Thursday, June 19, 2014

Vilnius Holocaust Museum

Vilnius Holocaust Museum. An intense visit led by founder Rachel Kostanian-Danzig and her young protege Sebastian, who is serving his Austrian military duty through Holocaust education service and really knows his stuff.

A yellow work card was the key to survival in Vilnius from 1941-43. Need for workers was the only thing that kept some of the military from killing less than 100% of Jews. Men were more valued as workers. Thus, Jager's records show that killings of women, children, and the elderly way outstripped killings of healthy men. Read the paragraph at the end where it is all too clear that Jäger did not view Jews as human beings. Jäger report

Vilnius was one of more than 200 places in Lithuania where Jews were massacred. Generally this happened by shooting people into pits rather than sending them to concentration camps. The killings were carried out by local Lithuanians who later on were supervised by Nazi officers, such as captain Jäger, who was proud at his raising the efficiency of the killings by 100-fold and kept careful record of numbers killed. The Nazi's understood that Vilnius was a safe place to do dirty work and sent Jews
 from all over Europe there to die. So brazen was their confidence that they would not encounter resistance that there was little effort to hide what was going on. There is much documentation of  
what people saw. it was one of the places, along with the Ukraine and Poland, where Nazis were least likely to encounter partisan resistance. That does not mean there was no resistance, the museums here document the important work of resistance by Jews and non-Jews and I will write more about that. 

My family long understood that the particular pain of our father was that his mother was killed because she was betrayed by her own neighbors. What the museums and guides, in particular at Panerai,  helped me see more clearly is that it was not a coincidence why the most antisemitic countries are those closest to the Soviet block. On top of the centuries old prejudices about Jews, the people of Lithuania were also made to believe that "all Jews were Communists." Because many Jews had the education to be hired into civil service, Jews became the face of the awful, stifling, corrupt Soviet bureaucracy that  Lithuanians hated so much.

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