18 February 2018
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So-called ‘double genocide’ and other red herrings


By Donatas Januta

Mr. Didier Bertin is either woefully misinformed or intentionally misstates facts in his “reply” to Yves Plasseraud’s article “Lithuania and the memory of the Shoah (Holocaust)”.   

He refers to the crimes of Hitler and Stalin as the “Double Genocide” theory, states that the comparison of the two is initiated by Lithuania and/or its government, and that the reason for it is to somehow minimize the tragedy which the world’s Jews suffered during the Second World War.   But the comparison between the tragedies brought by those two psychopaths, Hitler and Stalin, is not of Lithuanian origin or usage at all.  

Mr. Bertin chooses not to give credit where credit is due.  The comparison between Hitler’s and Stalin’s crimes was first made and thoroughly analyzed by the prominent Israeli historian Dov Levin, in his book “The Lesser of Two Evils”.   Three things are clear to anyone who has read Dov Levin’s treatise:   (1)  Levin was definitely and scrupulously comparing the two, as he inevitably had to do to arrive at his conclusion which of the two was the lesser evil.   (2)   He was evaluating the two evils solely from the Jewish perspective, and in his conclusion he uses the word “lesser” not in the universal sense, but only with respect to the effect upon Jews.    (3)   Because Levin, even in the title of his book acknowledges, that there was not one but two evils – if there was only one, there would have been nothing he could have compared it to –  that still leaves two for analyzing their effect on the rest of the world.  

Levin did not use a modifier to describe  the effect of the two evils on non-Jews i.e., he did not state whether as to non-Jews the two evils of Hitler and Stalin were or were not equal, or similar, or equivalent.   But neither does Lithuania.   I have not run across the Lithuanian government or Lithuanians using the term  “Double Genocide”. 

Lithuania’s position is simply – you grieve for your tragedy, and we will grieve for ours.  Just as every person, every family, so every nation, every ethnic group, is entitled to grieve for their own separately from the grief of others, so are the Jews, the Ukrainians, the Cambodians, the Armenians, and others.  So are the Lithuanians.  

Bertin further states that Lithuanians are not entitled to use the word “genocide” at all in reference to their own tragedy  because “Lithuanian people still exist and are active in Lithuania”, i.e., that Hitler’s, and Stalin’s,  attempts to wipe them out were not successful.  Yet, he refers to the killings of Armenians, Rwandans, and Cambodians as being “real genocides”.  But  Armenians in Armenia, Rwandan’s in Rwanda, and Cambodians in Cambodia also still exist and are active in their countries, are they not?   (Bertin conveniently forgot to mention the genocide of the Ukranians, which, of course was perpetrated by that “lesser” of the two evils.)

Yes, 90% of Lithuanian Jews were killed during World War II.   And, yes, there were some German-organized Lithuanian militias or “Lithuanian auxiliaries” who participated in some of those actions.   But how many Lithuanians were in those “Lithuanian auxiliaries”?    The Soviets during that period also had a Division, the 16th Rifle Division, which they referred to as the “Lithuanian 16th Rifle Division.”    But because most soldiers in this “Lithuanian” division did not speak Lithuanian, the commands were given not in Lithuanian, but in Yiddish and Russian.  So, just how “Lithuanian” was this 16th Soviet Division were commands were given not in Lithuanian but in Yiddish and Russian?    And how “Lithuanian” were those “Lithuanain auxiliaries” which partook in German-organized and German-led killing of Jews?

Here is a quote from testimony of an ethnic Pole,  a member of one of those “Lithuanian Auxiliaries”, also referred to as “Special Detachments”, which testimony is in the possession of the US Justice Department’s “nazi hunting” department, the Office of Special Investigations (OSI):  

The Pole, Jan Borkowski, testified how the Russian Dolgow recruited him into the German organized “Lithuanian Auiliary”:    „Dolgow and I entered the building through Wilenska Street and went to the second floor... In my presence [someone] personally filled out my name in the questionnaire in Lithuanian and I signed it after Jan Dolgow had translated it to me. My name in the questionnaire was written in Lithuanian as Jonas Barkauskas, son of Ignas. The questionnaire also included my date of birth, rank in the Polish army, and similar information. That day I also received a certificate stating tha I was employed in the Special Detachment and that I had a right to possess a firearm... I received an identification card, filled in Lithuanian.”  (Protocol of Interrogation of a Suspect – Jan Borkowski, 29 January 1973, U.U. v. Dailide, Document 580–655, Bates No. 07821–07823.”

Borkowski further admitted that he participated in executing Jews at Ponary, that he has no remorse in having participated, but he expressed regret for having worn a Lithuanian uniform while doing so:  „I was ashamed, however, that I was a Pole and had to put on the uniform of the bourgeois Lithuanian army.” (Bates No.07882).

And should the fact that Lithuania was one of the few, and perhaps the only, German occupied country where the Germans, despite repeatedly trying, did not succeed in establishing a local ethnic SS, should that not give pause for thought as well?

Just a bit more of statistics.   According to Israeli historian, Dina Porat, about 0.5%, i.e., half of one percent, of the entire population of Lithuania was involved directly and indirectly, i.e., whether prison guards, drivers, etc., in the killing of Jews. (And how many of your French, Mr. Bertin, were involved in rounding up France’s Jews and shoving them into railroad cars heading straight for Auschwitz?) Porat does not however state how many of that 0.5% were Jan Borkowski, Jan Dogow, and similar “honorary” Lithuanians.    The number of Lithuanians who have been identified as having, at the risk of their own lives, saved Jews from the Holocaust, is on the same order of magnitude.

Bertin’s statement that Lithuania is the sole country that “tries to prosecute Holocaust Survivors and members of the resistance against Nazis” flatly contradicts the facts. In 2007, the Polish government  forwarded information and asked the Lithuanian government to investigate the slaughter, on January 29, 1944, by Soviet partizans/bandits of Polish and Lithuanian civilian villagers at Kaniukai (“Koniuchy”).  Those partizans/bandits were not just anti-Nazis, their main goal was to bring Stalin’s communism, with its demonstrated terror, back into Lithuania.

Here is testimony of two of those “anti-Nazi” Soviet Jewish partisans regarding their actions at Kaniukai.  Abraham Zelesnikow:  “Partisans came around the village, everything was torched, every animal, every person was killed.  And one of my friends, acquaintances, a partisan, took a woman, put her head on a stone, and killed her with a stone.”    Zalman Wylozni:  “the entire village of 80 farmsteads was burned to the ground and its inhabitants were murdered.”

The villagers were slaughtered because they defended their and their families’ lives and livelihoods, as the partizan/bandits have themselves admitted:  Joseph Harmatz:  “We came in like bandits and, after all, we were robbing the local peasants of their livelihood.  .   .   .   Gradually the villagers ...  became our enemies.”  Rakhil Margolis:   “I could not stomach going to [these “requisitioning”  expeditions].  I was so ashamed of entering a cottage and demanding from the peasants potatoes, flour, especially livestock – sheep, cows.  The women cried, the men cursed.  .  .  .   there were many “underworlds” types in our detachment – former thieves and swindlers for whom robbery was an habitual thing.”

So, on the basis of Poland’s request and this type of information, the Lithuanian government sought to question, not to prosecute, but merely to question as witnesses,  some of the admitted witnesses in that indiscriminate slaughter of civilian villagers.   The result was an almost hysterical reaction from Efraim Zuroff and his followers, claiming that Lithuania was persecuting Holocaust survivors.

If someone wants to learn historical facts, and not just listen to political polemics based on red herrings like the so-called “Double Genocide” theory,  you should read professor Timothy Snyder’s “Bloodlands” about the conditions in Lithuania and Easterm Europe during World War II.   Or better yet, start with Israeli historian Dov Levin’s “The Lesser of Two Evils.”

At the end of his article, Bertin, reminds us that many Russian soldiers died fighting the Nazis, as if Lithuanians should be thankful to the Russians.   But if Russia’s Stalin had not signed the infamous non-aggression treaty with Hitler in 1939, where Stalin gave Hitler free hand to invade and occupy Poland, and to thus start World War II, those Russians would also not have needed to die.   And the tragedy of the Holocaust might not have occurred either.  So, go ahead, Mr. Bertin, do thank the Russians.

There are other incorrect and misleading claims in Didier Bertin’s, as well as in Olga Zabludoff’s, “reply” to Yves Plasseraud.  Like the simple fact that in addition to the Genocide Museum of the Lithuanian tragedy, there is also nearby in Vilnius a Jewish Holocaust Museum, which is funded by the Lithuanian government and administered by the Lithuanian Jewish Community, and which covers exclusively the Jewish tragedy of World War II.  

And, please, Olga, spare us your crocodile tears under your fancied claim that the “contributions” of Jews “to Lithuania’s economy and culture were enormous” and that the Lithuanian government is ignoring it.  The contribution of Jews to Lithuania’s economy and culture, over the 600 years that they lived in Lithuania, was either zilch or less than zilch.   Let me explain.

Lithuania, on the eve of World War I, was as backward a country as the rest of the Russian Empire.  Due to the Czarist Russian empire’s occupation and oppressive colonialism policies for over 100 years, Lithuania’s economy was depressed, it was an agricultural economy, but with Lithuanians being barely more than subsistance farmers.   Its culture was marked by almost total illiteracy, due to Russia’s restrictions on the use of the Lithuanian language.  I have no idea what Olga Zabludoff has in mind when she refers to the “enormous” economic and cultural contributions of the Litvaks to the Lithuanian nation.  There were none.  Lithuania was economically and culturally exploited and oppressed.     

For 600 years Litvaks lived side by side with, but separate from, Lithuanians.   Indeed, Jewish historians have noted that of all of Europe’s Jews, those of Lithuania interacted the least with the ethnic people among whom they lived.   And they have further noted, that this self-insulation allowed the Jews to maintain, preserve and develop their unique culture with the least amount of outside influence.  A number of Jewish scholars note that the Jews in Lithuania were able to do this, because they considered the Lithuanians inferior to them.  

Zabludoff also laments that Lithuanians are striving to preserve and extol their own history without simultaneously extolling the history of its Jews.  And how much time do Jews devote to preserving or extoling Lithuania’s history when they extol their own?    If the small country of Lithuania doesn’t beat its own drum, there is noone else who will do it for them.   

Litvaks, are certainly neither unknown, nor ignored, nor hidden from the world, nor do they lack anyone to beat their drums.  Litvaks’ vast contribution to world knowledge, science and the arts over the last 100 years probably has no parallel in any other group.  And we have all benefited from their talents and intellect.    But this has happened in the last 100 years in the West.  It was not the case in Lithuania for the 600 years up to World War II.  Lithuanians were peasant farmers, Jews were urban merchants and tradesmen.   Their cultures did not intermix. 

And certainly it should not be surprising if the small country of Lithuania, as Zabludoff says, cannot appease far-right extremists, if such a prominent scholar like professor Timothy Snyder is unable to do so.  Just look at the attacks by Efraim Zuroff and his followers on Snyder’s book “Bloodlands”, which otherwise has received an extremely favorable reception throughout the world.

The Jews of Lithuania and the ethnic Lithuanians both suffered terribly during World War II.  But, just as they had lived for 600 years, side by side but separate, so they suffered their tragedies separately.  Thus, it may be that Lithuanians and Jews will never agree on the events of World War II, because they are each viewing them from a separate reality.    But that should not be cause for playing fast and loose with historical facts, as Diedier Bertin and Olga Zabludoff, have done.  

Category : Blog archive

  • […]  Donatas Januta: So-called ‘double genocide’ and other red herrings  […]

    November 08 2011
    • Tadas Lisauskas

      A very well written article by you showing the double standard that is widely used to diminish the atrocities that happened to the Lithuanian and other Baltic people by the Soviets. It is refreshing to hear this side of the story being told.

      October 29 2011
      • Alexander

        One has to wonder who this "fdfdg" is. He's afraid to even show his first name. But regardles of who he is, his comment is full of hatred, misimformation, and wrong facts. There are two groups of Jewish writers: those who do their research, check the facts, and write the truth, and those whose main purpose is to disregard and distort the facts and spill their hatred. "fdfdg" belongs to the second group.

        October 27 2011
        • Richard Vitkauskas

          Excellent article Donatas.. many thanks

          October 27 2011
          • Donatas Januta

            For those who may want a little perspective on fdfdg’s preceding comment. He states that my article is “an outrageus pack of lies”, and specifically he then says: “The number of Lithuanian perpetrators is in the tens of thousands, and those are just the active shooters.” Dina Porat, a respected Israeli historian estimated that the total number of Lithuanians, involved directly and indirectly, in the German organized killing of Jews was up to 15,000, i.e., about 0.5% of the population. And Arunas Bubnys, another historian, has estimated that those directly involved, i.e., what fdfdg refers to as “the active shooters”, was somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000. But according to Mr. or Ms. fdfdg, both of these historians are just liars. Judge for yourselves the rest of fdfdg’s remarks.

            October 26 2011
            • fdfdg

              An outrageous pack of lies. The Jews in Lithuania were murdered by ethnic Lithuanian volunteers. Lithuanians are still trying to hide this fact after 60 years, from themselves, their children and now they are attempting to impose this false history on the world at large. Dov Levin isn't positing double genocide, there is no equals sign there. "Double genocide" is not the name the Lithuanians give to their own policy of Holocaust obfuscation, but it's an accurate name. The number of Lithuanian perpetrators is in the tens of thousands, and those are just the active shooters. If you want to get into passive support for genocide, it's much higher. There was no specifically Lithuanian Waffen SS, because the Lithuanians created their own pro-Nazi formations before the Nazis got around to it, TDA, LAF etc etc. and these forces were involved in the Holocaust in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and elsewhere, besides their native Lithuania. The author is obviously fooling himself into thinking it's possible some Lithuanians were fooled into it at German direction, but the LAF was a Lithuanian organization, not a German one, and their underground cells of ethnic Lithuanians inside Lithuania (LAF was pretending to be the government in exile in Berlin) got the orders from HQ: prepare to slaughter your Jewish neighbors as soon as Soviet-German hostilities break out. Didier Bertin's point concerning the supposed Soviet genocide of Lithuanians was not that some Lithuanians survived, it was that not only did the vast majority survive, their population actually increased during the supposed genocide. This is an outrageous pack of lies by another Lithuanian Holocaust obfuscator.

              October 26 2011
              • Alexander

                Well said. I just wish those who write about Lithuanian-Jewish relations and blame all Lithuanians for the killing of Jews, would get their true facts before writing.

                October 26 2011


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