Today is Lithuanian Holocaust Day. This is the day the Vilna Ghetto was “liquidated” in 1943, but is not generally known among Lithuanians. It does not even appear on the Wikipedia list of Lithuanian holidays, although Molotov-Ribbentrop Day, August 23, does. September 23 usually receives a few minutes on the evening news – after it’s over.
For Lithuania’s small population of surviving Jews, it seems as though the Vilna Ghetto liquidation is emphasised because it was carried out largely by non-Lithuanians. Many prefer a day such as October 29, when 10,000 Jews were killed at the Ninth Fort in Kaunas by enthusiastic Lithuanians, the largest one-day death toll in Baltic history.
Last year, Lithuanian politicians used the commemoration at Ponar, the mass-killing site near Vilnius, to unveil yet another paper initiative aimed at gaining favour from the international community and foreign Jewish dignitaries: that 2011 would be the Year of Holocaust Remembrance. This was hurriedly passed by the Lithuanian parliament. Within days, however, this became “2011: The Year of the Fight for Freedom and Great Losses”, with much of the programme dedicated to honouring local Holocaust murderers, regarded as freedom fighters. How smashing the skulls of infants against trees contributed in any way to Lithuanian independence was not addressed in parliament, of course, just as it has never been addressed in society.