Tuesday, December 13, 2016

And then in Putin’s Russia, They Came for the Jews …

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 13 – One of the most important warnings to emerge during World War II came from German Pastor 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 (cursorinfo.co.il/news/xussr/2016/12/12/neonacisti--policeyskie-i-vrachi-izbili-i-unizili-zhurnalistaevreya-v-rph/ and echo.msk.ru/blog/echomsk/1890432-echo/).

            The Russian police did not come to his aid. Instead, in response to his cries for help, they laughed; and then the Russian medical staff at a clinic to which he finally reached on his own treated him with contempt. When he refused to give them the camera he had photographed the NOD meeting with and said they’d get it over his dead body, they replied that was “no problem.”

            And when Ekho Moskvy posted its story about this crime, many of those who wrote in to comment said they were on the side of NOD and that Frenkel had simply gotten some of what he deserved. (See a selection of these horrific remarks at echo.msk.ru/blog/echomsk/1890432-echo/comments.html#comments.)

            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.

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