Globe and Mail | 25Apr2005 | Taras J. Oleksiw
Letter to Editor

Farber's spirit of denial

There is a serious spirit of denial, as well as a sense of deep underlying human tragedy in the quote attributed to Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress.["Debate over war crimes gets heated", by Kirk Makin, Globe & Mail, 25Apr2005] His spirit of denial is clearly evident in his contention that "... Lubomyr Luciuk and others are ...trying to take the focus away from the incredible tragedy of the Jews." Farber's position with its limited focus effectively obviates any and all suffering of the peoples of Europe, and, in this specific instance, of the citizens of World War II Ukraine.

The underlying, all-pervasiveness of the human tragedy of Farber's statement lies not only in the fact that so many people suffered so much, at the hands of so many, for so long. The tragedy truly must lie in the fact that the lands and the races that provided the victims, were also the lands and races which spawned the perpetrators. In the incidents cited, Ukrainians happened to be the victims. In the incidents cited, the perpetrators happened to be of Jewish origins. These tragic events were recently brought to light by the publication of the writings of at least one of the perpetrators. Both roles, that of perpetrator, and that of victim, are often products of happenstance of place and time of birth, as well as of nature and nurture. During World War II, people of various citizenships and racial origins subscribed, voluntarily or otherwise, to various ideologies and actions.

No rational thinking person today could honestly claim one group's involvement in the Nazi or Fascist or Soviet military machine, with their own individual attendant brutality, yet deny the possibility of another group's involvement. Some Ukrainians, did it, yes. So did some Poles, Balts, Russians, French, Germans, Italians, and everybody else in the European "Theatre of Operations." And, yes, so too, did some Jews.

All were victims -- but not exclusively; all were perpetrators -- but not universally. To a greater or lesser degree, all nations and races suffered, and all contributed to the suffering of others. The scales of justice must maintain their balance. The sword of justice must cut both ways.

I live in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, where the recent public display of a Nazi flag was halted by police intervention. My Ukrainian heritage prays that someday soon, in this land my parents embraced as home ninety years ago, the same regard would be accorded any future displays of the Red Star, the Hammer and Sickle, Che Gueverra images and the like.

I would draw your attention to a book that underlines my personal theory of the universality of the nature of human evil. "Hitler's Jewish Soldiers." Bryan Mark Rigg. University Press of Kansas. If there were Jews who were Nazi privates and Admirals and Generals, there were also Jews who were agents of Soviet butchery. It's not pretty, but it's human nature, and it's the tragic truth.

In the ebb and flow of occupation, retreat and advancement, with their respective scorched-earth policies, in the span of three years, 1941 - 1944, at the hands of the Soviets, the Nazis, various real and pseudo-partisan groups, Ukraine suffered millions of lives lost, tens of millions of people rendered homeless and displaced, and material losses in the value of trillions of dollars in today's currency. The tragedy of World War II, was a Jewish tragedy. It was also a Ukrainian tragedy.

But most importantly, it was then, and remains to this day, both a tragedy and an eternal stain on the collective soul, for all of humanity.

Taras J Oleksiw, Waterloo, Ontario CANADA