The following, for readers’ reference, is a translation of Professor Pinchos Fridberg’s article that appeared in Russian in Zman.com (on 9 April 2013). It was reprinted in Obzor and Shofar7.
Lithuania is Paying with its Image for an Official’s Ambitions
On 13 December 2012, my article (in Russian) “Instead of Truth about the Holocaust ― Myths about Saving Jews” was published in zman.com. It was translated into English and published in Defending History, in Operation Last Chance and in the Algemeiner Journal. I’d like to note that the article was also published on the official website of the Jewish Community of Lithuania (JCL) in Russian and English.
In the article I revealed how a myth about the salvation of 43 (“actually 44”) Jewish people was presented to the public at the international forum “United Europe – United History” on 16 November 2012. According to the myth, the Jews in question lived for three years (!) in a “huge-huge bunker (huge pit)” that was dug especially for them. Here and further all quotations are translations from Lithuanian.
The research I did made it clear that the author of the myth was Ms. I. Vilkienė, deputy director of The International Commission for the Evaluation of Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania (Commission) and coordinator for educational projects (that is how she was introduced by the chairman of the forum, Dr. N. Šepetys). Please note that one of the aims of the Commission is obviously to learn and fight against the falsification of the history of the Holocaust in Lithuania.
What is it that stops the executive director of the Commission, Mr. R. Račinskas, from publicly apologizing for the unreliable information that was made public by Ms. Vilkienė? Is it fear of breathing upon the esprit de corps or is it lack of information? I can’t help with the first question, but no problem with the second. In addition to the comments I put on the Commission’s website, I will give one more.
The section “surnames that everybody should know” on the website www.rescuedchild.lt/ clearly indicates the number of Jewish lives saved by the joint heroic efforts of five Lithuanian families ― Juozas and Bronislova Straupis, Juozas and Adolfina Kerpauskas, Stanislava Dausinienė, Boleslovas and Ona Stulpinas, Antanas and Stefanija Strikaitis.
Moreover, the surnames of the 25 (twenty-five!) people saved are given there, too. Fourteen were from the village of Alsedžiai and 11 were from the Telšiai ghetto. It is important to note that these 25 people did not live together in one place even for a second.
Why did Ms. Vilkienė need to distort a well-known fact proven by documents, to almost double the number of the people saved, to put these people for three whole years (!) into a huge-huge bunker that was dug especially for them, and to graphically paint the details of their lives? To show the world the scale of the Commission’s work? Or is there some other purpose? How am I to understand her words that “it is clear that the research made by historians of our Commission is very important” and that “it is very important to know the numbers”? Let me ask, what kinds of numbers are mentioned here ― real or imaginary? I don’t know why, but Ms. Vilkienė’s speech reminded me of the playbill from Sholem Aleichem’s novel Wandering Stars, which reads: Shakespeare, put on stage and improved by me, Albert Shchupak.
“Interpretation of historic facts is impermissible, because distorted truth belittles or grades merits of the other Righteous. There’s no need to ornate in public space something that is beautiful in itself, no need to exaggerate and use unchecked facts”. This is a quotation (translation from Lithuanian) from an official statement by the Jewish Community of Lithuania. Neither add nor take away!
Facts are stubborn. So I am not asking, I am demanding a public refutation of the corrupted information made public by Ms. Vilkienė. If this is not done, I will have to seek the support of the European Commission that sponsored the Forum.
Miraculously surviving the Holocaust, I believe that the truth will finally triumph and the chairman of the Commission, Mr. Zingeris, will take responsibility for the damage done to the image of Lithuania.
P.S. Before sending this article to the press I asked the acting Chairman of the Jewish Community in Lithuania, Ms. Faina Kukliansky: Is there at least one representative of the Jewish community in the Commission?
And the answer was: “Unfortunately, no. Our community has not been invited to take part in the Commission’s work.”