January 7, 2005: Ten Orthodox Jewish youths (all around the age of 13) and three adults were assaulted by neo-Nazis as they made their way from a synagogue to their rabbi’s home in Simferopol, Ukraine. According to Anatoly Gendin, chairman of the Reform Jewish community in the city and a partner with UCSJ’s Chicago affiliate, the Jews were ambushed by around 20 skinheads who appeared to be 5-10 years older than their victims. Yelling “Here are the Jews!” the neo-Nazis threw the children and the rabbi’s wife to the ground and started to beat them. Two 13-year-old girls were hospitalized, one with a broken skull, and another with severe damage to her face which necessitated an operation.
Just as dispiriting as the attack was the police’s reaction to it. Mr. Gendin criticized local police for trying to hush the matter up by declaring it ordinary “hooliganism” rather than an antisemitic hate crime. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, including other neo-Nazi attacks on the local Crimean Tatar minority group, police denied that skinheads even exist in the city. Mr. Gendin added that over the previous four months, vandals broke the Jewish center’s windows five times.
January 2005: A synagogue in the western Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankovsk that was vandalized on multiple occasions in 2004 was once again targeted by antisemites in late January 2005, according to a February 1, 2005 report by the AEN news agency. The attack resulted in “significant damage” according to AEN—shattered windows and swastika graffiti. Police treated the incident as “minor hooliganism” rather than employing the rarely used section on the criminal code for hate crimes. A local Jewish community leader expressed his frustration with this situation to AEN in the following way: “This was not just hooliganism. The attack was ethnically motivated. Right next to the synagogue is a [Christian] cathedral, but for some reason the hooligans only broke our windows.” UCSJ is not aware of any arrests in connection with this incident.
March 2005: a project manager for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) was attacked in Kiev by skinheads and suffered a broken nose. UCSJ is not aware of any arrests in connection with this incident.
March 1: A Jewish youth was attacked by skinheads near Kiev’s Brodsky synagogue. The youth, a university student named Aleksandr Koshman, was walking by the synagogue that evening with a friend when he noticed a group of around 15 skinheads wearing heavy boots and clothes reading “White Power.” He started walking quickly towards his car, but was hit behind the head. When he turned around, he was called a “kike” and thrown to the ground, where the neo-Nazis started to kick him.
March 17, 2005: A large swastika was painted on the Brodsky synagogue in Kiev. The vandals reportedly avoided identification by parking a large truck in front of the synagogue’s security camera. The local rabbi reported the incident to police. UCSJ is not aware of any arrests in connection with these incidents.
May 2005: JTA reported that two young men assaulted Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm, his son, and two other members of the Jewish community on Sunday evening in downtown Zhitomir as the men were heading home on the second night of Passover. The attackers were later arrested.
August 2005:, Mordekhay Molozhenov, an Israeli yeshiva student, was put into a coma after being beaten and stabbed by neo-Nazis in Kiev. Another yeshiva student suffered minor injuries. Mr. Molozhenov finally emerged from his coma in November 2005. Three of the attackers were later arrested.
Later in August 2005, showing the continuing problem of Ukrainian police officials denying that neo-Nazi violence is a serious problem in their country, the deputy minister of internal affairs publicly asserted that the attack on Mr. Molozhenov and two other violent assaults on Jews in the preceding months were not motivated by antisemitism, according to a September 1, 2005 report posted on the Russian Jewish Congress’ web site Antisemitizmu.net. Deputy Minister Gennady Moskal made this assertion after meeting with the Israeli ambassador to Ukraine shortly after the attack on Mr. Molozhenov.
Information gathered from a variety of Ukrainian and Jewish media reports about the August 28 attack on Mordechai Molozhenov contradicted Deputy Minister Moskal’s claim. An August 29 report by the Ukrainian Jewish web site jn.com.ua reported that the group of men who attacked Mr. Molozhenov and his friend screamed “kikes!” as they threw bottles at them and then started beating and stabbing them with broken bottles. In addition, other yeshiva students were cited in the report as saying that a few days before, the same group of neo-Nazis attacked a group of yeshiva students in approximately the same location, but were driven off. Some Jewish leaders publicly contradicted the deputy minister. The head of the Jewish Agency called the attack: “A terrible act of antisemitism [which] unfortunately was not a surprise to us. A sharp rise in antisemitic acts has taken place in Ukraine recently: desecrations of Jewish graves, antisemitic graffiti on Jewish community buildings, and now attacks on Jews.”
Responding to a separate announcement by the Ministry of the Interior stating that there is no proof that the attack on Mr. Molozhenov was motivated by antisemitism, the chief rabbi of Kiev, Moshe Azman, was quoted in the August 31, 2005 Ukraine edition of the Russian daily Kommersant as saying that the attackers shouted antisemitic slogans, that such attacks are becoming more common in Ukraine, and that: “This problem is getting worse because nobody is taking it upon himself to eliminate it.”
September 11, 2005: Rabbi Mikhail Menis and his 14 year old son visited a beer festival at the Kiev Expo Center and were set upon by seven young men and a young woman armed with chains and other weapons, according to a September 12, 2005 report by the MIG news agency (mignews.com). After a sustained beating, during which some of the attackers reportedly yelled neo-Nazi slogans, the attackers left. Both the rabbi and his son then approached some police officers, who within five minutes detained the group of suspects. Two of them were charged with “hooliganism” while the other six were held as witnesses.
Although the police response was commendable in its swiftness, the MIG news reporter covering the incident was flabbergasted by police statements that deny antisemitism had anything to do with the attack. Police officials publicly asserted that they “firmly believe” that the attack on the rabbi and his son, both of whom are Israeli citizens, was nothing more than “hooliganism.” Meanwhile, Vadim Rabinovich, head of the Ukrainian Jewish Congress, claimed that when he visited the suspects in jail, they told him in front of police guards that: “We will beat the kikes in the name of the purity of the nation.”
February 3, 2006: A man entered Kiev’s Brodsky synagogue brandishing a knife and screaming that all Jews should be killed, according to a report that day by the Jerusalem Post. The man was detained by security guards and later arrested. Jewish leaders criticized the local prosecutor’s decision to only charge the man with weapons possession rather than a hate crime, despite the fact that since his arrest, he has vowed to murder Jews upon being released from custody.
February 8, 2006: The Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism—an Israeli quasi-governmental agency charged with monitoring antisemitic incidents around the world—reported that antisemitic incidents had decreased worldwide in 2005. The only two exceptions to the rule were Ukraine and Russia, where the report found that antisemitic incidents noticeably increased.
May 19, 2006: JTA reported that Ukrainian rabbis called on authorities to ensure the safety of the country’s Jews and adopt legislation against antisemitism. “We are trying to calm down Jews in our communities. We are trying to lower the level of anxiety,” rabbis said in a statement after a rabbinical meeting in Kiev. “Unfortunately we do not see any adequate or unequivocal response toward manifestations of xenophobia from the Ukrainian authorities.”
May 29, 2006: JTA reported that Ukrainian Jewish leaders announced their intention to appeal a court decision that found a school teacher innocent of making antisemitic statements. A court in the Kirovograd region acquitted Nikolay Yakimchuk, a public-school teacher, of hate speech charges. Several of his students testified that he allegedly said during his lesson that “Jews are bad and impudent people,” that Jewish students are only “taking space in our school” and there should be “no place for them among people.”
The JTA report did not mention that the teacher called for the extermination of Jews in Ukraine (he reportedly told his students: “They need to be exterminated, they have no place among people” according to a May 26, 2006 AEN report). This goes well beyond the realm of un-PC talk to clear incitement of violence. Ukraine’s hate speech law has only been successfully applied once, against the newspaper Silski Visti, a decision that was overturned after the Orange Revolution. President Yushchenko subsequently awarded that paper’s editors medals.
June 29, 2006: JTA reported that Ukraine’s Education Ministry called for seven branches of a Ukrainian university known for supporting antisemitism to be disbanded. The move is seen as a blow against MAUP, a Kiev-based private university that has printed antisemitic articles in school publications and supported conferences with antisemitic speakers.
July 23, 2006: Vandals threw stones through the windows of a Jewish orphanage in Zhitomir according to a report by the AEN news agency. The orphanage’s director, Brakha Tamarin, was cited in the report saying that a few days before, stones shattered the windows of her home, and that antisemitism is rising in the city.
July 27, 2006: As a result of losing a libel suit against an academic institution that is the most prolific source of antisemitic literature in Ukraine, journalist Vladimir Katsman’s property was confiscated by bailiffs so that proceeds from the sale of his property can go to the winning side, according to a report by the UNIAN news agency. Mr. Katsman was sued by the Interregional Academy of Personnel (MAUP) after he authored several articles asserting that it publishes antisemitic literature and hosts conferences dedicated to spreading antisemitic ideas. He was also reportedly beaten (on April 8, 2006) and received death threats from people claiming to represent MAUP. None of these crimes have been solved, which Mr. Katsman attributed to the police’s “inaction.”
September 14, 2006: Fans of a Tel Aviv soccer team who traveled to Odessa, Ukraine to lend their support in a match against the local Chernomorets club were attacked by soccer hooligans, according to a September 15, 2006 report by the Russian Jewish web site Antisemitizmu.net. The attack came after the local team lost 1-0 to the Israelis. It is unclear how many people were injured, though at least one Israeli had his eyeglasses broken. No arrests were in connection with this incident.
September 18, 2006: A few days after this attack, the Russian Jewish web site Jewish.ru reported on September 20, 2006 that a group of youths beat up a Jew in front of numerous witnesses in Odessa’s downtown area. Chaim Veitsman was set upon during the evening on a crowded street. A gang off youths, who witnesses say often hang out on that street, approached Mr. Veitsman. One screamed in his face, “I don’t like kikes!” and started to attack him. “The hooligans were not afraid of any witnesses or that anybody would stand up for him [the victim]” the report’s author wrote.
After the beating was over, Mr. Veitsman, who was covered in his own blood and was suffering from a busted lip and a concussion, had to call the police himself. The officers who responded were reportedly not very interested in investigating the attack. A witness came forward and named one of the attackers. Mr. Veitsman then went to the police station with the officers and waited 40 minutes before someone took down his complaint. Sources within the local Jewish community told Jewish.ru that Odessa’s streets are becoming increasingly dangerous. People interviewed at the Migdal Jewish Cultural Center reported that over the past two years, five Jews affiliated with their organization have been attacked, and that police have not been able to solve even one of those cases.
October 18-19, 2006: Some 18 tombstones were destroyed in a Gluhov Jewish cemetery in central Ukraine. Local law enforcement agencies are investigating the case but no arrests have been reported
November 2, 2006: the Russian Jewish web site Jewish.ru reported that antisemitic literature, including the infamous forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” was being sold openly inside the building of the Ukrainian parliament. The report cited Aleksandr Feldman, a parliamentary deputy, who listed several antisemitic titles on sale in the parliamentary bookstore, including “The Jewish Syndrome” by Eduard Khodos and several publications by the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (MAUP), the country’s leading purveyor of antisemitic literature.
Mr. Feldman was quoted in the article as saying that this sort of literature had been on sale before inside the parliament, but that his earlier complaints put a temporary stop to it. In recent years, several members of the Ukrainian parliament have made public antisemitic statements, including glorification of anti-Jewish violence during the Holocaust and accusations that Jews were behind the terror famine of the 1930s that took the lives of millions of Ukrainians. In December 2006, Mr. Feldman was quoted in the media saying that the distribution of antisemitic literature inside the parliament building had stopped.
December 7, 2006: JTA reported that one in three Ukrainians do not want Jews to be citizens of their country, according to a survey conducted by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology. The survey also found that 36% of respondents do not want to see Jews as citizens of Ukraine, compared to 26% in a similar survey conducted in 1994. A Regions.ru report from December 6 added that the poll found 45% of 18-20 year olds in Ukraine don’t want Jews to live in Ukraine—a higher rate than older respondents.
December 16, 2006: Three Orthodox Jews were attacked in Kiev by a gang of young men screaming antisemitic abuse, according to a report from UCSJ’s Kiev monitor Vyacheslav Likhachyov. The attack took place in the evening in the city’s Podol district as the Jews were returning from their synagogue. In a December 17 report, the AEN news agency quoted one of the victims as saying:
“Suddenly around 10 young people with bottles in their hands ran out of a courtyard. Screaming ‘kikes, get out of here’ along with several curse words they attacked us and started to savagely beat us. I and a friend managed to escape and called the police. However, when we called 02, a voice told us to call back tomorrow because it was already late and the police couldn’t come. We found out later that our third friend [who didn’t escape] was thrown to the ground and kicked. A passerby came out of a parked car and tried to help him. He tried to explain to the hooligans that it isn’t right to beat a man who is down on the ground. They beat him up too. We haven’t been able to find him. Our friend has a concussion and several other injuries.”
The police arrived the next day and began investigating the attack. They questioned the owner of a nearby apartment after learning from the victims that someone spat on them from its balcony. According to the AEN report, the Ukrainian media has been silent about the attack, and UCSJ has been able to find only one local media report (in the newspaper Stolichnye Novosti) on the incident.
December 20, 2006: Two days before it was set to be unveiled in a ceremony, a Holocaust monument in Donetsk, Ukraine was vandalized, according to UCSJ’s Kiev monitor Vyacheslav Likhachyov. Someone painted a swastika and the words “SS” on the monument, which marked the border of the Jewish ghetto set up by the Nazis before they sent most of the local Jewish population to their deaths. Ukrainian media subsequently reported that the ceremony went ahead on schedule despite the incident.
December 31, 2006: A Holocaust memorial sign was vandalized in Ukraine.
A plaque at the Elektroterm plant in Kharkov commemorating Jews murdered there by the Nazis in 1941 was damaged and painted over with swastikas. The incident took place Dec. 31 but was reported to the media only Wednesday.
“We are sure that this is an act of anti-Semitism,” Aleksandr Kaganovsky, chairman of the Kharkov Jewish religious community, told JTA.
January 18, 2007: The decrepit remnants of a synagogue that was recently ordered returned to the Jewish community of Mariupol, Ukraine have been vandalized, according to a January 18, 2007 report by the Russian Jewish web site Jewish.ru. Vandals painted the words “Death to the kikes” and “Choke a kike” on the remaining wall of what used to be the city’s choral synagogue. The building was confiscated by the Soviet government and left in a deplorable condition; in December 2006 the Jewish community successfully won a legal battle to have it returned to the community. Perhaps not coincidentally, two weeks after the city administration announced this decision, the vandals struck. Local Jewish leaders are planning to ask that police investigate the incident.
January 29, 2007: City workers have desecrated a Jewish cemetery in Odessa, Ukraine that was shut down in the 1970s, according to a January 25, 2007 report by the Russian Jewish web site Jewish.ru. Responding to a tip that homeless people were living in the cemetery, a television camera crew discovered that city construction crews had used heavy equipment to dig huge holes in the cemetery, bringing up the bones of the deceased and mixing them up with refuse that is commonly dumped on the cemetery grounds. Roman Shvartsman, chairman of the city’s association of Holocaust survivors, termed the actions of the construction crews “a mockery” of the memory of those buried there. Over 30 years ago, the Soviet government shut down the cemetery and used some of its tombstones for construction material. Local metal and marble thieves continue to make a living doing the same.
February 13, 2007: A man who entered a Kiev synagogue last year with a large knife and declared that he meant to kill the country’s chief rabbi has been released from custody, according to a February 13, 2007 report by the Russian Jewish web site Antisemitizmu.net. Georgi Dobryansky was never charged with a hate crime, despite his confession that he blamed Jews for “genocide” against Ukrainians, and ultimately served his one year sentence, which expired this month. Shortly after leaving prison, he allegedly called the offices of a Ukrainian Jewish newspaper (Evreysky Obozrevatel) and threatened violence. Vadim Rabinovich, head of the Ukrainian Jewish Congress, was quoted in the report saying that the Congress has asked for help from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He added that if Mr. Dobryansky commits another hate crime, “responsibility will rest upon those who set him free.”
Feburary 14, 2007: The Torah scrolls used by the Jewish community in Zhitomir were repossesed by the Zhitomir Regional State Archives. In 2004, the archives handed over 17 out of 290 Torah scrolls in its possession to be used by the local Jewish community run by Chabad.
The scrolls had been the property of the many synagogues and private Jewish households in Zhitomir, and were confiscated by communist authorities during anti-religious campaigns or seized by the Nazis during the occupation of Ukraine in World War II.
For two-and-a-half years, the scrolls were kept in a specially designated room at the Ohr Avner school, but this year the archives said the synagogue was improperly keeping the scrolls and that some were now missing or damaged.
February 16, 2007: A Kiev court reversed a decision by Ukrainian authorities to shut down regional branches of a private university that is a major purveyor of anti-Semitic propaganda.
The Kiev Court on Economic Affairs ruled Tuesday that 26 provincial branches of the Interregional Academy for Personnel Management, or MAUP, can continue to operate. This week’s ruling overruled a decision last September by Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science that denied recognition of diplomas issued in 2006 to 4,655 MAUP graduates and ordered the closure of 26 regional branches.
Febuary 18, 2007: The Baba Yar Memorial in Kiev is defaced with swasitkas. The memorial had also been defaced in July, 2006.
February 20, 2007: A monument to Holocaust victims and Jewish graves have been defaced with swastikas in southern Ukraine, an activist with a local Jewish community. Unidentified vandals desecrated the Holocaust Monument late Sunday with red swastikas and with the inscription “Congratulations on the Holocaust” and painted swastikas on 270 graves in a Jewish cemetery in the Black Sea port of Odessa, said Boleslav Kapulkin, a spokesman for Odessa’s Jewish community. The monument was erected at the site where thousands of Jews were killed and burned by the Nazis between 1941-1944. Kapulkin said police launched a probe into the vandalism.
March 8, 2007: Holocaust memorials in two central Ukrainian towns were vandalized in separate incidents. The Tuesday night attacks took place in Alexandria and Berdichev. In Alexandria, the monument was smeared with black paint and the name of a Ukranian nationalist organization, the Ukrainian Rebellious Army. There were no further details on the Berdichev incident.
Local law enforcement agencies are investigating the cases but no arrests have been reported. Aleksandr Liberzon, leader of the Alexandria religious Jewish community, called on local law enforcement agencies to find and punish vandals without delay. “This act of anti-Semitic vandalism is an insult to all Ukrainian people,” Liberzon told JTA. The monument in Alexandria was opened in May 2006 on the site of a Nazi wartime massacre of some 2,500 Jews.
March 16, 2007: Kharkov city authorities reportedly organized a counter-demonstration aimed against a rally of supporters for Mr. Lutsenko and his political party. Youth activists present at the rally reportedly hoisted up a piñata resembling Mr. Lutsenko with traditionally Jewish forelocks added to it, and then knocked the piñata to the ground, kicking it repeatedly.
March 20, 2007: Vandals painted swastikas and damaged a Holocaust memorial inside a Jewish cemetery in Kalush, Ukraine (Ivano-Frankovsk region), according to a March 20, 2007 report by UCSJ’s Lviv monitor. The vandals also stole a marble tomb covering and damaged the fence around the memorial which was built on the site of a mass execution of Jews during World War II. Police are investigating the incident.
March 23, 2007: Antisemitic rhetoric continues to be used a political weapon in Ukraine, according to a March 18, 2007 report by the AEN news agency. Yuri Lutsenko, the country’s prosecutor general under the previous Yushchenko government, has become the latest target. The current deputy prosecutor general, Renat Kuzmin, reportedly accused Mr. Lutsenko of having dual Ukrainian-Israeli citizenship, a charge that Mr. Lutsenko and the Israeli consul general in Ukraine deny. The original accusation came from a parliamentarian affiliated with the Party of Regions, allied with the current prime minister of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich and generally opposed to President Yushchenko. The Israeli consul general characterized the document upon which the accusation was based as an obvious forgery.
April 30, 2007
Police in Kiev arrested 77 people, including 37 whose “appearance was similar to skinheads” after they tried to hold a march to honor an SS unit made up of Ukrainians during World War II, according to an April 28, 2007 report by the UNIAN news agency. The police were enforcing a court order banning the march, which generated much controversy in the Ukrainian media. While some Ukrainians see the soldiers of the SS Galichina division as heroes who fought for an independent Ukraine, others accuse the unit of war crimes.
It is unclear what charges, if any, were filed against the 77 demonstrators, though presumably the owners of a taxi cab in which Molotov cocktails and a swastika insignia were found face potentially serious legal consequences.
May 2, 2007 A Holocaust memorial was vandalized in western Ukraine. The mass grave in the town of Khmelnitsky was desecrated last month, the local Jewish community reported Tuesday. The monument was established after World War II on the site of a Nazi wartime massacre of 8,000 Jews.
Local Jewish activists cleaning the site in April discovered that the monument to Holocaust victims had been damaged and the plaque broken. The activists appealed to the town council to build a fence along the perimeter of the memorial. Police are investigating, but no progress has been reported
NOTE: Ukraine has a hate crimes statute on the books. It has only successfully been applied once in the entire post-Soviet history of the country.