Sunday, July 16, 2017

Lithuania - a place of my family ancestry, sadly

Recently I was reminded of the truth and reconciliation process which happened in South Africa after we gained full democracy and to deal with any of the atrocities of apartheid. I now realise how deeply blessed we are for having had this opportunity. A few weeks ago I was confronted by a harassing situation involving two Lithuanians. It reminded me of my ancestry and these terrible stories that I have read and seen documented by my brothers and sisters. We have not had any truth and reconciliation from the Lithuanians, I think it's safe to say as a nation, they are - imho - the worst.

Over the past decade or two, Grant Arthur Gochin has started addressing the issue by capturing detailed interactions with the President and ombudsman and other political officials. It appears to be very serious situation right now since the grave of the world renowned Vilna Gaon is under threat. The Lithuanians wish to build - or extend - the convention centre there. Please read Grants blog for more information on how the Lithuanians have refused to remove the decorations given to Lithuanians and have been distorting Holocaust facts.

The headlines have previously appeared in main stream news, although this can be difficult to follow without all the background. "In 2011 on August 30, Superintendent Tamar Bat Sharon and another Israel Police investigator reported to the office of Joseph Melamed. They came as emissaries of the Lithuanian government, which is accusing Melamed of slandering nine Lithuanians who were executed by the Soviet government for collaborating with the Nazis. In their homeland they are considered national heroes." read more: http://www.haaretz.com/expelling-the-ambassador-1.382986

Read one survivors story, with the same name, The Lithuanian Death Machinery

See rare historical photos of the well documented Kovno massacre.



Published by Joseph Melamed 1999:

The editor of "Lithuania, Crime & Punishment", an attorney at law, an economist and art critic, has published a large number of books and articles. He is also the editor of the magazine "The World of Art". He presently serves as Chairman of the Association of the Lithuanian Jews and member of the management and the Executive Committee of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors, Born in Lithuania, Mr. Joseph A. Melamed, participated in the Zionist underground movement during the Soviet-Lithuania era in 1940-1941. He witnessed the crimes committed by Lithuanians against Lithuanian Jewry (including the murder of almost his entire family) following the Nazi invasion. The editor participated in the Kaunas Ghetto underground and later joined the Partisans in the Rudnicki Forest. There he fought as a member of the "Death to the German Occupants" regiment. Mr. Melamed left Lithuania in 1944 with the first group of members legist underground, to search for ways and means to secure Jewish emigration to Palestine.

In 1995 the Lithuanian president Algirdas Brazauskas made an official visit to Israel. Brazauskas, who was formerly the general secretary of the Lithuanian communist party during the Soviet Era, came to Israel in the hope of developing economic ties and mutual relations between the two countries. He was however confronted with a tough dilemma.

On the one hand, he was well aware of the crimes committed by the Lithuanians against the Jewish people and the Jewish community of Lithuania in particular. He was well aware of the fact that it was Lithuanians - and in particular Lithuanians - who carried out the mass murder of almost the entire Lithuanian Jewish community as well as tens of thousands of other Jews brought to Lithuania to be murdered from other countries in Nazi occupied Europe and later on, the Soviet Union as well.

He knew only too well that the genocide of Lithuanian Jewry was coordinated with amazing efficiency by the "Provisional government' established by the L.A.F. (an organisation comprised of most of the Lithuanian political parties during the era of pre wartime independence). He also knew that 11 out of the 20 battalions organised by the Lithuanians and Germans - with the 12th and 13th battalions leading the way - massacred tens of thousands of Jews in Russia, white Russia, Ukraine and Poland, and he also was well aware of the unprecedented bestial savagery with which these atrocities were carried out; barbarity which earned the perpetrators an infamous reputation and even shocked many Germans who complained about their brutality to their commanding officers.

Brazauskas knew that if he did not ask the Jewish people for forgiveness on behalf of the Lithuanian people and did not resolve the issue of the prosecution of thousands of murderers still at large in Lithuania, there would be no chance of the Jewish people - and in particular the Jewish survivors of the Lithuanian holocaust both in Israel and the Diaspora - ever forgiving the Lithuanians for their crimes and the world wide campaign of informing the public about the events that took place in that country during those years would be stepped up even further. This would also mean that there would be no chance of finding developers in Israel who would be willing to invest in the Lithuanian economy, especially during a time when anti-Semitism in that country was on the increase.

On the other hand however, Brazauskas was well aware of the fact that the balance of power in his country was not held by his communist colleagues but by Lithuanian nationalists whose ranks included thousands of murderers of Jews and their families. These, together with the other dominant forces in his country were not about to grant Brazauskas a mandate to ask forgiveness on their behalf. As opposed to the Germans who made genuine attempts to make amends to the Jews, the Lithuanians opted for a more high handed approach and have consistently refused to acknowledge the damning historical evidence that clearly points to their guilt. Furthermore, they made a point of invoking of Goebbels well rehearsed doctrine which states that "the more you relentlessly reiterate a falsehood of dynamic proportions, the greater the chance that it will indeed be accepted as the truth". For this reason the Lithuanians not only decided not to ask the Jewish people's forgiveness but instead created a form of 'symmetry" which enabled them to go on the offensive with statements like: "you Jews together with the KGB and the Soviet regime murdered Lithuanians, stole their property and sent them into exile in Siberia" etc. It was of no interest to them that this was a blatant lie, a blood libel as heinous as the one which alleged that Jews used the blood of Christian children to make their Matzot (unleavened bread) for Passover. They knew only too well that Soviet Lithuania was run by Lithuanian communists and that the role the Jews played in this regime was a minor one with no influence whatsoever; they knew that no Jewish official had the authority or power to order the murder or exile a single Lithuanian and every Jewish official had a Lithuanian superior who gave him his orders (see my article "Soviet Lithuania and the Jews, in this issue). Brazauskas being an experienced politician took all these above mentioned factors into account when choosing which course of action to take. He decided to perform a fine balancing act by asking for forgiveness not on behalf of the Lithuanian people, but for himself. "I ask you for forgiveness for those Lithuanians who ruthlessly killed, shot, deported and robbed Jews". As regards the bringing of criminals to justice Brazauskas promised: "We are prepared to prosecute war criminals and will do so publicly, consistently and conscientiously.

He also promised to revoke the rehabilitation status granted to the murderers of Jews (in contravention of Lithuanian law) and cancel the pensions and allowances ("the generous") the murderers and their families were receiving. Here in Israel there were those who genuinely believed Brazauskas, such as diplomatic circles in the foreign ministry who considered it important to show the ever widening group of countries with whom Israel now has diplomatic relations. Lithuanian Jewish expatriates, in particular those working to resolve the problems with the Lithuanians, were more pessimistic having had years of experience in contending with the Lithuanians' perpetual evasion of their responsibility for what occurred during that period. As things turned out, upon his retum Brazauskas received a very cold reception by the Lithuanian press for his performance in Israel and conveniently "forgot the promises he had given during his visit. Four years have passed since then. During this period, Brazauskas distributed numerous promises of this kind like the one he made at a news conference he held on August 1997 when he conceded that "Lithuanian legal institutions are slow in investigating cases of Jewish genocide", and "after a two year period, the tackling of the rehabilitation issue regarding persons who were condemned for the Jewish massacre during the Soviet era, has failed. Among those tasks which have been delayed, we can also include the investigation of the action against Aleksandras Lileikis, but legal institutions would no more drag out the investigation of Jewish genocide cases." Or his declaration made to a group of American Jewish leaders, whom he met in New York on January 13th 1998, one month before leaving office, when amongst other things he declared that "my government is taking all available legal steps to stop the rehabilitation of suspected war criminals and whenever possible, to bring these individuals to justice", and "we are undertaking

all legal measures to ensure responsibility is taken for the crimes committed", and "I have used the powers of my office to speed up the entire process as much as possible"... Brazauskas completed his term of office and things have remained just as they were. To date, not a single Lithuanian Nazi criminal has ever been put on trial in independent Lithuanian despite the fact that thousands such criminals were involved in wartime criminal activities for which they should have been indicted. In addition, several Nazi collaborators who were forced to leave the US have now returned to Lithuania with no criminal proceedings brought against them. This includes the infamous "Desk murderer Lileikis - head of the security police in Vilnius and the surrounding area who was directly responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of Jews turned over by his office to the death squads - who has not been prosecuted. Lileikis found sanctuary in Lithuania three years ago after being deported from the United States and in spite of intense international pressure to put him on trial, Lithuania has used every trick in the book to ensure that such a trial is continually deferred for as long as possible. Naturally, the hope is that Lileikis will die before his case ever comes to court, as Lithuania rightly fears that such a trial would expose the methods employed by the Lithuanians to annihilate the Jewish community, thereby making it clear that it was in fact Lithuanians rather than Germans who murdered most of the Lithuanian Jewry. For the time being Lileikis shows no sign of dying in the near future. Some amendments have been made to the rehabilitation act but the terms of the law do not allow the issue of those murderers who were wrongly granted rehabilitation to be properly addressed. In an attempt to making a laughing stock out of us, they revoked the rehabilitation status of a murder of criminals who died long ago and are no longer in need of any compassion from the authorities in any case.

Brazauskas's visit to Israel raised a glimmer of hope that perhaps it had finally dawned on the Lithuanians that they could not take their place amongst the community of civilised nations with the blood of another people on their hands. We thought that they would finally realise that it was their duty to clean themselves of the Jewish blood they had spilled by confessing to the bitter truth, asking forgiveness and bringing murderers to justice. This would have enabled us to sit down and conduct a genuinely compassionate dialogue between the two peoples, as is the practice in all civilised societies. At the end of 1997, presidential elections were held in Lithuania, with Valdas Adamkus being chosen to serve as the new president of this country, a post which he assumed in February 1998 . As he fled to America in 1944 at the age of 18 and has lived there permanently ever since, very little is known about Adamkus's activities during the Nazi period. He apparently joined Plechavicius's army towards the end of Nazi occupation but did not see a great deal of action and eventually he fled to Germany and from there to the U.S. By 1944, there were no Jews left in Lithuania save for those in labour camps run by the SS. (including the camps in Kaunas and Siauliai) and it would therefore appear that Adamkus does not have any Jewish blood on his hands. Having spent so long in the US, he will have no doubt learned a chapter or two about democracy as well as a heightened awareness of the fact that there are sensitive issues that cannot be ignored in this day and age, among which one can include the rule of law, justice and human rights.

According to the Lithuanian constitution, the state president does not exercise any power to speak of, in his country. This constitution renders his status inferior not just to that of the US president, but even that of his French counterpart, as Sovereign Power and legislative authority in Lithuania remains under the sole domain of the Seimas - the Lithuanian parliament. However, the moral authority held by a president is usually strong enough to influence his people's behaviour and to a certain extent, its opinions too. The generation that lived during World war two has left Lithuania with an extremely unsympathetic legacy. They left behind a land soaked with Jewish blood from one end to the other, blood that was spilled by the soiled hands of thousands of Lithuanians, the president's own people. This blood has not yet been absorbed, since rather than wash their soiled hands in a humane manner, the Lithuanians have chosen to ignore the whole issue completely, This was the policy adopted by Lithuanian communists during the Soviet Era, a policy now continued by Lithuanians in the era of independence following 1990. Adamkus is now faced with a choice: either to continue to ignore the past like his predecessors did or to be the first president to try and solve the problem in a civilised and humane manner by making an effort to acknowledge responsibility for the blood that has been spilled. His statements on this issue so far while on trips to other countries and in particular, during a visit to Vienna in Austria, do not bode well for the future. He declared among other things, that only a small number of Lithuanians took part in the murders of Jews, a statement which he knows only too well, is a blatant lie. In addition, the committee he set up to investigate crimes committed by both the Nazis and Soviets in Lithuania, is not an act that reflects the best of intentions by sheer virtue of the fact that it tied the Soviet and Nazi eras together, whilst being fully aware of the two periods were totally unrelated apart from the libels concocted by war criminals, These individuals claimed that Jews had been involved in the killing of Lithuanian citizens during the Soviet occupation. Adamkus is well aware that the attempt to make such a connection is an outright lie, a fact which he would soon be able to confirm were he to examine the national archives of his own country. The association of Lithuanian Jews pointed this out to him in a detailed letter (1) and I assume that other concerned parties have also responded in a similar manner. Although committee members attending the opening session, made a distinction between the two periods by way of the setting up of two sub committees, they will both be administered under the aegis of one umbrella organisation. It is clear to us that all the Lithuanians are looking for is the opportunity to legitimise the symmetry they wish to create between the periods in question. This is a logical deduction as a result of the following reasons: A. The policy of connecting both periods as laid down by the committee at its inception was no coincidence and was not decided upon in a momentary lapse in thought. The 'symmetry theory was started way back in 1940 when the Lithuanian Nazi movement, known as the LAF for short, was founded in Berlin even before any Jews had been murdered in Lithuania. The subsequent genocide and accompanying symmetry were to become an integral part of the doctrine formulated by the ringleaders of the LAF. They accused the Jews of committing crimes for which the Jews deserved to be murdered. They blamed the Jews for activities such as murder, forced deportations etc. that took place during the Soviet era. This theory took an even more blunt form following the Lithuanians' achievement of independence when the murderers of Jews and their government began warding off demands by world Jewry and other concerned parties for the prosecution of such criminals. It was from this point onwards that successive Lithuanian governments adopted an official policy of denying that the Jews had been murdered by their own countrymen. The very act of connecting both periods clearly shows that the new president has decided to continue this shameless and despicable policy. B. The granting of the status of an "international committee' to a group of individuals, most of whom are unknown even in their own country, are totally unfamiliar with the issues due to be examined by the committee and some of whom will certainly be unable to approach the issues under scrutiny in an objective manner. This gathering does not include a single international personality - neither amongst the Jews nor the Lithuanians - who can claim to have had any serious experience in dealing with this issues (the only individual with some familiarity with the matters at hand is Liudas Truska, but he is a Lithuanian himself and despite holding views which are more liberal than those of his colleagues, he will not dare to openly accuse Lithuanians of committing crimes and certainly not the entire Lithuanian nation as a whole. He is already considered persona non grata in Vilnius coffee shops because of his opinions). In order for this randomly selected and totally unsuited collection of individuals to be able to serve both as camouflage for the truth regarding the crimes committed by the Lithuanians and indeed, they are among the worst crimes ever to be perpetrated in the history of mankind - and a carte blanche legitimacy for the odious denial of the true events that took place during the Lithuanian holocaust, the Lithuanian president has awarded the status of "international experts' to the members of the committee, There is no doubt in our minds, that like all the other committees previously set up by the Lithuanians - such as the committee investigating the truth about the Lietukis garage massacre carried out by the Lithuanians as soon as the German invasion had got under way, or the committee entrusted with the task of reviewing the rehabilitation status granted to thousands of murderers - this charade was organised solely for the purpose of exonerating the Lithuanians from the horrendous crime of murdering hundreds of thousands of Jews both in Lithuania and other countries. In order to achieve this goal they found several Jews whom it seems, were willing to serve as the necessary camouflage for this blatant cover up. Holocaust survivors on the other hand, view this committee as yet another attempt to hide the bitter truth. If Adamkus is really so interested in finding out the truth, why won't he agree to turn the investigation over to an objective international institution such as the International court of justice at the Hague or another suitable investigative body? * Over recent times, we have managed to gather - through intensive work and in collaboration with researchers who have delved into various archives throughout Europe - wide ranging documentation that sheds new light on the horrific events that took place in Lithuania during the Nazi occupation. Some of these revelations appear in this issue, including a list with the names of about 5,000 Lithuanian murderers who took part in both the massacre of Lithuanian Jewry and the murder of thousands of Jews in other countries. This list constitutes only part of the total number of Lithuanians directly involved in acts of genocide. Estimates put the total figure at 23,000 and we hope to publish most, if not all of the remaining names of murderers, in the not too distant future, Both present and future generations of world Jewry - and Lithuanian expatriate Jews in particular - will never forget what the Lithuanian Amalekites did to the illustrious Lithuanian Jewry. On the other hand, the Lithuanians have it within their power to create the conditions that would bring about a meaningful dialogue between them and the Jewish people, a dialogue that would eventually result in a genuine and candid settlement being reached. This cannot be achieved by token gestures that amount to nothing more than a farce; such as the setting up of meaningless committees or dissemination of blatant falsehoods designed to cover up the true nature of the crimes committed during this period. As I mentioned previously, the Lithuanians must understand that it is their duty to absolve themselves of the innocent Jewish blood, they were so quick to spill during that period. This they can only do by confessing to the bitter truth, asking forgiveness of the Jewish people and bringing the murderers to trial. The Lithuanians must make a frank acknowledgement of the truth and they must approach the issue in a candid manner. A genuine attempt should be made on their part to heal the deep wound caused by the genocide of the Jewish community that resided in their midst, This process of reconciliation should be pursued in as civilised and sensitive a manner as possible.

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