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Type of publication: Straipsnis / Article
Author(s): Sužiedėlis, Saulius
Title: Jews and Lithuanians on the eve of the Holocaust 1939–1940
Other Title: Žydai ir lietuviai Holokausto išvakarėse 1939–1940 metais
Is part of: Darbai ir dienos, 2017, nr. 67, p. 107-122
Date: 2017
Keywords: Jews;Lithuanian-Jewish relations;Anti-Semitism;Soviet occupation of Lithuania;Lithuanian Communist Party;Žydai;Lietuvių ir žydų santykiai;Antisemitizmas
Abstract: The long history of Jewish-Lithuanian relations was influenced by the changing social and economic realities and thus depended largely on the situational context, in which the two communities interacted with each other.1 The relationship that until the middle of the nineteenth century could be characterized by pre-modern social and economic contacts within an agrarian and traditional system had been inherited from the Grand Duchy period. After the middle of the nineteenth century, the emergence of modern and politicized Lithuanian nationalism changed the way in which Lithuanians came to view Jews. Attitudes towards Jews ranged from clerical anti-Judaism and modern anti-Semitism to tolerance within a secular framework. During the interwar period Jewish society was confronted by the necessity of adapting to a radically new reality: a state, in which formerly marginalized Lithuanian speakers quickly formed a majority in the country’s urban centres, exerted political power, became competitors in the economy and professions. Despite the Smetona government’s suppression of anti-Semitic outbreaks and the relatively low level of violence against Jews, anti-Semitism increased among the educated elite during the late 1930s. The domestic and international crises of 1939‒1940 transformed Lithuanian-Jewish relations radically. The first Soviet occupation of Lithuania in June 1940 sharply escalated the violent rhetoric against Jews: they were increasingly attacked as traitors to the country and the main source of Bolshevism. The myth of “Jewish power” became a wide-spread meme among many Lithuanians and gained further credibility as resistance to Soviet power intensified. The Lithuanian Activist Front propagated the ideas of Jewish treason and Communist collaboration in its propaganda. However, it is true that there were brief periods when Jews represented a considerable part of the LCP (Lithuanian Communist Party) compared to the percentage of Jews within Lithuania. A closer study of the ethnic breakdown of the LCP reveals a complex situation, influenced by the constantly changing reality. The real levers of power were not at the disposal of insufficiently educated local Communists, but in the hands of Stalinist cadres, which were loyal to the Kremlin. Before June 1941, Soviet Lithuania was mainly controlled by Russophone newcomers from the USSR. The situational context of the foreign invasion, which evolved in diametrically opposite geopolitical directions, a number of narratives based on the myths of anti-Semitic disloyalty, and political extremism created a toxic atmosphere on the eve of the Holocaust.
Lietuvių aktyvistų frontas savo propagandoje skleidė žydų išdavystės ir kolaboravimo su komunistais idėjas. Kita vertus, kai kuriais periodais žydai iš tiesų sudarė gan didelę Lietuvos komunistų partijos narių dalį, palyginti su bendru Lietuvos gyventojų žydų procentu. Tačiau nuodugnesnė Lietuvos komunistų partijos struktūros ir veiklos analizė liudija, kad jos situaciją stipriai veikė nuolat besikeičiančios aplinkybės, tikrieji valdžios svertai buvo ne nepakankamai išsilavinusių vietinių komunistų rankose, bet Stalino kadrų, visiškai lojalių Kremliui. Iki 1941 m. birželio mėnesio Lietuvą daugiausia kontroliavo prorusiškai nusiteikę atvykėliai iš SSRS. Situacija, susidariusi prieš nacių okupaciją, kai lietuvių ir žydų bendruomenės ėmė vadovautis visiškai priešingomis geopolitinėmis orientacijomis, sukūrė įtampos pilną ir žalingą atmosferą, grįstą žydų nelojalumo, politinio ekstremizmo ir išdavystės mitais, kuri tapo ypač pavojinga Holokausto išvakarėse.
Appears in Collections:Darbai ir dienos / Deeds and Days 2017, nr. 67

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