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World Association of International Studies

Post Holocaust Denial in Lithuania
Created by John Eipper on 04/03/19 1:08 PM

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Holocaust Denial in Lithuania (Henry Levin, USA, 04/03/19 1:08 pm)

A different topic that a Baltic expert might shed light on.

The Lithuanian Holocaust Museum is now denying the Holocaust. Lithuania was a country with not only a large thriving Jewish community, but one full of Jewish scholarship on the religion and its evolution. It is the nation where the local populations rounded up and murdered the Jews to assist the Nazis and Russians. Ninety-six percent of the Jewish population was annihilated, the highest toll of any country in Europe.

You might check Google.

JE comments: I did, and the controversy surrounds the Genocide and Resistance Research Center's attempts to underplay the collaboration of Lithuanian citizens with the Nazi occupiers.  Of particular recent controversy is a display honoring Jonas Noreika, a governor during the occupation, who has been accused of directly profiting from the deportation of Jewish Lithuanians.  It should be stressed that Holocaust denial is a direct violation of Lithuanian law.

Who has been following this disturbing story?  I hope our own Tom Hashimoto, who spends a lot of time in Vilnius, will tell us more. 

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  • Holocaust Denial in Lithuania (Tom Hashimoto, -UK 04/05/19 2:33 AM)
    I am always surprised by JE's memory of who's who. Yes, for the past three years, I have been travelling to Vilnius almost once a month. While unfortunately I do not speak Lithuanian, I can gather some thoughts on this matter. In this post, I'll try to highlight why such denials may be found in Lithuania. I will not argue against what happened in Lithuania in relation to the Holocaust, as I am not denying it.

    First, let me stress that Lithuanians are very sensitive to the Holocaust or genocides in general. Compared to many Central and Eastern European people, Lithuanians tend to be less xenophobic. Keeping in mind that their country is small and has been invaded by almost all the neighbours including Poland (during the interwar period, Poland established "Middle Lithuania" which led Lithuanians to move to Kaunas), this is quite remarkable.

    Some may argue the rise of Islamophobia as a counter-example. I simply point out that Muslims had a flourishing settlement near Trakai (near Vilnius) for centuries. So, I am sympathetic to Lithuanians who try to play down their xenophobic past (which unfortunately includes anti-Semitism) as a kind of catharsis for their national identity.

    Second, I think that anti-Semitism in Lithuania, as in many Central and Eastern Europe, is partly connected to nationalities or languages they speak. During the interwar period, Poles and Russians were considered as invaders and many Jewish residents in Lithuania could speak these languages for their trade. I wouldn't be surprised if they were hastily labelled as Polish or Russian spies or collaborators.

    This might be an off-topic, but Lithuania was a rare case where Russification was softened under Stalin. Moscow encouraged Lithuanian education, as he thought the conflict between Lithuanians on one side, Poles and Jews on the other would reduce the hostility towards Moscow.

    Third, with all due respect and sympathy, people in Central and Eastern Europe in general are getting tired of hearing about the tragedy of Holocaust year after year. In Jewish festivals, they prefer to listen to traditional songs and taste Jewish cuisine instead of hearing the same stories again and again. This sentiment is stronger among the younger generations. For them, even the Cold War is beyond their imagination. If the Holocaust has to be retold, they prefer to hear about heroes. I remember how Lithuanians enthusiastically talk about Chiune Sugihara to me, as soon as they see that I am Japanese.

    Fourth, when it comes to this Genocide and Resistance Research Centre, it is not so famous in Lithuania. I asked my colleagues and they told me they have only heard of it. I reckon that their attitude to history is not driven by anti-Semitism, but by anti-Sovietism. They want to "promote" the crimes committed by the Soviet against the Lithuanians as much as the Holocaust.

    By the way, JE, Lithuanians would protest how you put these posts on Lithuania under "Eastern Europe" category. Lithuanians would say they are either in Northern Europe or the Baltics. "Central and Eastern Europe" would already be a compromise. They don't even want to be remembered as a former Soviet country, to the point that they did not join the Commonwealth of the Independent States...

    JE comments:  Should one "center's" view be applied to an entire nation?  Perhaps the operative question is whether a nation can "move on" from its past without (in this case) being accused of Holocaust denial.

    Tom, I also sense that you are implying that Poland's xenophobia at present far outstrips that of Lithuania.

    I had not heard of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat in Kaunas who issued transit visas to permit the escape of some 6000 Jewish residents.  He is the only Japanese person to be honored as "Righteous Among the Nations."  A fascinating story reminiscent of the far better-known Raoul Wallenberg:


    This is too serious a topic for a digression about tourism, but I did visit Trakai and its splendid castle back in 2017:


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  • Vilnius, "Jerusalem of Lithuania"; Polish Tatars (Edward Jajko, USA 04/08/19 3:12 AM)
    As a gloss on Henry Levin's words (April 3rd) about the former Jewish presence in Lithuania.  Vilnius--then known as Wilno in Polish and Vilne in Yiddish--had so many yeshivahs and academies of Jewish learning, and learned rabbis and scholars as well as Jewish publishers, that it was renowned as "Yerushalayim d'Lita," the Jerusalem of Lithuania.

    The standard edition of the Babylonian Talmud is the Vilna edition published there by the Widow and Brothers Romm in 1886. This continues to be the standard edition, photographically reproduced. (Aficionados of Wikipedia should note that the article about this work is under title "Vilna edition Shas," "Shas" being the Hebrew acronym for "SHishah Sedarim," the Six Orders of the Mishnah.)

    A note on Tom Hashimoto's reference to Muslim settlement in or near Trakai, Lithuania: this settlement dates back to the 14th century, when animist Tatars settled among yet-pagan Lithuanian tribes. Later, Muslim Tatars were allowed to settle among Catholic Christian Lithuanians and Poles, serving in the military (I see some parallel to the status of the Druse in the State of Israel). In Poland, the Tatarzy have long since been an assimilated group, thoroughly Polish albeit Muslim (although in his great nationalistic epic novels, Henryk Sienkiewicz has characters like Zagłoba say that the Polish warrior who kills a Tatar gains a plenary indulgence).

    JE comments:  How did I not know about the Polish Tatars?  They have a long and storied history in Poland/Lithuania/Belarus.  Wikipedia (yes I'm an aficionado) tells us that only two tiny villages remain on the Polish side of the redrawn borders:  Bohoniki and Kruszyniani.  Their total numbers are fewer than two thousand in Poland, with 3200 in Lithuania and 7800 in Belarus.  The Tatarzy have a glorious reputation as soldiers.  Major Aleksander Jeljaszewicz distinguished himself against the Germans in 1939, as the leader of the last Muslim unit in the Polish army.  Interestingly (see above), the same article claims that Sienkiewicz himself was of Polish Tatar ancestry--as was American action hero Charles Bronson.  Tough fellows, they.

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