Statement by Scholars of World War II, Genocide and Nazism on Invasion of UkraineHistorians in the News
tags: Ukraine, Holocaust history
As we write this, the horror of war is unfolding in Ukraine. The last time Kyiv was under heavy artillery fire and saw tanks in its streets was during World War II. If anyone should know it, it’s Vladimir Putin, who is obsessed with the history of that war.
Russian propaganda has painted the Ukrainian state as Nazi and fascist ever since Russian special forces first entered Ukraine in 2014, annexing the Crimea and fomenting the conflict in the Donbas, which has smoldered for eight long years.
It was propaganda in 2014. It remains propaganda today.
This is why we came together: to protest the use of this false and destructive narrative. Among those who have signed the statement below are some of the most accomplished and celebrated scholars of World War II, Nazism, genocide and the Holocaust. If you are a scholar of this history, please consider adding your name to the list. If you are a journalist, you now have a list of experts you can turn to in order to help your readers better understand Russia’s war against Ukraine.
And if you are a consumer of the news, please share the message of this letter widely. There is no Nazi government for Moscow to root out in Kyiv. There has been no genocide of the Russian people in Ukraine. And Russian troops are not on a liberation mission. After the bloody 20th century, we should all have built enough discernment to know that war is not peace, slavery is not freedom, and ignorance offers strength only to autocratic megalomaniacs who seek to exploit it for their personal agendas.
Statement by Scholars of Genocide, Nazism and World War II
Since February 24, 2022, the armed forces of the Russian Federation have been engaged in an unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine. The attack is a continuation of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and its heavy involvement in the armed conflict in the Donbas region.
The Russian attack came in the wake of accusations by the Russian president Vladimir Putin of crimes against humanity and genocide, allegedly committed by the Ukrainian government in the Donbas. Russian propaganda regularly presents the elected leaders of Ukraine as Nazis and fascists oppressing the local ethnic Russian population, which it claims needs to be liberated. President Putin stated that one of the goals of his “special military operation” against Ukraine is the “denazification” of the country.
We are scholars of genocide, the Holocaust, and World War II. We spend our careers studying fascism and Nazism, and commemorating their victims. Many of us are actively engaged in combating contemporary heirs to these evil regimes and those who attempt to deny or cast a veil over their crimes.
We strongly reject the Russian government’s cynical abuse of the term genocide, the memory of World War II and the Holocaust, and the equation of the Ukrainian state with the Nazi regime to justify its unprovoked aggression. This rhetoric is factually wrong, morally repugnant and deeply offensive to the memory of millions of victims of Nazism and those who courageously fought against it, including Russian and Ukrainian soldiers of the Red Army.
We do not idealize the Ukrainian state and society. Like any other country, it has right-wing extremists and violent xenophobic groups. Ukraine also ought to better confront the darker chapters of its painful and complicated history. Yet none of this justifies the Russian aggression and the gross mischaracterization of Ukraine. At this fateful moment we stand united with free, independent and democratic Ukraine and strongly reject the Russian government’s misuse of the history of World War II to justify its own violence.
(Russian translation appears after the list of signatories.)
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