By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed Hitler’s “Jewishness” when asked by Italian television why Russia said it needed to “denazify” Ukraine though its President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish.
“When they say ‘What sort of nazification is this if we are Jews,’ well I think that Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it means nothing,” Lavrov told Rete 4 channel. “For a long time now, we’ve heard the wise Jewish people say that the biggest anti-Semites are the Jews themselves,” he added.
His remarks prompted an angry reaction from Israel, with the Israeli foreign ministry summoning the Russian ambassador and demanding an apology for an “unforgivable” falsehood. “Such lies are intended to accuse the Jews themselves of the most horrific crimes in history that were committed against them,” Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in an angry statement.
“The use of the Holocaust of the Jewish people for political purposes must stop immediately,” he added.
Zelensky, in his nightly video message, noted Moscow was silent since Lavrov’s comments. “This means that the Russian leadership has forgotten all the lessons of World War Two,” he stressed. “Or perhaps they have never learned those lessons.”
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken shared these concerns saying it was “incumbent on the world to speak out against such vile, dangerous rhetoric.”
The German government’s anti-Semitism commissioner, Felix Klein, stressed that Lavrov’s remarks mocked the victims of Nazism. He said the rhetoric “shamelessly confronts not only Jews but the entire international public with open anti-Semitism.”
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called the top Russian diplomat’s comments obscene, while Canada’s Justin Trudeau expressed disbelief.
Dani Dayan, chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, or Shoah, said the Russian minister was spreading “an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory with no basis in fact.”
The identity of one of Hitler’s grandfathers is not known, but there have been claims, never backed up by any evidence, that he might have been a Jew, Reuters news agency reported.
Israeli Foreign Ministry Yair Lapid, whose grandfather died in the Holocaust, said accusing Jews of being anti-Semites was “the basest level of racism.” He dismissed Lavrov’s assertion that pro-Nazi elements held sway over the Ukrainian government and military.
“The Ukrainians aren’t Nazis. Only the Nazis were Nazis, and only they dealt with the systematic destruction of the Jewish people,” Lapid told Israeli media.
Moscow did not immediately comment.
The Ukrainian president has also run into tensions with Israel after comparing the conflict in his country with World War Two. In an address to Israel’s parliament in March, Zelenskiy suggested the Russian offensive in Ukraine was Nazi Germany’s plan to murder all Jews during World War Two.
Israel has expressed support for Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February. But wary of straining relations with Russia, a powerbroker in neighboring Syria, it initially avoided direct criticism of Moscow and has not enforced formal sanctions on Russian oligarchs.
Israeli Prime Minister Bennett also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin recently to reportedly discuss peace prospects and the plight of Ukraine’s Jewish community.
However, relations have grown more strained, with Lapid last month accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine.
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