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By Judy Baston, May 2000

ITEM: "Lithuania’s new government has begun issuing certificates of exoneration for thousands of people who had been condemned as Nazi war criminals by Soviet courts’" New York Times, 1991

ITEM: "Prosecutor Vidmantas Valcekauskas denied that his newly independent republic had deliberately cleared Nazi war criminals, but he acknowledged that some might have been pardoned inadvertently. ’It is possible that some would slip through,’ said Vaicekauskas."Associated Press, 1991

So you want to change history,
Prosecutor Vaicekauskas?

In a Soviet trial, you say,
they had no right
to a legal defense’

You know, Esteemed Prosecutor,
you may be right.

Let’s give them
a different justice,

The same kind that was given
to my grandfather,
my grandmother,
my aunts,

No false witnesses
no coerced confessions
no corrupt trials.

In fact,
no questions at all:
only a long walk
to a stoneless grave.

If you want to change history,
Esteemed Prosecutor,
I’ll make you a deal:

You can let
a certificate of exoneration
slip through
and come to rest
at the grave of our Police Chief,

for you must surely know
where Ostravakas lies
after ending a long life
in the comfort of his own bed.

And in exchange,
you return the children
of Eishishok
whose blood
even a half-century
cannot wash from his hands.

Not an even trade, you say?
Dozens of lives
for only one piece of paper.

All right, Esteemed Prosecutor,
if you want,
we’ll go one-for-one.

You issue a certificate,
and I’ll go next Shabbas
to have dinner
with my Cousin Sorke.

One more thing, though:
that little matter
of the nightmare
she took to her grave.

Or is that worth a second certificate?

One for her murderer

and another
for the man who raped her
on the road to the pit.

Do we have a deal,
Esteemed Prosecutor?


I didn’t think we would.

--September, 1991

about the author
Judy Baston