Holocaust survivor urges Jews to flee, ‘author’ of anti-Semitic notice claims it’s a forgery
By Marco Giannangeli / SundayExpress.co.uk
The pamphlets and posters, distributed in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk, demanded that the Jewish population register, pay a new tax, or leave.
They are a terrifying echo of the anti-Jewish atrocities carried out by Ukrainians under Nazi occupation during the Second World War.
The leaflets, apparently signed by pro-Russian group the People’s Republic of Donetsk, have enraged the world.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week: “After all of the miles travelled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable, it is grotesque.”
Sam Pivnik, 86, was only 14 when his family were rounded up in Bedzin, western Poland, and sent to the death camp at Auschwitz.
After his parents, brothers, and a sister were chosen “with the flick of a glove” for extermination by “Angel of Death” Dr Josef Mengele, the teenager, tattooed with a prisoner number, was left to survive alone. Mr Pivnik, who now lives in Golders Green, north London, said he was not surprised by the literature’s anti-Semitism.
“Jews have no place in Ukraine, because nothing has changed,” he said Saturday, “and as long as Jews remain there, nothing will change. They had no business staying in that country after the atrocities of 1939-1945.
“There is no point in staying there waiting for trouble, in the hope that the world Jewry can save them. Even Germany is doing everything it can to tackle anti-Semitism and is better than Ukraine. Jews in the Ukraine should leave.”
During the war, the Nazis exterminated more than 900,000 Jewish people in Ukraine.
Anti-Semitism resurfaced after the nation’s independence in 1991, with attacks on Jewish mayors by right-wing extremists.
The chaos in Ukraine during recent months has seen groups both pro- and anti- Russia levelling accusations of fascism.
During the fortnight before the Donetsk leaflets were distributed, anti-Jewish slogans and swastikas were daubed on houses and a Jewish cemetery in Odessa.
Saturday night it emerged that Jewish families in eastern Ukraine had become so concerned they were seeking advice about repatriation to Israel.
Alexander Ivanchenko, who runs Sohnut, an organisation helping people to move to Israel, said: “It is hard to talk about numbers now but there are more people who come for advice.”
As the climate of fear grows, however, the authenticity of the pamphlets is being called into question. Denis Pushilin, leader of the breakaway pro-Russian People’s Republic, vehemently denied his organisation was behind the leaflets. “Look at this document, I have never called myself the people’s governor, my job is different,” he told the Sunday Express.
“The stamp is bigger than it should be because it was Photoshopped from some real document.”
Mr Pushilin, who claims to run the industrial region of Donetsk, added: “I am personally strongly against any declarations of this sort made against Jewish or any other people. This is a dirty trick by our foes. It is a forgery.”
His militant supporters, who were yesterday still defying last week’s Geneva agreement to lay down arms and surrender control of government buildings, showed how Room 514 in the regional HQ, supposedly where Jewish people should register, was empty.
They called on Ukraine’s police and secret services to find the real culprits, claiming the authors “tried to provoke a conflict”, and pin blame on the separatists.
Dr Efraim Zuroff, of the respected Simon Wiesenthal Centre, agreed, suggesting the Donetsk flyers were “an attempt to paint the pro-Russian forces as anti-Semitic”.
Saturday night, Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatseniuk vowed to use “every legal means” to prevent the “import” of xenophobia and anti-Semitism, and indirectly blamed Russia.
He told US TV he had urged police “to find these bastards and to bring them to justice”, adding: “The ideology and practice of pogroms, exported by a neighbouring state, will not be allowed into Ukraine.” He also said there were “reports of pro-Moscow terrorists” conducting “pogroms” against Roma near Donetsk.
Yaakov Dov Bleich, the chief rabbi of Ukraine, warned that the real danger for the Jewish community was provocation from Russia. He said: “We expect provocations, we expect Russians will want to justify their incursion into Ukraine.”
Whatever the truth, it seems anti-Semitism is being used as a political tool. “For us, the terrible fact is someone made this terrible thing,” said Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski. “Someone tried to use the Jewish community in Donetsk as an instrument in this conflict; 73 years ago, it was the Nazis. Nobody wants to go back to those very, very bad times in history.”