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Freedom of Speech On collaboration by Ukrainian Nationalists Against Jews under threat in Ukraine

Delphine Bechtel

[Editor's note:  I am reprinting this petition I recieved this week from a Professor in  France which is timely as  Holocasut Awareness Week approaches]

Petition for Freedom of Speech and expression in Ukraine
Target: Open letter to academic institutions and media in Ukraine  Sponsored by: Scholars concerned with academic freedom and democracy in Ukraine
In February 2012, Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, a doctoral finalist at the University of Hamburg, was scheduled to give a series of lectures in Ukraine on the life and  memory of the Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera, on which he has just completed a 600 pages dissertation, upon invitation by the German Academic Exchange Service, the German Embassy and the Boell Foundation.
 The right wing Ukrainian nationalist party Svoboda organized a large and aggressive demonstration in front of the embassy, with banners calling him a "liberal fascist", "Nazi", "provocateur," "mendacious grandson of Goebbels" and a "Ukrainophobe" (see pictures below). Various forms of pressure were exerted on institutions to have his other talks cancelled. The Center for Visual Arts, which was supposed to host his conference, was even closed shortly before, supposedly because it hosted an art exhibition which was called "pornography" by the rector of the Kyiv Mohyla academy. Some other institutions cancelled his talks on their own initiative. Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe was threatened and had to hide in an anonymous apartment under the protection of the embassy.

Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe came under attack in Ukraine because he came to deliver two lectures on the Ukrainian fascist politician Stepan Bandera and the ethnic and  political violence of the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) and the UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army), organizations which have collaborated in the extermination of Jews and Poles in Ukraine during WWII. Stepan Bandera appears in Ukrainian national discourses as a "national hero" (he was named such by former President  Yushchenko and is celebrated as such in Western Ukraine), and the OUN and UPA as a "liberation movement." Both are objects of a nationalist cult.
 The claims by some historians or activists, that Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe is "not a researcher", or "out for scandal", or in any way responsible for the violence and \ threats, that he is either a "provocateur" or a "puppet" manipulated by the German Embassy or the Party of Regions, or that he has in some way called for this situation based on his debating style are just not sustainable.
 Most dangerously, they is a wider and deeper challenge to elementary academic freedom, free speech and the rule of law. That this unseemly campaign is rooted in dedication to the OUN and UPA makes this situation all the more objectionable.
 Moreover, several students and colleagues have confirmed privately that they have been intimidated and received threats or insults, so as not to voice any support on his behalf, lest they lose stipends, invitations to Ukrainian institutions and the like. 
We,a group of historians and researchers, are concerned with what is actually under attack here: the freedom of opinion and expression, the freedom of research, the independence of academic institutions and ultimately, of researchers themselves.
Therefore we initiated a petition and would like to invite you to sign it here:

More information on the situation can be found here:  the SVOBODA demonstration against the lecture on Stepan Bandera
Commentary on the events by Per A. Rudling
Commentary by JP Himka
Reaction of protest of the Boell Stiftung in German, along with the full recording of Gregorz Rossolinski-Liebe's talk
Here some reactions of Ukrainian nationalist circles, in contrast:
(A. Lozinski is well known for his anti-Semitic diatribes; he and the co-signer Borys Potapenko both deny well-documented participation of Ukrainians in anti-Jewish  violence)
If you feel concerned by the pressure exerted on freedom of discussion on WWII in Ukraine, please sign the petition and pass it around,
You may also want to sign the petition in support of the activities of the Visual Culture Research Center, one of the few independant cultural institutions in Ukraine. at
 Centre Universitaire Malesherbes
 108 Bd Malesherbes
 F - 75017 Paris
 Delphine Bechtel
 Université Paris IV Sorbonne
 UFR d'Etudes germaniques
 et CIRCE - Centre Interdisciplinaire de Recherches Centre-Européennes

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