Geoff Vasil

“The Naked Truth” on Lithuanian Television



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

The national Lithuanian television channel Lietuvos rytas TV recently (on May 4) broadcast a show by veteran talk-show host Rūta Grinevičiūtė (surname recently changed to Janutienė) called Nuoga Tiesa, “Naked Truth,” which posed the question, “Do you want the Jews to return again [sic] to Lithuania?” Viewers were invited to call in and/or vote by special telephone lines for Yes and No with a one euro toll per call. For that and a number of other reasons the entire program had something of the macabre about it, and although some of the guests made some important points, all of them seemed to miss certain glaring details which would have been the center of attention in the West.

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A New Book on the Kaunas (Kovno) Ghetto by Arūnas Bubnys



O P I N I O N   /   B O O K S

by Geoff Vasil

This small book, brought out in three separate editions (English, Lithuanian, Russian) by the state-supported Genocide Center, looks more like a brochure than anything else. The cover features the author’s name, in small type, above all else, then a larger Kaunas Ghetto, then a line with the years 1941-1944, against a backdrop of a computerized dark blue sky above a “tasteful” black-and-white picture of Jews lined up in columns inside Kaunas ghetto. The computerized dark blue wraps around the spine to the back cover where some vague lines comprise a hand-drawn map of the streets making up Kaunas ghetto, an ISBN number in white above UPC Bookland barcode featuring the same number again, and then a web address, www.genocid.lt.  I found myself staring at the internet address and wondering what language that was supposed to be. Lithuanian is always “genocidas” and “genocid” isn’t possible as any permutation or declension of the noun, and of course English is “genocide.” Perhaps it’s Russian in Latin-letter transcription? But that would contradict the nationalist and ethnic bias of the publisher, the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents where Arūnas Bubnys is a leading figure. Perhaps “genocid” is someone’s notion of a non-English and yet international form of the word, formed by reducing it from the Lithuanian nominative case ending -as? I checked my favorite search engine, and of course the Lithuanian organization’s webpage came up first, but was soon followed by a wikipedia and wiktionary entry for the Croatian word.

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An “Inner” View of the Neo-March on Vilnius, 2015



O P I N I O N   /   N E O – N A Z I   M A R C H E S

by Geoff Vasil

 

Afunny thing happened on the way to the neo-Nazi march. I saw a man walking towards me, and thought I knew him. Apparently he thought the same thing, and we both said hello in Lithuanian as we passed one another. As I pondered how we might know each other, it came to me: I had seen him at an earlier neo-Nazi march, probably the one in Kaunas a month earlier. He thought I was a fellow marcher, apparently, or at least not an enemy to the cause.

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The Nazis are Just Nuts



O P I N I O N    /    H I S T O R Y

by Geoff Vasil

◊ 

Somewhere in his voluminous correspondence, correspondence that far surpasses in quantity any of his literary endeavors, H. P. Lovecraft mentions what he sees as the almost arbitrary adoption of Christianity by northern European peoples, and comments that another religion might work just as well. That sense of another religion operating in parallel runs heavily throughout his stories, and nowhere is his notion better illustrated than in his short piece The Festival, roughly centered around an “I’ll be home for Christmas” motif in an unknown village of New England that turns terribly strange but somehow familiar for all its strangeness.

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Yivo Conference: Unresolved History



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

This comment on the event “Unresolved History: Jews and Lithuanians After the Holocaust,” held February 14, 2014 in New York City is based on the videotape of the event that Yivo has posted on its website. Readers may also wish to see Olga Zabludoff’s articles before and after the event, and the comments accruing during last month’s discussion in New York’s Algemeiner.Com. Geoff Vasil has covered a number of state-sponsored Holocaust events over the years, including one featuring some of the same participants last summer in Vilnius. Defending History’s openly critical views of the “red-brown commission” are available in the section dedicated to various of the debates in recent years. The commission’s own website is here.


 

On February 14, 2014, a small panel spoke at YIVO world headquarters in NYC. There weren’t many people in the audience, to judge from the crowd sounds, and at least one panelist wasn’t there. It had been delayed a day earlier when a massive ice storm hit the city and temperatures plummeted. Tomas Venclova wasn’t able to make it because of the weather and poor health.

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Swedish Film Director Speaks Out on the Lithuanian Holocaust, Sort of, a Little Bit



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

 

Jonas Öhman is a Swede who has been coming to Lithuania and living here on and off from almost the beginning of modern independence in the 1990-1991 period. During that time he has produced a number of films, only one of which appears to his credit on the internet film database imdb.com, but all of which deal more or less with a mythologized version of the history of Lithuanian anti-Soviet partisans.

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Forget Me Knot



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

 

In an attempt to maintain their reputation as the most anti-Semitic major newspaper in Lithuania, the editors at Respublika have fired a new salvo in their information war against the international forces of Communist Zionism with a straw-man argument designed to rehabilitate the swastika as a Lithuanian cultural heritage symbol.

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Raising Cain on the Resurrection of Abel



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

 

And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. Genesis 3:13

And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. Genesis 4:10

Driving east out of Rokiškis, fields give way to forest, and the lake country leads on to strange and wild hills in an abandoned quarter of the country bordering Latvia. The lake country is beautiful, almost alpine in its effect, and spotted with small settlements and villages of varying sizes, some even boasting gas stations and schools.

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Keep the Local History Out of Mind?



REVIEW OF KEEP ME IN MIND

by Geoff Vasil

 

The Contemporary Art Center’s reading room in Vilnius is hosting an unusual-for-Lithuania Holocaust event called Keep Me in Mind. Briefly, visitors are invited to wander among different tables where good-looking and polite people await them with small boxes and sheaves of papers. When you sit down the narrator at the table tells the story of an individual Holocaust survivor, from childhood to the present. Almost all of the survivors seem to now live in Haifa, Israel. One survivor, Benjamin Ginzburg, came from Vilnius.

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Inclusion and Occlusion



O P I N I O N

A REVIEW OF THE PRAGUE PLATFORM’S TRAVELLING EXHIBITION “TOTALITARIANISM IN EUROPE” PAID FOR BY THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION (CURRENTLY ON SHOW AT TUSKULĖNAI PARK IN VILNIUS, LITHUANIA)

by Geoff Vasil


 

At the edge of downtown Vilnius, along the river Neris where the buildings suddenly turn old and worn and bushes, trees and grass take on unmanicured forms, across the bridge whose entree is gated by the Danish and British embassies to Lithuania, there is a strange park nestled in between some very empty Soviet-looking and much older buildings.

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An Inalienable Right to be Schizophrenic?



O P I N I O N  /  E Y E W I T N E S S   R E P O R T

by Geoff Vasil

 

On Friday, September 13, 2013, the Baltos Lankos publishing firm in Vilnius held a discussion at their main book sales outlet in Vilnius to present a book edited by Professor Jurgita Verbickienė about the Jews of Lithuania.

The discussion on this doubly auspicious day—eve of Yom Kippur and Friday the 13th—began with Verbickienė presenting a short sketch of the book and two other participants in the discussion, Zigmas Vitkus and Simonas Gurevičius. The latter is the executive director of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. The topic was how Lithuanians view Jews.

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Lithuania Propaganda Agency is On The Road Again



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

This opinion piece and eyewitness report by Geoff Vasil relates to the July 10th event in honor of the Red-Brown Commission held at the Vilnius Jewish Public Library. See related reports on the library’s instrumentalization as a PR platform for the Commission and the more or less contemporaneous announcement of the Commission’s resumed activities, in the absence of apologies to Yitzhak Arad, Pinchos Fridberg, and the other accused Holocaust survivors.


Attendees at the July 10, 2013 event to honor the “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania” were treated to speeches and plentiful Katz-bashing by (from right) Ronaldas Račinskas, Saulius Sužiedėlis and Ilya Lempertas.

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Free Speech and Holocaust Remembrance in the Eastern European Union



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

NOTE: This was written in response to “Foreign countries use far-right operations to undermine Lithuania’s image” published on June 7, 2013, on the Lithuania Tribune website.

Initially the editor-in-chief of the Lithuania Tribune agreed to publish the following reply in the Lithuania Tribune, but then changed his mind and finally refused, only informing the author a month later…

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Chief Lithuanian Bureaucrat/Historian Rehabilitates Nation’s Quislings, Again



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

In an interview posted on the Delfi website on June 21, 2013, Lithuanian government historian Arūnas Bubnys, head of department for the Orwellian- or even Kafkaesque-sounding Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania, once again lent support to the pro-Nazi Lithuanian Quisling government that seized power on June 23, 1941.

The interview, titled “Lithuanian Historian: June Uprising was Rehabilitation for Shameful Surrender to Soviets,” is available here. An English translation is provided here.

What follows is my commentary on that interview.

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In Obeliai (Abél) and Rokiškis (Rákishok): More State-Sponsored Glorification of Nazi Collaborators


 


O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

 

Years ago, when I first started doubting the veracity of certain propaganda intended to diminish the culpability of local forces in the Holocaust, I interviewed an elderly woman who was an eye-witness to what happened in late June of 1941 in Rokiškis (in Yiddish: Rákishok) in northern (or northeastern) Lithuania.

abel 1942

Obeliai (Abel) 1942: Is curiosity or concern sparked by this “celebration of 1941 partisans” coming from the apex of Nazi rule in Lithuania (1942, when the local Jews were already all murdered)? It seems not. This photo is of the 1942 Nazi-era memorial torn down by the Soviets, and just replaced by a new one, commemorating the same pro-Nazi “partisans” …

She told me how a bunch of young men turned savage, rounded up Jewish men, stuck them in what amounted to a pig sty surrounded by barbed wire in the center of town, and then tortured and humiliated them until they murdered them. She said this gang of savages went by the name of Savisaugos batalionas, which is Lithuanian for self-defense battalion. Were they led by Germans? No, she said, there hadn’t been a single German to be seen.

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Strength Through Joy “Hitler Youth” Events Sponsored by the City of Vilnius on March 11, 2013



E Y E W I T N E S S   R E P O R T  /  O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

 

This March 11, the day in 1990 when the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic declared Lithuania sovereign and separate from the Soviet Union, was celebrated in Vilnius in the usual manner: neo-Nazis, skinheads, their young and naive followers and a gaggle of elderly politicians—both serving MPs and has-beens—assembled and marched up the main boulevard chanting nationalist and anti-minority slogans, scaring children and generally making the streets unsafe for normal activities.

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The Real Dope on the February 16 Neo-Nazi March in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

 

Readers and supporters of Defending History likely realize there is a diversity of opinion and views held by contributors (made explicit on the About us page), and in that spirit I’d like to share my own impressions of the neo-Nazi march on Lithuanian Independence Day 2013 in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania’s second-largest city and the provisional capital in the interwar period.

First, Kaunas was colder than expected. The breeze contributed to the chill. There seemed to be half as many police as protestors at the staging area, Ramybės Parkas, next to the bus station in central Kaunas. The police wore three uniforms: green, grey and, I was told by someone representing himself as being from Interpol, a large number of plain-clothes officers dispersed among the crowd, presumably meaning the marchers, since the number of protestors was paltry, just a handful of people.

See also the memoirs of Evaldas Balčiūnas, Dovid Katz (and 2nd), Efraim Zuroff

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Why Christine Beresniova is Out of Order



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

 

I’ve never met Christine Beresniova, but I’ve followed her career, so to speak, through the media and mutual acquaintances, and wish her only the best. She first came to my attention after apparently making some very limited and not very public criticisms of Lithuanian Holocaust education, which sufficiently pissed off the Holocaust Obfuscation establishment ensconced within the corridors of state power for them to label her some kind of Russian agent in informal conversations.

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Tell Me I’m Wrong



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

I caught part of the Lithuanian “International” Red-Brown Commission’s “international” conference in the Lithuanian parliament last month, and obtained video of the parts I missed. There are a lot of things intellectually wrong with what the majority of the speakers said, but I can’t help thinking, feeling, that the emotional content was the overriding message, not the various sophistic, sham arguments and contrived non-debate “debate” between Emanuelis Zingeris and other speakers.

It was my feeling that only two of the speakers really spoke with any reverence or respect for the dead, in a tone appropriate to discussing the subject at hand. One was a sociologist I’d never heard of before who spoke in simple statistical figures about current popular Lithuanian views of the Holocaust and Jews.

The other was Saulius Sužiedėlis, a Lithuanian-American scholar (I believe that’s a fair way to characterize his national identity), who said so much that was simply wrong, but at least delivered his somewhat stochastic and very personal message with the sort of sincerity and honor which one expects in a seeker after truth, and which leads one to assume that even if that seeker has some of the details wrong at the moment, he will eventually get it right and will find the inner courage to correct himself.

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Landsbergis’s New Book Tries (Yet Again) to Sanitize the 1941 Hitlerist “Provisional Government” of Lithuania



B O O K S

by Geoff Vasil

Vytautas Landsbergis, Rezistencijos pradžia [“The Beginning of the Resistance: June 1941: Documents on the Six-Week Provisional Government of Lithuania”], Vilnius 2012.


MEP Vytautas Landsbergis, former speaker of the Lithuanian parliament and leader of the Lithuanian independence movement in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, unveiled his latest polemic at a ceremony cum press conference held on the first floor of the Signatarų Namai building in Vilnius’s Old Town on September 11, 2012, the historic site where Lithuanian independence was proclaimed from the balcony to the street below sometime around February 16, 1918.

This small book—there’s only 22 pages written by Landsbergis, the rest is a motley collection of supposedly historic documents—is an attempt to answer criticism of the Lithuanian Government and Catholic Church’s ceremonial reburial of Lithuanian Nazi puppet prime minister Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis and other concurrent celebrations in the spring of 2012.

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