J. Zissels: It is important for me to live in a country where each year it becomes more and more clear that today’s citizens of Ukraine are mostly descendants of those righteous Ukrainians rather than of executioners

Josef Zisels

Denial

On August 24, MailOnline (the website of the Daily Mail tabloid) published Will Stewart’s article '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 1.6 million Jews were executed.

The material talks about the tragic fate of Ukrainian Jews in the Holocaust. But the author quotes my alleged statement on the ethnicity of the killers of Ukrainian Jews. Here is the statement, “It is true that the local population did cooperate with German Nazis in the occupied territories but the majority of them were ethnic Russian”.

The article quotes some other statements allegedly made by me, without any reference to the time or place of my possible interviews or speeches.                                 

 

I am officially stating that author Will Stewart and the editors of MailOnline deceived their readers by attributing to me, without any grounds, the phrase about the ethnicity of the killers of the Jews in the context of the story of mass killing of the Jews in Western Ukraine. I have never, under any circumstances, made any statements to this effect. Neither have I made any other statements that could be interpreted this way in connection with the Ukrainian tragedy. I urge MailOnline to stop quoting the statements ascribed to me in this article and to never appeal to them in any public form.

My fundamental point of view, which is well known from my interviews and speeches, can partly prove this denial. I believe this: anyone who takes direct or indirect part in armed crimes against innocent civilians (killing, robbery, rape, etc.) at a time of military hostilities in his country becomes a war criminal without time limits, no matter what uniform he wears, what skin his colour is, what ethnic group or what religion he belongs to. All of these factors are secondary to me in comparison with the fact and the circumstances of crime itself.

I have lived 40 years in Western Ukraine. And I know very well that there were practically no ethnic Russians in that area before WW II. Therefore, no ethnic Russians could take part in the Jewish killings en masse. With all of my criticism of many Russians today, in wake of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, I feel no need of making tragic historical parallels or “hang” additional crimes on them.

I could have ended my denial here, but let me share some more thoughts and associations that emerged after reading this article and some comments to it:

  1. Will Stewart’s story has more logical and historical contradictions, but there is one important circumstance to draw your attention to. I assume that the date of the publication – August 24, Ukraine’s Independence Day – was chosen by the author and editors of MailOnline to try and bridge the tragic events of Ukrainian Jewish history during the Holocaust and today’s dramatic events in Donbass. Thus, the story pushes its readers to believe that nothing had changed in Ukraine in the last 80 years, that Ukrainians were, are and will always remain the killers of the Jews, Russians and other ethnic minorities. This attempt at upholding the well-known black myth of the Russian propaganda on today’s events in Ukraine makes me assume that both the author and his paper are deliberately building up their provocation to add their “little brick” into the structure of Russia’s propaganda model of Ukraine.
  2. The inter-civilization conflict that we are witnesses to and part of, reminds me of an iceberg where Russia’s and her local collaborationists’ military aggression against Ukraine and her cynical annexation of Crimea are just the visible part of the iceberg. Other aspects of this conflict are not so visible in the underwater part of the iceberg but they can be easily guessed at. Apart from the military, diplomatic, and economic aspects of Russia’s aggression, her maximum attention is turned to propaganda, that is, to information war. The little provocation of MailOnline and Will Stewart, described above, is just a small episode in this information war. But like a drop of dew it reflected all the characters of the Russian global propaganda: deception, slander, disinformation, and provocation.
  3. The Yad Vashem memorial complex in Jerusalem was created in memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust. It also has the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations built in honor of all those people who risked their own lives and the lives of their families to save the Jews from the Nazi and their local collaborationists. Ukraine takes an honorary fourth place in the number of the righteous gentiles – more than 2,500. We also know that hundreds of Christians died in Ukraine along with the Jews they tried to save. Lviv-based historian Zhannah Kovba described about 120 of such cases.
  4. It is important for me to live in a country where each year it becomes more and more clear that today’s citizens of Ukraine are mostly descendants of those righteous Ukrainians rather than of executioners. And the proof that this metaphor is legitimate can be seen in the five-million strong Maidan, eight million volunteer helpers and dozens of thousands of soldiers of volunteer battalions that stood up to fight Russia’s continuing military aggression. 
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