The following press statement was issued today by the office of UK MP Denis MacShane concerning the response of the Lithuanian foreign minister to the news that eight Lithuanian parliamentarians had signed the Seventy Years Declaration.
News Release 25 Jan. 2012
On the eve of National Holocaust Day, former Europe Minister Denis MacShane MP has written to Lithuanian MPs and MEPs who defied their political establishment to sign a statement on the Holocaust which attacks attempts to devalue the Nazi extermination of Jews by claiming it is no worse than the crimes committed by communists.
The Seventy Years Declaration was issued on 20 January 2012 by seventy European Union parliamentarians (MPs and MEPs) concerned about the return of antisemitism as an issue in contemporary politics. In January 1942, Nazi officials met at a conference at Lake Wannsee close to Berlin to plan the industrially organized extermination of European Jewry.
In recent years, European right-wing politicians have sought to gain acceptance for their view that the suffering under communist rule was the same as the Nazi extermination of Jews. This so-called “double genocide” thesis has been criticized by campaigners against modern antisemitism as leading to a devaluation of the unique specific Jew-hating roots of the Holocaust.
Now social democratic MPs and MEPs in Lithuania who signed this declaration have been attacked by government officials. Lithuania’s Foreign Minister went so far as to say there was no difference between Hitler and Stalin except the length of their moustache.
“The approach of the Lithuanian political establishment to what happened to Jews in their own and other countries in World War 2 is an international disgrace,” said UK MP, Denis MacShane, a former Europe minister.
“The Lithuanian MPs and MEPs who signed the Wannsee Declaration letter are the true representatives of what is best in the Lithuanian nation and I wanted to let them now they are not alone which is why I have sent the letter below,” he added.
The letter has been sent to national MPs Mr Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, Mr Justinas Karosas, Ms Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė, Mr Julius Sabatauskas, Mr Algirdas Sysas, Ms Birutė Vėsaitė, and to the following MEPs who are in the Socialist and Democratic Group in the European Parliament: Ms Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Mr Justas Paleckis.
24 January 2012
I am writing to express my congratulations and strong support to you for defying the ugly politics of Holocaust devaluation developing in some political and media circles in Lithuania and joining with me and other mainstream European democratic politicians in signing the Seventy Years Declaration on the 70th anniversary of the Wannsee conference.
There is now an organised politically motivated campaign to try and deny the unique centrality of the Holocaust and the work of Jew-hating Nazis and their collaborators in many countries in occupied Europe to send millions of Jews, Roma and other victims of race-hate to be exterminated.
As someone who was imprisoned in Warsaw in 1982 when I was caught by the Communist police when taking money to the Polish union, Solidarity’s underground operations, I need no lessons on communism. I have opposed Stalinism and communism all my life.
But the evil deeds of Stalin and the deaths that followed from his imperial rule over Europe, like the deaths associated with other imperial and authoritarian systems, cannot match the entirely racial-based hate and determination to kill every Jewish man, woman or child on the continent of Europe that emanated from the Wannsee conference. This brought into play the German genius for transport, industrial, chemical and organisational skills to find Jews in every corner of Europe and transport them over long distances to be put to death. The Soviet Gulag was evil but there were no gas chambers in Siberia. The US treatment of Native Americans in the 19th century, the British who allowed millions of Indians to die of hunger in the Second World War or presided over the Irish famine a century before, or the Ottoman massacres of Armenians in 1915 were wicked acts but were not on a par with Nazi Jew-hate based genocide. And given that antisemitic ideology is back in play today we have to pay special attention to combating any move to downplay or lessen the unique historic centrality of the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance.
Sadly the Nazis found many willing collaborators in most of the European countries they occupied. The attempt to make a precise equivalence between Hitler and Stalin devalues the specific one-off nature of the Holocaust and reflects the new antisemitism which seeks to remove from the Jewish people their correct sense of their unique suffering. It plays into the hands of the worst Islamist terrorist ideology which insists on devaluing the Holocaust and rejects the right of the Jewish people to have their own state of Israel to live in.
I am saddened that rather than welcoming your statement, the Foreign Minister of Lithuania, Audronius Ažubalis, has sought to blacken your name. I cannot believe he made light of the Holocaust with his remark, “It is not possible to find differences between Hitler and Stalin except in their moustaches (Hitler’s was shorter).” The mass murder of 6 million Jews is not something to make jokes about. Please tell me that this reported remark was not made!
The whole world is watching with concern at the rising level of anti-Jewish comments and media reports in Lithuania. Have we learnt nothing that we must return to the antisemitism of pre-1939 Europe? Of course the crimes of Stalin and the sufferings of the Lithuanian people under communism should never be forgotten. But that sad period of your nation’s history is not made better by devaluing the Holocaust and denying that some Lithuanians did collaborate in the Nazi policy of Jewish extermination.
I know it must be lonely to take a stand on such a controversial subject but I wanted to write to you to say you are not alone and every decent British and European citizen stands with you as you say that the extermination of Europe’s Jews between 1941 and 1945 is a unique crime and history and the nationalism and racism that gave rise to the ideology that allowed this to happen must never be forgotten, forgiven or given new nourishment.
- Yours sincerely,
- Rt Hon Dr Denis MacShane | Member of Parliament for Rotherham
- House of Commons | London SW1A 0AA
- UK Minister of Europe 2002-2005
- UK Council of Europe delegate 2005-2010