Russia Is Not the First to Blame Jews for Their Own Holocaust – The Atlantic

Posted By on May 6, 2022

Why people try to pin the Nazi genocide on the Jews, and why its so dangerous.

By Yair Rosenberg

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spends most of his time these days obfuscating the reality of his countrys assault on Ukraine. But this past week, he took a momentary break from this work to distort the history of a different war: World War II and the Jewish genocide that accompanied it. Asked on Italian television how Russia could claim to be denazifying Ukraine when the country is led by a Jewish president, Lavrov retorted, I believe that Hitler also had Jewish blood. He later added, Some of the worst anti-Semites are Jews.

Lavrov has one job: to sell Russias unprovoked war on Ukraine in the public square. Unsurprisingly, his Holocaust revisionismrooted in a long-standing conspiracy theoryhasnt helped. The Israeli government publicly rebuked Russia over the comments, summoning its ambassador and demanding an apology. As Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid pointedly put it: Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust. (Lapids grandfather was murdered by the Nazis, while his grandmother and father ultimately made their way to Israel.)

In a rare joint statement, Jewish members of the U.S. House of Representatives similarly condemned Lavrovs claims, saying: Defaulting to antisemitic tropes, including blaming the Jews for the Holocaust and using the Holocaust to cover their own war crimes, reflects the gutless depravity of the Russian regime. In response to this outcry, the Russian foreign ministry doubled down, accusing Lapid and Israel of supporting a neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine. As this goes to press, Israeli sources are reporting that Putin has apologized for his foreign ministers remarks, but this has not been confirmed by Russia.

For those familiar with the history of the Holocaust, Lavrovs stance might seem utterly unhinged. But equating Jews with Nazis has long been a staple of Soviet and Russian rhetoric. And beliefs like Lavrovs are far more common than most realize. Over the decades, many people from the Soviet Union to America to the Middle East have blamed the Jews for their own genocide, often for political and ideological purposes. Its important to understand why they do this, because these efforts are not merely intended to obscure depraved acts of the past, but to enable them in the future.

One of the more chilling polls in U.S. history was taken by Gallup in 1938, on the eve of the Holocaust. As Hitler rose to power and enacted a host of anti-Semitic laws, the survey firm asked Americans for their opinions on the Jewish victims of European anti-Semitism. The results? 54 percent said that the persecution of Jews in Europe has been partly their own fault. 11 percent said it was entirely their fault. In other words, 65 percent of Americans adhered to the soft-core version of Lavrovs position, blaming Europes Jews for their own abuse. (Even today, many continue to insist that Jews cause anti-Semitism.)

The hard-core version of this worldview, on the other hand, contends that Jews actively collaborated with the Nazis to perpetrate the Holocaust. This is Lavrovs position, but hes not alone. Take David Icke, one of the worlds most prominent conspiracy theorists, who claims that wealthy Jews funded the Holocaust, writing, The Warburgs, part of the Rothschild empire, helped finance Adolf Hitler. (Icke has also claimed elsewhere that Hitler was a Rothschild.) Like Lavrovs remarks, Ickes claims may seem fringe. But the deeply anti-Semitic book that these words appeared in was fulsomely recommended by author Alice Walker in the pages of the New York Times.

Back in 1984, Mahmoud Abbasnow the president of the Palestinian Authoritypublished a book based on his doctoral dissertation. The name? The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism. The tract, which is still featured today on Abbass official government website, alleges that the Zionists were the Third Reichs basic partner in crime. The Zionist movement, it falsely claims, led a broad campaign of incitement against the Jews living under Nazi rule, in order to arouse the governments hatred of them, to fuel vengeance against them, and to expand the mass extermination. The purpose of this conspiracy, Abbas contends, was to spur more Jewish immigration to Palestine. Among other assertions, Abbas also writes that no Jews were murdered in the Nazi gas chambers, citing noted Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson, and argues that the figure of 6 million Jewish dead is exaggerated many times over.

One might reasonably wonder: Where did Abbas manage to successfully submit this Ph.D. in Holocaust denial? The answer: Lumumba University, in Moscow.

Why are people so drawn to explanations that pin the Holocaust on its Jewish victims? To understand the allure of accusing the Jews of genocidewhether their own or of othersone has to understand what the claim accomplishes for those who level it. As Ive written previously:

First, they weaponize the greatest Jewish trauma against Jewish people. As the Marxist political theorist Norm Geras put it, To say to Jews that what they are doing is just like what the Nazis did to them is to appeal to the comparison that is most hateful. There is no better way to hurt someone than to fashion their most painful experience into a club with which to beat them. Its not hard to imagine how turning the Holocaust on Jewish people, like turning slavery on Black people, provides a delicious transgressive thrill.

This helps explain the immediate appeal for Lavrov in invoking the Holocaust against both Ukraines Volodymyr Zelensky and Israels Lapid, both of whom lost family in it.

In a masterful maneuver of moral jujitsu, pinning genocide on the Jews allows the bigot to swipe the Holocaust card and play it against them. The victims are transformed into perpetrators, and their judgment is called into question.

For Lavrov, a man tasked with defending a regime that stands accused of crimes against humanity, inverting the Holocaust is simply another iteration of what he has already been doing for his own government: recasting its victims as aggressors and using this to justify further victimization. In other words, Lavrovs comments dont simply distort the past, but attempt to justify similar acts in the future. Seen in this light, its less surprising that the Russian foreign minister resorted to inverted Holocaust argumentsand more surprising that it took him this long.

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Russia Is Not the First to Blame Jews for Their Own Holocaust - The Atlantic

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