NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT ON LITHUANIAN HOLOCAUST-DENIAL
Jonathan Freedland’s excellent article ( JC, October 3) on the situation of Jews in Lithuania ( JC, October 3), does not fully convey how bad things are there. There is a Genocide Museum in Vilnius which barely mentions Jews; instead, it claims that the Lithuanians suffered a genocide committed by Communists, a proxy term for Jews. Visitors also find it hard to find the many sites of mass murder of Lithuanian Jews because they are inadequately signposted. These sites, mainly forest clearings, are so numerous that the whole of Lithuania was virtually a killing field.
A city guide told us, knowing we were Jewish, that there was a “holocaust of Lithuanians”. There was no mention of the Jewish genocide. The heart of Vilnius’s Old Town was the Jewish quarter. You would be hard pressed to find any evidence now of the thriving Jewish community that once was. Instead, the European Union is funding massive building works to gentrify the streets of Vilnius, in preparation for it being the 2009 European City of Culture.
On Tisha B’Av, the Jewish Community Centre was vandalised with neoNazi daubings: swastikas, smoking chimneys and a drawing of a noose. That this outrage occurred on this day indicates that the miscreants were not merely drunken skinheads.
A series of articles published in the past year in the Lithuanian press, written by Lithuanian MPs, former MPs and academics, claims, inter alia, that the Holocaust was a Zionist plot to get Jews to go to Palestine; that “the “final solution” was planned by “that Jew Eichmann”, was “approved by the 100 per cent Zionist gang around Hitler”; and that “the organisers of Soviet genocide are alas, also Jews”. Translations of these articles were provided by the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, which is uncompromisingly standing up to the government’s campaign.
The institute librarian, Fania Brantsovsky, a Vilna Ghetto survivor who joined the anti-Nazi partisans in the Lithuanian forests, has been questioned for war crimes and besmirched in the press. A lecturer from Israel, Rachel Margolis, 87, a co-founder of the city’s Jewish Museum, was unable to come to Vilnius, having been told she would be questioned for war crimes.
The non-Jewish media in the UK have begun to address the level of Holocaustdenial and the state-sponsored harassment of Jewish partisans, including in BBC2’s Crossing Continents series on July 17, and in an Economist article “Prosecution and persecution” in August.
That Vilnius should be showcased as a City of European Culture in 2009 is a very disturbing statement about European culture. We have a window of opportunity right now, before this takes place. And we must also do the right thing ourselves, by helping the Lithuanians to do the right thing. Susan Storring Woodside Park, London
Jonathan Freedland ( JC, October 3) has performed a valuable service in drawing our attention to the unacceptable behaviour of certain Baltic states, but says he fails to understand the lack of “Jewish outrage” compared to “our fight with radical Islamism” and why the latter takes precedence.
As one of your older readers who left Nazi Germany just before World War Two, I feel I should point out that the rise of radical Islamism strongly parallels the ascent of Nazism in the 1930s, with its virulent antisemitism and threats to wipe out Jewish life. It is right that our fight with radical Islamism takes precedence over all others,. Freddie Fisher Allandale Avenue, London N3
Writing about the proposed prosecution of Yitzchak Arad in Lithuania for his activities as a partisan fighting the Nazis, Jonathan Freedland makes the unfortunate assertion that “communal leaders would rather not make waves” about such issues.
In fact, the chairman of the Board of Deputies’ International Division, Flo Kaufmann, was informed by the Lithuanian ambassador in person, in the latest of a series of meetings to discuss this and other issues of concern to the Jewish community, that the prosecution was being dropped. Similarly, Lithuania was on the agenda in a meeting at 10 Downing Street with chief foreign-policy adviser to the Prime Minister, Simon McDonald. Jon Benjamin Chief Executive The Board of Deputies of British Jews