Editor’s note: The following is an English translation by Geoff Vasil of an article that appeared on Delfi.lt on October 25, 2013. The images that appeared with the original Lithuanian text are not reproduced here.
In 1999, The Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel published Crime and Punishment, compiled after many years of work, by its chairman, Tel Aviv attorney Joseph Melamed, a native of Kovno (Kaunas), Holocaust survivor and veteran of the Jewish partisan resistance in Lithuania and of the Israeli War of Independence. In the late 1990s, Mr. Melamed wrote repeatedly to Lithuanian prosecutors, explaining that some Holocaust perpetrators and witnesses were still alive and investigations could be pursued.
He never received a reply. A dozen years later, in 2011, Lithuanian prosecutors sent Interpol (!) to disturb him in Tel Aviv with accusations that his book had slandered “heroes” of the anti-Soviet resistance. This was after a media fracas broke out in Vilnius in 2009 when someone first noticed that the list had also appeared on the website of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel. At the time, the director of the Vilnius Yiddish (!) Institute told the Baltic Times that the Holocaust survivors in Israel who published the list “are extreme right-wingers and scholars don’t talk to them” (he has since been promoted to the “red-brown commission”). At the time, the Jewish community’s newspaper, Jerusalem of Lithuania, published a detailed response by its editor, Milan Chersonski.
The Genocide Center in Vilnius is generally considered to be biased in the cause of Baltic ultranationalism. Various of the institutions it has supplied with “historic captions,” including the Genocide Museum in Vilnius and Gruto Parkas (“the Lenin statue park”) in the southeast of the country, feature overt antisemitic texts. For years, a leading official at the center “moonlighted” as the organizer of annual neo-Nazi marches in the center of the nation’s capital, Vilnius.
The 2011 accusations against Mr. Melamed attracted comment in the British Parliament and coverage in Haaretz, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), and other media outlets.
It will now be up to specialists to consider the Genocide Center’s newest pronouncement on the local murderers of the Jewish minority in Lithuania, especially the claim that they were “forced to do it” when the historical record provides a very different picture. There is also the question of whether consistent academic standards were applied to those suspects who are or are not “wanted as national heroes” in light of postwar activities. It is clear that each individual case deserves its own evaluation dependent on the evidence. A major problem for decades has been the lack of political will to interview witnesses while they were still alive in a macabre stalling game described on multiple occasions by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office.
For information on individual “national heroes” implicated in Holocaust atrocities, see the Evaldas Balčiūnas, Milan Chersonski and Collaborators Glorified sections; the page on memorials in public spaces for collaborators and perpetrators; and Milan Chersonski’s 2009 response to events unfolding in the ongoing saga.
But when all is said and done, as the era of “talk of prosecutions” shifts into history, three issues will remain paramount:
(1) the activities of each suspect, particularly during 1941, will have to come under impartial investigation. A state-funded “Genocide Center” that provides antisemitic texts to museums and memorials, and has employed in high capacity an organizer of neo-Nazi marches and regularly glorifies Lithuanian Activist Front and other killers, has no moral authority to pretend to be providing the answers.
(2) There is a moral battle of ideas underway concerning the question of whether any of Nazi Germany’s allies, activists, enablers and assistants in Eastern Europe (particularly, where this aid was inextricably linked to the program of immediate genocide) ought to be hailed as “heroes” in countries subscribing to the most fundamental moral fabric of NATO and the European Union.
(3) There is alas a long and consistent record of distortion by the Genocide Center. [UPDATE of 30 October 2013: See now response of the the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Dr. Efraim Zuroff.]
New Suspects from Lithuanian Study of List of Jew-Shooters Compiled by Litvaks
by Daumantas Liekis
Oct 25, 2013
In 2009 the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel published on their website a list of 4,233 Lithuanians accused of Jew-shooting. Immediately after that, directed by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania began a study of the accusations made. After the study that took three years based on the archival data Lithuanian historians succeeded in determining that of the 4,233 people cited, 1,070 possibly contributed to the genocide of the Jews.
Senior public relations specialist of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania Vilma Juozevičiūtė says a further 985 people, perpetrators of Jewish genocide, were also discovered during the study, people who do not appear on the Israeli website.
“Checking the list took three years. Center specialists, performing historical research, did not limit themselves to public information: applying scientific methods, they studied different sources and archival data. In this way as well 985 people were discovered who possibly took part in carrying out the genocide of the Jews, but their names were not on the list published on the aforementioned website. Therefore, the result of this research is that 2,055 people were identified who contributed to the genocide of the Jews.”
According to Dr. Alfredas Rukšėnas of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, who took part in the study and coordinated it, there were also names included on the list published of Lithuanian partisans, but that the studies performed did not confirm that most of them had taken part in the genocide of the Jews.
“There were people presented on the list provided on the website of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel who, viewed superficially, might have been identified as leaders of Lithuanian partisans. As exhaustive scientific investigations were made, no data were found about famous partisan leaders such as Jonas Žemaitis-Vytautas, Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas and Juozas Lukša-Daumantas participating in the mass murder of Jews. But Juozas Krikštaponis (commander of the partisans of the Vytis military district, perished in 1945 -ed.) named on the list truly did participate in the liquidation of the Rudensk ghetto in Belarus in October of 1945 and in an operation to shoot prisoners of war.”
Rukšėnas also says that people for whose participation in the genocide of Jews data were found during the study could be tentatively categorized as direct and indirect participants. While 534 people participated directly in the mass murder of Jews (they shot them), 536 people were indirectly connected with the mass murder of Jews: they to a greater or lesser extent contributed to preparatory tasks for murder operations, guarded the detainees and execution sites, seized property of the murdered Jews and so on.
Dr. Rukšėnas says there really were people among the ranks of the post-war resistors who had participated in the murder of Jews during the time of the Nazi German occupation, but firmly rejects the opinion that the majority of partisans took part in the genocide of the Jews 1941-1944.
“There was a handful connected with the genocide of the Jews, because they served in the Lithuanian self-defense battalions in 1941. All the Jew-shooters, not just the partisans, belonged to different organized Lithuanian structures which were subordinate to Nazi Germany. On the one hand, they were forced to become participants in genocide because of their military duty, but on the other hand [they were compelled by] fear of not carrying out orders, hatred, the desire to acquire wealth using a favorable situation. In any event the main motive was military duty, i.e., orders were received,” the historian said.
About 195,000-196,000 Lithuanian citizens of Jewish ethnicity were murdered during the period of the Nazi German occupation from 1941 till 1944.