As a long-time reader of the TBT, I have been saddened by the decline of the quality of the coverage of events in Lithuania. Most painfully, far-right ultranationalist politics, with the usual racist and anti-semitic undertones have not only come to dominate; they are routinely misrepresented as impartial news. The most recent and shocking example came in the Sept. 2 issue where an unsigned editorial (!) on the Opinion page describes Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the celebrated historian, Nazi hunter, and director of the Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, as “playing Moscow’s political games.”
Dr. Zuroff is a New York-born modern Orthodox Jewish historian who lives in Efrat, on the West Bank near Jerusalem. He was a dedicated Soviet Jewry activist who has condemned communist totalitarianism throughout his career. The attacks on Dr. Zuroff from the far right ultranationalist Lithuanian media are despicable, but one had come to expect better of The Baltic Times.
Those in high places (government, media, academia) who are working overtime to hide or minimize the highly-significant role of Lithuanian Nazi collaborators in the mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust, during which around 95 percent of Lithuanian Jewry was massacred, and who seek to rewrite history in a spirit of ultra-nationalism, are naturally unhappy with anyone who exposes their ruses; alas they often go in for personal slander and calumny. Your readers are respectfully invited to visit my Web site, www.HolocaustInTheBaltics.com, to become acquainted with the fascinating and complex issues in play.
Many years ago at a press conference in Vilnius, Dr. Zuroff was asked why he is against Lithuania. His reply, as I remember it, was: “I am not at all against Lithuania. On the contrary, by asking that someone accused of murdering many innocent Lithuanian citizens be given a fair trial in a Lithuanian court, with a Lithuanian judge, in the Lithuanian language, under the flag of independent, democratic Lithuania, I am acting as your true friend. That will one day be obvious when the country does finally come to terms with its Holocaust history.”
His recent book, ‘Operation Last Chance: One Man’s Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice,’ has a chapter on Lithuania that is full of warm appreciation for the numerous Lithuanians from all across the country who came forward to submit evidence regarding Holocaust crimes because they wanted to bear witness on the tragic fate of their Jewish neighbors in the hope that those responsible would finally be held accountable. This in a country whose once prominent Jewish population lies in over 200 mass graves in every part of what was once their native land.
Dovid Katz was professor of Yiddish at Vilnius University for eleven years.
The revised edition of his book ‘Lithuanian Jewish Culture’ has just appeared in Vilnius. He is currently chief analyst
at the Litvak Studies Institute.
Web site: www.DovidKatz.net