Olga Zabludoff

Olga Zabludoff’s Comment on a February 2014 Yivo Symposium


 


The following 7 March 2014 comment by Olga Zabludoff on the video posted of the 14 February 2014 event at Yivo appears in the Comments section for her earlier article in the Algemeiner Journal, where readers can follow the entire discussion.


Many thanks to Yivo for posting the video of the discussion “Unresolved History: Jews and Lithuanians after the Holocaust.” In my opinion, the champion panelist was Leonidas Donskis who opened his heart with conviction and courage. As a Jewish Lithuanian his understanding of and sympathy for both Jews and Lithuanians have generated wise insights and pervasive truths. Among his magnitude of analytical comments to be applauded, Donskis explained that the Far Right in Lithuania has managed to get close to the center of power where they have been “mainstreamed” rather than marginalized. He also reflected on how difficult it is for Lithuanians who have decided to tell the truth. As a nation “we lack the political courage,” he remarked.

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Another Panel at Yivo, Neo-Nazi Marches in Lithuania, and American Silence on Glorification of Nazi Collaborators



 

O P I N I O N

by Olga Zalubdoff

The following is the text of Olga Zabludoff’s op-ed published on 13 February 2014 in the Algemeiner JournalComments by readers are available at the original site of publication.


 

Yivo, Lithuania, The Holocaust

Nobody could love or respect the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research more than I do. It was founded as the Yiddish Scientific Institute in Vilna, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania) in 1925. Yivo remains a symbol for all who cherish our Yiddish heritage and, now, its last prewar survivors. Through the years I have spent many wondrous hours at Yivo, digging, discovering, and learning about my Litvak ancestors, their shtetlakh, and their culture. Being there always felt like being home. The books and documents I handled seemed almost sacred. Memories of conversations with Yivo’s’s revered librarian Dina Abramowicz still make me smile. . .

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An Open Letter to Steve Linde, Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Post



O P I N I O N

by Olga Zabludoff

Editor’s note: This and other responses were first offered to the Jerusalem Post for publication.


The Lithuanian government is pouring ever more resources and doing an ever better job with its PR campaign to turn Litvaks (Jews of Lithuanian origin) into virtual PR agents who now go further than they do themselves: painting a picture of the New Jewish Paradise in Lithuania without even mentioning the existence of painful current issues. Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Steve Linde no doubt meant only the best with his Chapter-of-Psalms, and will, I feel confident, now be happy to give the issues some rounded airing.

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Getting It Right: Three Memoirs Tell It Like It Is



B O O K S

by Olga Zabludoff

 

Ponary Diary 1941-1943: A Bystander’s Account of a Mass Murder, by Kazimierz Sakowicz; edited by Yitzhak Arad. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005

Ruta’s Closet, by Keith Morgan with Ruth Kron Sigal. London: Unity Press (an imprint of Unicorn Press Ltd), 2013

Malice, Murder, and Manipulation: One Man’s Quest for Truth, by Grant Arthur Gochin. Los Angeles, 2013


 

The concept “Holocaust memoir” encompasses many subgenres in time and place. This review will cover the interlocking treatments by three very different types of witnesses:

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An Article Sent to the South African Jewish Report


 


O P I N I O N

by Olga Zabludoff

NOTE: This article was submitted to the South African Jewish Report last spring. It never appeared and is therefore posted here for information and in the spirit of the ongoing discussion. It is again poignantly relevant in view of the South African contingent to be courted by government officials at the Fourth International Litvak Congress to be held in Vilnius later this month.


The Ball Is Now in Your Court

I have just returned from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The newly launched special exhibition, “Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust,” left me feeling drained. It’s not that I learned anything I didn’t already know. It’s just that the message, delivered in marquee-style displays, old photographs, video footage from the period, and recent oral testimonies, juxtaposed to create the sensation that I had been there — a victim.

“But what do we learn that resembles what we have seen? We have barely begun to understand the killing fields of Lithuania. . . .” writes Edward Rothstein in his review of the new exhibition (“Bystanders, Not So Innocent,” April 25, 2013, New York Times).

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Self-Induced Confusion



B O O K S

by Olga Zabludoff

Review of We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust by Ellen Cassedy. University of Nebraska Press, 2012.


Had this title been billed as a simple memoir of Cassedy’s trip to Lithuania in the summer of 2004, my criticism of her book would be tempered. She had gone to the land of her ancestors to study Yiddish at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute and to connect with her Jewish roots. The professors and mentors she encounters at the Yiddish Institute come alive, as do the various Lithuanians and Jews with whom she connects. Cassedy is a good writer who captures physical details well. But even at that, this reviewer found the memoir to be superficial.

The major problem is that Cassedy’s book is being promoted as the Bible of the Lithuanian Holocaust by advocates for the current Lithuanian government and elite establishment which aspire to paint for the outside world a distorted version of the Holocaust. A version defined in shades of gray and the confusion they generate.  A version that incorporates the mythology of equivalency between crimes committed by the Nazi and Soviet occupation regimes.

SEE ALSO THE REVIEWS BY

Dovid Katz in the Algemeiner Journal

Allan Nadler in the Forward

Efraim Zuroff in Haaretz

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The Steve Felder – Olga Zabludoff Debate (in SAJR, May-July 2012)



1: Lithuania – a Past Not Forgotten

by Steve Felder

Given the Lithuanian heritage of the overwhelming majority of South African Jews, it is somewhat surprising that seemingly few have visited modern-day Lithuania. Bucking the trend, I visited during March with a small yet prominent delegation of Jewish business executives, on a “mission” arranged by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the largest Jewish humanitarian and welfare organization in the world.

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Lithuania Tries to Whitewash its Role in the Holocaust



O P I N I O N

by Olga Zabludoff

Note: The following letter to the editor appeared in today’s Baltimore Sun.  It is republished here by permission of the author. [Update of 2 May 2012: The editor of VilNews, in a 29 April article, said of the letter’s author: “In this case, she goes too far.” This in turn elicited a response from the editor of DefendingHistory on 1 May.]


 

In response to Ellen Cassedy’s “We are here” (April 18), I offer a second opinion.

Can there be hope for a country that claimed the highest percentage of Jewish deaths in all of Europe? More than 95 percent of Lithuania’s Jews were annihilated — most of them murdered by Lithuanian collaborators who began the frenzied executions of their Jewish neighbors even before the Germans had marched into Lithuania. Yes, there can be hope — if lessons are learned from their past and if the truth is faced by this nation which is now an EU/NATO democracy.

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March 11th is Not a Day to Glorify the Perpetrators



O P I N I O N

by Olga Zabludoff

When I learned that the municipality of Vilnius had again issued permits for a neo-Nazi march on Lithuania’s March 11th Independence Day, I was disturbed for more than one reason. Why would the government, which has been purporting its wish for reconciliation with its small Lithuanian Jewish community and Jews everywhere, sanction the resurrection of a Holocaust image? Why would the government, which has been purporting its wish to better its tarnished image with worldwide Jewry, accept and endorse the display of the LAF white armbands imprinted with the flaming swastika?

Most survivors of the Lithuanian Holocaust are more traumatized by memories of the white-armbanded Lithuanian Activist Front than by memories of Hitler’s Aryan henchmen. It was the local LAF murderers who began to butcher Jews who had been their neighbors — this even before their German Nazi masters/commanders came upon the scene. It was the LAF who unleashed the Holocaust in Lithuania. It was then that their slogan was born: “Lithuania for Lithuanians!” (Lietuva Lietuviams).

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Olga Zabludoff’s Petition to Stop the March 11th Neo-Nazi March in Vilnius



The following is the text of the petition created by Olga Zabludoff today on Change.org.

Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States: Ban Neo-Nazis from Desecrating the Dignity of Lithuania’s Independence Day

 

This petition was delivered to:

  • Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States
  • Ambassador Zygimantas Pavilionis

Petition by

  •  Olga Zabludoff
  •  Washington, DC

 

For the fifth time in the past five years a neo-Nazi parade (this year with a permit enabling a maximum of 2,000 participants) will march through the heart of Vilnius on March 11, Independence Day, one of the proudest and most significant days for the people of Lithuania. The neo-Nazi theme will be “Homeland.” Their display, if permitted by the government, will be taken by extremists throughout the region and Europe as a stamp of growing approval of neo-Nazi activities and a signal that the murder of about 95% of Lithuania’s Jewry during the Holocaust, largely by local collaborators, is taken lightly by today’s government.

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Olga Zabludoff’s Debate in VilNews (October 2011 — January 2012)



O P I N I O N

by Olga Zabludoff

Note: The following six articles, spanning the period October 2011 through January 2012, were published in VilNews in the course of a discussion. Each article is followed by the link to the original VilNews publication to enable readers to follow both sides of the argument (if Comments are included — many sides of the argument) in the original place of publication.


1. Mr. Januta Twists Facts and Figures to Suit his Arguments

Mr. Januta’s article goes right to the heart of the problem: the tendency of critics like him to accuse others of being misinformed and of misstating facts. Indeed it is Mr. Januta who twists facts and figures to suit his arguments. Even when his facts are “correct,” they are simply half-truths.

For example: Yes, there is a Holocaust Museum in Vilnius, but to compare the pitiful little hidden building (the Green House) with the state-of-the-art Museum of Genocide located on a major street is like comparing a mouse to an elephant.

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Lithuania Cannot Appease Both World Jewry and Far-Right Extremists


 


O P I N I O N

by Olga Zabludoff

 

I commend Didier Bertin’s knowledgeable and sensitive observations in his article “Lithuania and the Memory of the Holocaust.” My comments here are more in the form of a PS to Mr. Bertin’s words. My take-off point is his reference to the term “Double Genocide,” a government-endorsed concept that has been bandied about in Lithuanian political circles in recent times. But more about this later. Mr. Bertin borrows the term for application in a different dual context: the original genocide of the Jewish people and the current movement on the part of the Lithuanian government to neutralize if not to obliterate the remembrance of the Holocaust.

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