Holocaust remembrance group silenced in Ukraine

Nazi soldier watching Ukrainians as they drag a Jew down a street in Lvov, 1941
A non-profit group based in Lvov in Western Ukraine was banned from teaching students of the local schools about crimes committed by Nazis against Ukrainian Jews during World War II.

Hesed Arje, the Jewish community charity, had a program to educate children on the horrors of the War, when some 200,000 Jews were annihilated by the Nazis in Lvov alone. Their lessons included a documentary with footage of the time.

According to head of the group, Ada Dianova, their message outraged Ukrainian nationalists from the Freedom organization, reports Jewish News website. Head of the organization’s branch in Lvov Ivan Grynda filed a complaint at the local prosecutor’s office, branding the lessons as “disgraceful, anti-Ukrainian, and anti-national provocation." He was particularly outraged at the footage of Ukrainian girls welcoming Nazi troops in Lvov, which were used in Hesed Arje’s documentary.

The prosecutors dismissed the nationalists’ claim, finding no wrongdoing in Hesed Arje’s actions, but officials from the Ministry of Education and the city council launched an investigations of their own. Dianova alleges that the Freedom organization was behind them. In the end, Hesed Arje was banned from teaching the lessons in Lvov schools. The authorities said the documentary contained scenes of violence.

“Our objection was not towards the lessons they taught, but towards the film. Specialists found the film not appropriate for schoolchildren, the education plan, and not benefiting tolerance and understanding,” said the deputy mayor for humanitarian issues Vasily Kosiv.

“It appears thrillers and other stuff on TV is OK for children to watch, while the truth about the Holocaust is inappropriate,” Dianova commented.

The institute that studied the film, under a request from the city officials, said they by no means suggested barring it from being shown in schools, but rather advised putting an age restriction on it due to the disturbing material.

The head of Hesed Arje says she fails to see how the nationalists hope that barring the showing of the film would benefit Ukraine.

“We started our work back in 1998, when old people had to search in scrap-heaps for food. We did concrete things: feed them, treat them and care for them. We have tolerance projects and cultural projects. Both Jewish and Ukrainian children come to our hobby groups. We do something for Ukraine every day. What did Oleg Tyanibog [head of the Freedom organization] do except for seeding hostility with his slogans?” she said.

Dianova believes the incident is the result of nationalistic groups trying to take advantage of the problems brought about by the political and economic crisis in the country.

Lvov and the Freedom organization had been the focus of another scandal recently. In late April, the posters praising the Nazi SS division “Galichina," which was composed of volunteering Ukrainian nationals popped up in the city, and Freedom turned out to be behind the move.