Israel demands an apology after Russia said Hitler had Jewish roots

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint press conference with Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh (not pictured) following their talks in Moscow, Russia on April 27, 2022. Yuri Kochetkov/Paul via Reuters/File Photo

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  • Israel summons the Russian ambassador for ‘tough talks’
  • Israeli minister says Lavrov’s comment ‘unforgivable’
  • Russian minister says Jews are ‘biggest anti-Semites’

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel on Monday denounced Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for suggesting that Adolf Hitler had Jewish roots and accused Lavrov of spreading anti-Semitism and downplaying the Holocaust.

“These lies aim to accuse the Jews themselves of committing the most heinous crimes in history that have been committed against them,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement.

“The use of the Holocaust against the Jewish people for political purposes must stop immediately,” he added.

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The Israeli Foreign Ministry demanded Yair Lapid an apology from Lavrov for his remarks, which he made on Sunday in an interview with Italian television, and called on the Russian ambassador to have a “stern talk” about this assertion.

Lapid said that claiming that Hitler was of Jewish descent is like saying that Jews killed themselves, and accusing Jews of anti-Semitism is “the lowest level of racism.”

There was no immediate comment from the Russian embassy or Lavrov.

During his interview with the Italian channel Rete 4, Lavrov was asked how Russia could say that it needed to “smear” Ukraine, when the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was a Jew.

Speaking through an Italian translator, Lavrov said, “When they say ‘What kind of annoyance is this if we’re Jewish, I think Hitler also has Jewish ancestry, so it doesn’t mean anything’.”

He added: “For a long time we have heard the sages of the Jews say that the greatest anti-Semite are the Jews themselves.”

Danny Dayan, head of Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, said the Russian minister’s comments were “an insult and a cruel blow to the true victims of Nazism.”

Speaking to Radio Cannes, Dayan said Lavrov was spreading “an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that has no basis in reality”.

The identity of one of Hitler’s great-grandfathers is unknown but there has been some speculation, not supported by any evidence, that he may have been a Jew.

Lapid rejected Lavrov’s assertion that pro-Nazi elements controlled the Ukrainian government and army.

Lapid, whose grandfather died in the Holocaust, said: “The Ukrainians are not Nazis. Only Nazis are Nazis and they alone dealt with the systematic destruction of the Jewish people.”

A German government spokesman said on Monday that Lavrov’s comment on Hitler was “ridiculous” propaganda. Read more

Israel has repeatedly expressed its support for Ukraine following the Russian invasion in February. But fearing a strain in relations with Russia, which has influence in neighboring Syria, at first she avoided direct criticism of Moscow and did not impose official sanctions on the Russian oligarchy.

But relations have grown tense, with Lapid last month accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

However, the Ukrainian president has also faced criticism in Israel by seeking comparisons between the conflict in his country and World War II. In a speech to the Israeli parliament in March, Zelensky compared the Russian attack in Ukraine to Nazi Germany’s plan to kill all Jews within its reach during World War II. Read more

Yad Vashem called his comments “irresponsible,” saying they insulted the historical facts of the Holocaust.

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Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Valentina Zsa in Milan.

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