bnn.lv Latviski   bnn-news.com English   bnn-news.ru По-русски
Wednesday 29.03.2017 | Name days: Agija, Aldonis
LithuaniaLithuania

Hoopla surrounds popular author’s book on Jew killers, Lithuanians

FaceBook
Twitter
Draugiem
print
(+1 of 1)

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

Few books have ever been off to such an outrageous start in Lithuania as the new book by the country’s best-selling author Rūta Vanagaitė. «Mūsiškiai» («Ours») is a book definitely not to everybody – that is the way many book reviewers described it.

Zeroing in on the massacre of Lithuanian Jews back in 1941-1944 – most of the executioners were Lithuanians – the book sheds light on the tragic life of Lithuania’s the then Jewish community, which was literally wiped out from Vilnius during the years.

Many of killers were teenage boys

The killers of around 200,000 Jews were Lithuanians most of the time, insists the author. Moreover: many of the perpetrators, in fact, were teenage Lithuanian boys.

«Thousands of young Lithuanians were involved in the killings. I cannot blame the youngsters, but I cannot justify them, too. If it happened once upon certain circumstances, can we be sure that it will not be repeat again? Why do we have to condemn «Islamic State’s» boys if our own 15-16-year-old boys would set out to shoot people after their classes 75 years ago?» the book author asks rhetorically.

«I chose the topic, because I was aghast at how Lithuania is afraid of it. I wanted to understand what was going on with our own people in our own country and, most importantly, why it happened. I do not see it as an historic book. It is devoted more for self-education. I am aware that Lithuania has not waited for the book. But that’s exactly why I have written it,» Vanagaitė told in a statement.

It is estimated that Lithuanian forests contain around 227 places where Jews were slain.

Famous Nazi hunter contributed to the book

In the book on holocaust, she has interviewed not only Efraim Zuroff, a famed Nazi hunter, director of Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem Bureau , but also Ričardas Doveika, a well-known Lithuanian Catholic priest, also Tomas Šernas, a survivor of the Medininkai border patrol massacre, when Soviet paratroopers murdered 7 Lithuanian customs officials and handicapped horribly the eighth one.

Having found herself in the limelight this week, Vanagaitė acknowledged some of her closest family members and friends have repudiated her, but she asserts she does not regret it.

«It is a weird feeling: I am not afraid of attacks and accusations at all. I feel as if having performed my duty and therefore I feel very calm. Today (January 27-L.J) is my birthday. I will go skiing on that occasion,» the author posted on her Facebook Wednesday.

Why Lithuanians killed Jews?

Asked perhaps the main question- why ordinary and, often, very young Lithuanians joined the Jewish-aiming death battalions – Vanagaitė reasoned some did it out of greed – seeking to obtain the valuables, others, perhaps, were tricked by the Nazis, who managed to persuade many Lithuanians to join them, arguing that the formations were the beginning of an independent Lithuanian army.

«Some believed that, in the battalions, they were fighting the Soviets and defending Lithuania,» Vanagaitė reckoned. «In the beginning, the battalions were assigned to guard certain objects, later on – Jews and, thereafter, members of such formations would force the Jews get in the lorries and haul them to forests and put on the brink of a ditch. It would take a lot to tell then: «I won’t shoot…»

Inquired why she wanted to explore the subject, Vanagaitė told she had done several projects on the topic.

«I find the topic very interesting, although I do not have Jewish blood in my bloodstream,» she admitted.

He defended her curiosity in the subject, arguing she wanted to take anew at it, giving it some new, never-shown-before tinges.

«I attempted to take a closer look at the people who were killing, try to understand why they did so and find out how they resolved for that. Finally, what their motivation was,» explained Vanagaitė.

Vanagaitė showed holocaust otherwise

Under her belt, she has another two books, «Ne bobų vasara» («Not Old Wives’ Summer») and «Pareigos metas» («Times of Duty»). The latter book, revealing the difficulties family members encounter when taking care of elderly, often handicapped and mentally disturbed, has been especially a big bestseller in Lithuania.

In the book, Vanagaitė defended euthanasia, still a taboo topic in the Conservative Lithuanian Catholic.

Undoubting of her new book’s blockbuster fame, Rokas Tračevskis, a Lithuanian journalist and historian by profession, says, although the subject of holocaust is scrutinized in Lithuania, no one until now succeeded in revealing so many so many shades of the history.

«She knows how to tell stories, she has proved already she does it very well and her latest book is no exception. Many of the historians would lay out only plain numbers and descriptions of the tragic events. Vanagaitė gave a human face to holocaust in Lithuania,» Tračevskis told BNN.

He, however, has not read the book, but is likely to give in to the hoopla surrounding it and get one…

Asked whether the book’s success is only about the novel forms of storytelling, the historian reckoned there must be some other reasons beyond it.

«Let’s remember: during the Nazi years in Lithuania, through 1941 and 1944, even those Lithuanians who had received their trust were allowed in Nazi security service to work with different cases, they, nevertheless, would be barred from access to security cases on Nazis and Jews. In other words, even Lithuanians corroborating with the Nazi, feeling insecure, sought their trust, often perhaps for the sake of survival of their own families and themselves, and do unimaginable: kill the innocent,» Tračevskis reasoned.

Writer visited Jew massacre places

Most importantly perhaps, for the book, Vanagaitė has met with still living witnesses of the Jew massacre sites.

«Some perhaps will find it hard to believe, but there still are people living nearby them and reminiscing the times. They are 85-90 year-olds. Amazingly, no one has ever asked them about the massacre, so now they are afraid of talking about it. None of them, except Romas from the settlement of Šeduva, has allowed us to take a picture of them. I asked the others what they were afraid of and the old people would say they are afraid of Lithuanians, who might come and kill them,» the writer related.

In a new twist, Vanagaitė claims in the book that some of the clergy had been involved in the killings, too.

«I was pretty aghast to find out that Catholic priests in a Catholic church in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, did view such kind of murders quite favourably. In fact, the killers would get their pardon for that kind of sins. Some young murderers would go to the priests in throngs of five people in order to alleviate their job. Those death squads in Minsk have killed 15 452 people, to my accounts,» claims Vanagaitė.

Warned now by revered Catholic priest Ričardas Doveika that, with the book out, she will see a lot of the doors being slammed in front of her face, Vanagaitė insists that is exactly what she sees happening now.

«Since the beginning, I’ve received some very adverse reactions. Some relative told me bluntly that I am betraying the family and I am a sort of Pavlikas Morozovas (a hero of Soviet propaganda; in 1932, he, a 13-year-old teenager he supposedly turned in his father to the Soviet authorities and was supposedly killed by the relatives later – L.J). Some of the friends have disavowed me at all,» the author admitted.

Still, the courageous woman was unstoppable – she says she is grateful to her children for the encouragement.

«I asked my children, who are 20 and 28 year old, and they were unwavering: «Mom, we are supporting you all 120 percent,» she heard from them. «I am pretty sure that no one else would ever brave up to write this kind of a book,» she is convinced.

A white spot in Lithuanian history

Before the putting her book out, she has read most of Lithuanian historians’ books on holocaust in Lithuania.

«All of them maintain that it was a process characteristic to all the Lithuanian provinces. Meanwhile, the prevailing perception is that it was happening only in the ill-famed Paneriai. In fact, the burials of slain Jews are strewn all over Lithuania. And I think this is a white spot in our historiography. I wonder why no one has ever put his or her hands on it? To my account, there only a few historians whose primary field of interest is the subject. They told me that five skilled scholars should devote entire five years in order to substantially explore the subject and come up with an estimate how many Lithuanians really participated in Holocaust. But we do not have anywhere those five people,» Vanagaitė told Delfi, a Lithuanian website.

She feels particularly blessed to have been able to work with Efraim Zuroff, a famed Nazi hunter and director of Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem Bureau, for the project.

«It is no secret to anyone that he is the most detestable person in Lithuania and, because of the activity he is involved, he is not emanating much love for us… When I approached him as an observer of a Neo-Nazi marching some years ago, I asked him whether he was working for Putin. And he asked me whether I am keen on Jewish projects because of money. I replied him sincerely that, in my own family, I suspected some distant family members who may have participated in Holocaust. He was utterly moved and confessed to me that, over 25 years, for him I was the first person to have admitted it. It was when I suggested him joining me in the project and he nodded,» Vanagaitė remembered.

The experience she had with Zuroff was incredible. The Nazi hunter would be wiping tears away in every site where Jews had perished.

«I’d need to wait for him until he ended a prayer for the fallen,» Vanagaitė tells.

Online media is sizzling with comments

With the stories on the book amassing heaps comments in Lithuanian online media, few retained neutrality in their remarks.

«Dear Rūta Vanagaitė, I cannot continue reading your book. Every time I start reading it I begin to cry. What has happen to a human being to get him killing his neighbor and his neighbour’s child? Our guilt is so big against the Jewish nation. Thank you for your book, but I am afraid I won’t be able to read it…» confesses on Facebook Indrė Trakimaitė.

Meanwhile, Arvydas Reneckis, another poster on Vanagaite’s Facebook page, tells her that he will only flick through the book.

«Those who were shooting and those who were being targeted were part of a nightmare as nobody knew what was going on…Vanagaitė has screwed up it all…I don’t why, but I feel like defiled. She is not righteous…Sometimes it’s better not to write,» the man’s post says.

Although on a skiing trip following the presentation of the book, reached by Lithuanian media Thursday, Vanagaitė admitted she had been swamped with abundant requests for interview. Many of the journalists were from Russian outlets.

«Perhaps pandering, many are complimenting me on the book and admitting that it has shaken up them, want a time to speak to me about it,» she referenced to Russian journalists’ requests.

She says her answer to all of them is the same: «The book is for Lithuania and it is an interior affair. I am not intending to take trash of our own home. We have to deal with it ourselves.»

Vanagaitė did not respond to BNN query regarding her book.

Ref: 111.111.111.3167


Leave a reply

Martins Bondars invites Riga residents to «topple» Nils Usakovs

Leaders of political parties Latvian Association of Regions and For Latvia’s Development believe the current Mayor of Riga Nils Usakovs is a real burden for the capital city’s development. This is why they have made it their main objective to «topple» Usakovs, as noted by Latvian Association of Regions.

Unity asks for assessment of Rail Baltica project for influence on Riga’s development

Unity’s representatives in Riga City Council Olafs Pulks and Nils Josts ask for an assessment of Rail Baltica project’s influence on the city’s development.

Latvian Defence Ministry signs agreement on cooperation in cyber security matters

As part of the E-skills week, Latvian Defence Minister Raimonds Bergmanis and President of Latvian Information and Communications Technology Association Signe Balina signed an agreement on cooperation in matters of cyber security.

Elvi and Aibe store networks form joint procurement group

Last week, two local Latvian store networks Elvi and Aibe commenced work on the creation of a joint company that would perform centralized procurements, as BNN was informed by representatives.

As UK readies to launch Brexit, interest in Estonian e-residency grows

A growing number of British citizens are applying for Estonian e-residency as the UK government plans to announce that the country will start leaving the EU later this week.

Expert: municipalities are incapable of attracting new residents

One way to increase budget revenue for municipalities is attracting new residents. This is a problem in Latvian municipalities, especially in Jurmala. «The city lacks cheap and accessible housing offers. This does not contribute to the attraction of new residents,» says real estate expert Jevgenija Dmitricenko.

Estonian gas seller: Excise duty hike unconstitutional

Estonian natural gas importer and seller Eesti Gaas has addressed the country’s Chancellor of Justice insisting that the increase of excise duty passed in 2016 was not in line with the rules of the Estonian constitution.

Bulgarian parliamentary election won by Borissov’s centre-rights

In the early parliamentary election of Bulgaria, the centre-rights led by the country’s long-time Prime Minister Boiko Borissov have won.

E-skills week to address the matter of digital security

Priorities of this year’s E-skills week include digital security and digital skills for employment and entrepreneurship, as well as e-services, comments vice-president of Latvian Information and Communication Technology Association Mara Jakobsone.

Strīķe: whenever contraband was associated with parties, SP put up all kinds of barriers

«I would never join any of the political parties that are currently in power,» said former official of Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau and mayoral candidate from the New Conservative Party Juta Strīķe.

Penalty for not complying with state language rules – up to EUR 10,000

Amendments have been prepared for Latvia’s Administrative Violations Code. These amendments provide for a major increase of fines for non-compliance with state language regulations, as reported by the National Alliance.

Navalny jailed in Russia after organising anti-corruption mass protests

Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny has been convicted for disobeying police at a mass protest in the weekend.

Imants Liegis becomes Latvia’s first ambassador to Algeria

Submitting a copy of credentials to Algeria’s Foreign and International Cooperation Minister Ramtane Lamamra, Imants Liegis became Latvia’s first ambassador to Algeria with a residence in Paris, France, as BNN was informed by Foreign Affairs Ministry’s press-service.

EC develops stricter requirements for EU competition institutions

The European Commission invites member states to provide competition institutions with resources, independence and effective authority, as BNN was informed by Competition Council.

Tallinn Airport summer schedule to contain 36 routes

Tallinn Airport has announced its summer schedule that will include direct flights to 36 destinations and take effect from mid-April to late May depending on the airline.

«Elf» movement created to oppose internet «trolls»

«While the internet is the leading platform for topical news, it is also an environment for intentional disinformation and lies,» says researcher of the Eastern European Policy Study Centre Maris Cepuritis.

Construction costs in Latvia up 0.8% in February

Compared to January, the level of construction costs in Latvia increased by 0.2 % in February 2017. Labour remuneration of workers rose by 0.8 %, prices of building materials as well as maintenance and operational costs of machinery and equipment grew by 0.1 %.

Pärnu property sold for building plywood plant

Finnish capital company Metsä Wood Eesti has bought 104,000 square metres of land with plans to construct a 50 million euro plywood factory that would employ 200 workers.

Green farmer Krauze does not agree that circus animals have earned «freedom»

«When we were fighting for our freedom, I never would have imagined that we would start closing different circuses, because they present historical and cultural values. I believe we should not restrict that on a legislative level. If any circus owner wants to do that, they can. But we should not establish such restrictions on a national level,» said Armands Krauze, member of the Union of Greens and Farmers.

Providus/Delna notice major risks in approval of KNAB chief’s retirement pension

Saeima’s decision to support amendments to the Law on Retirement Pension of the Chief of Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has signs of state take-over, as stated by Providus and Delna in their Saeima work monitoring report for February 2017.

Programme: new TV3 and LNT owner will likely sell channels to someone else

The next owner of TV3 and LNT television channels, American Providence Equity Partners investment company, will likely sell these channels to someone else after some time, as concluded by De Facto programme of LTV.

Opinion: multi-speed development idea in Europe is not in Latvia’s interests

The idea of having a multi-speed Europe, as described in the Rome declaration signed by EU member states, does not comply with Latvia’s interests, says president of European Movement – Latvia Andris Gobins.

European Regional Development Fund allocates 15 million euros for start-up ideas in Latvia

For the first time in Latvia, Altum development financial institution has announced a search for acceleration fund managers. These funds will allocate so-called smart money for the realization of different business ideas in their early stages of development. Businessmen will be able to receive up to EUR 250,000 to realize their ideas.

Navalny detained as series of anti-corruption protests held across Russia

The leading Russian opposition activist Alexey Navalny has been detained in Moscow as series of anti-corruption protests were held across Russia.

Hundreds of protesters arrested in Belarus after mass protests

Several hundred people in Belarus have been arrested after participating in mass protests in Minsk and other cities.