In recent days, a skillful unit, the “Prague Platform,” financed by European Union governments and various EU funds and budgets, has launched a new initiative designed to undermine the narrative of the Holocaust (and what Fascism brought to Europe) and replace it with the far-right’s “Double Genocide” model of history, whereby Communism and Nazism are in principle totally equal, and their victims must be remembered in a unitary jumble. For this movement, entrapping naive Western (often Jewish) fellow travelers to grant the cover of presumed legitimacy is a strategic imperative on the road to universal acceptance. The Platform, whose full name is Eurospeak’s “Platform of European Memory and Conscience,” has on its website the foundational constitution of the new revisionism, the 2008 “Prague Declaration,” which boasts the word “same” five times, in reference to Nazism and Communism, and (this one is quite Orwellian) demands that “all European minds” accept the proposed equivalence. There is by now a long and principled trail of opposition. We of the DefendingHistory.com team based in Vilnius were exceptionally proud, back in 2012, to co-draft the European parliamentary rejoinder, the Seventy Years Declaration, in partnership with Professor Danny Ben-Moshe, who the same year completed a documentary on these matters.
This week, in keeping with its red-brown, mix-and-match hodgepodgization, the Platform trumpets a brand-new exciting European Union competition for designs for a new memorial in Brussels that must in and of itself include “victims of National Socialism, Fascism, and Communism.” And who are the Platform’s two partners in flaunting the new memorial to be built in Brussels (not, Prague, Riga or Kiev, mind you…)? The Slovak presidency of the Council of the European Union, quite expectedly, and then the shocker: The European Shoah Legacy Institute. Peradventure, its current leaders, were caught unawares, and will hasten to withdraw from a project that is intended to diminish the Holocaust in the context of a major political movement that has some corollaries.
For the uninitiated in East European politics, it can sound rather innocuous, but the empirical evidence collected over the years makes clear what those corollaries include: Mandatory equalization of those who committed genocide at Auschwitz with those who liberated it. Plans to effectively replace Holocaust Commemoration Day with a mix-and-match day for Soviet and Nazi crimes together (knowing that Europe won’t need two memorial days for these things). Inflation of the term “genocide” to include an array of (genuinely horrific) Soviet crimes as deportation and imprisonment; propagation of the notion that many of the victims were at other times criminals themselves (recently pronounced by the head of the Platform’s Vilnius-based partner whose name is even more Orwellian: “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania”).
Then there is the most distasteful of all: the state-sponsored (or encouraged) glorification of Holocaust perpetrators on the grounds that they were anti-Soviet (which in Eastern Europe they were indeed; the Soviet Union, for all its many crimes and outrages, was the only serious force in Eastern Europe combatting Hitler’s rule from the onset of genocide in late June 1941 to war’s end). The “pro-Western” parts of Europe, including Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine are littered with memorials for Holocaust perpetrators. It’s hard to think of what could be more “far right” than that, bearing in mind the far right’s sophisticated, educated wing of elites in politics, academia and public institutions who know how to show naive Westerners a darned good time, and who have little in common with skinhead thugs who come to Western minds in association with the concept of the “far right.”
Make no mistake, none of this is in the least inconsistent with the absolute need to educate Europe and the world about the manifold evils of Soviet Communism and its litany of crimes, or the need to defend free states from Putinist mischief. In fact, the European Union was well on the way toward that noble goal with various resolutions, e.g. Parliamentary Assembly’s Resolution 1481 in 2006. But in 2008, that effort was hijacked. The onslaught got underway with the January 2008 “Common Europe, Common History” group of right-wing parliamentarians who contended, in effect, that all of the Europe must accept the Eastern far right’s “red-brown equivalence” for the continent to be united. Read in the fact that all must have one opinion, or else. Little wonder that in the years since, anti-democratic (in fact: Soviet style) laws and prosecutorial overreaches have proliferated in the region, including legislation that threatens imprisonment for challenging Double Genocide in Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, and Ukraine, among others. But truly democratic friends of the new Eastern Europe understand things definitely: the long-suffering peoples of these countries deserve the same standard of democracy as the rest of Europe.
Back then, in January 2008, just one West European parliamentarian understood exactly what was happening. British MP John Mann, long a leader in the struggle against racism and antisemitism, rose in the House of Commons to explain what was flying: “On 22 January, in Tallinn, Estonia, five MEPs from five different countries met to launch a group called Common Europe—Common History. It has the same theme—the need for an equal evaluation of history. It is just a traditional form of prejudice, rewritten in a modern context. In essence, it is trying to equate communism and Judaism as one conspiracy and rewrite history from a nationalist point of view. Those are elected MEPs.”
But Eastern Europe too has had it's inspirationally courageous heroes who have dared to challenge Double Genocide and its corollaries. When the Lithuanian government reburied with full honors the Nazi puppet prime minister who signed papers confirming the sending to a murder camp and a ghetto the Jewish citizens of his city in 1941, two patriotic members of the Lithuanian parliament (the Seimas), rose to challenge the government of the day in a scene worthy of the House of Commons. One of them is Dr. Vytenis Andriukaitis, today the European Health Commissioner in Brussels, who dared to reply to a Holocaust-obfuscating foreign minister in 2012, at a juncture when a bunch of South African Jews in Israel could not resist the glitter of a gala banquet honoring that minister in Tel Aviv (Holocaust survivors and the Wiesenthal Center’s Efraim Zuroff picketed).
Leading scholars of antisemitism, including Clemens Heni and Michael Shafir, have understood with utmost clarity the anti-Semitic dimensions of the “Prague movement.” The late Robert Wistrich included the seminal chapter “Lying about the Holocaust” in his final magnum opus on the scourge of antisemitism, A Lethal Obsession (2010).
Those who uphold and defend the European Union’s, and the West’s values, must not help cover for the well-oiled “Soviet in style, nationalist in content” movement underway in the Eastern EU to mangle history. Those who work to combat racism and antisemitism, and who will not succumb to the latter-day glorification of Hitler’s local killers in Eastern Europe, must not partner with the obfuscations of Prague in conferring medals for winning designs of an untoward mix-and-match Double Genocide monument in Brussels. It is time for the European Shoah Legacy Institute to withdraw from this den of casuistry and misrepresentation, and to defend, not undermine, the Holocaust’s legacy in Europe and beyond.