Photo Credit: courtesy the Knesset
Knesset, Russian Federation Council joint Holocaust Remembrance event

The film “Sobibor,” about the uprising at the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland near the end of World War 2, premiered simultaneously at the Knesset and the Russian Federation Council—the upper house of the Russian Federal Assembly—on Wednesday, the eve of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day.

The Russian drama (with English subtitles) focuses on the story of the leader of the uprising, Jewish Red Army Lieutenant Alexander Pechersky.


Following the screening, a discussion was held via video, which included of Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein (Likud) and Russian Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko.

A panel discussion was then held with Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Tali Ploskov (Kulanu); MK Robert Ilatov, chairman of the Yisrael Beitenu parliamentary group; Aharon Schneier, a historian and expert on World War Two; Michael Greenberg, director of the Bridges of Culture organization; Russian Federation Council members Vladimir Dzhabarov and Yelena Afanasyeva; historian and “Sobibor” creator Ilya Vasiliev; the head of the Russia-Israel Friendship Association in the Federation Council; as well as researchers and activists in the field of Holocaust commemoration.

“One cannot sugarcoat the vileness, hatred and unprecedented cruelty – which will not be matched – of the dreadful events of the Holocaust,” Speaker Edelstein said during the live video chat. Addressing “Sobibor,” he said, “We must also remember those people who did not give up on life even in the death camps. “I don’t think that there is a similar case in history to what Pechersky did in the Sobibor camp, and we should all remember that we should fight these crimes, even if you’re not a politician or a high-ranking person. In Sobibor, they did not give up, and in inhumane conditions, they fought to protect the human spirit.”

“Today we continue to fight any display of evil, and we will continue to do so, together,” Edelstein stated.

Russian Federation Council Chairwoman Matviyenko, whose comments were simultaneously translated to those listening at the Knesset, said, “We are witnessing attempts to not only cover up the cruelty of the Nazis – the atrocities the people in the camps experienced – there are also attempts to reject the past and not present [the stories] of those who fought the Nazis. We will prevent this at all cost.”

The movie ” Sobibor,” she said, “will leave its mark in many countries.” In some countries, Matviyenko charged, “Nazis and fascists become heroes. This is a very dangerous phenomenon, and it must be stopped. We must think what else we can do against such phenomena. The new displays of Nazism – they too can threaten all of humankind.”

Matviyenko extended Russia’s blessings ahead of Israel’s 70th anniversary.

Russian Ambassador to Israel Aleksander Shein and Israeli Ambassador to Moscow Gary Koren also took part in the discussion.