Speech by Markas Petuchauskas at Commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Speech by Markas Petuchauskas at Commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry and the Lithuanian Jewish Community held a commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 28. Markas Petuchauskas, the noted theater expert, art historian and professor as well as Holocaust survivor, spoke. Here is a translation of the speech he delivered to the overflow audience of Foreign Ministry staff, diplomats and members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community at the hall at the Foreign Ministry.

Perhaps the smallest of all is small group of former Vilnius ghetto inmates who survived. As a member of that group, I thought it would be best here today to share with those gather how I feel today and how I sense things. I feel good now. Because here prevails the solid principles of foreign minister Linas Linkevičius and his great spirit of courage. Linkevičius has never bent with the changing “line”…

Five years ago the Foreign Ministry, not the Culture Ministry, hosted the presentation my book in English, “Price of Concord.” From here it spread to the largest public and prestigious university libraries across Europe and all the continents. Beginning in North and South America and ending in the Republic of South Africa and Japan… Last spring the German translation was launched at the Leipzig International Book Fair and then it was presented in Berlin, again, at our embassy there. I’m not saying this to brag. The book preserves for the future the heroic spiritual resistance of many famous Litvak artists who ended up in the Vilnius ghetto. They opposed Hitler in their artistic work and his desire to tread upon the human dignity of the ghetto inmates.

My own sense of self is something quite different, of course, with gusts of increasing anti-Semitism pushing into my homeland now, too. Unfortunately, so many of our politicians and leaders do not abide by the principles held by our foreign minister.

We can’t make light of anti-Semitism and racism… It seems we still haven’t learned the lessons of the fascist German occupation.

Regarding this, the newest example. In Leipzig, by the way. It is difficult to believe that this democratic city of Leipzig who welcomes all peoples with open arms, which I visited so recently, has erupted suddenly in the worst kind of anti-Semitism and racism, the now infamous Nazi marches. It is so disgusting and dangerous that, on this day of international remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust, the leaders of some countries, instead of condemning anti-Semitism, are seeking ways to use it to further their own political aims.