The following is the text of a letter to the editor sent to the New York Times on 8 March 2014 in response to Roger Cohen’s “Ukraine Fights for its Truth.” As it was not published, it is now included here for the record, and for the sake of the continuing discussion. The embedded links, and square-bracketed updates, have been added today.
Even the brightest can have a blind spot. Yet again, razor-sharp, liberal humanist Roger Cohen has been taken in by PR from the ultranationalists in Eastern Europe. Missing from his “Ukraine Fights for its Truth” (INYT, 6 March) — where he discusses both Ukraine and his ancestral town here in Lithuania — is all that is wrong with the revisionist narrative that is based on a far-right rewriting of history known as “Double Genocide.”
E Y E W I T N E S S R E P O R T
Žagarė (known in Yiddish as Zháger), Lithuania, always brings a warm feeling. It is a small, multicultural town. While Jews long accounted for half the population, unfortunately they are only a memory now. Germans, Latvians, Roma and Lithuanians continue to live here. There was room enough for everyone up until 1941.
I had the opportunity today to visit Žagarė to honor those who sought to insure that Žagarė would continue to have enough space for everyone. I traveled to a ceremony to honor Edvardas Levinskas (1893-1975), Terese Levinskienė (1903-1949) and Lilija Vilandaitė (1900-1948), posthumous recipients of the Righteous Among the Nations, or Righteous Gentile, award, conferred by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
O N – S I T E R E P O R T / O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
ZHAGER, northern Lithuania. Over a hundred people gathered here today on the historic town square to unveil a trilingual plaque memorializing the erstwhile Jewish population of thousands in the town, today Žagarė. The event was incorporated into the annual Cherry Festival and suitably entitled “You can’t fudge the history.”
THE QUESTION: IS IT THE ONLY TOWN-CENTER IN ALL THE LAND WITH CLEAR AND TRUE WORDS ON THE TRUE FATE OF THE JEWISH POPULATION?
The text — in English, Lithuanian and Yiddish — summarizes the unvarnished history, with prominent reference to local Lithuanian collaboration (though historians will quibble with the use of “some” in place of “many” among other points). It is placed right in the center of town, rather than at a mass grave site deep in the forest; that might well be a first in modern Lithuanian history.
Posted in "Vilnius Jewish Public Library", Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Dovid Katz, Events, Exotic Jewish Tourism, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, South Africa, The Great SLS About-Face, Zháger (Žagarė)
Tagged Azubalis, Cliff Marks, Holocaust in Lithuania, Jewish + Lithuania, Lithuanian shtetl, Litvak, Roger Cohen, Valdas Balciunas, Zagare, Zhager, Zhager (Zagare)