Russian educators try to combat Holocaust ignorance

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The Russian city of Smolensk, for example, "is very anti-Semitic," said Mikhail Steklov, a history professor there. "Neo-Nazi groups are quite active, there are lots of inscriptions like 'Jews, Get Out of Russia' in public places and absolutely no resistance and no public awareness of the fascist danger. When I asked students which of them can explain what the Holocaust is, only 5 percent out of 200 understood the word."

The Soviet government is partially responsible for the ignorance. Under the Communists, the Holocaust was completely universalized, and those killed during the Holocaust were commemorated only under the rubric of "victims of crimes against humanity."

At a January international conference on Holocaust education in Stockholm, Russian Vice Premier Valentina Matvienko vowed to destroy the "wall of silence" about the Holocaust in Russia.

Russian Deputy Minister of Education Vladimir Kondakov said that his ministry is preparing a national education program on the Holocaust.

Nationwide programs of this kind have already been introduced in Sweden, where a million copies of the book, "And Tell That to Your Children," are being distributed as part of a state-supported Holocaust-education project.

In Russia, which has a population of 150 million, only 20,000 copies of the book have been printed.

Ilya Altman, the head of the Holocaust Center in Moscow, said Holocaust education is more than just a Jewish issue in Russia because many Soviet citizens helped the Nazis murder Jews during World War II.