In response to:
Heroism in Hell from the November 8, 1990 issue
To the Editors:
István Deák’s review of Avraham Tory’s Surviving the Holocaust: The Kovno Ghetto Diary [NYR, November 8, 1990] concludes with the statement that the government of Lithuania has “made no effort…to express their regret for what happened to more than a hundred thousand of its Jewish citizens.” This is not true in letter or in spirit.
When the Republic of Lithuania reestablished its independence on March 11, 1990 the people of Lithuania expressed their determination to rejoin the community of nations. This is not to say that Lithuania has forgotten or wishes to forget the past.
On May 8, 1990 the Lithuanian Parliament passed the “Appeal Concerning the Genocide of the Jewish Nation in Lithuania During the Period of Nazi Occupation” in which it condemns “without any reservation” the genocide executed against the Jewish citizens of Lithuania. The appeal notes that there were Lithuanian citizens “among the executioners serving the occupants.” It states that there “cannot be any justification or statute of limitations on criminal prosecution” for these crimes. Executive and legislative bodies, public organizations, and all citizens of Lithuania are asked to “create the most favorable conditions for Lithuanian Jews as well as other national communities to restore and develop cultural, educational, scientific, religious and other institutions.” The appeal ends with the intent to memorialize the victims of the genocide of Lithuania’s Jewish citizens and with a statement of no tolerance for anti-Semitic displays. This document was later taken to Israel from the people of Lithuania by Emanuelis Zingeris, a deputy of the Lithuanian Parliament and Chairman of its Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The people of Lithuania—Lithuanians, Jews, Poles, Tatars, Russians and others are resolved to be free and independent. They have chosen to live in a democratic state founded on the rule of law, where mutual respect ensures cultural development and liberty.Reclaiming its history, both tragic and joyous has been Lithuania’s first step in rebuilding a home for its people.
István Deák replies:
The May 8, 1990, declaration of the Lithuanian parliament was signed by its chairman, Vytautas Landsbergis. It appeared in that country and in émigré journals, but only in the Lithuanian language. One wonders why it was not given more publicity through the many Western journalists who interviewed the leaders of Sajudis, the Lithuanian reform movement, in the recent past. But no matter, it is very good to know that its essence will finally appear in English as well. Let me add that Sajudis includes a number of Jewish members in high positions, that the 12,000 Jews in Lithuania suffer no discrimination whatsoever, and that the mother of Landsbergis, Olga Landsbergiene, who was a physician, was one of the saviors of Jews.