Lithuania, Poland, and Eastern Europe’s Confrontation with the Holocaust

Feb. 14 2018

In the late 1990s, and again a decade later, attempts to prosecute a few Lithuanian citizens for their involvement in the slaughter of Jews during World War II were countered by efforts to prosecute a Nazi hunter and then two Holocaust survivors for committing “crimes” against Lithuanians. At the time, the historian Antony Polonsky wrote an essay on these and related controversies in Lithuania, comparing them with similar controversies in Poland and Germany; the essay was published in Poland in 2010 but has now been made available online for the first time in the wake of the recent Polish law forbidding false statements about the Polish role in the Holocaust:

Lithuanian and Jewish collective memories [are still] very far apart. The Lithuanians, who lost their independence after World War II, felt that the Jews had shown little appreciation for the favorable way they had been treated in interwar Lithuania [which, on the whole, was marginally better than what Jews experienced in neighboring countries, or had experienced under the Tsars] and held the Jews collectively responsible for aiding the first [1940-41] and second [1944-1991] Soviet occupations of their country. Only a small number of Lithuanians had participated in the mass murder of the Jews, comparable to the minority of alleged Jewish collaborators with the Soviets.

Jews for their part highlighted the growth of anti-Semitism [in Lithuania] in the 1930s. They were particularly affronted by what they saw as the massive involvement of Lithuanians in the mass murder of the Jews, both just before the establishment of Nazi rule and particularly in cooperation with the Nazi occupiers, and were shocked by the brutal behavior of Lithuanians in such incidents as the massacre at the Lietukis garage in Kaunas on June 27, 1941.

Given the large-scale complicity of Lithuanians in the mass murder of Jews in 1941, the traumatic effect of the two Soviet occupations of Lithuania, the second lasting nearly a half-century, and the unstable nature of the Lithuanian political scene, with the temptation this offers to demagogic politicians to engage in populist rhetoric, it is not surprising that the discussion of wartime issues has proved a difficult and painful topic and has led to bitter exchanges between Jews and Lithuanians. . . .

From the first days of independence, a series of public statements by Lithuanian leaders expressed regret at the participation of Lithuanians in the Holocaust and condemned the genocide. The culminating point was the visit of then-President Brazauskas to Israel during which, in his address to the Knesset in March 1995, he publicly asked forgiveness “for [the actions of] those Lithuanians who mercilessly murdered, shot, deported, and robbed Jews.” This was not universally well-received in Lithuania and led to calls for the Jews in response to apologize for their “crimes” against the Lithuanian nation during the Soviet occupation.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Polish public figures have begun making similar appeals for Jewish apologies in recent days.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Eastern Europe, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Lithuania, Poland, World War II

The Palestinian Prime Minister Rails against Peace at the Council of Foreign Relations

On November 17, the Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, appeared at the Council on Foreign Relations, America’s most prestigious and influential foreign-policy institution. While there, Shtayyeh took the opportunity to lambast Arab states for making peace with Israel. Dore Gold comments:

[Perhaps Shtayyeh] would prefer that Bahrain, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates declare the end of their conflicts with Israel only after all Palestinian political demands are met; however, he refused to recognize that Arab states have a right to defend their vital interests.

Since 1948, they had suspended these rights for the sake of the Palestinian cause. What Shtayyeh ultimately wants is for the Palestinians to continue to hold their past veto power over the Arab world. Essentially, he wants the Arabs to be [like the] Iranians, who supply Palestinian organizations like Hamas with weapons and money while taking the most extreme positions against peace. What the Arabs have begun to say this year is that this option is no longer on the table.

Frankly, the cracks in the Palestinian veto of peace that appeared in 2020 are undeniable. Shtayyeh is unprepared to answer why. The story of that split began with the fact that the response of the Palestinian leadership to every proposal for peace since the 2000 Camp David Summit with President Clinton has been a loud but consistent “No.”

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Palestinian Authority, U.S. Foreign policy