More than 50 US congressmen signed a bipartisan letter calling on the State Department to take a stand against state-sponsored Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism in Ukraine and Poland.
The letter, dated Monday and addressed to John Sullivan, the deputy secretary of state, was made public on Wednesday. Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California and David Cicilline of Rhode Island sponsored the letter.
“We urge you to join us and human rights organizations in standing against anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and all forms of intolerance by calling for the Polish and Ukrainian governments to unequivocally reject Holocaust distortion and the honoring of Nazi collaborators and fully prosecute anti-Semitic crimes,” reads the letter, which also asks the State Department to “detail what steps are being taken by the United States government to monitor instances of Holocaust distortion and ensure that the US is not supporting or funding groups and individuals that promote or justify anti-Semitism.”
“As members of the US Congress, we have steadfastly supported Poland’s and Ukraine’s quest to build democratic nations. However, we are deeply concerned that the rise of anti-Semitism and denial of the past will stymie these countries’ democratic development and prevent Poland and Ukraine from becoming free and open societies for all their citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike,” the letter also says.
The congressmen note that the developments in Poland and Ukraine come on the heels of “a rise in glorification of Holocaust-era officials throughout Europe, including Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and the Baltic States. This is a troubling trend that must elicit a strong response from our government.”
The letter singles out Poland’s new Holocaust law passed in February that criminalizes blaming Poland for Nazi crimes, now undergoing a constitutional review, as well as Ukraine’s 2015 memory laws that glorify Nazi collaborators and make it a criminal offense to deny their so-called heroism. According to the letter, the people and groups it singles out collaborated with the Nazis and bear responsibility for the murder of thousands of Jews, 70,000-100,000 Poles, and other ethnic minorities between 1941 and 1945.
The Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism in Poland and Ukraine has been condemned by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, the World Jewish Congress, Yad Vashem and the Israeli government, according to the letter.
The letter also called on the State Department to appoint a special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, a position that has remained vacant for more than a year though it was mandated by law.
“The longer this position, which has worldwide reach, sits unfilled, the more it sends the message that the US will tolerate anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial,” the letter says. “In addition, the State Department’s office to monitor and combat anti-Semitism has been unstaffed since July 1.”
A State Department spokeswoman earlier this month told JTA that combating anti-Semitism remains a “priority” for the Trump administration.