Last September the Lithuanian parliament declared 2011 the year of Holocaust commemoration. One week later, it declared 2011 the year for remembering and celebrating Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrators, who are regularly glorified by nationalists as anti-Soviet partisans.
These "partisans" systematically plundered and slaughtered their Jewish neighbours throughout the country. This was the Lithuanian Holocaust which, due to enthusiastic local collaboration, claimed the highest percentage of Jews in Europe.
One major Lithuanian collaborationist entity came into play: the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF). This was a network of ethnically Lithuanian activists, directed by the LAF leadership in Berlin under Lithuanian envoy to Germany Kazys Skirpa.
Skirpa and other Lithuanians in Berlin appointed themselves the future Provisional Government (PG) in Lithuania in order to hand a fait accompli to the invading Germans: a pro-Nazi regime entering the Second World War for the Axis. In spring of 1941 the LAF HQ directed cells in Lithuania to prepare to murder Jews indiscriminately in the interregnum between Soviet withdrawal and German occupation.
This summer the Lithuanian government has been sponsoring conferences, films, festivals and other events celebrating the 70th anniversary of the LAF and PG, in parallel with a limited number of Holocaust commemoration events mainly targeting foreign Jews and Western diplomats.
Lithuanian ‘partisans’ wiped out their Jewish neighbours
The small Lithuanian Jewish community has cautioned that the government's ongoing investment in commemorating the murderers would "gravely damage the country's image in the international arena".
While pursuing Jewish-interest projects to bolster its image, Lithuania is the prime mover behind the "Prague process" in the European Parliament, which seeks to proclaim equality between Nazi and Soviet war crimes, effectively denying that the Holocaust was a unique event in history.
Last November, six Vilnius-based envoys of EU countries, plus the Norwegian ambassador, wrote to the Lithuanian president expressing concern over the country's legalisation of swastikas in 2010, the rise of antisemitism and its attempt at rewriting history: "Spurious attempts are made to equate the uniquely evil genocide of the Jews with Soviet crimes against Lithuania, which, though great in magnitude, cannot be regarded as equivalent in either their intention or result."
Lithuania is playing a worrying game with the Holocaust. While pretending to confront its horrific past, it is privately passing the baton of Nazi ideology to the next generation and beyond.
Geoff Vasil is a former Lithuanian journalist