Poland’s Auschwitz memorial condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, implicitly comparing Moscow to Nazi Germany and calling for its leaders to be put on trial for their aggression.
“This act of barbarity will be judged by history, and its perpetrators, it is to be hoped, also by the International Court of Justice. As we stand at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial, it is impossible to remain silent while, once again, innocent people are being killed purely because of insane pseudo-imperial megalomania,” the Holocaust memorial said in a statement posted to its Twitter account.
“We express our absolute solidarity with the citizens and residents of the free, independent, and sovereign Ukraine and with all Russians who have the courage to oppose this war. At this moment, the free and democratic world must show if it has learned its lesson from the passivity of the 1930s. Today, it is clear that any symptom of indifference is a sign of complicity.”
During the buildup to this week’s invasion, Russian leaders and state media repeatedly claimed that Ukrainian forces were perpetrating a genocide against residents of two eastern districts – Luhansk and Donetsk – controlled by Russian-backed separatists that broke away from Kyiv eight years ago.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long used allegations of Ukrainian Nazism to legitimize his actions against the former Russian imperial subject. In 2014, following the Russian invasion of Crimea, he claimed that his actions were motivated by concern over an alleged “rampage” of reactionary, nationalist and antisemitic forces across the country.
And on Thursday morning, he described Ukraine’s leaders as “far-right nationalists and neo-Nazis” and declared that his goal was to “demilitarize and denazify” the former Soviet Republic.
During and after the annexation of Crimea in early 2014, the Kremlin and Russian state-controlled media broadcast frequent reports about attacks on Ukrainian Jews, many of which were partially or entirely fabricated.
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In a tweet on Thursday afternoon, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, declared that “Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in [the] WWII years. As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history. Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself & won't give up its freedom no matter what Moscow thinks.”