According to a news article in the Huffington Post, which you can read in full here, the USHMM in Washington, DC, has a new exhibit entitled “Some were neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust.”
Entrance into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
This quote is from the article in the Huffington Post:
As you enter the new exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., you see an image of lovely young girls dressed up for a dance class. Some of the girls are Jews and some are not, but you can’t tell which are which. In Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania, in 1935-1936, their lives are intertwined.
Then you hear the woman’s voice. Baffled. Wondering. Three-quarters of a century later, her bewilderment is still with her. “We were friends, I thought.” Once a friend, now an enemy — how could it have happened?
“Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust,” the museum’s newest exhibit, is open for visitors through 2016 and is also accessible online. It is a pertinent place to visit as we observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945, on January 27.
For 20 years, the museum has helped visitors to ask themselves important questions. This exhibit is no exception. It provides an extraordinary range of information while expertly prodding visitors to engage in moral inquiry.
The new exhibit, inside the USHMM, is about non-Jews, living side by side with their Jewish neighbors in Kovno, Lithuania during World War II. When the Nazis came, the Lithuanians turned on their neighbors, the Jews, and began beating them to death. What did the Jews ever do to their neighbors to cause them to beat the Jews to death while German soldiers watched?
Famous photo of Lithuanian man standing over the Jews that he has beaten to death
I previously blogged about the Lithuanians killing Jews at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/the-killing-of-the-jews-in-lithuania/
Jews were beaten to death by their neighbors in Kovno, Lithuania as German soldiers looked on
Why didn’t the Lithuanians stand up for their neighbors, and protect them from the Nazis? By-standers in Lithuania were nothing new. When did the non-Jews in any country ever stand up for their Jewish neighbors, and save them?
According to the International Jewish Encyclopedia, the Jews had been expelled 77 times before the Final Solution, beginning with their expulsion from Carthage in the year 250 AD and continuing up to 1919 when foreign Jews were expelled from the state of Bavaria, even before the Nazi party was established in Germany.
Major expulsions of the Jews in Europe occurred in England in 1290, France in 1306 and again in 1394, Switzerland in 1348, Hungary in 1349, Austria in 1422, Spain in 1492, Lithuania in 1495 and again in 1656, and Portugal in 1497. The International Jewish Encyclopedia also says that the Russian Jews were confined to a reservation called the Pale of Settlement in 1772.
After many of these expulsions, the Jews fled to Poland. The Polish people welcomed them, starting in the 14th century.
After the Nazis conquered Poland in 1939, they gained control of millions of Jews, who were the enemies of Fascism. Bad Nazis! They would not let the Jews live in peace, and fight against Germany as Resistance fighters.
The Final Solution was unique in that it was the first time that the Jews were expelled from all of Western Europe at the same time.
During World War II, there were 4,950 cities and towns in Europe in which the Jewish communities were destroyed by the Nazis, according to the Wannsee Museum in Germany. Wannsee is the place where the Final Solution was planned.
This quote about the Kovno ghetto is from Wikipedia:
In the autumn of 1943, the SS assumed control of the ghetto and converted it into the Kovno concentration camp. The Jewish council’s role was drastically curtailed. The Nazis dispersed more than 3,500 Jews to subcamps where strict discipline governed all aspects of daily life. On October 26, 1943, the SS deported more than 2,700 people from the main camp. The SS sent those deemed fit to work to Vaivara concentration camp in Estonia, and deported surviving children and the elderly to Auschwitz.
On July 8, 1944, the Germans evacuated the camp, deporting most of the remaining Jews to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany or to the Stutthof camp, near Danzig, on the Baltic coast. Three weeks before the Soviet army arrived in Kovno, the Germans razed the ghetto to the ground with grenades and dynamite. As many as 2,000 people burned to death or were shot while trying to escape the burning ghetto. The Red Army occupied Kovno on August 1, 1944. Of Kovno’s few Jewish survivors, 500 had survived in forests or in a single bunker which had escaped detection during the final liquidation; the Germans evacuated an additional 2,500 to concentration camps in Germany.
The Kovno ghetto had several Jewish resistance groups. The resistance acquired arms, developed secret training areas in the ghetto, and established contact with Soviet partisans in the forests around Kovno.
In 1943, the General Jewish Fighting Organization (Yidishe Algemeyne Kamfs Organizatsye) was established, uniting the major resistance groups in the ghetto. Under this organization’s direction, some 300 ghetto fighters escaped from the Kovno ghetto to join Jewish partisan groups. About 70 died in action.
The Jewish council in Kovno actively supported the ghetto underground. Moreover, a number of the ghetto’s Jewish police participated in resistance activities. The Germans executed 34 members of the Jewish police for refusing to reveal specially constructed hiding places used by Jews in the ghetto.
In the last days of World War II, Lithuanian Jews were brought to the Dachau concentration camp. I wrote about a Lithunian survivor of Dachau on my website here:
This quote is from my website, scrapbookpages.com:
Mendel Rosenberg was born in 1929 in Lithuania. In 1940, the Russians took over Lithuania and it became part of the Communist Soviet Union; this was part of the secret agreement signed by the Nazis and the Russians before their joint invasion of Poland in September 1939 which was the start of World War II.
On June 22, 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Most of the Lithuanians welcomed the Germans as liberators, and a few days before the Germans arrived, those who supported the Nazis started killing the Jews. Lithuanian political prisoners were released from the NKVD prisons by the German invaders and allowed to join in the killing of the Communist Commissars and the Jewish members of the NKVD, which was the equivalent of the German Gestapo.
Thousands of Lithuanian Jews, including the Rosenberg family, were confined in the Siauliai Ghetto where they worked in factories, manufacturing goods for the Germans. In 1943, Rosenberg was sent to the Stuthoff concentration camp near the city formerly known as Danzig. Rosenberg’s mother remained at Stuthoff, but Rosenberg and his brother were transferred to the Dachau concentration camp.
In anticipation of the liberation of Dachau, 1,759 Jewish prisoners were put on a train on April 26th and sent toward the mountains in the South Tyrol. Three days later, the train stopped and the prisoners learned that the German guards had abandoned them; they had been saved by American troops.
Why did the Germans send Jewish prisoners out of Dachau before the camp was liberated? To prevent them from attacking the German people after they were liberated!
There were towns in Poland where the Polish people turned on their Jewish neighbors, but blamed it on the Nazis. I blogged about this at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/the-lopuchowo-forest-in-poland-where-2000-jews-were-executed-by-the-nazis-during-wwii/