Euro 2012 blog: Teams honour Holocaust, ignore Holodomor

Raphael Lemkin, the Polish lawyer best known for coining the word genocide, did so after learning about the Holodomor, which he later described as “a classic example of Soviet genocide.” However, a combination of Soviet propaganda and Western complicity has kept the crime hidden from the eyes of the world.


Euro 2012 blog: Teams honor Holocaust, ignore Holodomor

by Jakub Parusinski

Team after team arriving for the Euro 2012 championship is making a well-publicized point of visiting the Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz. No teams, however, have indicated they plan to visit any memorials linked to the Holodomor – the devastating man-made famine that ended the lives of up to seven million Ukrainians in the 1930s – or even that they actually know what it is. 

Hosts Poland and Ukraine have in recent weeks been criticized by foreign media as harboring a culture of vitriolic racism and anti-Semitism, sparking outrage and condemnation by many in the football community. Critics of the two countries often applauded the teams’ decision to visit the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

One of the most prominent anti-racism activist, British parliamentarian Lord George Ouseley, said he was impressed by the English teams to visit the death camp.

“I think that’s great. A lot of players will be moved by such an experience. It is always humbling for people to go through that experience of going to somewhere like Auschwitz, to understand the suffering, the incarceration and the unimaginable things that went on,” he said in an interview London’s Daily Telegraph.

Poland and Ukraine make up the biggest part of the Eastern European region described as the Bloodlands by Yale historian Tymothy Snyder for the mass murders that took place there. According to Snyder’s estimates, some 14 million non-combatants were murdered by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union between 1932 and 1945, mostly Belarusians, Jews, Poles and Ukrainians.

But any interest in the region’s history appears to be largely limited to Auschwitz and the media attention it can generate.

Indeed, the English team came under criticism for allowing only two – later extended to three – journalists to participate in the visit. Telegraph journalist Paul Hayward wrote this suggested the most important part of the trip were the quotes that would come from English players.

“What it says is that the most important aspect of a football team visiting Auschwitz is the quotes: the reactions of the players. How completely misguided that is,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, it appears unlikely any team will visit the Holodomor memorial, which honors the victims of the man-made famine that devastated Ukraine in 1932-1933, ending the lives of somewhere from five to seven million Ukrainians, according to various estimates.

Holodomor translates as killing by hunger in Ukrainian. Intent on destroying the Ukrainian peasant class, which was opposed to the collectivization of farms, Stalin ordered grain to be seized, banned relief, and had the country methodically stripped of any comestible products as fines for not meeting grain targets.

The Holodomor has been recognized as an act of genocide by multiple countries, including Canada and the U.S. But it seems unlikely to interest the foreign teams playing in Ukraine.

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