Fri, 18th November, 2011
Let me try once more to convince you.
Olga Zabludoff

Dear Donatas,

The ball is now in my court and I am happy to continue the discussion. It might be that you and I have an irreconcilable difference of opinion on the subject of Jewish contributions to the Lithuanian economy, or -- as you maintain -- the lack of Jewish contributions. Let me try once more to convince you.

You point out that on the eve of World War 1 the economy of “Mother Russia,” which had an insignificant Jewish population, and the economy of Lithuania, which had a substantial Jewish population, were pretty much equal – depressed and backward. You emphasize that in spite of the fact that Jews participated in Lithuania’s economy but did not participate in the economy of czarist Russia, there was no virtual difference in the two economies.

Logic 101: If Jews had not been present in Lithuania at the time and therefore had not participated in its economy, perhaps Lithuania’s economy might have been even weaker than that of “Mother Russia.” Participating in a nation’s economy does not mean controlling the economy of that nation, let alone an entire region. Conditions in Eastern Europe during that period were what they were; the result was a weak and undeveloped economy.

Your grandfather in Ylakiai obviously was a kind and generous man to have opened his home to a Jewish family whose house had burned down. Good neighbors helped less fortunate ones. Just as your father held fond memories of the time the Jewish family had lived in his house, my father told me stories of how his mother, a widow with eight children, had been beloved by most of the Lithuanians in her town.

My grandmother owned a grocery-and-whatever store – the front room of the house. Often Lithuanian neighbors would come without money to pay for what they needed. It was known that Rochel-Leah never turned anyone away. She gave them “credit.” Sometimes she collected her debts; more often they just accumulated.

Stories like these of their daily lives – Lithuanians helping Jews and Jews helping Lithuanians – drive home the point that these two peoples could live side by side in harmony and friendship for many centuries, each maintaining its distinct traditions and religious beliefs. Which makes even more inconceivable the savagery of the summer of 1941 when hate and greed replaced love and loyalty.

But now, back to the subject of monopolies and price-fixing. Supply and Demand is one of the most fundamental concepts of economics. It is the backbone of a market economy. Perhaps the Lithuanian farmers in the first half of the 20th century did not understand this, but surely an educated man like you knows all about supply and demand. You make it sound like a conspiracy of the Jews to cheat the farmers and producers by paying them lower prices. In some years over-production of crops created a staggering drop in prices. The Jewish shop-keepers did not buy at criminally low prices in the market and sell at criminally high prices in their shops. The farmers themselves, whether they realized it or not, were creating the market, the cause and effect, or supply and demand. Ignorance can be very dangerous. The theory that the Jews were creating monopolies and fixing prices could easily have fueled the rage of the Lithuanians against the Jews in the summer of 1941. All they needed was the Nazi propaganda to ignite the fuse.

Yes, I know that politics can be false and politicians can deliver gratuitous speeches because it serves their agendas or pleases their hosts. So I concur that Mr. Kubilius may have been generous in his praise of Jewish involvement in Lithuania’s development of science, economy and culture. But, on the other hand, I doubt very much he went as far as total fabrication. While Lithuania may not have developed space scientists or nuclear physicists, certainly they had their share of physicians, physicists and chemists. And I can assure you that Jews were in the highest percentages per capita in these scientific fields. That’s because education was among the highest values in Jewish culture.

You mention that Dovid Katz impressed you as thoughtful and helpful in your meetings and communications with him. But lately he has “gone off the deep end.” What has happened to alter your former favorable impression of him? If you will visit
written just one month ago by Dovid Katz, you will read a concise and perfectly lucid recommendation for improved relations between the Lithuanian government and the Jewish community. While anyone is free to disagree with Professor Katz’s views, is it unconscionable that a witch hunt is currently in effect against those who dare to have a second opinion in a European Union NATO democracy. It is my understanding that the problem is not between most Lithuanians and most Jews but between the Jewish community and the Lithuanian government which appeases the ultra-nationalist element.

Likewise, regarding Efraim Zuroff’s viewpoints on the subject of Lithuanian-Jewish relations, I see no reason to malign him. It is a sad symptom of the ultra-nationalist influence in Lithuanian politics that the image of an evil Zuroff is perpetrated against a man who spends his life representing the victims of the Holocaust. He asks only that suspected war criminals be given a fair trial in their own country. Is it not a cause for pause for Lithuanians that Dr. Zuroff was awarded a medal by the president of Croatia for the same work for which he is so vilified by the far-right in Lithuania?

While, as I stated in my last post, I see no reason to have to defend Professor Katz, let me make a few points about his character so that he can be judged fairly. After decades as an acclaimed educator – the first eighteen years at Oxford University followed by a year at Yale, where he turned down a multi-year offer in favor of a position at Vilnius University, remaining there for eleven years – he was discontinued. No reason was given for his termination other than informal boasts that he should never have spoken out in the Western press about the persecution of Holocaust survivors who had joined the partisans.

Does it not give cause for pause that the country's last Jewish professor, and its only Yiddish professor, was dismissed because he had published articles in respectable Western publications protesting the government's campaign against Holocaust survivors who joined the resistance? Is this how Lithuania is going to build a civic society where free debate and disagreement are nurtured among the younger generations?

I have never heard the argument that the Green House is the only Holocaust Museum in Lithuania. But it is the only Holocaust Museum in Vilnius. The Museum of Tolerance, while a part of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum, is more of a cultural museum than anything else. I recall that the exhibits are displays of the works of Jewish artists and sculptors and other similar genres. The Museum of Genocide, which should not be called a “genocide” museum, is of course dedicated to Soviet crimes in Lithuania. Despicable and cruel as were the deportations, imprisonments, executions and tortures, the Soviets did not commit genocide on the people of Lithuania. So why is this museum called a genocide museum with not a word of mention of the Holocaust? That is, until last month when -- thanks to Dovid Katz, Efraim Zuroff and others who brought the issue to the attention of the world -- a small exhibit was finally added in the cellar.

Concerning the alleged slaughter of the Kaniukai villagers by anti-Nazi partisans, let me be very clear: IF there is a single specific charge of willful action against a civilian by veterans of any side, then of course that person should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But that is not what happened here. Yes, the Soviet partisans attacked a village whose occupants had been heavily armed by the Nazis and who were killing off partisans over many months. Yes, there was a battle. But in recent years, prosecutors have started a campaign against only Jewish survivors of the anti-Nazi partisan movement without an iota of evidence, without any charge, with a horrific campaign of defamation that is a disgrace to modern Lithuania. The majority of Soviet partisans were not even Jewish.

How dare a state prosecutor target survivor-partisans as war criminals when these same prosecutors have failed to bring a single Lithuanian murderer to justice? How dare they “investigate” unproven “crimes” while the government and parliament honors the memory of the killers with the white armbands (the Lithuanian Activist Front)? And while courts legalize the display of swastikas in public? Dovid Katz has spoken out against this gross abuse of prosecutorial powers in the country, putting the issue into the public arena and into history. Now, of course, Lithuanians who would like to speak out are afraid to do so because they too would lose their jobs and careers.

Please walk with me through the barbed wire of the double-genocide concept. As I have noted in earlier posts, clearly there was only one genocide. If history teachers throughout Lithuania will teach students about two concurrent genocides; if textbooks will be slanted to teach that same concept to children and youth, their education will be a jaded version of the true history of the World War 11 era.

Children are not born with evil. Unless they are taught to understand the consequences of hatred and bigotry, unless they are taught and shown what pain and suffering does to others, they simply won’t know how to make judgments or how to choose values. If the Holocaust is taught with a view to protecting youth from the truth, the authors of a distorted history will bear the responsibility of their contrivances.