Lithuania’s diplomats are slowly coming to the realization that denial of Lithuanian participation in the Holocaust is neither credible, nor a winning strategy. So they have moved to Plan B: obscure the responsibility of local Nazi collaborators, some of whom are officially designated state heroes, with basic marketing techniques designed to distract from the downside of a product, and focus attention on what serves the Lithuanian government’s ‘Big Lie.”
The first thing we are supposed to forget is that the Holocaust had been largely completed in Lithuania before Nazi Germany began implementing it elsewhere. Much is made of the 900 or so Lithuanians who helped Jews escape persecution in hopes we would forget the more than 20,000 Lithuanians who, encouraged by their own leaders, murdered Jews with extraordinary enthusiasm and sadism. We are supposed to forget the hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians who benefited from the property plundered from their murdered neighbors.
We are supposed to forget the cruel and vile anti-Semitic propaganda that fueled the killings and was disseminated by Lithuanian leaders like prime minister-designate Kazys Skirpa and Captain Jonas Noreika (a.k.a., “General Vetra/Storm”), both posthumously elevated to hero status inside the country. We are supposed to forget their plans for a Nazi-allied Lithuania that, in Skirpa’s words, would “rid itself of Jews” and take its rightful place in Hitler’s “New Europe”. We are supposed to forget the provisional collaborationist Lithuanian government that didn’t lift a finger to prevent the murders, and even facilitated them.
Lithuania re-invents this part of its history. Inside the country, they laud murderers of Jews as their national heroes and disclaim responsibility for atrocities. The government of Lithuania even distorts American Congressional documents to commit Holocaust fraud.
Instead of admitting their participation in the torture, plunder and murder of their Jewish neighbors, they make every attempt to minimize Lithuanian participation and blame others for their own actions. Two of their biggest weapons are Facebook and Twitter where they launch disinformation campaigns hoping to reach uneducated or forgetful minds. They try to blame the destruction of Jews on Nazis and Soviets, and minimize Lithuanian participation. Certainly not all Lithuanians feel similarly, and some Lithuanians would like to see the record told truthfully. The campaign for foreign revisionism is an active campaign from the Lithuanian government and its employees who preach a very deliberate propaganda intended to falsify and mislead.
A first-ever evaluation rating individual European Union countries on how they face up to their Holocaust pasts and responsibility has just been published by William Echikson, Associate Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS). The report coincides with UN Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the research for it was conducted by scholars from Yale and Grinnell Colleges. It ranked countries on a scale of green, yellow or red, red being the most problematic. For its attempts at Holocaust distortion Lithuania was rated red. Inside Lithuania, they elevate Holocaust perpetrators to national hero status and discount the crimes of leaders like Skirpa and Noreika.
The Lithuanian government entered full distortion mode for 2019 Holocaust Remembrance Day. They selectively promoted single facts without context, making it sound like Lithuanians were mostly trying to save Jews, while ignoring inconvenient facts, and committing fraud about other facts. These messages are designed for foreign audiences with little knowledge of the period.
They remember that 0.045% of their population – 900+ people out of a then population of 2,000,000 were active rescuers. These are the only people they mention. They do not remember that after the war, the 900+ rescuers they keep mentioning had to hide from their neighbors, because rescuers became the new persecuted. They were vilified and sometimes murdered for having rescued Jews. Other Lithuanians murdered Jews that survived Concentration Camps and tried to return to Lithuania.
The “We Remember” Lithuanian campaign is the most disingenuous and offensive international marketing campaign I have personally ever witnessed. Lithuanian victims are commoditized and used as a sales point for Lithuania in front of foreign audiences, while inside the country, the government elevates and honors the murderers. Which of their messages is credible – the distortions they present to potential investors and tourists, or the one they present to their own population inside the country?
When our murdered families become their new sales product, how should we feel, and how should we respond?