The whole world came together to mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp. We all bowed our heads in memory of the victims and liberators. It seemed that this could offer a dignified way for bringing our countries, peoples and politicians closer together. There were many statements and comments over the past days, absurd in their form and at times horrendous in terms of their meaning, begging one deplorable conclusion. The practice of rewriting history and unprincipled and unrelenting efforts to impose an alternative vision of the causes, course and consequences of the biggest tragedy of the 20th century have been gaining momentum and reached a critical point. Just as when we discuss pandemics and how we can and must fight them, develop vaccines and antidotes, by the same token we must realise that we are dealing with a real historical virus that can be lethal. It could be that this virus has spread globally. Today, mines are being laid around the pillars of the international relations architecture while prioritising momentary political gain and, sometimes, personal ambition and interests or as part of political put-up jobs. In other words, we are witnessing efforts to undermine the world order that was designed to prevent new global shocks such as world wars. I am referring to the Nuremberg Trial verdicts, the demise of which is fraught with catastrophic consequences.
January 2005, when the International Holocaust Remembrance Day was observed for the first time, marking 60 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, Poland President Aleksander Kwasniewski made a clear and unambiguous statement that read: “The Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was liberated on 27 January 1945 by Soviet troops. Some of the liberators are among us here today – those who saved the prisoners and uncovered the Auschwitz horror to the World. I had the honour today to present them with distinguished Polish decorations. With profound respect for the soldiers’ sacrifice of blood, Poland pays tribute to all the combatants, all who died a heroic death marching in the ranks of the Red Army to liberate our homeland from Nazi occupation.
The rhetoric has changed radically over the past 15 years. Today’s head of state in Poland, Andrzej Duda, mentioned the Red Army soldiers only once during his remarks at the Auschwitz museum, and did so in a perfunctory manner. It may be that the presence of the few Auschwitz survivors who still remember these horrible events and the liberation that took so long to materialise for them prevented the Polish president from completely losing touch with reality. But what will happen when these survivors will no longer be with us? Speaking at a place that stands witness to a misanthropic ideology, the Polish president did not dare say an outright lie while looking straight into the eyes of the people who saw the human embodiment of death and evil within those walls. I would like to ask once again: what will happen in five or ten years? What will be the statements coming from the Polish politicians then? Unfortunately, the time will come when all those who survived the horrors of Auschwitz will have passed away. Will it stop us from believing their recollections, archives and documentary chronicles?
However, there are those for whom moral obstacles do not matter. Speaking at the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem, US Vice-President Mike Pence talked about allied forces that liberated Auschwitz. For some reason he forgot to mention the undeniable fact that it was the Red Army soldiers who liberated the concentration camp. I have a feeling and certainty that he did that on purpose, despite the fact that Ivan Martynushkin, who was one of the first to enter the horrible grounds of the camp on Jan 27, 1945, was in the audience as a special guest, direct witness and one of the last remaining participants in those events.
Former Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski went even further in his anti-Russian frenzy. He went as far as to demand compensation from Russia for “Poland’s suffering”. The Red Army liberated Poland from the Nazis: 600,000 of Soviet servicemen fell in the process and of those who survived only a few have lived to this day. I think that they would be best placed to provide an adequate response to this outrageous statement. But we can stand up and defend their memory today. It is a pity that there are very few people left who witnessed the Yalta Conference. We will mark the 75th anniversary of its opening on Feb 4. It is there that the Soviet negotiators, headed by Joseph Stalin, ensured that Polish statehood be restored, while our Western partners showed little interest in this.
As for the compensation Jaroslaw Kaczynski demanded, he should have known better. As far as I am concerned, I promise to compensate for everything with information.
As hard as it may be to imagine, today’s politicians in the West have all of a sudden lost their memory and good judgment. Those who intentionally distort history today remember and know everything all too well and can access the archives. As a matter of fact, they are pursuing other goals. The carbon-copy “mistakes” committed by both the US embassy to Denmark and Der Spiegel, a prominent German weekly magazine, in their social media postings, claiming that US troops liberated Auschwitz, are all part of the same sequence. In fact, everyone will read and repost the original story, while it is left up to the users whether the correction statement and excuses resonate the same way. They will probably be compelled to do so without delay. This is how these falsifications are fed to the audience.
All this presents a creeping threat. History is being attacked on the information front. What do they want and what are the true objectives of those who are doing it? It may well be that they want to teach new generations a different kind of history for them to know and believe, leaving no place for the Red Army’s glorious victories, how it defeated the Nazi army despite being outnumbered by it, or the sacrifice of the Soviet people on the frontlines and behind the lines. There will be no place for the Munich conspiracy, the forest brothers, virulent anti-Semitism in Poland or in other free and sovereign countries that are proud of their freedom and seek to rewrite history. There will be nothing left apart from momentary political considerations, serving their interests and gain.
Let me share with you a historical episode as an example showing how the processes we are talking about are unfolding. I have already mentioned 2005 and the statement the Polish leader made at the time. By the way, I don’t know whether the 2005 statements by the President of Poland were denied by his successors. Could it be that he was ostracised after that and had to withdraw his statement? After all, what he mentioned in his remarks never happened, it is now claimed.
Here is another example from our recent past. An Associated Press article (a source trusted by the above-mentioned figures) on the visit to Israel by President of Poland Lech Walesa in 1991 read: “Walesa was praised for his fight against Communism and as a leader of a new Poland. But everywhere on his visit, including in Parliament where aging Holocaust survivors sat before him as legislators, the Polish leader met the past.” What an image. But why was it forgotten? Why are we rewriting history even as we remember and know it?
We saw an opposite situation in Poland only a short time later, by historical standards. The country adopted a law making it illegal to talk about the responsibility of the Polish people and state or their complicity in crimes committed by the Third Reich. I have a question in this regard. Back in 1991, Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Shamir spoke about those who absorbed anti-Semitism “with their mother’s milk”. In 2001, in an interview with Der Spiegel, Avigdor Nielawicki, a survivor of the Jedwabne pogrom in which up to 2,000 people lost their lives, said: “I think it is horrible that many Poles still don’t admit to their country’s anti-Semitic past. They have to understand: the perpetrators were Polish.” It turns out that what could be said in a respected Western magazine in 2001 today could cost the author a fine or a prison sentence. How is this possible? After all, we are dealing with the past, events that happened 75 years ago. How could it be that no one understands that the events that took place 75 years ago do not change? What changes is the way they are treated depending on the political situation. This is a crime in itself.
Lithuania has taken similar steps to what we saw in Poland. I have a question: Where are we headed? Where is humankind going and Europe in particular? Has it forgotten its experience of 75 years ago? How will the minds of new generations in Poland and Lithuania be framed? What kind of reality will Europe live in? A time will come when tweets will be regarded as the ultimate truth.
How long will it take before the evil that was crushed in Berlin in May 1945 and buried for good during the Nuremberg Trials resurfaces? If humankind forgets its past, will it manage to counter these trends once they emerge? The answer is no. There will be no antidote.
I wanted to tell you that even against this backdrop the statements by President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky, who literally equated the role played by the USSR and the Third Reich in unleashing the Second World War, “enabling the Nazis to launch the deadly flywheel of the Holocaust”, are outrageous. This statement did not come from a person who takes a stand as a neo-Nazi or declares himself to be one. These were the words of a President of a country that aspires to new democratic heights. And after that the Ukrainian authorities ask themselves why their people do not want to live in the same country as them. The resurgence of neo-Nazism is the aftermath of the Maidan coup has been clearly a problem for the international community. How can these statements be understood? Torch processions and celebrations of killers responsible for the loss of tens of thousands of lives have become all too common. But statements of this kind go beyond all boundaries. By saying so, the president of Ukraine betrayed his own people. In the trenches and on the battlefield, when soldiers and officers stood up to the Nazi tanks with a single grenade in their hands, they were all part of a united Red Army that succeeded in doing what others were unable to do – and many did not want to do. It was the Red Army that liberated humankind from the Nazi plague. Period. Equating the responsibility of the killer and the victim is a crime and a moral outrage.
I would like to make a special note of Leonid Kravchuk’s case, who went as far as to claim that Hitler and Stalin met in Lvov. He claimed that there was documentary evidence and that it was not a secret. “They tried to come to an agreement,” he said. I have one question for Leonid Kravchuk: What kind of pills have you been taking? What prompted you to make statements of this kind? Do you realise that to some extent you are part of the political establishment representing a UN member country? By the way, the soldiers of your country won the right to be in the UN. Are you in your right mind? Is there anyone left in Ukraine who can give them basic history textbooks on the Great Patriotic War, the Second World War? This is beyond all reason. It seems that he later said that he was not aware of any documents confirming his earlier statements. How can this be? Let me point out once again that these are people who shape public opinion.
I would like to reiterate that we will comment, present facts and provide quotes on every statement distorting the history of the Second World War and the Great Patriotic War, no matter how frequent and how many such statements there are.
On the same date Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova answered the comments of the media on Russia’s efforts to counter attempts to falsify history.
Question: Readers of The Natsionalny Kurs asked us to convey their thanks to the Russian Foreign Ministry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for their clear-cut stand against the falsification of history. It is nice to hear how you enunciate what is, in our view, a correct position.
Maria Zakharova: It is not “in your view” that it is a correct position. In this case, there cannot be a right or wrong position, according to someone’s opinion. There were the Nuremberg Trials. The rulings and judgments were recorded, with relevant signatures put under them. This is a documented international legal process.
If we are saying that someone has not even just the desire but a deep-down resolve to renounce the Nuremberg results, then they should say so and call for this, honestly and truthfully. Look at how many “courageous” and “resolute” people make statements on WWII. But if they are reluctant to deny the results of Nuremberg, then no one can have a second, third, or fifth opinion on the outcome of the Second World War.
The publication of new documents and archive materials is a contribution to the process and helps historians in their work. But this does not abolish the results of Nuremberg. After all, what has begun now, at this historical moment, has begun for a reason. The last witnesses of those events – not only veterans but also those who saw everything with their own eyes and can tell their life story – have either left us, or are on their way out, or will be gone soon. And then all hell will break loose.
Maria Zakharova , Russian Foreign Ministry