Magazine May 6, 2013, Issue

The Bickering Genocides

Justin Bieber, my successor as Canada’s teen heartthrob, is currently touring Europe. Passing through Amsterdam, he was taken to visit the Anne Frank House and afterwards signed the guest book. “Anne was a great girl,” he wrote. “Hopefully, she would have been a belieber” — the term used by devoted fans of young Justin. Miss Frank did not live to become a belieber because she was shipped off to Belsen concentration camp and died of typhus in 1945. But had she lived I feel it safe to say she would have regarded Justin’s oeuvre as complete bilge: As a teenager, she liked Liszt, so she was a beliszter; she belonged to the franz club. Anyway, Justin’s poignant message set off a Twitterstorm of criticism at what the Washington Post called “the insensitivity and the sheer ego” of it.

I’m inclined to cut him some slack here. As the years go by, Anne Frank’s supposedly inspiring story makes me a little queasy. Europe venerates its dead Jews even as a resurgent anti-Semitism chases out its living ones. Everyone loves Jews as victims. In other roles, not so much.

I can’t wait for Justin to get back home and write in the visitors’ book at Canada’s own bazillion-dollar monument to victimhood. My sometime boss the late Izzy Asper was a media magnate whose lifelong dream was a world-class Holocaust memorial in his home town of Winnipeg. For the usual diversity-celebrating reasons, it evolved into a more general “Canadian Museum for Human Rights,” and is now lumbering toward its opening date under the aegis of Izzy’s daughter, Gail. Having been put through the mill by Canada’s “Human Rights” Commissions, I naturally despise any juxtaposition of the words “Canadian” and “human rights.” But if you have to yoke them, this is the place: To paraphrase Justin’s fellow musician Joni Mitchell, they took all the rights and put ’em in a rights museum, and they charged the people a dollar-and-a-half just to see ’em.

But I’ve warmed up to what the blogger Scaramouche calls the Canadian Mausoleum for Human Rights. It could have been just the usual sucking maw of public monies had it not descended into an hilarious, er, urinating match of competing victimhoods. For those who thought “human rights” had something to do with freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and so forth, it turns out to be about which guy’s genocide is bigger. The Ukrainian-Canadian Congress was wary of the mausoleum from the get-go, suspicious that it would downplay the Holodomor, Stalin’s enforced famine in the Ukraine 80 years ago. The mausoleum assured them that they were going to go big on the Holodomor, but to guarantee the UCC came onboard offered to throw in a bonus exhibit of Canada’s internment of Ukrainian immigrants during World War I. This would be part of “Canada’s Journey,” a heartwarming historical pageant illustrating how the blood-soaked Canadian state has perpetrated one atrocity after another on native children, Chinese coolies, Japanese internees, Jews, gays, the transgendered, you name it. And, of course, the Ukrainians. Per Izzy’s wishes, the Holocaust would have pride of place in a separate exhibit, because, its dark bloody history notwithstanding, Canada apparently played a minimal role in the murder of six million Jews. However, the Holodomor would be included as a permanent featured genocide in the museum’s “Mass Atrocity Zone.”

#page# Oh, you can laugh at the idea of a “Mass Atrocity Zone” tourist attraction in Winnipeg, but there isn’t an ethnic lobby group that doesn’t want in. The Polish-Canadian Congress complained that lumping all the non-Jew genocides in one Mass Atrocity Zone meant they’d have to be on a rotating schedule, like revolving pies on the lunch counter. The Armenian genocide was felt to be getting short shrift, considering it was the prototype 20th-century genocide. On the other hand, the Rwandan genocide, the last big 20th-century genocide, and the Congolese civil war don’t appear to have got a look-in at all. The Poles wanted room made for the Germans’ ill treatment of the Poles, which did not seem to be a priority of the mausoleum.

The floor plan has now emerged, and the Ukrainian-Canadians are furious that their people’s suffering has been “ignored or minimalized.” The Holodomor has been relegated to “a small obscure gallery near the museum’s public toilets.” Don’t you hate it when that happens? When your genocide gets the lousy seats at the back by the bathroom while those Jews are all at the big power table up front? Adding insult to injury, the bonus exhibit about the internment of Ukrainian-Canadians turns out to be one measly photograph — whether a respectable distance from the toilets or not, I cannot say.

Meanwhile, the Holocaust remains primus inter pares of human-rights atrocities because, said Gail Asper, it had led to the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So the two events would be conjoined in the museum in “an inspiring relationship between violation and response.” Unfortunately, Dr. Clint Curle, the mausoleum’s “head of stakeholder relations,” was forced to break the news to the Winnipeg Jewish Review that “as content development moved forward, the Museum, with the input of experts in this area, realized that” Ms. Asper’s thesis was not true. “In its present conceptual articulation,” reported Dr. Curle, “the museum has delinked a direct causal relationship between the Holocaust and the Universal Declaration.” They’re putting something in between — the Ukrainians, or the toilets, or Canada’s systemic discrimination against whoever’s left.

I’m sure Canadian schoolkids will be schlepped along in sufficient numbers to keep this thing in business for a while. My advice is stay home and listen to Justin Bieber: He’s less trivializing and his “conceptual articulation” is more articulate, too.

– Mr. Steyn blogs at SteynOnline (www.steynonline.com).

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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