How Many Holocausts Have There Been in Belarus?

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By Costas Raptis

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Belarus has been at the forefront of Western media attention since the re-election of Alexander Lukashenko, despite incidents involving migrants and refugees on the border with Poland. And yet: no one (except Israel) felt the need to address the resolution passed by the Belarusian parliament on December 14 on the “genocide” committed in the country by Nazi troops and “nationalist groups.”

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Indeed, the area occupied by present-day Belarus was the bloodiest in the great massacre of World War II: one third of the population died (at least 2.5 million people) as the Germans carried out 140 retaliatory operations in the country. , destroying 200 towns and cities and 9,000 villages and setting up 250 concentration camps for Soviet prisoners of war and 350 for civilians. In the Mali Trostenets camp alone, the largest in Belarus, there were 206,500 victims, including Jews from the Minsk ghetto.

The fact that Belarus was in the middle of the road to the occupation of Moscow, was primarily a hotbed of guerrilla warfare in the Nazi rear and at the same time traditionally the home of large numbers of Jews of Russia / Soviet Union, explains the horrible.

However, the fact that the Minsk Duma has chosen the current situation to adopt the resolution on the Belarusian genocide (accompanied by a provision for a five-year prison sentence for those who deny it) is not accidental. This is another step in the ideologicalization of the new Cold War: for the promotion of the West, and of Germany in particular, as an old enemy with deadly attitudes towards the Belarusians. It may not be a response to the post-Soviet rehabilitation by neighboring countries, such as Ukraine and the Baltic Republics, of local Nazi collaborators as national heroes, or to the introduction by the EU. of the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 as a day of remembrance for the crimes of Nazism and Communism undifferentiated.

It is characteristic of the latter event that Russian President Vladimir Putin felt the need to respond with an extensive historical article in which, with the help of archival material, he highlights the responsibilities of Western countries for the 1938 Munich Pact.

And if for today Russia the projection of the anti-fascist victory during the “Great Patriotic War” is a central element of the official state ideology (as a point where nostalgic and critics of the Soviet regime can meet), the younger “sister” of Belarus, who it has only been superficially de-Sovietized and is in international political isolation, it could not be left behind.

But the decision of the Minsk Duma had its side effects, as it clashed with another national narrative: that of the uniqueness and exclusivity of the Jewish Holocaust during World War II.

To be precise, Israeli historians are already complaining that the decisions of the Belarusian parliament constitute a form of “Holocaust denial” (by “blurring the boundaries” of the catastrophe that befell the Jewish populations of Eastern Europe), while the opposition level.

Hence, Lukashenko tried to defuse tensions by telephone on Monday, under the guise of discussing issues of common interest amid a pandemic, with his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog, whom he invited to visit his “little homeland.” Indeed, the Israeli president is from Berezina, Belarus, and his wife is from Gomel.

An article in the Belarusian ambassador to Israel, Haaretz, was preceded by an article in which Yevgeny Vorobiov recalled that his country (which, on its independence, had adopted the “land law” and not the “blood law” for the granting of citizenship multinational, bringing together Belarusians, Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Jews and Tatars, and that never after the war did it separate on the basis of ethno-religious criteria the bloodshed of Nazi victims, who were indiscriminately residents of Belarus, Soviet citizens and These include the approximately 800,000 Belarusian Jews who initially gathered in 186 ghettos and then almost all were exterminated.

Ambassador Vorobiov also recounts his family history to illustrate the extent of the violence suffered by his country’s civilians during the war, while expressing outrage at the views expressed today by Israeli historians such as Leonid Smilovich. the extermination of the Jews was pre-planned by the Nazis, the losses among the other Belarusians were caused by retaliation for the action of the rebels. According to Vorobiov, this is a reproduction of Nazi propaganda blaming anti-Nazi fighters for the crimes of the occupying army.

In addition, the Belarusian diplomat claims that the tribal hierarchies of Nazism did not programmatically target only the Jews (who were destined for extermination), but also the Slavs who, according to the Nazi texts, were treated as “savage Indians” in an area would be “Germanized” through colonization.

So to whom do the dead “belong”? Are all victims equally victims? Is there “exclusivity” in the sense of the Holocaust?

The controversy of the last days cannot be understood unless we remember that in Eastern Europe the Jews had the characteristics of an ethnic minority (with the Yiddish as their mother tongue) and that it was there that the largely secular Zionist movement was born, based on its conception. of Judaism not merely as a religion, but of a distinct “people” who eventually achieved their “national restoration” with the establishment of the state of Israel. Hence the Israeli media protesting that with the decisions of the Minsk Duma the 800,000 Jewish dead appear retroactively as ethnic Belarusians.

On the other hand, present-day Belarus perpetuates a Soviet “ecumenical” discourse that promotes common passions and common struggles, undermining ethnic identity, and the ideological significance and timeliness of such a conflict cannot be underestimated.

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Source From: Capital

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