This is Part 4 of an ongoing, emotional debate started when INN interviewed
Rabbi Y. Rosenson, Dean of Efrata Teachers College in Jerusalem and
a noted researcher and writer on Lithuanian Jewry and the Holocaust.
Efraim Zuroff took issue with the facts and their interpretation.
INN brings you this significant contribution to knowledge of the Holocaust and
how complicit countries are dealing with it.
I have to admit that I read Yisrael Rosenson's responses to my assertions that
Lithuania remains incapable of honestly facing the extensive complicity
of its nationals in Holocaust crimes with a certain ambivalence.
On the one hand, I was happy to learn that the Efrata Teachers College
program about Lithuanian Jewish history was not the beneficiary of
funds from the Lithuanian government. I never claimed that this was
indeed the case, I only wondered whether such a scenario might possibly
explain the opinions expressed by Rosenson, which not only do not
reflect the current reality in Lithuania, with which I am very well-acquainted
for the past twenty years, but sound more like Lithuanian government
propaganda than a description of the facts. On the other hand, Mr.
Rosenson did not provide any concrete answers to any of the facts
which I presented to prove my assertion regarding the ongoing failure
of the Lithuanians to face their past.
In this respect, all he did was reiterate his comment
about "several [unnamed-E.Z.] research institutions dedicated to Holocaust research,
an annual Holocaust Memorial Day and an apology by the Lithuanian
government over a decade ago for its role in the Holocaust," and their honoring of Lithuanians who helped Jews during the Shoa, all of which
have convinced Rosenson that "at least some elements of the country's society are making a very sincere effort
to reevaluate their behavior, to make an honest accounting of their
crimes against the Jews."
The problem is that even the facts Rosenson mentioned, which ostensibly
support his thesis, crumble upon closer examination. Thus, for
example, his mention of Holocaust research institutions, which
simply do not exist. The Lithuanian government generously supports
historical research on crimes against humanity committed in the
country, but not about those committed by Lithuanians against Jews
during the Holocaust. Thus there is ample funding for genocide
research, but the only genocide they are interested in, is the
so-called genocide committed by the Communists against Lithuanians.
In fact, the Lithuanian parliament even had the incredible chutzpa
to pass legislation to change the definition of the term genocide
so that it could apply to Communist crimes in Lithuania.
As far as the annual memorial day for the Holocaust, a closer look
at the date will provide a clearer understanding of Lithuanian
intentions in this regard. The date chosen is September 23, when
the Nazis evacuated the Vilna Ghetto in 1943, an operation carried
out primarily by the Nazis. A far more appropriate date for such
a memorial day, which should focus on the role of local Lithuanian
Nazi collaborators in Holocaust crimes, would have been October
28, the date of the large-scale action in the Kovno Ghetto in which
close to 10,000 Jews were murdered in the Ninth Fort by Lithuanian
Security Police. By choosing a date which is not directly connected
to crimes by Lithuanian murderers, the authorities evade the cardinal
question of local Holocaust complicity and help deflect all criminal
responsibility to the Germans and Austrians, who certainly should
bear a major portion of guilt, but were certainly not the only
ones carrying out the murder of Jews in Lithuania.
As far as the apology made in Israel in 1995 by Lithuanian President
Algirdas Brazauskas for the complicity of Lithuanians in Holocaust
crimes, I personally was present at his speech in the Knesset,
and met him in person several times. If there was ever a Lithuanian
leader who had the potential to take the necessary steps to help
his society face their Holocaust crimes, it was the former Communist
Brazauskas, who had no sympathy for his fascist countrymen who
murdered their Jewish neighbors, but even he ultimately realized
that it was political suicide to try and do so in contemporary
Lithuania. Thus, for example, his impassioned promise that Lithuania
consistently and conscientiously bring local Nazi war criminals
to justice," remained an empty promise as the local judicial authorites made sure that not
a single Lithuanian Nazi war criminal would ever be punished for
That brings me to the question of the attitude toward
Lithuanian "Righteous Among the Nations," who helped Jews during the Shoa. Undoubtedly, such individuals deserve every
honor, as well as our everlasting gratitude. The problem begins in
this regard, when this designation is given to people who do not
fit the precise criteria for the honor established by Yad Vashem.
It turns out that the Lithuanians decided on their own to apply their
own criteria in order to "inflate" the number of Righteous Lithuanians to help deflect the justified criticism
of Lithuanian complicity in the mass murder of Jews, and create another
false symetry, as if the number of Lithuanians who helped Jews during
the Shoa was equal to, or even exceeded, the number of those who
killed Jews. In fact, Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin, while on a state
visit to Vilna, refused to participate in a ceremony honoring Righteous
Gentiles whose files had not been approved by Yad Vashem.
If we add the undeniable fact that Holocaust education in Lithuania
has been entrusted to the main promoters of the Prague Declaration
and the false equivalency between Communist and Nazi crimes, which
will undermine the current status of the Shoa as a unique historical
tragedy and case of genocide, and ultimately destroy most of the
beneficial results of sixty years of Holocaust commemoration and
education, I think that Rabbi Rosenson should reassess his positive
attitude to Lithuania. There are a few Lithuanians whose outlook
fits his description, but they have no public standing, are not
involved in Holocaust education, and have effectively been silenced
or marginalized by the government's Holocaust distortion campaign,
which is what really counts in that Baltic republic. When Avraham
Avinu came to plead with G-d to spare Sodom, he gave up after realizing
that the city did not even have ten righteous residents. The same,
unfortunately, applies to contemporary Lithuania, when it comes
to Holocaust-related issues.