O P I N I O N
by Efraim Zuroff
Note: The following letter to the editor in today’s edition of the Baltimore Jewish Times is republished here with the author’s permission.
According to the title chosen for Simone Ellin’s review (Oct. 19) of Ellen Cassedy’s book, We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust, the author “explores the Lithuanian Holocaust from all vantage points.” In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Cassedy neglects the most important vantage point of the history of the Shoa in Lithuania, the uniquely extensive role played by Lithuanians in the mass murder of Jews (not only in Lithuania, but also in Belarus and Poland), a fact incredibly omitted from Ellin’s review. In that respect, it is clear that Ellin was so captivated by Cassedy’s narrative that she failed to realize that the author presented her readers with a very one-sided picture of contemporary Lithuanian-Jewish relations in the wake of the Holocaust.
Suffice it to say, the Lithuanian government, which has done more than any other country to hide the crimes of its nationals during the Shoa and to promote the canard of historical equivalency between Communist crimes and those of the Nazis (and in recent years tried to prosecute Jewish anti-Nazi Soviet partisans on trumped up charges of “war crimes”), is actively promoting Cassedy’s book. Her book effectively — like Ellin’s review — whitewashes Lithuanian Shoa crimes and presents a totally distorted picture of the country’s hereto almost completely failed efforts to honestly confront its World War II history.
Those interested in the history of the Shoa in Lithuania would be much better off spending their time reading the late David Bankier’s book “Expulsion and Extermination,” published by Yad Vashem, which chronicles the extremely significant role played by Lithuanians in the mass annihilation of 96.4 percent of Lithuanian Jewry, noting the extreme cruelty with which the crimes were carried out, the extensive scope of local participation, its nationalist context and the fact that the perpetrators came from all strata of Lithuanian society. Also highly recommended is the wonderful website DefendingHistory.com of Professor Dovid Katz, who was fired from his post of Yiddish professor at Vilnius University, where he established the course attended by Cassedy in the wake of his energetic efforts to defend the survivors falsely accused of war crimes by the Lithuanian authorities.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff
Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center