Lithuania’s Museum of Holocaust Denial

April 13 2018

Located in the center of Vilnius, not far from the Lithuanian parliament, is the Museum of Genocide and Victims. The museum—rather than focusing on the genocide of Jews that occurred in Lithuania during World War II, or simply documenting the behavior of the Nazis and Soviets who alternately occupied the country from 1939 until 1991—minimizes the Holocaust while celebrating some of its perpetrators. In particular, the exhibits make much of partisan groups that resisted Soviet rule even though they also actively collaborated with the Nazis and murdered thousands of Jews and Lithuanian Gentiles. Dovid Katz writes:

The point of the museum is to persuade all comers that Soviet crimes were the genocide that took place in this part of the world and that those groups to which most of the museum’s space is dedicated to glorifying were indeed humanitarian lovers of truth, justice, and multi-ethnic tolerance. The sad truth is, however, that many of those honored were collaborators who participated in, or abetted, genocide [before, during, and after the Holocaust]. . . .

But there is one theme in this museum that is very honest, and necessary, and [could] make a truly excellent museum, namely a cabinet of KGB crimes and Stalinist horrors such as one finds in numerous other cities. These exhibits expose Soviet crimes against humanity, particularly in the Stalin period, including mass deportations, imprisonments, harsh punishments—including torture and barbaric murder—of supposed “enemies,” suppression of human freedoms including speech, religion, emigration, and political beliefs, and, pervasive from morning to night for all those decades, a cruel forced occupation of [the] country by a larger empire. . . .

Ultranationalist elements [in Lithuania and elsewhere in Eastern Europe], consumed with (understandable) resentment against the many crimes of the Russian and Soviet empires over the centuries, will go to any lengths to make heroes out of all anti-Soviet and anti-Russian figures in history, including those who collaborated with the Nazis—to hell with the “detail” of the extermination of a national minority. The problem here is that virtually all of the many thousands of actual East European Holocaust murderers were “anti-Soviet.” If that makes them heroes, ipso facto, heaven help European civilization.

[The museum has] one redeeming feature: [it honors] those who did the right thing and saved a neighbor from the barbaric hands of the Nazis and their . . . local collaborators and partners. They are the true Lithuanian heroes of World War II. They deserve an entire museum in their honor.

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More about: History & Ideas, Holocaust, Holocaust denial, Lithuania, World War II

 

When It Comes to Syria, Vladimir Putin’s Word Can’t Be Trusted

July 13 2018

In the upcoming summit between the Russian and American presidents in Helsinki, the future of Syria is likely to rank high on the agenda. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has already made clear that Moscow won’t demand a complete Iranian withdrawal from the country. Donald Trump, by contrast, has expressed his desire for a complete U.S. withdrawal. Examining Moscow’s track record when it comes to maintaining its past commitments regarding Syria, Eli Lake urges caution:

Secretary of State John Kerry spent his last year in office following Lavrov all over the world in an attempt to create a U.S.-Russian framework for resolving the Syrian civil war. He failed. . . . President Trump [now] wants to get to know Putin better—and gauge his willingness to help isolate Iran. This is a pointless and dangerous gambit. First, by announcing his intention to pull U.S. forces out of the country “very soon,” Trump has already given away much of his leverage within Syria.

Ideally, Trump would want to establish a phased plan with Putin, where the U.S. would make some withdrawals following Iranian withdrawals from Syria. But Trump has already made it clear that prior [stated] U.S. objectives for Syria, such as the removal of the dictator Bashar al-Assad, are no longer U.S. objectives. The U.S. has also declined to make commitments to give money for Syrian reconstruction.

Without any leverage, Trump will have to rely even more on Putin’s word, which is worthless. Putin to this day denies any Russian government role in interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. Just last month, Putin went on Austrian television and lied about his government’s role in shooting down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. Why would anyone trust Putin to keep his word to help remove Iran and its proxies from Syria?

And this gets to the most dangerous possible outcome of the upcoming summit. The one thing that Kerry never did was to attempt to trade concessions on Syria for concessions on Crimea, the Ukrainian territory that Russia invaded and annexed in 2014. There was a good reason for this: even if one argues that the future of Ukraine is not a high priority for the U.S., it’s a disastrous precedent to allow one nation to change the boundaries of another through force, and particularly of one that signed an agreement with the U.S., UK, and Russia to preserve its territorial integrity in exchange for relinquishing its cold-war-era nuclear weapons.

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More about: Crimea, Donald Trump, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy, Vladimir Putin