Martin Niemöller who said first Hitler’s thugs came for the socialists, then the unionists, and then the Jews, but that he didn’t say anything because he wasn’t one. Then, of course, they came for him and no one was left to say anything.
Putin’s thugs are advancing in much the same way, and now they are coming for the Jews, something that the people of Russia should fear and that the apologists for Vladimir Putin and his increasingly vicious regime should be forced to account for now. Because make no mistake, the Putinists are not going to stop there.
On Sunday, as Ekho Moskvy and various bloggers have reported, activists from the extreme right National Liberation Movement of Russia (NOD) in St. Petersburg beat and denounced as “a kike” David Frenkel who took part in an unsanctioned march in support of gay rights (
Tragically, the time has come to remember Pastor Niemöller’s words. Maybe after all the crimes Putin has committed, those committed to preventing a repetition of the horrors of the 20th century will respond. At least, perhaps, people in Russia and the West will remember the words of another testifier against those evils.
Those words belong to Nadezhda Mandelshtam, a Jewish writer who suffered under Stalin. In her memoir, “Hope against Hope,” she wrote that “happy is that country in which the despicable is at least despised.” Sadly, the number of happy countries seems to be contracting fast.
Those who defend Putin need to be challenged and asked not only how they can do so given the horrific history he seems all too willing to try to bring back and why they think that things like the beating of David Frenkel are is "an isolated incident" they can dismiss. That is what Pastor Niemöller and so many others thought about another dictator.
They were wrong and so too are Putin’s admirers and defenders.