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Israel lashes out over Russian claim that Hitler was part Jewish

Israel has lashed out at Russia over "unforgivable" comments by its foreign minister about Nazism and antisemitism — including claims that Adolf Hitler was Jewish.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has justified Ukrainian invasion as means to 'denazify' the country

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, pictured here during a news briefing on April 24, slammed Russia for comments made by a diplomat on the Holocaust, calling the remarks 'unforgivable and scandalous.' (Debbie Hill/Pool Photo/The Associated Press)

Israel has lashed out at Russia over "unforgivable" comments by its foreign minister about Nazism and antisemitism — including claims that Adolf Hitler was Jewish.

Nazism has featured prominently in Russia's war aims and narrative as it fights in Ukraine. In his bid to legitimize the war to Russian citizens, President Vladimir Putin has portrayed the battle as a struggle against Nazis in Ukraine, even though the country has a democratically elected government and a Jewish president whose relatives were killed in the Holocaust.

Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov made the comments during an interview with an Italian news channel, in response to a question about Russian claims that it invaded Ukraine to "denazify" the country.

Lavrov said that Ukraine could still have Nazi elements even if some figures, including the country's president, were Jewish. 

"So when they say 'How can Nazification exist if we're Jewish?' In my opinion, Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn't mean absolutely anything. For some time we have heard from the Jewish people that the biggest antisemites were Jewish," he said, speaking to the station in Russian, dubbed over by an Italian translation.

Nazi Germany was responsible for the systematic killing of six million Jewish men, women and children as well as the persecution and deaths of millions of others including Roma, Sinti, Slavs, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, Jehovah's Witnesses and political dissidents.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint news conference with Eritrea Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed following their talks in Moscow, Russia on April 27. Israel has lashed out at Russia for comments Lavrov made in an interview with an Italian news channel. (Yuri Kochetkov/Pool Photo/The Associated Press)

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called Lavrov's statement "unforgivable and scandalous and a horrible historical error."

"The Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust," Lapid said. "The lowest level of racism against Jews is to blame Jews themselves for antisemitism."

Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem called the remarks "absurd, delusional, dangerous and deserving of condemnation."

"Lavrov is propagating the inversion of the Holocaust — turning the victims into the criminals on the basis of promoting a completely unfounded claim that Hitler was of Jewish descent," it said in a statement.

"Equally serious is calling the Ukrainians in general, and President (Volodymyr) Zelensky in particular, Nazis. This, among other things, is a complete distortion of the history and an affront to the victims of Nazism."

Ukraine also condemned Lavrov's remarks.

"By trying to rewrite history, Moscow is simply looking for arguments to justify the mass murders of Ukrainians," Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.

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