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
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
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
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