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Eastern Europe: Anti-Semitism in the Wake of Holocaust-Related Issues

Filed under: Anti-Semitism, World Jewry
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 17:1-2 (Spring 2005)

Although the study of the Holocaust and its historical lessons has traditionally been regarded in the Western world as one of the most effective means of combating anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia, in post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe Holocaust-related issues have been a major cause of anti-Semitic incidents and growing animus toward Jews. In these societies, which are being forced for the first time to confront the complicity of their own nationals in the crimes of the Holocaust, practical issues such as the acknowledgment of the crimes, commemoration of the victims, prosecution of the perpetrators, and documentation of the events are proving to be a major source of tension and conflict between Jews and non-Jews. Examples from eight different post- Soviet and post-Communist societies illustrate how this phenomenon has developed over the past fifteen years. There is a need for greater scrutiny and active steps to address this problem.


No discussion of contemporary European anti-Semitism can avoid dealing with the Holocaust and its impact on Europe, from the bloody events of the Shoah itself to its present-day influence on European attitudes, policies, culture, and relations with Israel and the Jewish people. The subject is unavoidable, not only because of the enormous trauma wrought by that watershed event in Jewish and human history, but also because of the interesting and surprising developments over the past half-century in how the event has been perceived in Europe and throughout the world.

For the past fifty years, and with particular intensity during the past three decades, the Jewish world has invested many millions of dollars in Holocaust commemoration and education.1 The general assumption behind this major investment was that knowledge and understanding of this unique catastrophe and its historical context and lessons would constitute the best antidote possible to contemporary anti-Semitism, increase ethnic and religious tolerance, and help combat racism, xenophobia, and nationalist extremism.2 After all, how could anyone but the most peripheral elements in society even consider being anti-Semitic after the Shoah? In that respect, the unwritten, never fully formulated and openly admitted goal, was to turn the Holocaust into the universal paradigm for the violation of human rights and the most widely acknowledged symbol of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, and World War II into the classic conflict between good and evil. This, it was believed, would help ensure the security and physical future of the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora and in the state of Israel.

The extent to which this strategy has been successful, and that the Holocaust has indeed been turned into the universal symbol of barbaric cruelty and unwarranted human suffering and has thoroughly permeated the European mindset, can be illustrated by three random events that took place in three different European countries during the second week of October 2004. The first is an initiative by the local council of the Scottish village of Dunscore to honor a Christian missionary named Jane Haining, who was born nearby and in 1944 was murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, as “a victim of the Holocaust.” The fact that those seeking to honor a woman who devoted her life to influencing Jews to abandon their faith want her recognized as “a victim of the Holocaust,”3 clearly underscores the special resonance attributed to those victimized by the Nazis, and the pseudo-sanctification of those victims.

The second example concerns an honor bestowed by the Spanish government on a soldier named Angel Salamanca, who was among the Spanish troops sent by Franco to fight with the Nazis against the Soviet Union during World War II. Salamanca was honored at the 12 October parade to mark Spain’s annual celebration of its armed forces, a step that aroused considerable controversy and particularly angered leftist politicians, who rejected this gesture as an attempt to create a false equivalency between those who fought against fascism and those who fought alongside the Nazis. Defense Minister Jose Bono claimed, however, that the commemoration was motivated by a desire to achieve reconciliation and that the parade sought to honor “all Spaniards who fought for the principles they believed in.”4 This attempt to grant recognition to all the Spaniards who fought in World War II regardless of which side they took, clearly emphasizes the great importance that Europeans attach to the events of World War II and the desire to achieve moral legitimacy for all those who served in that conflict.

The third incident took place on 11 October in France, where Bruno Golnisch, who is regarded as the second-ranking leader of the extreme right-wing National Front party, expressed doubts as to the existence of gas chambers and hinted that he believed the number of victims of the Shoah was less than the generally assumed figure of six million.5 The ongoing efforts by leaders of anti-Semitic elements such as the National Front to undermine the credibility of the commonly accepted narrative of the Holocaust are at least partly a reflection of the growing awareness of the Holocaust as a watershed event in European history and the effect of this recognition on the attitude of Europeans and others toward Jews and Israel.

With the memory and awareness of the Holocaust an increasingly powerful factor in contemporary European life, and with Holocaust education increasingly regarded as a bulwark against anti-Semitism,61 it is ironic that during the past fifteen years it has been Holocaust-related issues, more than any others, that have been the major catalyst for anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe.

Yet since this anti-Semitism, which has primarily focused on undermining the credibility and authenticity of the Jewish Holocaust narrative, has not resulted in widespread anti-Jewish violence similar to the attacks that have reached such dangerous levels in Western Europe, it has hitherto attracted minimal attention. Nevertheless, the underlying motivation for the animus toward Jews and its impact on local societies throughout Eastern Europe are worth scrutinizing since they pose a serious potential danger, and are already negatively affecting Jewish life in these countries.

This phenomenon can best be analyzed by examining the reactions in various countries to specific Holocaust-related issues that have emerged as central questions in Eastern Europe since the fall of Communism and the dismantlement of the Soviet Union. (While the fifth, and especially the sixth, issue are also relevant in this context, they are beyond the scope of this article and will be dealt with in future research.) Those events have produced historical and political circumstances in which the newly independent and newly democratic regimes of Eastern Europe have been forced to confront their Holocaust pasts, which in most cases included extensive complicity by the local population in the murder of the Jews.7 Thus, whereas all questions relating to the events of the Shoah were previously determined by Communist ideology and interests,8 these questions were reopened in the late 1980s and early 1990s and for the first time these countries could acknowledge the truth and act on it in a practical manner.

The specific Holocaust-related issues these governments had to address (the first four will be surveyed here) were the following:

  • Acknowledgment of complicity by the local population in the murder of the Jews and an apology for those crimes
  • Commemoration of the victims
  • Prosecution of the perpetrators
  • Documentation of the crimes
  • Introduction of Holocaust education into the curriculum and the preparation of appropriate educational materials
  • Restitution of communal and individual property 

Acknowledgment of Holocaust Crimes

Invariably, the first step that had to be taken in the process of facing the past was to acknowledge the crimes of the Holocaust and the participation of locals in the murder of Jews. In many instances such an apology was made in the framework of a visit by the head of state to Israel, although there were also cases in which the local parliament passed such a resolution. Thus, for example, both Lithuanian Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius and President Algirdas Brazauskas formally apologized for Holocaust crimes during visits to Israel,9 as did Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis,10 Croatian President Stjepan Mesic,11 and Polish President Lech Walesa.12

Although these acknowledgments of guilt and apologies were regarded in Jewish circles as a necessary first step toward reconciliation, such statements were often distinctly unpopular and severely criticized at home, where nationalist and other elements either denied the historical facts or asserted that reciprocal apologies for crimes by Jewish Communists should have been made by Israeli leaders. For example, both Slezevicius and Brazauskas were roundly criticized for their apologies by a wide spectrum of Lithuanian public opinion,13 as was Polish President Lech Walesa for asking for forgiveness from the podium of the Israeli Knesset.14 In Hungary, Prime Minister Gyula Horn was sued by the publisher of a local edition of Mein Kampf, who argued that by apologizing for Hungarian Holocaust crimes the premier had violated his personal rights by suggesting that he was a member of a guilty nation.15

Particularly telling in this regard is the declaration condemning “the annihilation of the Jewish people during the years of the Nazi occupation in Lithuania” passed by the Lithuanian Supreme Council on 8 May 1990. Although the declaration specifically stated that it was being issued “on behalf of the Lithuanian people,” it attributes guilt for the crimes committed in Lithuania during the Holocaust to “Lithuanian citizens,” a category clearly not restricted to those of Lithuanian nationality, which could even (by a twist of perverted logic) include Jews. Thus the Lithuanian parliament sought to differentiate between the ostensibly blameless “Lithuanian people” and the murderers who were “Lithuanian citizens,” a distinction that is not supported by the historical record.16


Commemoration of the Victims

Although this issue takes many different forms, probably the most important is the decision to establish a special memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust. In fact, the growing number of countries that have taken this step, which originally was initiated by Israel and for many years was the only country to do so,17 is another powerful indicator of the growing significance with which the Holocaust is regarded, especially in Europe. In this context, however, one of the key issues is the choice of the date for the memorial day, which often reflects local attitudes toward dealing with the Holocaust. For example, twelve countries, including Germany, have chosen 27 January, the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, rather than a date linked to historic events in their own country that could probably have added significantly to the impact of local observance. (Eleven countries have preferred to adopt a date linked to their own history.)18

One of the latest countries to choose 27 January has been Estonia, where the decision to observe a memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust aroused considerable controversy and was singularly unpopular. For example, typical of the local reactions to the decision was the following question posed to an official of the Simon Wiesenthal Center who had lobbied the government to choose a special day to commemorate the Holocaust:

“You’re demanding that all the peoples of the world including Estonia introduce the Jewish Holocaust memorial day. I’m wondering when will the memorial day for [the] Estonian mass deportations of 1941 and 1949 be introduced in Israel. Do you think that the war sufferings of one nation should be put above others and the suffering of other nations are nothing to speak of?”19

This sentiment was clearly expressed in a public opinion poll conducted by the popular Estonian daily Eesti Paevaleht, which asked Estonians whether they supported establishing a special memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust. Ninety-three percent of the respondents disapproved and only 7 percent approved.20

Also of note is the choice of 27 January, which has no ostensible link whatsoever to the history of the Holocaust in Estonia since no Estonian Jews were deported to Auschwitz. In fact, Estonian officials rejected a suggestion by the Simon Wiesenthal Center that they choose either 20 January, the date of the infamous Wannsee Conference in 1942, at which the implementation of the Final Solution was discussed and Estonia was declared Judenrein (free of Jews), or 7 August, the date on which the 36th Estonian Security Battalion murdered Jews in Nowogrudok, Belarus.21

Another East European country that chose a questionable date for its Holocaust memorial day is Lithuania. The date chosen inVilnius is 23 September, which marks the day of the evacuation of the Vilnius (Vilna) Ghetto,22 which was primarily carried out by the Germans and was not accompanied by the mass murder of the remaining Jewish inmates. More important, it is not linked to the extensive mass murders carried out throughout the country by Lithuanian vigilantes and Security Police during the initial half-year of the Nazi occupation. This – most probably intentional – decision to divert the focus helps minimize the Lithuanian participation in the crimes of the Holocaust, a tendency clearly reflected in government policy since the regaining of independence.23


Prosecution of Perpetrators/Nazi War Criminals

Of all the practical Holocaust-related issues that have faced East European governments since the fall of Communism, this has undoubtedly been the most problematic and the one where the least has been achieved. Thus, almost fifteen years after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the return of democracy to Communist Eastern Europe, a total of three Nazi war criminals – Lithuanian Security Police commander Kazys Gimzauskas in Lithuania, Chelmno death-camp operative Henryk Mania in Poland, and Jasenovac concentration-camp commander Dinko Sakic in Croatia – have been convicted, with only the latter two actually having been punished for their crimes. This total, more than anything, reflects a distinct lack of political will to deal with such cases, which have proved extremely unpopular in these societies and have aroused considerable anti-Semitic sentiment that has been manifested in various ways.

Numerous examples can be adduced of the abysmal failure to prosecute Holocaust perpetrators. In fact, with the exception of Poland, not a single country has launched an investigation of such a case on its own initiative. To the extent that any such cases were ever dealt with, it was invariably instances in which the suspects were investigated and/or prosecuted elsewhere, primarily in the United States, or were located by groups such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center that lobbied for their investigation, a demand usually supported by the United States and Israel. Even worse, several of the countries, such as Lithuania, Latvia, and Romania, granted pardons to Holocaust perpetrators convicted by the Soviets or Communists, even though individuals who had participated in genocide were not eligible for such rehabilitations.24

This problem had been particularly acute in the former Soviet republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia where local participation in Holocaust crimes was particularly extensive and contributed to the high rates of Jewish victimization in all three countries. Yet despite the existence of numerous unprosecuted Nazi war criminals in the Baltic states, as well as others living overseas, practically no concrete results have been achieved on this issue.25

This failure is most evident in Lithuania, which had by far the largest pre-World War II Jewish community in the Baltics, and in which over 210,000 Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, many by Lithuanians. Among those actively involved in these crimes were twelve individuals who had escaped to the United States shortly after the war and against whom the United States had taken legal action for concealing their wartime activities, at least eleven of whom returned to Lithuania once it obtained independence. Among the returnees were several prominent figures in the World War II Lithuanian Security Police (Saugumas), such as Vilnius district commander Aleksandras Lileikis and his deputy Kazys Gimzauskas. Although both arrived in Vilnius (Gimzauskas in 1993, Lileikis in June 1996) in relatively good health, they were only indicted after they were no longer medically fit to stand trial (Gimzauskas on 20 November 1997, Lileikis on 6 February 1998). Neither was forced to appear in court (Lileikis did so voluntarily once for ten minutes on 5 November 1998 and briefly followed one session by video hookup on 23 June 2000), nor were they ever punished for their crimes. Lileikis died on 26 September 2000 before his trial was completed, whereas by the time Gimzauskas was convicted on 14 January 2001 he was ruled unfit for punishment. Neither sat even one minute in jail despite the important role they played in the mass murder of the Jews of Vilnius.26

The cases of these Nazi war criminals served as focal points of opposition by various segments of Lithuanian society to the prosecution of local Nazi collaborators, and especially to the exposure of the critical and extensive role played by Lithuanians in Holocaust crimes. In fact, any initiative to bring Holocaust perpetrators to justice in Lithuania invariably sparked negative reactions, sometimes including elements of violence. For example, in response to the launching in Lithuania of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s “Operation: Last Chance” project, which offers financial rewards for information facilitating the prosecution and punishment of Nazi war criminals, a member of the Taurage city council burned an Israeli flag in the center of town and drove around playing Nazi marches on a loudspeaker.27

Additional efforts to facilitate the prosecution of local Nazi criminals spawned numerous anti-Semitic reactions, particularly in local Internet forums and especially on, as well as countless instances of vandalization of Jewish memorials and cemeteries.28 These efforts also apparently influenced the decision of the Lithuanian government to seek the extradition from Israel of two Lithuanian Jews alleged to have committed crimes against Lithuanians in the service of the KGB.29 In fact, Israel refused a Lithuanian request for judicial assistance in at least one of these cases, on the ground that since approximately two dozen Lithuanians of equivalent or higher rank who served in the same unit as the suspect were never investigated, let alone prosecuted, the decision to investigate him stemmed from anti-Semitism and could therefore be legally rejected.30 This instance was highlighted by nationalist elements whenever Jewish groups lobbied for the prosecution of Lithuanians for Holocaust crimes.31

Estonia is another country that has done very little to prosecute its own Nazi war criminals. Up to now the Estonian authorities have never initiated a single investigation of a local Holocaust perpetrator, and the case of an Estonian suspect who returned to the country after being prosecuted in the United States, for example, has dragged on with no results. In July 2002, the Simon Wiesenthal Center submitted the names of sixteen members of the 36th Estonian Police Battalion, who were decorated in December 1942 for their service with the Nazis, to the Estonian Security Police Board as possible suspects in the murder of the Jews of Nowogrudok, Belarus on 7 August 1942, which was carried out by members of this unit (among others). The Security Police Board announced approximately two weeks later that there was no evidence to link the unit to the murder of the Jews of Nowogrudok, despite the fact that its participation in this crime was established by the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against Humanity and confirmed by survivor witnesses. The fact that the Estonian Security Police Board did not even bother to mention their investigation of this case in responding to the Wiesenthal Center’s annual questionnaire on Nazi war crimes investigations is perhaps the best indication of the total lack of political will in Tallinn to prosecute Holocaust perpetrators.32

The situation in this regard is even worse in countries like Ukraine, Romania, and Belarus, which since achieving independence or returning to democracy have not initiated a single investigation, let alone prosecution, of a local Nazi war criminal. Cases of crimes committed by their nationals or on their territory that have been prosecuted elsewhere, have never elicited any interest or response by these countries.33


Documentation of Holocaust Crimes

The sins of omission and commission in this regard take various forms, among them the relativization of Holocaust crimes, the attempts to equate Communist crimes with those of the Shoah, the minimalization of the local population’s role in the mass murder of the Jews, the exaggeration of the help provided to Jews by local residents and, certainly not least, outright Holocaust denial and even the attribution of Shoah crimes to the victims themselves.

One of the most prevalent tendencies in post-Communist Eastern Europe has been the attempt to create a false symmetry between Nazi and Communist crimes, and the erroneous classification of the latter as genocide. This can clearly be seen, for example, in the Baltics where all three post-Soviet republics established historical commissions of inquiry to investigate the Nazi and Soviet occupations of their country. Despite protests from various quarters,34 each country insisted on establishing a single commission to investigate both the Nazi and Communist occupations, thereby strengthening their contention of the equivalency of the tragedies.35

The theory of the “double genocide” or the symmetry between Nazi and Communist crimes was particularly strong in Lithuania, where it became prominent in the wake of the revelations by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 1991 that the Lithuanian government had granted rehabilitations to numerous Lithuanian Nazi collaborators.36 Part of the response to these accusations was to emphasize the role of Jewish Communists in Soviet crimes committed in Lithuania as a counterbalance and/or as justification for the participation of Lithuanians in Holocaust crimes, a tendency that remains strong in Lithuania.37 Along the same lines, in the wake of the apology for the crimes of the Shoah proffered by President Brazauskas in Israel, numerous Lithuanians countered by pointing to Jewish participation in Communist crimes, asking, “Who will apologize to the Lithuanian nation?”38 Typical of these comments was the article by popular writer Jonas Avzyius, who wrote that: “His Excellency obediently apologized for Lithuanian criminals, who murdered Jews during the Nazi occupation. But there was not the slightest hint that the President of Israel should do something similar, condemning his Jewish countrymen, who worked in repressive institutions in Lithuania occupied by the Soviets and sent thousands of Lithuanians to concentration camps.”39

Another example of equating Communist crimes with those of the Holocaust occurred at the very highest level in Latvia. In January 2004, at a conference sponsored by the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education Remembrance and Research, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga emphasized two major points: that Communist crimes were just as terrible as those of the Holocaust and that the measures taken by the Communists in Latvia constituted genocide. Despite the relevance of the Holocaust in this context, the Latvian president only mentioned it once in passing, with nary a word about Latvian complicity in Shoah crimes.40 When an official of the Simon Wiesenthal Center explained in an op-ed that the president’s presentation did not accurately reflect the historical events,41 there were calls for his murder, as well as various anti-Semitic comments on a prominent Latvian news website.42

Three other prevalent tendencies in Eastern Europe reflect the failure to confront local residents’ participation in the crimes of the Holocaust: the attribution of Holocaust crimes entirely to German and Austrian Nazis (as opposed to locals); the exaggeration of the number of, and scope of the assistance provided by, local Righteous Gentiles; and attempts to claim that the only local participants in Holocaust crimes were criminals or totally peripheral elements of society. Instances of each tendency may be found in practically every post-Communist society. For example, various Polish historians refused to accept the findings regarding the responsibility of Poles for the murder of the Jews of Jedwabne as described by historian Jan Gross in his book Neighbors. In Lithuania, local officials opposed the inclusion of the phrase “and their local accomplices” on a memorial monument at Ponar (Paneriai), the site of the mass murder of the Jews of Vilnius, which attributed the killings to the Nazis. The Hungarian government planned in 1998 to rebuild the Hungarian pavilion at Auschwitz in such a manner that the blame for the annihilation of the Jews was almost exclusively placed on the Germans.43 In Estonia, the local media invested much effort to disprove the findings of the international commission of historians that established that the 36th battalion of the Estonian Security Police actively participated in the murder of the Jews of Nowogrudok, Belarus.44

In Lithuania, the number of Righteous Gentiles and the scope of their assistance have been often exaggerated and presented as a counterbalance to the deeds of the local perpetrators, to the extent that those are acknowledged.45 The latter are often portrayed as being on the fringe of Lithuanian society, such as in the speech made by Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius at the dedication of a memorial monument at Ponar where he referred to the killers as “a group of criminals.”46 In Latvia, the role of the Arajs Kommando has been emphasized to the virtual exclusion of any other Latvians, despite the involvement of many others in the killing of Jews.47 In Hungary, the tendency has been to focus solely on the Arrow Cross, ignoring the role played by the Hungarian gendarmerie and others throughout the entire country, whereas in Romania the blame is often cast solely on the Iron Guard despite the fact that the Romanian government bears most of the responsibility for the murder of the Jews.48


Denying the Holocaust; Blaming the Jews

Finally, there are the cases of outright Holocaust denial and those in which the Jews themselves are blamed for the Holocaust. For example, Slovak Deputy Minister of Culture Stanislavs Panis claimed in 1992 that it was “technically impossible” for the Nazis to murder six million Jews in camps and that Auschwitz was an “invention” of the Jews to extort compensation from Germany. Romanian presidential candidate Corneliu Vadim Tudor of the Greater Romania Party (PRM) described the Holocaust in 1994 as “a Zionist scheme aimed at squeezing out from Germany about 100 billion Deutsch marks and to terrorize for more than 40 years, all those who do not acquiesce to the Jewish yoke.” (He has since changed his mind.) In Poland, neofascist political leader Boleslaw Tejkowski claimed that the Shoah was actually a Jewish conspiracy to enable Jews to hide their children in monasteries during World War II so that they could be baptized and thereby take over the Church from within. In fact, according to Tejkowski and the Romanian Radu Theodoru, Pope John Paul II was actually a Jew.49

Perhaps the most fitting conclusion for an article on this topic is to cite several examples in which the Jews themselves have been blamed for the Holocaust. Such arguments, as illogical as they are, have appeared in several East European countries. For example, right-wing elements in Slovakia claimed in 1997 that the Holocaust is the price the Jews have to pay for crucifying Jesus. According to Hungarian right-wing extremist Aron Monis, it was “Jewish world power” that produced Hitler, who was actually a Zionist agent. In Romania, Theodoru argued that Hitler was a puppet in Jewish hands50 and Prof. Ion Coja claimed that during the infamous Bucharest pogrom of January 1941, Jews disguised as Iron Guard Legionnaires murdered Romanians whom they dressed up as Jews.51 In Croatia, President Franjo Tudjman wrote in his book The Wastelands of Historical Reality that the number of Jewish victims of the Holocaust was grossly exaggerated and that Jewish inmates ran the Jasenovac concentration camp and controlled its liquidation apparatus. According to Tudjman, “The Jew remains a Jew, even in the Jasenovac camp….Selfishness, craftiness, unreliability, stinginess, deceit, are their main characteristics.”52

This article has offered only a small sample of the numerous cases in which attempts are being made throughout Eastern Europe to distort and negate the history of the Holocaust. Although it is true that some of the main culprits are minor figures or leaders of peripheral political movements, others are even heads of state, and clearly reflect – and influence – mainstream public opinion. In this regard, it is important to heed the warning of American Jewish historian Randolph Braham, who survived the Holocaust in Hungary and continues to follow the political developments in that country:

“While the number of populist champions of anti-Semitism, like that of the Hungarian neo-Nazis actually denying the Holocaust, is relatively small, the camp of those distorting and denigrating the catastrophe of the Jews is fairly large, and judging by recent developments, growing. Wielding political power and influence, members of this camp represent a potentially greater danger not only to the integrity of the historical record of the Holocaust, but also, and above all, to the newly established democratic system. For unlike the Holocaust deniers – the fringe groups of “historical charlatans”…the history cleansers who denigrate and distort the Holocaust are often “respectable” public figures – intellectuals, members of parliament, influential governmental and party figures, and high-ranking army officers.53″

These developments, which have hitherto attracted relatively little attention, clearly constitute a potential danger that should be fully clarified and addressed before the negation of Jewish history escalates into physical attacks on living Jews.

*     *     *



* This article is based on a lecture delivered at a conference on “Anti-Semitism and the Contemporary Jewish Condition,” sponsored by the Sigi Ziering Institute of the University of Judaism, 17-19 October 2004.
1. During the past two decades alone, three multimillion-dollar Holocaust museums, or museums with a major Holocaust component, have been constructed: in Los Angeles (Simon Wiesenthal Center, 1993), Washington (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1993), and New York City (Museum of Jewish Heritage, 1997), besides dozens of smaller museums throughout the world. See, e.g., Edward Linenthal, Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995); James E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993).
2. One of the most important expressions of this approach has been the activities of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education Remembrance and Research (hereafter, TFICHERR) established by Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson in 1998. See his remarks in Stockholm Meeting on the Holocaust: Summary from the Meeting of 7 May 1998 in Stockholm (Stockholm, n.d.), pp. 4-9. For a dissenting view on the effectiveness of Holocaust education in combating anti-Semitism, see Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life (Boston and New York: Houghton Miffin, 1999), pp. 239-63.
3. John Innes, “Villagers Plan to Honor Scot Victim of Holocaust,” The Scotsman, 14 October 2004.
4. Renwick McLean, “Spain Reopens Old Wound,” International Herald Tribune, 13 October 1944, p. 1.
5. “Major Figure on the French Right: It’s All Right to Argue about the Number of Victims of the Shoah,” Haaretz, 13 October 2004 (Hebrew).
6. Whereas the TFICHERR was originally established in 1998 by Sweden, the United States, and the United Kingdom, it presently has eighteen members (fifteen from Europe), with at least four additional European countries being candidates for membership. See “Fact Sheet,”
7. See, e.g., Efraim Zuroff, “The Memory of Murder and the Murder of Memory,” in Emanuelis Zingeris, ed., Atminties Dienos (Days of Memory) (Vilnius: Baltos Lankos, 1993), pp. 391-405 (Lithuanian).
8. Soviet memorials, for example, were notorious for hiding the Jewish identity of the victims of Nazism who were described as “Soviet citizens” or “victims of fascism,” while the national identity of local participants was masked by references to “bourgeois nationalists” or “Hitlerite fascists.” See ibid. , p. 396, and William Korey, The Soviet Cage (New York: Viking, 1973), pp. 83-98.
9. Vygantas Vareikis, “Double Genocide and the Holocaust Gulag: Rhetoric in Lithuania,” Dov Levin, “New Forms of Anti-Semitism in the New Established Lithuania,” lectures presented at a conference on “Jews and Anti- Semitism in the Public Discourse of the Post-Communist European Countries,” 24-26 October 2000, Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
10. Efraim Zuroff, “Latvia’s Holocaust Role,” Jerusalem Post, 18 February 1998, p. 10.
11. Efraim Zuroff, “Visiting President Mesic Courageously Tackles His Country’s Past,” Jerusalem Post, 31 October 2001, p. 4; Marinko Culic, “Mesic’s Apology to Jews,” 5 November 2001,
12. Michael Shafir, “Between Denial and ‘Comparative Trivialization’; Holocaust Negationism in Post-Communist East Central Europe,” Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism, No. 19, 2002, p. 28.
13. See note 9.
14. Shafir, “Between Denial.”
15. Ibid. , p. 40.
16. “Declaration of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania Concerning the Genocide of the Jewish Nation in Lithuania during the Period of the Nazi Occupation,” 8 May 1990. For an analysis of the wording of the declaration, see Zuroff, “Memory of Murder,” pp. 397-98.
17. Michael Berenbaum, “On the Politics of the Public Commemoration of the Holocaust,” Shoah, Fall-Winter 1982, pp. 6-37.
18. Amiram Barkat, “Many Western Countries Also Mark Holocaust Day,” Haaretz, 19 April 2004.
19. “Dr. Efraim Zuroff Online: Answers in English,” Eesti Paevaleht, 8 August 2002, p. 6.
20. “Kas Eesti peab sisse holokausti paeva” (Does Estonia Need to Institute a Holocaust Memorial Day?), Eesti Paevaleht, 7 August 2002 (Estonian); Internet Poll on Marking the Holocaust Day, “Estonian Media Summary,” US Embassy, Tallinn, Estonia, 7 August 2002.
21. Efraim Zuroff, “Holokausti Paev Eestis oleks suur samm desi” (Holocaust Memorial Day in Estonia Would Be a Big Step Forward), Eesti Paevaleht, 7 August 2002, p. 9 (Estonian).
22. See, e.g., coverage of Holocaust Remembrance Day 2001 in Lithuania, Lithuanian Review, 24 September 2004, p. 1; Rachel Eisenberg, “Rivlin Marks 60th Anniversary of Vilna Ghetto’s Destruction,” Jerusalem Post, 24 September 2003, p. 4.
23. Zuroff, “Memory of Murder,” pp. 391-405.
24. See Efraim Zuroff, “Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals: An Annual Status Report” for the period from 1 January 2001 to 31 March 2004 (three reports), published annually by the Simon Wiesenthal Center – Israel Office.
25. Efraim Zuroff, “The Failure to Prosecute Nazi War Criminals in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, 1991-1998,” Antisemitism Research, Vol. 2, No. 1 (1998): 5-10.
26. See, e.g., Michael MacQueen, “The Office of Special Investigations and the Case of Aleksandras Lileikis,” lecture presented at the conference on “Holocaust in Lithuania in the Focus of Modern History, Education, and Justice,” Vilnius, 23-25 September 2002; Liudas Truska, “Contemporary Attitudes toward the Holocaust in Lithuania,” Jews in Eastern Europe, Vol. 2, No. 45 (2001): 24; Efraim Zuroff, “Can Lithuania Face Its Holocaust Past: Reflections of a Concerned Litvak,” Gachelet, March 2002, pp. 75-76.
27. See, e.g., “Laiko zenklai” (Signs of the Times), Lietuvos Rytas, 21 June 1996, p. 4 (Lithuanian); “E. Zuroff as pasigenda normalaus naciu nusikalteliu teismo proceso” (E. Zuroff Finds a Lack of Normal Trials of Nazi Criminals), Baltic News Service, 13 July 2002 (Lithuanian) and comments on www.del- ; Geoffrey Vasiliauskas, “No One Rules the World,” Laisvas Laikrastis, 16 March 2004, pp. 1-8.
28. “Taurageje surengta antisemitine akcija” (An Anti-Semitic Incident Was Organized in Taurage), Lietuvos Rytas, 29 July 2002, p. 2 (Lithuanian); “Lithuanian Politician Burns Israeli Flag, Plays Nazi Songs,” Agence France Press, 29 June 2002. Among the Jewish sites vandalized during the period since Lithuania obtained its independence were several Holocaust memorial monuments, particularly in smaller communities. See, e.g., “The Baltic States,” in Dina Porat, chief ed., Antisemitism Worldwide, 1994 (Tel Aviv: World Jewish Congress and Anti-Defamation League 1995), p. 129.
29. Mel Huang, “History Greets the New Year on the Baltic,” Central Europe Review, Vol. 2, No. 1 (2000). The individuals in question are Nachman Dushanski and Semyon Berkov.
30. Letter of Irit Kahan, director of the Department of International Affairs of the Israeli Ministry of Justice to Lithuanian Prosecutor-General Kazys Pednycia, 2 February 2000, Archives of the Israel Office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWCIA), Lithuania, file no. 28.
31. Vasiliauskas relates that following a visit to Lithuania by this author who had submitted particularly damning testimony regarding the participation of Lithuanians in the murder of Jews in the town of Rokiskis, obtained in the framework of “Operation: Last Chance” (which featured special advertisements calling on individuals to volunteer information regarding the identity of local Nazi perpetrators), to the Lithuanian Special Prosecutor for genocide crimes, the Lithuanian Center for the Study of Genocide and Resistance sponsored special radio advertisements calling for people with information on Communist crimes in the Rokiskis area during and after World War II to come forward. Vasiliauskas, “No One Rules,” p. 4.
32. Efraim Zuroff, “Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of NaziWar Criminals: An Annual Status Report,” June 2003, pp. 30-31 (published annually by the Simon Wiesenthal Center – Israel Office).
33. See note 24.
34. See, e.g., “Lithuanian State Head Spurns Jewish Organization’s Rebuke,” Elta (Lithuanian News Agency), 20 November 1998; “E. Zurofas nerimsta” (E. Zuroff Is Nervous), Kauno Diena, 20 November 1998 (Lithuanian).
35. See, e.g., the history of the Lithuanian “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes,” at
36. Stephen Kinzer, “Lithuania Starts to Wipe Out Convictions for War Crimes,” New York Times, 5 September 1991, p. 1.
37. Typical of the articles expressing this notion was a piece by Valentinas Ardziunas in Lietuvos Aidas (14 March 1995), which was accompanied by two illustrations: a monument to the victims of the Holocaust in Alytus and a chapel built to commemorate the murder of dozens of Lithuanians by the Communists at Rainiai forest. Vareikis, “Double Genocide,” pp. 4-6.
38. Ibid. , pp. 6-8.
39. Jonas Avyzius, “Kam Prezidentas tikras tevas?” (Who Is the Person Whose Real Father is the President?), Respublika, 25 March 1995, quoted in ibid. , p. 8 (Lithuanian).
40. Address by H. E. Vaira Vike-Preiburga, president of the Republic of Latvia at the International Forum Preventing Genocide: Threats and Responsibilities, Stockholm, 26 January 2004.
41. Efraim Zuroff, “Misleading Comparisons of 20th Century Tragedies,” Baltic Times, 19-25 February 2004.
42. Among the comments on were the following: 1. “To the wall [to be shot] this person and finish [him off ]” (20 February 2004, 9:31); 2. “Zuroff thinks the only nation that suffered in world history are the zhids [derogatory term for Jews], All the other people are their butchers…Jews were always successful in trade and usury.” (20 February 2004, 9:33) 3. “It is written in the Bible that zhids are an experimental mistake. G-d himself wanted to annihilate them because the nation is wicked, without honor and virtue. All their history is war, killings, and treachery. We must state clearly: Zuroff and the zhid government in Israel are criminals.” (20 February 2004, 16:27)
43. Shafir (“Between Denial,” pp. 24-37) cites these examples to describe a phenomenon that he calls “deflective negationism,” which in this case relates to the attempts to attribute guilt for the crimes of the Holocaust solely to the Nazis. In the case of the monument at Ponar, the term “and their helpers” appears in the inscriptions in Yiddish and Hebrew but not in Lithuanian or Russian, and the all-important adjective “local” does not appear anywhere. Efraim Zuroff, “Can Lithuania Face Its Past?” Jerusalem Report, 1 August 1991, p. 48.
44. The Estonian daily Eesti Paevaleht was so intent on discrediting the findings of the international commission regarding the participation of the Estonian 36th battalion in the murders at Nowogrudok, that it featured an interview with Vassili Arula who served in the unit and denied its involvement, but whose testimony in this regard was of little relevance since he only joined the battalion long after the murders had taken place. Toomas Kummel, “Ainus elav tunnistaja kaitseb 36. eesti politseipataljoni” (Only Living Witness D36th Estonian Police Battalion), Eesti Paevaleht, 5 August 2001 (Lithuanian).
45. The most obvious reflection of the Lithuanians’ eagerness to uncover Righteous Gentiles (as opposed to their reluctance to prosecute Nazi war criminals) is the large discrepancy between the numbers claimed by the Lithuanians (approximately 2,300 families as of late 2000) and the far smaller figure officially recognized by Yad Vashem, the Israel national remembrance authority (513 individuals). Thus, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, on a visit to Lithuania on Holocaust Memorial Day there, refused to participate in a ceremony honoring thirty Lithuanians whom Lithuanian sources claim helped save Jews during the Holocaust, since only twelve of them had been recognized by Yad Vashem. Eisenberg, “Rivlin Marks 60th Anniversary.” For mention of the symmetry Lithuanians seek to create between local perpetrators and rescuers, see Jonas Patrubavicius, “Blatant and Latent Asymmetry of Lithuanian Anti-Semitism,” Laisvas Laikvastis, 13 April 2004, p. 9. The figure on the Righteous Gentiles recognized in Lithuania appears in Solomonas Atamukas, “The Hard Long Road toward the Truth: On the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Holocaust in Lithuania,” Lituanus, Vol. 47, No. 4 (2001): 11. The figures for Yad Vashem are correct as of 1 January 2004 and were supplied by that institution. “Righteous among the Nations: Per Country and Ethnic Origin,” Yad Vashem Department for the Righteous among the Nations, 1 January 2004.
46. “Address by Gediminas Vagnorius, Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania on 20 June 1991 at Dedication Ceremony of the Memorial at Ponar,” SWCIA, Lithuanian criminals, file no. 3.
47. Andrew Ezergailis, “Sonderkommando Arajs,” lecture presented at the Ninth International Conference on Baltic Studies in Scandinavia, 3-4 June 1987; Andrew Ezergailis, The Holocaust in Latvia 1941-1944 (Riga and Washington, D.C.: Historical Institute of Latvia in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1996).
48. Shafir (“Between Denial,” p. 37) describes this phenomenon as another example of “deflective negationism,” with the primary guilt being attributed to fringe elements.
49. Ibid., pp. 14-15.
50. Ibid. , pp. 42-43.
51. Prof. Coja wrote an article with this spurious accusation as recently as January 2004 after his political patron Tudor had already apologized for his previous Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic comments. Ion Coja, “De ce nau luat romanii Premiul Nobel pentru Pace in 1994” (Why the Romanians Did Not Win the Nobel Prize in 1994), Romania Mare, 21 January 2004 (Romanian).
52. Thomas O’Dwyer, “Where’s the Croat Havel?” Jerusalem Post, 7 August 1997; “Nazi-Hunter Slams Croatian links,” Jewish Chronicle, 12 September 1997.
53. Quoted in Shafir, “Between Denial,” p. 11.

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DR. EFRAIM ZUROFF is director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and coordinator of Nazi war crimes research for the Center worldwide. He is the author of Occupation: Nazi-Hunter: The Continuing Search for the Perpetrators of the Holocaust (1994), and has written extensively about the efforts to bring Holocaust perpetrators to justice throughout the world. His most recent book is The Response of Orthodox Jewry in the United States to the Holocaust: The Activities of the Vaad ha-Hatzala Rescue Committee 1939-1945 (2000). Since 2001, he has published the Wiesenthal Center’s Annual Status Report on the Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals.