but not surprise. The Nazis flags that flew this week in
Vilnius, a city of old known for its tolerance and multiculturalism,
didn‘t ruin Passover, but did weaken the hope that Lithuanians
might quickly rid themselves of antisemitic baggage.
―They can‘t even write correctly.
―A bad fate threatens Lithuania. Nothing good comes from hate. What does green
youth filled with hate know about ‗Juden raus‘? They can‘t even write it correctly,
Rachel Kostanian, an elderly curator of exhibits at the Jewish Museum [Holocaust
exhibit at the Green House] in Vilnius, said with a sigh.
The woman who herself survived the horrors of war trembles when she sees the
dwindling place left for tolerance and mutual respect in independent Lithuania.
She says the day isn‘t far off when the average Jew—only a few thousand live
in Lithuania—will fear leaving the house.
―No one has attacked me yet. But, you know, the way things are going, anything
could happen. Youth aren‘t leaving Lithuania without a reason. It‘s not just
economic reasons that force them. I‘m old now and I don‘t have anywhere left
to run,‖ Kostanian said. Jews still in hiding Chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish
community Simon Alperovich said many Jews in Lithuania are afraid to declare
their identities openly.
―I hope the census shows there are more Litvaks living in the country than the
official statistics are saying today, Alperovich said. Jews warn that while politicians
chase better ratings and the favor of votes, primitive antisemitism is thriving
in Lithuania. The situation hasn‘t yet descended to people pointing at Jews on
the street, but a person seen with sidelocks or a traditional hat can expect
frequently to hear laughing behind his back.
―To the nationalistically predisposed portion of the Lithuanian people, everyone
who isn‘t a Lithuania appears to be an enemy: Russians, Jews, Poles, Tatars.
Everyone who isn‘t with us is against us. The Lithuanian language is now considered
the highest value, and exclusively so. A language shouldn‘t be considered a value,
but rather what is said in that language, Kostanian remarked.
Frightened by swastikas Doctor of history Renee Poznanski who traveled with her
family to vacation in Vilnius said she experienced real shock when she learned
of the Nazi symbols flying over the city.
―This is a horror, it‘s terrible. I am so sorry that there are such people. I
don‘t understand how it happened. You have to educate children and young people
so they know the tragic fate the Jews met and how horrible it is, the historian
She said she had heard about increasingly frequent demonstrations by neo- Nazis
in Lithuania recently, but didn‘t change her travel plans because of it. She
had heard earlier as well of antisemitic demonstrations but decided that such
acts of vandalism are quickly dealt with in civilized countries.
Recommends improving education Poznanski considers Vilnius first and foremost
a city of Jewish historical and cultural heritage. The Jerusalem of the North
which, she said, every Litvak living in the world should visit. Then there‘s
Austrian Jew Sebastian Pammer, who is doing volunteer work in our country, and
who says Vilnius appears to him like post-war Austria, where surviving Jews were
again marginalized. The young man says he learned from the tales and lessons
of his grandparents that Austrians at that time were perplexed and didn‘t know
on whom to vent their grievances over the deprivations they suffered during the
war. That led to
flourishing antisemitism everywhere. Nonetheless, politicians declared these
things unacceptable and the modernized educational system revealed the entire
tragedy of Jewish history [all the information from Sebastian Pammer above and
below has been mistranslated and mis-edited, see my note at the end – Translator].
―I didn‘t learn as much about Austria as I did about Jews. History is also taught
in Lithuania but usually it‘s dry facts completely removed from real life and
so it doesn‘t stay in people‘s minds,‖ Sebastian said.
Poznanski, who teaches history at an Israeli university, also believes better
educational programs would solve the problem of swastika graffiti. She thinks
people who are well aware of this issue also understand how the idea of the Holocaust
itself arose, and can‘t remain unconcerned by more than six million murdered
Jews. Patriotism and antisemitism Pammer encountered the subculture of neo-Nazis
calling themselves almost as soon as he arrived in Lithuania and began observing
their growing marches through the streets of Vilnius. The Austrian thinks the
people taking part in these marches are a mix of those who subscribe to patriotism, antisemitism
and hatred of ethnic minorities.
―I saw the people marching on Gedimino Prospect on March 11th. It wasn‘t just
antisemites, but also included those who sincerely believe they should be proud
to be Lithuanian. Clearly national pride is fine, but it‘s bad that in Lithuania
there are no limits to the nationalist idea. It is no longer clear where cherishing
Lithuanian-ness ends and idolizing fascism begins. Some organizations mix these
things together, Pammer said.
Lack of responsibility by politicians The young man said there are neo-Nazis
in Austria but they never express their thoughts openly. They know that carries
serious sanctions, primarily social condemnation. Antisemitism in public is not
tolerated and inconceivable. Pammer was shocked last October to hear foreign
minister Audronius Azubalis‘s statements. Speaking on dual citizenship legislation
he initially said that ―everyone knows for whom this is beneficial,‖ and later
blatantly pointed the finger at Jews: ―This is mostly needed by Jews whose origins
are in Lithuania.
―Right-wing extremists exist, but in our country there is no differentiation
into Austrians and Jews. We are all Austrian citizens. And we fight antisemitism
with openness. Anyone who makes a statement against Jews is
publicly condemned. If our foreign minister had made a statement against Jews,
his political career would be over,‖ the Austrian Jew said. Harming the entire
country Lithuanian Jewish community chairman Alperovich said that swastikas or
pigs‘ heads left at a synagogue are not the highest tragedy for the Jewish community.
The greatest harm is to Lithuania. ―There are many Litvaks in the world, including
some influential people.
Those who put up fascist symbols think they‘re harming Jews, but really they‘re
harming Lithuania‘s image,‖ he said. Alperovich said the time has come not just
for the police but for all responsible state institutions to demand these crimes
be fully investigated and that the people who did them be apprehended. [Translator‘s
note: the Lithuanian original suffered from mistranslations of English and over-editing,
most likely by multiple hands. Sebastian Pammer is not an Austrian Jew, just
an Austrian, and none of the statements attributed to him should be taken as
his literal positions. Further, the gender of Renee Poznanski shifted from female
to male midway through the
original. The statements attributed to Rachel Kostanian and Simon Alperovich
are most likely closer to what they actually said, in Lithuanian, to the author,
who obviously cares enough about the subject to write the article and to talk
to the appropriate people about the real issues, all mistakes
and slips in editing aside.]