Blog - 24 December 2009
By Agata Pełeszuk | 24/12/2009
When raising questions about the present anti-Semitism, the public opinion has pointed out Eastern Europe many times during these days. Cemetery desecrations in Greece, incident in Moldavia during Channuka, the raise of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelisness in the Ukrainian media and finally the outrageous theft in Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial scandalized with indifference to Jewish minorities and the respect for history. The wave of aversion towards Jewishness and various forms of defiling the memory provokes to ask about the real picture of Eastern Europe and the place of Jewish life within the Eastern-European frames.
The mark that the Holocaust left in Eastern Europe is immortal. Bringing the historical context to the discussion is necessary to take even a brief look at current problems of anti-Semitism. As Efraim Zuroff of the Wiesenthal Center aptly concluded, after the collapse of the Soviet Union post-Communist societies were brutally confronted with the Holocaust-related issues. Only since early 1990's people could acknowledge the history and act on it in a certain way. The confrontation with ghosts from the past or uncomfortable questions on roots of anti-Semitism until today confuse the public opinion in Eastern European countries. Indeed, societies still have to deal with issues of commemoration of the victims, prosecution of the perpetrators, documentation of “forgotten” crimes. Furthermore, the greatest challenge does not often concern the political establishment, but rather societies in general or certain social groups (f. e. less educated inhabitants of smaller towns or villages). Undoubtedly within the Eastern-European province one can still find some echoes of the Soviet ignorance of the Holocaust, Jewish subjects and legacy of anti-Zionism. The heritage of such negligence led to “the anti-Semitism without Jews”, the term described deeply by Paul Lendavi. It is impossible to understand the various forms of anti-Semitism in Eastern-Europe without looking at these countries through the prism of two main elements that built up social and political mentality – nationalism and socialism. Following the conclusion of Ralph Butler, the interaction of these two upheavals determined the hostilities first in Russia and then, throughout period of first Russian and then Soviet dominance in the region, influenced the Eastern-Europe as a whole.