On Friday 9 October 2015, the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Fund Society presented the results of their work on the project Lost Shtetl. There were, taken together, over two hundred visitors on the day. They included pupils of Vilnius’s Sholem Aleichem school and of the Šeduva high school, representatives of the Jewish community of Šiauliai (Shavl), Lithuanian Jewish Community chairperson Faina Kukliansky, the mayors of nearby towns, a deputy minister of foreign affairs, and ambassadors or embassy representatives of many countries, including the Netherlands, Japan, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, and Ukraine.
In the midst of this past summer’s heatwave here in Lithuania, Delfi.lt, one of the most popular news portals in the land, exploded with discussions on commemorations and memorials for Nazi collaborators in our country. Rimvydas Valatka, a columnist for the portal and signatory of the Declaration of Independence, started it all with his article of 26 July. The “current events background” was the recent removal of the controversial Soviet-era statues of soldiers on Vilnius’s Green Bridge. Valatka, a veteran of Lithuanian journalism with the rarefied street-cred of a Declaration of Independence signatory, appealed for removal of the memorial plaque for Nazi collaborator Jonas Noreika (“Generolas Vėtra”) from a central Vilnius library building, and wrote about a petition for its removal signed by a group of intellectuals and public figures, and addressed to the mayor of Vilnius as well as to the director of the relevant library (Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences), where the plaque hangs prominently in the heart of Lithuania’s capital.
The stone honoring Holocaust collaborator Jonas Noreika tops the lot on the facade of the Genocide Museum on Gedimino Boulevard in the Lithuanian capital, a stone’s throw from the nation’s parliament. When are we going to stop glorifying those who helped annihilate Lithuanian Jewry during the Holocaust? When is this going to come down?
Last week, there was a flurry of reports in the Lithuanian media about human skeletons and personal effects turning up during routine roadworks at Pročiūnai in the region of Šiauliai (in Jewish history: Shavl). Reports and gory pictures appeared among other places in 15min.lt; Etaplius.lt; Skrastas.lt and Snaujienos.lt. I myself, a concerned resident of Šiauliai, commented on the subject on my own blog (here and here). Various articles published contained theorizations about the buried here being victims of Soviet crimes or even equally of Nazi and Soviet crimes.
Monday 13 July. It is probably correct to say that the international scandal was set alight when the “routine” BNS (Baltic News Service) report appeared in English in the Lithuania Tribune (amalgamated with English Delfi). The archaeologist placed in charge by the local government of the investigation of the human remains, Audronė Šapaitė, is quoted in the article as presenting the following certain conclusions. Excerpts follow:
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February 16th in Kaunas. The Kaunas municipal administration was asked by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Efraim Zuroff and Defending History’s editor Dovid Katz not to allow this march for a number of reasons. The Kaunas municipality saw no problem and allowed the march to go ahead. As in earlier years, a Defending History team observed the march. The Kaunas Antifa organization decided not to hold a protest this year, so I was at liberty to be present as part of the DefendingHistory team.
O B I T U A R Y
Aleksandras Bosas, a respected Lithuanian poet, died unexpectedly on July 24, 2014. The wider Defending History community extends deepest condolences to the family and friends of our suddenly departed colleague, who is survived by his wife, Natalija, three sons and a daughter.
We have lost a courageously active literary voice against fascism and against the contemporary attempts at high levels to glorify fascism via posthumous honors for collaborators and local perpetrators of the Lithuanian Holocaust.
At the beginning of 2014 his book of poems dedicated to commemorating the Holocaust in Lithuania appeared. It is called Iš ten sugrįžtantiems (“For Those Who Returned from There”).
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Translated from the Lithuanian by Geoff Vasil. Final version approved by the author.
Much has been said about recent history policy in Lithuania. What this means, different speakers understand differently. It probably isn’t wise to dwell long on the concept. Let’s just say “history policy” is the interpretation of historical events provided by state institutions and officials.
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The truth is specific. I will give one example of how this appears in our and neighboring states and how that illuminates the history of our state.
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Adolfas Ramanauskas Vanagas was a well-known post-war partisan commander. Here’s what the Center for the Study of the Genocide of the Residents of Lithuania has to say about him on their website:
Authorized translation from the Lithuanian original by Geoff Vasil.
Today Sergijus Staniškis Litas is presented as a noble partisan commander who concentrated his unusual skills on battling the occupiers. At least that’s how the writers of the Lithuanian Center for the Study of Genocide and Resistance present him on their webpage at http://www.genocid.lt/datos/stanisk.htm.
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Authorized translation from Lithuanian by Geoff Vasil
This week the Lithuanian government resolved not to grant so-called hero’s pensions to surviving rescuers of Jews.
The decision is an odd one and raises doubts concerning the values to which this government claims to adhere. Although truth be told, this isn’t the first instance of unseemly conduct showing disrespect to hundreds of thousands of people murdered just because they were Jewish and towards those Lithuanians who attempted to save those scheduled for execution.
Where did the Money for a Monument to 1941 “Patriots” Come from? Why the Uncritical Reconstruction and Glorification Now?
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Defending History reported earlier on the attempt to restore a monument in Obeliai (Abél in Yiddish), a town in northeastern Lithuania, not far from the Latvian border.
It is an unpleasant story and one that is still developing. Although seven decades have passed since the mass murder of the Jews of Abél, some people think that everyone has forgotten who carried out that mass murder.