Australia has the largest per-capita Holocaust Survivor population outside Israel. Paradoxically, Australia also became a refuge for a significant number of Nazi war criminals.
Let us examine how this unfolded. In 1944, as Soviet troops pushed further west, Baltic Holocaust perpetrators fled west to avoid capture and punishment for their crimes. Thousands blended into Displaced Persons Camps and steadfastly claimed to be anti-Nazi and anti-Soviet. They professed to be victims of the war (not perpetrators), and sought refuge in countries such as Australia, USA and Canada.
Australia unknowingly admitted hundreds of Holocaust perpetrators who became Australian citizens and lived out their lives in peace and freedom, oftentimes, in close proximity to Survivors that had been their victims.
It was not uncommon for them to teach their children Nazi talking points as historical truths; in so doing, they were justifying their previous actions. Their narrative continued to be that Jews were Communists and the enemy, and always would be the enemy.
Since independence in 1990, Lithuania has not punished a single murderer of a Jew, despite 220,000 Jews having been murdered on their soil. 96.4% of the country’s Jewish citizens were slaughtered, a higher percentage than in any other country. This genocide was perpetrated with the massive participation of local Lithuanians. There were very few Germans posted in Lithuania; the murders were mostly one ethnic Lithuanian citizen, murdering a single Jewish Lithuanian citizen, one by one by one, at more than 200 mass murder sites. This often took place in full view of the general citizenry. Lithuania had completed their genocide of Jews before Germany even proposed theirs.
Since independence, the Lithuanian government 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 by a government agency called the Genocide Center. There is no path to the truth about the Holocaust inside Lithuania. Courts are politicized and often corrupt. Courts and government have aligned to refute vast amounts of documentary evidence that Jonas Noreika, the murderer of approximately 14,500 Jews was not the national hero they identified him as, but rather, a monstrous war criminal. Even Noreika’s own granddaughter has recognized him as a genocidal murderer of Jews.
At being confronted over their Holocaust deceptions, the government has gone into full revisionism mode. The Public Prosecutor denied three applications to charge their own government with Holocaust denial, and five separate Courts refused to address any of the facts of the case; all cases were dismissed on flimsy technicalities. Their final Supreme Court dismissal on 18 August 2020, now allows the case to be presented to the European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”).
The government of Lithuania intimidates those who speak out about the Holocaust. Ideological purity is a social requirement, and reminiscent of their Soviet past. Current Lithuanian law prohibits negative comments about those who are considered to be national heroes. Many of their current national heroes were Holocaust perpetrators. In fact, so many, that this could not have possibly been an accidental choice.
The orthodoxy of the Holocaust deception inside Lithuania has become absolute. It is tied into patriotism and nationalism, promoted by the national government and validated by the legal system. It has become their fundamental truth and not 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 and thieves calls into question the very essence of the state created.
USA allowed many Holocaust perpetrators to immigrate under the guise of “Operation Paperclip”. One of those was a perpetrator named Brazaitis. He died while being investigated for his Holocaust crimes, therefore, forcing the investigation to close without a conclusion. The Lithuanian government falsely stated that the posthumous ending of the investigation meant that US Congress had “completely exonerated” him. Repeated proclamations of that lie have resulted in US Congress filing an objection with the Lithuanian Prime Minister, instructing the Lithuanian government to cease their “mis-statements of facts”.
Australia too was dragged into the morass of harboring Holocaust criminals. The most notorious was Konrad Kalejs, a Latvian accused of the murder of 30,000 of his Jewish co-citizens. The Australian government did not revoke Kalejs’s naturalization.
Another perpetrator that was admitted to Australia was the father of Lithuania’s first post-independence leader, Vytautas Landsbergis. His father, Vytautas Landsbergis-Zemkalnis was a signatory to the orders to create the first concentration camp on Lithuanian soil, an act by the Lithuanian Provisional Government, not by Nazis.
Australian investigators uncovered the facts about many of these human rights violators and were reluctant to prosecute or deport them. It is not too late. Australia can take a moral stand and pass legislation permitting the posthumous revocation of naturalization of those who committed mass human rights offenses in other countries, and who did not declare their crimes upon immigration to Australia.
It is still possible for Australia to stand up for the victims and repudiate the perpetrators. This would be a symbolic act, yet, in symbolism, there is much power. This would be a clear statement, that even after death, Australia refuses to accept those people that have oppressed and committed heinous crimes.