Lithuanian artists grapple with compatriots' dark role in Holocaust

Thu Jul 23, 2015 6:37am EDT
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By Jonathan Saul

LONDON (Reuters) - Lithuanian writer Sigitas Parulskis first confronted the enormity of the Holocaust during a visit to London when he stumbled across a museum plaque showing collaborators from his small town who took part in the mass murder of Jews.

    Decades after the end of World War Two, in which six million Jews across Europe were annihilated by the Nazis, some Lithuanian artists are confronting the role played by compatriots in the killings.

For Parulskis, Lithuania's leading novelist, playwright and essayist, the discovery in 2010 that his northern town Obeliai saw 1,160 Jewish residents killed by the Nazis and local militias led to soul searching and resulted in the country's first novel to confront the traumatic wartime legacy.

    "Darkness and Partners" created a storm at home when it was published in 2012.

    The graphic novel, which has yet to be translated into English, centers on Vincentas, a young photographer living in a rural town, who captures the gruesome work of Lithuanian executioners at the behest of a brutal Nazi SS officer nicknamed "the artist". At the same time, Vincentas pursues a clandestine relationship with a Jewish woman.

    Parulskis said he was accused by some Lithuanians of seeking to make money, gain publicity, or feed "a Holocaust industry". Others urged him to keep such themes taboo.

    "It does not matter if we are Lithuanians or any other nationality - we cannot simply avoid it," Parulskis said on a visit to London. "There is shame within us and if we do not expel this shame, it is not a good thing."

Despite anger from some, Parulskis was awarded Lithuania's person of tolerance award in 2012 and also received positive support from other Lithuanians.    Continued...