Delfi.lt journalist Eglė Samoškaitė reported today on this week’s book event for the Lithuanian language edition of Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, held at the Foreign Ministry and with the participation of some leading historians and heads of institutions in the country. A full English translation of Ms. Samoškaitė’s article is available here.
At the event, which was announced on the official website of Lithuania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (htm copy here), Teresė Birutė Burauskaitė, director general of the state-sponsored Genocide Center, where an organizer of a recent neo-Nazi march is still employed, set the stage. She insisted upon equal evaluation of those who ‘informed on [or: betrayed] their neighbors’ for the Nazis and Soviets, with no mention that Holocaust collaboration in Lithuania entailed not ‘informing’ as much as the provision of numerous volunteer killers, who in dozens of towns started the genocide before the arrival of the first German soldiers.
The director of the History Institute, Rimantas Miknys, went on to excoriate Holocaust survivors who escaped the ghetto and survived to join the partisans in the forests in the battle against the Nazis.
“Lithuanian History Institute director Rimantas Miknys was also there and in turn said historical matters can’t be judged categorically.
‘For example, there is a story presented in the book [Bloodlands] about a Jewess who escaped the ghetto and then fell in with Soviet partisans. But even perceiving the evil of her choice, the girl sums it up simply: “They saved me.” If the Jewess escaped from the ghetto to a partisan unit where there were also Jews, she said: “I didn’t have any other choice, I chose evil. They call me and other women whores. Life was simply insufferable, but the partisans saved me.”
‘That means she also perceives the evil, but chooses it. What do I want to say? Historians have to personalize research, and then additional motivations become apparent: on different behaviors, on explaining collaboration, on what seem illogical actions’, Miknys said.”
DefendingHistory.com cordially invites Professor Snyder to reply to Professor Miknys’s (mis)characterization of a passage (which?) in Bloodlands. It has alarmed some in the diplomatic community here that such mischaracterizations are coming not from skinheads, but from the head of the country’s state-sponsored History Institute.
What went undiscussed, as ever, was the contemporary context of a prosecutorial campaign against Holocaust survivors who escaped ghettos to join up with the anti-Nazi resistance. The campaign started with ‘investigations’ against Dr. Yitzhak Arad in 2006, grew to include Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky and Dr. Rachel Margolis in 2008, and in August 2011 took on new life with a new campaign against Kovno ghetto survivor Joseph Melamed, the elected head of one of the world’s last active organizations of Holocaust survivors from Lithuania.
Another speaker was Professor Kęstutis Girnius, who recently compared the 1941 ‘uprising’ of the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF), which in fact unleashed the Holocaust upon Jewish citizens in many parts of Lithuania, to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 directed against the Nazis.
Most sensationally, Ms. Samoškaitė reports in her Delfi.lt article that two of the speakers at the book launch admitted that they had not yet read the book.
Geoff Vasil (Vasiliauskas), senior analyst at DefendingHistory.com, said the book event ‘enabled the government to use Snyder’s Bloodlands to host yet another conference to slander Jewish anti-Nazi partisans and equate Nazi and Soviet collaboration’. Mr. Vasil, author of a recent report in London’s Jewish Chronicle, added that ‘It has now come to the point where some so-called Holocaust scholars and educators have stopped making sense altogether and and are ‘jumping the shark’ in a final gambit to change global opinion on the Holocaust and to try to minimize or deflect local complicity’.