Photo Credit: John McLaughlin / Wikimedia
Monument to Symon Petliura in Rivne, Ukraine.

The city of Vinnitsa in Ukraine has prompted condemnation from the World Jewish Congress in response to the unveiling of a monument honoring nationalist leader Symon Petilura, whose military forces under the Ukrainian People’s Republic killed tens of thousands of Jews in pogroms under his watch from 1918-1921.

WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer urged the local authorities in a statement on Tuesday to pull the monument instead.

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“The World Jewish Congress is distressed by the Vinnitsa municipality’s disgraceful and regrettable decision to celebrate the anti-Semitic nationalist leader Symon Petilura as a ‘Defender of Ukraine’ and by Vinnitsa Regional Chairman Valery Korovy’s description of him as an ‘honest man,’ Singer said. “Petilura was anything but an honest man. He was a cruel barbarian, indisputably responsible for pogroms in which 35,000-40,000 Jews were murdered.

“He and his Ukrainian People’s Republic were more than just Ukrainian nationalists – they were also avowed and brutal anti-Semites, intoxicated by the thrill of carrying out unimaginably vicious and inhumane crimes against innocent people…

“We have witnessed a significant revival of Jewish life in Ukraine over the last 25 years, with hundreds of synagogues, and dozens of school and cultural institutions established with the support of all Ukrainian national governments since the 1990s. The erection of a statue of Petilura in one of the historical centers of Jewish life in Ukraine sends the wrong message to the Ukrainian people and to future generations, and undermines the critical process of democracy and tolerance,” Singer warned.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.