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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

15 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

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