Books

Can Timothy Snyder’s ‘Bloodlands’ be Appropriated by East European Nationalists?



O P I N I O N

by Per Rudling

The great strength of Professor Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands (Basic Books, 2010) is that it contextualizes the violent 1930s and 1940s in Eastern Europe.

FOR MORE SEE DEFENDING HISTORY’S PAGE ON RESPONSES TO TIMOTHY SNYDER

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On Snyder’s Conceptualization of the Final Solution ‘in the Bloodlands’


 


O P I N I O N

by Rachel Croucher

I have read and re-read the chapter entitled “Final Solution” in Timothy Snyder’s major new book, Bloodlands (Basic Books 2010), in an attempt to garner further insight into events surrounding the genocide of the Jews in Eastern Europe for a dissertation on contemporary Holocaust remembrance precisely in the countries of these so-called Bloodlands, and with emphasis upon Lithuania. I had hoped that the chapter would expand my knowledge on the specifics of and motivations for the disturbingly high levels of local participation in the actual mass-murdering (far beyond just collaboration) in these countries.

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Wyman Brent Voices Fear his Vilnius Library Could Become Vehicle to “Whitewash and Obfuscate History and Cover for Rampant Antisemitism”



O P I N I O N

by Wyman Brent

I have a concern which I am sure that the readers of DefendingHistory.com share. I am talking about the possibility of the Vilnius Jewish Library becoming a vehicle for certain elements of the Lithuanian government to continue to whitewash and obfuscate history and to cover up for the antisemitism currently rampant here.

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Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe reviews Timothy Snyder’s ‘Bloodlands’



O P I N I O N

by Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe (Berlin)

Review of Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands. Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, Basic Books: New York 2010. This review first appeared in German in H-Soz-u-Kult (online version here; PDF here). This English version and publication in DefendingHistory.com are by authorization of the author and H-Soz-u-Kult, which has kindly supplied the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2011 by H-Net, Clio-online, and the author, all rights reserved. This work may be copied and redistributed for non-commercial, educational purposes, if permission is granted by the author and usage right holders. For permission please contact H-SOZ-U-KULT@H-NET.MSU.EDU.

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Dovid Katz Reviews Timothy Snyder’s ‘Bloodlands’ & Alexander Prusin’s ‘Lands Between’



O P I N I O N

by Dovid Katz (Vilnius)

Not for the first time, two fine historians have published in the same year their very different syntheses for the wider public, on the same topic, and based largely on known published sources, both having long proven their mettle as master researchers in previous publications rooted in archives and primary documents.

On this occasion the resulting contrast is unusually startling. One of these books, Alexander Prusin’s The Lands Between, is a meticulously balanced and historically authoritative, but conventional and somewhat lacklustre history that will appeal to lecturers looking for a solid textbook on twentieth-century East European history and, of course, history buffs ever fascinated by the Second World War.

Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, by contrast, is the work of a literary master who has what it takes to write a thriller. Deservedly, his book has captured the imagination of vast numbers of readers and pundits alike. It is also the work of a humanistic thinker who does not beat around the bush and has – very justifiably – made wilful state mass murder his topic, leading him to grapple with murder en masse, a forever captivating topic, all the more so within the Hitler–Stalin complex of issues that continue to fascinate, daunt and rebound potently in today’s geopolitics.

Yet Snyder’s Bloodlands suffers from some cardinal biases that are all the more regrettable in such a masterly and popular work. First, though, it is prudent to briefly cover the book’s scope and at least a few of its highly consequential virtues.

READ MORE IN EAST EUROPEAN JEWISH AFFAIRS

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David Silberman — A Witness for Our Time



by Roland Binet (Belgium)

David Silberman was born in Latvia in 1934. As a Jew of young age when the war came upon his country of birth, he was fated to die.1 Because, when the Germans conquered Latvia in June and July 1941, spontaneous as well as induced pogroms developed in different parts of the country with thousands of Jewish victims. Then, as early as July and August 1941 ― in bloody actions by Einsatzgruppe A as well as by autonomous Latvian self-proclaimed guardians ― the Jews began systematically to be killed, even long before the decision of the “Endlösung” (Final Solution) of the “Jewish problem” had finally been taken in Berlin.2

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A Tale of Two Brents?



by Lolita Židonytė

Which of two Brents will have for his institution the 200,000 euros from the Lithuanian government for a cherished Jewish project in Vilnius?

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Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Gloats, as Yivo’s Position Continues to Confuse


At 10:27 AM Vilnius time today, BNS (Baltic News Service) released the triumphant news from the country’s foreign ministry that ‘A Yivo room is planned at the National Library of Martynas Mažvydas in Vilnius shortly’. As one foreign diplomat put it, off the record, several hours later at today’s commemoration event for the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto, ‘The operative word there is shortly’  — signifying a done deal.

There was symbolic significance to the announcement’s timing, coming on the 23 September anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto.

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Head of History Institute, Speaking at ‘Bloodlands’ Event at the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, Excoriates Holocaust Survivors who Joined the Anti-Nazi Partisans


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.

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Tripletalk on the New ‘Looted Books Room’ at the National Library in Vilnius


Yivo’s director, one of the current Lithuanian government’s staunchest PR providers in the west (see here, here, here, here), recently told the English Forward that ‘he would continue to work with the Lithuanian government to reach a permanent settlement over the archive’, implying that the Yivo Board would be making its decision in due course.

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Strasti za Banderoju (‘Bandera Passion’)


 


B O O K S  /  O P I N I O N

by Franziska Bruder

The 2010 anthology Strasti za Banderoju (Bandera  Passion, alternate translations include Bandera Ecstasy or Bandera-mania), edited by Tarik Syril Amar, Ihor Balyns’kyi and Iaroslav Hrytsak, assembles key contributions to three debates conducted in the years 2009-2010 around the person of Stepan Bandera, leader of the main wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).

The first debate, staged on an Internet platform in L’viv in 2009, was occasioned by Bandera’s 100th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his assassination. It was followed in 2010 by another round triggered by then-Ukrainian president Viktor Iushchenko’s decision to convey upon Bandera the title Hero of Ukraine.  The editors divided that second round into two parts: the debate conducted in Ukraine and the debate conducted in North America.

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Why I am Translating Rozka Korczak’s Vilna Ghetto Memoir



O P I N I O N

by Evaldas Balčiūnas

The Vilna Ghetto memoir of Rozka Korczak-Marlé (1921–1988) is unfortunately completely unknown to Lithuanians today. I have therefore decided to translate the book into Lithuanian (from the Russian edition that Korczak herself edited), and have published two samples, here and here, on Anarchija.lt.

Rozka Korczak came to Lithuania to seek refuge from Hitler-occupied Poland in late 1939 and went on to become a major partisan hero in the anti-Nazi resistance in the Vilna Ghetto and then in the forests of Lithuania. There are numerous internet sources on her biography (e.g. here, here).

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An Open Letter to Yale History Professor Timothy Snyder



 O P I N I O N

by Dovid Katz

NOTE: This is an authorized republication of today’s letter, which first appeared in the online Algemeiner Journal. [Update: It then appeared in the AJ’s print edition on 25 May, pp. 2, 4, 5.]


 

Dear Tim,

Greetings, and sorry we missed each other in Vilnius this time. I write in the context of our ongoing and respectful conversation, which started in the Guardian (thanks to Matt Seaton, and prominently including Efraim Zuroff) back in 2010 (IIIIIIIV); continuing through our meeting at Yale, the Aftermath Conference in Melbourne, Australia, in 2011 (thanks to Mark Baker, and with participation of Jan Gross and Patrick Desbois), and more recently, via my review of your book Bloodlands (along with Alexander Prusin’s The Lands Between), in East European Jewish Affairs.

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Efraim Zuroff Responds to Tablet Magazine Essay on Timothy Snyder



O P I N I O N

by Efraim Zuroff

  • The following comment first appeared in the discussion following David Mikics’s Tablet magazine article on Timothy Snyder (“The Diplomat of Shoah History. Does Yale historian Timothy Snyder absolve Eastern Europe of special complicity in the Holocaust?”). It is reproduced here with Dr. Zuroff’s permission. For further background, see the links below.

Unfortunately, this excellent article by David Mikics focuses almost exclusively on Poland, which for historical reasons is not the place where Snyder’s Bloodlands totally fails to present a historical account of the reality of the Holocaust. A far better place would be the Baltics in general, and Lithuania in particular. In these countries, three important phenomena took place:

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Journey into the Backwaters of Holocaust Obfuscation



B O O K S

by Geoff Vasil

Journey into the Backwaters of the Heart: Stories of Women Who Survived Hitler and Stalin by Laima Vince. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform: 2012.


The first problem the reader comes across is in the introduction, where the author asserts two waves of Jewish immigration into Lithuania in the 8th and 11th centuries. Much later in the book she says, twice, Jews settled in Lithuania in the 16th century, a claim that leaves the informed reader wondering for whom the grand duke Vytautas (Witold) issued his famous charters on the rights of Jews in the 14th century.

The introduction also presents the events of 1940 and 1941 in Lithuania in a manner calculated to make the reader think the Lithuanian Provisional Government of 1941 and the Lithuanian Activist Front were two altogether separate entities.

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Landsbergis Tries Yet Again to Fix Reputation of 1941 Nazi Puppet Prime Minister



O P I N I O N   /  E Y E W I T N E S S    R E P O R T

by Geoff Vasil

 

In the tradition of totalitarian societies, a certain segment of the Lithuanian political spectrum found it inconceivable there should be protests over the repatriation and reburial of Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis, the Nazi puppet prime minister of Lithuania in 1941.

The reburial ceremonies took place earlier this year with state support and accompanying civil and church ceremonies.

DefendingHistory and a number of Lithuanian politicians, writers and public figures protested against the reburial, while many “formers”—foremost former Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus, who himself served under Nazi command in Lithuania in 1944—conspicuously attended the reburial in Kaunas.

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Self-Induced Confusion



B O O K S

by Olga Zabludoff

Review of We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust by Ellen Cassedy. University of Nebraska Press, 2012.


Had this title been billed as a simple memoir of Cassedy’s trip to Lithuania in the summer of 2004, my criticism of her book would be tempered. She had gone to the land of her ancestors to study Yiddish at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute and to connect with her Jewish roots. The professors and mentors she encounters at the Yiddish Institute come alive, as do the various Lithuanians and Jews with whom she connects. Cassedy is a good writer who captures physical details well. But even at that, this reviewer found the memoir to be superficial.

The major problem is that Cassedy’s book is being promoted as the Bible of the Lithuanian Holocaust by advocates for the current Lithuanian government and elite establishment which aspire to paint for the outside world a distorted version of the Holocaust. A version defined in shades of gray and the confusion they generate.  A version that incorporates the mythology of equivalency between crimes committed by the Nazi and Soviet occupation regimes.

SEE ALSO THE REVIEWS BY

Dovid Katz in the Algemeiner Journal

Allan Nadler in the Forward

Efraim Zuroff in Haaretz

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The Real Truth



O P I N I O N

by Efraim Zuroff

Note: The following letter to the editor in today’s edition of the Baltimore Jewish Times is republished here with the author’s permission. 


 

According to the title chosen for Simone Ellin’s review (Oct. 19) of Ellen Cassedy’s book, We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust, the author “explores the Lithuanian Holocaust from all vantage points.” In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Cassedy neglects the most important vantage point of the history of the Shoa in Lithuania, the uniquely extensive role played by Lithuanians in the mass murder of Jews (not only in Lithuania, but also in Belarus and Poland), a fact incredibly omitted from Ellin’s review. In that respect, it is clear that Ellin was so captivated by Cassedy’s narrative that she failed to realize that the author presented her readers with a very one-sided picture of contemporary Lithuanian-Jewish relations in the wake of the Holocaust.

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Landsbergis’s New Book Tries (Yet Again) to Sanitize the 1941 Hitlerist “Provisional Government” of Lithuania



B O O K S

by Geoff Vasil

Vytautas Landsbergis, Rezistencijos pradžia [“The Beginning of the Resistance: June 1941: Documents on the Six-Week Provisional Government of Lithuania”], Vilnius 2012.


MEP Vytautas Landsbergis, former speaker of the Lithuanian parliament and leader of the Lithuanian independence movement in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, unveiled his latest polemic at a ceremony cum press conference held on the first floor of the Signatarų Namai building in Vilnius’s Old Town on September 11, 2012, the historic site where Lithuanian independence was proclaimed from the balcony to the street below sometime around February 16, 1918.

This small book—there’s only 22 pages written by Landsbergis, the rest is a motley collection of supposedly historic documents—is an attempt to answer criticism of the Lithuanian Government and Catholic Church’s ceremonial reburial of Lithuanian Nazi puppet prime minister Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis and other concurrent celebrations in the spring of 2012.

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US State Department Supporting Cassedy Book Tour Without Inclusion of Opposing Points of View


As readers of Defending History are aware, many American citizens and others who care deeply about the memory of the Holocaust being accurately transmitted have been devastated by the shift in US State Department policy toward appeasement of far-right Baltic revisionism, apparently in the context of various geopolitical issues. The topic is the focus of a section of DH.

BACKGROUND READING

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