The speech of the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Seimas (Parliament) of Lithuania, presented in the international conference “Totalitarianism and Tolerance. Chalenges to Freedom”.
After the National Revival had started, occurred the question, how to restore a bridge with the times before the war. This was the task firstly taken up by Lithuanians. Yet it was not less significant and problematic to Lithuanian Jews. The main complication was that the tragedy of the Holocaust resulted in a loss of connection with the texts, written in Hebrew and Yiddish languages, that contained an enormously rich cultural and religious heritage.
Only very scarce fragments of the flourishing ancient culture have left. By the way, the building, in which today the Museum of Tolerance is established, once has been a Jewish theatre. Unfortunately, it has been damaged and today we can only notice a few elements, reminding of the past times. We have to deal with a very difficult task: using those elements, fragments and little pieces, to restore the whole picture of a rich and important past of Lithuanian Jewish nation, that was scattered around the world and destroyed during the Holocaust.
I really want to thank for all, who have been making effort to reach this goal. For instance, people, working in the Centre of Tolerance, have already done a great deal in the long and demanding fight against time. This battle is complicated, because there are almost no living Lithuanian Jews, who could testify aboutvthe pre-war. For example, not so long ago died the writer Abraham Suckever. Thank God, there is this last artist of the Vilnius ghetto, Samuel Bak, still with us and can tell loads of important things. Samuel is one of those people, who can help to regenerate between us and the pre-war era. It is essential, because it's hard to overcome the wall of soviet occupation: it marginalizes even our great past, that is not taken into consideration enough nowadays.
It is wonderful that Samuel Bak has decided to give his works to the country of Lithuania as a gift. It is wonderful that in spite of chaotic soviet times, one librarian, called Antanas Ulpys, has managed to save tremendous amounts of the Jewish culture treasury.
In 2011, in Lithuania we have been commemorating the victims of Holocaust. I am glad the most for the fact that in addition to the events, organized in the national level, many spontaneous happenings, not organized "from the organs above",have taken place too, well-attended by youth.
The marvelous initiative to read the names of the people, who died during the Holocaust, in the church of Saint Catherine in Vilnius, was born in social networks. People, gathered in that church, had been reading names of the killed persons from 8 a.m. to late night. And they read tens of thousands. Everyone, who took part in this commemoration of the victims would witness, how enormously shocking occurrence that was. I want to emphasize, that it was organized with the initiative of people themselves and, again, many of those were young people.
Personally for me, it was an evidence, that it is not true, that we are organizing only the "showing-off" kind of events. We are also trying to be authentic. I believe that the younger generation is capable of building bridges between people and epochs even better than we are.
And I want to indicate, how wonderful it is, that people weren't indifferent to the procession of the anger on the 11th of March. Their reaction showed that they don't feel like indifferently watching manifestations of hatred. Moreover, one of the nicest initiatives of the year was an idea for families to go to the Jewish cemetery and take care of the neglected graves. It was a wonderful lesson of citizenship for the children, who came there along with their parents and, maybe for the first time learnt that there once existed this rich and developed Jewish culture as an integral part of Lithuania.
Unfortunately, there are only fragments left of it, but our duty is to use them to re-construct its overview by building those bridges between cultures and peoples.