The Vanished World of Lithuanian Jews

The Vanished World of Lithuanian Jews

The Vanished World of Lithuanian Jews

The Vanished World of Lithuanian Jews

Synopsis

"The Lithuanian Jews, Litvaks, played an important and unique role not only within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but in a wider context of Jewish life and culture in Eastern Europe, too. The changing world around them at the end of the nineteenth century and during the first decades of the twentieth had a profound impact not only on the Jewish communities, but also on a parallel world of the "others," that is, those who lived with them side by side. Exploring and demonstrating this development from various angles is one of the themes and objectives of this book. Another is the analysis of the Shoah, which ended the centuries of Jewish culture in Lithuania: a world of its own had vanished within months. This book, therefore, "recalls" that vanished world. In doing so, it sheds new light on what has been lost." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Since 1990 Lithuanian political culture has demonstrated a new political willingness and ability to accommodate minorities and their languages and cultures. Lithuanian mainstream politics has had much success in embracing, or at least not alienating, the Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian minorities.

We could mention here some minor tensions with Lithuanian Poles in the late 1980s that reflected the dramatic history of Vilnius and its surrounding area in the twentieth century, but this is no longer the casePoland and Lithuania recently reached an historic breakthrough in their relations to become very close allies and strategic partners.

At the same time, Lithuania has even become a sort of refuge against censorship and political persecution in neighbouring lands. As for the most fragile and vulnerable stateless cultures and minorities deeply grounded in Lithuanian history, these are more or less at home in presentday Lithuania. the existence of small groups, such as Tatars, Karaims, and Roma, does not, for example, cause conflicts.

Things are, however, far more complicated with regard to the Jewish minority. the problem for Lithuanian Jews is that quite a large sector of Lithuanian society – including not a few representatives of the intelligentsia – is still inclined to consider the Jews as collectively responsible for the mass killings and deportations of civilians, as well as for other atrocities committed during the Soviet occupation on the eve of the Second World War.

This represents the disgraceful adoption of the Nazi rhetoric that equated Communism with the Jews. in an effort to modify the charges that Lithuanians participated in the mass killings of Jews in 1941 and after, some Lithuanians have spoken of “two genocides,” or – as some Jewish writers have called it – “symmetry” in the suffering of both peoples.

The notorious theory attributing the disasters that befell Lithuania to Lithuanian Jews, which has been deeply embedded up to now in Lithuanian political discourse and popular consciousness, regards with a Jewish segment of the Soviet regime as having been decisive. At the same time, this theory includes considerations of allegedly subversive and treacherous activities on the eve of the Second World War of local Jewry, with the latter perceived as lacking in loyalty, patriotism, and civicmindedness.

Hence, a derivative theory two genocides developed, which provides an assessment of the Holocaust and of local collaboration with the Nazis in terms of the revenge for the Soviet genocide of local population. It is . . .

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