EU students get glimpse of the gulag in Lithuania

Wed Jan 20, 2010 11:57am EST
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By Nerijus Adomaitis

NAUJASODES, Lithuania (Reuters Life!) - Young Europeans have been experiencing a taste of the brutal life in a Soviet prison camp in the Baltic state of Lithuania.

Students from Italy, Poland and other EU member states have been taken back in time and place to re-live the fear of interrogation by the secret police, snarling dogs and forced labor under the glare of shouting uniformed guards.

The "Deportation Day" experience in a recreated Soviet gulag (prison camp), which has received European Union funding, comes amid a debate across eastern Europe and particularly in the Baltics about whether Soviet oppression and the Nazi Holocaust should share equal billing in history.

Jewish groups have been angered by east European attempts to draw comparisons between the communist oppression of people trapped behind the Iron Curtain and the Nazi Holocaust.

Russia has also criticized what it calls efforts by the Baltic states to glorify Nazism, the movement which propelled Adolf Hitler to power in Germany, led to World War Two and the Holocaust in which six million Jews were systematically killed.

Russian Jewish groups say enormous honor is due to the Soviet Union's Red Army for liberating Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, which was the most deadly of the Nazi death camps.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last year that Russia should resist attempts by some of its ex-Soviet neighbors to "falsify" the history of World War Two by underplaying Moscow's role in defeating Hitler.

"We should be tougher in defending our positions, to tell our partners the whole truth about falsifications of history, glorifying Nazi criminals in neighboring states," Medvedev said at celebrations marking 65 years since the Red Army lifted a 900-day Nazi siege of Russia's second city of St. Petersburg, known then as Leningrad.   Continued...