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