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It is possible to offer some counterweight

 

By: Myra Sklarew

When I stood in Rotuses Square in Kaunas last September, I listened to a young man speak about the burden he had carried in his young life to know that his own grandfather  had been one of the killers during the War, a member of the Lithuanian Activist Front and part of a mobile killing unit. The young man asked forgiveness.

And when I stood with a group of some fifty people next to the place of massacre of over 2000 Jewish people in Kedainiai—a place where twenty-nine of my own family members were murdered,  I saw how Lithuanians were making the enormous passage across time and cultural divide to embrace a wrong that they had nothing to do with. I ask myself if I have done enough in my own country to right the wrongs committed by my forebears.

Thus, when neo-Nazis march through the streets of Vilnius and Kaunas, they not only bring harm and pain to Jewish people but to Lithuanians who have made and are making efforts to  come to know those who were their neighbors for centuries, as were my grandparents and their parents before them,  village farmers. I thank the Lithuanians for every single effort they are making to come to terms with this past, for schoolchildren who bring small stones to the graves and massacre places on Holocaust Remembrance Day, by way of their remembrance. I thank the teachers who bring the study of those who once lived among them into the focus of learning. I thank the teacher whose students identified very single house in one village, the families who once lived there, making the hidden and anonymous past alive and literally on the map. I thank the teacher, who long before others had begun this—and not without risk-- had her students interview their grandparents about their former neighbors who often comprised half of their village.

If it is not possible to stop the Neo-Nazi march, then surely it is possible to offer some counterweight, some teaching by Lithuanians—Jewish and Christian together—in public forums and media to bring understanding and education, Of course, it would help if the Lithuanian government took a stand against these marches. Though we honor free speech in my country, the government has ways of subduing the hate--requiring a march to take place at the edge of town rather than in the center, encouraging active counterpoint and teaching. assisting those who wish to protest against hate groups that they may do so without harm. It is no secret that the demonstration of radical hate gives permission to those on the fringe of society to act against others as well. The tight power structure of the neo-Nazis where individual 
identity is submerged in the power of the leader does away with any capacity for empathy.

Though we count on our leaders to offer appropriate boundaries and limits, we have learned long ago in America that change also happens through individual action, not only through dictates from above.

Myra Sklarew, USA
February 26, 2012

Category : Litvak forum



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