Tag Archives: Holocaust museums
by Dovid Katz
This paper appeared today in Dapim: Studies on the Holocaust, published by Taylor and Francis.
ABSTRACT: In contrast to twentieth-century Holocaust Denial, the most recent assault on the narrative of the genocide of European Jewry has emanated from a sophisticated revisionist model known as Double Genocide, codified in the 2008 Prague Declaration. Positing “equality” of Nazi and Soviet crimes, the paradigm’s corollaries sometimes include attempts to rehabilitate perpetrators and discredit survivors. Emanating from pro-Western governments and elites in Eastern Europe in countries with records of high collaboration, the movement has reached out widely to the Holocaust Studies establishment as well as Jewish institutions. It occasionally enjoys the political support of major Western countries in the context of East-West politics, or in the case of Israel, attempts to garner (eastern) European Union support. The empirical effects to date have included demonstrable impact on museums, memorials and exhibits in Eastern Europe and beyond.
The demise of twentieth-century-style Holocaust denial in mainstream Western society is aptly symbolized by David Irving’s loss to Deborah Lipstadt in the London High Court in 2000. But around the same time, a new and more irksome method of writing the Holocaust out of history was emerging under the radar, this time without necessarily denying any of the historical events or a single death. Particularly in Eastern Europe, it was being forged with state funding and more subtle powers of persuasion in academia, the media, the arts and international diplomacy.
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.
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
Christmas-time congratulations are due to the four architects who have won the Vilnius state Jewish museum’s competition for plans to build a Holocaust museum at the mass murder site known as Ponár in Yiddish, Ponary before the war in Polish, and currently Lithuanian Paneriai. It is a short ride outside the capital city Vilnius. The victory of the foursome, Jautra Bernotaitė, Ronaldas Pučka (team leader), Andrius Ropolas and Paulius Vaitiekūnas, is announced on the museum’s website (and on Mr. Ropolas’s site). The competition was jointly run with the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania. The elaborate description of the project’s conception, by the Union of Architects, includes many sophisticated concepts, with multiple learned citations, from Freud to Foucault. Just one rather simpler word, a word (and exhibit) needed for any Holocaust museum, is missing from the text: collaboration.