Leaving Warsaw late Thursday night, we took what I would consider to be the longest bus ride of my entire life (tip: don’t ride Ecolines). Anyways, on to more important things to talk about, like the fact that Lithuania is home to one of the worst atrocities you’ve never heard of. How many people can even point this place out on a map? Forget about the Nazis or the Soviets. It was the Lithuanians who killed their own people. Thousands of Jews brutally killed by the people that lived next to them, bought from their shops, and walked the same streets. I mean brutal in the worst possible way. So brutal that the Nazis even thought they should be more humane. I think it’s just beyond what humans should be capable of. I won’t share the horrifying stories I read and heard about on how the people were killed but I will tell you what happened to many others. There is a forest not far from Vilnius, probably about 10 minutes away. At first glance it looks like a beautiful forest in the north woods of Wisconsin, but hidden inside is the remains of over 100,000 people. Taken to the forest and shot next to huge holes in the ground. You can stills see the holes.
The history is bad enough, but it seems as though the Lithuanians continue to forget what happened. What they did and won’t really admit. They think of it as Lithuanian history and Jewish history. There is no Lithuanian Jewish history even though these people lived and worked in the same communities together. The separation of histories and the cover up is evident in the museums and monuments in Vilnius and Kaunaus. The museums and even the guides talk about the Lithuanian people’s struggle and oppression yet it pales in comparison to what happened to the Jewish community. Throughout this entire trip I’ve seen some of the worst places you could imagine, but learned some of the most valuable pieces of knowledge I will ever encounter. The experiences, the people, the history, the culture, but most importantly the power of the human spirit. There are people that have tried to break it throughout history and will continue to try, but there are also good people out there spreading awareness and knowledge and fighting back so that history will never repeat itself.