O P I N I O N
by Geoff Vasil
The national Lithuanian television channel Lietuvos rytas TV recently (on May 4) broadcast a show by veteran talk-show host Rūta Grinevičiūtė (surname recently changed to Janutienė) called Nuoga Tiesa, “Naked Truth,” which posed the question, “Do you want the Jews to return again [sic] to Lithuania?” Viewers were invited to call in and/or vote by special telephone lines for Yes and No with a one euro toll per call. For that and a number of other reasons the entire program had something of the macabre about it, and although some of the guests made some important points, all of them seemed to miss certain glaring details which would have been the center of attention in the West.
The first slightly odd note was struck when the hostess Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė appeared with a shaved head. She said she would explain it, but never really did, saying only “sometimes doctors tell you you will lose your hair for one reason or another.” A public campaign was reportedly underway at the same time for people to shave their head to show solidarity with cancer patients, but Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė didn’t indicate that was the reason. When the program was posted to the internet on her program page, the initial segment had a title all its own, and wasn’t readily associated with the show on Jewish-Lithuanian issues. The second segment, more correctly identified, contained a large gap near the end. So Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė’s baldness was featured but not really explained, and something else was cut off as well. A hostess shaving her head right before a show about the Holocaust featuring a known neo-Nazi youth leader as one of its panelists would tend to send the wrong signal in the West of some sort of sympathies with the racist skinhead movement. In Lithuania, it was shrugged off, although showcased and left mysterious.
Julius Panka, the fascist youth organization leader was quickly introduced. He immediately launched into some rather sophisticated neo-Nazi spin control very characteristic of analogous movements in the West, designed entirely so that the Naked Lunch, or Naked Truth if you prefer, at the end of the fork is never apprehended before the propaganda ration is consumed, a series of sham, plausibly-deniable feints, false walls which eventually end at the killing pit, but never really end because the acolyte by the time he or she reaches that stage has become the True Believer, and now says sincerely the Jews needed to be murdered for a litany of crimes, spiritual, economic and racial. That’s the whole trick: keeping the public enthused and along for the ride until it’s too late to withdraw, and while it worked in the Third Reich, it hasn’t led to any tangible election victories in the West since about 1933.
Panka said specifically that if the topic of the show led to public discussion, it was a good thing. The fascist champion of freedom of speech and pluralism speaks. His next few statements also seemed reasonable on their face. He said his fascist youth group makes an annual pilgrimage to Paneriai (Yiddish Ponár) to honor the Lithuanian dead there. Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė almost choked trying to get her question out at this point, revealing a lack of knowledge and a complete lack of fluency in Lithuanian Holocaust Obfuscation. Panka patiently explained that no, he didn’t mean what she thought he meant, and that 84 members of the Lithuanian Vietinė rinktinė (Local Lithuanian Detachment / Territorial Defense Force / Litauische Sonderverbände) military grouping had been executed at Paneriai/Ponár by the Nazis. Ponár is, of course, the largest Holocaust mass murder site in Lithuania. The exact number of those killed there isn’t known with certainty, but the low-end estimates of the number of Jews killed there is at 70,000, in contrast to Panka’s 84 Lithuanian volunteers.
The Vietinė Rinktinė was essentially Lithuania’s answer to not having a Waffen SS division. Rather late in the game, in spring of 1944, as the front was basically knocking at the door in Eastern Lithuania, a Lithuanian soldier named Plechavičius proposed its formation as a pro-Nazi anti-Soviet self-defense force. A dispute arose between Plechavičius and his Nazi commanders over control of the force. Plechavičius reportedly refused to take an oath to Adolf Hitler, or refused to make the journey to visit a specific Nazi office to take the oath, fearing he would be “liquidated.” Another Lithuanian history myth has it Plechavičius refused to allow the troops to be placed under Nazi command because the Nazis intended not just to use them within Lithuania, but wanted to send them to “the Eastern Front” in spring of 1944, meaning probably a few kilometers into Belarus, or not that far away in any case. According to the myth of Lithuanian anti-Nazi resistance, Plechavičius balked at the export and wanted the troops to be a domestic anti-Soviet force exclusively. Whatever the true nature of the affair, Vietinė Rinktinė troops reportedly were part of the grouping under Nazi command, which Valdas Adamkus joined in the fall of 1945 near Plungė, Lithuania, in the west of the country, having been deployed there after arriving from Nazi Germany and reporting for duty to a Nazi officer named Möller. The Lithuanian story is that Plechavičius managed to tell “his” troops to run away to the forest before he was arrested by the Nazis for dereliction of duty, treason and whatever else they charged him with in order to shoot him. Some 84 of these Lithuanian troops were alleged to have been murdered by Nazi firing squad. Did this take place at Ponár? The only people who seem to think so is Panka’s colleague, a fellow fascist youth organization leader named Ričardas Čekutis. For all his faults, the usually Nazi-apologetic Arūnas Bubnys, a state-sponsored historian who engages in a sort of obfuscation all his own, doesn’t even go that far, and contents himself with noting the 84 of them were killed in Vilnius.
Panka said on the television program his group makes annual pilgrimages to honor these 84 at Ponár, and a “Lietuvininkai” [Lithuanian from East Prussia] named Jagomastas. Why is there a monument there to 84 Lithuanian victims of Naziism, given the site is mainly a Jewish mass grave? Is it another of those Double Genocide artifacts from the recent past, the same sort as the transformation of the museum at the base of the hill at the Ninth Fort into a museum of Jewish genocide under the Nazis and Lithuanian genocide under the Soviets? Do Čekutis and Panka now wrongly believe 84 (some sources say 83, others 86) Vietinė Rinktinė troops were murdered there by the Nazis based on the Lithuanian policy of misplacing monuments and misrepresenting atrocities committed against ethnic Lithuanians? Have the Lithuanian obfuscationists within the state bureaucracy now “evened the score” somehow by distorting history to make it appear as if the Vietinė Rinktinė soldiers were killed at Ponár?
The transmission of false history apparently works both ways, because Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė mere days after Panka’s appearance on national television decided to lay wreaths and pay tribute at an array of monuments at Ponár, including to Plechavičius’s troops and to the Polish Armia Krajowa, except on the monument there to murdered Soviet POWs, on VE day, May 8, as some sort of weird protest against Russia, Putin or something. There’s a major problem with the Soviet POWs plaque at Ponár as well, just to be fair, and the number inscribed on in is almost certainly incorrect, the calculation having been made to include a train full of Soviet POWs which went missing at some point but probably never arrived at Ponár, containing 6,000 or so of the approximately 7,000 mentioned on that plaque. The Nazis and Lithuanian Nazis were not in the habit of transporting their Soviet POWs to Ponár for execution, Ponár was reserved for murdering Jews, with some Poles included at certain times, and random local “Communists” also sometimes sent there for execution.
Almost eight years ago one of the newspaper websites in Vilnius or Kaunas carried the story of the Panka group’s pilgrimage to Ponár. The pictures were disturbing. The faces of the members of his group seemed distorted by a perverse glee, as if deep in their souls they knew what they were doing was sacrilegious, an offense against Heaven and the dead, but their minds having embraced some sort of intellectual gymnastics making the death by firing squad of 80 or so pro-Nazi troops for desertion equivalent to the mass murder of 100,000 men, women and children who never joined the Nazi, Soviet or Lithuanian side and were guilty merely of being Jews or Poles or perceived anti-Nazis. Their faces looked Satanic.
Near the beginning of her show Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė presented an interesting idea heard many times before: perhaps Lithuania owes some sort of karmic debt and the nation cannot progress, cannot emerge from the hole it finds itself in, until it deals with that debt.
Panka and Tomas Baranauskas, the Lithuanian nationalist historian, rebelled at such a notion and began talking about how “collective guilt” was wholly inappropriate, and in fact the whole concept, Baranauskas said, was what used to target Jews in World War II. Baranauskas tried to claim as well the Holocaust wasn’t really a part of Lithuanian history, since it was planned elsewhere and emanated from elsewhere. After roundly dismissing “collective guilt” Baranauskas and Panka quickly forgot their own words, and Panka said outright: “Guilt for the Holocaust belongs with the German people.” Baranauskas also tried to alienate the Holocaust and exile it from the national history which he perhaps still perceives as a tale of glory for the edification of future generations. As a rule, when Lithuanian leaders start decrying “collective guilt” and “collective punishment” it’s usually after they perceive their national honor has been impugned. In this case Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė asked why it was so hard to admit our grandparents had behaved horribly. Baranauskas apparently took this personally and said his grandparents had done nothing against Jews.
Panka again tried to play the Voice of Reason by saying Jews and Lithuanians had lived together in Lithuania since the 14th century and there was no antisemitism.
Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė allowed a caller, an elderly woman who called herself Rosytė, who claimed her family had rescued Jews, but said it was inappropriate to blame Lithuanians publicly for Holocaust crimes. “It isn’t allowable to say publicly on national television to all of Lithuania that we murdered Jews.” She questioned Rūta Vanagaitė’s patriotism in a specifically modern Lithuanian manner by asking her whether she had people in her family who were deported or imprisoned as political prisoners. Rūta Vanagaitė, the Holocaust activist and popular Lithuanian author, shot back that she did have Holocaust perpetrators in her immediate family, or at least she found indications of that, and these were the same people in her family who were sent to Siberia by the Soviets after the war.
At this point the macabre “poll” at the bottom of the screen indicated 53 euros had been spent in support of “returning Jews to Lithuania” and 91 euros had been spent to oppose the idea.
Some strange slips of the tongue had occurred by this point. When Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė posed her own question, “Do you want the Jews to return to Lithuania,” she then added quickly: “Not the same Jews, clearly, that would be stupid.” She was speaking of the dead. When Julius Panka defended his group’s annual march on Ponár against Vanagaitė’s claims they should honor all of the dead, not just the 80 or so Lithuanians there, but of course not actually there, Panka fired back almost reflexively, as if he had foreseen this, saying: “When you go to a cemetery, you visit your own grave.” That’s what he said literally in Lithuanian, a mistake, since people don’t usually visit their own, singular, grave, but that of dead relatives, friends or people whom they respect. This was accepted without comment by all of the panelists, as if he hadn’t misspoken at this point and hadn’t said something paradoxical about his own personal mortality.
Vanagaitė had pulled off the most spectacular Yom haShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) commemoration ever in Vilnius a few weeks prior to the show, and spoke about some antisemitic incidents involving primary school students who were used in the spectacular to form a human Star of David outside the Old Town Hall in Vilnius and then put on trains to ride out to Ponár and commemorate the dead there. “Let’s load the Jews into the wagons,” was one phrase Vanagaitė heard on the way to Ponár, but said the children turned quite sober after honoring the dead in Ponár. Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė, who at this point and during the entire program was clearly biased in favor of Holocaust education and acknowledgement of Lithuanian participation, apparently couldn’t resist an antisemitic joke here, although she put it onto the lips of others and claimed it was shocking, “What’s the difference between Santa Clause and Jews? Santa goes down the chimney, while Jews ….” Simonas Gurevičius, until just recently the executive director of the Lithuanian Jewish Community who has gone into the private sector in the last few weeks, said he had heard all sorts of similar things, “Juden raus” and “Heil Hitler” on the lips of the children while he walking with them during the event. He said Jews had never demanded an apology from Lithuanians and only wanted an acknowledgement of what really happened.
“The main point is to make sure in the future that these atrocities don’t happen again. Not just to Jews, but to anybody. And what’s the worst thing? Not understanding what happened here earlier, not knowing one’s own past, trying to say ‘Oh, that was the Soviets!’ or ‘Oh, it was the Nazis!’, we don’t say… Why don’t we ask, for example, how many Lithuanians were collaborators with the Soviets? For some reason when we say ‘collaborated with the Soviets’ we automatically think… And how many Jews was that? Why was it that the Jews were murdered? They were in the majority children, look, of 200,000 people how many of them were collaborators with the Soviets? The majority were children, grandparents, parents who never had anything at all to do with the Soviets. They were murdered for one reason alone: that they were born Jews. And we must remember that, everyone who gave a hand, it doesn’t matter who, whether Lithuanian or Polish or whatever, who saved a Jew during the war years, he didn’t just save one or two people, and it is not for no reason we say that he saved an entire world, he saved humanity. How should Jews say this? How do we say that we will never forget, neither the number of mass murders, nor the rescuers,” Simonas Gurevičius spoke passionately at this point above all attempts at interruption.
Panka responded by paraphrasing Baranauskas saying in the full Lithuanian subjunctive mood that Lithuanians would never have conceived of killing and would never have done it to the Jews with whom they had lived together for 600 years in peace except for “some domestic disputes, but that’s natural.” Although Lithuanian language is much more permissive in the use of the subjunctive mood than English and many other languages—“They even use it in official state documents and laws!” one Yugoslav exclaimed in disbelief to me once—it really does appear more than usual when Lithuanians engage in a certain brand of Holocaust distortion which is roughly an appeal to what Lithuanians can be expected reasonably to do as Lithuanians, as opposed to Papuans, Australian Aboriginals or Panamanians. The whole premise is chauvinist at its base, but the general idea is: “Lithuanians would never do that!” One writer, an ethnic Russian fluent in Lithuanian and wrapped up, apparently, in the Lithuanian self-hypnosis endless loop of Holocaust distortion and martyrdom under the two occupying powers (USSR and Nazi Germany, but no one cares about the Swedish occupation anymore, and the “Polish occupation” is such a matter of dispute it’s easier to ignore it completely) “argued” Lithuanians “wouldn’t have” engaged in the rounding up and summary murder of Jews in Vilnius at the end of June, 1941, because “Lithuanians had just got Vilnius back from the Poles” and, well, they weren’t and aren’t that kind of people. This was likely in response to third-hand recountings of what we know to be true from the testimonies of Holocaust survivors, including Grigoriy Shur, who tell how Lithuanians rounded up and murdered Jews in Vilnius in the very first days of the war. Kruk also describes efforts by pro-Nazi Lithuanians in Vilnius to enlist Nazi aid in ethnically cleansing Vilnius not just of the Jews, but of the Poles as well, who, they said, posed a greater threat to Adolf’s New Order. The use of the subjunctive as an argument in these sorts of disputes is almost always an appeal to Lithuanian sensibilities, to reasonableness and to the consensus reality construction in which most Lithuanians are still able to deny the Holocaust in Lithuania.
The vote-ticker at the bottom of the screen now shows 65:109 against the Jews.
Panka at this point pulls out the example of Vilnius being returned to Lithuania by Stalin to demonstrate how Jew-friendly the new Lithuanian government in Vilnius was. He claims the thousands of refugees who fled Poland found refuge here in 1939 as a result of Lithuanian Judeophilia, which is completely ahistorical. Polish Jews found help from Vilna Jews, not from ethnic Lithuanians as a rule, who were a total minority in Vilnius at that time in any event. The policy of the Lithuanian regime in Vilnius was not pro-Jewish either, and was more aimed at a sort of ethnic cleansing/Lithuanianization of government institutions there.
The vote-ticker at the bottom is now at 68:113 against the Jews.
Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė now calls upon Panka, according to some choreographed-prearranged script, to talk about the “Holocaust industry” as Norman Finkelstein conceives it. Panka now claims Finkelstein exposes Efraim Zuroff as a paid agent of the Kremlin, and places him with a whole slew of “marginal characters” who profit off of Jewish suffering. Vanagaitė counters saying Lithuania has this “Genocide Center” which apparently profits from the suffering of Lithuanians. Panka says the Genocide Center was established only recently, and so apparently is a different sort of beast. Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė tries and succeeds in steering Panka away from that issue to that of Jewish restitution in Lithuania. Panka says the Jews were made exceptional and that no other public organizations—apparently pre-WWII organizations, and he lists scouts, Futurists and others here—have received compensation. Panka says: “Now, this is blackmail at the international level, and this isn’t the Lithuanian Jewish community doing this,” looking at Gurevičius, “but the American Jewish community doing this, and they demand, they practically blackmail Lithuania…”
At 72:120, the vote-ticker worsens for the Jews.
Gurevičius now tries to address an earlier statement made by the opposition, saying even if he hadn’t thought up the Holocaust, but he committed Holocaust crimes, he was just as guilty, a sort of reversal of the usual thinking in conspiracy cases which has the actual perpetrator as the most guilty party and the idea-man as needing to be shown to be just as culpable. Baranauskas here interrupts and says “And who were these killers?” Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė again ruins the moment by inserting her question about passive complicity, when obviously both sides were about to get down to brass-tacks about active Lithuanian participation. Baranauskas at this point tries to claim the engineers of the Holocaust didn’t outnumber the rescuers, whatever that’s supposed to mean, and he’s told us already he thinks the organizers are all German. He says perhaps we shouldn’t mourn when we discuss the Holocaust, but rather take joy that there were, he claims, so many Lithuanian rescuers. “Why isn’t our first thought that we should be proud in this story?” he asked. “Why should we beat our chests? Why do I have to identify myself with some murderer?”
78:129 in Adolf’s favor.
Gurevičius agrees each and every rescuer must be celebrated, but counters that 95% of Lithuanian Jews were murdered, not rescued.
Baranauskas disputes the percentage, saying “On the ninety-five percent, first of all, those percentages are calculated in different ways, the figure varies from eighty percent or maybe even less up to ninety-five percent, but of course the tragedy is not smaller because of it.” He lost his train of thought here, but Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė pipes up with: “But the children, why murder the children?”
“Who did the murdering?” Baranauskas asked.
“Lithuanians kill Lithuanian children,” Panka said. “Again, we’re sticking that question into a place where it doesn’t belong.”
“Why murder the Jews? Well, let’s say that ideology encouraged certain things, right?” Baranauskas said. “There was collective guilt. And now you’re proposing collective guilt of the Lithuanians. This is actually another side of the exact same ideology.”
Vanagaitė says “But what about understanding and education, instead of assigning guilt? Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again!”
Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė here solicits a comment from Darius Kuolys, an intellectual, author and former advisor to Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus, himself tainted with a past involving brief service under Nazi command in Lithuania in late 1945.
“I think what’s really important is not being proud, you see, but taking a sober look at what happened, and what happened was a tragedy which needs to be examined and, really, shown to the youth to help them understand and comprehend, and we have great literary works about this. … What’s important is that they not be forgotten,” Kuolys said. Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė interrupts with a citation from Kudirka, a classic Lithuanian nationalist author and activist, calling Jews filthy and diseased carriers of their secret Talmuds who infect the air around them and harboring the intent to harm Christians. Kuolys said he doesn’t see a connection between the quote and the Holocaust, and retreats behind the boogey-men of “the influence of two totalitarian regimes.” Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė doesn’t quite buy that but again returns to her earlier theme of passive complicity, and says Kuolys has blamed people for not speaking up in the past. Kuolys responds by saying millions were forced into the role of being passive observers. He then brings up Jacob Gens and the complicity of Vilna Ghetto police in the Holocaust. He again rejects any connection between Kudirka’s “domestic antisemitism” and Lithuanians shooting Jews “after the Germans arrived here in Lithuania.”
Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė said “But wait, if they say this is some sort of evil, filth and disease, it’s natural you want to rid yourself of that dirt, right?”
Kuolys goes for another non sequitur response, saying “When the Republic of Lithuania recreated itself it invited Jewish ministers into the Government, supported Jewish schools and gymnasia, Jewish businessmen and bankers supported the Republic of Lithuania’s efforts to gain in strength and so on…”
94:161 in Adolf’s favor.
Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė now asks the side of the panel she supports—Vanagaitė, Gurevičius, Kuolys—whether they don’t perceive a certain group of people who would act the same way now under the right circumstances. Gurevičius responds calling for greater understanding of history rather than arguing one or another of the facts to try to prove a point, to come to some basic understandings about one another’s human nature in order to prevent the Holocaust from happening again. Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė now blames Panka for his “manifestations,” meaning marches with slogans such as “Lithuania for Lithuanians,” leading towards a repetition of the Holocaust. Panka denies it has anything to do with the Holocaust or some sort of hatred. “But there are other slogans said there, too,” Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė says, apparently in reference to the first several “nationalist youth” marches in Vilnius during which marchers called for the murder of Jews, Russians and Poles and chanted “Juden raus.” Panka decides caution is the better part of valor at this point, does not respond and Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė takes another viewer’s telephone call instead, again, an elderly female, proposing Lithuania needs a Jewish leader.
Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė puts the idea to Panka, who says Conservative MP Emanuelis Zingeris is an example of a pro-Lithuanian Jew who has “redeemed himself” from the anti-Lithuanian “Bolshevik terrorist” activities in which his father allegedly engaged in Kaunas. Panka says ethnicity is not an obstacle to running for a seat in the Lithuanian parliament, and says “especially since the Jewish ethnicity is truly not stigmatized in Lithuania now.”
Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė confronted Panka with the idea some of the members of his organization and marches could easily target, “not necessarily Jews,” but people of other colors and ethnicities under the right circumstances in Lithuania. Panka responded with a subjunctive-mood affirmation again, “I don’t think patriotic youth who celebrate national holidays not over a bottle of beer or at home watching TV but going out on the streets would engage in violence.”
Baranauskas at this point chimes in unqueried with his own apologetics for the phrase “Lithuania for Lithuanians.”
“I also think ‘Lithuania for Lithuanians’ does not mean there is no place here for those, especially those [other ethnicities] who have lived here from ancient times… Truly, I think there’s no reason to encourage the mixing of ethnicities, there’s no sense to it, but if it happens naturally over centuries, why should it be rooted up somehow?”
Following that ringing endorsement of Lithuanian tolerance as a form of centuries-old apathy, Panka stared Gurevičius in the eyes again and said: “Jews are a good example for nationalists and ethnicists because they are a people who were [persecuted] and traveled everywhere but didn’t assimilate. They survived, they preserved their religion. They survived.” Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė encourages him to restate this by repeating the words “They survived,” then says: “But wait, those 250,000, they simply didn’t like it here anymore and left, is that it?”
“No, no,” Panka responded. “We already spoke about this. This is because of Nazi ideology. This is the fault [=”guilt” in Lithuanian] of the German people.” So much for not applying the concept of collective guilt.
Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė presses him on whether members of his organization need Holocaust education, to be taken to villages where half the population was sent to a mass grave in a single night. Panka responds by saying he doesn’t feel any such moral responsibility, just as he doesn’t feel responsibility belongs to him or to Lithuania for criminals sitting in prison currently. Vanagaitė suggests the killers should be named, to which Panka responds they have been, but Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė objects and says they haven’t, at which point Vanagaitė and Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė discuss Josef Melamed’s list of perpetrators allegedly checked by the so-called Genocide Center, which published then hid the names of the perpetrators they discovered on that list. Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė mentions 1,000 perps, which Vanagaitė corrects as 2,055 “discovered” by the so-called Genocide Center. No party on the television program mentioned Melamed by name.
125:194 in Adolf’s favor as the show breaks for commercials.
Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė and Kuolys discuss some quote they spoke about during the commercial break but without clearly restating it or its author for the viewers. Kuolys effectively changes the subject by quoting a different poem by Bernardas Bradžionis which cautions Lithuanians in August of 1941 not to assume the guilt of collaborating with the Nazis upon themselves and coming generations. Kuolys says the poem was published “in the resistance publication Į Laisvę.” This gets tricky, because Į Laisvę began its life on June 24, 1941 as a Nazi publication, which it remained for some time until it was no longer approved for publication by the Nazi authorities in Lithuania. When was the poem published? Was it really a “resistance publication” at that point? Bradzionis’s poem of course doesn’t mention the Nazis or Germans by name and is open to all sorts of interpretation. The lines Kuolys cites basically warn against the spilling of blood and the taking of revenge.
Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė asks Panka whether they aren’t engaging in a Turkish-type denial of genocide, that circumstances were such, people became exhausted and died, and there was no mass murder.
Panka responded by saying: “I think our state has done much more than it was able to do even. Now this thing is in all the history textbooks, former president Brazauskas apologized saying it was in the name of the entire Lithuanian nation, and we are often compared to the Poles. Poland’s president as far as I understand didn’t go [to Israel] and didn’t apologize, but in Poland it seems there was also about 90 percent of the Jews murdered, and the actual number was quite a bit larger. I believe there must always be a dialogue, always between Lithuanians and Jews. And if the Jewish Community is represented by Mr. Simonas [Gurevičius], then we can talk, but if it is represented by people such as Dovid Katz, Arkady Vinokuras, or the director of the Wiesenthal Center, they will provoke and there won’t be mutual comprehension.”
Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė replies by saying “You want to choose who has the right to represent the victims. You’re a Lithuanian and you’ll choose.”
Panka: “We don’t go to Jewish holidays and tell them how to celebrate and how to march.”
Here Baranauskas tells an anecdotal story of an FBI official “or director” who blamed “the Poles” for participating in the Holocaust, following which the Polish diplomatic corps raised a scandal and American officials, “the same official who made the accusation” were/was forced to apologize, and also said “we may not blame the nations of Central and Eastern Europe for what happened.” “That applies to Lithuanians as well,” Baranauskas said in a serious voice. “We have this tendency to accept collective guilt, but to me it seems this story, the history of the Holocaust, shows what a dangerous thing the laying of collective guilt is, because the Jews were shot because of they, too, were accused collectively of being guilty of different real and imaginary things, and equated with all those sins and characteristic of individual Jews were cast upon the entire [Jewish] people” Baranauskas continued.
At the close of the show Vanagaitė wished Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė good health and presumably a speedy recovery. The final score was 134 euros in favor of the Jews “returning again” to Lithuania, with 219 euros against.
In terms of appearance, Panka and Kuolys came off as the most reasonable and mature figures on the television screen. Baranauskas spoke in clipped sentences and tended to look down towards his feet. Gurevičius appeared slightly frightened throughout the show, but that might be because the camera panned repeatedly to his anguished face when Lithuanian Jews were being degraded by the other side. Vanagaitė made snappy comebacks and had a very good presence, but her comebacks were not always precisely on target. Panka was perfectly willing to completely change the subject and two or three times spoke out in favor of discourse, plurality of opinions and public debate. It was truly a shame that nobody on site had the chutzpah to challenge him properly, for example by pointing out that he is himself, with his neo-Nazi marches on independence day holidays, a vast liability to the country he professes to represent. Kuolys had a command of the facts, of recent and older history and a sensitivity to the issue which came across on the screen as a sort of philosophical maturity, even if he called a Nazi newspaper a resistance publication and probably sincerely believes former president Valdas Adamkus served under the Nazis in Lithuania in 1945 as a result of youthful misadventure. Grinevičiūtė-Janutienė spoke completely off-topic and issued a series of emotional nonsequiturs. She provided much more of a forum for the “opposition” in the form of Panka and Baranauskas to get their message across than for the people she presumably agreed with to state their case, which would normally be a virtue rather than a fault, except that her mainstream audience already swayed strongly in favor of the “opposition” here and her position was left inadequately defended. The most impassioned plea came from Gurevičius who pretty much issued that one monologue and kept his peace before and after.
Legacy of Rūta Vanagaitė’s 17 April 2015 Conference at Vilnius City Hall
Why We Have Not, Do Not and Will Not Talk About the Holocaust in Lithuania (by Rūta Vanagaitė)
Efraim Zuroff on a Jerusalem conference and the May 4th Vilnius television program