Thanks, Lithuania!

From the Forward:

The European Union has designated Vilnius as the “European Capital of Culture” for 2009. It is a recognition Lithuania does not deserve.

Today, six decades [after the Holocaust], the small, reviving Jewish community is seeking the return of former Jewish communal property as a means of restoring and preserving Jewish heritage sites and supporting its own limited religious and cultural needs. The Lithuanian Jewish community seeks to follow the paths taken by Jewish communities in neighboring countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, where community property restitution was implemented years ago.

In Prague the restored Jewish quarter, with its eight synagogues, is again the center of Jewish activity in the Czech Republic and a magnet for tourists. The Krakow neighborhood known as Kazimierz hosts an annual Jewish Cultural Festival that brings 25,000 people together for a week of concerts, films and lectures that display Poland’s rich Jewish legacy. In Slovakia a government-endowed foundation, created as a partial settlement for looted Jewish assets during the Holocaust, aids the elderly and restores cemeteries and synagogues.

None of this is happening in Lithuania. Instead, the Lithuanian government, for more than six years, has continually delayed an agreement on communal property restitution. Meanwhile, former Jewish properties have been privatized and the community lacks the most basic support for education and welfare.

Vilna’s historic Jewish cemetery, for example, was hundreds of years old, but in the mid-19th century tsarist Russia built a military fort on the site, and in the 1950s the Soviets replaced it with a sports arena. The pattern of disrespect continued under Lithuania’s post-Communist leadership. Despite promises that no graves would be desecrated under their watch, the land was privatized, sold to developers and, ignoring regulations to the contrary, city permits were issued to allow the construction of luxury apartments. Lithuania’s president promised in September 2007 to stop construction, but it has yet to be halted.

In March, when Lithuania celebrated its independence from the Soviet Union, several hundred neo-Nazis and skinheads paraded along Gedimino Avenue in central Vilnius, walking past the Parliament and the prime minister’s office, waving flags with a Lithuanian swastika and shouting “Juden Raus.”

This was not the first neo-Nazi rally in Eastern Europe. Last November a similar group organized a march in Prague with the provocative goal of walking through the city’s Jewish quarter. But in the Czech capital the neo-Nazis were greeted by thousands of vocal counter-demonstrators and nearly all the country’s political leaders. In Vilnius, where incitement to ethnic hatred is a crime, police made no arrests while providing the marchers with an escort. Lithuania’s president, to be fair, did voice criticism — 10 days after the event.

Land of my forefathers – you do me proud!

Okay, so I basically just excerpted about half the article there. If you go read the whole thing, your blood will boil twice as much!

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2 Responses

  1. I read this but was too speechless to say anything, and this whole thing really gets more appalling when you realize that Lithuania was more enthusiastic about rounding up Jews for deportation than any country except for the Ukraine.

    If you want to be really shocked and appalled, I suggest the comments. Of course, most of us don’t WANT to be, but anyway….

  2. […] free to shout “Heil Hitler” at them. The Lithuanian government regularly engages in various anti-Semitic activities, and the Jewish school in Paris where I picked up my charges as an au pair had to be protected by a […]

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