A theatre critic, a controversial journalist and historian, and a feminist, Rūta Vanagaitė is one of the boldest women in Lithuania. Her personal life and political opinions are at odds with the conservative Catholic attitudes of many Lithuanians. In her recent writings she has tackled major Lithuanian taboos. Lithuania’s modern heroes are the Forest Brothers, the partisans who from the closing months of the Second World War fought the Soviet occupiers across the Baltic States and western Ukraine and were not defeated until well into the 1950s. Vanagaitė pointed out that some of these heroes had eagerly collaborated with the Nazis between 1941 and 1944, when Lithuania had been part of the Nazi province of Ostland under a German Reichskommissar. During this time, an attempt to achieve the wholesale extermination of Baltic Jews left alive only a handful of the hundreds of thousands who had been sustaining the economy and cultural life of the Baltic States, especially Lithuania’s. Vanagaitė went out on a limb: she believed what she saw in Soviet archives, which listed some ‘heroes’, such as Adolfas Ramanauskas, as Nazi allies.
Accusations of taking money from Vladimir Putin to slander Lithuania have only fired her up. Working with Efraim Zuroff, a famous Nazi-hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, in a partnership that soon became personal as well as academic, she located the sites of the worst massacres