Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lithuania: "I would be flattered if anyone ever thought Lithuanians controlled the world"

Only eight of us came out to protest against this mockery of the Holocaust, an open expression of xenophobia and antisemitism. Although we were protected by the police, it was quite difficult to experience the deep hostility shown toward us. If looks could kill, we would have been murdered time after time.

Then there were the men and women who came up to myself and Professor Dovid Katz to shout at us in Lithuanian, knowing full well that neither of us understands the language.

The march ended with a protest assembly in which I found myself conducting a heated debate with a Lithuanian who insisted that I was to blame for ruining Lithuanian-Jewish relations. “Let bygones be bygones,” he said. “Why don’t you speak to the crowd about the brave Lithuanians who saved Jews at great risk during the Holocaust? They will applaud you.”

I tried to explain that I truly admire the righteous but this was a crowd that preferred Nazi collaborators as their heroes. In response, the man said that he had visited Israel and had been extremely impressed.

Imagine my surprise when I learned his identity — it was Vitas Tomkus, the editor of Respublika, a tabloid that has published more than its fair share of openly antisemitic articles and cartoons, including a notorious one portraying Jews and gays controlling the world. “How could you do such a thing?” I asked Mr Tomkus. “Take it as a compliment. I would be flattered if anyone ever thought Lithuanians controlled the world,” he said with a chuckle, leaving us to ponder the difficulties of combating antisemitism in post-Communist Eastern Europe.

More: Jewish Chronicle

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