NEW YORK – The World Jewish Congress has denounced the Ukrainian city of Vinnitsa’s “disgraceful and deplorable” move to celebrate nationalist leader Symon Petliura, whose Ukrainian People’s Republic killed tens of thousands of Jews in programs under his watch in 1918-1921, and urged the local authorities to pull a monument unveiled over the weekend in his honor.
WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer said in a statement:
“The World Jewish Congress is distressed by the Vinnitsa municipality’s disgraceful and regrettable decision to celebrate the anti-Semitic nationalist leader Symon Petliura as a ‘Defender of Ukraine’ and by Vinnitsa Regional Chairman Valery Korovy’s description of him as an ‘honest man.’
“Petilura was anything but an honest man. He was a cruel barbarian, indisputably responsible for pogroms in which 35,000-40,000 Jews were murdered.
“He and his Ukrainian People’s Republic were more than just Ukrainian nationalists - they were also avowed and brutal anti-Semites, intoxicated by the thrill of carrying out unimaginably vicious and inhumane crimes against innocent people.
“It is inconceivable that a man, who today we would not hesitate to call a terrorist, should be honored in the very same city in which he and his regime tried to wipe out a rooted and strong Jewish population.
“We have witnessed a significant revival of Jewish life in Ukraine over the last 25 years, with hundreds of synagogues, and dozens of school and cultural institutions established with the support of all Ukrainian national governments since the 1990s.
“The erection of a statue of Petliura in one of the historical centers of Jewish life in Ukraine sends the wrong message to the Ukrainian people and to future generations, and undermines the critical process of democracy and tolerance.
“The celebration of anti-Semites – including so-called nationalist ‘heroes’ – cannot and should not be abided. We urge the local Vinnitsa authorities to retract their celebration and take all possible steps to have the Petliura monument removed.”