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7 May, 2019 11:31

Chicago now has a monument to a Holocaust accomplice, so where is the anti-Semitism outrage?

Chicago now has a monument to a Holocaust accomplice, so where is the anti-Semitism outrage?

A new war memorial in Chicago honors a Lithuanian anti-Soviet fighter, who is also credibly accused of playing a part in the Nazis’ extermination of Jews in the Baltic state. It was hardly noticed by US anti-Semitism watchdogs.

The monument to Adolfas Ramanauskas was unveiled in Lemont, a village in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, last Saturday, just days after Jews throughout the world commemorated the victims of the Holocaust. It was presented by the local Lithuanian diaspora and officials from the Baltic nation itself. Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius took part in the unveiling ceremony and also in the presentation of a documentary about Ramanauskas.

The Lithuanian fighter, who is also known by his nom-de-guerre ‘Vanagas’ (Hawk), is a revered figure in his home country due to being part of the anti-Soviet guerrilla force, which fought tooth and nail after World War II. This heroic official story however omits Ramanauskas’ earlier years, which was the reason for objections voiced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to honoring the man.

The Lithuanian national hero was a “leader of a gang of local vigilantes which persecuted the Jewish community of Druskininkai during the initial weeks following the Nazi invasion of Lithuania in June 1941. In fact, Ramanauskas himself mentioned these activities in his own memoirs,” the center said.

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Lithuania holds the grim record of losing the largest percentage of its Jewish population to the Holocaust. Of an estimated 210,000 Jews, some 95 percent were killed, most of them in the first months of the occupation. Many local collaborators actively helped the Nazis in committing those atrocities, an uncomfortable fact that both the Soviet Union and independent Lithuania were reluctant to acknowledge.

Where the Soviets and the Lithuanians differ is their attitude to the anti-Soviet guerrillas. Moscow was eager to blame them for war crimes, painting them as a few rotten apples among the otherwise class-conscious populace. Vilnius prefers to whitewash them as freedom fighters. Ramanauskas, for example, is depicted as a mere commander of an unarmed insurgent group guarding property left by retreating Soviets in Druskininkai, who had nothing to do with the persecution of local Jews, despite contemporary accounts to the contrary.

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s rebuke seems to be a lonely voice against the Ramanauskas monument among organizations meant to preserve the memory of the Holocaust. The objection however was not mentioned on its Twitter or Facebook pages, which may explain the lack of publicity. Well, maybe they could share their concern about the Lithuanian hero with Nikki Haley, when she arrives in Chicago later this month to get an award from the center?

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