MAD Magazine was a staple of American satire for generations. It was a formative architect of American humor, spawning an untold number of artists, journalists, creators, humorists, movies, and television shows. I ascribe my own particular sense of humor to having been fascinated by MAD Magazine in my youth.
Al Jaffee was best known as the American political cartoonist who contributed to MAD Magazine from the 1950s until 2020. From 1927 to 1933 he lived in provincial Lithuania, in his parents’ native town of Zarasai.
Al Jaffe and MAD Magazine personify the Jews of Zarasai. Zarasai is today a tiny, irrelevant village, in remote Eastern Europe. From Zarasai, was formed the American sense of humor.
So, what happened to Jaffe’s Jewish community from Zarasai, Lithuania?
On Tuesday, 3rd of Elul, August 26, 1941, eight thousand Jews from Zarasai and surrounding communities were taken to a forest near Dusetos, and murdered. I know of no survivors, so, the only source of information was from the murderers themselves.
Lithuanians tell us they never saw anything, none of them knew anything, nobody heard anything. There were no smells coming from the slaughter of eight thousand human lives. But, nonetheless, information leaks out.
It was Lithuanians who proudly selected the location for the murders of their Jewish neighbors. Lithuanians eagerly identified and rounded up their Jewish co-citizens, including Al Jaffe’s mother. They enthusiastically drove the innocent Jews to their pre-prepared killing fields with utter cruelty and savagery. This was their entertainment.
Usually, Lithuanians would murder babies and old people along the route, to “incentivize” Jews to move faster towards the killing fields. After all, there were just so many Jews for them to murder, they didn’t want time to be wasted.
In Zarasai County in August 1941, there were at least 22 precincts, including sections in ward centers. Each precinct and department sent 9 – 10 Lithuanians to perpetrate Holocaust crimes, and towns with ghettos (Dusetos, Antalieptė, Smalvos and Salakas) mobilized almost their entire police contingent. Unarmed Lithuanians were given weapons by their Lithuanian leaders and by Nazis, so they could take extra pleasure, extra creativity, and extra cruelty in their day’s “activities”. Nazis were safe in giving weapons to Lithuanians, there was no difference in their ideology towards Jews. Lithuanians were so enthusiastic about, and proud of murdering Jews, that sometimes, Nazis had to restrain them.
The Jewish victims were forced to dig their own graves. Their death pit was 230 meters long, and 3 meters wide. Lithuanians knew what they were forcing their Jewish neighbors to dig, and Jews knew they were digging the pits in which their children and parents would soon be savagely slaughtered.
Can you possibly feel the sadness beyond sadness of the victims? Can you feel the anguish Rabbi’s and Sages felt as they were forced to dig the pits in which their Jewish community and themselves, and their children would be slaughtered? Can you feel the utter anguish of an entire community being swept away in an orgy of blood? Is a human able to imagine a mother watching her newborn infant have her head smashed against a tree stump, so that Lithuanians could save the “expense” of a bullet? Can you imagine what the Mother endured as she waited for her own oncoming bullet? Can you imagine a twin sister watching her twin being raped repeatedly, and then murdered? Can you imagine a great-grandfather watching all his descendants being slaughtered simultaneously, and no one left to mourn? Can you comprehend the absolute horror of having your whole world ripped away from you in a matter of seconds? This and so much more was perpetrated by Lithuanian locals for the simple joy and entertainment of destroying an entire people, guilty of nothing except being born a Jew.
A Lithuanian named Pranas Jučinskas was a leading perpetrator against Jews. He reported that eight hundred Lithuanians mobilized for the murder festivities. It took the participation of many hundreds of Lithuanians to murder Al Jaffe’s elderly mother, and 7,999 additional Jewish victims alongside her. Lithuanians were so efficient at killing, no Jew from Zarasai was known to have survived.
Local Lithuanians did the murdering, local Lithuanians shared the plunder, local Lithuanians enjoyed the opportunity to freely rape young Jewish virgins before murdering them. And, the most common claim in Lithuania today is that many Lithuanians were trying to rescue Jews from Nazis. This is a contemptible lie. Rescuers were mostly rescuing Jews from OTHER Lithuanians. Nazis served as enablers if they were even present at all at the murder scenes. The Holocaust in Lithuania was almost entirely a Lithuanian “carnival” of cruelty, blood and gore.
Even death did not protect the murdered Jews from further indignity. Even after the Holocaust was complete, local Lithuanians continually dug up the Jewish death pits looking for gold fillings on the rotted corpses of their Jewish murder victims.
Fortunately, Russian Soviets punished Jučinskas for his crimes. This is diametrically opposite of Lithuania, who has never punished a single Holocaust perpetrator. Rather, Lithuania continues to deem the murderers as their national heroes.
Lithuania has rewritten the narrative of the Holocaust into themselves as rescuers who were desperately trying to save their “beloved” Jews. This is an evil and dastardly fraud. With almost no Jewish survivors, it is easy for Lithuania to lie; they create whatever fictions they please without fear of contradiction. And so, they have repeatedly, comprehensively, purposefully, and with no shame whatsoever, rewritten the history of their Holocaust against Jews.
Chairman of Yad Vashem, Dani Dayan addressed the Parliament of Lithuania on September 21, 2023. He deconstructed Lithuania’s fraudulent account of the Holocaust and demanded they cease their distortions and revisions. It is a task Lithuania will not do. They consider the people who willingly, joyously and enthusiastically volunteered to torture and murder Jews just like Al Jaffe, as the pride of their nation.
Imagine a world with eight thousand more Al Jaffe’s, and eight thousand additional and different versions of MAD Magazine. We cannot, because that creativity was slaughtered, and lays twisted within Lithuanian killing fields. The world will forever be a worse place because of the Lithuanian Holocaust.
Lithuania has worked hard to cover up their role in the Holocaust. The American and German Governments, IHRA, and now the Chairman of Yad Vashem have told Lithuania that murdering Jews is not something of which they should be proud. However, Lithuania remains proud. The murderers remain their national identity. Lithuania willingly displays their identity for the world to see.
Foreign leaders must understand Lithuania’s strategy of re-writing Holocaust history, so that they do not to fall into the same trap as Canada. It would be very unfortunate to have American Members of Congress also have to resign because they believed a supposed “ally”. Nazi’s, and those who hero worship Holocaust perpetrators can never be an ally of a civilized state.
Holocaust deniers must be taken very seriously, as the denial itself constitutes intent towards future evil acts. We need only to recognize what is in front of our own eyes.
We will not shirk our duty to remember.
With thanks to Dr. Melody Ziff (A Jew!)