You Are Quiet Again, as You Were in 1941
A comment on the silent state and the vociferous Rakutises
The Lithuanian Jewish Community, along with tens of thousands of Lithuanian Jews who were captured on the streets, locked in ghettos, marched to pits and shot and buried there, often close to their own hometowns, or shtetlakh, as Jews call them, where for centuries they had lived in common with Lithuanians–we are again guilty. Member of parliament of the Republic of Lithuania Valdas Rakutis in his commentary has said nothing new, and only repeats the mendacious and misleading narrative which has gone on for decades: We ourselves, the Jews, are guilty for the extermination of 95% of the Jews who lived in Lithuania before World War II.
I have met many such Rakutises, they always say the same thing. It is horrific that today these Rakutises also speak confidently in the parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, they are published and quoted, and again and again they blame those who were escorted by their neighbors to collection points in 1941, to synagogues, and from there to margins of forests and gravel pits, for the horror of the Holocaust.
It is said that all those who remained looked on in silence as the columns of Jewish men, women and children were marched along the streets of the towns in broad daylight. And now we have the same sort of situation: there isn’t much reaction at all to the lie of these Rakutises. The majority remain silent. There are some soft noises from his fellow party members, a few observations and speculations that maybe “Rakutis was mistaken,” but nothing even close to the precise and sharp uncompromising reaction demonstrated by the foreign embassies to Lithuania. The German, Israel and US ambassadors to Lithuania were among the first to condemn clearly and publicly Rakutis’s statement. The European Jewish Congress also responded as did the Jewish communities living abroad. The words by the Lithuanian MP didn’t slip by unnoticed by any of the Western states, where they react without excuse or compromise to open or hidden attempts to distort history and to expressions of anti-Semitism.
What about Lithuania? Mainly here it was commentators on websites and social media networks who responded. Dear reader, read what Lithuania has written. There are hundreds of these Rakutises. What counterpoint do the leaders of Lithuania, public figures and politicians offer to them? The Lithuanian media have exerted such efforts to deny the patent lie. Several articles penned for the occasion have simply disappeared before the blood-curdling reality: there are still many in Lithuania who believe Rakutis’s narrative. Even worse, there are very few here who openly and courageously desire to oppose, condemn or shame him. To remember finally, publicly and sincerely, those people, those Lithuanian citizens who were murdered.
Marking the said occasion–the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust–we are not asking much of society’s leaders. Just to join the global #MesPrisimename campaign, publicly, bravely and clearly saying the memory of the victims of the Holocaust is important and topical. Not many people responded. Rakutis and co. were again more active, more rapid, louder than the leaders and politicians of Lithuania. And they were braver. After all it takes a lot of courage on International Holocaust Remembrance Day to claim the Jews themselves were responsible for the extermination of Lithuanian Jews. And by the way, perhaps professor Rakutis would like to share his insights with the other Jews of Europe concerning all six million victims. It’s easy to be brave when you know no one will challenge you.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day has come and gone. Most like Lithuania’s politicians and social leaders can breathe more easily today, the occasion is over. And those rare, sometimes later things–statements, special programs, special photographs–are over, too–one gets the sense someone on the team reminds everyone that it is such and such a day, and these things must be performed. For those who remember “on the day,” the year is now completed, until the same occasion next year. Until the next Rakutis, because without a clear and resolute condemnation this narrative will not restrict itself to special commemorative days, it will infiltrate itself into the public mind on a daily basis. And Lithuania will continue to await those special commemorative days for important deeds which signal we really do remember and understand the Holocaust. For 30 years our politicians have waited for the right time to create a national monument commemorating our Holocaust victims, and to erect a statue to those who rescued Jews, to those rescuers who were eye-witnesses to events and who never had it enter their minds for a second that the Jews themselves were Holocaust perpetrators, or to have a consistent Holocaust education curriculum. Our Rakutises and their silent followers are the ones who are in charge of statues, memorials and curricula in Lithuania.
In conclusion I, as representative of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, demand the parliament’s Ethics and Procedures Commission begin an inquiry into MP Rakutis’s actions, and that the Education, Science and Sports Ministry and the National Defense Ministry begin an investigation on whether Rakutis is fit to occupy the post of professor, and the Office of Prosecutor General initiate a pre-trial investigation on Holocaust denial and distortion (article 170 of the criminal code of the Republic of Lithuania). We aren’t satisfied by slaps on the hand. We, Lithuanian citizens, Jews who live here, demand the rule of law and the defense of our basic rights. And in the end, you should feel shame before those whose blood suffuses the land of Lithuania.
Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community