(JTA) – An Estonian nationalist politician vowed in his election campaign to decriminalize Holocaust denial and instead penalize those who would downplay the Soviet domination of the country.
Georg Kirsberg, who is running for a lawmaker’s seat for the Conservative People’s Party in Estonia’s elections in October, was quoted Wednesday by the Estonian National Broadcasting Company.
“We will decriminalize Holocaust denial and enter a correct teaching of the history of the Third Reich,” Kirsberg said.
His far-right party supports revoking the citizenship and deporting what it defines as “Russians hostile to Estonia” – a reference to ethnic Russians or speakers of that language living in Estonia, including most of the country’s Jews. Last month, the party, which was founded in 2012 and currently has seven out of 101 seats in the Estonian parliament, submitted a bill proposing such deportations. It is likely to be defeated.
The party also supports a ban on the construction of new mosques and Eastern Orthodox churches.
Doing away with Estonia’s laws against denying the Holocaust is however not an official party position, Martin Helme, the party’s leader, told the broadcasting authority.
“He does not claim that it is the party’s position, it is only the thought of one person,” Helme said. Asked whether the party plans to sanction Kirsberg over his comment, Helme said he “‘sees no reason to do this.”
Expressions of anti-Russian sentiment have increased dramatically in the Baltic countries – Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia – and elsewhere in Eastern and Central Europe. Russia’s expansionist policies under President Vladimir Putin are reawakening bitterness over Moscow’s domination of that part of the world before the fall of communism. Anti-Russian sentiment coincided with a wave of nationalism, often accompanied by denial of those countries’ collaboration with the Nazis.
Estonia has a Jewish population of 2,500, according to the European Jewish Congress.