The following is an open letter, for which we will collect signatures until 28th September, to be sent to the Lithuanian ambassador in Berlin, to the German ambassador in Lithuania and to the European Parliament.
We thank You for Your support!
These investigations have been conducted since the beginning of this year by the Lithuanian state prosecutor against former Jewish partisans, both men and women, who fought against the German occupation during the Second World War.
The state prosecutor’s claim that “hundreds of witnesses are being questioned” is misleading because it is almost exclusively the names of Jewish people, above all Yitzhak Arad, Fania Brantsovsky and Rachel Margolis, that are mentioned in this connection in the media. The latter have been cited in connection with partisan operations in which Lithuanian civilians were killed and publicly banded “terrorists” and “murderers” by the justice authorities.
This mode of presentation appears to be designed to influence public opinion in Lithuania towards the belief that Jews were primarily responsible for the Lithuanian victims of partisan activities and operations. In this way, already existing anti-Soviet and anti-Russian, tendencies in Lithuania are being given a further push in an anti-Jewish direction.
It should be remembered that before they were able to fight back against their tormentors, the Jewish anti-Nazi partisans had previously been held prisoner in ghettos created by the German occupation forces and their Lithuanian collaborators.
When able to do so, these same partisans carried out armed struggle, variously in independent Jewish groups or as part of Soviet partisan units, against Nazi domination and contributed thereby to the victory of the Allies over Nazi Germany.
Today, however, a consciously negative image of the Jewish partisans is being projected. The media and the justice authorities are resorting to the kind of stereotypes that resulted, in the years of the German occupation, in the mass participation of Lithuanians in the mass murder of the Jewish population. Today as then, Jews are being identified with communism, the Soviet system and Soviet partisans.
In sharp contrast to this treatment of the Jews, there is no judicial investigation into the Lithuanians who collaborated with the German occupiers and who had co-responsibility for the slaughter of some 220,000 Jews from 1941 to 1944. During the 18 years of Lithuania’s independence, not a single Nazi collaborator has been punished.
It is apparent that the state prosecutor’s office is now being subjected to political pressure such that Fania Brantsovsky, for example, was subpoenaed by the prosecution authorities as a result of a parliamentary question from the Fatherland Party.
Equally, the fact that the International Commission for Investigation into the Crimes of National Socialist and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania (founded by no lesser person than the president of the Republic of Lithuania) has not publicly defended one of its own members, Yitzhak Arad, is likewise a cause for considerable concern. Evidently the history of the Holocaust in Lithuania is being rewritten in an antisemitic atmosphere in which the actual victims are being turned into the alleged perpetrators.
We demand that the persecution of former Jewish partisans should cease forthwith!
Meanwhile, the European Commission should reconsider its decision to make Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital city, the European cultural capital of 2009. A country in which antisemitic tendencies are widespread in the worlds of politics, the law and the media should not be bestowed such an honour.
Berlin, 31 July 2008
Dr. Franziska Bruder, Historikerin, Berlin
PD Dr. Susanne Heim, Historikerin, Berlin
Dagi Knellessen, Erziehungswissenschaftlerin, Berlin
Dr. Gudrun Schroeter, Literaturwissenschaftlerin, Berlin