Jews and Ukrainians honour the memories of those killed
at Lonsky Street Prison, October, 2012. (lonckoho.lviv.ua)
John-Paul Himka is at it again. This time he's obfuscating the present AND the past.
In his latest assault, launched at the Harriman Institute in New York on April 22, Himka has taken aim at the Lonsky Street Museum in Lviv.
During his talk "The Lontsky Street Prison Memorial Museum. An Example of Postcommunist Holocaust Negationism," Himka charged that the museum is engaged in Holocaust denial and suffers from a case of “deflective negationism.”
Is Himka, who claims expertise in history and facial recognition, now a psychologist? No, “deflective negationism” is a term widely, and almost exclusively, used to help categorize the deniers, diminishers and distorters of the mass murder of millions of Jews in Europe during WW2.
In his talk, Himka charged that the Lonsky Street Museum is a hotbed of Holocaust negation. But it appears that he hasn’t actually been there: the slide show accompanying his talk pictured a neighbouring building as the site of the prison. Close, but wrong.
Very wrong, according to Ukrainian historian Volodymyr Viatrovych, one of the museum’s founders. The Lonsky Street Museum has hosted a number of events and exhibits devoted to the Holocaust. A quick search of the museum’s website shows a number of them, including:
- The “Shoah in Lviv” exhibit that ran from January 27 to March 3, 2013;
- On January 28, 2013 Meylakh Sheykhet, director of the Lviv-based Faina Petryakova Scientific Center for Judaica and Jewish Art and member of the Lonsky Street Museum’s Supervisory Board, delivered a talk about the Shoah in Ukraine at the Lonsky Street Museum;
- On October 30, 2011, on the 70th anniversary of the Babyn Yar executions in Kyiv, Sheykhet donated copies of materials from the German Bundesarchiv in Berlin about the Gestapo, during a screening of SerhiyBukovsky’s 2006 documentary film about the Holocaust “Spell Your Name.”
There is only one permanent exhibit currently functioning at the young museum covering the Soviet NKVD executions that occurred in the prison and courtyard in June, 1941. Towards the end of the exhibit, the names of each of the 700+ victims are written out: Ukrainians, Poles, Jews, Russians, and other nationalities.
Meanwhile, back in New York, Viatrovych, who was present at the Himka presentation, dared challenge the University of Alberta professor, but he was cut off by one of Himka’s protégés, Per Anders Rudling, one of the workshop’s organizers.
Rudling has his own bone to pick with the museum. When it was announced that the director of Lonsky Street Museum was coming to Canada on a lecture tour last year, Rudling attempted to discredit his “astonishingly modest [academic] credentials... only a master's degree” and wrote that “Jewish suffering is omitted” by the museum -- an outright lie.
A little more poking around the website, and you’ll find the possible and probable cause of why Himka is taking aim at the Lonsky Street Memorial Museum: posted is a damning 19,000-word review of Himka’s 2011 submission to the Canadian Slavonic Papers called “The Lviv Pogrom of 1941: The Germans, Ukrainian Nationalists, and the Carnival Crowd.”
Himka's issue with the museum appears to be that it dares to look at Ukraine’s nationalists as something other than “Jew-killers” and “Hitler-lovers” – monikers once assigned by Soviet propaganda and parroted by many in academia.
The history of the matter is that The Lonsky Street Museum is based around a prison that was used by Poles (1918-1939), Soviets (1939-1941), Nazis (1941-1944) and the Soviets again (1944-1991), and was closed in the mid-1990s.
And Ukrainian nationalists were prisoners there all those years, under all those regimes. The museum is doing nothing more, nothing less than telling the prison's history. But that's not enough for Himka et al.