Beneath the veneer of Lithuania’s most beautiful capital, lies a dark past that should not escape the participants to the 2023 NATO Summit
Co-written by Lay of the Land and ICAN
The upcoming gathering of NATO Heads of State and Government will take place in Vilnius on 11-12 July 2023. An opportunity for allied heads of state, there will be much to discuss regarding the war in Ukraine and particularly deciphering Wagner’s attempted coup in Russia. After all, the question on everyone’s lips remains:
“What The Hell Just Happened?”
We may well ask the same question – without the word “just” – regarding the Holocaust when more than 95% of Lithuania’s Jewish population was massacred over the three-year German occupation – a more complete destruction than befell any other country affected by the Holocaust.
Historians in recent years attribute the mass murder on a monumental scale to the collaboration in the genocide by non-Jewish local Lithuanian paramilitaries. The tragedy endures to the present day in that all serious research of Lithuanian complicity of the extermination of its Jewish community is impeded, in some instances, obstructed by successive Lithuanian governments who would prefer that the past remains buried with the bodies. Towards this distortion of the past, Lithuanian museums and memorials honour past participants who although proved heroes against invading Russians were also later revealed to be murderers of Jews.
It is for this reason that the Israeli-American Civic Action Network (ICAN), a leading U.S.-based non-governmental organization has launched a “culturally sensitive” website issuing a “travel advisory” for attendees of the NATO Summit 2023 in Vilnius, Lithuania. The advisory aims to provide attendees with crucial information about certain sensitive historical sites that may gloss over the Holocaust focusing instead on Lithuanian heroism. These include the following:
The Genocide Museum: This institution is known for its revisionist stance on the Holocaust.
Antakalnis Cemetery: This national cemetery is believed to contain the graves of individuals involved in the Holocaust, whom Lithuania deems to be national heroes.
Wroblewski Library of the Academy of Sciences of Lithuania: The exterior of this building displays a plaque honoring Jonas Noreika, a known Holocaust perpetrator. It has been removed in anticipation of the Summit but will assuredly be restored thereafter.
Says ICAN CEO Dillon Hosier:
“ICAN is committed to promoting understanding and respectful engagement during the NATO Summit. Our travel advisory and website resources are designed to help attendees navigate Vilnius in an informed and sensitive manner, acknowledging the internalized oppression that can result from historical distortions.”
The travel advisory identifies several locations in Vilnius associated with Holocaust denial and distortion. These sites, which include monuments and plaques, “present a distorted view of historical events,” says Hosier, which can lead “to a dangerously corrosive form of cultural appropriation further undermining Lithuania’s already vulnerable Jewish population.” For this reason, ICAN encourages attendees to avoid visiting these locations during their stay in Vilnius to ensure focus remains on the important discussions and collaborations of the NATO Summit.
PROCEED WITH CAUTION
ICAN’s new website also features an interactive map of Vilnius, highlighting both NATO Summit-related locations and sites of historical controversy. The map also includes ‘caution zones’ established around problematic sites based on line-of-sight considerations. These zones are designed to prevent dignitaries and other NATO participants from accidentally encountering one of these sites or being videotaped or photographed near them. The website provides a wealth of resources for attendees, including a detailed history of Vilnius during World War II and a comprehensive FAQ section.
“We believe in the importance of historical accuracy and the need to acknowledge and remember the atrocities of the Holocaust,” added Hosier. “Our resources are designed to foster a more informed and respectful dialogue about these sensitive historical matters, and to challenge any attempts to manipulate or distort historical truths.”
Recalling the line in the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, “…..a commitment to throw light on the still obscured shadows of the Holocaust…”, remains poignantly pertinent to Lithuania.
The message from ICAN to the NATO participants is that as with the present so with the past – focus on the facts.
It’s the safest way to safeguard the future.
*For more information, please visit ICAN’s NATO 2023 Travel Advisory website at: https://nato2023vilniustraveladvisory.com/
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).