Scrapbookpages Blog

February 22, 2016

New book about the Lithuanians who killed their Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — furtherglory @ 8:15 am
Monument in honor of the Jews who were killed in Lithuania

Efraim Zuroff prays at monument for the Jews killed in Lithuania

The following quote is from a recent news article which you can read in full at

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[Author] Vanagaite and Zuroff are not in full accord. She believes that in lieu of Lithuanian introspection, the extent and cruelty of Lithuanian complicity has been vastly exaggerated – including in survivors’ testimonies. She cast doubt on testimonies about a man who was boiled alive in Panevezys and an account that locals, after slaughtering dozens of Jews in Kaunas, sang the Lithuanian anthem. Zuroff says he has no reason to doubt these accounts.

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Lithuanian man standing near the bodies of Jews that he has killed

Lithuanian man standing near the bodies of Jews that he has killed

The plight of the Lithuanian Jews has, unfortunately, not been told enough.  I have written three previous blog posts about the Lithuanian Jews who were killed, for no reason at all, during World War II, by their non-Jewish neighbors. This is a story that has been mostly kept out of the news — until now.

Author Ruta Vanagaite’s latest book, “Musiskiai” (“Our People”), is “a travelogue about the Holocaust consisting of interviews with witnesses to the atrocities perpetrated by Lithuanians against their Jewish neighbors.”

You can read more about her book in this news article:

The following quote is from the news article, cited above:

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Vanagaite, who is 61 and not Jewish, visited killing fields in Lithuania and Belarus to research the book, which she co-authored with Efraim Zuroff, the renowned Nazi hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office. Though she found the journalist’s request to see her birth certificate unsettling, she complied anyway.

“I know where it’s coming from,” Vanagaite told JTA. “Lithuanian involvement in the Holocaust is such a taboo that being a Jew or a Russian spy are the only explanations for wanting to talk about it.”

But that is beginning to change thanks to Vanagaite’s book.

“In one fell swoop, the book has brought a wave of truth telling about the Holocaust to the mainstream of society who follow the large media outlets,” said Dovid Katz, a Yiddish scholar in Vilnius who has campaigned for historical accuracy on the Lithuanians’ Holocaust-era role in the near annihilation of the Lithuanian Jewish community of 220,000. “It is of notable importance that a born and bred Lithuanian author tells the simple truth as it has never been told in a trade book not intended for scholars and specialists.”

Geoff Vasil, a spokesman for the Jewish Community of Lithuania, said “the turning of the tide within Lithuanian society” on this issue “now appears to be taking place like never before.”

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This quote is also from the news article, cited above:

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Vanagaite experienced this reluctance personally last year when she made an unwelcome discovery that served as her motivation to write the book in the first place.

In researching the life story of her grandfather — a well-known activist against communist Russia’s occupation of Lithuania until 1991 — she found documents that showed he helped German authorities compile a list of 10 Jewish communists during World War II. The German authorities then gave him some Jews to work on his farm as slave laborers before they were murdered.

“It was devastating,” Vanagaite recalls. “This was a man who was a hero to me and my family.”

Juozas Ambrazevičius (screenshot via YouTube)

In Lithuania, locals who fought with the Germans against the Red Army are widely revered as patriotic freedom fighters — including Juozas Ambrazevicius, the leader of the Nazi collaborationist government.

In a funeral organized by the central government, Ambrazevicius was reburied in 2012 with full national honors in the city of Kaunas. Four years earlier, Lithuanian prosecutors investigated for alleged war crimes four Jews who fought against the Nazis with the Russians. The investigation was dropped amid an international outcry.

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