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

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey