. The arti­cle includes com­ments from Jaak Madi­son, EKRE’s new MP in the EU par­lia­ment. Madi­son respond­ed to ques­tions about the flash­ing of white pow­er hand signs by the par­ty lead­ers dur­ing their inau­gu­ra­tion by dis­miss­ing it as mere­ly trolling that should­n’t be tak­en seri­ous­ly. Madi­son went on to admit that there were “maybe a few peo­ple in the par­ty who are real­ly think­ing this, white pow­er and suprema­cy”, but said peo­ple would only be kicked out of the par­ty for extrem­ist deeds, not extrem­ist opin­ions. It’s quite a nor­mal­iza­tion tac­tic.

    The arti­cle also gives an exam­ple of the con­se­quences jour­nal­ists are fac­ing when they crit­i­cize EKRE now that it’s a gov­ern­ment coali­tion mem­ber: jour­nal­ist Vil­ja Kiisler, a colum­nist at the news­pa­per Pos­timees with two decades of expe­ri­ence, explains how, on top of EKRE media por­tals attack­ing her work and receiv­ing threats of vio­lence and rape through email and Face­book, her own chief edi­tor com­plained her crit­i­cisms of EKRE were too aggres­sive and she should tone down her rhetoric. Kiisler has sub­se­quent­ly resigned and she’s not the only Eston­ian jour­nal­ist to do so fol­low­ing calls to tone down the crit­i­cisms on EKRE. So the stan­dard far right tac­tic of simul­ta­ne­ous­ly pro­ject­ing an image of machis­mo, clown­ish­ness, and extreme self-pity over per­ceived per­se­cu­tions and demand­ing that every­one stop crit­i­ciz­ing them appears to be work­ing swim­ming­ly for EKRE in Esto­nia:

    The Guardian

    Racism, sex­ism, Nazi eco­nom­ics: Esto­ni­a’s far right in pow­er
    Until recent­ly seen as a mod­el nation, Estonia’s pol­i­tics are turn­ing dark­er

    Shaun Walk­er in Tallinn

    Tue 21 May 2019 00.00 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Tue 21 May 2019 00.10 EDT

    A shad­owy “deep state” secret­ly runs the coun­try. A smart immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy is “blacks go back”. Nazi Ger­many wasn’t all bad. None of these state­ments would be out of place in the dark­er cor­ners of far-right blogs any­where in the world. But in Esto­nia as of last month, they are among the views of gov­ern­ment min­is­ters.

    Since emerg­ing from the Sovi­et shad­ow three decades ago, Esto­nia has gained a rep­u­ta­tion as a coun­try with a savvy focus on e‑government, a vibrant free media and broad­ly pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics. But as in many Euro­pean coun­tries, Estonia’s far right has been edg­ing upwards in the polls in recent years, and nobody was all that sur­prised when the nation­al­ist EKRE par­ty won 19 out of 101 seats inpar­lia­men­tary elec­tions in March. The real shock came a few weeks lat­er when the prime min­is­ter, Jüri Ratas, invit­ed EKRE to join a coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

    Ratas offered EKRE five out of 15 min­is­te­r­i­al posi­tions as well as pol­i­cy con­ces­sions includ­ing agree­ing to hold a ref­er­en­dum on whether to define mar­riage as only between a man and a woman.

    The party’s father-and-son lead­ers, Mart and Mar­tin Helme, took the key posts of inte­ri­or and finance min­is­ter respec­tive­ly and cel­e­brat­ed by flash­ing a white-pow­er sym­bol at their swear­ing-in cer­e­mo­ny.

    EKRE’s tran­si­tion from the noisy fringe to the heart of gov­ern­ment rep­re­sents a remark­able fail­ure of main­stream pol­i­tics. Between them, two broad­ly cen­trist par­ties won a com­fort­able major­i­ty of seats in the March vote, and Kaja Kallas, the leader of the Reform par­ty which placed first, offered Ratas and his Cen­tre par­ty a coali­tion in which she would be prime min­is­ter and the two par­ties would share min­is­te­r­i­al posts equal­ly.

    Instead, ignor­ing the offer and stark warn­ings from his allies in Brus­sels not to nego­ti­ate with EKRE, Ratas arranged a con­ser­v­a­tive coali­tion includ­ing the far-right par­ty, which has allowed him to stay on as prime min­is­ter. “He threw all his val­ues down the drain just to remain PM,” said Kallas, who had been on course to become Estonia’s first female prime min­is­ter but instead remains in oppo­si­tion.

    Many lib­er­als fear the cli­mate has already start­ed to change. Vil­ja Kiisler, a colum­nist at the news­pa­per Pos­timees with two decades of jour­nal­is­tic expe­ri­ence, said her edi­tor-in-chief called her into his office short­ly after the coali­tion formed and told her a piece she had writ­ten about EKRE was too aggres­sive and she should tone down her rhetoric.

    “I’ve always crit­i­cised the peo­ple in pow­er and this had nev­er hap­pened before,” she said. Rather than accept self-cen­sor­ship, she decid­ed to resign. “Style and con­tent are always con­nect­ed and I meant every word, com­ma and full stop. If you can’t be sharp and clear in an opin­ion piece then what is the point?”

    Kiisler said EKRE media por­tals attacked her work and she received threats of vio­lence and rape through email and Face­book, which she has report­ed to the police.

    For a coun­try whose media land­scape was this year ranked the 11th most free in the world, the res­ig­na­tions of Kiisler and a state radio jour­nal­ist who left his job for sim­i­lar rea­sons have come as a shock. They even prompt­ed Estonia’s pres­i­dent, Ker­sti Kalju­laid, to wear a sweater embla­zoned with the words “speech is free” to the swear­ing-in of the new gov­ern­ment.

    Kalju­laid said she wore the sweater because of the cli­mate of increas­ing ver­bal attacks on Eston­ian jour­nal­ists. “This can lead to self-cen­sor­ship, in the sense that you don’t talk any more to avoid this kind of shit­storm, and I don’t want this to hap­pen,” she told the Guardian in an inter­view at Tallinn’s pres­i­den­tial palace.

    Kalju­laid nev­er­the­less gave her approval to the new gov­ern­ment, say­ing she had no for­mal veto pow­er. “If I had thought that sign­ing off on this list of min­is­ters would be a greater dan­ger than unleash­ing con­sti­tu­tion­al uncer­tain­ty, I could have con­sid­ered it, but this is not the case,” she said.

    She did, how­ev­er, walk out of the cer­e­mo­ny dur­ing the swear­ing in of an EKRE politi­cian, Mar­ti Kuusik, as tech­nol­o­gy and for­eign trade min­is­ter. Kuusik, who faces a series of domes­tic vio­lence alle­ga­tions, resigned the next day. He has denied the alle­ga­tions. Mart Helme crit­i­cised Kaljulaid’s walk­out as the action of “an emo­tion­al­ly heat­ed woman”.

    Kallas said: “They are set­ting an exam­ple that it’s OK to call names, to threat­en vio­lence. It has brought misog­y­ny out of the clos­et and its a very bad sign for our soci­ety.”

    EKRE has forged links with oth­er far-right groups in Europe,joining the Ital­ian inte­ri­or min­is­ter Mat­teo Salvini’s coali­tion of nation­al­ists and wel­com­ing France’s Marine Le Pen to Tallinn for dis­cus­sions.

    Like pop­ulist par­ties across Europe, EKRE has high­light­ed immi­gra­tion as a key bat­tle­ground issue. Mass migra­tion hard­ly seems a major con­cern for Esto­nia, which has not been on any route to Europe tak­en by refugees and migrants from the Mid­dle East and Africa, but EKRE has sug­gest­ed that by allow­ing any migra­tion at all, Esto­nia will be vul­ner­a­ble to future pres­sure from Brus­sels to reset­tle many more refugees.

    Jaak Madi­son, an EKRE MP who will also become an MEP if the par­ty clears the thresh­old at upcom­ing Euro­pean elec­tions, said the coun­try could take “10 or 50” refugees, but with the pro­vi­so that “when the war is over they go home”.

    In an inter­view at his office inside the Riigikogu, Estonia’s par­lia­ment, Madi­son described the white pow­er sig­nals from Mart and Mar­tin Helme as “pure trolling” that should not be tak­en seri­ous­ly. He admit­ted there were “maybe a few peo­ple in the par­ty who are real­ly think­ing this, white pow­er and suprema­cy”, but he said peo­ple would only be kicked out of the par­ty for extrem­ist deeds, not extrem­ist opin­ions.

    Madi­son is con­sid­ered the pol­ished face of the par­ty. When asked about a blog­post he wrote sev­er­al years ago prais­ing Nazi eco­nom­ics, he did not dis­own the views. “The fact is that the eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion raised. That’s a fact. How did it hap­pen? It was very wrong things. If you’re push­ing peo­ple to camps, it’s wrong. But the fact is that the unem­ploy­ment rate was low,” he said.

    Madi­son is not the only EKRE MP to be curi­ous about Nazi eco­nom­ics. Ruuben Kaalep, the leader of EKRE’s youth wing, Blue Awak­en­ing, said rightwing politi­cians “can’t com­plete­ly dis­own” Nazi Ger­many, which had cer­tain pos­i­tive ele­ments. Kaalep is Estonia’s youngest MP, aged 25, and in an inter­view at a chic restau­rant not far from the par­lia­ment, he described his mis­sion as fight­ing against “native replace­ment”, “the LGBT agen­da” and “left­ist glob­al ide­o­log­i­cal hege­mo­ny”.

    The par­ty has large­ly avoid­ed bait­ing Estonia’s Russ­ian-speak­ing minor­i­ty, instead using his­tor­i­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ties over Sovi­et-era pop­u­la­tion trans­fers to exploit fears of a new, cur­rent­ly imag­i­nary, wave of Mus­lim migra­tion. Kaalep, how­ev­er, said he did not believe that Estonia’s Russ­ian-speak­ers could ever be con­sid­ered Eston­ian, even if they learned flu­ent Eston­ian and iden­ti­fied as Eston­ian cit­i­zens. The par­ty has called for a quo­ta sys­tem for pass­porti­sa­tion of the com­mu­ni­ty.

    ...

    ———-

    “Racism, sex­ism, Nazi eco­nom­ics: Esto­ni­a’s far right in pow­er” by Shaun Walk­er; The Guardian; 05/21/2019

    “Since emerg­ing from the Sovi­et shad­ow three decades ago, Esto­nia has gained a rep­u­ta­tion as a coun­try with a savvy focus on e‑government, a vibrant free media and broad­ly pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics. But as in many Euro­pean coun­tries, Estonia’s far right has been edg­ing upwards in the polls in recent years, and nobody was all that sur­prised when the nation­al­ist EKRE par­ty won 19 out of 101 seats inpar­lia­men­tary elec­tions in March. The real shock came a few weeks lat­er when the prime min­is­ter, Jüri Ratas, invit­ed EKRE to join a coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

    Yeah, it was pret­ty shock­ing when Jüri Ratas of Esto­ni­a’s Cen­tre Par­ty decid­ed to form a coali­tion gov­ern­ment with EKRE back in March. But they went ahead and made that deci­sion and we’re see­ing the con­se­quences, like the flash­ing of white pow­er signs por­trayed as fun­ny troll­ish jokes, fond words about Nazi Ger­many, and asser­tions that Esto­ni­a’s Russ­ian-speak­ers can nev­er tru­ly be con­sid­ered Eston­ian. That’s the price the Cen­tre Par­ty decid­ed to pay to form this par­tic­u­lar coali­tion gov­ern­ment:

    ...
    Jaak Madi­son, an EKRE MP who will also become an MEP if the par­ty clears the thresh­old at upcom­ing Euro­pean elec­tions, said the coun­try could take “10 or 50” refugees, but with the pro­vi­so that “when the war is over they go home”.

    In an inter­view at his office inside the Riigikogu, Estonia’s par­lia­ment, Madi­son described the white pow­er sig­nals from Mart and Mar­tin Helme as “pure trolling” that should not be tak­en seri­ous­ly. He admit­ted there were “maybe a few peo­ple in the par­ty who are real­ly think­ing this, white pow­er and suprema­cy”, but he said peo­ple would only be kicked out of the par­ty for extrem­ist deeds, not extrem­ist opin­ions.

    Madi­son is con­sid­ered the pol­ished face of the par­ty. When asked about a blog­post he wrote sev­er­al years ago prais­ing Nazi eco­nom­ics, he did not dis­own the views. “The fact is that the eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion raised. That’s a fact. How did it hap­pen? It was very wrong things. If you’re push­ing peo­ple to camps, it’s wrong. But the fact is that the unem­ploy­ment rate was low,” he said.

    Madi­son is not the only EKRE MP to be curi­ous about Nazi eco­nom­ics. Ruuben Kaalep, the leader of EKRE’s youth wing, Blue Awak­en­ing, said rightwing politi­cians “can’t com­plete­ly dis­own” Nazi Ger­many, which had cer­tain pos­i­tive ele­ments. Kaalep is Estonia’s youngest MP, aged 25, and in an inter­view at a chic restau­rant not far from the par­lia­ment, he described his mis­sion as fight­ing against “native replace­ment”, “the LGBT agen­da” and “left­ist glob­al ide­o­log­i­cal hege­mo­ny”.

    The par­ty has large­ly avoid­ed bait­ing Estonia’s Russ­ian-speak­ing minor­i­ty, instead using his­tor­i­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ties over Sovi­et-era pop­u­la­tion trans­fers to exploit fears of a new, cur­rent­ly imag­i­nary, wave of Mus­lim migra­tion. Kaalep, how­ev­er, said he did not believe that Estonia’s Russ­ian-speak­ers could ever be con­sid­ered Eston­ian, even if they learned flu­ent Eston­ian and iden­ti­fied as Eston­ian cit­i­zens. The par­ty has called for a quo­ta sys­tem for pass­porti­sa­tion of the com­mu­ni­ty.
    ...

    And as we should ful­ly expect, bring­ing the far right for­mal­ly into pow­er leads to an imme­di­ate chill­ing of press free­doms. Because that’s what’s pre­dictably going to hap­pen when a polit­i­cal move­ment root­ed in threats of vio­lence and the hyp­ing of griev­ances and per­se­cu­tion fan­tasies is thrust into pow­er:

    ...
    Many lib­er­als fear the cli­mate has already start­ed to change. Vil­ja Kiisler, a colum­nist at the news­pa­per Pos­timees with two decades of jour­nal­is­tic expe­ri­ence, said her edi­tor-in-chief called her into his office short­ly after the coali­tion formed and told her a piece she had writ­ten about EKRE was too aggres­sive and she should tone down her rhetoric.

    “I’ve always crit­i­cised the peo­ple in pow­er and this had nev­er hap­pened before,” she said. Rather than accept self-cen­sor­ship, she decid­ed to resign. “Style and con­tent are always con­nect­ed and I meant every word, com­ma and full stop. If you can’t be sharp and clear in an opin­ion piece then what is the point?”

    Kiisler said EKRE media por­tals attacked her work and she received threats of vio­lence and rape through email and Face­book, which she has report­ed to the police.

    For a coun­try whose media land­scape was this year ranked the 11th most free in the world, the res­ig­na­tions of Kiisler and a state radio jour­nal­ist who left his job for sim­i­lar rea­sons have come as a shock. They even prompt­ed Estonia’s pres­i­dent, Ker­sti Kalju­laid, to wear a sweater embla­zoned with the words “speech is free” to the swear­ing-in of the new gov­ern­ment.

    Kalju­laid said she wore the sweater because of the cli­mate of increas­ing ver­bal attacks on Eston­ian jour­nal­ists. “This can lead to self-cen­sor­ship, in the sense that you don’t talk any more to avoid this kind of shit­storm, and I don’t want this to hap­pen,” she told the Guardian in an inter­view at Tallinn’s pres­i­den­tial palace.
    ...

    “For a coun­try whose media land­scape was this year ranked the 11th most free in the world, the res­ig­na­tions of Kiisler and a state radio jour­nal­ist who left his job for sim­i­lar rea­sons have come as a shock. They even prompt­ed Estonia’s pres­i­dent, Ker­sti Kalju­laid, to wear a sweater embla­zoned with the words “speech is free” to the swear­ing-in of the new gov­ern­ment.”

    Yep, it’s all been rather shock­ing. Even though it’s all high­ly pre­dictable. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, when Ahto Lob­jakas, the state radio jour­nal­ist who left his job over self-cen­sor­ship demands, resigned he was giv­en the choice to stay on the job and con­tin­ue crit­i­ciz­ing the EKRE. His edi­tors demand­ed that he be “bal­anced” in his cov­er­age and stop empha­siz­ing the hor­ri­ble views of a few politi­cians and instead focus on the coali­tion build­ing. so Lob­jakas was lit­er­al­ly asked to focus on the coali­tion being built with EKRE in place of crit­i­ciz­ing EKRE’s Nazi-like views.

    As the arti­cle also notes, this all appears to be a direct response to a move by EKRE its con­ser­v­a­tive coali­tion part­ner, the Isamaa par­ty, to silence crit­i­cisms of EKRE in the media. On 28 March, Mar­tin Helme sent a let­ter to the Eston­ian Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing board in which he asked whether the board was plan­ning to “remove those jour­nal­ists who have demon­strat­ed their bias” from the air­waves. After that, Mart Luik, a mem­ber of the Isamaa par­ty wrote an op-ed with a head­line: “There is a hys­te­ria against EKRE in the media. Helme has the right to demand an order from the jour­nal­ists”. Luik’s col­umn list­ed sev­er­al Eston­ian jour­nal­ists who are appar­ent­ly too hard to EKRE. So EKRE’s has a will­ing part­ner in its media silenc­ing cam­paign, the Isamaa par­ty coali­tion part­ner, and that cam­paign appears to be work­ing:

    Eston­ian World

    Eston­ian lib­er­al com­men­ta­tor Ahto Lob­jakas resigns in the face of self-cen­sor­ship demands

    By Sil­ver Tam­bur and Sten Han­ke­witz in Secu­ri­ty · April 27, 2019

    Ahto Lob­jakas, the out­spo­ken and sharp com­men­ta­tor at the Eston­ian Radio 2 – part of the Eston­ian Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing – is forced to leave his post due to the demands of self-cen­sor­ship by the broadcasting’s board; Lob­jakas is known for hold­ing the far-right Eston­ian Con­ser­v­a­tive People’s Par­ty (EKRE) lead­ers, future min­is­ters and MPs account­able for racism and anti-Semi­tism live on air.

    One of the wit­ti­est radio com­men­ta­tors and news­pa­per colum­nists in Esto­nia, Ahto Lob­jakas, has been forced to leave his post as the co-host of the Radio 2’s week­ly pro­gramme, “Oluko­r­rast Riigis” (State of the Repub­lic), aired every Sun­day. The pro­gramme sum­maris­es and analy­ses the most impor­tant polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic events, devel­op­ments and affairs in Esto­nia, and occa­sion­al­ly, else­where. Lob­jakas has co-host­ed the influ­en­tial pro­gramme since 2015.

    A choice between self-cen­sor­ship and depar­ture

    The news that Lob­jakas had been fired from the job, start­ed to cir­cu­late in the Eston­ian pri­vate­ly-owned news out­lets, Delfi and Pos­timees, on Fri­day evening.

    Radio 2’s edi­tor-in-chief, Kris­to Rajasaare, said in a com­ment giv­en to Eston­ian Pub­lic Broadcasting’s (ERR) news por­tal that Lob­jakas “was not fired”. How­ev­er, on Sat­ur­day, Lob­jakas said in a Face­book post that, indeed – he wasn’t fired, but was giv­en a choice between self-cen­sor­ship and depar­ture.

    I wasn’t fired. I was giv­en a choice between self-cen­sor­ship and depar­ture. I’ve been the pre­sen­ter of ‘State of the Repub­lic’ for more than four years. In the years when the Reform Par­ty led the gov­ern­ment (until autumn 2016 – edi­tor), I was nev­er pres­sured as a pre­sen­ter, no mat­ter how sharp my crit­i­cism was. I can say the same about the sub­se­quent Cen­tre Par­ty gov­ern­ment. Some­thing changed after the elec­tion,” Lob­jakas wrote, a reflec­tion of the post-elec­tion sit­u­a­tion in March and April, when the Cen­tre Par­ty start­ed coali­tion talks with far-right EKRE par­ty that had man­aged to increase its num­ber of seats in the par­lia­ment from 7 to 19.

    “There were sig­nals that crit­i­cism of the coali­tion that was being cre­at­ed, was too sharp – and was try­ing to influ­ence pol­i­tics unac­cept­ably. The choice of words was crit­i­cised, intel­li­gent euphemisms and cor­ner­stones were sug­gest­ed. I was demand­ed to pay more atten­tion to the coali­tion pro­gramme of the new gov­ern­ment (formed by the Cen­tre Par­ty, EKRE and Isamaa – edi­tor) and less on unwor­thy politi­cians and their ideas,” Lob­jakas said. “The impor­tance of ‘bal­ance’ was empha­sised. Log­i­cal­ly, the lat­ter only meant that besides EKRE, I would have to find either racists, anti-Semi­tes or neo-Nazis also in oth­er polit­i­cal par­ties – or, in their absence, not to touch the sub­ject at all.

    Lob­jakas had in many pre­vi­ous pro­grammes crit­i­cised the inclu­sion of EKRE in the coali­tion gov­ern­ment, based on the par­ty lead­ers often offen­sive, racist, homo­pho­bic and xeno­pho­bic rhetoric. He had specif­i­cal­ly also high­light­ed the fact that the coali­tion government’s MPs in the par­lia­ment include at least one anti-Semi­te, in EKRE’s Ruuben Kaalep. In one pro­gramme, on 14 April, Lob­jakas used the word “scum” live on-air to describe the fact that the gov­ern­ment is formed with the help of racists and anti-Semi­tes. He imme­di­ate­ly apol­o­gised on air, and after the ERR’s ombuds­man, Tar­mu Tam­merk, inter­vened in the fol­low­ing days, apol­o­gised again in the fol­low­ing pro­gramme.

    Depress­ing­ly famil­iar with post-Sovi­et and oth­er semi-free soci­eties

    In a Face­book post on Sat­ur­day, Lob­jakas was pes­simistic about the state of the Eston­ian Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing – and indi­rect­ly, about the sit­u­a­tion free press in Esto­nia has found itself, after the inclu­sion of far-right EKRE par­ty in the gov­ern­ment.

    “As a cor­re­spon­dent of the for­mer Radio Free Europe / Free­dom Radio, it all seemed depress­ing­ly famil­iar with post-Sovi­et and oth­er semi-free soci­eties. Crit­i­cal voic­es are not tol­er­at­ed in the state press. No one puts pres­sure direct­ly out of bad will, but there is pres­sure – and its clear sub­text is that the lead­er­ship [of ERR] is feel­ing ner­vous and defence­less against gov­ern­men­tal pow­er, and those below [jour­nal­ists at ERR] are expect­ed to co-oper­ate and keep a low pro­file,” he said. “It is a sim­ple but slip­pery slope in young democ­ra­cies – begin­ning with self-cen­sor­ship, it will end up with some­thing oth­er than a free soci­ety.”

    Lob­jakas seemed to be puz­zled as what had gone wrong at ERR at large. He has not been the only ERR jour­nal­ist under attack in the last month: On 28 March, EKRE’s vice chair, Mar­tin Helme, sent a let­ter to ERR board, in which he asked whether the board was plan­ning to “remove those jour­nal­ists who have demon­strat­ed their bias” from the air­waves.

    Sub­se­quent­ly, Mart Luik, a mem­ber of the Isamaa par­ty – EKRE’s con­ser­v­a­tive coali­tion part­ner in the new gov­ern­ment – wrote an op-ed in the Eston­ian news­pa­per, Eesti Päe­vale­ht, with a head­line: “There is a hys­te­ria against EKRE in the media. Helme has the right to demand an order from the jour­nal­ists”. In an unprece­dent­ed move, Luik pro­ceed­ed to list sev­er­al Eston­ian jour­nal­ists in the con­text, such as Johannes Tral­la, Pri­it Kuusk, Marko Reikop, Anna Pihl (ERR) and Kris­ter Paris (Eesti Päe­vale­ht).

    Adapt­ing to com­pro­mis­es – in favour of pow­er, at the expense of the press

    “Why things have gone like that in the ERR, I can’t say. At the same time, I have to say – when I read the longer texts of the chair­men of the ERR’s coun­cil and the board over the last few weeks, one can sense the desire to relieve ten­sions in the soci­ety and cure the divi­sions,” Lob­jakas wrote. “It is great, but it has noth­ing to do with free press as a val­ue – or an insti­tu­tion [ERR] – that these peo­ple were employed to pro­tect. On the con­trary, in today’s cir­cum­stances, such texts can only be read as an attempt to jus­ti­fy them­selves and oth­ers in adapt­ing to com­pro­mis­es – in favour of pow­er, at the expense of the press.”

    “I believe there is also an expla­na­tion for why the ERR does not seem to be bold in pro­tect­ing its peo­ple,” Lob­jakas added, a ref­er­ence to sev­er­al ver­bal attacks against him and oth­er ERR jour­nal­ists in the last month. “Radio 2 has always been on my side, but the ERR, as an insti­tu­tion rep­re­sent­ed by the board, has tak­en a neu­tral posi­tion on the attacks or has made con­ces­sions to the attack­ers. It is only a minor prob­lem for me. How­ev­er, this is very much a prob­lem for the Eston­ian Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing and all its jour­nal­ists.”

    Lob­jakas added that he had already felt exhaust­ed by fol­low­ing the increas­ing­ly aggres­sive day-to-day pol­i­tics and had con­sid­ered to leave the week­ly pro­gramme – now, the cir­cum­stances made it impos­si­ble to decide oth­er­wise. “Four years is a long time to make such a pro­gramme and I had a plan to leave in ear­ly June. But before I could say that, it was impos­si­ble for me to stay in the show,” he said, adding that he will co-host his last pro­gramme on 2 June.

    The chair­man of the Eston­ian Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing, Erik Roose, was unavail­able for com­ment at the time of writ­ing this arti­cle. In a press state­ment, sent to the Eston­ian media, he said “it was Ahto Lob­jakas’ own deci­sion” to resign his post as co-host of the “State of the Repub­lic” pro­gramme. Roose also said that “there is no threat to press free­dom or jour­nal­is­tic inde­pen­dence” at ERR.

    Demands to silence jour­nal­ists cause uproar

    Mem­ber of par­lia­ment Marko Mihkel­son (Reform) wrote on Face­book that “some­thing real­ly weird is hap­pen­ing in Esto­nia”.

    “Ahto Lob­jakas is rather one of those thinkers with whose thoughts I have always had trou­ble to agree,” he said. “But I have always respect­ed his right to think the oppo­site of me.” He also point­ed out that the new coali­tion gov­ern­ment isn’t yet in pow­er, ask­ing “has self-cen­sor­ship real­ly start­ed before?”

    The for­mer pres­i­dent of Esto­nia, Toomas Hen­drik Ilves, also expressed his anger on social media. “As a pri­ma­ry object of Ahto Lob­jakas’ calum­nies and vitu­per­a­tion for a decade, I have a spe­cial right to stand up for his right to say what he says. No jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for lim­it­ing his right to speak will sway me. Noth­ing sup­pos­ed­ly true now wasn’t true before. Live with it.”

    He also said that when crit­ics are muz­zled, Esto­nia won’t be the Esto­nia for which the Eston­ian peo­ple fought for fifty years. “Inde­pen­dent, yes, but no longer free.”

    Anoth­er mem­ber of par­lia­ment, Val­do Rand­pere (Reform) said in a social media post that he, too, doesn’t like most of Lob­jakas’ stances. “But the ques­tion is, what is more impor­tant, our own per­son­al sym­pa­thy for one or anoth­er per­son, or our atti­tude towards the free­dom of speech,” he not­ed. “We’re on a damn dan­ger­ous road when we start accept­ing muz­zling the thinkers who we don’t like.”

    Even the mem­bers of the new coali­tion have spo­ken out. Urmas Rein­salu, the next for­eign min­is­ter and a mem­ber of the new gov­ern­ing coali­tion (Isamaa) post­ed on Face­book that he respects Lob­jakas’ right to express his opin­ions.

    “His ide­ol­o­gy doesn’t sit with me at all, but I like brave peo­ple, and no one can accuse him of being cow­ard­ly,” Rein­salu said, adding that there aren’t many peo­ple like that in today’s Esto­nia.

    The incom­ing min­is­ter of cul­ture, Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa), told the Delfi news por­tal that he will demand expla­na­tions from the ERR man­age­ment about the Lob­jakas case.

    “This is def­i­nite­ly one of the first things that I will dis­cuss with the ERR man­age­ment when I meet them next week,” Lukas told the por­tal. “I will def­i­nite­ly ask about it and they will def­i­nite­ly tell me.” Lukas admit­ted that so far he didn’t know any more about the case than he had read on the media.

    ...

    ———

    “Eston­ian lib­er­al com­men­ta­tor Ahto Lob­jakas resigns in the face of self-cen­sor­ship demands” by Sil­ver Tam­bur and Sten Han­ke­witz; Eston­ian World; 04/27/2019

    “One of the wit­ti­est radio com­men­ta­tors and news­pa­per colum­nists in Esto­nia, Ahto Lob­jakas, has been forced to leave his post as the co-host of the Radio 2’s week­ly pro­gramme, “Oluko­r­rast Riigis” (State of the Repub­lic), aired every Sun­day. The pro­gramme sum­maris­es and analy­ses the most impor­tant polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic events, devel­op­ments and affairs in Esto­nia, and occa­sion­al­ly, else­where. Lob­jakas has co-host­ed the influ­en­tial pro­gramme since 2015.”

    One of the most pop­u­lar radio per­son­al­i­ties in Esto­nia is out of job. But he was­n’t tech­ni­cal­ly fired. No, he was giv­en a choice: either stop crit­i­ciz­ing EKRE’s Nazi-like views and focus instead on the coali­tion pro­gramme of the new gov­ern­ment or resign:

    ...
    A choice between self-cen­sor­ship and depar­ture

    The news that Lob­jakas had been fired from the job, start­ed to cir­cu­late in the Eston­ian pri­vate­ly-owned news out­lets, Delfi and Pos­timees, on Fri­day evening.

    Radio 2’s edi­tor-in-chief, Kris­to Rajasaare, said in a com­ment giv­en to Eston­ian Pub­lic Broadcasting’s (ERR) news por­tal that Lob­jakas “was not fired”. How­ev­er, on Sat­ur­day, Lob­jakas said in a Face­book post that, indeed – he wasn’t fired, but was giv­en a choice between self-cen­sor­ship and depar­ture.

    I wasn’t fired. I was giv­en a choice between self-cen­sor­ship and depar­ture. I’ve been the pre­sen­ter of ‘State of the Repub­lic’ for more than four years. In the years when the Reform Par­ty led the gov­ern­ment (until autumn 2016 – edi­tor), I was nev­er pres­sured as a pre­sen­ter, no mat­ter how sharp my crit­i­cism was. I can say the same about the sub­se­quent Cen­tre Par­ty gov­ern­ment. Some­thing changed after the elec­tion,” Lob­jakas wrote, a reflec­tion of the post-elec­tion sit­u­a­tion in March and April, when the Cen­tre Par­ty start­ed coali­tion talks with far-right EKRE par­ty that had man­aged to increase its num­ber of seats in the par­lia­ment from 7 to 19.

    “There were sig­nals that crit­i­cism of the coali­tion that was being cre­at­ed, was too sharp – and was try­ing to influ­ence pol­i­tics unac­cept­ably. The choice of words was crit­i­cised, intel­li­gent euphemisms and cor­ner­stones were sug­gest­ed. I was demand­ed to pay more atten­tion to the coali­tion pro­gramme of the new gov­ern­ment (formed by the Cen­tre Par­ty, EKRE and Isamaa – edi­tor) and less on unwor­thy politi­cians and their ideas,” Lob­jakas said. “The impor­tance of ‘bal­ance’ was empha­sised. Log­i­cal­ly, the lat­ter only meant that besides EKRE, I would have to find either racists, anti-Semi­tes or neo-Nazis also in oth­er polit­i­cal par­ties – or, in their absence, not to touch the sub­ject at all.”

    Lob­jakas had in many pre­vi­ous pro­grammes crit­i­cised the inclu­sion of EKRE in the coali­tion gov­ern­ment, based on the par­ty lead­ers often offen­sive, racist, homo­pho­bic and xeno­pho­bic rhetoric. He had specif­i­cal­ly also high­light­ed the fact that the coali­tion government’s MPs in the par­lia­ment include at least one anti-Semi­te, in EKRE’s Ruuben Kaalep. In one pro­gramme, on 14 April, Lob­jakas used the word “scum” live on-air to describe the fact that the gov­ern­ment is formed with the help of racists and anti-Semi­tes. He imme­di­ate­ly apol­o­gised on air, and after the ERR’s ombuds­man, Tar­mu Tam­merk, inter­vened in the fol­low­ing days, apol­o­gised again in the fol­low­ing pro­gramme.
    ...

    And as dis­turb­ing as this episode is, that fact that this all hap­pened after Mar­tin Helme explic­it­ly wrote to Eston­ian Pub­lic Broadcasting’s (ERR) board ask­ing them to “remove those jour­nal­ists who have demon­strat­ed their bias” from the air­waves and then Mart Luik of the Isamaa Par­ty pub­licly backed Helme’s right to make these demands in order to end the “hys­te­ria” of EKRE makes this all much more dis­turb­ing. Because that means this was­n’t even pre­emp­tive self-cen­sor­ship by ERR, which itself would be pro­found­ly trou­bling. Instead, it was a capit­u­la­tion to far right demands:

    ...
    Lob­jakas seemed to be puz­zled as what had gone wrong at ERR at large. He has not been the only ERR jour­nal­ist under attack in the last month: On 28 March, EKRE’s vice chair, Mar­tin Helme, sent a let­ter to ERR board, in which he asked whether the board was plan­ning to “remove those jour­nal­ists who have demon­strat­ed their bias” from the air­waves.

    Sub­se­quent­ly, Mart Luik, a mem­ber of the Isamaa par­ty – EKRE’s con­ser­v­a­tive coali­tion part­ner in the new gov­ern­ment – wrote an op-ed in the Eston­ian news­pa­per, Eesti Päe­vale­ht, with a head­line: “There is a hys­te­ria against EKRE in the media. Helme has the right to demand an order from the jour­nal­ists”. In an unprece­dent­ed move, Luik pro­ceed­ed to list sev­er­al Eston­ian jour­nal­ists in the con­text, such as Johannes Tral­la, Pri­it Kuusk, Marko Reikop, Anna Pihl (ERR) and Kris­ter Paris (Eesti Päe­vale­ht).
    ...

    Keep in mind that all of these fias­cos are from just the open­ing months of Esto­ni­a’s new far right coali­tion gov­ern­ment. We’ll see what kinds of new night­mares unfold going forward...assuming the press cov­ers them.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 28, 2019, 10:34 am

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