The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment & Analysis -

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

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