The meeting touched on joint efforts to prevent the rewriting of history, the fight against neo-Nazism and neo-fascism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
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Vladimir Putin: Good evening, friends.
We are meeting on the eve of a very sorrowful date, when thousands of Jews and Turkic individuals were killed in Sevastopol in 1942. In Russia, we are quite familiar with the tragedy of the Holocaust: six million Jews were exterminated on the territory of the Soviet Union and in European nations. At the same time, we are well aware that Jewish individuals fought Nazism in the ranks of the Red Army – they served as political officers as well as ordinary soldiers, doctors, and overall, made a worthy input into the fight against fascism. But the tragedy of the Jewish people certainly holds a special place among the crimes committed by the Nazis during World War II. I repeat, here in Russia, we know about this and feel that pain as no one else, because as you know, more than 20 million Soviet citizens, the majority of them Russians, died during the fight against fascism.
I remember when I visited the Yad Vashem museum in Israel; the experience really affected me. Everything was created with such great talent and was so penetrating that nobody can be left feeling indifferent. Following the Jewish community’s initiative, we have created our own museum – the Tolerance Museum in Moscow. In my view, in some ways, it might have illustrated the events of the Second World War and the tragedy of the Jewish people even more brightly.
I want to assure you that in Russia, we will not only always remember these tragedies, but also forever carefully maintain the memory of those who perished. And we will do everything to ensure that such tragedies do not reoccur in the future.
Of course, the revival of Nazi ideas here and there is particularly alarming. I want to thank the Jewish community and public organisations that are actively and bravely (in some situations in today’s world) continuing to uncompromisingly fight against any displays and any attempts to revive Nazi ideology.
I want to say that in this regard, we consider you to be our closest allies and I am asking you to view us in the same light.
That is all I would like to say to begin our meeting. I want to welcome you once again. Thank you for coming.
Vladimir Putin: You said that it is madness to declare an entire people as the enemy and to destroy that people. I have always thought this as well. Today, I think that it is more dangerous than madness. This is a conscious policy aimed at achieving one’s own mercenary purposes using inhumane methods. This is not madness. These are people who do not know what they are doing. And those who committed their crimes during the war – and this concerns the Holocaust and the annihilation of entire peoples – this is a targeted policy and it is worse than madness.
And another thing I would like to point out. You said that one must be stupid to deny what happened. You know, I think that one must not just be stupid, but also shameless, to deny what occurred. But unfortunately, just like 70 years ago, this shamelessness often achieves its purposes. After all, Goebbels had said, “The more improbable the lie, the faster people believe it.” And it worked out; he was a talented man.
I think that today, too, those who distort history are trying to belittle the merits of individuals who destroyed Nazism and even interchange the criminals and their victims. They follow that same logic: the more improbable the lie, the more quickly it is believed. And naturally, we must do everything possible to prevent such practices, such criminal practices.