Jews in the Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia fear a revival of the Holocaust-era hatred that once nearly wiped out their numbers.
Jewish leaders say their communities are feeling increasingly uncomfortable as Antisemitism re-emerges.
An Estonian museum exhibition mocking the Holocaust, a stage musical celebrating the life of a notorious Latvian Nazi mass murderer and the repatriation of the remains of a Lithuanian leader long linked to Nazis have all contributed to a climate of hate that has Jews on edge.
This includes the 2012 repatriation from the U.S. to Lithuania of the body of wartime leader Juozas Ambrazevicius Brazaitis. He was re-buried with full honors, endorsed by the Lithuanian government, despite having been a Nazi puppet during his brief tenure. Brazaitis was accused of overseeing the establishment of a concentration camp, and also signed off on the establishment of the Kaunas ghetto.
After complaints from Jewish groups, Lithuania’s much heralded Museum of the Genocide in the capital, Vilnius, only recently created a section acknowledging the annihilation of the once flourishing Lithuanian pre-war Jewish community of more than 200,000 that was very nearly wiped out, many at the hands of Lithuanians.
In Talinn, Estonia, a highly controversial Holocaust-themed exhibition caused outrage last month when, among its exhibits, was a picture showing the iconic Hollywood sign replaced by the word “Holocaust,” which some perceived as a suggestion the genocide was an entertainment event. Another sick exhibit recreated a gas chamber and had 20 naked actors pretending to be Jews playing tag, seemingly suggesting there was humor in the gas chambers experience. The exhibits were eventually withdrawn.
In October 2014 a Latvian musical ‘Cukurs, Herbert Cukurs’ premiered celebrating the life of the ‘Butcher of Riga,’ Herbert Cukurs, who was tracked down and killed by Israel’s Mossad intelligence service in Montevideo, Uruguay, more than 20 years after he fled Europe. He had overseen the murder of many thousands of Jews in his native Latvia where he had been a pre-war national hero. He was witnessed personally shooting more than 500.
Last month’s Estonian general elections saw the far-right EKRE party break the electoral threshold and gain seven of the 101 seats in parliament. Considered by some to have Fascist-Neo-Nazi sympathies similar to many other flourishing nationalist parties in the Baltics and Eastern Europe, the EKRE’s leader Mart Helme is a controversial figure, especially after the party’s “If you’re black, go back” slogan was attributed to him.
Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi hunter of the Simon Weisenthal Centre in Jerusalem, has been monitoring a series of “Nuremberg-esque” marches in the Baltics in recent weeks and has been dismayed by the fact that no western media have shown up to report on the worrying trend.
“The European Union… does not appear to be particularly perturbed by genuinely disturbing phenomena in the Baltic countries and elsewhere, which, of course, in no way would justify Russian aggression, but deserve to be handled seriously and promptly before they get out of hand,” Zuroff wrote in the International Business Times.
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