From news article:
Nearly 70 years after the massacre of more than 27,000 Jews in Rostov, on the banks of the River Don, the Russian Ministry of Culture has announced it will replace the plaque adorning the monument to the dead. But once the text of the new inscription was revealed, it became clear that this was not merely an exhibition of the low level official’s love of new unveilings and plaque dedications. Rather it was another attempt by a European state to revise the history of the Holocaust and remove the stain of genocide from the national consciousness.
The original plaque recorded the event soberly and factually as follows: “On 11/12 August 1942 there had been destroyed by the Nazis more than 27,000 Jews. It is Russia’s largest Holocaust memorial”.
The new inscription immediately smacks of the sort of flowery, bloated language of patriotism more in tune with Stalin’s Russia than with a modern state. And it foreshadowed a return to the sort of euphemisms and terms of convenience rather than truth which were a feature of the old rule – and are increasingly becoming a feature of the new.
The amendment to the text was not merely an exercise in semantics.
Firstly, the victims of the massacre were no longer Jews, rather, “peace-loving Soviet citizens of all nationalities”.
Gone too is any reference to the Holocaust. Now the massacre is described as having occurred in the context of The Great Patriotic War.
And perhaps most significantly, the perpetrators are now referred to as “occupiers” and “invaders” to stress the foreign origins of the guilty.
But how far removed this new inscription is from what truly took place at Zmiyevskaya Balka on the 11th and 12th of August, 1942.
This was not The Great Patriotic War. This was no Battle of Stalingrad or Kursk. The victims were not executed as peace-loving Soviet citizens. They were executed as Jews. And the killing squad was made up of German conscripts and local collaborators alike.
The actions of the Russian Ministry of Culture are a conscious attempt to obscure the confronting reality of Russia’s single biggest Holocaust massacre. Like all massacres of Jewish communities in foreign lands, the Germans relied heavily on local collaborators; both to identify and round up Jewish citizens and to murder the women and children if ever the Germans lost their nerve.
But by casting the massacre as a crime against “Soviet citizens” carried out by “invaders”, the truth gives way to the preferred history that the Soviet Union remained united and honourable in the face of foreign invasion. How could Soviet citizens have participated in the massacre if Soviet citizens are themselves the victims? The haunting poem of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, “Babi Yar” which places the massacre of 33,771 Jews in Kiev in the context of an unbroken Soviet/Russian history of antisemitism, was deemed so provocative that it was confined to the literary underground. Particularly objectionable was Yevtushenko’s recognition of a genocide of the Jews – something the Soviet Union preferred to avoid as it could lead to the logical conclusion that such a massive undertaking could not have occurred without local assistance. Instead, the Soviet protocol was to refer to such massacres as those of “Soviet citizens” to present the illusion of a common national suffering at the hands of a common (and external) enemy. It is significant that the Russian Ministry of Culture is seeking to revive the historical distortions of its Soviet predecessors.
BTW a good (very short) book on this is The Kingdom of Auschwitz by Otto Friedrich.
He touches on the fact that Poland has never really acknowledged the Shoah as a crime against Jews, but as a crime against Poles.