The Lithuanian Jewish Community has never said or claimed and never will that all Lithuanians are murderers of Jews. Although approximately 95 percent of Jews in Lithuanian were murdered in the Holocaust with the help of local collaborators, it’s not fair to label the entire Lithuanian people with the offensive and shameful accusation of murderers.
This is especially not fair to those who remained steadfast and passed the most difficult trial of being human. Those brave Lithuanians who seemed to find themselves in a hopeless situation and nonetheless found within themselves the power to fight antihuman ideas and Nazi doctrine. We can speak the names today of more than 800 of these quiet heroes although certainly the names of more have been lost to time.
Marking on June 25 the massacre of Jews at Lietūkis garage in Kaunas, honoring the memory of our ancestors and their rescuers, the LJC cannot remain indifferent when several days ago in the heart of the capital a celebration was held, while flags of mourning should have flown in the country to remember the first victims of the Holocaust in Lithuania.
On June 21, 2018, the municipality of the city of Vilnius published on their internet page an invitation to mark the anniversary of the June 23 uprising in which, among other things, that in June of 1941 revenge was exacted for the deportation of family members to Siberia and other northern regions of the Soviet Union, and that the sons and daughters of our nation, relying only upon their own bravery and themselves, were able to drive out the hated occupier and at least briefly (from June 22 to 28, 1941) restore Lithuanian statehood and the independence lost due to the culpability of their politicians and military leaders.
Should we really be encouraging the celebration of revenge, should we really utilize hate in the alleged goal of uniting the nation? Even after 70 years have passed since the end of the war, these sorts of phrases, recalling those during the Holocaust, remain painfully familiar.
When we remember the historical context, there are few reasons to celebrate June 23. While it is difficult to determine the exact moment the Holocaust began in Lithuania, we could say it was June 22 when Radio Berlin broadcast the Lithuanian Activist Front’s manifesto calling for the liberation of Lithuania “from the yoke of Jewry.” And on the day of the eve of war in Lithuania one of the first victims of hate of 300,000 later victims appeared: the young daughter of Rapoportas from Anykščiai, Lithuania, who was murdered by Lithuanians and whose desecrated corpse was thrown in the Šventoji River. This was followed by mass larceny, violence and murder depriving Lithuania of a tenth of her people.
What sort of freedom are we talking about when the LAF became a tool of anti-Semitic policy in Lithuania and the Provisional Government never once passed any act condemning the genocide of the Jews being carried out in Lithuania?
The small remaining Lithuanian Jewish Community better than anyone else knows what the Lithuanian nation has experienced in history and knows perfectly well the complicated history of our country, and therefore the Community feels insensitive, superficial and irresponsible attitudes towards the painful circumstances of history pave the way for both the rise of anti-Semitic sentiments and the unfounded stereotype of all Lithuanians as murderers of Jews.
The invitation on the internet page of the Vilnius city municipality to celebrate June 23, when in fact Lithuania only won a brief and very conditional freedom in exchange for essentially becoming a Nazi ally, undeservedly tarnishes the name of the Lithuanian people and, in the Community’s opinion, is not in keeping with the national interest.