Is Ukraine’s Jewish Community In Danger Of A Holocaust?

Fatimah Mazhar
April 18, 2014: A controversial document revives bitter memories of the Holocaust in eastern Ukraine.

A shocking photo of an anti-Semitic leaflet that was distributed to Jews on the eve of Passover in eastern Ukraine has gone viral on the internet.

The document prompted widespread confusion and fear, especially among the Jewish community all over the world, who faced a similar situation during the Holocaust of World War II

While reports regarding the notorious flyer are still emerging, let’s take a look at the details that are already available.

What Happened During World War II?

There is a reason why the existence of the leaflet is disturbing.

As a prelude to the systematic genocide, the Jewish population in Nazi Germany was required to register their domestic and foreign property and assets.

That information was later used by Adolf Hitler to initiate the mass murder of six million Jews.

What is written on the leaflet?

Allegedly signed by Denis Pushilin, the chairman of the current revolutionary pro-Russian government, the flyer requires Jewish citizens in the city of Donetsk to register themselves, their property, and their family to the authorities.

Moreover, it also threatens the community with the revocation of citizenship and confiscation of property if its people do not comply.

[For the complete translation of the document, click here.]

When did the first reports emerge?

Although a credible Russian source, Novosti.dn, reported it on Tuesday, an Israeli online news portal YNetNews was the first English-language publication to draw attention to the document on Wednesday.

It was picked up by USA Today the next day from where it spread like wildfire.

Who distributed it?

Three unidentified men in balaclavas, reportedly carrying the flag of the Russian Federation, distributed the controversial leaflets to Jews coming out of a synagogue in Donetsk.  

Ukraine is currently divided between people in favor of joining Russia and pro-European Union (EU) protesters.

There are speculations that certain elements are trying to provoke a conflict and then blame it on Russian supporters who are involved in an ongoing separatist movement.


The flyer fueled public backlash against Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government is already notorious for its draconian anti-gay laws.

The US Secretary Of State John Kerry also condemned the reports on Thursday, labeling the document as “grotesque”:

“Just in the last couple of days, notices were sent to Jews in one city indicated that they have to identify themselves as Jews, and obviously the accompanying threat implied is, or suffer the consequences.”

What Do The Alleged Perpetrators Say?

Currently, Donetsk is under the administration of Putin allies who have claimed it as the so-called People's Republic of Donetsk state.

The flyers – as mentioned above – have been signed by one of the leaders of the pro-Russian separatist group.

Following the emergence of the document, the leader denied any involvement with the distribution of the anti-Semitic material, calling it fake.

“Some idiots yesterday were giving out these fliers in targeted areas,” Pushilin was quoted as saying.

What Does The Targeted Community Say?

The Anti-Defamation League – an international non-governmental organization that aims to stop the defamationof the Jewish people – saidit was "skeptical about the authenticity" of the leaflet.

The Washington Post reported that their correspondents in Donetsk spoke to members of the Jewish community, who confirm the material was handed out, however it doesn't seem to be a big deal.

American magazine, The New Republic, wrote: "The Donetsk Jewish community dismissed [the handout] as 'a provocation,' which it clearly is.”

The Possible Conclusion:

While the reality of these divisive documents cannot totally be dismissed, the leaflets largely seem to be an attempt to provoke conflict between the two rival groups in Ukraine.