Hate crime in Ukraine? You must be kidding

Just ask the Ukraine authorities. They know nothing about it. But is the death of a rabbi a wake up call?

Dr. Inna Rogatchi

OpEds Inna Rogatchi
Inna Rogatchi

Nowadays, there is hardly a holiday in Jewish life which comes without a cloud of sorrow. 

Just days ago, we were mourning the life of a 21-year old British student taken so senselessly and brutally in another terrorist attack in the heart of Jerusalem. 

And now, preparing for the last days of Pesach, we started our preparations in tears at hearing of the passing of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Deitsch who died in Israel on Friday, April14th, 2017. Our deepest condolences to Rabbi Deitsch’s family, and the Chabad movement. 

We felt close and attached to Rabbi Deitsch even though we saw him only briefly and just a few times. We got closer to him and his family because my husband, as were many other Jews around the globe, was praying for his recovery daily for the past six months. 

Back in October 2016, the well-known and warmhearted Rabbi Menachem Mendel Deitsch, long-term Chabad emissary in France, and later on in Israel, was severely beaten by bunch of thugs in Zhitomir, Ukraine. Shortly after the attack the Rabbi was airlifted to Israel, and for a half year the doctors were fighting for his life, and many of us were praying for his recovery. All this time the Rabbi was in a coma. We and the Doctors failed. The last Friday, Rabbi Menachem Mendel has passed away. It is a special sign from the Creator to take his beloved ones on Shabbat. We recognize that, and are thinking of Rabbi Deitsch's enlightened soul in the way the sign indicates. 

It is notable that Rabbi Deitsch was attacked half a year ago in Zhitomir also on a Friday, during the High Holidays, three days before Yom Kippur. Jewish history has a long tradition of martyrs. Too long, from the perspective of any other nation. But we still survive. We always will.  

And yet, we cannot help but think that Rabbi Deitsch was only 64 years old, and his death is the direct consequence of a vicious unprovoked attack by the animals who saw a suitable 'subject' near the Zhitomir railway station, the one in the Orthodox Rabbi's garb. What a fun it was to let their well-known 'love' for Jews go free. 

Since the incident, due to the international outcry, the Ukrainian authorities arrested four people, two of them girls of 13 and 14, all of whom claimed to be drunk and can not remember what they were doing. Then the claim of attempted robbery surfaced - an ever convenient explanation. And the world went silent. As it does repeatedly on anything the current Ukraine is allowing itself to do with regard to its well-known and so efficiently revived Jew-hatred in all its forms. We witness it all daily in the country known today for its main feature: glorification of vile anti-Semites, not to mention fervent Nazi collaborators, as its national heroes.

In the wake of the outrageous attack on Rabbi Deitsch in Zhitomir in October 2016, except for a two line evasive police report, we have not heard any statement of condemnation of the attack by the Ukrainian authorities. As we have heard none regarding numerous cases of anti-Semitic incidents all over the country marked nowadays by the Nazi-like symbols of the Ukraine's reborn authenticity: the symbols of Halicina ( Galician) Waffen SS division, and the symbols of the Ukrainian ultra-nationalists movements.

One need just watch a few minutes of reports by Ukrainian TV from the regular neo-Nazi rallies all over. So proud of itself Ukraine, to self judge what that country has become.  

Non-stop hate-crimes

To see situation in the objective focus of facts - that is, referring only to events in Ukraine during the last 6 months while Rabbi Deitsch’s doctors were fighting day and night to keep him alive:

Holocaust memorials and Jewish cemeteries were desecrated with swastikas and, as is very popular now, with a Ukraine ciphered Nazi slogan in Kremenchug; ‘Death to Kikes.’

Black crosses and other niceties defaced the front of the important Central Synagogue in the once supremely Jewish city of Chernovitz.

A former synagogue turned into the philharmonic hall in Uzhgorod in the Western Ukraine and the Holocaust memorial there was completely covered with the red paint and more than 100 anti-Semitic flyers. 

The grave of Rabbi Nachman from Breslav in Uman, the resting place of the one of the most revered tzaddiks for millions of Jews world-wide, was desecrated on Chanukah eve in the most vicious way, with a huge pig's head carved with a swastika on it brought into the sanctuary during a pepper-gas attack by hooligans who washed the memorial inside with several baskets of red paint, placing the pig's head with swastika on Rabbi Nachman’s tomb in the presence of the Jewish worshippers there who had been neutralized by pepper-gas

Two young Jews were severely beaten in Dnepr just near the huge Menorah centre;  

The Holocaust memorial in Nikolajev was vandalized with black paint and had insults scribbled all over it.

In the same Zhitomir where the attack on Rabbi Deitsch occurred in October 2016, in early February a macabre crime was discovered when it turned out that the local population was systematically digging up the pits that held graves of Holocaust victims in order to harvest their gold teeth crown,

75 years after the Shoah; the Holocaust memorial in Ternopol was desecrated with swastikas and Nazi slogans all over it.

Anti-Semitic graffiti appeared all over a big wall in Cherkassy. 

All the above named episodes happened during the last half year, from October 2016 until mid-April 2017. All of them are well documented, with photos and detailed descriptions. All were reported to the Ukrainian police.

Before October 2016, there were many other similar episodes of powerful, driven by hate actions and nonchalance shown by the authorities-  vile, trade-marked Ukrainian anti-Semitism which is nothing new except that it is happening this very day and is allowed to happen absolutely freely in Ukraine today.

Among the attacks, there were two serious episodes of vandalizing the graves in Babi Yar in September 2016. In many places – as in Babi Yar, the Nikolayev memorial, in Uzhgorod and Ternopol the desecration has become a norm, repeated many times a year. This all is well documented and photographed. One can organize a quite impressive exhibition on the expression of the anti-Semitism in Ukraine today. 

Additionally to those hate-crimes listed above all over the country, there were macabre episodes in Babi Yar where the Ukrainian authorities, including the Kiev Major Klitchko, are allowing and supporting the perversion and deeply insulting idea of erecting memorials and setting up exhibitions to memorialize the people who were perpetrators of the most vicious anti-Semitic propaganda and activities during the Holocaust. 

Recently, the exhibition telling of ‘exploits’ of Ivan Rohach appeared in Babi Yar. Rohach was editor of the Ukrainian ultra-nationalistic OUN newspaper who repeatedly called for extermination of Jews. Then, the memorial to Yelena Teliga was erected there, as well – following a special decree by Ukrainian president Poroshenko on the commemoration of Teliga’s 100th birthday. It is sobering to know that Teliga was a fierce anti-Semite who appealed to the citizens of Kiev repeatedly before the mass murder of Jews in Babi Yar, both on the OUN radio and in their newspaper, inciting them to denounce Jews to the Ukrainian police and the Nazi authorities. 

And the world still is silent. 

“I have nothing against Jews, but I do hate ‘kikes’”  

‘Enough is enough’ is not enough anymore for the vicious Ukrainian anti-Semitism which the homegrown louts feel free to exercise because they are allowed to go on, because it is deliberately ignored.  
As the world prefers not to notice the power of the ultra Ukrainian nationalism which is characterised by its vile anti-Semitism and also by its traditional hatred towards many other nationalities – Poles, Lithuanians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Czechs, Romanians, Romas, and Russians, to name a few – it gives a very wrong signal not only to the Ukrainian authorities who have shamed themselves for good by their stand on humanity today, but also to the rest of that country which is big enough to let the boiling hatred there to go on unnoticed. 

In he dramatic daily life in the current Ukraine, many of the local Rabbis and leaders of the Jewish communities there are simply afraid to call things by their real names, in order not to make things worse for their communities. This is freedom in the XXI century, in a post-communist country, the one accepted by the EU as its 'almost' partner, one might say. 

The European Parliament led the fight for the release from prison of Nadija Savchenko who had been made a symbol for the fight for the new Ukraine. They did this far too fervently, as it turned out soon after her release. How charming of the Ukrainian celebrity MP to say in support of a vile anti-Semitic tirade of one of her fans who called  the studio during the popular radio program, to talk of her love for Jews: “I have nothing against the Jews, but I do hate ‘kikes’ – she said -"who have 80% of the power in our country despite being just 2% of our population”. 

No one has heard any reaction regarding that a-la Hitler tirade of their hero Nadija from any of the European Parliament members who fought for  her release and freedom – to execute exactly what? This typical Ukrainian, now state-supported, sheer anti-Semitism? 

And do not preach to us abougt the Ukrainian Prime-Minister who happens to be Jewish. His appointment is on purpose, meant to refute the long catalogue of applied anti-Semitism in Ukraine, growing rapidly daily. In fact,  we have not heard a word condemning the country’s rabid anti-Semitism from its prime minister, nor his intervention on behalf of accelerating the proper investigation of a single one of the many anti-Semitic crimes.  We have not heard from any of the Ukrainian authorities, from the president down to the local heads of administrations.

Quite deliberately, they chose a conspiracy of silence regarding the consistent, national-wide, broad and growingly aggressive anti-Semitism. No wonder: they all are very busy covering up for the simultaneous process of glorifying the worst murderers that country saw, but which it has chosen as icons for a new-found self-identity. 
If the tenth part of what is happening in Ukraine with regard to the glorification of the Nazi-collaborators, happened in any other country, such as Hungary or Croatia, the world, the European Union and its Parliament would not waste a day before disciplining that country to obey the accepted norms of civilized humanity and responsibility with regard towards both condemned and not-condemned, those who nevertheless committed crimes against humanity. 

We know the reason for such global lethargy towards anti-Semitism and ultra nationalism in Ukraine; the untold agreement to provide it with a cart-blanche  while building its ‘new identity’. These reasons had to do with the previous US Administration. The world has reason to believe that as with many other grave mistakes of the Obama Administration and its extremely dangerous and short-sighted international policy, this mistake will be corrected by the current Administration, as well. There are all reasons for doing it.  

And it is high time now for the world to awaken in this respect as well.  

In the case of Rabbi Deitsch, the death of very good man and devoted Rabbi should not go unnoticed. The Ukrainian authorities must be made accountable for this crime. For the crime of vile and open anti-Semitism. For this and all the other crimes and activities listed above, and many similar ones.

‘Enough is enough’ is not enough anymore for the vicious homegrown Ukrainian anti-Semitism which the louts feel free to exercise because they are allowed to go on doing it, because it is deliberately ignored.  

It is the time for an articulated policy against the feast of  the  anti-Semitic devil in Ukraine now. This action would be the best memory for a wonderful man, devoted Rabbi Menachem Mendel Deitsch who had to become a new Jewish martyr, in order for the apa serene world to be awaken.

Dr Inna Rogatchi is the writer, film-maker, scholar, public figure and philanthropist. She is the author of internationally prized film on Simon Wiesenthal, The Lessons of Survival. Her recent project Shining Souls. Champions of Humanity was inaugurated at The European Parliament early in 2017 and is on the world-tour now.