WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?
THE LITVAK GUIDE
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- ♦ Three Yiddish institutions in Vilnius…
- ♦ New section on the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery and its fate
- ♦ Michael Shafir on Holocaust deflection and obfuscation in Hungary (and beyond)
- ♦ Litvak Links page relaunched
- ♦ Nationalist critique in Vilnius on Rūta Vanagaitė’s Holocaust remembrance project
- — Lithuania Tribune (Eng. Delfi) report
- ♦ Debate over plans for congress and entertainment hall on Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery site
- — New Lithuanian gov. commission to preserve Jewish heritage
- ♦ Will Yiddish poetry serve Neocon politics at SLS?
- ♦ Geoff Vasil reviews Lithuanian TV show with viewers’ votes on whether “the Jews should return”…
- ♦ VIDEO: Would a nation’s president and its one Jewish MP honor Holocaust-era fascist police volunteers alongside Shoah victims?
- ♦ Josh Cohen has advice for Ukraine in Foreign Policy magazine
- ♦ Rachel Kostanian speaks out on integrity and future of Holocaust commemoration in Lithuania
- ♦ Vilna Holocaust survivor writes to head of NY Yivo about Red-Brown Commission; director replies
- ♦ Andrius Kulikauskas explores the role of Lithuania’s 1941 leaders in the Holocaust
- ♦ Hungarian Holocaust museum leaves out “C word” (collaboration)
- ♦ Poets rise to the occasion
- ♦ USA page
- ♦ Aleksandras Bosas (1951—2014), valiant poet
- ♦ Strange tale of Yiddish, Vilnius, the WJC and ORT
- ♦ Hungary
- ♦ Latvia
- ♦ Ukraine
- ♦ Free Speech
- ♦ Film and video
- ♦ Books in the debate
- ♦ New section: Lithuanian citizens speak out with courage
- ♦ New section: Christian-Jewish Relations
- ♦ New section: Obituaries
- ♦ Free speech in Paris? Efraim Zuroff slams Latvian veto of UNESCO Holocaust exhibit in French capital
- ♦ One-sided coverage in Canada of Ukraine’s far right?
- ♦ Auschwitz debates rage on
- ♦ Czech president decries Ukraine’s choice of World War II fascists as “national heroes”
- ♦ Wiesenthal Center protests event featuring Genocide Center maestro at a Jewish memorial event
The Years and The Sites
Far & Wide
- ♦ View by Country
- ♦ US
- ♦ UK
- ♦ EU
- ♦ Hungary
- ♦ Ukraine
- ♦ The Baltics: Efraim Zuroff in JP
- ♦ Lithuania: Shimon Alperovich (1928-2014)
Survivors & Memory
- ♦ Dobke Yonis of Zezmer dies in Vilnius at 102
- ♦ What brings Anatoly to Vilnius from faraway Brest
- ♦ Zoya’s death leaves husband Meishke the last Jew in Svintsyán
- ♦ The bottle that waited in the attic 70 years to remind us of its unknown owner
- ♦ Meilach Stalevich turns 90
- ♦ Vilnius Holocaust survivor Pinchos Fridberg will not remain silent at distortion of history
- ♦ Nor will Shavl survivor Rachel Kostanian, former director of the Green House Holocaust exhibit
- ♦ Nor will flight survivor Milan Chersonski, former editor of Jewish community’s “Jerusalem of Lithuania”
- ♦ Survivors in Israel say no to abuse of Sutzkever’s legacy
- ♦ More from Holocaust survivors
- ♦ Survivor, resistance hero, scholar: Yitzhak Arad unravels the obfuscation of history
- ♦ Petitions by 2nd gen survivor Monica Lowenberg
- ♦ Let’s celebrate the bold Lithuanian citizens who speak up with courage
The Baltic Holocaust
Battle of Ideas
- • Bernard Dichek on the unfolding debate
- • Vytenis Andriukaitis on the freedom of history
- • Yitzhak Arad on Holocaust Obfuscation
- • Disagreeing with Snyder’s “Bloodlands”
- • Danny Ben-Moshe on Double Genocide
- • Leonidas Donskis on honoring of collaborators
- • Dovid Katz on three definitions
- • Monica Lowenberg on UK policy
- • Efraim Zuroff on Israeli policy
Lithuania’s Mažvydas National Library is curiously fostering two parallel cultures which have yet to engage each other. Up on the fifth floor, on the West side, an eminent Judaic studies scholar leads the Judaica Research Center (cosponsored by the Yivo institute in New York), and on the East side, journalist Vidmantas Valiušaitis leads the Adolfas Damušis Democracy Studies Center.
VILNIUS—Beware of any academic conference hosted by a nation’s parliament. This isn’t about Lithuania, the Baltics, or Eastern Europe. It’s about the intellectual independence and academic integrity of bona fide academic conclaves anywhere. There are elementary questions. Was there a public call for papers? Was there an academic committee established to select those papers by the most competent specialists on the actual topic of the conference? An academic committee that would guard against the petty jealousies, politics of revenge and personal exclusions, as well as larger political correctnesses or state-sponsored-agency attempts to predetermine the proceedings or (ab)use them for governmental PR? Is the conference a free tribune for the exchange of ideas in an atmosphere of collegiality and mutual respect? One where scholars of opposing views can thrash it out, robustly and publicly — without the loss of interpersonal respect — to yield positive results for the area of human enquiry to which the conference was dedicated in the first place. One of the ironies is that Vilnius is nowadays host to some of the world’s best (and most academically free) conferences in an array of fields, both in the humanities and the sciences. That Soviet-style rigging should survive in the case of Judaic studies, of all things, will itself be studied one day.
Has Yivo Again been Manipulated for Promotion of Holocaust Revisionism? (or: “Ót azélkhe shkhéynim?”)
VILNIUS—Less than one month after an inspiring, and by all accounts successful launch of the new Yivo-backed Jewish Studies Center at the Martynas Mažvydas National Library on 22 and 23 May 2017, the same institution, a national library of an EU and NATO member state, has launched, on the very same floor, another new center. This slightly-later launched institute, named for Holocaust collaborator and ethnic cleansing supporter Adolfas Damušis, made its debut on 15 and 16 June 2017. Its opening ceremony is described by Andrius Kulikauskas.
Lithuania’s National Mažvydas Library Celebrates Adolfas Damušis, a Supporter of Ethnic Cleansing of the Nation’s Jewish Minority
(Department of Philosophy & Cultural Studies, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University)
The Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania has just celebrated the opening of the Adolfas Damušis Democratic Studies Center on June 15-16, 2017 with a one-sided view of his life. Gintė Damušytė, Lithuania’s ambassador to Denmark, and Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius founded the Center in 2013 to honor the memory of her father, Adolfas Damušis (1908-2003). He was a chemist and lifelong idealist. As a Catholic youth activist, he was arrested in 1931 by Smetona’s autocratic regime and held at the Varniai concentration camp for half a year. In 1941, he was one of the organizers in Kaunas of the anti-Soviet uprising on June 23, 1941, the leader of the Lithuanian Activist Front’s military staff in Kaunas, and the Minister of Industry in Lithuania’s short-lived Provisional Government. In 1944-1945, he was held by the Gestapo in a prison in Bayreuth, northern Bavaria, for his anti-Nazi activities. In the US, he served as the leader of the Lithuanian Catholic youth organization “Ateitis” (the Future) and many other organizations, and worked as an editor for “Radio Free Europe”.
by Dovid Katz (Vilnius)
Full credit to the Forward’s Paul Berger, who has, as ever, sought to be meticulously fair in his new article on some aspects of contemporary Lithuanian Jewish life. This “addendum” goes in a sense more to the wider issues encountered when Western journalists cover stories in the “slightly exotic east,” here in Eastern Europe, on ground zero of the Holocaust, where Jewish communities are ipso facto remnant communities, and where certain larger trends can at times be in play.
The following list has been compiled at the request of several students in a course on Lithuanian Jewry and the Holocaust in Lithuania to be held at the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research in New York in February 2016. It is strictly unofficial, unconnected to the program, and was compiled in Vilnius to complement the course’s own excellent reading list.
Nida Degutiene’s Litvak-Israeli Cookbook Featured at NY’s Lithuanian Consulate in Cooperation with Yivo
NEW YORK—Tomorrow’s daytime event featuring Nida Degutiene’s new book, A Taste of Israel: From Classic Litvak to Modern Israel (Penguin Random House South Africa 2016) is a joint production of the Consulate General of Lithuania in New York City and the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research. It will be held at the Consulate General’s offices at 420 Fifth Avenue at 12:30 PM on Monday 16 January 2017. Defending History recommends the event to our readers in the New York City area and we recommend Ms. Degutiene’s excellent book (available from many outlets including Amazon).
Appeal to the conscience of the members of the renewed state-financed “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania”
Forward Coverage of Yivo Strife Omits Mention of Instrumentalization by Lithuanian Holocaust Revisionism Industry
NEW YORK CITY—A 9 March 2016 Forward article, by Britta Lokting, focused on Martin Peretz’s recent resignation from Yivo’s board, cited a number of current Yivo issues. It did not, however, mention the major issue of instrumentalization by the Lithuanian government’s campaign of Holocaust obfuscation, relativization and revisionism. It did reference the now-famous Vilnius-based digitization project.
In 2011, Yivo honored an antisemitic foreign minister while failing to honor the Yiddish speaking Vilna Holocaust survivors maligned by Lithuanian prosecutors, resulting in a heartfelt plea from the long-time editor of the Jewish community’s quadrilingual newspaper. Then, in 2012, it sent its director to Vilnius to help cover for the reburial with full honors of a Holocaust perpetrator, and saw its director join (and thereby give legitimacy to) the notorious “Red-Brown Commission.” A year ago, the organization was called to task by a Vilna Holocaust survivor in the Yiddish Fórverts (English translation here; unmentioned in the English Forward?). See Defending History’s section on Yivo issues in recent years.
VILNIUS—Despite the relatively modest number of participants in the hall, around fifty, the 90th Anniversary Conference of Yivo in Vilnius was unanimously judged to be a major success with Yiddish scholars and cultural leaders from Buenos Aires, New York, Tel Aviv and Vilnius reading papers in English, Lithuanian, and Yiddish. Four papers were in Yiddish (by Lea Garfinkel, Dovid Katz, Abraham Lichtenbaum and Mordehay Yushkovsky), representing a serious Yiddish-in-Yiddish component of an academic conference for the first time in years. Yiddish greetings were also delivered by Emanuelis Zingeris, parliamentarian and founder of the city’s Jewish museum. There were greetings from the Israeli ambassador and the Lithuanian parliament and foreign ministry.
ברוכיﬦ הבﬡיﬦ ﬡין וויﬥנע, דעלעגאַטן ﬡויף דער ייוואָ קאָנפערענץ!
SVEIKI ATVYKĘ Į VILNIŲ, JIVO KONFERENCIJOS DELEGATAI!
WELCOME TO VILNIUS, DELEGATES TO THE YIVO CONFERENCE!
by Dovid Katz
Updates in [brackets] to 12 July 2015
VILNIUS—According to Lithuanian media sources, including the highly respected English-language Lithuania Tribune (now merged with Delfi.lt), the government, working in concert with property developers, plans to declare the controversial project of a huge convention and entertainment center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery site as a “project of national importance.” The move enables an application to the European Union for a grant of 13 million euros (14.64 million US dollars at current rates) as part of a grand-total (for now) of 22.8 million euros (25.67 million US dollars) for the new complex. The nation’s prime minister has told Lithuanian media that “after the modern congress center is completed, private investors could build a hotel, parking lots and other infrastructure,” eliciting fears that all of the old Jewish cemetery is becoming a cash cow slated for developers for years to come. The Lithuania Tribune / Delfi.lt report concludes with an estimate of “110 million euros in economic and social benefits over 15 years” in addition to “600,000 foreign tourists and 2.2 million local tourists to Vilnius over that time period, with their spending estimated at 183 million and 60 million euros, respectively,” in other words, with profits from the old Jewish cemetery exceeding the equivalent of 250 million dollars, apart from the millions to be had from the building projects per se. Some estimates are provided in Baltic Course.
Editor’s note: The following is a translation of the open letter by Professor Pinchos Fridberg, a Holocaust survivor in Vilnius, and the reply by Yivo’s director, Dr. Jonathan Brent. Both were published in the Yiddish Forward (Forverts) on 1 March 2015. Prof. Fridberg has also posted an audio file of his reading his letter aloud in his native Vilna Yiddish. In the case of any issue arising, the Yiddish text is authoritative. For readers’ reference, hyperlinks have been added (by Defending History) to various of the documents and topics cited. See also the Pinchos Fridberg page and section in Defending History, page and section on the state-sponsored commission discussed, and section on Yivo issues.
September 2014 at Ponár, the mass muder site of Vilna Jewry: Three representatives of the controversial state sponsored commission on Nazi and Soviet crimes pay respects in unison: (from left): Dr. Jonathan Brent, Emanuelis Zingeris, Ronaldas Račinskas. Photo: Defending History.
ear Dr. Jonathan Brent,
I appeal to you in Yiddish. Do you know why? Because I believe, that a person who is the leader of the Yivo institute will understand me. My name is Pinchos Fridberg. I was born in Vilna before the war and am a survivor of the Holocaust. My grandmother and grandfather, and all our relatives on my mother’s side — 28 people — lie [at the mass murder site] Ponár.
For First Time, NY Yivo to Honor (on Dec. 17) a Holocaust Resistance Hero Defamed by Lithuania’s Prosecutors
HOPES RISE FOR LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT PUBLIC APOLOGY TO DR. YITZHAK ARAD, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, HERO OF THE ANTI-NAZI RESISTANCE AND ISRAEL’S WAR OF INDEPENDENCE, MAJOR HOLOCAUST SCHOLAR AND FORMER DIRECTOR OF YAD VASHEM
Yivo leaders manipulated by Lithuanian government PR operatives? Chronology of a crisis of confidence, 2011-2014 (in reverse chronological order)
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
In a widely disseminated press release today, the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research announced the launch of a fundraising campaign for US $5,250,000 for the “Yivo Vilna Project.” We are told that it is for “a seven-year international project to preserve, digitize and reunite virtually Yivo’s prewar archives located in New York City and Vilnius, Lithuania, through a dedicated web portal” that will create “the largest collection of Yiddish language materials in the world.”
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.
The following 7 March 2014 comment by Olga Zabludoff on the video posted of the 14 February 2014 event at Yivo appears in the Comments section for her earlier article in the Algemeiner Journal, where readers can follow the entire discussion.
Many thanks to Yivo for posting the video of the discussion “Unresolved History: Jews and Lithuanians after the Holocaust.” In my opinion, the champion panelist was Leonidas Donskis who opened his heart with conviction and courage. As a Jewish Lithuanian his understanding of and sympathy for both Jews and Lithuanians have generated wise insights and pervasive truths. Among his magnitude of analytical comments to be applauded, Donskis explained that the Far Right in Lithuania has managed to get close to the center of power where they have been “mainstreamed” rather than marginalized. He also reflected on how difficult it is for Lithuanians who have decided to tell the truth. As a nation “we lack the political courage,” he remarked.
(Reposted from today’s Jerusalem Post)
O P I N I O N
Three events took place this weekend which reflect the ambiguities of contemporary Jewish life in the Baltics and particularly in Lithuania, the largest of the three new democracies. In reverse order, on Sunday, ultra-nationalist groups staged an Independence Day march, which included anti-Semitic themes, in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania’s interwar capital and the country’s second largest city.Continue reading
Another Panel at Yivo, Neo-Nazi Marches in Lithuania, and American Silence on Glorification of Nazi Collaborators
O P I N I O N
by Olga Zalubdoff
The following is the text of Olga Zabludoff’s op-ed published on 13 February 2014 in the Algemeiner Journal. Comments by readers are available at the original site of publication.
Yivo, Lithuania, The Holocaust
Nobody could love or respect the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research more than I do. It was founded as the Yiddish Scientific Institute in Vilna, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania) in 1925. Yivo remains a symbol for all who cherish our Yiddish heritage and, now, its last prewar survivors. Through the years I have spent many wondrous hours at Yivo, digging, discovering, and learning about my Litvak ancestors, their shtetlakh, and their culture. Being there always felt like being home. The books and documents I handled seemed almost sacred. Memories of conversations with Yivo’s’s revered librarian Dina Abramowicz still make me smile. . .
Updates to 14 February 2014: Neo-Nazi March in Kaunas, Gov. Sponsored Camouflage Symspoium at Yivo in New York
Colleagues in Lithuania of all backgrounds invited to meet Dr. Efraim Zuroff, and join silent, peaceful protest against state-enabled neo-Nazi glorification of local Holocaust collaborators: Sunday 16 Feb, 2 PM, Ramybes Park, Kaunas
Efraim Zuroff on Tablet Magazine’s Co-Sponsorship of Lithuanian Government’s Yivo Event, and a Suggestion for Yivo’s Audience
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, Holocaust historian, Nazi-hunter, and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, has posted the following comment on the website of Tablet magazine, as one of the comments to a new book review. The comment also appears separately on Facebook.
Defending History Brings Real (But Not Enough) Results…
After 7 Years of Silence, Part of Lithuanian Government’s “Red-Brown Commission” Expresses “Sorrow and Anger” at “Unwarranted Attacks” on Yitzhak Arad
Since 2010, when a Lithuanian court proclaimed public swastikas legal and included in its ruling the “historical wisdom” that it only a harmless ancient Baltic symbol, swastikas have proliferated at public events sponsored by the far right, with police looking on listlessly. Most painfully for the dwindling numbers of Holocaust survivors here and abroad, swastikas and other fascist symbols, along with glorification of local Holocaust collaborators, have figured in sanctioned independence day marches in Kaunas on February 16th each year, and in the capital city Vilnius, each March 11th.
Compiled by Dovid Katz
EU/NATO Ally Honors Holocaust Collaborator; Lithuanian Jewish Community Issues Protest; 3 US Congressmen Write to Prime Minister
Remains of 1941 fascist leader Juozas Ambrazevičius (Brazaitis) met by honor guard at Vilnius Airport on 17 May 2012 and reburied in Kaunas’s Church of the Resurrection on the 20th, as city’s mayor dismisses criticism.
Office of the prime minister, who signed off on government funding (€8,700 / US $11,000), defends reburial & honors of the 1941 Nazi puppet “prime minister” who personally signed the protocols confirming Nazi orders for (1) “all means” against Jews (but avoiding executions in public); (2) setting up a concentration camp for Lithuanian Jews [euphemism for the carnage underway at the Seventh Fort]; (3) all Kaunas Jews to be herded into a ghetto within 4 weeks (English here).
New York: Yivo’s Lithuanian Circus—Blow to Holocaust Survivors and their Families—Coming to Town on Tuesday
From surrendering books to surrendering history: “sad and mad” Yivo saga continues. When it all started…
The comments on Dr. Efraim Zuroff’s 14 Oct. 2012 op-ed in The Times of Israel on Yivo’s current policies regarding Lithuanian issues include one (dated 15 Oct.) from Yivo’s former director, Professor Allan Nadler of Drew University. His comment:
Simon Wiesenthal Center Laments Yivo’s Betrayals of Jewish Causes for the Sake of Lithuanian State PR
O P I N I O N
by Efraim Zuroff
reprinted with the author’s permission from today’s Times of Israel
This week, one of the more shameful events in Lithuanian-Jewish relations since the Baltic republic regained independence in 1991 will be hosted in New York by the once-venerable Yivo Institute. Under the heading “Reclaiming the Jewish Narrative in Lithuania Today,” the Yiddish research institute will host Markas Zingeris, whom it describes as a “Lithuanian-Jewish poet and writer,” to speak about relations between Jews and Lithuanians since the fall of Communism.
O P I N I O N
by Milan Chersonski
Milan Chersonski (Chersonskij), longtime editor (1999-2011) of Jerusalem of Lithuania, quadrilingual (English-Lithuanian-Russian-Yiddish) newspaper of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, was previously (1979-1999) director of the Yiddish Folk Theater of Lithuania, which in Soviet times was the USSR’s only Yiddish amateur theater company. The views he expresses in DefendingHistory are his own. This is an authorized English version (updated by the author) by Ludmilla Makedonskaya (Los Angeles). Russian original.
Photo: Milan Chersonski at this desk at the Jewish Community of Lithuania (image © 2012 Jurgita Kunigiškytė). Milan Chersonski section.
Dear Mr. Jonathan Brent,
A little over a year ago, on 12 September 2011, I wrote my first open letter to you. I wrote that it is inappropriate to hold an event commemorating the Jews of Vilna who were victims of genocide together with the minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Lithuania Audronis Ažubalis on the premises of Yivo. If you did not then find time to read my letter, you can find it now online.
United Nations Human Rights Committee Notes Lithuanian Government’s Position on Public Swastikas and Authorized Neo-Nazi Parades
The United Nation’s Human Rights Committee in its 11 July 2012 report, issued in Geneva, included the following text concerning the Lithuanian government’s arguments regarding the legalization of public swastikas and the ongoing authorization of neo-Nazi parades:
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
NOTE: This is an authorized republication of today’s letter, which first appeared in the online Algemeiner Journal. [Update: It then appeared in the AJ’s print edition on 25 May, pp. 2, 4, 5.]
Greetings, and sorry we missed each other in Vilnius this time. I write in the context of our ongoing and respectful conversation, which started in the Guardian (thanks to Matt Seaton, and prominently including Efraim Zuroff) back in 2010 (I, II, III, IV); continuing through our meeting at Yale, the Aftermath Conference in Melbourne, Australia, in 2011 (thanks to Mark Baker, and with participation of Jan Gross and Patrick Desbois), and more recently, via my review of your book Bloodlands (along with Alexander Prusin’s The Lands Between), in East European Jewish Affairs.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Berates his Country’s Parliamentarians who Signed ‘70 Years Declaration’; Says Hitler = Stalin Except for Length of their Moustaches
The foreign minister of Lithuania did not wait until the day was over.
“It is not possible to find differences between Hitler and Stalin except in their moustaches (Hitler’s was shorter).”
— The Foreign Minister of Lithuania, commenting upon the Seventy Years Declaration in the early hours of 20 January 2012, 70th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference
[updated to May 2013]
“One of the most important statements in the article is that the swastika is banned by Lithuanian law, something that Katz and others have refused to acknowledge.”
“Fact: It is illegal to display the swastika in Lithuania today.”
— Jonathan Brent, Executive Director of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, in a 13 September 2o11 memo comprising the text of his proposed Public Yivo Statement, for which the support of Prof. Jeffrey Veidlinger (Bloomington) is claimed.
Chronology of events, including the United Nations Human Rights Committee statement of 2012, provided below…
Will Yivo Capitulate to East European ‘State Looting’ of its Archives in Vilnius? Provide Name as Cover for Holocaust Obfuscation & Antisemitism?Continue reading
O P I N I O N
by Danny Ben-Moshe
NOTE: This op-ed appeared in today’s Jerusalem Post (and in the Jerusalem Report).
Recent developments suggest Holocaust remembrance has fallen by the wayside as a key element of Jewish Foreign Policy, at least as far as Lithuania is concerned.
Holocaust remembrance is a central plank of Jewish Foreign Policy (JFP), a term that encompasses how Israel and Diaspora organizations act on issues of common Jewish concern. The establishment of Yad Vashem in 1953 and the Eichmann trial in 1961 showed how central the memory of the Holocaust was to Israeli public and foreign policy.
Yivo’s director, one of the current Lithuanian government’s staunchest PR providers in the west (see here, here, here, here), recently told the English Forward that ‘he would continue to work with the Lithuanian government to reach a permanent settlement over the archive’, implying that the Yivo Board would be making its decision in due course.
Yivo Director’s Statement on Lithuanian Foreign Minister’s 2010 Antisemitic Comments, Plus Some Facts
“Fact: The anti-Semitic comment allegedly made by Foreign Minister Ažubalis and quoted by Efraim Zuroff (Simon Wiesenthal Center, Israel) as fact was hearsay.”
14 October 2010: Respected journalist Vytautas Bruveris publishes his report (“Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Strategist Sees Jewish Conspiracy”) in Lietuvos rytas, on the foreign minister’s comments made to a meeting of his entire political faction (Homeland Union / Christian Democrats), now the country’s ruling party, in a meeting in the country’s parliament. PDF here. Full English translation here.
14 October 2010: Immediate response of the Jewish Community of Lithuania after the convening of a special meeting of the community’s Board of Directors in which twenty-one board members participated. Authorized English text here.
14 October 2010: DefendingHistory.com report here.
15 October 2010: Alfa.lt reports, citing in detail the press release issued by the foreign minister in reply. His remarks, made to his entire party faction, could not easily be denied, so the reports are attacked by the ministry’s press release as ‘hearsay’, the foreign ministry line since then, faithfully produced verbatim on 13 September 2011 by the obliging head of Yivo in New York City (see quote and link at top of this page).
Lithuanian Foreign Ministry’s Two Versions: for a Jewish Audience (Not for Publication) and for ‘General’ (Proudly on Website)
O P I N I O N
The most recent of journalist Paul Berger’s four meticulously balanced reports in the Forward on Yivo-Lithuania issues (I, II, III, IV) appeared on the paper’s website today. Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and often considered the leading contemporary human rights champion in the struggle against antisemitism and other forms of prejudice, was among those asked by the reporter to comment upon the text of the Lithuanian foreign minister’s address, read out by a local consulate official, to the 22 September audience at a Lithuanian government sponsored concert at Yivo in New York to mark the ‘Vilna Ghetto Experience’. This journal’s editor was also among those asked to comment for the record, and we were asked by the Forward not to publish the text on DefendingHistory.com, a request naturally honored.
Was Rachel Margolis Honored (or Mentioned) at the “Vilna Ghetto Experience” Yivo Event Sponsored by the Lithuanian Government?
The Yivo concert mounted in memory of the Vilna Ghetto was held on 22 September, a date near the September 23rd anniversary of its liquidation (in 1943). Survivors questioned find it unconscionable that the Yivo evening could not also be utilized as a forum for polite, constructive and appropriate protest at the Lithuanian government’s targeting precisely of Vilna Ghetto survivors (among other Holocaust survivors) for kangaroo ‘war crimes investigations’ that have drawn international protest.
At 10:27 AM Vilnius time today, BNS (Baltic News Service) released the triumphant news from the country’s foreign ministry that ‘A Yivo room is planned at the National Library of Martynas Mažvydas in Vilnius shortly’. As one foreign diplomat put it, off the record, several hours later at today’s commemoration event for the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto, ‘The operative word there is shortly’ — signifying a done deal.
There was symbolic significance to the announcement’s timing, coming on the 23 September anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto.
Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Triumphantly Announces Its Yivo Coup — A Capitulation on ‘(Looted) Books and (Hijacked) Brand’ Sought for Two Decades — on 23 September, Day of Commemoration for the Vilna Ghetto
But confusion reigns after Yivo director tells Jewish press in New York that surrender of books and brand is not yet final
A report today from BNS (Baltic News Service) covered the reaction of the Lithuanian foreign minister to the news that Holocaust survivors had protested to Yivo his invitation as guest of honor at an event commemorating the Vilna Ghetto.
The surviving family members of the late Leyzer Ran, led by his wife Basheva Ran, today released a statement concerning Yivo’s decision to honor the Lithuanian foreign minister in New York in the absence of apologies for the accusations against Jewish partisan heroes, and in the absence of progress on widespread antisemitism including legalized swatikas and Holocaust distortionism. Details and a PDF of the letter are available here.
by Lolita Židonytė
Which of two Brents will have for his institution the 200,000 euros from the Lithuanian government for a cherished Jewish project in Vilnius?
Haaretz reporter Yossi Melman, author of the 7 Sept. article which brought the Lithuanian government campaign against Holocaust survivor Joseph Melamed to wide attention, and who today broke the story about Yad Vashem’s disinvitation of a Lithuanian minister over the Melamed affair, has today authorized release to the media of his 13 Sept. letter to Yivo director Jonathan Brent. The letter is in response to Mr. Brent’s 9 Sept. circular email to the entire staff of Yivo. Mr. Melman explained to DefendingHistory.com that he is releasing the letter because he had received no response from Mr. Brent.
From: Yossi Melman
Sent: Tuesday, September 13, 2011
To: Jonathan Brent
Yivo Director Sends New Circular to Staff, Refining Lithuanian Government Talking Points; Claims Support of Veidlinger and Zipperstein for (Inaccurate) Public Statement
Following up on his 9 September 2011 circular to the staff of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research in New York, the executive director today circulated a new missive, likewise sent to all members of staff, and claiming the support of two eminent professors, Steven J. Zipperstein and Jeffrey Veidlinger. [Full disclosure: Veidlinger was one of Bloomington’s Borns Jewish Studies program staff involved in secret 2009 negotiations with the by-then government-manipulated Vilnius Yiddish Institute, a factor in the disemployment of this journal’s editor as professor of Yiddish, language and literature, the post he held from 1999 to 2010.]
This statement follows the publication of concerns of members of the British parliament (on its website), the open letter of Milan Chersonski, longtime editor of the newspaper of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, and coverage in English, French, German and Hebrew publications, in addition to the earlier coverage in the Forward, Haaretz and DefendingHistory.com (which first interviewed Joseph Melamed at length on 30 August).
Vilnius: Milan Chersonski Releases Original Russian Text of his 12 September 2011 Open Letter to the Director of Yivo in New York City
М Н Е Н И Е
Милан Херсонский, долголетний редактор газеты «Литовский Иерусалим» прислал Открытое письмо директору ИВО в Нью-Йорке
Милан Херсонский, долголетний редактор (1999-2011гг.) газеты «Литовский Иерусалим», выходившей на английском, литовском, русском и идиш языках, обратился в СМИ с Открытым письмом к директору ИВО в Нью-Йорке. М.Херсонский подчеркнул, что выражает собственное мнение, не имеющее отношения к официальному.
С 1979г. до 1999г. он руководил Еврейским народным театром в Литве, который в советское время был единственным любительским театром в СССР. Издание газеты «Литовский Иерусалим» прекратилось в 2011г.
Отправлено 12 сентября 2011 года
Уважаемый г-н Джонатан Брент,
Я, беженец Второй мировой войны, гражданин независимой Литовской Республики, обращаюсь к Вам как житель того города, где в 1925 году впервые в мире был создан крупнейший научный центр исследования языка, литературы, культуры и истории еврейского народа – YIVO.
На протяжении более 80 лет этим институтом руководили крупнейшие еврейские ученые, известные своими научными трудами и выдающимися организаторскими способностями. Они берегли честь и достоинство YIVO и завещали это своим наследникам.
Milan Chersonski, Longtime Editor of ‘Jerusalem of Lithuania’, Releases a Public Letter to the Director of Yivo in New York
O P I N I O N
by Milan Chersonski
Milan Chersonski (Chersonskij), longtime editor (1999-2011) of Jerusalem of Lithuania, the quadrilingual (English-Lithuanian-Russian-Yiddish) newspaper of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, released to the media today a public letter to the director of Yivo in New York. Mr. Chersonski stressed that the views are his own, and do not reflect any official opinion. From 1979 to 1999, he was director of the Yiddish Folk Theater of Lithuania, which was one of the USSR’s very few Yiddish amateur theater companies. Jerusalem of Lithuania ceased publication in 2011.
The text of Milan Chersonski’s letter follows in English. Translated from Russian by Asya Fruman and approved by Milan Chersonski.
Vilnius, Lithuania, 12 September 2011
Dear Mr. Brent,
I, a World War II refugee, a citizen of the independent Republic of Lithuania, address you as a resident of the city where Yivo, the first and most important academic institute of Yiddish language, literature, culture and history, was founded.
For more than eighty years Yivo was run by the most prominent Yiddish scholars, renowned for their research works as well as for their outstanding organizational skills. They and their successors maintained Yivo’s honor and dignity.
Director of Yivo Sends Circular to Staff, Taking on the Role of Manhattan Office of Lithuanian Government’s PR Department; Calls Holocaust Survivors ‘Helpless’ and ‘Ageing’
The executive director of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research in New York circulated the following set of documents in an email sent to the entire staff of Yivo today. This circular statement has come after Paul Berger’s 7 September article in the Forward, the public letter from the last association of Lithuanian Holocaust survivors in Israel, and a public letter to Yivo’s academic advisory council from a French human rights association. The ‘attack on Yivo by Dovid Katz’, as it is acrimoniously called here, is the op-ed in DefendingHistory.com on the subject. More information and links on the various issues on the front page of DefendingHistory.com. This journal has made a series of proposals for genuine resolution of Lithuanian-Jewish issues.
[Update: On 15 September 2011 Yossi Melman released his direct reply to the attack on him in the circulated memo reproduced below.]
From: Jonathan Brent
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 10:05 AM
To: YIVO Staff
Subject: Melamed Issue in Lithuania
Holocaust Survivors from Lithuania Protest Yivo’s Decision to Honor the Foreign Minister of Lithuania at Vilna Ghetto Commemoration
The Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, one of the world’s last active organizations of Holocaust survivors from Lithuania, today released to the media (by fax) its letter of protest to the executive director of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research concerning Yivo’s recent decision to have the Lithuanian foreign minister as ‘guest of honor’ at its 22 September event to commemorate the Vilna Ghetto. The association’s letter notes that its members are ‘nearly all Holocaust survivors ourselves’.
The Society for the Promotion of the European Human Rights Model, based in France, today published its public letter to the Academic Advisory Council of the Center for Jewish History, of which the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research is a constituent component.
Society for the European Human Rights Model in France Protests Yivo’s Decision to Honor Lithuanian Foreign Minister at Vilna Ghetto Commemoration
The Society for the Promotion of the European Human Rights Model, based in France, today published on its website a statement of protest concerning the decision by the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research to host Lithuania’s foreign minister as ‘guest of honor’ at a 22 September 2011 event to commemorate the Vilna Ghetto.
The statement, signed by the society’s president, Didier Bertin, begins with the following text:
Et tu, Yivo? Holocaust Survivors Jolted by Plan for Lithuanian Foreign Minister to be ‘Guest of Honor’ at Vilna Ghetto Commemoration
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
When you have loved an institution all your life — and written over decades about its impact on the history of ideas — it becomes a responsibility, even when painful, to try to dissuade it from making a serious error that would put in jeopardy its integrity.
The Lithuanian foreign minister, who has to date not apologized publicly for his widely reported antisemitic outburst in October 2010, has been named by the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research as its ‘guest of honor’ at a concert on 22 September 2011. The remnant Jewish community of Lithuania is small and fragile. Nevertheless it responded robustly, less than a year ago, to the foreign minister’s comments and proceeded to publish its response in English, Lithuanian, Russian and Yiddish.
Yivo’s website enumerates the joint sponsorship for the 22 September 2011 event by ‘the Embassy Series in cooperation with the Lithuanian Consulate and the Lithuanian Delegation to the United Nations’. The event is being held to commemorate the anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto on 23 September 1943.
In 2011 — to mark the 70th anniversary of Hitler’s invasion, and to the chagrin of Holocaust survivors internationally — the Lithuanian government has invested in a series of events honoring the local perpetrators who began to kill Jewish neighbors in dozens of towns before the Germans even arrived (a reading list on the history is available here). The ‘logic’ has been that they were actually rebelling against Soviet rule, though it is not disputed by historians that the Soviets were obviously fleeing the Nazi invasion.