Israel demands Russia apologise for ‘lie’ that Hitler had Jewish roots, as row over Lavrov comment deepens

‘The lowest level of racism against Jews is to blame Jews themselves for antisemitism’

Zelensky says humanitarian corridors are ‘working for the first time’ in Ukraine

Israel has chastised Russia and demanded an apology after its foreign minister Sergei Lavrov claimed that German dictator Adolf Hitler had Jewish blood in an effort to justify Moscow’s call to “denazify” Ukraine.

Mr Lavrov had argued that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s Jewish ancestry did not matter.

“So what if Zelensky is Jewish? The fact does not negate the Nazi elements in Ukraine. I believe that Hitler also had Jewish blood,” the Russian minister said, referring to an unverified claim that Hitler, responsible for the death of nearly 6 million Jews, had possible Jewish and African ancestors.

“Some of the worst antisemites are Jews,” he added in an interview with an Italian television show on Sunday.

Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett, in his criticism of Russia, said Mr Lavrov’s words were untrue. “Using the Holocaust of the Jewish people as a political tool must cease immediately,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid demanded an apology from Moscow and called the remarks “unforgivable, scandalous and a terrible historical mistake”.

“The Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust. The lowest level of racism against Jews is to blame Jews themselves for antisemitism,” Mr Lapid told YNet news website.

Officials from Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, said Mr Lavrov was “propagating the inversion of the Holocaust by turning the victims into criminals on the basis of promoting a completely unfounded claim that Hitler was of Jewish descent”.

“Equally serious is calling the Ukrainians in general, and President Zelensky in particular, Nazis. This, among other things, is a complete distortion of the history and an affront to the victims of Nazism,” the statement added.

Israel’s harsh criticism towards Moscow comes at a time when the country has sought to take a neutral position in the war.

Meanwhile, German government spokesperson Steffen Hebstreit called Moscow’s “propaganda” efforts “absurd” and unworthy of a comment.

Russian president Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine on 24 February, which he called a “special military operation”, to remove leaders who he described as neo-Nazis.

However, Ukrainian leaders have drawn parallels between Mr Putin and Hitler for the nature of unprovoked aggression.

“By trying to rewrite history, Moscow is simply looking for arguments to justify the mass murders of Ukrainians,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said Mr Lavrov’s remarks exposed the “deeply-rooted antisemitism of the Russian elites”.

“His heinous remarks are offensive to president [Volodymyr Zelensky], Ukraine, Israel, and the Jewish people. More broadly, they demonstrate that today’s Russia is full of hatred towards other nations,” Mr Kuleba added.

Despite Ukraine’s dark history of antisemitism, Mr Zelensky has often used his own family background to suggest that the country is not as hate-filled as Mr Putin paints it to be.

Mr Zelensky’s grandfather had reportedly fought in the Soviet Army against the Nazis, while other family members died in the Holocaust.

“In justifying this attack, Vladimir Putin has misrepresented and misappropriated Holocaust history by claiming falsely that democratic Ukraine needs to be ‘denazified’,” the Holocaust Memorial Museum said in a statement on 24 February.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered.

To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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