Elections are a time when made-up pseudo-patriotic stories eclipse important social problems. By distorting, for example, my joint letter with American Jewish Committee representative Rabbi Andrew Baker on the Lithuanian parliament’s decision to name next year after the partisan Juozas Lukša-Daumantas. In order to avoid any “indirect” doubts, on July 18 I emphasized on LNK television that “We have no complaints on Juozas Lukša-Daumantas’s past.”
What does worry us is that the fascist anti-Semitic Lithuanian Activist Front might be honored along with him. The LAF formed the Tautos darbo apsaugos batalionas, or TDA, which was responsible for the mass murder of thousands of Jews at the Seventh Fort in Kaunas and elsewhere. The website of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania states: “during the first Soviet occupation in 1940 and 1941, Juozas Lukša-Daumantas belonged to the Lithuanian Activist Front. For this he was arrested and imprisoned at the Kaunas hard labor prison. On June 22, 1941, when the war between the USSR and Germany began, he escaped.”
I am being accused of “indirectly” belittling Juozas Lukša-Daumantas. I remember the time when people were sent to mental hospitals and prison for indirectly criticizing the Communist regime. Maybe someone would like to lock me up now and give me some re-education on what can and cannot be said. But that’s not the main thing. The main thing is that my words about the LAF have been applied to the entire partisan movement and equated with it, even though that’s like accusing all of Lithuania of anti-Semitism because of the statements of one or another irresponsible radical.
Yes, I have been told–more accurately it has been shouted in my ear–that there were all sorts of people in the LAF, and not all of them were criminals. That’s true, but then, neither were all people in the Communist Party criminals, we even elected one party member president in independent Lithuania. And then there was Schindler inside the Nazi state. But both the Nazi and the Communist Party are banned in Lithuania today.
I think we have matured finally to the point where we can define our relationship to the fascist and fascist-sympathetic organization of that time-period. The time has come for either this Government or the next one and president Gitanas Nausėda to distance themselves from the LAF as an anti-democratic organization. Until we do so, the Kremlin’s propagandists will have free reign.
I would like to take this occasion to thank the honorable historian, politician and member of parliament Arvydas Anušauskas for his efforts to separate the heroic partisan from the LAF. Contrary to the information from the Genocide Center, the MP says Juozas Lukša-Daumantas was not an LAF member. The member of parliament and historian understands that today it is banned by law to pay honor to fascist, Nazi and Communist organizations. So again, thank you, Mr. Anušauskas. As an historian you know perfectly well the LAF was a fascist anti-Semitic organization which sought to restore the Lithuanian state following the model of Nazi Germany and which was prepared to do away with Jewish Lithuanian citizens (by driving them away). Even those who fought for Lithuanian freedom between 1918 and 1920.
In our open letter to the speaker of parliament, Rabbi Andrew Baker and I did express doubts that it was appropriate to honor Juozas Lukša-Daumantas as a member of the LAF by naming the year 2021 after him, without separating him from the LAF (and without use distancing ourselves from the LAF).
I’m not prepared to enter into polemic with neo-Nazis and hooligans. Their parents or penal colonies need to educate them. My article is aimed at the educated population, intellectuals and people who taken events into account, critical thinkers and people who know at least a little history. It is dedicated to those who, I hope, constitute the majority in Lithuania.
The facts leave no doubt the Lithuanian Activist Front was one of the ideologues behind the extermination of the Jews in Lithuania. This was recognized by the International Commission to Assess the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Regimes in Lithuania formed by president Valdas Adamkus. The Lithuanian Activist Front established in Berlin was formed as a helper to Nazi Germany. It was a proudly anti-Semitic organization and many of its members were directly involved in the persecution and murder of Lithuania’s Jews. Although the positions of the LAF were anti-Soviet and even though it later came into conflict with the Nazi regime, the LAF foresaw an independent Lithuania first of all as an ethnically “pure” homeland where there was no place for Jewish citizens.
Dear angry critics, you live in your home in Lithuania. My parents also thought they lived in their home, in their Lithuania. My father’s family, the Kuklianskys, lived on Lake Ančia in Veisiejai and the nearby Bor-Babrai manor. My mother’s family, the Taubeses, lived in their home at Vilniaus street no. 154 in Šiauliai next to the mill they owned.
The Lithuanian hero and humanitarian, the head of the Šiauliai district Jonas Noreika, who is now even being called a Righteous Gentile, “protected” my family from bad people by sending them into a ghetto. To the ghetto from where Šiauliai district police took them to the pits. Noreika used the occasion to move into the home of a murdered Jew. Why should it stand empty? Furthermore, he honestly acquired the property of murdered Jews, which is proven by Nazi documents which are conserved at the Vrublevskis library, the same place whose exterior wall still bears an illegally-placed plaque commemorating this humanitarian.
I, too, long believed Jews live in Lithuania as equal citizens. My belief wasn’t shaken by the Nazi admirers who come out of the woodwork, nor by the many internet surfers whose comments drip with hate and who invite readers to murder Jews. Gustave Le Bon has written about the psychology of crowds, the impulsivity, inconsistency and irritability of the mob. He says the mob is moved by external stimuli and constantly changes. The images created by the mob mind become reality. He talks about the intolerance, authoritarianism and conservatism of the mob. About its thrall and obsequity to strong government. Unconsciously, the mob opposes progress. The mob’s thinking is always petty.
And here is a clear example: an intelligent, well-thought-out, inoffensive to anyone letter calling for cooperation has called forth the mob’s protest. There have been publics calls “to physically protect the Vilnius Jewish Community, because other Jews who oppose this group might try to rub them out.” And how do these SAME people who are offended so simply and easily place an equal sign between the LAF and the entire postwar partisan movement? Why do they think it was impossible someone might have joined the partisans who was a warrior for an ethnically “clean” Lithuania? Is he worthy of our love, are all his sins forgiven just because he fled to the forest? What sort of Lithuania did he fight for in those forests? For an ethnically “clean” one? But by that time Lithuania had been cleansed, because her Jewish citizens, including veterans who had fought for Lithuanian independence, had already been shot and lay in pits with their medals, or had been sent on a working vacation to Siberia.
We live in an interesting world. We live in a society in which, it appears, we all must think and feel uniformly. If it has been said the partisans were good, then they’re good. All of them, without exception. The Lithuanian Activist Front? Are these those same white arm-banders? But they were directed out of love for Lithuania, and that love is holy and unquestionable. Noreika? He signed an order to establish a ghetto? Be quiet, woman, or as they say žydelka, and take a look at the plaque placed on the library wall without a permit. Parents, send your children to schools named after Krikštaponis, Noreika and Barzda, and don’t dare tell them what the LAF really was, if you actually know yourself. And if you don’t know, that’s even better.
I, a Lithuanian citizen, don’t want to and cannot remain silent. That’s why I ask: will we mark 2021 as the Year of Juozas Lukša-Daumantas without saying what the Lithuanian state thinks about the LAF? After all, there was the call by Kazys Škirpa, the leader of the LAF, to Lithuanians to rid themselves of the Jewish yoke, there was the sixth and other protocols of the Provisional Government depriving Jews of all their innate rights, there were decisions by its local representatives to set up ghettos–is all of this really OK?
Incidentally, where is that study by Vytautas Bubnys about the Holocaust? It has been many years now since the staff at the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania compiled their list of 2,000 Holocaust perpetrators, but it’s apparently still under heavy lock and key. Do they think out people are too stupid and they won’t understand?
A person isn’t born an anti-Semite. And Goethe wrote about forgiving the weaknesses of others and our own weaknesses. But these weaknesses have to be recognized, without fear of looking the truth in the face. So I ask: why don’t you want to look through my eyes, through the eyes of a Jewish woman from Lithuania? Why don’t you want to see and understand what the Jews of Lithuania lived through, those who actually survived? Why is it surprising we Jews always react emotionally to people who took part in the activities of the LAF? Why is it incumbent upon us to prove or disprove the guilt or innocence of these people?
I really hope people will calm down, take a tranquilizer if needed, and then the world will appear a bit better, without anger and hate. I swallowed that pill long ago.
Full text in Lithuanian here.