to the Estonian president's distorted logic, the Jewish victims
who were murdered by the Estonians during the Holocaust,
and the Estonian hangmen who annihilated the Jews, are "partners."
It's not a good idea to mention a noose in the home of a hanged man. But Toomas
Hendrik Ilves, the president of Estonia who visited Israel
this week, has the chutzpah to openly say explicit and distorted
things, even at the President's Residence in Jerusalem. The
two nations, the Jews and the Estonians, so he said, "are partners to the same historical experience."
According to the Estonian president's distorted logic, the Jewish victims who
were murdered by the Estonians during the Holocaust, and
the Estonian hangmen who annihilated the Jews, are "partners." In that same speech, the guest made no mention of the Holocaust, not even one
word, nor of the fate of Estonia's 4,500 Jews during World
Let's do it for him and briefly remind the president of the historical facts.
Most people in Estonia, just like the citizens of its two
Baltic neighbors Lithuania and Latvia, welcomed the arrival
of the Nazis and considered them liberators and not conquerors.
It was the good fortune of the Jews of Estonia that, after
the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, they held
back for a few weeks until they were ready to overrun that
country. In the meantime, around 3,500 Jews managed to escape
to the Soviet Union.
Of the approximately 1,000 Jews who remained in Estonia, 993 were murdered by
the Nazis and their Estonian collaborators. Thousands of
European Jews were transported by the Nazis to Estonia and
murdered in the concentration camps there. The camp guards
were Estonians. The 36th battalion of the Estonian security
police took part alongside the SS in the mass shooting of
the Jews of Nowogrodek in what is now Belarus.
The Estonian president lived for many
years in the United States and graduated from Columbia University
in New York; it is clear that his remarks were well thought
out and not made by chance. Ilves does not deny the Holocaust,
he simply ignores it, so it is fitting to call him a "Holocaust distorter," a term popularized by Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal
Center in Israel.
This definition covers a new species
of leaders in the Baltic countries, as well as in central
and eastern Europe, who since the collapse of the Soviet
Union have sought to rewrite history and draw an analogy
between the Nazi occupation of their countries and the Soviet
occupation. As far as these leaders are concerned, there
is no difference between Nazism and Communism.
These leaders are trying to create
a false equation according to which the Nazis' crimes in
the Holocaust are not a unique phenomenon in history. Therefore,
from their point of view, the Jews' murderers who collaborated
with the Nazis and fought against the Soviet occupation are
heroes. So the authorities have set up monuments and memorial
sites for them.
These leaders who got together under
the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism
in June 2008 are now striving to declare August 23 a memorial
day for all the victims of totalitarian regimes. Europe will
never be able to really be united, they claim, if it does
not recognize the "joint heritage" of Nazism and Communism.
If, heaven forbid, this actually happens,
it will make Holocaust Day, which is marked throughout the
world, redundant. Who will need Holocaust Memorial Day if
there is a joint memorial day that brings together the hangmen
and their victims under one roof? One of the main activists
in this group of leaders of the Prague Declaration is the
Distorting history is a widespread
phenomenon in Estonia. Under international pressure, that
country was forced to declare January 27 as Holocaust Memorial
Day, but in an opinion poll, 93 percent of Estonians said
they were opposed to it.
Nevertheless, the gravity of the Estonian
president's position is dwarfed by the thunderous and shameful
silence with which his remarks were received in Israel. No
one got up to protest - neither the president, Shimon Peres,
nor the aggressive foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who
is so worried about Israel's honor. Neither Yad Vashem nor
the heads of the various Holocaust research institutes at
Official Israel uses the memory of
the Holocaust for its political and security needs, but it
does not object when history is distorted and doesn't really
care about the memory of the Holocaust. It appears that only
a handful of historians like Dr. Zuroff and Prof. Dov Levin,
who has retired from Yad Vashem (and this perhaps is the
reason for the institute's embarrassing silence on the matter
) are continuing to fight a rearguard battle against the
deniers and distorters of the Holocaust.