O P I N I O N
by Olga Zabludoff
Note: The following letter to the editor appeared in today’s Baltimore Sun. It is republished here by permission of the author. [Update of 2 May 2012: The editor of VilNews, in a 29 April article, said of the letter’s author: “In this case, she goes too far.” This in turn elicited a response from the editor of DefendingHistory on 1 May.]
In response to Ellen Cassedy’s “We are here” (April 18), I offer a second opinion.
Can there be hope for a country that claimed the highest percentage of Jewish deaths in all of Europe? More than 95 percent of Lithuania’s Jews were annihilated — most of them murdered by Lithuanian collaborators who began the frenzied executions of their Jewish neighbors even before the Germans had marched into Lithuania. Yes, there can be hope — if lessons are learned from their past and if the truth is faced by this nation which is now an EU/NATO democracy.
Instead, the government is investing energy and funds into PR campaigns designed to sanitize Lithuania’s tarnished image. Articles like Ms. Cassedy’s, which praise the “cross-cultural” events held at the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and give stoic accounts about Holocaust education programs in Lithuania, are worked into the global mass media in order to mold a new face for Lithuania. But Lithuania’s new face sculpted by her PR meisters lacks credibility.
Consider the following:
• Significant increases in antisemitism and antisemitic incidents. No arrests have been made.
• Annual massive neo-Nazi marches since 2008 in Vilnius and Kaunas sanctioned by the government.
• Not a single Lithuanian war criminal has been punished. It is documented that a minimum of 15,000 Lithuanians participated actively in murdering Jews.
• Government prosecutors have harassed aging Jewish survivors in Vilnius and Israel with charges of “war crimes” because they had fought against the Nazis.
• The concept of a Double Genocide is marketed ad nauseam. This is one step up the ladder from Holocaust Denial. The only genocide in Lithuania was the Holocaust.
If there is hope for the future of Lithuania, there are few signs yet. While there are some outspoken individuals and a handful of members of the Seimas (parliament) who have stood up courageously against ultranationalist views — with the consequence of being ostracized publicly by political leaders — the government will have to demonstrate real sincerity and eradicate the charade it has been running.
Perhaps instead of hiring PR firms, Lithuania ought to follow Germany for lessons on how to deal with its Holocaust past. Present-day Germany has absolved itself in the eyes of the world. What it took was honesty.
- Olga Zabludoff
- Washington, DC