Staunton, November 28 – One of the positive developments of recent decades has been the willingness of historians and those concerned with human rights to identify, shame and isolate those who deny the Holocaust. Today, it is long past time to do the same thing with those who deny the Holodomor, Stalin’s genocidal terror famine against Ukrainians and others.
On Saturday, Ukrainians and people of good will around the world paused to remember the victims of Stalin’s murderous attack by famine on the Ukrainian people which claimed as many as ten million lives, intentionally led to the russification of Ukraine, and thus set the stage for many of today’s problems there.
At the time of the famine, Soviet officials and useful idiots in the West like the notorious Walter Duranty denied that any famine was taking place. But the evidence for that crime was too great and was most usefully assembled by James Mace and the American commission on the Ukrainian famine in the 1980s (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=583BE13B37921).
Nonetheless, some Russian and Western intellectuals continue to deny that the Holodomor was a genocide either because of the view that Stalin may have done terrible things but he thereby prepared the USSR to win World War II or because of the desire not to extend the use of the term genocide beyond Hitler’s crimes lest it be somehow devalued (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=583B3AFDCB628).
Those view are wrong. On the one hand, Stalin’s actions in the 1930s weakened the Soviet Union and might have led to its defeat had it not been for the viciousness of Hitler’s hatred of the Slavs, the enormous sacrifice of the peoples of the USSR, and the aid that Moscow received from the US and other Western powers.
And on the other, while the Holocaust and the Holodomor are different, they were both undertaken by criminal leaders unrestrained by any moral principles to destroy groups defined by faith, language, and ethnicity. And consequently, they are both genocides; and those who deny that either of them are should be identified, shamed and shunned.
On its website, the US Holocaust Museum says that “Holocaust denial is an attempt to negate the established facts of the Nazi genocide of European Jewry. Holocaust denial and distortion are forms of antisemitism. They are generally motivated by hatred of Jews and build on the claim that the Holocaust was invented or exaggerated by Jews as part of a plot to advance Jewish interests” (ushmm.org/confront-antisemitism/holocaust-denial-and-distortion).
The museum continues by pointing out that it is “important to confront denial” because “The Nazi persecution of the Jews began with hateful words, escalated to discrimination and dehumanization, and culminated in genocide. The consequences for Jews were horrific, but suffering and death was not limited to them. Millions of others were victimized, displaced, forced into slave labor, and murdered.”
And it notes that “The Holocaust shows that when one group is targeted, all people are vulnerable” and that “The denial or distortion of history is an assault on truth and understanding. Comprehension and memory of the past are crucial to how we understand ourselves, our society, and our goals for the future. Intentionally denying or distorting the historical record threatens communal understanding of how to safeguard democracy and individual rights.”
Tragically, there are so many Holocaust deniers in the world, whose vicious inventions circulate widely on the Internet, that there is even a special article about them on Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust_denial). But the good news is that Jewish and human rights activists, historians and people of good will have fought back.
They have called out those who engage in Holocaust denial, they have shamed them in public and in the courts, and they have been remarkably successful in excluding them from the circle of decent society. Their victories over those who deny Hitler’s crimes can only be welcomed and supported.
Unfortunately, however, there has not been an equivalent effort by Ukrainians and others against those who engage in Holodomor denial; and there should be because what the Holodomor deniers are doing is exactly the same as what the Holocaust deniers are about and has exactly the same consequences.
They deny and degrade an entire human community, justify violence against it, and thus open the way for more such violence in the future. Had there been a successful effort by Ukrainians and others to go after Holodomor deniers, it would have been far more difficult for Putin to engage in his criminal Anschluss of Crimea and his aggression against Ukraine.
Indeed, those who deny the Holodomor are among the most enthusiastic supporters of the Crimean Anschluss. If anyone doubts that, read the disturbing “arguments” of Moscow commentator Sergey Markov in today’s “Vzglyad” (vz.ru/opinions/2016/11/27/846027.htm) and their takedown by a Ukrainian commentator (burckina-new.livejournal.com/331323.html).
It is long past time for the world to denounce and isolate those who deny the Holodomor just as most of the civilized world now denounces the Holocaust. Both were genocides and denying that either of them was is wrong and even more dangerous. The best way to honor those who died in these genocides is to identify and denounce those who continue to deny them.