VILNIUS—The website of the Jewish Community of Lithuania today posted a powerful response by chairperson Faina Kukliansky to the statement released earlier in the week by the national state-funded “Genocide Center.” That statement attempted to whitewash the infamous Holocaust perpetrator and Nazi collaborator Jonas Noreika, and itself came as a response to a petition and series of articles last summer calling for removal of one of the public shrines to Noreika in the center of this city, the nation’s capital.
Today’s Kukliansky statement represents a sharp about-face for a chairperson who has previously welcomed the Genocide Center and its (ultra)nationalist leaders as cherished keynote speakers at Holocaust events at the Jewish community in the years since she assumed control of the official community, often resulting in international scandal as well as local Jewish dismay that the community’s own experts, such as long-time Green House director Rachel Kostanian, have never been invited to keynote a Holocaust event.
As Lithuania’s top lawyer on citizenship acquisition for wealthy foreigners, she is frequently accused of conflict of interest with a role representing Jewish historical interests and today’s small but vibrant and creative Jewish community in the country. The staunchness of her advocacy for the government project to place a $25,000,000 convention center in the heart of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery, widely condemned, locally and internationally, extended this year to her sacking the chief rabbi of eleven years after he spoke up against the project, citing the views of the world’s major Litvak rabbis.
Ms. Kukliansky is to be congratulated sincerely for her historic statement: “In these sorts of circumstances it is impossible to talk about the existence of Holocaust education.”
The rapid sequence of events this past week included the BNS report on the Genocide Center’s statement, the community’s website posting a summary in English as a “factual news item” with a “God’s honest truth” headline (PDF) — possibly the work of an inside mischief maker —, a report by Defending History, a statement by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a report by the Jerusalem Post, a long article in response by an apparent Jewish Community spokesman (previously a contributor to DH and to Hope Not Hate), and finally, the statement today that Defending History considers to be “of historical importance because it goes to the heart of exposing the utter hypocrisy of ‘Holocaust education’ that is provided by the same parties that make heroes out of the killers. Better late than never — Ms. Kukliansky is to be congratulated sincerely.” [UPDATES of 9 NOV: See also BNS report of 9 Nov.]
The text of the statement that appeared today on the Jewish Community website reads as follows:
Lithuanian Jewish Community Responds to Report on Jonas Noreika
The Lithuanian Jewish Community responds to a report presented by the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania about the activity of Jonas Noreika in Nazi-occupied Lithuania during World War II. The report is available in Lithuanian on their website:
Lithuanian Jewish Community
Pylimo street no. 4, LT-01117 Vilnius, tel.: (8~5) 261 30 03, fax: (8~5) 2127915, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
November 6, 2015
To: Teresa Birutė Burauskaitė, director
Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania
Didžioji street no. 17/1, LT-01128 Vilnius
CC: Office of the General Prosecutor of the Republic of Lithuania
Rinktinės street no. 5A, LT-01515, Vilnius
Office of the President of the Republic of Lithuania
Government of the Republic of Lithuania
Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania
Re: Activity of captain Jonas Noreika, officer of the Lithuanian military, during World War II
Excerpts of a report by the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania (hereafter the CSGRRL) on the activity of captain Jonas Noreika, an officer of the Lithuanian Military, during World War II, have appeared in the media. The Lithuanian Jewish Community has repeatedly approached Lithuanian law enforcement institutions regarding the actions of this person but only received formulaic responses. We last attempted to do so following the publication by the journalist Rimvydas Valatka and a statement issued by a group of intellectuals. The prosecutor declined to open a pre-trial investigation of the deceased person (paragraph 7, article 3 of the criminal code of the Republic of Lithuania).
The report by the CSGRRL states: “In summary it can be stated that during the period of German occupation Jonas Noreika did not participate in operations to exterminate Jews en masse in the districts of Telšiai and Šiauliai. Even so, the Nazi occupational regime succeeded in involving him, as it did other officials of the Lithuanian civilian administration, in ordering affairs connected with the isolation of Jews.”
It appears to us, the Lithuanian Jewish Community, that this assessment of the actions of Jonas Noreika is very contradictory. From the linguistic perspective, one sentence contradicts the other, and from the legal perspective, imprisoning Jews in ghettos, or any other kind of “isolation,” or “ordering of affairs connected with the isolation of the Jews,” is nothing other than the extermination of Jews. Perhaps the CSGRRL might like to explain more fully what happened to those isolated Jews, where have they and their belongings gone? And more generally where did the Lithuanian Jewish Community isolated during World War II with all the homes where they lived and their property and so on disappear to? Is this not called a crime against humanity, genocide, a crime without statute of limitations? Do people deserve to be honored and have schools named after them in Lithuania for these kinds of “orderings of affairs?” And will the children studying at those schools also call imprisonment in ghettos “affairs connected with the isolation of Jews” and believe that people show receive awards as heroes for such deeds?
It also remains unclear to us why exactly Jonas Noreika was arrested and sent to Stutthof concentration camp, which orders from the German civilian administration did he fail to carry out?
We also perceive a contradiction in that some of the claims are based on the memories of separate individuals while others are based on documents.
In the final event, even if we admit that until now Jonas Noreika has not been convicted of a crime, is he a hero? The question is rhetorical of course. In these sorts of circumstances it is impossible to talk about the existence of Holocaust education. All we have now is “the ordering of affairs connected with the isolation of the Jews.”
Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community