‘Those who neglect their past have no future’
By BARRY RUBIN
It is in the interest of Jews and Israelis to support the Prague Declaration which seeks to discuss, expose and recognize Communist crimes of war in the same way Nazi crimes were.
A relentless campaign has been waged by a tiny group of people to persuade Jews
and Israelis to oppose the June 3, 2008 Prague Declaration on European
Conscience and Communism, as if it were some horrible anti-Semitic document.
This is a slanderously wrong claim. As described in the Jerusalem Post feature
article “Digging up the future,” August 5, which appeared in last week’s
Magazine, the declaration states: “Europe will not be united unless it is able
to reunite its history, recognize Communism and Nazism as a common legacy and
bring about an honest and thorough debate on all the totalitarian crimes of the
It calls for the “recognition that many crimes committed
in the name of Communism should be assessed as crimes against humanity serving
as a warning for future generations, in the same way Nazi crimes were assessed
by the Nuremberg Tribunal,” and for the “establishment of 23rd August, the day
of signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, as a
day of remembrance of the victims of both Nazi and Communist totalitarian
It is in the interest of Jews and Israelis to support this
declaration and the ideas that lie behind it. Here’s why.
was signed by a number of central European leaders, former dissidents against
the Soviet empire, and historians, all with impeccable democratic credentials
and known as people fair and friendly toward the Jewish people. It states that
Europe must have “an honest and thorough debate on all the totalitarian crimes
of the past century.”
As part of this debate, it argues, “Communist
ideology is directly responsible for crimes against humanity” and that
“consciousness of the crimes against humanity committed by the Communist regimes
throughout the continent must inform all European minds to the same extent as
the Nazi regime’s crimes did.”
On what basis is this declaration
misrepresented? The argument is that the proposal would “equate” the crimes of
the two systems and thus somehow subvert the memory of the Holocaust against
Jews as a unique event.
Yet in fact what this posture does is:
Jews the defenders of the Communist totalitarian system that murdered and
tortured millions of people, including hundreds of thousands of Jews.
Buries the fact that the Soviet Union systematically destroyed Jewish society
including religion, community and the Yiddish language.
• Make it
impossible to acknowledge fully the sufferings of Jews under Communism which, in
the post-1945 period, emerged as a major world force for anti-Semitism.
Divide Jews from those who suffered under Communism, at least the non-Russians,
intensifying the friction between them.
• Ensure that young people in the
West today don’t learn about the crimes of Communism and are indoctrinated to
believe that only the political Right can be anti-Semitic, thus strengthening
the extreme leftist power over intellectual life (often camouflaged as liberal)
which is key in promoting slander and hatred toward Israel.
Jews from understanding that the main force for anti-Jewish doctrine today in
the West comes from the extreme Left instead of, as has been true for the past
150 or so years, from the Right, thus pushing them toward far leftist
anti-Israel stances and alienation from their own community.
Third World pseudo-leftist regimes and doctrines which are allowed to portray
themselves as legitimate and inevitably free of any anti-Semitic taint by
• Make it easier for Western radicals to join hands with
radical Islamists on a common platform of hating Israel and often, in practice,
of slandering Jewish communities.
THIS IS quite a price to pay for the
alleged preservation of the Holocaust as a unique event at a time when for all
practical purposes it is fully established as such! Here is what the declaration
“There are substantial similarities between Nazism and Communism in
terms of their horrific and appalling character and their crimes against
“Both the Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes each to be
judged by their own terrible merits to be destructive in their policies of
systematically applying extreme forms of terror, suppressing all civic and human
liberties, starting aggressive wars and, as an inseparable part of their
ideologies, exterminating and deporting whole nations and groups of population;
and that as such they should be considered to be the main disasters which
blighted the 20th century.”
This is not to say they are identical, yet
the placing of millions of people into slave labor, concentration, and death
camps seems to be a rather significant crime against humanity. Why should the
Jewish people be recruited to oppose it?
My relatives and others in their town
were deported from Poland to Soviet slave labor camps, often because they were
Zionists. True, this saved those who didn’t die there from the Nazis. Relatives
of mine also fought with Soviet partisan groups in Poland. We will not forget
Yet if the USSR had not backed Hitler during the 1939-1941
period there would have very possibly not been a Second World War or Holocaust
at all. And even in partisan units we know that Soviet officials often
discriminated against and even murdered Jews.
The declaration does not in
any way subtract from the crimes of Nazism and fascism. But it points out that
they have been discussed at great length in the public sphere whereas the
equivalents from Communism have not. This should be done, as the declaration
states, to serve “as a warning for future generations” and ensure that “children
could learn and be warned about Communism and its crimes in the same way they
have been taught to assess the Nazi crimes.”
A symbolic step would be to
make August 23, the day that the Hitler-Stalin Pact was signed, a day of
remembrance for the victims of both totalitarian systems, a symbol of how easily
the extremes of Left and Right unite against democracy and use the Jewish people
as a scapegoat.
Does this really threaten us? Is it really against our
interests? Not at all. Quite the contrary. As the declaration explains, “Those
who neglect their past have no future.”
The writer is director of the
Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of Middle East Review
of International Affairs and Turkish Studies. He blogs at