December 17, 2020
This is the ninth installment of a series on the State of Antisemitism Around the Globe, in which AJC experts share their insights about nine international communities where particular expressions of Jew hatred are on the rise.
Unlike in other European countries, Jews in Ukraine generally do not face acts of violence or public condemnations of Israel. There’s no state-sanctioned antisemitism either, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is openly Jewish. But traditional stereotypes of Jews persist.
“Antisemitism in Ukraine exists in its old ‘traditional’ and cultural form: the notion that Jews control all money, the media and government, they are greedy, murdered Jesus, and ‘suck our blood,’” said Samuel Kliger, AJC's Director of Russian and Eurasian Affairs.
The Eastern Orthodox church does not always play a constructive role. It has never expunged the deicide charge from its doctrine and sells copies of the antisemitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion in gift shops.
Moreover, Ukraine has been reluctant to reckon with its role in the Holocaust, including the massacres of Jews by Nazis with help of local collaborators. Almost a million Ukrainian Jews were killed from 1941 to 1944 and buried in thousands of mass graves, including 34,000 who were executed in a ravine just outside Kyiv known as Babi Yar. But that chapter is left out of public discourse, creating a general apathy about the Holocaust.
Alongside that apathy, Ukrainian lawmakers have pushed to celebrate some Nazi collaborators as war heroes, trumpeting their anti-Communist battles while ignoring their complicity in Holocaust crimes.
The country continues to resist joining the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the 32-country organization that coordinates international educational efforts. It also has not adopted the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism. At a recent meeting with AJC, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United Nations said leaders suspect that membership in IHRA could open the door to restitution claims that the country can’t afford.