With regards Lithuania, Jonathan Freedland has written in The Guardian, on the absence of any significant memorials in Kaunas to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust that it has much to do with the myth of the "double genocide" perpetuated by both the Nazi and Soviet regimes equally.
.....there are no special road signs directing visitors to make the short drive to the Ninth Fort, the place where the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators dug deep, vast pits – into which they shot almost 10,000 Jews, including 4,273 children, on a single day in October 1941, the so-called Great Action.All of that is true. In Kaunas, the German soldiers did not need to do anything other than watch the locals beating Jews to death in the streets. As Niall Ferguson put it in The War of the World, "Between half and two thirds of the Jews were killed not by Germans but by other Lithuanians".
....the Ninth Fort includes not only a massive, Soviet-era socialist-realist memorial to the dead buried in those pits, but a newer exhibition hall, covering the oppression of the Soviet years.
.......I cannot go along with the "double genocide", especially not now that I've seen how it plays out in practice rather than in theory. For one thing, the equation of Nazi and communist crimes rarely entails an honest account of the former. The plaque at the Ninth Fort, for instance, identifies the killers only as "Nazis and their assistants".
It does not spell out that those assistants were Lithuanian volunteers, enthusiastically murdering their fellow Lithuanians. In my travels, visiting a whole clutch of sites, I did not encounter one that gave a direct, explicit account of this bald, harsh truth: that Lithuania's Jews were victims of one of the highest killing rates in Nazi Europe, more than 90%, chiefly because the local population smoothed the Germans' path. Indeed, they began killing Jews on June 22 1941, before Hitler's men had even arrived.
The reason for this was the myth of Judeo-Communism, something present in Lithuania before the Soviet invasion of 1940 following the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939 between Stalin and Hitler which had partitioned Eastern Europe into Nazi and Soviet spheres, but given greater impetus after it was occupied.
Above-Lithuanian Jews in Kaunas being put to work in 1941
That Sovietisation was brutal and inhuman was obvious enough as Lithuania's national leaders and numerous civilians were sent off to the Gulag. Yet the conflation of Jewishness with Communism was something the Nazis were able to exploit to get nationalistic Lithuanians to kill off Jews for them when they invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.
The "double genocide" version of Baltic history depicted in the Museum of Genocide Victims, off Vilnius's central Gedimino Boulevard is an update of the myth of equivalence between Nazism and Communism when the two are not "morally equivalent" but merely comparable in the scale of the suffering and killing.
The danger of "equivalence" has been that it used to let off those who fought in Waffen SS units against Stalin as being thereby of a lesser evil and forced to do so by circumstances and so not as fundamentally evil in intensity and duration as the Communist experiment as far as most Lithuanians are concerned.
The destruction of Lithuanian Jewry is portrayed as something wholly separate from what befell the rest of the nation. Freedland points out,
If you wish to remember Lithuania's 200,000 slain Jews, you have to wander far from the main drag, up a side street, to the tiny Green House – which is anyway closed for renovation and whose director, under pressure from state officials, is fighting for her job.
It's the same story with a 2008 change in the law that, in the name of equivalence, banned not just Nazi symbols but Soviet ones too. As if that were not bad enough – banning a veteran of the anti-Hitler resistance from parading his medals – in May, a Lithuanian court held that the swastika was not a Nazi symbol after all, but part of "Baltic culture" and therefore could be displayed in public.
Naturally, as Freedland points out what this fails to emphasise is that Lithuanian Jews were Lithuanian citizens and not a nation within another nation and nor did many even act as though they were anything other. The problem was that Jews were disproportionately represented in the professions and were the most successful capitalists.
"The Soviet occupation of Lithuania in June 1940 affected Jews disproportionately, while paradoxically intensifying the feeling among Lithuanian nationalists that Jews were uniquely responsible for it.Jews owned 57% of plant and 83% of businesses nationalised by the Soviet socialists".Moreover, the continued failure to stress the shared suffering of Lithuanian Jew and Gentile alike under the Soviet occupation of 1940 exactly 70 years later in 2010 is striking considering the fact that 12,000 of the total of 60,000 Lithuanians deported East to the Gulag were Jewish and 15.2 % of all of them were actually members of the Lithuanian Communist Party.
That the Lithuanian double genocide model has not been challenged by most politicians in the West is through the desire to exploit nationalistic sentiments of those like Saakashvili in Georgia if it ties in with the geopolitical aims of expanding the US sphere on influence eastwards.
Matt Seaton comments,
The pernicious nonsense of the 'double genocide' thesis is far from merely a Lithuanian problem. Its founding document is the 2008 Prague Declaration includes, to their shame, such luminaries of the Velvet Revolution as Vaclav Havel and Jan Urban.The problem with Matt Seaton's view is that he still uses the word "genocide" for Stalin's class war against the richer peasants. It effectively killed millions but was a democidal policy. Genocide means the intention to remove and destroy a particular race. Stalin wanted to kill people of all races to advance Soviet power and centralisation.
Also the 2008 Prague Declaration that Seaton mentions can only be understood in this context of current geopolitical concerns. Yet the hypocritical reference to the double genocide myth only being something beholden to far right nationalists is itself a myth: liberal interventionists, of which there are many writing for the Guardian, accept it when expedient.
In reality there was no "double genocide". There was a democide on the part of the Soviet Union under Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin between 1917 and 1953 under which the Lithuanians suffered as much as other national groups caught between Hitler's Germany and the "Red Empire".
As Mark Almond has writtten,
Stalin’s regime was undoubtedly cruel, but compared with the complete deportations of the Crimean Tatars or Chechens for instance, the scale of deportation in the Baltic States was surprisingly modest. It cannot be compared to the pretty near complete extermination of local Jews by the Nazis. Yet the myth of a “deported nation” still is widely peddled in the West. In fact, Stalin found many willing collaborators in the Baltic States and local Balts held high office throughout the period of Soviet occupation.The far right nationalist myth is a use of history for political propaganda and to advance hatred and fear of Putin's "neo-Stalinist" Russia in order to promote an anti-Russian alliance of states, NATO and complete fealty to US policies, including the neoliberal policies that created so much poverty.
When faced with a downturn in living standards and the cost of spending money on NATO accession, politicians like President Valdas Adamkus before 2003, the last leader in Europe to have fought in World War Two on the German side, had to use nationalism as a divertion from "real" issues.
The double genocide myth thus offers a rationalisation for suffering, that all the privations Lithuanians have suffered since independence in 1991 is the malign legacy of Communism no less than Nazism and that of these Communism was just as bad because, unlike Hitler, Stalin destroyed Lithuanian freedom in 1940.
The other assumption is that the collaborators with Hitler were not "collaborators" but "freedom fighters", the very words are used consistently in museums and commemorations to those who fought with the Nazis against the Soviet Union in neighbouring Latvia and Estonia no less than Lithuania.
Occupation Museums routinely airbrush out of history or euphemise the scale of the collaboration with Hitler as it only lasted four years compared to the Soviet or "Russian" occupation that lasted half a century. As Nazi occupation only saw Jews murdered and not Lithuanians, it seemed relatively tolerable for the many.
Hence the rewriting of a heroic victim narrative in Lithuania that displaces guilt on to Russia, in spite of the fact the Soviet Union was not merely an extension of Great Russian nationalism. The Vilnius Genocide Museum thus not only refers to the Soviet "genocide" but also lists the names of certain 'freedom fighters'.
According to John Czaplika,
'some of these heroes of the Lithuanian resistance against the Soviets [who] may have been at the same time Nazi collaborators who cooperated or took active part in the eradication of the Jewish communities in Lithuania'.Naturally the double genocide myth is accepted by those who promote anti-Russian racism in the West as part of a New Cold War, such as the neoliberal ideologue Edward Lucas who recommends the website La Russophobe which includes continual references to "Russian barbarians".
Now Lucas is considered a "liberal" by many but the reality is that in the Great Game for resources anything goes if it promotes the West's pipeline interests against Russia and so evidence of the racism of those in Lithuania and Georgia is routinely overlooked or called "problematic".
The real nub of this is not so much that the double genocide myth will lead to a new anti-semitism but that it represents a rewriting of history, ramps up tensions with Russia ( with appalling consequences as in Georgia's attack on Russia in 2008 ) and reveals how people will pervert history to advance geopolitical ambitions.
Matt Seaton is thus hardly correct when he argues,
My point is that only the right really has interest in promoting the double genocide thesis. It's not a neutral historical debating point; it's purpose is to enlarge the significance of Soviet occupation and oppression not only at the expense of the memory of the Holocaust, but in order to rehabilitate a nationalist tradition that was (as Jonathan Freedland rightly observes) often actively involved in Nazi collaboration with the Holocaust.In fact, the double genocide thesis is routinely allowed to pass by those 'Democratic Geopoliticians' who advocate Liberal Interventionism, even if like Vaclav Havel and Adam Michnik it really boils down to a universal crusade against "totalitarianism" and they don't refer explicitly to "double genocide".
In practice, what both far right nationalists and European Liberal Interventionists have in common is that they both uncritically accept US foreign policy no matter what and pride themselves in supporting the USA from Afghanistan to Iraq. To that extent they support far right authoritarians such as Saakashvili in Georgia, as has New Labour's Denis MacShane.
The usefulness of Baltic nationalist victim narratives is that they can uncritically ratchet up blind hatred for Russia in this "New Europe". This then makes it a necessity for why the elites are clients of US power and patronage. Once a satellite, always a satellite, as the French like to remark.
Havel was a useful idiot in supporting the Iraq War, as Tony Judt argued, but he is not foolish enough to not know about Baltic nationalism: his consistent support for neoconservative foreign policy is based on fear and dislike for Russia, a hangover from the Cold War but given a new lease of life with the revival of Russian nationalism under Putin.
In the Power of the Powerless he referred to the "blind serf mentality" of the Russians, an understandable feeling given the brutality of the Soviet Union's crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968 but hardly relevant in the post-Cold War era unless Putin's regime in Russia is regarded crudely as an exercise in"neo-Stalinism".
The key omission when looking at the far right Baltic nationalism is that 1) It's a form of divertion to scapegoat "the Russians" as being coterminous with "the Soviets" and 2) To big up nationalistic sentiments in order get people behind NATO and to support it's eastward expansion to control oil and gas.
After all, the 2008 Prague Declaration was accepted by leading authorities on the Holocaust such as Emanuelis Zingeris who was instrumental in fighting for the cause of Lithuanian independence and in creating the Vilnius Gaon Jewish State Museum of which he then acted as a director.
Particulary ironical then is the fact that Lithuanian political figures such as Vytautas Landsbergis in January 2005 advocated the banning of Communist insignia if the Nazi swastika was banned. Yet liberals continually advocate the cause of The Other Russia against Putin which has the Natzbol ( National Bolshevik ) Eduard Limonov as a key player.
So fervent was Landsbergis' dislike and contempt for Russia, and thus the Soviet Union, that he found a willing ally in the European Parliament-Alessandra Mussolini who opined, "To implement the proposal of the Members of the European Parliament regarding Communist symbols is our moral duty".
Yet the Russian Fascist Limonov seems to have gone one stage further as part of The Other Russia in combining both the Nazi creed and its insignia with the Bolshevik ones, a kind of new "Third Way" which sits uneasily with the presence of those regarded by Havel as model dissidents like Alexeyeva.
This shows the scale of the Orwellian doublethink: totalitarianism and its symbols are railed against in Central Europe and the Baltics and yet liberals support coalitions in Moscow that include those who explicitly support Fascism, a point never mentioned by Guardian writing "democracy promoters".
A Response to Criticism that the Double Genocide thesis in relation to the Idea of Morally Equivalence between the Totalitarian Regimes.
....far right nationalists do use the concept of a moral equivalency between Hitler and Stalin as a tool for minimising the pure evil of Hitler and the Holocaust, many others have no such agenda. Nor have we been misled. Some of us simply see the two as being roughly equivalent in evil and horror.The point is surely to what end is the double genocide myth put and conveniently it is pretty much the same as the idea of equivalent totalitarian systems: uncritical support for US hegemony and promoting "Democratic Geopolitics".
The idea that only the far right collude in the illusion that there were two genocides is wrong. Terminology matters. The issue is no longer really about Jews, as there are sadly so few left in the Baltic Republics. It is about uniting people against Russia which is why Israel is a staunch ally of Baltic republics and Georgia.
Cutting through the rhetoric of victim politics to the real interests being advanced is essential. The historical record is important, of course, but equally true is the use of logic to work out why such nations as Lithuania are using the double genocide myth.
To promote the Soviet Union=Big Russia Myth is an attempt to try to divert attention away from the failures of the post-Communist transition which immiserated so many people through shock therapy, something seldom mentioned as the coda to the victory over the Soviet Union in the media.
It is possible to bear two things in mind: that the demise of Communism was one of history's Good Things and yet that the IMF and the US dominated institutions of the Wahington Consensus subsequently used that moral impetus to justify imposing a terrible neoliberal economic model that was once again an "experiment on a people".
That the crude monetarism with the same prescriptive elements meted out as historical inevitability by the "Marriott Men" caused appalling poverty is seldom mentioned in the West. It is often downplayed by erstwhile liberals and The Guardian has not carried a substantial report of the economic hardships in countries such as Lithuania.
It was in such a situation that in the 1990s, politicians resorted to the easy option of blaming Russia for everything and conflating Russia with the Soviet Union in order to co-opt support for Euro-Atlanticism. The same nationalism was promoted under Yushchenko in Ukraine after 2004.
Using history as nationalist propaganda is only vilified when Putin does it: when pro-Western politicians groomed in Washington do it, it is routinely ignored or downplayed. This was quite clearly the case with the racist demagogue Saakashvili who was termed "hotblooded"or "reckless" for attacking Russia in August 2008.
In Lithuania, agriculture collapsed leaving ghost villages not reported by Luke Harding who has, however, gleefully reported on dying villages in Russia, the alcoholism rates, the prematurely dying men and disappearance of the young-as if that was only Putin's fault and had not happened in the Baltic states.
Meanwhile the EU continually protected its agriculture as both Western nations and the US asset stripped the economies. In such a situation where people need somebody to blame even those liberals like Vytautas Landsbergis started piping up about Russian reparations.
Nationalism became the trump card across what was known as "Eastern Europe". Liberals seldom refer to the economy and shock therapy as the driving force of this resentments because of the simplistic triumphalist narrative of 1989-1990 and because they can't bring themselves to admit what went wrong.