Thursday, 17 July, 2008 at 1102 BST
Monday 21 July, 2008 at 2030 BST
On BBC Radio 4 and online
The Lithuanian general prosecutor is currently seeking to question a number of Jewish survivors of the World War II over war crimes allegations.
In Crossing Continents: The Battle for Memory, Tim Whewell examines why competing memories of the war are being used as political ammunition in Lithuania and other East European countries, even after they have become stable democracies.
We asked for your comments, a selection of which are below.
Any reasonable person who's lived on this planet for more than say 2 decades knows in between the extremely rare absolute black and white we're just shades of grey. I understand too well the Holocaust-related sensitivity of the Jews as a nation, but they have to understand too that questioning an individual Jew's deeds is not anti-Semitism. There are currently Jewish thieves and murderers in Israeli prisons, convicted by Israeli courts, aren't there? Why think the 1940s Jewish generation was without its wrongdoers? Especially in such complex and desperate circumstances as those of WWII in Eastern Europe, caught between two evils. Uncovering and trying to understand them is not denying the sufferance of the Jews who perished. It's simply adding to the shades of grey of human condition, which only make their loss more tragical.
Nora, Brussels, Belgium
If a woman is being raped and she hits the man in defense, would anyone charge her with assault?
Tulga, Istanbul, Turkey
As a Lithuanian I'm a little shocked that we as a nation cannot say or even think independently - we have to look over our shoulder at what that big brother will say. Is there anything wrong in a nation saying that yes even "saint" Jews possibly have committed crimes against civilians? Or that some of us are less guilty than others? The only way to end this is not deny the crimes but investigate and if there was no crime come clean. End of story.
Richard Andrius, Seattle, USA
If this commission is to get at the truth and a balanced picture of what happened; then ALL accusations, leads, etc., MUST be followed up. To avoid answering questions because you do not like where it may or may NOT lead, seems to go against the principle of clearing the air, and unfortunately makes one think that avoidance means Arad has something to hide, or at least that he is ashamed of. If he is absolutely free of any wrongdoing, why does he not state his case publicly in the commission and thereby clear the commission of bias and also the hundreds of partisans who did not commit atrocities?
Linus Brown, Hamburg, Germany
Well done Tim Whewell and the BBC. Thanks for an outstanding programme which tackled a complex and horrific subject with objectivity and sensitivity. For the record, those two summer months which followed June 22 1941 saw much more than just the shootings of Jews by execution squads of which the programme speaks. In large numbers, Lithuanians - given carte blanche by the Nazi advance - murdered their Jewish neighbours, friends, classmates in the most atrocious of circumstances. There were also noble exceptions, who risked their lives. A big question mark indeed should hang over the choice of Vilnius as European City of Culture 2009.
Professor Tessa Rajak, UK
I find the monopolization of suffering at the hands of the Nazis by Israel/the Zionists rather repugnant, as it is done at the expense - so to speak - of the huge numbers of non-Jewish victims of Nazism. It smacks, a bit, of Jewish suffering being somehow more horrible than that of gentiles. We must never forget over 20 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives, the millions of Slavonic people, the gypsies, the socialists of Germany itself and more and more. When Jews participated in the resistance as partisans, they were part of a huge movement that comprised people from all the occupied territories, all fighting for their lives, all fighting against the evil of Nazism. Why do they need to be singled out? If there were atrocities against civilians carried out by these fighters, they should be viewed as art of that whole movement, not as 'Jewish' atrocities. It was a merciless war, and there was a lot of vengeance, reprehensible now, but understandable then.
Having said that, the behaviour of Israel today, and the antics of Zionists in Palestine and the Middle East, are something else. After all, no matter what artificial legitimacy a flawed UN resolution may give to the establishment of a state on someone else's ancestral land, it is in its essence and occupation. And, after the Irgun and the massacres and Zionist terrorism during 1947-48, 60 years on, it is still an occupation and is as brutal as any occupation.
Maya Wynn, Sofia, Bulgaria
It is appalling that so many comments already left here side with the "free speech" argument and that few, if any, have gone to the core of the issue. The Second World War saw the attempted wholesale extermination of the Jewish people, among other minorities, and it almost worked because these civilian populations failed, in most cases, to resist effectively, either through passive or active resistance. The Warsaw Ghetto uprising is one of the few acts of effective and heroic resistance to the Nazi-inflicted horrors. Most times, however, Jews had to work with partisan groups to resist the Nazis, such as in Yugoslavia. To investigate these partisans for striking back against military and collaborationist installations and people is to question their moral right to do so. There is no debate to be had here. Partisans wouldn't exist if these countries had not been overrun by the Nazis and most of their populations did not collaborate, either passively or actively. Until the others who have left comments here understand this fact (along with some basic WWII history), they will not appreciate why this matter is so sensitive to the Jewish people.
James Turner, Vienna, Austria
My wife is Lithuanian, from Kaunas. I have visited the Ninth Fort Museum there, the site of mass murders by many groups against many groups. The one thing that most impressed me about the presentations there was the emphasis on Soviet era crimes. The mentions of Nazi on Jew crimes were few and lacked the details concerning Lithuanian complicity in the actions. I read most of the exhibits and came away feeling I was in an old episode of the "Twilight Zone." Conversing with my brother-in-law, I discovered that their childhood rhymes often dealt with negative things referencing Jews. Speaking with people at the museum was of no avail. They had no idea what I was talking about when it came to discussing Lithuanian participation in Nazi atrocities. Those folks have got a lot of research to do yet.
Jim Miller, Virginia, USA
It's a historical fact that Partisans committed many war crimes right across Europe, from Russia to France. This story shouldn't come as any surprise. Why people get on the defensive about the topic is beyond me. This isn't questioning Nazi or Soviet atrocities, it merely opens people's eyes that Partisans too committed crimes against humanity. And because they were Jewish Partisans, we turn a blind eye? That's disgraceful. Murder is murder, a crime is a crime, regardless; and where crime begins, comradeship ends.
Andy, Hertfordshire, UK
Setting aside the race or creed of the individuals involved, if there is nothing to hide, then there is nothing to fear from an investigation, and if there IS something to hide, then it is right that it should be investigated.
Rhod, Hebrides, Scotland
My classmate's mother, a Lithuanian Jew, survived the Nazi occupation in Vilnius as a child only because she was hidden by a Russian women, Maria
Nato, San Francisco, CA
The article fails to mention similar behaviour in Estonia, where it became a common opinion among the ethnic-Estonian half of the population that killing Russians, Jews and "other communists" was good thing, done for the sake of democracy and "freedom". This opinion goes so unquestioned and it is so appalling to hear it again and again! And visiting European guests, upon hearing it, just nod and say "yes, we know those Russians are bad".
Obviously Lithuania has serious current social problems and is looking for a scapegoat past or present. This is sick nonsense. The Nazis were global enemy number one. Anyone who stood with them paid the price anyone who was against them were the good guys. Yes it really is that simple. What happened after their defeat is a separate question entirely from a moral standpoint.
Emile Barre, Europe
How on earth would the Jews have been able to commit any genocide? They never have had the means, all they did is defend themselves. What a lot of rubbish. Lithuania needs to own up to its black history.
War is never simple. Civilians always get involved when war become the day-by-day reality. Neighbours kill each other: death in the name of survival. Jews suffered from an organised scheme to exterminate them as a group. Collaborationists helped the scheme in the name of survival; the resistance killed in protest against a scheme which did not belong to their way of thinking or life. This makes the difference. Today most western societies cannot understand war, and the fear for life that comes with it. That is why we need to remember and understand WW2 history. By learning we might be able to fight against the temptation of killing our neighbours for a job, for resources, for petrol, for food, for survival.
Maria, Tbilisi, Georgia
It is amazing how anti-Semitic are some of the comments. I was born in Latvia, and know what happened in the Baltic States and Poland during WW2. Do you know that in Riga, capital of Latvia, Jews were rounded up and burned in synagogue on the first day of German occupation before the order was given? According to the article, only 20,000 out of 200,000 survived, and most of these 20,000 were able to evacuate form these republics when the Russian army was retreating. Most of the killing was done by local population under German supervision. How many "Lithuanian collaborators" do you think were involved in killing 190,000? Lithuania prosecuted 3 collaborators!! You call it justice?
It is very disturbing that any attempt to investigate the World War II and Soviet eras in Central/Eastern Europe appear to be confined by one political group- the powerful American Jewish lobby. Of course, it is important that children learn of the Holocaust and that mankind never forget the atrocities that took place during that time. But it seems that this lobby would restrict us to only telling its approved version of the story, and it borders dangerously on claiming the sole right to interpreting the history of the region. I fear that subsequent generations' capacity to understand how Soviet power came to dominate Eastern Europe will be significantly reduced, as only one example, if the entire story is not permitted to be told. Many stories exist in the history of Europe, and certainly many crimes were committed. It is entirely impossible to believe that every single Jewish person was peace loving and innocent and most other Eastern Europeans were bloodthirsty and evil. Instead of whitewashing one group or another, it would be more useful to truly investigate the full expanse of the story.
Melissa Hahn, Phoenix, USA
Nobody in their sound mind is denying the horrible crimes perpetrated against the Jews during WWII. But somehow the opposite attitude seems to be accepted, like in Dr Arad's words: "I think they use my case as a general intention to rewrite history," he said, "to show that Jews are not the only victims." Jews WERE NOT the only victims. It's a fact. It's also a fact that while fighting for survival some Jews committed crimes, just like members any other nationality. That does not belittle the suffering of their nation, but only shows how unspeakable WWII was. Investigations like this only help us understand the terrible choices people were faced with in those times.
Dawid, Bielsko, Poland
It's absurd that Soviet Communism, which was responsible for many more deaths than Nazism, gets no attention. Fascism is a dead political philosophy, yet we are bombarded with warnings of its "threat" everyday. Yet, there remain people that are openly communist today, and nostalgic of the old Soviet regime. Why the double standard? Both forms of government are repugnant and should be treated as such. Furthermore, of course, Lithuania will be more inclined to prosecute crimes against Lithuanians just as Israel is to prosecute crimes against Jews. I don't see the Simon Wiesenthal Center operating in Darfur or fighting for the rights of non-Jews. Why should Lithuania put the interests of Jewish victims above those of Christian Lithuanians?
Sadly, there will always be Holocaust deniers and revisionists and we should all be ready to take a stand in seeing that such a thing does not happen again. That said, Israelis themselves have created Palestinian ghettoes, and continue to lock up (or assassinate) Palestinian "partisans", calling them terrorists. Where is the international outrage towards these actions? Israelis have absolutely no moral authority in this matter until they correct their own misconducts.
Alex, Chicago, US
All crimes against humanity should be investigated. However, I do not see it as necessary to point out the nationality, ethnicity or the religion of the perpetrators. If Jews participated in the Soviet partisan brigades committing crimes, they should be trialled as Soviet partisans and not Jews, together with all others involved. Constantly pointing out the Jewishness of people leads to anti-Semitism but also accusations of anti-Semitism, hindering the necessary debate.
Olivia, London, UK
Going after a handful of Jewish survivors cannot take the guilt of Lithuanians away or distort history. Some stray acts of killing by Jewish partisans fighting for mere survival does not constitute a genocide. It is the Lithuanians who owe an apology after coming to grips with their war time past.
Jai Singh, Kaiseraugst, Switzerland
The comment that Jews were the only victims is ludicrous. Auschwitz was opened to hold and murder Polish resistance fighters a couple years before it was used for Jews. Gypsies and Slavs of all nationalities were also Nazi targets. Of course Jewish victims were the largest number of victims, but to use their suffering as a shield against any inquiries whatsoever is not appropriate. The murder of six million innocent victims on one side is not a defence for the murder of 38 more innocents on the other.
Ted Bean, Fairfax, Virginia, USA
At an official level this is a very unbalanced discussion. We all know that any of the opinions stated here in favour of equal treatment of war criminals, either Jewish or Gentile, if expressed by a scholar, would mean his immediate demise and/or the loss of his academic chair.
Gonzalo Vásquez Villanueva, Santiago, Chile
The question of the legitimacy of a military resistance to a Nazi-allied regime has been raised lately especially in former soviet Baltic states. Given that Partisans were indeed fighting and killing collaborators to these regimes and not applying law-based sentences, one can find examples where innocent people have been killed. This would be a crime under different circumstances and but not, as such, under World War Two circumstances and considering the non-legitimacy of the then ruling order. Lithuanian authorities have been quite sympathetic to their national governments, including the Nazi dominated period. Of course their main aim was a reaction to the Soviet period but it did also make the WW2 national Lithuanian order legitimate again. That associated with a broad definition of genocide, and the non prescription of such crimes, has paved the way for the investigations described in this article. The Lithuanian government is now embarrassed because some Jewish partisans and Israel citizens are being interrogated for acts they committed then; and because it threatens their relation to western countries. That is fine but what about Russian communists who were on the right side then? Should the Lithuanian justice be able to prosecute them without a similar reaction from the international community?
Michel, London, UK
The violence of the oppressed cannot be equated with the violence of the oppressor. It is as simple as that. Jewish (and any other) "war crimes" against Nazi collaborators should be celebrated. The partisans were the real heroes of WWII and they enacted more justice than the pretenders at Nuremburg ever did.
Jason Netek, Texas, United States
It's very disturbing that every time anything in the slightest bit negative is said about the Jews, it is almost automatically deemed as 'anti-Semitic' and is instantaneously followed by a huge uproar from the Jewish community and its representatives, in particular the very powerful Jewish American lobby groups. The latter seem very keen on tracking down and bringing to justice the last Nazi war criminal (or even any Holocaust denier - a term now found in most English dictionaries!) left on the face of the earth while they have never answered for their own crimes and continue to deny them ferociously. Why is it that everyone else but them may be brought to justice in this so called free world? The hypocrisy is astounding! This continuous attempt at playing the eternal victim is quite appalling, as is the money-making industry the Holocaust has been turned into. The Jewish lobbies should realize that through their actions, they are ultimately only harming their own people.
Ania, Toronto, Canada
As a historian Dr Gilbert is supposed to consider facts, not dismiss events out of hand because it doesn't suit his well-known prejudices. Perhaps he and the Wiesenthal Centre might like to talk to the families of some of the victims before reaching their conclusions? It is a fact that many of the Soviet partisans were gallant and involved in a life and death struggle. However it is also a fact that many were extremely brutal and ruthless - Stalin expected no less.
Simon O'Brien, London
To those who remind us that millions of disabled, gypsies and homosexuals were killed in the Holocaust, but seem to be forgotten can I just point out that Simon Wiesenthal never forgot? He said in more than one interview that when he looked at a mass grave, he didn't know who was a Jew, a gypsy, disabled or homosexual and he didn't care - he wanted justice for all.
I am surprised that attempts to investigate possible crimes made by the Jewish partisans in Lithuania are being attacked. Why can't we look at those cases? Just because the suspects were Jewish? Coming from Lithuania, I know very well that most (if not all) people acknowledge the collaboration of Lithuanians with the Germans in killing Jews. This is definitely a terrible moment in history that all Lithuanians should be embarrassed about.
But this is not the point about the current row. The point is that now, after decades of Soviet occupation, Lithuanians are trying to bring to light the crimes made by the Soviets - not only to Lithuanians but to many other nations occupied by the Soviet regime. In total the number of people killed amount to hundreds of thousands. And nobody is trying to equate these crimes to the Holocaust and in this way diminish the remembrance of the Jewish victims. These are two separate issues and both the have right to be brought to light and investigated in their own right. And if there are allegations that a Jewish partisan participated in the killings of local Lithuanians, then why shouldn't we look at such cases? And how bad is talking with the witnesses? That is a normal democratic process and why should we be afraid of it?
The investigation of crimes committed by Jews is ridiculous. It is singling out an ethnicity. Also my I add that it was the Jews who were being persecuted firstly, together with other groups, joining the resistance was maybe the only way of survival and keeping dignity. So instead we should investigate the core of the problem, the people who wanted to commit these crimes out of hate. What the resistance movement did was merely a reaction to that hate. What would you do if they would persecute you? Stand by and watch?
This is a worrying and disturbing trend, and I agree that its purpose is to ease guilty feelings from countries with a shady Nazi collaboration history. I have many German friends and they seem to increasingly revise history saying that the German people suffered at the hands of British bombing during the second world war, and that their plight should been seen in a sympathetic light. I completely disagree. Whilst it is true that history is written by the victors, and a great many more German civilians died from bombing than British civilians from Luftwaffe, it comes down to the old adage of 'you reap what you sow'. When I lived in Germany, I lived in a small town of approx 8,000 people. In the local museum there is a picture from the 1930s when Hitler made a speech at a park in this small town. Over 300,000 people came. That would have meant everyone - and I mean everyone - from a 30 mile radius. Of course if you ask now, you won't find anyone admitting to going to this rally. Just like the 'innocent' Lithuanian civilians killed by Jewish partisans.
Andy Hunt, London
Everybody knows that both the Nazis and the Communists committed massacres and war crimes. The Nazis are being prosecuted and punished. Why are the Communists getting away with murder? There is no lack of evidence of their misdeeds. There was the massacre of the Lithuanian villagers of Pirciupiai. It appears that Jewish partisans had killed several Germans and then left the corpses at the entrance to the village. The enraged Germans massacred the whole population. The whole affair was a deliberate provocation to drive the people into the arms of the partisans. Another case known to me: During the first Soviet occupation the editor of a Lithuanian newspaper was arrested and interrogated by a Jewish woman. He was executed, the woman is alive and well in Israel, safe from extradition. The protests that Jews did not commit war crimes in Lithuania is blatant nonsense.
Rimvydas Sliazas, Cary, NC, USA
I lived in Eastern Europe during the Cold War and was able to see and hear the accounts of the atrocities committed by communists from 1917 until 1989. I find it incredible that our history books ignore the crimes committed by the communist regimes, including mass murder and deportations. In find it reprehensible that somehow people think that concentration camps were a creation of the Nazi regime when in fact they were long before that very prolifically working in the Soviet Union - the gulags, since 1918. Those in Russia and Eastern Europe will always remember the millions of crimes committed during the Great Purge and the occupation of Eastern European countries, and those who committed those crimes. It is a deliberate and unforgivable attempt to use of the undeniable horrors of the holocaust to deflect blame from people that have been responsible for horrific crimes for so many years. Where are those perpetrators now? Where is the investigation, who is hunting those criminals? WHY NOT? Any why the "outrage" when countries attempt to bring those criminals to justice? These atrocities and those who committed them will never be forgotten and their memory will passed on to future generations of Russians and Eastern Europeans, no matter what your history books say about it.
History is being revised and re-written on a wide and regular basis; the people who do it for a living are called Historians. The purpose is to determine as accurately and fully as possible what has occurred in the past. Would someone please explain why this should be a problem with any period in history?
Peter Caseley, London
Typical Jewish/Zionist double standard. If Slavs co-operated with Nazis to stay alive, they were guilty of war crimes. The world must know about Jewish collaboration with Soviets to commit genocide against Poles, Ukrainians, Lithuanians etc. Certainly Jews suffered far more proportionally and that was a crime, but there were other genocides and crimes committed no less deserving of attention and retribution. Let's all face the fact that all humans are capable of evil or indifference out of self-preservation and Jews are no different.
Ted Czapla, Toronto, Canada
Before the war, Jews enjoyed all the rights that Lithuanians had. Consider the fact that proportions of ethnic groups in particular areas exactly reflected proportions of elected Jews in municipalities and parliament. Jewish people in post war Lithuania even had their own education system acknowledged as equal to that of Lithuanians. The curriculum was very different - it did not even include Lithuanian language in it. Lithuania was the first country in Europe which held lawsuits and sentenced Nazis in 1938. In 1940 Lithuania had lost its own will to create a harmonized society. And now it seems we still paying the price!
It is interesting to see the clearly anti-Semitic comments by some of the posters. Yes, non Jews were also killed but with the Jews (and Gypsies) it was the "whole family unit" that was murdered. Not the same case with others living under German occupation. The Jews had to defend themselves to survive. They had to attack Lithuanian villages to get food. There is a tendency among anti-Semites to try to compare Jews as well as Israel to the Nazis.
Elly, Vienna, Austria
The Jewish response to this investigation is most hypocritical, though not surprising in the least. Dr Arad insists that Jews like himself only joined partisan groups as a means of survival. Why is it acceptable for Jewish partisans to commit atrocities in the name of 'surviving', but those gentiles who collaborated with the Nazis are collectively vilified, when opposing the Nazis would have endangered themselves? The horrible treatment meted out to millions of Christians and Muslims at the hands of very-Jewish Soviet apparatchiks and leaders (think Trotsky, Beria and Kaganovitch) is glossed over while minor functionaries in Nazi puppet regimes are hounded to their deathbeds by Jewish "Nazi-hunters". The Soviet terror against the Caucasian peoples notably Chechens, Ukrainians, Balts, Poles, and of course, Russians themselves, amongst others, was as merciless as any in Nazi-occupied Europe, and all participants should be investigated, regardless of their faith or reasoning.
M. Duska, Calgary, Canada
If Nazi collaborators can be punished, so the Soviet ones too, Lithuania has suffered more from the Soviet occupation than Nazi, knowing that both were evil. Any war crime is a crime so there is no difference whether it was committed by Nazi or Soviet occupants, they both have killed millions of people, but when it comes to Jews there always a tendency to think that they were the only victims of the second world war with later decades of occupation and its consequences are being forgotten.
It is rather shocking to see how the Baltic countries are trying to rewrite history. However, the shock that many are feeling now is a consequence of many precedents. The idiotic equation of Nazism=communism, which too many have implied lately leads to this nonsense. It is rather sad to see that this issue is brought up only when Israel protests. If it were Moscow, then BBC journalists would brush it off, as usual, as "politically motivated".
Oscar Lima, Brighton, England
I find the comments on this story truly unbelievable. In a wartime setting, when their family and friends were being rounded up and sent to death camps, who can begrudge the Lithuanian partisans for fighting back? You might as well prosecute the British army for their behaviour in the war. I find it alarming the number of people here who seem to be equating modern Zionism with anti-Nazism.
Laura Wilson, London, UK
Here we go again! No countries wiped out a greater percentage of their Jewish population than the Baltic states. Moreover, they formed their own SS units and fought on the Eastern Front. They already put up monuments to Nazi soldiers, now they want to persecute partisans, who tried to stay alive and resist! If you read closely, one of the civilians was allegedly killed after the Germans armed the village, what do you expect during a time of war? I am not going to deny Soviet crimes, they occurred, but that doesn't mean one should glorify or distort Nazi crimes! As for the massacre, such events are terrible, and underline the point that war should not be waged, but what about the hundreds of villages wiped from the face of the earth by the Nazis and their collaborators in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, the former Czechoslovakia, etc? If we deny and lie about what occurred, we only risk of repeating the same unspeakable horrors!
I am not Jewish. I am Polish. It is with great sadness that I read comments from some of my compatriots, as a anti-Semitic vein runs through them. It is deplorable that we, Poles, often fulfil the stereotypes.
Magdalena Forowicz, Zurich, Switzerland
The past in my mind should be the past. If we all lived for the past then there would be a bleak future.
Tony Levy, Coulsdon, UK
Here in Eastern Europe there is a distinct feeling in many of the populations that whereas Nazis and Nazi collaborators (of various nationalities) have been actively hunted down and punished for their crimes since 1945, Soviet Communist war criminals and their local allies (of various nationalities including many Jews) have not. Thus communist crimes are de facto acceptable whereas Nazi ones are not. This by the way, explains a lot of the current low level anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. The fact is that Israel does fully protect those of its citizens who were members of Soviet Communist security forces and communist partisan groups who committed crimes against the local populations of Eastern Europe both during and after the Second World War, particularly during the Stalinist period up to 1956. I think that a crime is a crime, irrespective of who commits it, for whatever motive and past personal history, and that the criminal should be brought to justice without exceptions being made on the grounds of ethnic origin, nationality or religion.
Mike, Warsaw, Poland
I understand that even the Nazis in Lithuania during the war were surprised at the viciousness of the Lithuanian Jew baiters in killing Jews. Lithuanians have a great deal of Jewish blood on their hands and the less they bring up their version of the Holocaust the better for their grand children if they want to become part of a new Europe. We have to learn to take note of the past and learn to live together in harmony!
Alex Lawrence, Marlow, UK
Seems like such stories have been more frequent now after so many years after the Second World War II. Who is the hero and who is the murderer? Things have always been easy so far: the Jewish people were the victims and some time heroes.
Andres, Bilbao, Spain
Unfortunately it's both easy and tempting for us to judge these things outside their historical context. It's hard to appreciate from today's perspective just how vicious the 'total war' in the East was, even compared to that in the West. It's also easy to imply an equivalence of moral responsibility here which would be totally inappropriate.
Obviously a few anti-Nazis, including Jews, must have participated in occasional acts as wrong as those perpetrated by the Nazi and their allies. In a situation where significant elements of the civilian population is collaborating with the Nazis in persecuting and killing ethnic minorities, it is no wonder that occasionally they suffer the same fate as their masters. I'm not saying that is 'right' but certainly some of those killed by partisans were far from blameless- whereas in contrast most of the victims of the Nazis and their helpers were law-abiding citizens. It is known that as well as the Einsatzgruppen volunteers there were many more civilian helpers in certain Baltic states lending assistance to the exterminations.
In principle there is nothing wrong with examining the records of anti-Nazis as well as Nazis and their collaborators. The danger in practice is we lose a sense of proportion by focusing on them. The innocent victims of Nazism and its helpers far outnumber the innocent victims of the anti-Nazis - and gives ammunition to those with other agendas (such as anti Semites, nationalists and revisionists).
David Evans, Lancaster, England
So Dr Zuroff is saying that Jews can never be guilty of murder in war time or peace? Get real! Murderers of innocent people should be brought to trial. During wartime its known as a war crime and people must pay! Lithuania is right, if this 'rewrites' the holocaust (and Jews were not the only ones to suffer) then so be it.
Brenda Smith, London
This is hardly a new twist to World War Two. Partisans in all the occupied lands murdered civilians and under international law were criminals because they were not recognised military personnel (with the sole exception of Soviet stragglers left behind the lines). Israel needs to stop hiding behind a veneer of self-righteousness here. Most of us historians know that Israel was founded on terrorism. There were personnel of mixed Jewish descent in the armed forces of Germany, there were collaborators and informants employed to track down Jews who had gone to ground in German cities. Whether war crimes proceedings are warranted is another matter. A number of Allied personnel committed war crimes and escaped scot free. Over 2 million German civilians died during the expulsion of ethnic Germans from eastern Europe after the war. The Czech government pardoned anyone guilty of murder, rape or robbery against them. They and the Poles get twitchy when Germany even speaks of erecting memorials to the dead, let alone claim compensation or put the perpetrators on trial. Funny old world.
Charles Markuss, Bolton UK
We don't even know what is the real history of WWII. All we learned since 1945 is that Jews were prosecuted and murdered. Just like in ex-Yugoslavia the Commis were "saints" and others were "murderers". And the history has shown it wasn't like that. So should we reveal the other "truths" ? In the case of Lithuania, just like in Croatia for example, you can't expect to have an objective presentation of the victims of WWII. Genocidal murders were committed against Jews and other non-German people.
If looking for the truth is "re-writing history", then history as we know it is a lie. It is illegal in some European countries to even question the historical events of World War Two. We are allowed to talk about Nazi crimes, we are allowed to talk about the Allied crimes, especially the bombing of civilian cities, we are allowed to talk about Serbian partisan crimes, but if we talk about Jewish crimes then it becomes perverse and anti-Semitic and worse than the combination of Hitler and Iran multiplied by the power of Bin Laden. The fact that historians and scholars are forbidden from examining history for fear of arrested or ostracized is a crime in itself.
Whilst this enquiry may be lacking adequate evidence, I think it is a good thing that enquiries such as these are taking place. For too long now, being Jewish has been a way of avoiding accountability on everything. More and more countries in the Western world are reluctant to take action against Jews for fear of being accused of anti-Semitism. For instance, there is the issue of the terrorist campaign the Israelis carried out against the British forces between the end of WWII and independence. The Israelis are very keen to go on about how the Palestinians are a bunch of terrorists, but forget their own actions during the stated period. Anyone pointing out this hypocrisy is condemned as anti-Semitic Yes, the Jewish community suffered in WWII, but Jewish people should have the same vulnerability to criticism and prosecution as anyone else.
Graeme Phillips, London, UK
Every race on the earth is guilty of some crime throughout its history. Whether or not it has the courage to stand up to it remains to be seen.
Chourdry Rafiq, England
Living as I do in the country that invented Nazism, I feel distinctly uneasy about this type of investigation when it is directed towards Jewish partisans. The Baltic states all have the same problem: between the devil and the deep blue sea in 1940-41, the people had to decide one way or another. I would, however, point out that the Nazi occupation and the Soviet occupation had resistance to deal with, as well as collaboration. I do think perhaps the 'even-handedness' ought to take into account that Jews could hardly collaborate with the Nazis! Lithuanian extremist nationalism (as opposed to normal, everyday nationalist sentiment) does exist; it needs to be stamped out, as this is the one greatest enemy of the Lithuanian people and state. While the perpetrators of Soviet-era crimes must be prosecuted, I think it is a little jejune, to say the least, to claim that most Nazi criminals were prosecuted in Soviet times. Perhaps the Lithuanian government needs to do rather more in this direction - certainly it would help its image
D. Fear, Heidelberg, Germany
I am Lithuanian and I know very well not only from History books, but also from my grandparents' memories the terrible fate the Jews suffered during the World War II. However, as much as we must hold accountable all in our nation who committed those horrible crimes, we also must hold accountable those who committed crimes against us. If any of them who committed atrocities happen to be of Jewish nationality, that should not make them immune to being brought to justice. This has nothing to do with rewriting history.
It is precisely these statements and public rows initiated by Jews that account for hostility towards them in some parts of Lithuanian society. Anti-Semitism is still a very worrying phenomenon, however it is very hard to start liking somebody who only seeks to point out your faults while refusing to admit any that they themselves have done in the past.
It is fashionable all over the west to wear "CCCP" (USSR in Russian) t-shirts, yet any Nazi symbols are banned. Why are the Soviet crimes which decimated millions deemed any less than Nazi crimes?
Greta, Cork, Ireland
What a surprise. There always seem to be some things that just cannot be investigated. What a shame for those whose gentile relatives died in the years of Soviet occupation of these countries, but I guess they aren't as important are they?
EVERY murder should be investigated, irrespective of the killer's race, faith or eating habits. And please stop this 'we suffered most, so you have no right to criticize or investigate our deeds'.
I am not surprised about these moves. Just like Croatia, Lithuania seems to be unable to deal with its Nazi past and is trying to rewrite history. Much the same that Serbs are trying to do now. It would be stupid to think that the crimes were not committed on both sides, but there is a difference in scale and intent between planned genocide and some revenge killings. There seems to be a movement recently to try and even out all sides, even though Nazis were responsible for starting the war and had a policy of extermination of certain ethnic groups.
Denis, London, UK
As sick as this may sound history is always written by the winners. If Germany had won the second world war, those resistance fighters WOULD have been called war criminals and terrorists. History, as is all things, is a matter of perspective and to totally disregard this causes more problems than people accept. There are, as always, two sides to every story and not just the one we're always told.
Andrew Appleyard, Leeds, UK
War is evil. No ethnic group of participants in the second world war is innocent of war crimes. Each has its version of history based on truth. Crimes against your family are naturally remembered more than what your neighbor's son did to a foreign family. History should be used to learn how to do things better and avoid cycles of violence in the future, not to chase 60 year old crimes. If you seriously look into second world war crimes with a fair mind you will find some of your own people's crimes as well. Crimes in occupied countries are different.
C Smith, Riga, Latvia
Whilst having sympathy for the obscene treatment of Jews by the Nazis, why is it so abhorrent to Jews to investigate if actions by their own partisans were also obscene and abhorrent? Being Jewish doesn't mean that members of their religion don't abuse the Human Rights of others. One only has to look at their treatment of the Palestinians, locking them up in "ghettos" and restricting services, medical supplies etc., etc., If Jews did commit atrocities in Lithuania, they should be held to account.
Alan Freeman, Adelaide, South Australia
Should all Jews who have committed crimes be exempt from justice? If the history we have elevated to dogma is incorrect, wouldn't this "rewriting of history" be appropriate? Yes, the Holocaust happened, and yes, the Nazis and their sympathisers committed horrible atrocities, but does that exonerate the Jews who also committed atrocities?
Alexander Forbes, WA, USA
I find the Zionist propensity to ignore the deaths of five million non-Jews during the Holocaust to be reprehensible. I am also appalled at the undermining of Lithuania's attempts to investigate the crimes committed by the Soviets during Stalin's reign. Few Westerners are even aware that during the "Sitzkrieg" following the German invasion of Poland, while French and British armies did nothing, Soviet armies conquered Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and eastern Poland, and began purging millions of people. Are those lives of no value because they were Gentiles and not Jews? Does their blood not cry out for justice?
Zionists are experts at historical revisionism. Do American and British schoolchildren today learn of the murders of British soldiers and officials by Jewish Irgun and Stern Gang terrorists? No. Do they learn that as a young man Menachem Begin eagerly participated in the extermination of a village full of Arab women, children and old men? No. And now the Zionist lobby is intent on denying the role which Jews played in the conquest and occupation of Eastern Europe. For shame!
Justice for some, but not for all, is not true Justice.
Christian Leopold Shea, Hollywood, California, USA
I find the following comment from the article interesting, "Dr Arad, like other former partisans, insists that joining the Soviet-led resistance force was effectively his only means of staying alive in Nazi-occupied Lithuania." Many people who joined Nazi efforts only did so because they thought it was the only way to get rid of Soviet oppression. I don't think that everyone who joined Nazi forces should be vilified, similarly I don't think that everyone who joined soviet forces, such as Dr. Arad should be vilified. WW2 was a very complex and difficult time. It is easy to judge people more than 60 years later.
Yuriy, New York, US
I don't understand why saying that Jews were not the only victims of the holocaust and uncovering the truth (if that is what it is) about Jewish involvement in war crimes, is the same as rewriting history. History is what happened, not how you interpret it. What is Israel really frightened of? That if we find out that some Jews were also capable of murder, then somehow the slaughter of Jews during WW2 will be invalidated? The truth is that millions of non-Jews also perished, including 3 million Christian Poles as well as homosexuals, gypsies and the disabled, and that there were a few Jewish collaborators. Why are we not allowed to talk about this?
Ewa, Krakow, Poland
Dr Arad is clearly right when he says 'joining the Soviet-led resistance forces was effectively his only means of staying alive in Nazi-occupied Lithuania, and might I add - putting up some form of RESISTANCE to the unspeakable crimes witnessed there. For a background to this period, may I recommend Primo Levi's factually-based book - 'If not now, when'.
Laurence Whitfield, 72181 Starzach-Sulzau, Germany.
I completely understand the sensitivity towards this subject. But the idea of preventing people from asking questions and investigating contradicts what are considered to be standard liberties and rights. Instead of viciously attacking these investigators, I think cooperation and dialogue would be the better approach. With the current response (of Israel, etc.), it just looks like they're trying to hide something.
Being German and married to a Jewish wife we visited her relatives in Vilnius 20 years ago. There was a discussion in this family if they would accept a German as a guest. It was settled by the family elder who was interned in a German concentration camp during the war. He reminded them that several thousand Jews survived in Berlin hidden from the Nazis by their neighbors. Nothing like this is heard of about Vilnius.
Interesting story, I find it rather bizarre that when any "Jews" are merely questioned over possible war crimes it is labelled as a scandal, a fabrication, or a distortion and attempt to rewrite history by Israel and others. Get real people , the Jewish partisans were no different than anyone else in the war , they would have killed innocent people too. It is so hypocritical to jump up and down and say they should not be investigated.
Remy 1100, Perth, Australia
I am not entirely surprised by this development. Lithuania is a country in serious denial about their tainted WW2 past. During a visit to Vilnius in 2003, I was amazed to find that the city's famed "Museum of Genocide Victims" was almost entirely focused on the 75,000 (non-Jewish) victims of the Soviet occupation. The only item in the whole "genocide" museum that mentioned the murder of 200,000 Jewish Lithuanians was a small placard in a hallway that estimated that the Nazis had killed 240,000 Lithuanians in a three year period "including about 200,000 Jews".
The bus tour of the city offered more of the same: after hearing mind-numbing architectural details about every church and monument, the tape-recorded narration offered just a terse comment when it passed the site of the Jewish ghetto, pointing out that this was where tens of thousands of Jews had been killed.
The whole experience was a creepy reminder of the fact that the Lithuanian Jews were not slaughtered just by the invading Nazis, but also by their Lithuanian neighbors.
Mithra Busler, Red Bank, USA
Here we go again. In a world were we can investigate anything, the existence of god, the cosmos, Presidents...anything, one thing remains untouchable, The holocaust. Why? what is it that some people want to hide? if there is nothing to hide, then allow people to do their investigations and present their evidence, just as is done with any other topic.
Jews expect a special, privileged treatment and praise for whatever, whenever they have done. It's not fair. Many Poles and other people of this part of Europe know very much about the terrible involvement of many Jews into the Communist crimes. Trotsky, Sverdlov, Zinovjev, Kamenev, Lenin himself ( partially ), Jagoda, crowds of leading Polish, Hungarian, Rumanian commies etc.
Stefan Weber, Poznan, Poland
Surely the important thing here is that ALL war crimes are investigated. The Holocaust was a terrible thing, but if Jews participated in war crimes then they should be brought to justice just as the Nazis and their supporters are.
To say that they should not investigate the allegations just because they are Jewish and they suffered during the Holocaust is an injustice to those Jews who were killed in the Holocaust, anyone who may have been killed by Jews committing war crimes and every soldier that fought and died to stop the atrocities of WWII
Jamie, Austin, TX
"Israel has denounced the inquiry as scandalous and refused to allow one of the main potential witnesses to be questioned. Britain's foremost World War II historian, Sir Martin Gilbert, told the BBC he was "deeply shocked" by the investigation, which he called "perverse"."
While Sir Martin Gilbert is Britain's foremost World War II historian, I feel that when using his name in this context, it is important to point out the fact that he is also Jewish.