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 Military Perils of Ceding Israeli Control of the West Bank

April 24 2019

In the years since the second intifada ended, no small number of retired high-ranking IDF officers and intelligence officials have argued that complete separation from the Palestinians is a strategic necessity for Israel. Gershon Hacohen, analyzing the geography, the changes in warfare—and Middle Eastern warfare in particular—since the 1990s, and recent history, argues that they are wrong:

The withdrawal of IDF forces from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state in these territories will constitute an existential threat to Israel. The absence of an Israeli military presence in the West Bank, especially along the Jordan River, will enable the creation of a terrorist entity, à la the Gaza Strip, a stone’s throw from the Israeli hinterland. This withdrawal will box Israel into indefensible borders, especially in light of the major changes in the nature of war in recent decades that have made the astounding achievements of 1967 impossible to replicate, not to mention the stark international response [that would follow Israel’s] takeover of a sovereign state.

The deployment of international forces in the West Bank will not, [contrary to what some have argued], ensure the demilitarization of the prospective Palestinian state, let alone prevent the entry of Arab forces into its territory (with or without its consent) and/or its transformation into a springboard for terrorist attacks against Israel. . . .

Israel [now] maintains control of some 60 percent of the West Bank’s territory, . . . which is mostly empty of Palestinian population but includes all of the West Bank’s Jewish communities and IDF bases, as well as main highways, vital topographic areas, and open spaces descending eastward to the Jordan Valley. The retention of this territory constitutes the absolute minimum required for the preservation of defensible borders and meets two conditions necessary for Israel’s security: the Jordan Valley buffer zone, without which it will be impossible to prevent the rapid arming of Palestinian terrorist groups throughout the West Bank; and control of intersecting transportation arteries, which, together with control of strategic topographical sites, enables rapid deployment of IDF forces deep inside Palestinian areas.

It is the surrender of such conditions in Gaza that has transformed the Strip into an ineradicable terrorist entity. Uprooting the West Bank’s Jewish communities will also make it difficult for the IDF to operate in the depth of the Palestinian state, especially if it is forced to fight simultaneously on a number of fronts, [since] simultaneous fighting in Gaza, which will be an integral part of the future Palestinian state, is a foregone conclusion.

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More about: Israeli grand strategy, Israeli Security, Palestinian statehood, West Bank