by Daniel Lutrin
The following opinion piece by Daniel Lutrin appeared in the South African Jewish Report on 1 June 2016 under the headline “Lithuanian Citizenship: Only Successful Applicant is a Dead Jew.” Comments or discussion may be directed to the South African Jewish Report. Defending History is always prepared to consider actual articles in reaction to published articles.
It was gratifying to see a recent article regarding the plight that Jews of Lithuanian origin (Litvaks) are facing when applying to have their Lithuanian citizenship restored. The article, however, does not hone in on the critical matter at hand, namely the extent to which Lithuanian bureaucrats have gone to deny Jews of their ancestral right to citizenship.
In the background, a meticulous selection process has been underway which is nothing more than a modern manifestation of the same antisemitism which saw 95 per cent of Litvaks murdered in the Holocaust (the highest in all of Europe).
Denying Litvaks citizenship has been made easy in Lithuania by declaring, based on nebulous case law, that those Lithuanians who left the country during its years of independence (approximately 1919 to 1940) were not persecuted and are therefore not eligible for dual citizenship.
This has been appealed by many Litvaks, but with the courts being so engineered in Lithuania, 100 per cent of cases have gone in favour of the Lithuanian Migration Department. The only other countries with a 100 per cent decision confirmation are those such as Venezuela, Russia or Cuba.
It should also be pointed out that denial numbers quoted by the writer of the article, will be materially understated as numbers quoted are official denials. There will be hundreds of “pending” cases — a product of outlandish bureaucratic demands which made many just give up before being given the official “no”.
This Lithuanian selection process implies that today’s Litvaks must be punished because their ancestors did not voluntarily throw themselves into the hell of the Holocaust, waiting to see if they make it into the five per cent who came out of the death pits alive. It implies that the only Jew eligible for Lithuanian citizenship is a dead Jew.
Germany grants citizenship to German Jews who lost their citizenship under the Nazis. Spain allows nationality for Sephardi Jews, even though the Inquisition was many centuries ago.
Lithuania, on the total opposite side of the spectrum, ignores the fate of the Litvaks and the massive role Lithuanian collaborators played in the destruction of their country’s Jewry. The country continues to honor such collaborators through monuments and street names (Jonas Noreika or Kazys Škirpa, for instance).
Recently, a prominent Lithuanian lawmaker, who unsurprisingly chose to remain anonymous, accused Jews of “only wanting money”. Jewish tombstones have been used to pave driveways in Vilnius. Mass graves are used as party sites. The list goes on and on.
Lithuania cannot be a member of the European Union or define itself as democratic if the criteria used to determine who is a citizen are based on a selective ideology rather than the rule of law.
The opportunity for Jewish-Lithuanian reconciliation does not exist if Jews are selected as undesirables. How is it acceptable that the form one needs to complete when applying for citizenship demands that you specify “Žydas” (“Jew” in Lithuanian) as your nationality?
The South African Jewish community should take collective responsibility for this injustice and insult towards its ancestors. When the Nazis marched into Lithuania in 1941, they hardly had to lift a finger as Jews in over 200 shtetls were humiliated, tortured and ultimately murdered by Lithuanian collaborators.
These victims were cousins, great-grandparents’ best friends. Let Lithuania know that this time justice will prevail, that this will be pursued relentlessly in the name of truth. Never again means never again.