The Soviet Union will soon erect its first official Holocaust memorial identifying the majority of the victims as Jews and acknowledging the role played by local Nazi collaborators.
It will be set up this year in the Ponary forest near Vilna, where over 100,000 Nazi victims, most of them Jews, were buried in mass graves between 1941 and 1944, according to Aba Geffen, head of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel.
Geffen told the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that until now, all Holocaust-related memorials in the USSR suppress the Jewish identities of Hitler’s victims, referring to them as Soviet citizens or simply “victims of fascism.” A blatant example is the memorial at Babi Yar in the Ukraine.
There are two memorial plaques in the Ponary forest, Geffen said, and both refer to the victims of the “Hitlerites.”
A third plaque will be set up shortly by the Vilna authorities, Geffen said, with an inscription in Yiddish, Hebrew, Lithuanian and Russian.
It will say: “Here in the Ponary forest, from July 1941 to July 1944, the Hitlerite occupiers and their local accomplices destroyed 100,000 people, among them 70,000 Jews — men, women and children.”
Geffen stressed the importance of alluding to the Lithuanian collaborators’ part in the wanton killings.
He noted that Lithuanian emigre groups in the West have claimed over the years that attacks by pro-Nazi Lithuanians were not aimed against all Jews but only those who served in the Soviet government imposed on Lithuania in 1940.
Actually, the pro-Nazi Lithuanian Activist Front started rounding up and killing Jews in late June 1941, between the time Soviet forces withdrew from the area and the German invaders arrived.
Later on, Lithuanian death squads hunted down and murdered Jews, Geffen said.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.