Wiesenthal Centre Condemns Russian Theft of Ukrainian Identity and Heritage
May 5, 2022
Paris - In a letter to Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, the Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, thanked the Director-General, “for the response to our request that this summer’s 45th session of the World Heritage Committee, be cancelled due to its location, in Kazan, Russia.... The decision to postpone the session sine die is an important step.”
The letter continued, “We feel, however, that other steps need to be taken by the World Heritage Committee during "armed conflict,” especially with reference to the news that Russian troops are perpetrating theft in Ukrainian museums.”
As mentioned in its response to the Centre, UNESCO’s concern regarding “illicit trafficking of Ukrainian cultural property” is timely and pressing.
Samuels stressed that, “Reports of looting were already worrying, but soldiers allegedly led by Russian museum curators to identify objects of particular value, is an outrage that implies systematic premeditation.”
The Centre recalled: “Just as Nazi Germany focused on art theft to dispossess its victims, to empty occupied countries of their heritage and enrich the Third Reich, so, apparently, Russia's seizure of artworks is also aimed at destroying Ukrainian identity and appropriating its heritage. Media reports claim that Putin is looting, among other items, Scythian treasures to be relocated in Crimea ‘in an effort to strengthen the region's cultural ties to Russia’.”
“We urge UNESCO to take measures against the looting of Ukrainian identity,” concluded Samuels.
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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).