Antisemitic Hate Crimes Thrive in Ukraine
Just before the last day of Passover, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Deitsch died in Israel. The well-known Chabad rabbi was injured in a brutal attack in October 2016 in Zhitomir, Ukraine, where he was savagely beaten by bunch of thugs. Rabbi Deitsch was only 64 years old. His death has become a tragic symbol of antisemitism in Ukraine — a phenomenon that the world prefers to ignore.
Antisemitism is thriving in Ukraine, as is ultra-nationalism and hatred against all minority groups. One needs only to watch Ukrainian television coverage praising neo-Nazi rallies to discover what the country has become. But the resurgence of antisemitism here has only been made possible by the world’s indifference and inaction.
During the last six months, there have been scores of hate crimes in Ukraine. When it comes to the Jewish community, these crimes include the desecration of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov’s grave in Uman, which was ‘crowned’ by a pig’s head with a swastika carved on it. This and other antisemitic attacks were documented with photos and detailed descriptions. All of them were reported to the Ukrainian police. The result? Nothing. And the world’s reaction? Nada.
The desecration of Jewish buildings and memorials has become quite common in Ukraine and, in some cases, the vandalism is repeated many times per year.
Simultaneously, there has been a disgusting attempt to rewrite history throughout the country. In a macabre-like episode, Ukrainian nationalists are trying to whitewash the Babi Yar massacre that took place during the Holocaust, and the country’s officials — including Kiev’s mayor — are allowing it. Ukraine is also erecting memorials and setting up exhibitions to honor the perpetrators of the most vicious antisemitic attacks that took place during the Holocaust.
One such exhibition honored the ‘exploits’ of Ivan Rohach, who was the editor of the Ukrainian ultra-nationalistic OUN newspaper; he also repeatedly called for the extermination of the Jews. A memorial was also established to honor Yelena Teliga, a fierce antisemite who demonized Jews and helped instigate the Babi Yar massacre.
Daily life in Ukraine is dangerous for Jews, and rabbis and community leaders are afraid to speak out about it — for fear of making the situation worse.
Amid all of this, the world has been silent.
The European Parliament, for instance, led the fight for Ukrainian MP Nadija Savchenko’s release from Russian prison. But many Europeans were silent when she said the following on a popular radio show in Kiev: “I have nothing against the Jews, but I do hate ‘kikes’ — who have grabbed 80% of [the] power in our country, [despite] being just 2% of our population.”
And do not tell us about the Ukrainian prime minister who happened to be Jewish. His appointment came specifically to refute the long catalog of Ukrainian antisemitism.
In the case of Rabbi Deitsch, the death of a very good man and devoted rabbi shall not go unnoticed. We must hold the Ukrainian authorities accountable for this crime, and for the crime of vile and open antisemitism. And it is time for the world to finally demand action — and justice.
Dr Inna Rogatchi is a writer, filmmaker, scholar, public figure and philanthropist. She made the internationally prized film on Simon Wiesenthal, The Lessons of Survival. Her recent project Shining Souls, Champions of Humanity was inaugurated at the European Parliament early in 2017 and is on a world tour.