A financially-strapped small Eastern European country is spending tens of thousands
of pounds to sponsor an extraordinarily large number of political
and cultural events - lectures, concerts, exhibitions and films -
in London next week. Why? That is the obvious question for the Lithuanian
Foreign Ministry, several Lithuanian cultural institutions, and local
Under the heading, No Simple Stories; Jewish-Lithuanian relationships: facing
difficult questions, the events are projected as an honest attempt
to address the ostensibly complex history of Lithuania's once very
large Jewish community, which was irreparably decimated during the
Holocaust - 96.4 per cent of the 220,000 Jews who lived in Lithuania
under the Nazi occupation were slaughtered, with the help of a large
number of local collaborators.
A closer look at the themes of the events and the
identity of the participants in the international colloquium slated
for University College this weekend, raises serious doubts as to
the real intentions of the Lithuanian sponsors. According to the
accompanying literature, the organisers seek to present a more nuanced
version of the history of the Shoah in Lithuania, which they claim
has been misrepresented by the false narratives created by Jewish
survivors on the one hand and Soviet historiography on the other.
Thus, while the latter hid the identity of the Nazis' Jewish victims,
the former overemphasised the significance of the role played by
local Lithuanian collaborators.
The truth is, however, that the history of the Shoah
in Lithuania is depressingly simple. While the guilt of the German
and Austrian Nazis in launching the Final Solution all over Europe
and creating the circumstances in which it was carried out in the
Baltics is absolutely unequivocal, it was the extensive and zealous
involvement of all strata of Lithuanian society in the mass murders
that spawned the near-totality of the destruction.
Not a single Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrator has been punished in Lithuania
since it became independent; the text books do not explain the widespread
extent of local, murderous collaboration with the Nazis; and restitution
is still a pipedream. In addition, the authorities tried to prosecute
Jewish anti-Nazi Soviet partisans on trumped-up war crimes charges
and to inflate the number of brave Lithuanians who helped Jews.
Thus it comes as no surprise that no Lithuanian Jewish survivors (from any country)
were invited to address the historical colloquium or participate
in any of the panels. Nor were any Lithuanian Jewish scholars who
have been trying to write accurate accounts of the Shoah, nor in
fact any historian or scholar who has challenged the accuracy of
the Lithuanian government's narrative on Holocaust crimes.
This latter point is of great significance at the
moment because of that government's intensive campaign to promote
the Prague Declaration of June 3 2008, which seeks recognition of
the canard that the crimes of Communism are equivalent to those of
the Nazis and calls for the rewriting of all European history textbooks
in that spirit and for the establishment of a European Research Institute
to study totalitarian crimes as if they are all equal.
And that is really what is behind the upcoming blitz
of events in London that seek to relativise Lithuania's Holocaust
guilt and pave the way for a false historical symmetry in which the
crimes of Jewish Communists can balance out the far more lethal atrocities
committed against Jews by Lithuanians.
Aware as I am of Lithuania's abysmal failure since
independence to face honestly its Holocaust complicity, the efforts
being made by its government to burnish the country's image are hardly
What is more difficult to understand is the participation
of British Jewish bodies who are helping them do so.