Chief Rabbi’s outrage over Russian minister saying ‘Hitler was Jewish’

Speaking to the JC in Krakow, Poland, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: 'Can you get lower than that?'


The Chief Rabbi has condemned the claim by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Hitler had Jewish blood, calling it part of the Russian “brainwashing machine”.

Speaking to the JC in Krakow, Poland, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “Can you get lower than that? It is so outrageous.

“What is he trying to get at? The implications of such a statement are that the Jews are responsible for Jewish suffering. You can hardly be more antisemitic than that.”

Rabbi Mirvis said: “In effect, Lavrov was saying that the Holocaust was brought about by Jewish people. And then the comparison, the parallel that Lavrov would be making is, well that’s why he needs to de-Nazify the Ukrainian government.

"So it’s just so outrageous. It’s part of the entire brainwashing machine that the Russians are engaged in, which unfortunately, a lot of their people seem to be buying.”

Rabbi Mirvis spoke out as he visited Krakow to see refugees being helped by the Jewish community with support from World Jewish Relief (WJR) and its British Jewish supporters.

The Chief Rabbi arrived in Krakow on Monday to witness dozens of refugees queueing for the “free shop” at the Jewish Community Centre (JCC) where they can get essential food and supplies, including clothes.

In the queue, refugee Krystina Derkach, a doctor from Kyiv, explained that she cannot work in Poland because she cannot speak Polish. Her father-in-law and husband are still in Ukraine. She and her five-year-old daughter have no support.

“We are here without our money and our work. We want to make our children happy,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Anna, an English teacher from Ukraine, said that though she is not Jewish, she feels at home in the JCC: “I have clothes right now. I try to work and give lessons. But what we need is psychological support too Every night I go to bed and hope I will wake from this nightmare.”

Upon hearing that the Krakow Jewish community is helping her daughter, Anna’s mother revealed to her that her grandmother had sheltered a Jewish family for two years during the Shoah: “When you give something good to people, it gets back to you” she said.

Rabbi Mirvis told the JC: “We should be feeling proud of the very significant help that our community has been giving both to Jewish refugees and to refugees in general.

"We’ve learnt from the lessons of history and we ourselves naturally feel for the plight of refugees bearing in mind our historic experiences. We can still do more. The Holocaust was unique. It’s incomparable. But the lessons of the Holocaust need to be applied.”

The Prince of Wales opened the JCC in Krakow 14 years ago. Since the war began, the centre has transformed itself into a refugee hub to support Jews and non-Jews equally. Its executive director Jonathan Ornstein said it has spent $25,000 per day on providing essential supplies, meals, housing medicine, and psychological assistance to more than 26,000 Ukrainians.

Since the start of the Russian invasion on 24 February, the community centre has refocused its attention to provide whatever assistance it can to those fleeing the war. With the support of WJR and its British donors, the JCC is also sending truck-loads of food into Ukraine from Lille in France.

Not far from the JCC, the Chief Rabbi also visited Jewish refugees being housed in Krakow’s Galaxy hotel, and the Express Hostel where 120 Ukrainians of Roma heritage are being looked after.
The Roma refugees suffer discrimination both in Ukraine and in Poland.

Lyubov Gorskaja, a pregnant refugee living in the hotel, spoke of how 18-year-old Russian troops entered her garden and took water from her well: “They didn’t know where they were.”

Later, older troops arrived who were “very severe. They were not kids, and they understood what they were doing.”

She fled after Russian troops used her as a human shield. “My husband told me to go to Poland just for two weeks. I didn’t want to leave Ukraine.” Her husband remains in Ukraine with the military defence force. “The support here is so huge and unexpected” she said.

The JCC and WJR are working to assist the Romany refugees in partnership with Salam Labs, an organisation that usually helps Muslim refugees.

Interviewed on Italian TV just days after Holocaust Remembrance Day, Lavrov had been asked how Russia could claim its invasion of Ukraine was to “de-Nazify” the country when its president is Jewish. Mr Lavrov replied: “I could be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood.” He said it “means absolutely nothing” that President Volodymyr Zelensky is of Jewish heritage, adding: “Wise Jewish people say that the most ardent antisemites are usually Jews.”

Reacting to the remarks, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said: “Such lies are meant to blame the Jews themselves for the most terrible crimes in history and thus free the oppressors of the Jews from their responsibility.”

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