Yivo Manipulated?

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.

Perpetrators glorified

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.

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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:

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Society for the European Human Rights Model Publishes its Letter to CJH’s Academic Council


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.

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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’.

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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

Dear Staff,

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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

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.

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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).

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Yossi Melman of Haaretz Responds to Yivo Director’s Attack


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
Subject: outrageous

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A Tale of Two Brents?



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?

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Leyzer Ran Family Writes Collective Open Letter on Yivo Debacle


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.

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BNS on Foreign Minister’s Reaction to Protests by Holocaust Survivors


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.

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Yivo: Rolling Coverage to 23 September 2011


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

DETAILS HERE

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Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Gloats, as Yivo’s Position Continues to Confuse


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

— Jonathan Brent, Executive Director of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, in a 13 September 2o11 memo sent to all members of his staff

 

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 parliamentPDF 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 2010Alfa.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).

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Tripletalk on the New ‘Looted Books Room’ at the National Library in Vilnius


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.

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Lithuania Assaults Holocaust Memory



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.

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Yivo and Lithuania: Rolling summary coverage to 9 Nov 2011



Will Yivo Capitulate to East European ‘State Looting’ of its Archives in Vilnius? Provide Name as Cover for Holocaust Obfuscation & Antisemitism?Continue reading

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Yivo Director’s Statements on Legal Swastikas in Lithuania, Plus Some Facts


 [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.”

— Jonathan Brent, Executive Director of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, in a 9 September 2o11 memo sent to members of his staff

———

“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…

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