Ninety percent of Belarus’s Jewish community — 800,000 people — were exterminated during the Holocaust. As in other countries in the region, including Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and Latvia, the issue of local collaboration with the occupying Germans has been the subject of bitter debate in Belarus. One unit of the SS composed of Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian collaborators was known as the 1st Belarusian Division, while thousands of Belarusians also served the internal security apparatus created by the Nazis following the 1941 invasion.
Yad Vashem, Israel’s national memorial to the Holocaust, has named 669 Belarusians as “Righteous Among the Nations” for risking their lives to protect Jews.
Lukashenko’s antisemitic outburst comes at a time when Belarus is facing increasing international scrutiny.