The Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned a statement by the mayor of Lviv, Ukraine, in which he said that in his city “there has never been anti-Semitism and there will never be.”
Efraim Zuroff, Israel director for the Wiesenthal Center, told JTA on Monday that Mayor Andriy Sadovyi’s statement was “a hopeless attempt to cover up very strong manifestations of anti-Semitism.” Sadovyi made the statement Sunday at a news conference.
Zuroff noted a restaurant in Lviv that encourages patrons to dress up like haredi Orthodox Jews and haggle over prices. Another restaurant celebrates the legacy of the Ukrainian Nazi collaborators led by Stefan Bandera who participated in the murder of thousands of Jews in 1941.
The Lviv municipality on June 30 is set to award a prize named for Bandera to individuals who “helped develop Ukrainian statehood.” Many Ukrainians view Bandera and his troops as anti-Soviet freedom fighters.
Zuroff called the prize “another display of gross insensitivity by the Lviv municipality, which continues to countenance anti-Semitism.” He reiterated his organization’s call to tourists to avoid Lviv’s controversial restaurants. Lviv, in western Ukraine, is a host city for the Euro 2012 soccer tournament.
The Bandera prize is “part of a whitewashing campaign” in Ukraine, according to researcher Irena Cantorovich, who published a study this month on Ukrainian commemoration issues at Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry.