VILNIUS—Even as various government bodies in Eastern Europe name years (and for that matter streets and lecture halls and squares) for Holocaust collaborators or, on occasion, “just” leaders of fascist militias during the Holocaust (sometimes also for export to America), Defending History continues, in the spirit of our 2018 decision, to continue to honor East European patriots who fought for their country’s independence and then went on, over two decades later, during the Holocaust, to just do the right thing and save Jewish neighbors threatened with certain murder by reason of their birth, and with the support of the then “nationalist forces” in partnership with the Nazis. For all of 2018, Malvina Šokelytė Valeikienė (1898-1981) was our Person of the Year.
Today, we name Jonas Paulavičius (1858-1952) Person of the Year for 2019. Exactly one hundred years ago, in 1919, he rushed to volunteer to the new Lithuania Army’s call for volunteers to fight for the country’s newly declared independence. Then, when the Holocaust came around, he and his family risked everything to rescue 12 Jews, two Russian POWs, and two Lithuanians persecuted by the Nazis. He was himself shot dead after the war, in 1952, in a still-unsolved (and underinvestigated) 1952 murder.
The free and democratic countries of Eastern Europe have their great heroes. They should be celebrated by all humanity. At the same time, we must keep up vigilance and rapidly and robustly object to the honoring of Nazi collaborators by towns, cities, states and parliaments, and stand up to the nonsense that one can be sincere in honoring the victims or their culture while also honoring the perpetrators. Elementary, really.