Ukrainian Jews Warned To Register Or Face Deportation

Image via Twitter/ConorCNN

Will this generation be able to turn things around and learn a valuable lesson from all of this? I hope so, but I have my doubts. The damage has been done. And as a lifelong student of history, it’s quite evident that human beings don’t learn from the mistakes of past generations.”

― Aaron B. Powell, Voluntary

It is well-known that history repeats itself, however dismal the results. Nazis began persecuting Jews in one way or another as early as 1920, and by 1935 Germans of Jewish descent were required to register their domestic and foreign property and assets, a prelude to the gradual expropriation of their material wealth by the state. By 1941, similar requirements applied to Jews living in the Ukraine. Alas, that most unfortunate piece of history may be reoccurring.

World leaders were appalled today to learn that Jews in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk – where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings – were told they must “register” with Ukrainians trying to make the city cede with Russia. According to Ukrainian and Israeli media, when Jews emerged from a synagogue Tuesday evening, they were handed leaflets ordering them to provide a list of property, including vehicles and real estate, and pay a $50 registration fee. Should they fail to comply, they will “have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated.” The leaflets were distributed by three masked men.

Adding to their credibility, the warnings were signed by Denis Pushilin, head of Donetsk’s temporary, pro-Russian government. Pushilin, however, denied any connection to the notices, although he did acknowledge the fliers were distributed under his organization’s name.

“They told me that masked men were waiting for Jewish people after the Passover eve prayer, handed them the flier and told them to obey its instructions,” Emanuel Schechter of Israel told Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website, after receiving a copy of the leaflet through social media.

Acccording to the pamphlet, the requirements were issued because leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta – a reference to Stepan Bandra, leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement that fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II – and “oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Dontsk,” the name adopted by the current militant leadership.

Also according to the leaflet, Jewish people of  Donetsk must provide an ID and passport to register their Jewish religion, as well as religious documents of family members and documents establishing rights to all property that belongs to them.

After reading the notices outside the synagogue, several elderly women burst into tears, according to reports. Others were simply shocked at the flagrant display of anti-Semitism.

“We don’t know if these notifications were distributed by pro-Russian activists or someone else, but it’s serious that it exists,” she said. “The text reminds of the fascists in 1941,”Olga Reznikova, 32, told Ynet, referring to the Nazis who occupied Ukraine during World War II.

American leaders were also appalled. Secretary of State John Kerry called the incident “grotesque,” and Jewish leaders saw the leaflets as part of an ongoing, yet unfortunate, trend.

“This is a frightening new development in the anti-Jewish movement that is gaining traction around the world,” Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, the oldest pro-Israel group in the United States, told USA Today.

Horrific as they may be, some residents of the region believe the flyers were merely a provocation by parties hoping to discredit the pro-Russian movement. In fact, when Daily Beast correspondent Anna Nemtsova visited room 514 of the occupied administration building on Lenin Square, where the Jews were directed to pay their $50 registration fee, the office was empty.

“Nobody is going to charge Jews for living in our republic,” Dmitry Sinegorsky, the “security supervisor” on the fifth floor, who showed Nemtsova the room, told her. Sinegorsky said he would personally “put needles under Pushilin’s nails” to find out whose idea that was to discredit the pro- Russian movement, but he believed it also could have been a “pure provocation.”

“Jews should not be worried,” he told her. “We are an anti-fascist, anti-xenophobic movement.”

But of course, the Jewish population – particularly the older generation – has heard those promises before…