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In Belarus, 'No Jews, No Anti-Semitism'?


People visit a destroyed Jewish cemetery in March near a memorial to Jews killed in Minsk's Jewish ghetto during the Nazi occupation.

People visit a destroyed Jewish cemetery in March near a memorial to Jews killed in Minsk's Jewish ghetto during the Nazi occupation.

As the world marked International Day against Fascism and Anti-Semitism on November 9, RFE/RL's Belarus Service shared some views from the Belarusian blogosphere on historically stubborn discrimination against Jews.

"No Jews -- no anti-Semitism," blogger and journalist Yauhen Lipkovich quipped, before highlighting a troubling aspect of much of Belarusian society's approach to Jews. "Stadiums are built on the sites of Jewish cemeteries [and] swastikas are painted on the graves. At the same time, a Belarusian liver is transplanted into an Israeli spy."

The latter is a reference to the fact that a Belarusian donor emerged for former Mossad director Meir Dagan, who is suffering from cancer and traveled to Minsk for the transplant.
A monument to Jewish victims of Nazism vandalized in the eastern Belarusian city of Mahileu.

A monument to Jewish victims of Nazism vandalized in the eastern Belarusian city of Mahileu.


The country's notoriously blunt president, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, tries to maintain a veneer of deniability when it comes to anti-Semitism. Vandalism against Jewish memorials is a relatively common occurrence, and such minor acts are sometimes punished.

And Russian television was caught disinforming when it erroneously quoted Lukashenka in a "Handelsblatt" interview suggesting that not everything connected to Adolf Hitler was bad. Later, the president's characterization of Jews turning the Belarusian city of Babruysk into a "pigpen" was less easily explained.

The post-Soviet Euro-Asian Jewish Congress's Yakov Basin once put it this way:

Belarus social life has retained a rather visible tendentiousness towards Jews. Scientific literature, encyclopedias, reference books, and school books often remain silent of the history of Belarus Jews and the tragedy of the Holocaust....

Criminal anti-Semitism in Belarus has been suppressed “from above.” Thus, such events as the beating or killing of Jews or attempts to set fire to synagogues are absent. The only manifestations of criminal anti-Semitism are acts of vandalism in Jewish cemeteries and on memorials to victims of genocide.

"What kind of day is that for us?" Kuzma Kazak, a Belarusian historian who specializes in World War II, asks. "There is a small number of historians and civic organizations who remind modern Belarus of what it was like then. However, the issue [of the Holocaust] is very close to us; it is related to our history and to our present lives. What did we see in 1938? Everyone was on alert, [and there was] a search for enemies, a defining of enemies, which led to the catastrophe of the Holocaust."

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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