Lessons of the Holocaust

Does it make sense to say that we should learn lessons from the Holocaust? I believe it does – and they are clear.
For Jews, Menachem Begin, speaking in 1981, said it best:
“First, if an enemy of our people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him. Don’t doubt him for a moment. Don’t make light of it. Do all in your power to deny him the means of carrying out his satanic intent.

Murder of Jews in Ivangorod 1942


Second, when a Jew anywhere is threatened, or under attack, do all in your power to come to his aid. Never pause to wonder what the world will think or say. The world will never pity slaughtered Jews. The world may not necessarily like the fighting Jew, but the world will have to take account of him.”

The last Jew in Vinnitsa shot at edge of pit 1941


In the 1930s the Jews of Germany, and much of Europe, thought that they belonged to the most advanced and progressive civilisation the world had ever seen. They could not believe that the people who had thrilled with them to Beethoven and Goethe, and together with them had probed the secrets of the universe and the heart of the atom, would unleash on them a merciless barbarism as murderous as that of Genghis Khan. But they did.

Partisan Brigade of Abba Kovner & Benjamin Levin at Vilna Liberation 1944


For Gentiles, it is even simpler. Because of our long history of being persecuted, Jews have the most acute antennae for it. So if a Jew calls out antisemitism, don’t question them. Believe them. If you can’t bring yourself to support them, at least don’t try to silence them.
If, however, you dismiss Jewish accusations of antisemitism as being in bad faith, and support anti-Jewish remarks as ‘fair comment’; if you tell Jews that after 75 years it’s high time they ‘got over’ the Holocaust; if you condemn the government and armed forces of Israel for preventing the murder of its citizens by any means necessary; and, most wickedly of all, if you try to demoralise young Jews by lying to them that “Israel is doing to the Palestinian Arabs what the Nazis did to the Jews”; then, deny it though you may, I am afraid you are committing acts of antisemitism.

Woman Soldiers of the Israeli Defence Force


The Sorrows of Ukraine

I do hope that Ukraine manages to transform itself into a progressive liberal democracy, a fit candidate for membership of the EU, as so many of its citizens wish, and does so with the minimum of bloodshed. Alas, the odds are against it. The name Ukraine means ‘borderland’, and the fact that it has been independent for the past 23 years is little short of a miracle. Since the fall of Kievan Rus’ (old Ruthenia) to the Golden Horde in 1240, Ukraine has only known a few short and scattered years of independence: it has been a perennial battleground, its rich black earth fought over and dominated by successive Western and Eastern powers, from the medieval Poles to the 20th century Soviets.
Today people are talking about the split between the pro-European Ukrainians of the West and their pro-Russian opponents (many of whom are of Russian descent) in the East. But more accurately there are not two Ukraines but four, each with their own distinctive national character.
From 1772 to 1918 the Western third of the country formed the Eastern half of Galicia (Halych, Austrian Poland or Malopolska) and was an integral part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. To this day its inhabitants feel thoroughly European. Between the wars it had been returned to independent Poland, and was only united with the Ukrainian SSR at the Yalta Conference in 1945.
The southern region formed the old Czarist guberniyas (provinces) of Kherson, Taurida and Yekaterinoslav. Conquered from the Ottomans in the late 18th century, this was always part of Russia and it was largely colonized and developed by Russians, with the help of many Germans and Jews who moved there. It was only allocated to Ukraine by Kruschev in 1954, as an internal administrative exercise.
The Eastern third, or Donbass, is also Russian. This was never part of Kievan Rus’ and unlike the Ukrainian heartland is mainly industrial.
True Ukraine is an egg-shaped area centred around Kiev, and there the people are true Ruthenians, with a culture noticeably different from that of their neighbours to the south, east and west.