As we write this, the horror of war is unfolding in Ukraine. The last time Kyiv was under heavy artillery fire and saw tanks in its streets was during World War II. If anyone should know it, it’s Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is obsessed with the history of that war.  

Russian propaganda has painted the Ukrainian state as Nazi and fascist ever since Russian special forces first entered Ukraine in 2014, annexing the Crimea and fomenting the conflict in the Donbas, which has smoldered for eight long years.  

It was propaganda in 2014. It remains propaganda today.

This is why we came together: to protest the use of this false and destructive narrative. Among those who have signed the statement below are some of the most accomplished and celebrated scholars of World War II, Nazism, genocide and the Holocaust. If you are a scholar of this history, please consider adding your name to the list. If you are a journalist, you now have a list of experts you can turn to in order to help your readers better understand Russia’s war against Ukraine.

And if you are a consumer of the news, please share the message of this letter widely. There is no Nazi government for Moscow to root out in Kyiv. There has been no genocide of the Russian people in Ukraine. And Russian troops are not on a liberation mission. After the bloody 20th century, we should all have built enough discernment to know that war is not peace, slavery is not freedom and ignorance offers strength only to autocratic megalomaniacs who seek to exploit it for their personal agendas.

The statement can be found below. If you are a scholar and would like to add your signature to the list, please tweet @eugene_finkel or @izatabaro or send an email to efinkel4@jhu.edu.

Statement by scholars of genocide, Nazism and World War II

Since Feb. 24, 2022, the armed forces of the Russian Federation have been engaged in an unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine. The attack is a continuation of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and its heavy involvement in the armed conflict in the Donbas region.

The Russian attack came in the wake of accusations by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, of crimes against humanity and genocide, allegedly committed by the Ukrainian government in the Donbas. Russian propaganda regularly presents the elected leaders of Ukraine as Nazis and fascists oppressing the local ethnic Russian population, which it claims needs to be liberated. President Putin stated that one of the goals of his “special military operation” against Ukraine is the “denazification” of the country.

We are scholars of genocide, the Holocaust and World War II. We spend our careers studying fascism and Nazism, and commemorating their victims. Many of us are actively engaged in combating contemporary heirs to these evil regimes and those who attempt to deny or cast a veil over their crimes.

We strongly reject the Russian government’s cynical abuse of the term genocide, the memory of World War II and the Holocaust, and the equation of the Ukrainian state with the Nazi regime to justify its unprovoked aggression. This rhetoric is factually wrong, morally repugnant and deeply offensive to the memory of millions of victims of Nazism and those who courageously fought against it, including Russian and Ukrainian soldiers of the Red Army.

We do not idealize the Ukrainian state and society. Like any other country, it has right-wing extremists and violent xenophobic groups. Ukraine also ought to better confront the darker chapters of its painful and complicated history. Yet none of this justifies the Russian aggression and the gross mischaracterization of Ukraine. At this fateful moment, we stand united with free, independent and democratic Ukraine and strongly reject the Russian government’s misuse of the history of World War II to justify its own violence.

Signatories:

Eugene Finkel, Johns Hopkins University

Izabella Tabarovsky, Washington, D.C.

Aliza Luft, University of California, Los Angeles

Teresa Walch, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Jared McBride, University of California-Los Angeles

Elissa Bemporad, Queens College and CUNY Graduate Center

Andrea Ruggeri, University of Oxford

Steven Seegel, University of Texas at Austin

Jeffrey Kopstein, University of California, Irvine

Francine Hirsch, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Anna Hájková, University of Warwick

Omer Bartov, Brown University

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, New York University and POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Christoph Dieckmann, Frankfurt am Main

Cary Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Waitman Wade Beorn, Northumbria University

Jeffrey Herf, University of Maryland

Timothy Snyder, Yale University

Jeffrey Veidlinger, University of Michigan

Hana Kubátová, Charles University

Leslie Waters, University of Texas at El Paso

Norman J.W. Goda, University of Florida

Jazmine Conteras, Goucher College

Laura J. Hilton, Muskingum University

Katarzyna Person, Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw

Tarik Cyril Amar, Koc University

Sarah Grandke, Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial/denk.mal Hannoverscher Bahnhof Hamburg

Jonathan Leader Maynard, King’s College London

Chad Gibbs, College of Charleston

Janine Holc, Loyola University Maryland

Erin Hochman, Southern Methodist University

Edin Hajdarpasic, Loyola University Chicago

David Hirsh, Goldsmiths, University of London

Richard Breitman, American University (Emeritus)

Astrid M. Eckert, Emory University

Anna Holian, Arizona State University

Uma Kumar, University of British Columbia

Frances Tanzer, Clark University

Victoria J. Barnett, US Holocaust Memorial Museum (retired)

David Seymour, City University of London

Jeff Jones, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

András Riedlmayer Harvard University (retired)

Polly Zavadivker, University of Delaware

Aviel Roshwald, Georgetown University

Anne E. Parsons, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Carole Lemee, Bordeaux University

Scott Denham, Davidson College

Emanuela Grama, Carnegie Mellon University

Christopher R. Browning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (emeritus)

Katrin Paehler, Illinois State University

Raphael Utz, Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin

Emre Sencer, Knox College

Stefan Ihrig, University of Haifa

Jeff Rutherford, Xavier University

Jason Hall, The University of Haifa

Christian Ingrao, CNRS École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, CESPRA Paris

Hannah Wilson, Nottingham Trent University

Jan Lanicek, University of New South Wales

Edward B. Westermann, Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Maris Rowe-McCulloch, University of Regina

Joanna B. Michlic, University College London

Raul Carstocea, Maynooth University

Dieter Steinert, University of Wolverhampton

Christina Morina, Universität Bielefeld

Abbey Steele, University of Amsterdam

Erika Hughes, University of Portsmouth

Lukasz Krzyzanowski, University of Warsaw

Agnieszka Wierzcholska, German Historical Institute, Paris

Martin Cüppers, University of Stuttgart

Matthew Kupfer, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

Martin Kragh, Uppsala University

Umit Kurt, Van Leer Institute, Jerusalem

Meron Mendel, Frankfurt University of Applied Science, Anne Frank Center Frankfurt

Nazan Maksudyan, FU Berlin/Centre Marc Bloch

Emanuel-Marius Grec, University of Heidelberg

Khatchig Mouradian, Columbia University

Jan Zbigniew Grabowski, University of Ottawa

Dirk Moses, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Amos Goldberg, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Amber N. Nickell, Fort Hays State University

Tatjana Tönsmeyer, Wuppertal University

Thomas Kühne, Clark University

Thomas Pegelow Kaplan, Appalachian State University

Amos Morris-Reich, Tel Aviv University

Volha Charnysh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Stefan Cristian Ionescu, Northwestern University

Donatello Aramini, Sapienza University, Rome

Ofer Ashkenazi, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Roland Clark, University of Liverpool

Mirjam Zadoff, University of Munich & Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism

John Barruzza, Syracuse University

Cristina A. Bejan, Metropolitan State University of Denver

Isabel Sawkins, University of Exeter

Benjamin Nathans, University of Pennsylvania

Norbert Frei, University of Jena

Stéfanie Prezioso, Université de Lausanne

Olindo De Napoli, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II

Eli Nathans, Western University

Eugenia Mihalcea, University of Haifa

Rebekah Klein-Pejšová, Purdue University

Sergei I. Zhuk, Ball State University

Paola S. Salvatori, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa–Università degli Studi Roma Tre

Antonio Ferrara, Independent Scholar

Verena Meier, Forschungsstelle Antiziganismus, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Frédéric Bonnesoeur, Zentrum für Antisemitismusforschung, TU Berlin

Sara Halpern, St. Olaf College

Irina Nastasa-Matei, University of Bucharest

Michal Aharony, University of Haifa

Michele Sarfatti, Fondazione CDEC Milano

Frank Schumacher, The University of Western Ontario

Thomas Weber, University of Aberdeen

Elizabeth Drummond, Loyola Marymount University

Jennifer Evans, Carleton University

​​Sayantani Jana, University of Southern California

Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, Fairfield University

Snježana Koren, University of Zagreb

Brunello Mantelli, University of Turin and University of Calabria

Carl Müller-Crepon, University of Oxford

Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, Freie Universität Berlin

Amy Sjoquist, Northwest University

Sebastian Vîrtosu, Universitatea Națională de Arte “G. Enescu”

Stanislao G. Pugliese, Hofstra University

Ronald Grigor Suny, University of Michigan

Antoinette Saxer, University of York

Alon Confino, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Corry Guttstadt, University of Hamburg

Vadim Altskan, US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Evan B. Bukey, University of Arkansas

Elliot Y Neaman, University of San Francisco

Rebecca Wittmann, University of Toronto Mississauga

Benjamin Rifkin, Hofstra University

Vladimir Tismaneanu, University of Maryland

Walter Reich, George Washington University

Jay Geller, Case Western Reserve University

Atina Grossmann, Cooper Union

Francesco Zavatti, Södertörn University

Eliyana R. Adler, The Pennsylvania State University

Laura María Niewöhner, Bielefeld University

Elena Amaya, University of California-Berkeley

Markus Roth, Fritz Bauer Institut, Frankfurt

Brandon Bloch, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Monica Osborne, The Jewish Journal

Benjamin Hett, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY

Volker Weiß, Independent Scholar

Manuela Consonni, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Svetlana Suveica, University of Regensburg

Izabella Tabarovsky is a researcher with the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, focusing on the politics of historical memory in the former Soviet Union.

Evgeny Finkel is a political scientist and historian at Johns Hopkins University. 

This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.

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