Sending Office: Honorable Ro Khanna
Sent By:
Erik.Sperling@mail.house.gov

Urge State Dept. to Combat Holocaust Denial and Anti-Semitism in Poland and Ukraine

The Administration should develop a plan and urgently fill the position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism

Deadline Wednesday, April 18, COB

 

Current signers (12): Cicilline, Khanna, Jayapal, Cohen, Norton, Raskin, Pocan, Nadler, Moore, Lawrence, Adam Smith, Lofgren

 

Dear Colleague: 

We invite you to join us in signing a letter to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, urging him to lead the State Department in combatting the rise of Holocaust distortion, Nazi glorification, and the rise of anti-Semitism in Poland and Ukraine. The
letter asks for a detailed response outlining what steps the United States (U.S.) government is taking to monitor instances of Holocaust distortion and ensure the U.S. is not supporting or funding groups and individuals that promote or justify anti-Semitism.

Earlier this year, Warsaw passed a law which makes it a criminal offense to claim Poland participated in the Holocaust. Last November, 60,000 people

marched
through Warsaw to chants such as “Pure Blood.” Last week, a
senior Polish politician stated
“Jews are not human; they are animals.” In their pursuit of Holocaust revision, Poland’s ruling Law and Order party has persecuted authors and journalists. 

In 2015, Kyiv passed laws glorifying
Nazi collaborators
who participated in the mass killing of Jews as “heroes” of Ukraine and making it

illegal to deny
their “heroism.” Ukraine has seen
streets renamed
after those figures, widespread
desecration of Holocaust sites
,
torchlight marches
with neo-Nazi insignia, and restriction of freedom of expression, including book bans.

In both cases, these revisionist laws coincided with a disturbing
surge of anti-Semitism
aimed at local Jewish communities. And now we see Holocaust denial and the glorification of Nazi collaborators rapidly spreading to other nations, including

Hungary
,
Lithuania
, and
Croatia
.

The letter requests the State Department detail what actions it is taking to work with the Polish and Ukrainian governments to combat the rise of anti-Semitism and Holocaust-denial and distortion. Additionally, we ask that the Trump Administration immediately
nominate a candidate for the position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism. The longer this position sits unfilled, the more it sends the message the United States will tolerate anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. It is imperative the U.S.
stand up in defense of Holocaust victims and against the racism and anti-Semitism inflamed by these laws.

To sign on or if you have any question, please contact Sarah Trister in Rep. Cicilline’s office (sarah.trister@mail.house.gov or 5-4911), or Erik Sperling in Rep. Khanna’s office (erik.sperling@mail.house.gov
or 5-2631).

Sincerely,

David Cicilline                                    Ro Khanna

Member of Congress                          Member of Congress

 

LETTER TEXT:

Dear Deputy Secretary Sullivan:

We write to express our dismay about recent reports of state-sponsored Holocaust distortion and denial taking place in Poland and Ukraine. These developments are unacceptable, especially given today’s global surge of anti-Semitism. 

We urge you to join us and human rights organizations in standing against anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and all forms of intolerance by calling for the Polish and Ukrainian governments to unequivocally reject Holocaust distortion and the honoring of Nazi collaborators
and fully prosecute anti-Semitic crimes. We also ask that you detail what steps are being taken by the United States (U.S.) government to monitor instances of Holocaust distortion and ensure that the U.S. is not supporting or funding groups and individuals
that promote or justify anti-Semitism. We believe these steps must include a firm request that these offensive laws be repealed.

Earlier this year, Warsaw passed a law making it a criminal offense to state that Poland participated in the Holocaust. The law, which was rightfully criticized by the U.S. State Department, the Israeli government, and others, was accompanied by a surge
of anti-Semitic remarks. The Israeli Embassy in Warsaw reported being flooded by anti-Semitic vitriol, while members of the Polish Jewish community expressed concern at rising tensions in the wake of the law. Despite Polish President Andrzej Duda’s assurances
that the law would not be used to stifle free speech, a lawsuit has already been filed against an Argentinian newspaper using this law; Jan Dziedziczak, the Deputy Director of the Polish Foreign Ministry, has demanded that Israel change an exhibit in Yad Vashem
in Jerusalem; and an Israeli mayor was forced to cancel a commemoration ceremony after he refused local authorities’ demands to remove references to Polish complicity in the Holocaust from his speech.

Ukraine’s 2015 memory laws went even further by glorifying Nazi collaborators and making it a criminal offense to deny their “heroism.” However, unlike the Polish law, this move by the government in Kyiv has received little to no public response
from the United States. The groups and individuals extolled by Ukraine include Nazi collaborators Stepan Bandera, Roman Shukhevych, and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), as well as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). These paramilitaries and
individuals in some cases collaborated with the Nazis and bear responsibility for the murder of thousands of Jews, 70,000-100,000 Poles, and other ethnic minorities between 1941 and 1945.  

It’s particularly troubling that much of the Nazi glorification in Ukraine is government-supported. Examples include the 2017 pro-UPA campaign conducted by the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory; the naming of streets after Bandera and Shukhevych by
the Kyiv city council; and L’viv’s 2017 “ShukhevychFest” which took place on the anniversary of the 1941 L’viv Pogroms in which 4000 Jews were killed. 

Just as in Poland, state-sponsored Holocaust revisionism in Ukraine is accompanied by other forms of anti-Semitism. As Israel’s Department of Diaspora Affairs pointed out in its annual report on anti-Semitism, the whitewashing of these Ukrainian “heroes”
has coincided with the increasing incidence of anti-Semitism across Ukraine. This includes desecration of Holocaust memorials and Jewish places of worship, such as the desecration of a holy tomb in Uman with a swastika-carved pig’s head; a January 2017 march
in honor of Bandera, during which participants chanted “Jews Out!”; as well as last summer’s firebombing of a L’viv synagogue during “ShukhevychFest.”  

Last November, Radio Free Europe reported on the presence of torches and Nazi salutes at a 20,000-person march in honor of the 75th anniversary of the UPA. These torchlight marches are closely linked to organizations such as the neo-Nazi Azov
Battalion, an armed group that was prohibited from receiving U.S. weapons and training by the recently signed Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. Rather than disband Azov, the government incorporated it into the Ukrainian National Guard overseen by the
Ministry of the Interior. The group is widely known to be closely connected to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.   

The deeply troubling actions by Poland and Ukraine have been repeatedly condemned by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, the World Jewish Congress, Yad Vashem, and the Israeli
government. 

As members of the U.S. Congress, we have steadfastly supported Poland’s and Ukraine’s quest to build democratic nations. However, we are deeply concerned that the rise of anti-Semitism and denial of the past will stymie these countries’ democratic development
and prevent Poland and Ukraine from becoming a free and open societies for all their citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

Therefore, we respectfully request that you respond to our serious concerns with a detailed description of what actions the State Department is taking to work with the Polish and Ukrainian governments to combat the rise of anti-Semitism and Holocaust-denial
and distortion. Additionally, we ask that you immediately nominate someone for the position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism. The longer this position sits unfilled, the more it sends the message that the U.S. will tolerate anti-Semitism
and Holocaust denial.

The United States must assume a leadership position by firmly standing against anti-Semitism and ensuring that our Eastern European allies continue to develop democracies that are fair and just to all.

We thank you for your attention to this important matter.

 

Sincerely,

[Members of Congress]

 

CC: [U.S. Ambassadors to Ukraine and Poland]

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