Milan Chersonski, editor of the quadrilingual (English-Lithuanian-Russian-Yiddish) Jerusalem of Lithuania, official publication of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, has published a bold new essay, History: Education or Modern Politics.
The author opposes the Lithuanian government’s attempt to monopolize and dictate the ultranationalist version of history by effectively criminalizing the opinion that the Holocaust was the one genocide that occurred in the country in the twentieth century.
The law passed by the Lithuanian parliament and signed by the president last June, and which came into effect in July 2010, imposes jail sentences of up to two years for those who might dissent.
Chersonski laments the humiliating silence imposed on Lithuanian historians:
“Why did the debates about Lithuania’s history suddenly, as if by agreement, stop? Can it be that once again, as in Soviet times, one cannot freely discuss questions of history or express one’s own opinion? Why? For fear of the historical truth? A wish to ignore failures and defeats? A declared taboo to research them?
“Can it be that time in Lithuania has reverted to when only the one opinion — the official one — was permitted? In those days any other opinion was false and punishable: the disobedient ones were accused of slander against Soviet authority, and imprisoned.
“Unfortunately, today there is a serious explanation for the silence of Lithuanian historians: an amendment to Article 170-2 of the Lithuanian Criminal Code came into effect on July 20, 2010. It put an end to discussions about the issues of Lithuanian history from 1940 to 1990 that are specifically related to genocide. The Criminal Code Article unequivocally states that there were two genocides.
“And when issues of history are resolved not by historians but by judges, then the historians could face Criminal Code issues. […] Historians in Lithuania, now need to be careful, and to speak of the genocide in Lithuania either as it is laid out in the Criminal Code Article, or not at all.”
Chersonski’s essay contains an in-depth critique of the ultranationalist bias of much of recent Lithuanian historiography which is largely concerned with minimization or denial of the role of Lithuanian units in the genocide of Lithuanian Jewry, and with repeated attempts to glorify the perpetrators of the Holocaust for their ‘anti-Soviet’ accomplishments.
Milan Chersonski’s essay is available here.