Who Is To Blame for Pamphlets Ordering Ukraine Jews To 'Register'?

Pro-Russian Separatists Eyed Amid Unrest in Donetsk Regioin

No Playing: A boy holds a toy pistol at a barricade outside the police regional building seized by the separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk.
getty images
No Playing: A boy holds a toy pistol at a barricade outside the police regional building seized by the separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk.

By Paul Berger

Published April 17, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

For months, Russia has wielded charges of anti-Semitism to undermine and discredit Ukraine’s pro-Western interim government. Now it’s the Kremlin’s turn to feel the heat.

Masked men in Donetsk, which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists, distributed fliers this week ordering Jews over the age of 16 to register with the new authorities (for a $50 fee) or face deportation.

The fliers said registration was necessary because Ukrainian Jewish leaders were supporting the new government in Kiev.

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman issued a statement April 17 saying that while he was skeptical about the fliers’ authenticity, “the instructions clearly recall the Nazi era and have the effect of intimidating the local Jewish community.”

As with anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine in previous months, observers were quick to caution that the fliers may have been distributed by provocateurs.

That’s not new. Just about every anti-Semitic incident in Ukraine during recent months has been blamed on provocateurs.

The difference this time is that if the fliers were created by provocateurs, they would have been the work of anti-Russian provocateurs rather than the usual pro-Russian suspects.

Something else that’s new: Previous attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions in Ukraine have gone largely unremarked upon outside of the Jewish community. (Unless, of course, you count the Kremlin’s constant harping on about “fascists” and “anti-Semites” in Kiev.)

Today, Secretary of State John Kerry weighed in, denouncing the fliers as “grotesque” and “beyond unacceptable.” He was soon joined by human rights groups and politicians, including Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who said in a statement that the fliers were “a sad reminder of the ongoing importance and blessing of having a strong homeland for the Jewish people in the State of Israel.”

Remember, this is for fliers whose authenticity is still in doubt.

A reporter for the Daily Beast, Anna Nemtsova, visited the synagogue in Donetsk where the fliers were handed out.

A rabbi there, Pinhas Vyshedski, told Nemtsova that the press secretary of the self proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, is “the most famous anti-Semite in the region.” Vyshedski said that he would not be surprised if the fliers were genuine.

“Last time Donetsk saw similar messages was in 1941, when the Nazi German army occupied Donetsk,” Vyshedski said.

But when Nemtsova visited the administration building where Jews were told to report for registration she found an empty room.

A security supervisor there said there were no plans “to charge Jews for living in our republic.”

But, he added, he was willing to torture one of the leaders of the separatist movement in Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, to find out who would want to discredit the pro- Russian movement.

The obvious culprits, of course, would be supporters of Ukraine’s interim government, which has suffered a series of setbacks and humiliations this week, including the loss of six armored personnel carriers to pro-Russian forces during a much vaunted crackdown on “terrorists.”

But Time Magazine’s Simon Shuster posits an equally plausible theory that the fliers were an extortion ploy by an opportunistic separatist splinter group.

As Julia Ioffe, of the New Republic, pointed out, it’s also possible that some radical elements among the pro-Russian separatists produced the leaflets.

The truth is that no one knows for sure.

All we do know is that “the Jews of Donetsk and eastern Ukraine may have been asked by a leaflet to register, but it has not been enforced nor are any Ukrainian Jews registering themselves,” Ioffe said. “So far, you can breathe easy. No Holocaust 2.0 just yet.”

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.