by Dovid Katz ©2018
More on JEWISH VILNA
More on JEWISH VILNA
While much is said in some American media outlets about “fake news” in the US, the smallness of the matters being discussed might come into focus when compared with Ukraine, which is of late producing rather much fake news about the Holocaust and elementary points in World War II history.
As we reported back in October, Ukrainian media outlet Radio Svoboda — the Ukrainian arm of the US Government-funded arm of RFERL — posted a picture from the US Holocaust Museum. It is an image of Polish Jews being deported to a death camp. There was just one problem. Radio Svoboda claimed the picture was from 1949 of Ukrainians being deported to Siberia. In fact, so effective was Radio Svoboda’s forgery that President Poroshenko himself tweeted it claiming it showed Ukrainians being deported. To Poroshenko’s credit, his office took it down almost immediately after we pointed this out.
On June 23, 2017, the Lithuanian Freedom Fighters Association (Lietuvos laisvės kovotojų sąjunga) organized a commemoration of the June 23, 1941 anti-Soviet uprising with a complete lack of sensitivity for Lithuanian victims of the Holocaust.
The official celebration at the Parliament’s Independence Square included an elaborately choreographed flag raising by the Lithuanian Army’s Honor Guard, music by the Armed Forces Orchestra, a reenactment of the Declaration of Independence with its hopes for a place for Lithuania in Hitler’s New Europe, and a speech by Vytautas Landsbergis, patriarch of modern-day Lithuania.
More by Andrius Kulikauskas. Articles by Evaldas Balčiūnas; Milan Chersonski; Leonidas Donskis; Nida Vasiliauskaitė. See also:
DH section on The Legacy of 23 June 1941. DH pages on: LAF intentions; painful street names; dry-clean of the week of 23 June 1941.
VILNIUS—The Litvak world, internationally fragmented and weak, yet so vibrant and creative, has been cheered by news reports of the new shtetl museum to rise in the near future in Shádev, a Lithuanian town of many centuries of Jewish heritage where a great rabbinic personality, Reb Móyshe Ha-Góyle (“Moses the Exile”, Méyshe Ha-Géyle in deep Litvish pronunciation, Moshé Ha-Golé in Israeli Hebrew) thrived in the fifteenth century.
A good shtetl museum here will be a blessing to the Litvak, European Jewish, Yiddish and shtetl heritage internationally. It will be a blessing to modern, democratic Lithuania. To this day, the basket of idols of the contemporary Jewish market downplays the magnitude of Yiddish language, literature, and culture, shtetl culture and heritage, and the magnificent East European Jewish legacy more generally. News media have gone with reports by AFP and by JTA, and there is more on the project’s website.
This paper appeared today in Dapim: Studies on the Holocaust, published by Taylor and Francis.
The demise of twentieth-century-style Holocaust denial in mainstream Western society is aptly symbolized by David Irving’s loss to Deborah Lipstadt in the London High Court in 2000. But around the same time, a new and more irksome method of writing the Holocaust out of history was emerging under the radar, this time without necessarily denying any of the historical events or a single death. Particularly in Eastern Europe, it was being forged with state funding and more subtle powers of persuasion in academia, the media, the arts and international diplomacy.
VILNIUS—Yet another major American newspaper, this time the San Francisco Examiner, has done a fine travel report on Vilnius, the beautiful capital of Lithuania, but with perhaps naive and uncritical treatment of one of the city’s less savory sites that is a product of the far-right history revisionism of the ultranationalist camp. It is the city center’s so-called “Museum of Genocide Victims” that is mostly dedicated to the genocide that did not happen in Lithuania (during the dictatorial Soviets’ misrule), while making national heroes of some of the local collaborators including actual killers) in the Holocaust — the genocide that did take place, resulting in the annihilation of 96.4% of Lithuanian Jewry, the highest percentage in Holocaust-era Europe. The conceptual backdrop is the thriving Double Genocide movement in this part of the world.
The Examiner article reports that “Gediminas Avenue, the main artery through the city […] ends up at the Museum of Genocide Victims, the location of the 20th century Soviet KGB prison. […] The Museum is a very powerful statement to the horrors mankind can inflict on humanity.” Not a word about the fact that the same building was also a Gestapo headquarters during the Holocaust where the murders of 100,000 citizens at nearby Ponár (Paneriai) were coordinated, nor about the massive glorification of Holocaust collaborators throughout the building.
As of October 28, 2015, the home page of the Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania has a link to an authorative statement by General Director Birutė Teresė Burauskaitė about Kazys Škirpa. She responds to a request for information by the City of Kaunas, which has a street in Škirpa’s name. Škirpa was Lithuania’s representative in Berlin, the leader of the Lithuanian Activist Front, organizer of Lithuania’s anti-Soviet rebellion and Prime Minister of Lithuania’s Provisional Government in 1941. In bold letters she emphasizes:
VILNIUS—Vilnius’s new mayor, the honorable Remigijus Šimašius, continues to express profound respect for his city’s Jewish heritage of many centuries’ standing. His dapper style, originality and flamboyance have impressed many. But some raise questions about the choices he makes about which issues to address or ignore. Julius Norwilla’srecent comment contrasts the mayor’s “instant metal sign” marking gravestones found in the walls of an electric sub-station, marked as a symptom of Soviet barbarism, with his public silence — hopefully soon to be broken! — about plans to build a $25,000,000 convention and entertainment complex smack in the middle of the city’s oldest Jewish cemetery. Hopefully, the mayor will respond to the appeal to authorities from his constituent Professor Pinchos Fridberg, one of his city’s last living Vilnius-born Holocaust survivors (one of about three left from an interwar population of 60,000 Jews that stood ar around 80,000 just before the Holocaust), as well as to the other public appeals to date, that have come from faithful Jewish and Christian sources alike.
VILNIUS—Naturally the New York Times cannot publish or even post very many of the Letters to the Editor that it receives. But when a dozen or so reactions from different parts of the world to a single article are all discarded, it is perhaps worth someone posting a submitted letter elsewhere for the record. This is especially true where there is a larger concern. In this case, it is the paper’s imposition, in recent years, of a wall of silence about the Holocaust Obfuscation, World War II revisionism and far-right historiography peddled by East European countries. These are, as it happens, the same countries who are in today’s geopolitics America’s and the West’s most reliable European allies in the New Cold War against the authoritarian, revanchist Putin regime.
The Times’ policy has sometimes extended to misrepresenting the East European far right’s history revisionism as accepted fact by publishing multiple op-eds from only one side of the argument. When the Times did (obliquely) cover the Seventy Years Declaration in early 2012, its reporter, tightly controlled by the State Department, would not mention the declaration by name, would not meet any of the government’s critics to hear their views, confused the two declarations in contest, and quoted a famous Brandeis professor without mentioning he was in town to receive a medal from the Lithuanian president for helping the state’s PR.
Is the Holocaust drowning in a sea of “European tolerance”? I love humor. Especially black humor.
Yesterday afternoon the largest Russian-language newspaper in Lithuania, Obzor, reprinted the article, “Museum in Tartu, Estonia Invites Visitors to Come Laugh at the Holocaust” [The affair has been covered in English by the Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, among others].
For some reason held on 26 January, a day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, three events were announced together in a flyer posted by the Jewish Community of Lithuania and disseminated by other interested organizations in Vilnius.
Christmas-time congratulations are due to the four architects who have won the Vilnius state Jewish museum’s competition for plans to build a Holocaust museum at the mass murder site known as Ponár in Yiddish, Ponary before the war in Polish, and currently Lithuanian Paneriai. It is a short ride outside the capital city Vilnius. The victory of the foursome, Jautra Bernotaitė, Ronaldas Pučka (team leader), Andrius Ropolas and Paulius Vaitiekūnas, is announced on the museum’s website (and on Mr. Ropolas’s site). The competition was jointly run with the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania. The elaborate description of the project’s conception, by the Union of Architects, includes many sophisticated concepts, with multiple learned citations, from Freud to Foucault. Just one rather simpler word, a word (and exhibit) needed for any Holocaust museum, is missing from the text: collaboration.
Iwas proud to serve as Austria’s remembrance volunteer (Gedenkdiener) in 2013-2014. Based in Vilnius in the Green House, the country’s only serious Holocaust exhibit, I was able to travel extensively and meet Lithuanian citizens from a wide variety of backgrounds. Despite all the hype, the Jewish heritage is not really in the best of shape. There is a lot of ignorance combined with an ethnocentric nationalist worldview.
Editor’s note: The author travelled through Ukraine in autumn 2014 with a team from the Berlin-based Educational Center for Peace Research and Pinima productions. A German version of this report appeared in www.bildungswerk-friedensarbeit.org. This English version has been approved by the author. The photographs were supplied by Frank Brendle and Pinima productions, Berlin. Any re-use should credit each photo appropriately. For background on the Ukrainian Holocaust see a recent US Holocaust museum (USHMM) report, and the Defending History work by Grzegorz Rosslinski-Liebe and Per Anders Rudling; also our Ukraine section and page on 2014 international media.
It’s a late summer night in Lviv and we have our first encounter with Ukrainian civil society: A demonstration of bicyclists. The words “critical mass” are written on their banners, and they are fighting for more space on the roads. Just like in Germany. But something else is different than in Germany: The leader of the demonstration is shouting “Slava Ukraini!” and the crowd shouts back: “Heroiam Slava” (Glory to Ukraine – Glory to the Heroes). Then comes the next organized chant and reply-to-the-chant: “Glory to the Nation – Death to the Enemies.” fun-in-participation factor is multiplied as passers-by shout the chant, eliciting the expected reply from the marchers.
These observations do not claim to be a review of the traveling exhibition “Lithuanian Jews behind the Iron Curtain,” which was mounted by the Tolerance Center of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum in Vilnius (hereinafter “the state Jewish museum”) from 13 March to 31 July 31 this year. By and large, issues raised refer to the fate of Lithuanian Jewry during World War II and contemporary issues regarding some issues in Lithuanian history.
Much has been said about recent history policy in Lithuania. What this means, different speakers understand differently. It probably isn’t wise to dwell long on the concept. Let’s just say “history policy” is the interpretation of historical events provided by state institutions and officials.
SEE SECTION ON
The truth is specific. I will give one example of how this appears in our and neighboring states and how that illuminates the history of our state.
The Double Genocide supporting website “Reconciliation of European Histories” boasted today that its core group of right-wing MEPs from Eastern Europe has succeeded in its demand to insert red-brown revisionism in depictions of the World War II and Holocaust era in the prestigious Parliamentarium Museum in the EU capital Brussels.
VILNIUS—Three Vilnius-based members of the Defending History team visited the Pylimo Street section of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum of Lithuania this week, and asked to be shown the famous and widely admired exhibit honoring the Jewish veterans of the war against Hitler in Lithuania. The exhibit, titled Lithuania’s Jews in the Struggle Against Nazism, was opened in a spirit of unity, reconciliation and mutual respect, some fourteen years ago (PDF of the report in the Spring 2000 English edition of the Jewish community’s then quadrilingual newspaper, Jerusalem of Lithuania, which was edited by Milan Chersonski from 1999 until 2011; JPEG; reduced image below). Its primary author was Joseph Levinson.
When I was in New York last year, I saw an extraordinary exhibition of paintings by Marc Chagall, “War, Exile and Love” at the Jewish Museum. The focus was on the works he produced during his years of exile in the United States. This exhibition, well attended, shed an interesting light on what the artist knew about the horrific events unfolding in Europe at the time of his sojourn in the United States.
At the edge of downtown Vilnius, along the river Neris where the buildings suddenly turn old and worn and bushes, trees and grass take on unmanicured forms, across the bridge whose entree is gated by the Danish and British embassies to Lithuania, there is a strange park nestled in between some very empty Soviet-looking and much older buildings.
I recently returned home to Belgium from a visit to Vilnius, Lithuania. As is my custom, I visited different museums where the memory of the victims of the Holocaust is kept alive. I went first to the Green House on Pamenkalnio St 12. Not easy to find for foreigners as there are few indications on the streets. I also went to the Center for Tolerance. Apart from my wife and me there was no one else in either museum at the time of our visits there (in the high tourist season in August).
I remember my first visit to Yad Vashem as a 16-year-old visitor to Jerusalem. It had a profound, and indeed formative, effect on me. I left there with a badge clipped to my lapel inscribed with the motto, zakhor, the Hebrew word for remember.
A recent visit to Vilnius’s “Jewish Museum — Tolerance Center” has revealed a shocking panel purporting to convey the “facts” of June 23rd 1941, the darkest date in Lithuanian Jewish history. It is the date on which the Holocaust in Lithuania began. No need, incidentally, to take our word for it. Ask any Lithuanian Jew, of any generation, current abode or political persuasion: When did the Holocaust in your country start?
In the course of remarks criticizing the current Ukrainian government for its human rights abuses, made in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper added words of praise for a visiting director of a Holocaust-distorting museum in Ukraine who was on a Canada lecture tour last week, and for the museum itself. The museum, in Lviv, Ukraine, glorifies and sanitizes some of the local Holocaust perpetrators and collaborators. An account of the prime minister’s remarks appeared in a 19 October 2012 report in the Toronto Sun.
There is no suggestion that the Canadian prime minister agrees with the Ukrainian Holocaust revisionists, or would wish to compliment those glorifying the local perpetrators. Instead, the episode is seen as yet another instance of a well-oiled lobby being able to confuse, combine and confound issues in dealings with Western personalities and institutions that stand far from these issues. Attempts to make heroes of the local Holocaust perpetrators and collaborators, in the spirit of antisemitic East European (ultra)nationalism, have also been documented this year in Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania.
Last week, a Canada-wide lecture tour by Ruslan Zabily was announced. He is the former director of the Center for the Study of the Liberation Movement and the current director of the Lonsky Street Prison National Memorial Museum (for short: the Lonsky Museum) in Lviv, Ukraine.
The lecture tour includes some of the most prestigious universities in Canada — the universities of Alberta, Toronto, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ottawa — as well as Harvard University’s Ukrainian Studies Institute in the United States. The lectures in Alberta and Toronto are facilitated by the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies; the Peter Jacyk Program for the Study of Ukraine; the Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies; the Harvard Institute of Ukrainian Studies and its Chair of Ukrainian Studies.
In my recent article about the war criminals buried at Tuskulėnai Memoral Park in Vilnius I provided a list of Nazi collaborators convicted by the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union on April 19, 1943, and May 24, 1944 of murdering civilians during the Holocaust. This does not mean, however, that those convicted under other laws are guiltless.
According to criminal case materials and archival material examined by Lithuanian historians, there are rabid Nazi collaborators buried at Tuskulėnai Memoral Park. Despite the facts, today falsified, but very “patriotic,” biographies for these people are being crafted and disseminated, according to which they are portrayed as fearless warriors who battled for a free Lithuania.
I have written about one of them, Jonas Noreika, nicknamed General Vėtra, convicted under sections 1a and 2 of article 58 of the criminal code of the RSFSR, but who was recently decorated posthumously by Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus, so I won’t repeat that here.
3 October 2012 16:03:03 CEST Dear Colleagues,
The letter below was sent by then MP Denis MacShane to the director-general of the Imperial War Museum on 18 September 2012. It was released for publication in 2013, and now appears in its chronological (time of writing) slot in Defending History’s Denis MacShane section.
Dear Ms Lees:
I write to you as one of the MPs who takes a special interest in contemporary antisemitism. I chaired the All Party Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry into the problem, have written a well-received book “Globalising Hatred: The New Antisemitism” (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2008/9), and lecture and write all over the world on the return of the racist ideology of antisemitism in the 21st century.
Thus as a life-long supporter of the Imperial War Museum, and one particularly proud that this magnificent British institution encompasses the excellent Holocaust Exhibition, I write to express some urgent concern that IWM might unwittingly be drawn into a plan by certain far-right or ultranationalist circles in the current Lithuanian government to abuse the good name and offices of IWM in an attempt to legitimise the profoundly problematic “Genocide Centre” in Lithuania, in a series of meetings scheduled for this month, apparently organised by the Lithuanian Embassy here in London.
Representatives of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum were invited to London by the Lithuanian Embassy at the beginning of the summer. The aim of our trip is to meet historians and Holocaust educators at the Imperial War Museum and to look for possible cooperation between the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum and similar British institutions in London. We knew in advance that the Genocide Center is also invited.
Obviously, we have no intention to discuss any common projects with the Genocide Center because of their attitude and policy toward the Holocaust which is, to say the least, not correct.
The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum has signed the petition together with the Jewish Community against the celebration of the reburial of the Chief of the Provisional Government Ambrazevičius, as we did not support the policy of the Genocide Center to honor the Nazi collaborator. For the same reason we have also declined partnership with the Genocide Center in the project “Names of the Holocaust Victims” which was initiated and is being implemented by the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum.
We have officially informed the Lithuanian government, which partly sponsors the “Names” project, that we refuse to be partners with the Genocide Center.
The following is a translation of the Hebrew letter from Tel Aviv attorney Joseph Melamed, head of the Association of Lithuanian Jews, to Avner Shalev, director of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, in reaction to news reports reporting that Yad Vashem would rejoin the Vilnius-based red-brown commission. In addition, the Association issued a statement to the media today.
Tel Aviv, 3 September 2012
Hon. Avner Shalev
Chairman, Yad Vashem
The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority
The Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel was left in shock by the decision of Yad Vashem to renew its activities in the “International” Commission [for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania].
From: Dovid Katz [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Sunday, June 28, 2009 1:17 PM
To: גביר יוסי
Cc: ‘Simon Wiesenthal Center-Israel Office’; ‘Dov Levin’; ‘Joseph Melamed’
Subject: from Dovid Katz (Vilnius University)
Greetings dear Yossi (at the moment from Tel Aviv),
Trust this finds you and all at Yad Vashem well and thriving. As you may recall, we corresponded for several months in Spring 2008. I had been (and frankly remain) disappointed that by continuing to allow Yad Vashem’s name to appear as a partner of the Lithuanian government sponsored “Red-Brown Commission” even as the falsification of history (replacement of the very notion of the Holocaust by a paradigm of two equal genocides) continues apace at the European Parliament. Parliamentarians are told: “Look, Yad Vashem is with us….” Of course Yad Vashem has no such intention, and we are in agreement that it’s important for Lithuanian teachers to be educated in Jerusalem but that should be facilitated through any of the various honest NGOs or educators, not the “Red-Brown Commission” whose major current project is passage of the “equal genocide” resolutions in the European Parliament. My two recent op-eds on the topic are in the Jewish Chronicle and Irish Times.
Can you imagine a European Union / NATO government investing millions in setting up a “Peace Park” in its beautiful capital city, in memory of people buried at the site of the park, when hundreds of them were Nazi collaborators who eagerly supported the annihilation of the Jewish population of their country?
Earlier this month, VilNews.com prominently published an article by Vincas Karnila, presented as the Introduction to a series called “The Mass Graves in Tuskulėnai.” It is a panegyric to the employees of the Museum of Genocide in Vilnius and the Center for the Study of Genocide and Resistance for their tireless efforts to establish the Tuskulėnai Peace Park. Readers are informed that six articles will follow. [Update: Subsequent articles in Karnila’s series can be found in www.VilNews.com.]
We know from official sources that Soviet KGB victims were buried at Tuskulėnai from 1944 to 1947.
Karnila tells us:
On May 19 and 20 of this year rites to re-inter Juozas Brazaitis (Ambarazevčius), the head of the Provisional Government of Lithuania, and commemorations and events in connection with this will take place in Kaunas.
Every person has the right to leave this world maintaining their inherited traditions and religious convictions. The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum do not protest and are not expressing dissatisfaction over the return of the mortal remains of Juozas Brazaitis (Ambarazevčius) to Lithuania.
Nonetheless, we are deeply hurt because of the ceremonies and events surrounding the reburial ceremony of this controversial political figure. This figure is connected with the actions of the puppet Provisional Government of Lithuania and with the calls by the Lithuanian Activist Front for inciting the mass murder of Jews which led to the execution of barbaric “justice” by the mob.
Rúmshishok (informally: Rúmseshik), some twelve miles from Kaunas (Kovno), was a beloved Lithuanian shtetl where Lithuanians, Jews and others lived together for many centuries in peace (the town goes back to the fourteenth century). The massacre of the town’s Jews during the Holocaust was close to complete (outlines of the history here and here). According to the new Lithuanian Holocaust Atlas, the perpetrators were comprised of “white armbanders” from the town plus “Lithuanian self-defense unit troops” from Kaunas.
Now Rumšiškės in modern Lithuania, the town is internationally known for its neighboring extensive open air museum of the Lithuanian provinces, including town, hamlet and rural settings, all meticulously reconstructed.
A Genocide Museum on ground zero of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe that does not mention the Holocaust,
One that, more than a year after being exposed in this journal in the summer of 2010, and a confluence of international pressures, has added, in October 2011, a single solitary cell in the basement, unannounced on the main floor, that distorts the Lithuanian Holocaust and actually glorifies (as ‘rebels’) the local killers who unleashed the Holocaust in the country, while failing to mention their Holocaust role in an exhibit on the Holocaust?
You decide. . .
UPDATE 1: On 27 June 2011 at 3:31 PM (Vilnius time), the Israeli Embassy in Riga (responsible for Lithuania as well as Latvia) emailed DefendingHistory.com to say that Yad Vashem’s participation in the event has been cancelled. This was confirmed in a further email from Yad Vashem at 3:56 PM. In Vilnius, however, the name of Yad Vashem and its designated representative continue to appear on programs and brochures, giving the impression that the event enjoys the formal participation of Yad Vashem. See our public query to Yad Vashem.
According to a conference program posted on the website of the Lithuanian Parliament, Yad Vashem is the only Jewish institution sending a representative to the latest conference mounted by the Lithuanian government in its campaign to downgrade the Holocaust and whitewash the Lithuanian Holocaust’s first murderers (the L.A.F. and other fascist groups), often by glorifying them as ‘freedom fighters’. The printed brochure for the conference, to be held on 29 and 30 June 2011, announces the event as a joint project of the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) and the deeply antisemitic Genocide Research Center. One of the Center’s top ‘specialists’ participated in the recent neo-Nazi parade and went on to launch a public antisemitic campaign. He was neither removed from his post nor publicly reprimanded, as the season’s conferences plow ahead full steam.
Rumors are flying in the Lithuanian capital about plans to induce foreign institutions and governments to support the building of a new Holocaust Museum at the mass-murder site Ponár (Paneriai), where no unsuspecting tourist or visitor to Vilnius would ever see it, more than six miles out of town, unless they have prior special interest that would motivate the hiring of a taxi for that purpose.
At the behest of Lithuania’s Education Ministry, the Association of Lithuanian Museums today canvassed museums and other institutions asking for information about what is being done concretely to commemorate the celebration of local fascists who collaborated with Hitler, including the killers who unleashed the Lithuanian Holocaust (Lithuanian Activist Front or LAF), and the collaborationist Provisional Government (PG).
In a bold op-ed published in the Winnipeg Free Press on 2 April, Dr. Catherine Chatterley has spoken out against attempts by some elements in Canada’s Ukrainian-heritage community to derail a planned Holocaust exhibit at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) on the grounds, broadly speaking, that such an exhibit would unduly emphasize Jewish suffering and cause to be underrepresented Ukrainian suffering in Stalin’s murderous state-caused famine in Ukraine in the early 1930s.
The campaign has been accompanied by the printing and wide distribution in Canada of offensively and antisemitically manipulated versions of an illustration that had appeared in a 1947 Ukrainian edition of George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm.
Ponár (Polish Ponary, Lithuanian Paneriai) is the mass murder site outside Vilnius where around a hundred thousand civilians were murdered by the Nazi regime. Some 70,000 of them were the Jews of Vilna and its region.
Before the war the site was known as a bucolic holiday and picnic spot set in the forest. During the year-long Soviet rule in 1940-1941, large pits were dug for an oil storage facility. After the Nazi invasion the site was converted to a mass murder operation with the ready-dug pits serving as mass graves.
The vast majority of the murderers were local nationalist volunteers organized by the Nazis for the purpose of annihilating the country’s Jewish population. The eyewitness account of Christian Polish journalist Kazimierz Sakowicz was brought out in an academic English edition by Yale University Press in 2005 (Ponary Diary).
The small museum at the site has generally won acclaim for providing authentic information in a very small space and modest means. The primary address in Lithuania for visitors and locals wishing to learn more about the site is the Green House in central Vilnius.
Mr JOSÉ MANUEL BARROSO, ON THE “OCCUPATION MUSEUM” OF RIGA IN LATVIA
Dear Mr Barroso,
I recently visited the “Occupation Museum” in Riga/Latvia where I had the opportunity to see your picture — taken during your visit of that museum in 2008 — displayed on one wall of the entrance hall.
That museum prides itself on having thus welcomed a number of well-known symbolic personalities. Your persona grata is all the more important now that the EU has become an unavoidable partner in the world and, furthermore, now that Latvia has become a full member state of the European Union.
Elie Valk, chairman of the Association of Latvian and Estonian Jews in Israel, released a statement with links to news reports of the opening of the first part of the Museum of Riga Ghetto today. The statement reports that ‘The idea of creating such a museum was circulating in the Jewish Community for three to four years. Finally Menachem Barkahan, head of the local religious congregation Shamir, picked it up and was successful in raising funds for it. He is the son of the late Rabbi Note Barkan, who served as the Chief Rabbi of Latvia’. The links provided to news of the event are:Continue reading
Gruto Parkas (situated at Grutas, near Druskininkai and often popularly called ‘the Lenin Park’) is a private enterprise, but a large sign near the entrance boasts that the historical inscriptions were donated by the state-sponsored ‘Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania’.
Vilnius’s one Holocaust museum, The Green House, shut down for renovations at the start of August 2010, at the height of the tourist season. Tourists are now limited to the Holocaust-obfuscating Genocide Museum, the Genocide Center, and Gruto Parkas. The Holocaust Studies community internationally is moreover profoundly disturbed by persistent efforts to undermine Rachel Kostanian, the Green House’s esteemed director of twenty years’ standing, and the efforts to replace her with a ‘compliant’ nationalist operative. Full story here
THE QUESTION: Can you imagine a Museum of Genocide Victims — in the capital of a country with the highest proportion in Europe of Holocaust genocide of its Jewish population — that does not mention the word Holocaust or the name of the nearby infamous mass-killing site, where 100,000 civilians were murdered? That avoids any reference to the actual genocide that occurred in the country? That includes antisemitic exhibits with no commentary? That is state-sponsored in the capital of a European Union member state?
Note: See also our report on the October 2010 re-opening of the Green House following extensive renovations. Black and white photos below are©Richard Schofield.
Rachel Kostanian, the courageous director, valiantly keeps alive one of the rare local bastions of public integrity on the Holocaust in Lithuania, having constantly to fend off obstacles. Read Esther Goldberg’s portrait in the special Jewish New Year’s supplement on great Jewish women of the ages in the Canadian Jewish News (8 Sept 2010). A follow-up article on Rachel Kostanian’s epic struggle for truth in Holocaust history appeared a month later (7 Oct 2010).
Exhibition panel at the state sponsored Genocide Museum, exemplifying the nexus of Holocaust trivialization and antisemitism: ‘In Auschwitz we were given some spinach and a little bread’. Zoom-in of the text (2008 exhibit).
The permanent exhibit includes a post-Holocaust caricature of a Soviet jeep being driven by Lenin, Stalin and ‘the Jew Yankel’ (with no comment on the antisemitic portrayal). Sample of another antisemitic exhibit; & another. Such is sometimes the local face of the ‘Soviet-Nazi equivalence’ that is disseminated at the European Parliament via the Prague Declaration and other resolutions.