Israel had handed over the Holocaust legacy to the highest bidder Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the journalist Ofer Aderet writing for the liberal Israeli daily Haaretz.
Drawing parallels with a joint Israeli-Polish statement two years ago, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu avoided the mention Jedwabne pogrom in Poland in 1941, Putin was given free reign this year to present his version of “the truth”.
“On Thursday Netanyahu totally ignored in his speeches the Katyn massacre, in which the Soviets murdered tens of thousands of Poles in 1940. These two events [including the pogrom] occurred during World War 2. Ignoring them is a distortion of history,” wrote Aderet.
“If no other representative, including the two Israeli leaders who spoke at the ceremony – President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – saw fit to note that the Soviet Union wasn’t only a liberator but also an occupier, not only a freedom fighter but also an oppressor, at the very least they should have let the Polish president ‘dirty himself’ in this historical truth.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda didn’t attend the Yad Vashem event in Jerusalem on January 23, as he wasn’t allowed to deliver a speech.
Putin, meanwhile, spoke about the Soviet “tactics to spare as many civilians as possible” during the assault on Germany, the primary role of “Soviet citizens” in defeating the Nazis, and invoked European “accomplices” – read, not Russian – during the Holocaust.
“In the occupied territories of the Soviet Union, where these criminals were operating, the largest number of Jews were killed,” said Putin.
“220,000 people were killed in Lithuania. I draw your attention, friends, to the fact that this is 95 percent of the pre-war Jewish population of this country.”
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, as well as his Estonian counterpart, shunned the event in Jerusalem in solidarity with Poland.
Putin has recently accused Poland of being responsible for the start of the Second World War, resulting in an ongoing diplomatic spat with Warsaw.