Rwandan Genocide Remembrance Deserves Better than Being Lassoed into Baltic Holocaust Obfuscation Politics


by Dovid Katz

Published reports today provided details and images of the solemn, significant, and meaningful April 24th commemoration ceremony remembering the victims of the Rwanda Genocide of the Tutsi. The commemoration event was organized by a partnership that included Vilnius’s Genocide Center and the Embassy of Rwanda. Among the participants was the ambassador of Rwanda, HE Olivier J.P. Nduhungirehe, resident in the Hague, whose remit includes also Lithuania.

The Defending History community avidly supports remembrance of the Rwandan Genocide, and all genocides.

The problem here in Vilnius is that such events are often subtly (or not so subtly) part of a program to legitimize and cover up for systematic and institutional downgrade, relativization and obfuscation of the Holocaust — the genocide that happened “right here” and resulted in the massacre of around 96% of Lithuanian Jewry, one of the highest rates in Europe. Even more painfully, the same efforts usually extend to the (ab)use of vast budgets and corralled academic knowhow to find ways and means to perpetuate state-sponsored glorification of actual Holocaust collaborators and perpetrators, or, in the more public arena, to invest fortunes in Judaic, Yiddish and (indeed) Holocaust events to cover up for, and deflect from the same.

The welcoming address was delivered by the director of the Genocide Center, who has in the past proudly delivered far-right discourses celebrating the events of 23 June 1941 flanked by banners of major Holocaust collaborators. The Genocide Center, like the (renamed) Genocide Museum here, promotes the glorification of Holocaust collaborators, diminution of the Holocaust, and a far-right ultranationalist agenda that is unfairly damaging to the people of Lithuania whose taxpayer euros could be much better spent. Initiatives have included East European legislation to redefine “genocide” to match the local far right’s Double Genocide revisionism of World War II, in the Baltics and beyond.

For the proverbial salt poured on the wounds, the event was held in the “Tuskulėnai Peace Park” (Tuskulėnų rimties parko memorialinis kompleksas), where brutal Holocaust collaborators are among those glorified. Perhaps the Genocide Centre history-fixers thought that Rwanda and the tragedy of the Tutsi can help tidy up and kosherize the international reputations of the Genocide Center and Tuskulenai Park. On this “Peace Park” see the well-known article by the late Milan Chersonski (1937-2021), longtime editor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s fabled quadrilingual newspaper, “Jerusalem of Lithuania,” whose work regularly appeared in Defending History after the newspaper’s closure. See also Defending History’s section on the “Peace Park” and its implications, and DH’s section (and page) on the Genocide Center.

Frankly speaking, the hallowed memory of the annihilated Tutsi of Rwanda deserves much better.

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