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Prime Minister: the Holocaust is the deadliest mistake of the past that should never happen again

Date

2021 09 23

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Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė has taken part in ‘Memory Road 1941-2021’ in Rūdninkai Square, Vilnius, an event paying tribute to the victims of the genocide of Lithuanian Jews.

According to the Prime Minister, the grim destruction of the Jews is a tragedy for all the nations of Lithuania and the tragedy for the entire state because the world has become poorer, it has lost its unique colours, and, most importantly, because people were methodically killed, and dreams, talents, and relationships trampled upon, and that happened under the guise of conspiracy theories and absurd speculations.

‘Where there are victims, there also exist executioners and onlookers. It is hard to believe that those tragedies and mass atrocities were allowed to take place. One would like to think that those were the most painful mistakes of the past, during the times of madness that have nothing to do with the present. However, catastrophes can occur again. Outbreaks of violence and incitement to hatred have not gone away. Therefore, we all must take responsibility for ensuring that this does not happen,’ said Šimonytė.

According to the Prime Minister, today in the heart of Vilnius only several signs remind us of how unique and polyphonic this city was before the tragedy.

‘Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman wrote that no one should be accused just because they could not withstand inhuman pressure. However, that does not mean that we can get rid of the shame over the events of the past, over the existence of executioners and onlookers who did not prevent that. Let us not be afraid to acknowledge this shame, because it is this shame that frees us from the tyranny of the evil that can in no way be rationalised or justified. It happened, sadly. It was an appalling tragedy. But as long as the painful memory is alive, and as long as we feel the events of eighty years already, or just eighty years, and the shame that befalls us because of them, we have hope that we will prevent it from happening again, that we will nurture the fragments of that polyphonic Lithuania that had been destroyed, and, most importantly, that we will try to remain human towards each other,’ said the Prime Minister.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania. Unlike in most of Europe, in Lithuania victims of the Holocaust were killed near their place of residence. During several months of the summer and autumn of 1941, Lithuanian Jewish communities were completely destroyed.

In commemoration of the painful historical events, the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania, together with the Tolerance Education Centres established on its initiative as well as other partners, has initiated a national project ‘Memory Road 1941-2021’. Events take place from June to December.

Commemorations of the ‘Memory Road 1941-2021’ are marches that begin in the town centres where Jews used to live and end at the massacre sites of the Holocaust victims. Marchers carry pebbles with the names of the former Jewish residents inscribed on them thus paying homage to the historically established Jewish tradition of carrying pebbles to cemeteries and personalising the Holocaust victims. Those names will be uttered during the commemorations held at the massacre sites, and the stories of families and the most prominent personalities will be resurrected from non-existence. On the initiative of the International Commission, similar events have been held to commemorate the National Memorial Day for the Genocide Victims of the Lithuanian Jews on 23 September for more than a decade, and 150-200 schools and more than 10,000 participants gather every year.

This year, ‘Memory Road 1941-2021’ events are organised while chronologically following a calendar of painful historical events. Several dozen commemorative events have been planned to commemorate the Jewish communities of individual cities and towns. Information about the forthcoming events is available on the website of the International Commission at www.komisija.lt.

 

The full speech by Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė can be found here.