(JTA) — A video blogger in Russia who sought to highlight ignorance about World War II drew criticism by posting filmed street interviews of passersby wishing viewers a “happy Holocaust Day.”
Nijat Safarli conducted the interviews in the city of Cheboksary 400 miles east of Moscow on May 9, during a parade celebrating Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945, which in Russia is noted on that date.
He posted on YouTube snippets from interviews with over a dozen young men and women, in which they tell the camera “happy Holocaust day.” Some explain, following Safarli’s coaching, that “Holocaust” is a word in the language of Siberia’s Chuvash people, and that Holocaust day is their sacred day.
Russian uses the same word as English for Holocaust, a term whose etymology is rooted in Greek.
Safarli, whose channel on YouTube has received over 3 million views since 2014, is not filmed correcting his interviewees or telling them what the Holocaust actually was.
Aleksey Glukhov, a lawyer of the international human rights group Agora, on Facebook called the video “an abuse of the right to freedom of expression,” calling on Safarli to apologize for it and delete it.
And an editor on Defending History, a news and analysis website about the history and perceptions of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, said on Twitter that Safarli’s videos reflect “disgustingly poor taste” for his “manipulating” the interviewees.
Heeding the criticism, Safarli removed the video from YouTube, replacing it with another video in which he explained that he had published the interviews not to mock the Holocaust but to draw attention to ignorance about the genocide even among people celebrating the event that ended it.