- November 14, 2012
One Europe – Two versions of history
After the reading of an interview with Saulius Sužiedelis, an American professor of Lithuanian descent and member of the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania, it crossed my mind that we, people from Lithuania, were not able to deal with our own history. In the interview the professor presents his observations after the conference “One Europe – One History” organized in Lithuanian parliament.
A bone of contention is the interpretation of crimes committed by Nazis and Soviets in different periods of the occupation of Lithuania. The main goal of our contemporary national authorities is to equal those crimes and qualify them as “genocidas” (genocide) in the international historiography. According to Sužiedelis, Lithuania wants to force its interpretation despite the international regulations and definition of genocide. Genocide (or holocaust if we refer to Jewish community) is an attempt to murder a whole group or race of people. The contemporary history knows three such cases.
They are: the Armenian Genocide before the First World War, the Holocaust during the Second World War, and the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. Lithuanian politicians and historians want to add “lietuviu genocida” after the WWII to that horrible list. This goal constitutes a basis of the Lithuanian policy which, according to the professor, does the country more harm than good. Within the frame work of this policy in the centre of Vilnius a museum “Genocido i rezistencijos” has been established. The name of the institution misleads the members of the international community who are convinced that the exhibition concerns the extermination (holocaust) of Jewish people in Lithuania during the last world war. In reality this issue is treated as an addition to the main topic, namely “genocido” of Lithuanian nation committed by the Soviet Union. The problem is that the Soviet regime did not plan the extermination of the whole nation. The mass murders in the postwar Lithuania do not match the international definition of genocide. Therefore, the name of the museum is unauthorized. It is not the only one methodological mistake of the mentioned institution. The museum treats the topic of crimes committed in the occupied Lithuania extremely selectively. Only the postwar suffering of Lithuanian people is exposed whereas the topic of tortures and murders of thousands of Poles and Jews by Nazis who occupied Vilnius during the war and collaborating with them Lithuanian people is not presented explicitly. On granite walls of the historic building at ul. Ofiarna [English: the Ofiarna Street], where during the war the Gestapo headquarters was located, in the independent Lithuania there are craved only names of Lithuanian victims of the repression after 1944.
At the end of the interview the journalist asks the professor whether such a policy is a proof of deceitfulness of our authorities. “We have our problems. We talk about the policy of remembrance but the policy of remembrance often leads to oblivion.” said the professor. He added that the genocide of Jews committed in 1941 in Lithuania had never been repeated. It is not surprising that the international community do not want to accept the redefinition of the “genocidas” in Lithuania when the national authorities try to associate this phenomenon in the consciousness of an ordinary Lithuanian citizen with the crimes of the Soviet regime. Such an anti-historical policy does not evoke a sense of understanding and empathy in the western countries for originally justified attempts of the international remembrance of the tragic Lithuanian history after the last world war. It leads to the misunderstanding and accusations of the attempts to hide complicity in the crimes of the Holocaust using postwar victims.
Unfortunately, we have one Europe but two versions of history.
Tłumaczenie Karolina Rolka w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Karolina Rolka the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.