Roderic Day

“Black Ribbon Day” and “Double Genocide” in Canada

Contents

Nazis in Canada

Since 2009, alternating Liberal and Conservative administrations in Canada have been united in their efforts to try to make a national tradition out of “Black Ribbon Day.” This August 23rd “remembrance” attempts to draw an equivalence between the Nazi Holocaust and “the crimes of Communism.”

Far from any kind of organic grassroots push, the ongoing stunt is part of an organized international effort, the details of which Seumas Milne reported with alarm for the British newspaper The Guardian:

Fed by the revival of the nationalist right in eastern Europe and a creeping historical revisionism that tries to equate nazism and communism, some western historians and commentators have seized on the 70th anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of Poland this month to claim the Soviet Union was equally to blame for the outbreak of war. […] Most repulsively of all, while rehabilitating convicted Nazi war criminals, the state prosecutor in Lithuania — a member of the EU and NATO — last year opened a war crimes investigation into four Lithuanian Jewish resistance veterans who fought with Soviet partisans: a case only abandoned for lack of evidence. As Efraim Zuroff, veteran Nazi hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, puts it: “People need to wake up to what is going on. This attempt to create a false symmetry between communism and the Nazi genocide is aimed at covering up these countries’ participation in mass murder.” [1]

Milne was not the first to do so. Holocaust scholars had unequivocally condemned this procedure before him. Elazar Barkan, Elizabeth A. Cole and Kai Struve, in their book Shared History, Divided Memory: Jews and Others in Soviet-Occupied Poland, 1939–1941 (2007), wrote:

The overwhelming majority of historians in contemporary Ukraine interpret the famine as a genocide planned and consciously directed against the Ukrainian people by the Soviet leadership. In the public debates as well as in some monographs on the famine published since the 1990s, the genocide is called the “Ukrainian Holocaust.” This term was introduced and first popularized by the Ukrainian diaspora in North America before Ukraine became independent. In those monographs, very often the term “Holocaust” is not explained at all. The term is nationalized and thus the memory of the Jewish Holocaust is eclipsed. […] Through a victimized national narrative as well as the presentation of the Great Famine of 1932-1933, they have tried to compete with the Jewish narrative in order to obscure the “dark sides” of Ukraine’s national history and to counter accusations that their fathers collaborated with the Germans. [2]

Professor Dovid Katz, writing for Jewish Currents in 2017, in an article titled “The ‘Double Genocide’ Theory: The New and Official Form of Holocaust Denial,” also expressed anger and concern:

Within the mythology of East European nationalists, particularly but not exclusively in the Baltics and western Ukraine — where there was massive local participation in the actual killing of Jews, usually by shooting at local pits rather than by deportation to faraway camps — the Bogus moral equivalence of the Holocaust has been from the time of the actual massacres the myth that the Jews were all Communists and got what they deserved because Communism was every bit as genocidal as Nazism. Hence what the Jews call the Holocaust is a kind of opposite and equal reaction to the first genocide, the crimes of Communism. [3]

(For a discussion of the politics, economics, and history of the would-be “Ukrainian Holocaust,” see Tauger [4] and Tottle [5].)

The National Post, a major right-wing Canadian newspaper, offers further insight into the relationship between Canadian and European Nazis:

“Nazi hunter” Steve Ramban points out that “between 2,000 and 5,000 war criminals fled to Canada after the Second World War, but not one Nazi has ever been successfully prosecuted in this country.” […]

Mr. Finta, who came to Canada in 1948 and died here in 2003, was accused of being a key official in the rounding up of Jews in Szeged, Hungary, in 1944 and sending them to Auschwitz and to Strasshof. His acquittal in 1990 shut down any hope of winning criminal proceedings against Nazi war criminals. “Finta presented no evidence to answer the charges against him,” Mr. Matas said. “When asked if he wanted to call evidence on his own behalf at his criminal trial he declined. Yet he was acquitted.” Why? The courts allowed a defence that said believing Jews to be the enemy was a legitimate reason for killing them. Two appeal courts agreed. [6]

Why are there so many Nazis in Canada in the first place? A Jewish Telegraphic Agency report from 1997 titled “Canada knowingly admitted SS members after World War II” describes the admission procedure:

[…] according to recently released British documents and interviews with officials who conducted the investigations at the time, the Ukrainians were not screened, partly because none of the interrogators could speak their language, Littman said. The 2,000 settled in major Canadian cities, and it is estimated that about half of them are still alive. One of the ways of getting into Canada during the postwar period “was by showing the SS tattoo,” Canadian historian Irving Abella told “60 Minutes” interviewer Mike Wallace. “This proved that you were an anti-Communist.” Abella cited his meeting with longtime Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to illustrate the lackadaisical attitude of the Canadian authorities. [7]

Liberal publications, permanently feigning amnesia, insist on framing the situation as one of endless stumbling and bumbling, flukes and confusion. In reality, the simple fact is that Canadian capitalist sympathy for the Nazi project was massive. Mackenzie King, PM for 13 years in the 1935-48 period, gushed about meeting Hitler in 1937 in his private diaries:

“As I talked with him, I could not but think of Joan of Arc,” wrote King in his diary that night. The entry overflowed with pages of near-infatuation for Hitler. The German leader was “eminently wise,” a “mystic,” a “deliverer of his people from tyranny.” King went into obsessive detail about Hitler’s background, his vegetarianism, his love of nature, his alleged religiousness. He remembered every detail from the meeting: How Hitler positioned his hands, what he was wearing, his “knowing smile” and his “smooth” skin.
[…]
The racist extremism of the Nazis was no secret when King arrived in the Third Reich. Public book burnings had been staged as early as 1933 and German Jews were being progressively stripped of their property, employment and rights. Only two months before King’s arrival in Berlin, in fact, the city’s mayor had effectively banned Jewish children from attending public school. Meanwhile, Germany was rearming. Troops had already marched into the demilitarized Rhineland, openly violating the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.
[…]
King didn’t just believe Hitler; he called [one of Hitler’s statements about peace] a “real note of humility.” [8]

It would be foolish to imagine this well of sympathy simply evaporating in the face of a triumphant Soviet Union. What Canada’s ruling class lacked in principle, it made up for with show trials. The Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada (also known as the Deschênes Commission), established in 1985, toothlessly probed the matter and punished not a single person in response to findings such as the ones above.

With the full backing of Canada’s ruling class, the Nazi problem in Canada festered, first disemboguing in the raising of monuments to Nazis throughout the country [9] and Canada’s opposition to U.N. resolutions condemning Nazism, even when its only allies were the U.S. and Ukraine. [10] The goal all along has been the transformation of Ukraine from a post-Soviet independent neutral state into a NATO outpost in eastern Europe, in order to then use it as a battering ram to try to break up the Russian federation and more cheaply integrate its resource production into the American world-system. With the goal of turning Ukraine against Russia, Canadian authorities have not shied away from promoting antisemitism or aiding and abetting overt antisemites. [11]

Chrystia Freeland

To really understand the extent to which this project has a foothold in the Canadian political scene one has to examine the bizarre trajectory of Ukrainian-Canadian politico Chrystia Freeland. During Justin Trudeau’s tenure as PM she has had the unprecedented privilege of cycling through the roles of 1) Minister of Foreign Affairs, 2) Deputy Prime Minister, 3) Minister of Finance.

Michael Chomiak, Freeland’s maternal grandfather, was a Ukrainian Nazi collaborator. During the Holocaust he repurposed stolen Jewish presses and used them to publish antisemitic Nazi propaganda. [12] Canadian outlets, banking on the haze of confusion proffered by the “Russiagate” scandal which hounded the Trump administration in the United States at the time, and following Chrystia Freeland’s own cue, simply declared this inconvenient truth “Russian disinformation.” However, the fact that that Freeland always knew that her grandfather was a Nazi collaborator turned out to be indisputable. The Globe and Mail, widely regarded as Canada’s “paper of record,” reported the following in 2017:

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland knew for more than two decades that her maternal Ukrainian grandfather was the chief editor of a Nazi newspaper in occupied Poland that vilified Jews during the Second World War. […] Ms. Freeland, who has paid tribute to her maternal grandparents in articles and books, helped edit a scholarly article in the Journal of Ukrainian Studies in 1996 that revealed her grandfather, Michael Chomiak, was a Nazi propagandist for Krakivski Visti (Krakow News). [13]

No sooner had the “She didn’t know!” defense fallen, liberals retreated to their next emplacement: the young woman should not have to suffer on account of the “sins of the father.” Cynical attitudes towards politics lead to paradoxes, so that at the same time that politicians as a group are hated for their lack of scruples and principles, individual politicians are lionized and excused as mere players in a game, who are actually quite clever in how they adapt to survive. Chrystia Freeland’s dishonesty is through this lens seen more as the virtue of a gutsy hustling girlboss, rather than the vice of a cunning Nazi sympathizer.

It might seem that we’ve reached an unfalsifiable impasse, that from here on we simply take sides on our estimation of her intent based upon our extant political proclivities, but it turns out that Freeland’s sympathy for the main tenets of Nazi ideology is rather explicit. Michael Ignatieff, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada 2009-11, wrote about his meeting a young Freeland in his 1995 memoirs. Lines that might have seemed wistful and quirky then acquire a decidedly sinister hue in the context of today’s resurgence of Nazism:

It is common, [Freeland] says, for Canadian Ukrainians to think of themselves as the true Ukrainians, the ones who kept the faith while among the actual Ukrainians the compulsion and fatalism of the Communist system was working its way into their bones. The Ukrainian Canadians return “home” expecting a fervently nationalist and religious people, and find instead phlegmatic, ironic, sober, and fatalistic Soviet souls. Independence requires a new human type, but, she says, with an equal measure of affection and irritation, it will be a long time coming. [14]

Freeland is unambiguous in her belief that exiled Nazis, the “blood and soil” Ukrainians who were defeated by communists, who exiled themselves to avoid prosecution for their crimes, are the true Ukrainians. By contrast, the modern inhabitants of post-Soviet Ukraine are diseased extremities. The storytale of the exiled true representative of a far away country collapses the economic dynamics of national class struggles into simplistic narratives of usurpation and liberation, and thus has been a constant staple of American imperialist propaganda, offering ideological cover for the funding of reactionary émigré shock troops. [15]

When all of this is put together, it becomes hard to see Freeland openly tweeting about how her grandparents were “the greatest generation” as anything other than her trolling her critics:

It’s been 75 years since our parents, grandparents, & great-grandparents — the Greatest Generation — stepped up to do their part to build a more free & prosperous world. As we face a new battle against a pandemic that knows no borders, I cannot think of a better example to follow. [16]

The whole affair is grimly reminiscent of what Jean-Paul Sartre wrote about antisemites in his time:

Never believe that antisemites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The antisemites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past. It is not that they are afraid of being convinced. They fear only to appear ridiculous or to prejudice by their embarrassment their hope of winning over some third person to their side. [17]

Whence Freeland’s sense of impunity?

She knows she has powerful allies. A 2017 U.S. Department of State memo titled “Prioritizing U.S. Relations, ASAP” heralds her ascendance in gushing terms:

[…] a series of personnel moves has upgraded Canada’s approach to the bilateral relationship. PM Trudeau promoted former Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland to Foreign Minister in large part because of her strong U.S. contacts, many developed before she entered politics. Her mandate letter from the PM listed her number one priority as maintaining “constructive relations” with the United States. Trudeau then added to her responsibilities for U.S. affairs, giving her responsibility for U.S.-Canada trade, an unprecedented move in the Canadian context. [18]

Freeland being embedded in the highest echelons of Canadian policymaking has certainly been fruitful for the United States. In 2020 Canada lost its bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council, a “very disappointing” outcome. [19] This, however, is a true reflecton of Canada’s plummetting standing in the world stage. Its decisions everywhere from Asia (where for the sake of the U.S. they arrested Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou, which destroyed their relationship with China, after which the U.S. dismissed the bogus charges related to Trump’s unilateral abandonment of the Iran Deal), [20] to Latin America (where the Lima Group “pushes regime change in Venezuela, and Canada has been leading the charge”), [21] to the Middle East (where it opposes the immensely popular pro-Palestinian consensus, and sides with tiny U.S.-led minorities instead), [22] to Africa (where Freeland personally told an African correspondent concerned about aid reflow from Africa to Ukraine that Africans should “die for democracy”), [23] all increasingly expose it as little but a useful “Yes Man” for the United States, not any kind of independent actor. They lead to diplomatic isolation and economic dependency.

The consequences of Nazism festering in Canada are not ideologically abstract or geopolitically distant. They’re our present reality.

Conclusion

“Black Ribbon Day” is quite literally Nazi propaganda, and constitutes a form of Holocaust denialism. It falsely asserts that the genocidal Nazi project was 1) comparable in intent to socialist land reform policy, 2) in self-defense, and 3) relatively small by death count.

Canadian propagandists collaborate in disguising it as the “grassroots activism” of “refugees from Communism” because the fervent fascism of these thugs dovetails perfectly with the interests of the American and European bourgeoisie, just as Nazi ideology did for Germany’s industrial monopolists or the Ku Klux Klan for American capitalists. [24]

Chrystia Freeland, as protagonist, perfectly embodies the central theme of Really Existing Fascism:

Fascism is as co-constitutive of capitalism as liberalism is. Liberalism corresponds to the operational aspect of surplus value exploitation in the core, whereas fascism corresponds to the operational aspect of primitive accumulation at its temporal and spatial boundaries. [25]

She’s an archetypal, paradigmatic Canadian liberal precisely to the extent that this synergizes with her various fascist goals abroad. She’s able to be pragmatic and fluid about domestic policy — feminism, weed, taxes, etc. — precisely because, as a political agent, she’s ultimately unconcerned with Canadian realities. She hopes to retire in a reconquered European NATO outpost built according to her ideals, so she has no investment in any particular domestic outcome.

Perhaps, given Canada’s unrepentant relationship with indigenous communities and mining operations abroad, such a chameleonic fascist makes for a very suitable representative after all.


  1. Seumas Milne, 2009-09. “This rewriting of history is spreading Europe’s poison.” The Guardian. [web] 

  2. Elazar Barkan, Elizabeth A. Cole and Kai Struve, 2007. Shared History, Divided Memory: Jews and Others in Soviet-Occupied Poland, 1939–1941, p. 121. [web] 

  3. Dovid Katz, 2017-11. “The ‘Double Genocide’ Theory: The New and Official Form of Holocaust Denial.” Jewish Currents. [web] 

  4. Mark Tauger (2018) reviewing Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine (2017). [web] 

  5. Douglas Tottle, Fraud, Famine and Fascism: The Ukrainian Genocide Myth from Hitler to Harvard (1987). [web] 

  6. Jennifer Hough, 2014-06. “Renowned ‘Nazi hunter’ says Canada still a haven for scores of war criminals who will likely never face justice.” The National Post. [web] 

  7. Robert Scheinberg, 1997-06. “Canada knowingly admitted SS members after World War II.” Jewish Telegraphic Agency. [web] 

  8. Mackenzie King, 1937. Cited in Tristin Hopper, 2017-05-15. The prime minister with a man crush for Hitler: The day Mackenzie King met the Fuhrer. [web] 

  9. Lev Golinkin, 2020-07. “Canada’s Nazi Monuments.” The Nation. [web] 

  10. Ryan Maloney, 2014-11. “Why Canada Voted Against Resolution At UN To Combat ‘Glorification Of Nazism’.” The Huffington Post. [web] 

  11. Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, on Twitter. [web] 

  12. David Pugliese, 2017-03. “Chrystia Freeland’s granddad was indeed a Nazi collaborator — so much for Russian disinformation.” Ottawa Citizen. [web] 

  13. Robert Fife, 2017-03. “Freeland knew her grandfather was editor of Nazi newspaper.” The Globe and Mail. [web] 

  14. Michael Ignatieff, 1995. Blood and Belonging, Noonday: New York, p. 109. [web] 

  15. Roderic Day, 2021. Everyday Subkulak. [web] 

  16. Chrystia Freeland on Twitter, 7 May 2020. [web] 

  17. Jean-Paul Sartre, 1944. Reflections on the Jewish Question. Translated by George J. Becker. [web] 

  18. U.S. Department of State, 2017-09-08. “CANADA ADOPTS ‘AMERICA FIRST’ FOREIGN POLICY.” Case No. F-2017-08348 Doc No. C06357271. [web] 

  19. Kathleen Harris, 2020-06-17. “Canada loses its bid for seat on UN Security Council.” CBC News. [web] 

  20. 2022-12-03. “US drops charges against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.” The Straits Times. [web] 

  21. Steve Lalla, 2020-10-30. “Canada’s Involvement in the Lima Group: Let’s Break It Down.” The Media Co-op. [web] 

  22. Khaled Mouammar, 2020-11-26. “Canada’s anti-Palestine votes and insinuations at the UN continue support for Israeli apartheid.” The Canada Files. [web] 

  23. Chuka Ejeckam, 2022-10-19. “Chrystia Freeland thinks Africans should die for democracy.” Rabble.ca [web] 

  24. Lz. A, 2018. A Brief History of American Vigilantism. [web] 

  25. Roderic Day, 2021. Really Existing Fascism. [web]