Lithuania doubles down on Holocaust revisionism
On 18 August 2020, the Lithuanian Supreme Court issued a final ruling denying the review of the merits of a complaint alleging that the Lithuanian government agency known as the Genocide Center deliberately revised Holocaust history.
Lithuanian law supposedly prohibits Holocaust denial, but the Lithuanian government regularly participates in Holocaust revisionism without consequence. All avenues to truth within Lithuania’s highly politicised legal system have now been exhausted. The case is now to be presented to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
In addition to being politicised, Lithuania’s courts have a reputation for corruption. Multiple judges have been arrested for selling judicial decisions. Reminiscent of the Soviet judicial system, judges are also known to follow political instructions on how to rule. The ECHR, being independent of the political forces in Lithuania, is likely to hear and decide this case on its merits.
Lithuania achieved independence in 1990, and promised a truthful accounting of the Holocaust. Instead, it has developed a sophisticated strategy of deception to show Lithuanians only as victims, never persecutors. Instead of truth about Holocaust perpetrators, perpetrators are converted into national heroes and their histories falsified.
Lithuania will impose criminal and civil penalties on individuals who “defame” its Holocaust perpetrators. This isn’t unlike Soviet Russia, where criticism of Stalin’s crimes was prohibited and punishable.
During World War II, 96.4% of the country’s Jewish citizens were murdered, a higher percentage than in any other country, mostly at the hands of their ethnic Lithuanian co-citizens. Not a single murderer of a Jew has been punished by Lithuania since it regained independence.
In 2015, 19 of Lithuania’s leading intellectuals (including Lithuania’s own member of the European Parliament) signed a petition to ask the government to tell the truth about a Holocaust perpetrator – Captain Jonas Noreika.
He was the all-powerful ruler of western Lithuania when the Jews in the area were thrown out of their homes, crammed in temporary concentration camps, and then methodically starved, raped, beaten, and murdered. The government responded by publicly accusing the 19 of being “agents of the east” (Kremlin agents), “Jews, and other stupid people.”
This was intended to intimidate truth seekers into silence, and succeeded. It’s a standard practice in Lithuania to blame anything inconvenient on the country’s Russian enemy. In such a fashion, it’s still possible in Lithuania for one citizen to “denounce” another for inappropriate ideology.
Lithuanian police have “interviewed” people who have discussed Holocaust crimes by Lithuanians. One Lithuanian author who discussed the country’s participation in the Holocaust, Rūta Vanagaitė, was subjected to such government contempt and private threats that, fearing for her personal safety, she left Lithuania for several years.
The Lithuanian government has been discredited internationally for its Holocaust revisionism, however, this doesn’t dissuade it from its quest. Its customary response is either to ignore, or hold out a distraction which it claims shows its love of Jews.
After the United States Congress formally protested Lithuania’s manipulation of US congressional documents to distort its Holocaust record, Lithuania had no choice but to replace the director of the agency. Instead of acting responsibly, the new director promptly appointed a master Holocaust revisionist and antisemite, Vidmantas Valiušaitis, as his new senior advisor. This reflects the government’s position on doubling down on its re-writing of history, and makes clear its intention of never being truthful.
International awareness of Lithuania’s revision programme has resulted in multiple American cities issuing formal resolutions of condemnation of Lithuania. Other cities worldwide are currently consulting about adding their voices. Lithuania’s appointment of Valiušaitis has made its programme so blatant and obvious, that many more cities are expected to pass similar resolutions.
The orthodoxy of the Holocaust lie inside Lithuania has become absolute. It’s tied into patriotism and nationalism, promoted by the national government, and validated by the legal system. It has become its fundamental truth, and isn’t subject to correction. The foundational narrative of Lithuania is built on the purity of its partisan heroes.
To admit that so many were Holocaust perpetrators calls into question the very essence of the state created. Valiušaitis’s appointment reflects the cementing of ideology over facts, and is a slap in the face of every murder victim in Lithuania. It exposes the sham of Lithuania’s outreach to Jews.
In August, the Lithuanian government gave Juozas Streikus Stumbras a state funeral. He was a known Holocaust perpetrator. President Gitanas Nausėeda called him a “very brave hero, a real freedom fighter”.
Just one month earlier, the Lithuanian government signed a pledge with the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) not to convert Holocaust perpetrators into national heroes. Its signature on international pledges is clearly worthless.
Lithuania would like to develop a commercial conference centre on top of a historic Jewish cemetery in the capital city. This is consistent with its previous sales of murder pits of Jews for a venue for parties and weddings. This will be the biggest land and development project in Lithuania. In an environment of zero trust, its project is paralysed. The Lithuanian government takes steps only to increase distrust between itself and Jews, and where there is no reason for any trust at all, no progress is possible. All of this therefore has real world economic consequences in Lithuania.
Lithuania’s exposure on the international stage has had a negative result inside Lithuania. Open displays of antisemitism have increased, and Jews inside Lithuania are under increasing pressure. Lithuania’s consistent choice is ideology over facts, and the stability of the nation. There is little we can do to change its behaviour, we can only watch, bear witness, and report.
- Grant Arthur Gochin is the Emeritus Special Envoy for Diaspora Affairs for the African Union, which represents 55 African nations. He has spent the past 20 years documenting and restoring signs of Jewish life in Lithuania. Gochin is the author of “Malice, Murder, and Manipulation”, published in 2013. His book documents his family history of oppression in Lithuania. He is presently working on a project to expose the current Holocaust revisionism within the Lithuanian governm