MUSEUMS | MEDIA WATCH | DOUBLE GENOCIDE | POLITICS OF MEMORY
VILNIUS—Yet another major American newspaper, this time the San Francisco Examiner, has done a fine travel report on Vilnius, the beautiful capital of Lithuania, but with perhaps naive and uncritical treatment of one of the city’s less savory sites that is a product of the far-right history revisionism of the ultranationalist camp. It is the city center’s so-called “Museum of Genocide Victims” that is mostly dedicated to the genocide that did not happen in Lithuania (during the dictatorial Soviets’ misrule), while making national heroes of some of the local collaborators including actual killers) in the Holocaust — the genocide that did take place, resulting in the annihilation of 96.4% of Lithuanian Jewry, the highest percentage in Holocaust-era Europe. The conceptual backdrop is the thriving Double Genocide movement in this part of the world.
The Examiner article reports that “Gediminas Avenue, the main artery through the city […] ends up at the Museum of Genocide Victims, the location of the 20th century Soviet KGB prison. […] The Museum is a very powerful statement to the horrors mankind can inflict on humanity.” Not a word about the fact that the same building was also a Gestapo headquarters during the Holocaust where the murders of 100,000 citizens at nearby Ponár (Paneriai) were coordinated, nor about the massive glorification of Holocaust collaborators throughout the building.
Over the years, the museum has featured antisemitic exhibits implying that the Jews were in effect the nation’s Communist tormentors and a major hall still idolizes the local killers as anti-Soviet rebels who drove out the Soviets (an abject historic nonsense, the Soviets were fleeing Hitler’s invasion, Operation Barbarossa, the largest invasion in human history, not the local Jew-killers). Until Defending History‘s expose in 2010, the word “Holocaust” was not even mentioned in a museum about local genocide, and this on ground zero of the East European Holocaust.
The ins-and-outs of the San Francisco Examiner’s “The Old World Charm, And New World Feel, of Vilnius, Lithuania” by Jonathan Rome, published on 22 May 2016, are essentially covered in Defending History response to a somewhat parallel article by Sarah Khan, “36 Hours in Vilnius, Lithuania” in the New York Times on 8 July 2015. But the context differed in so far as a longer series, over some years, of allegedly one-sided New York Times treatments of Holocaust issues in Lithuania came into play.
Back in 2008, seasoned London Guardian reporter Jonathan Steele could not be taken for this ride during his visit to Vilnius.
It seems, incidentally, that many Western reporters just miss this city’s modest, wooden Holocaust museum, the Green House, that sits atop a driveway that goes up a steep hill, and is not easy to see from the street.