Guest columnist, Efraim Zuroff speaks about the uniquely extensive role played
by Lithuanians in the mass murder of Jews.
After reading Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius’s answers to Michael
Freund’s pointed and probing questions regarding Lithuanian-Jewish
relations and the policies of the current Lithuanian government
on a wide range of Holocaust related issues last week, it is not
hard to understand why political leaders are often compared to
used car salesmen. Both portray their mediocre merchandise in glowing
terms with the aim of closing as many sales as possible.
Thus Kubilius would have the readers of The Jerusalem Post believe that his country
is honestly and successfully confronting its bloody past and that
there are no serious problems between Jews and Lithuanians that
a healthy dose of education and understanding cannot solve. If
only that were the case.
On the contrary, the descriptions offered by Kubilius
in the interview are full of distortions and misrepresentations
of the current situation, and if we add a pronounced tendency to
evade giving any clear and unequivocal answers to difficult questions,
we emerge with a “laundered” version of the reality that makes
Lithuania appear to be a haven of flourishing contemporary Jewish
life nurtured by a legendary past, with only a few unpleasant episodes
continuing to cast shadows on the glorious present.
For example, on the subject of local anti- Semitism,
Kubilius claims that the government has always “very strongly and
without any hesitation condemned all those acts of vandalism” –
a patently false statement which does not reflect the reality in
Lithuania of the past several years, during which the number of
Jewish cemeteries, Holocaust memorials and even synagogues vandalized
has risen at an alarming rate, with virtually no response from
the government and nary a perpetrator caught and convicted.
If we add the relatively recent (since 2008) phenomenon
of neo-Nazi marches in Vilnius and Kaunas on Lithuanian independence
days (two different dates are celebrated), which more and more
people are attending each year, and which have never been condemned
by the Kubilius government, it is obvious that there is no correlation
between the ostensible current Lithuanian reality described by
the prime minister and the discouraging situation faced on a daily
basis by Lithuanian Jews.
Kubilius’s tendency to whitewash serious problems
in Lithuanian-Jewish relations is nowhere more blatant than in
his comments relating to the two most serious issues affecting
relations between Jews and Lithuanians, both in Lithuania and throughout
I am referring to the uniquely extensive role
played by Lithuanians in the mass murder of Jews, both in Lithuania
as well as outside its borders (in Poland end especially in Belarus),
as well as to Lithuania’s recent efforts to promote the canard
of equivalency between the Shoah and Communist crimes.
As far as the former is concerned, one issue is
the country’s failure to sufficiently acknowledge the highly critical
role played by local Nazi collaborators in the annihilation of
Lithuanian Jewry and to sufficiently incorporate that painful dimension
of local Holocaust history in the school curriculum.
Another is Lithuania’s total failure to punish
any of the many local Nazi war criminals who should and could have
been brought to justice in the country following the renewal of
independence, and whose successful prosecution would not only have
provided an excellent history lesson for Lithuanian society, but
also would have contributed significantly to healing the wounds
and promoting reconciliation.
The second issue continues to be a source of constant
friction between the two communities.
Ever since the promulgation of the Prague Declaration
of June 3, 2008, the manifesto of the double genocide movement,
to the consternation of Jews the world over the Lithuanian government
has actively promoted the equivalency canard and has worked very
hard to encourage the adoption of resolutions in European forums
which reflect a similar approach to the crimes committed by both
the Nazi and Communist regimes.
Thus, for example, the call to designate August
23 (the day of the signing in 1939 of the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement)
as a joint memorial day for all victims of totalitarian regimes,
a date purposely chosen to imply that the Soviets bear equal guilt
for the atrocities of World War II, and a step which would eventually
make Holocaust memorial day redundant, clearly points to the determination
to undermine the current status of the Shoah as an unprecedented
and unique case of genocide.
In Kubilius’s responses to Freund’s specific questions
on these subjects, he repeatedly uses ambiguous phrases and euphemisms
to circumvent the issues and remain true to his distorted Holocaust
narrative. Regarding Lithuanian complicity in Holocaust crimes,
which he admits is “painful,” Kubilius speaks of the participation
of “some” Lithuanians, a neutral and in this context meaningless
term which fails to reflect the historical reality and spares his
countrymen an honest confrontation with their massive crimes against
their Jewish fellow Lithuanian citizens during the Holocaust.
In responding to the recent reinterment in Kaunas
of the remains of Juozas Ambrazevicius, the prime minister of the
provisional government established by Lithuanians in the wake of
the German invasion, which fully supported the Nazis and actively
participated in the persecution and murder of Jews, Kubilius claims
that the government was not officially involved.
This despite the fact that it financed the entire
project, and then pontificated about the need for both sides to
be open to the other side’s narrative, essentially a call for Jews
to forgive the mass murder of their brethren, who were killed,
according to the prime minister, by “naive, romantic people who
were captured by historical circumstances and very complicated
times when they were trying to achieve the independence of Lithuania.”
He then added in the defense of these romantics
that they later became the leaders of the anti-Nazi movement, which
is basically a figment of Lithuanian fantasy and never, if it even
existed, achieved any meaningful results.
In response to the questions regarding the attempts
to equate Communism and Nazism and the ultimate challenge of whether
to categorize Lithuanians as victims or perpetrators, Kubilius
resorts to the same kind of double-speak which seeks to satisfy
both sides, but ultimately clearly reflects his allegiance to the
double genocide theory and his obstinate refusal to admit the uniqueness
of the Holocaust.
Thus he begins by preaching against any attempt
to compare the two tragedies, but then promptly reminds us that
14 million people were killed in “this area” during the mid-1930s
to mid-1940s, and that “we, and Jewish people, of course, suffered
the most terrible fate.”
Adding insult to injury, Kubilius then concludes
the “Jewish” part of the interview by juxtaposing the mass murder
of Jews during the Holocaust with the largescale deportations of
Lithuanians to Siberia.
Kubilius notes with pride the success of the many
Litvaks who have achieved prominence outside Lithuania, as if he
can claim their achievements as part of Lithuania’s history, but
as this interview clearly demonstrates, the prime minister’s understanding
of history, particularly that of Lithuanian Jewry, leaves much
to be desired. jpost.com