Friday, April 16, 2010

The Rise of Baltic Nationalism

I received an article recently that I wanted to share in these pages. The article was from the Guardian in the UK and is titled The Threat of Baltic Ultra-Nationalism (April 3, 2010 by Efraim Zuroff-see link on right). Zuroff writes of his concern that the EU ignores the rise of neofascism in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. He believes that it creates a threat to European democracy.

I often wonder when I write about the Holocaust whether for others it seems like ancient history. Because I have family that perished, it has a greater feeling of immediacy, but I am aware that for many it lacks that sense of the personal. The article was a reminder of the reason we need to focus on this history. Looking at the horrific events of the Holocaust, we find it hard to imagine how sane people could allow such things to occur. And yet, I recall reading articles from 1939 in old newspapers, tracing the reports from Europe and the response or lack of response of the rest of the world (see entry titled 1939 in Moorhead, Minnesota). At what point do we pay attention? Genocide is a slippery slope. It begins in exactly the sorts of activities of which Zuroff writes.

Zuroff writes about the recent march in Riga of 1000 Latvian Waffen-SS veterans and supporters. A similar march has happened in Vilnius for the past few years. These marches have been accompanied with slogans such as “Jews, this land is for the Latvians” and “Jews out!” The irony of such slogans is that over 90% of the Latvian and Lithuanian Jews were murdered in the Holocaust and make up a minute portion of the total population today. In the article Zuroff speaks of the Latvian foreign minister who condemned those who believed there was a distinction between the victims of the Nazis and those who died fighting for the Third Reich.

The Baltic States had a high level of complicity with the Nazis. Jews in those countries died in a much higher proportion than elsewhere largely because of that complicity, yet no collaborators have been punished by a Baltic court since Independence. At the same time there has been harassment of Jewish anti-Nazi partisans and efforts to obscure the magnitude of the Holocaust by equating it to the period of Communist control.

We see nothing of this in the US press. It is only because of my travels to Lithuania and Latvia that I am even aware of what is occurring. Looking back through the lens of history, the lack of condemnation is particularly disturbing. These countries are now part of the European Union. To allow such actions to go unchallenged and unreported only fosters their growth and acceptance.

1 comment:

  1. It is gratifying to see your post and to know that at least some people are paying attention to the problem of Holocaust distortion and the growing anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe and especially in the Baltics.
    Dr. Efraim Zuroff