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No Simple Stories: Jewish-Lithuanian Relations between Coexistence and Violence
Institute of Jewish Studies, University College London
Sunday February 6th (3pm-6.30pm) - Garden Room, UCL, London WC1E 6BT
Monday February 7th (10am-4pm) - The Warburg Institute, Woburn Square,
London WC1H 0AB
This one- and a half-day colloquium brings together experts from many important fields - Jewish history in eastern Europe, Lithuanian history, the history of World War Two and the Holocaust. The colloquium will also hear from specialists in interethnic violence theory, in order to understand the discrepancy between long centuries of peaceful coexistence between Jews and Lithuanians and the short period of extreme violence during World War Two. We will be discussing various scholarly explanations given for this violence. This investigation will combine an assessment of long-term features of Lithuanian-Jewish coexistence between the late 18th and early 20th centuries with an appraisal of political developments after the establishment of Lithuania as independent state.
The colloquium combines three perspectives: theory of interethnic violence, historical appraisal of the traditions of Jewish-Lithuanian coexistence and the history of occupiedLithuania, 1940-1945. It aims to reconstruct the process of changing Lithuanian–Jewish relations in different historical eras and thereby to to dissect the complex issues which took place between the two groups.
Amongst the questions raised will be:
- What legal, political, socio–cultural and economical mechanisms regulated the relations between the two ethnic groups?
- To what extent did tolerance, ignorance and recognition play themselves out in Jewish– Lithuanian relations?
- How did mutual stereotypes and myths form? What were the dynamics of their spread and the ways they were overcome?
- What was the degree of anti–Jewish violence, what determined it and who implemented it? What was the reaction of Lithuanian society to this violence?
- What were the relationships between Lithuanian society and Jews living in it? How did they differ or were they similar to those of other societies in Central and Eastern Europe?
On the widely–researched topic of Lithuanian–Jewish relations in the context of the Holocaust in Lithuania, the organizers of the conference also propose to raise the following questions:
*How were the relations of these two groups affected by the Soviet occupation of 1940?
*What role was indicated for local inhabitants in the national socialists’ plans to kill Jews?
*Which social and regional groups did the Lithuanians who participated in mass killings of the Jews belong to?
*What was the social portrait of those Lithuanians who saved Jews?
By addressing such issues of fundamental significance for the understanding of Jewish-Lithuanian coexistence in all its complexity, the IJS and the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies have closely cooperated with the Lithuanian Institute of History. The colloquium will offer a unique opportunity to contextualize questions which are both extremely sensitive and highly important. By organizing such an event, the IJS responds to high expectations from the general public to address this topic.
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