[UPDATED; ORIGINAL PUBLICATION 29 OCT. 2017]
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BELGRADE—The president of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolic, today awarded a Golden Medal for Merit to Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi hunter and its Director of East European Affairs, as part of the celebrations of Sretenje, the Serbian republic’s national day. The rationale for the award, which was granted to Dr. Zuroff for “exceptional achievements” included his “selfless dedication to defending the truth about the suffering of Jews, and also Serbs, Roma and other nations during World War II.”
For the first time, a Lithuanian author teamed up with an Israeli Holocaust scholar in search for the truth about widespread local enthusiasm, seventy-five years ago, for mass murder of civilian neighbors, and today’s failures in coming to grips with that history, in a land of hundreds of Jedwabnes. A genuine historic advance in Lithuanian-Jewish relations is seen in the startling partnership of Rūta Vanagaitė and Dr. Efraim Zuroff in Vanagaitė’s Mūsiškiai: Kelionė su priešu (“Our People: Journey with an Enemy”), published in Vilnius in January 2016. See also the media tracking page on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Operation Last Chance website.
The following listing of coverage by language (English, Lithuanian, Russian, Polish) is far from exhaustive. The humongous reaction needs to be studied in its own right.
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel Office today issued a press release (text below), including a quote from its director, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, calling on Visvaldas Matijošaitis, the mayor of Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania’s second city, to ban weddings and other celebrations from the now privatized parts of the historic Seventh Fort, where thousands of Kaunas Jews were humiliated, tortured and murdered starting with the first week of the Lithuanian Holocaust in late June 1941.
On 16 March 2012, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel Office, during his visit to Riga to protest against the Waffen SS legionnaires march, stated in an interview to Latvian State television LTV1 that the “Latvian SS Legion was not involved in the crimes of the Holocaust” but also stated, as he has done each and every year since 1999, “although these units were not involved in crimes against humanity, many of their soldiers had previously served in the Latvian security police and had actively participated in the mass murder of civilians, primarily Jews.” 
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center today praised the call issued late last week in Vilnius by the Lithuanian Jewish community to the official state Genocide and Resistance Research Center to publish its list of 2,055 Lithuanians whom it alleges participated in the mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust. In a statement issued here by its chief Nazi-hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff, who also is responsible for Eastern European Affairs, the Center noted the importance of the call by community president Faina Kukliansky to finally reveal the names on the list which was originally compiled in 2012, but has hitherto never been made public. Of particular importance was the community’s call upon the Genocide Center to verify whether any of the persons on the list were still alive, how many of them had been granted rehabilitations and whether any of these persons had received decorations from the Lithuanian government (for their anti-Soviet activities).
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center today harshly criticized the website of the Lithuanian Jewish Community for what it termed a “brazen whitewash of the Holocaust crimes of one of the perpetrators of the annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry.”
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center today released a statement reaffirming its previously reported opposition to plans to place a $25,000,000 convention and congress center on Vilnius’s old Jewish cemetery at Piramónt (in today’s Šnipiškės). International opposition to the project has been mounting in recent weeks. The text was released by Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office and head of its East European Affairs division. The text follows:
TAURAGĖ (TÁVRIK), LITHUANIA—The Simon Wiesenthal Center today praised an op-ed in the popular Lithuanian news portal Lrytas.lt by prominent journalist Vytautas Bruveris calling upon the government to finally undertake a comprehensive investigation of the scope of Lithuanian complicity in Holocaust crimes. In a statement issued here today by its chief Nazi hunter, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, who is currently in Lithuania on a research expedition, the Center expressed its appreciation and support for the content of the article and expressed the hope that the government would indeed implement the ideas raised by Bruveris.
ood afternoon to everybody. I’m very happy to be given the opportunity to address this conference, even if it has to be by film. Unfortunately I could not be present personally, but because of the importance of the topic and the rare opportunity that this is to discuss these issues in a very serious way, I am addressing you through this film.
The Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center today released the response received by its director, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, to his 3 March appeal to the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, the nation’s capital, to halt the planned neo-Nazi march in the city’s center on independence day, March 11th. The response was received on 10 March by emailed PDF, and seems to fail to address the requests in the letter that the municipality ensure that Nazi symbols, racially exclusionary slogans and glorification of Holocaust collaborators not be allowed in the city center on the national holiday.
VILNIUS—The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel Office, in Jerusalem, today issued this statement from Vilnius, where its Director for East European Affairs, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, came to monitor yesterday’s neo-Nazi march on Lithuania’s independence day, as part of his month of monitoring of all four Baltic neo-Nazi events from 16 February to 16 March.
The text of the press release follows:
VILNIUS—On the eve of the planned neo-Nazi march in central Vilnius, slated for 3 PM on March 11th, Lithuania’s independence day, the chairperson of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, Faina Kukliansky, issued a statement on the community’s website, which was followed within minutes by a statement from the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Director of East European Affairs, Dr. Efraim Zuroff. The full text of both statements follows:
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office today released the following letter from its director, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, to the mayor of Vilnius, Artūras Zuokas, concerning next week’s planned neo-Nazi march slated for the center of the city on the nation’s independence day.
TALLINN—The Simon Wiesenthal Center today harshly criticized a march held late yesterday in the center of the Estonian capital to mark Independence Day, which was sponsored by the Sinine Aratus (Blue Awakening) youth movement closely affiliated with the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE).
UPDATE: ZUROFF REPORTS IN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office here today released the text of a letter sent by director Dr. Efraim Zuroff to the mayor of Kaunas, Lithuania, Andrius Kupčinskas, concerning the neo-Nazi march scheduled for February 16th. See also Defending History’s correspondence with the mayor’s office and our background summary.
The text of the letter is as follows:
February 12, 2015
Meras Andrius Kupčinskas
Laisves al. 96 201 kab.
Dear Mayor Kupčinskas,
The Simon Wiesenthal Center today issued a statement expressing dismay that Vilnius’s state-sponsored Genocide Center (full name: Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania) was included in the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s annual program marking Holocaust Remembrance Day. The third of three events was dedicated entirely to a book produced by the Center. The only announced speaker for the event, the book’s author, is known for rejecting known elements of the historic narrative of the annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry, for his support for monuments for pro-Hitler forces, and for participation in far-right pro-fascist journals.
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center today harshly criticized steps taken by the Latvian delegation to UNESCO which effectively cancelled an exhibition about the Holocaust in Latvia scheduled to open this coming Sunday at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
SEE ALSO JTA REPORT
In a statement issued here by its Israel director, Holocaust historian Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Center called the action by the Latvians “an outrageous and ultimately futile attempt to hide the extensive Latvian collaboration with the Nazis in perpetrating Holocaust crimes” and urged UNESCO officials to consider steps to enable the exhibition, titled “Stolen Childhood: Holocaust Victims Seen by Child Inmates of the Salaspils Nazi Concentration Camp,” to be shown to the public.
According to Zuroff:
“This step by the Latvians is part of a systematic effort by the Baltic countries to hide the truth about the extensive collaboration with the Nazis of Balts in the implementation of the Final Solution in their native countries, as well as in Poland and Belarus. Instead of complaining that the exhibition risked damaging her country’s reputation, Latvia’s chief delegate to UNESCO should have welcomed an effort to expose the wartime collaboration of so many Latvians as part of an honest confrontation with her country’s bloody Holocaust past.”
For more information: 972-50-721-4156
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center today expressed outrage at the announcement of an online beauty pageant for “Miss Hitler 2014” as publicized by a neo-Nazi group on VKontakte, Russia’s largest social networking service. Contestants who are supporters of Nazism and sufficiently antisemitic may submit a Nazi-themed selfie to compete for this dubious prize.
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center today harshly criticized a decision by Hungary’s Supreme Court which recently ruled that local media cannot refer to the Jobbik party as “far right.”
UPDATE: See now Efraim Zuroff’s 14 June 2014 op-ed in the Jerusalem Post
Vitas Tomkus’s daily tabloid, Respublika has, alongside its sister title, Vakaro Žinios (Evening News, also owned by Tomkus) in many views inflicted tangible damage upon Lithuania and its image. The papers leave a long trail of racist, antisemitic, and homophobic invective, not seldom in sensationalistic formats that mirror the 1930s.
The most notorious instance was perhaps the 2004 front page featuring the unseemly cartoon of the The Jew and The Gay holding up a globe under the headline “Who runs the world?” recycled (and again, on page 1), in 2009. Vakaro Žinios (Evening News) even featured a sickening photo montage of the then head of the Jewish community Dr. Shimon Alperovich, and a Soviet-era abacus, with text suggesting the Jews were conspiring to defraud the Lithuanian people. More recently, a front page was devoted to a local rabbi with a headline about Jews not having to pay taxes. The word Žydai (Jews) alone was in massive size type, as on numerous occasions, e.g. when the paper accused “The Jews” of plotting to steal the building housing the Culture Ministry. It is almost all out of a dark satire.
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel Office issued this statement today in the wake of the passing of Dr. Shimon Alperovich, the former Chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish community (PDF here):
“It is with great sorrow that we learned of the passing last night of Dr. Shimon Alperovich, the venerable leader for many years of the Lithuanian Jewish community. Dr. Alperovich displayed great courage and fortitude in leading the renewed Lithuanian Jewish community and fought bravely against the ongoing efforts to minimize local participation in Nazi crimes and the promotion of the canard of equivalency between Nazi and Communist atrocities.
(Reposted from today’s Jerusalem Post)
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
JERUSALEM—The following statement was issued today by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office.
16 February 2014 KAUNAS, LITHUANIA—The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel Director and chief Nazi hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff yesterday afternoon led a protest against an ultra-nationalist neo-Nazi march in honor of Lithuanian Independence Day, held here, in Lithuania’s inter-war capital, whose large and important Jewish community was virtually totally annihilated during the Holocaust by the Nazis, with highly significant participation of Lithuanian volunteer collaborators.
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.
The following is the original English text, received today from the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office in Jerusalem, of its director Efraim Zuroff’s public letter to Croatian authorities, published in Croatian translation on 6 February, and referred to in a press release from SWC earlier today.
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center today urged the Croatian authorities to expedite the prosecution of Auschwitz guard Jakob Dencinger, who was discovered living in Osijek by the Croatian daily Jutarnji List late last week.
In an op-ed published on 6 Feb. in Jutarnji List by the Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, Israel director Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the importance of bringing Dencinger to justice was emphasized. The original 2 Feb. English text of Dr. Zuroff’s article appears here.
According to Zuroff:
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center today issued a statement of support for the strong protest by the leadership of the Hungarian non-Orthodox Jewish communities (Mazsihisz) against efforts by the Hungarian government’s “Veritas Institute” to falsify the narrative of the Holocaust in Hungary and attempt to hide the important role played by locals in the mass murder of Hungarian Jewry.
In a statement issued here today by its Israel director, Holocaust historian Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Center expressed its strong opposition to the recent statement by Veritas Institute director Sandor Szakaly, who referred to the summer 1941 deportation of about 16,000-18,000 Jews from Hungary to Kamenets-Podolsk (now Kamianets-Podilskyi) in German-occupied Ukraine, where the overwhelming majority were murdered, as a “police action against aliens,” when in reality it was clearly a crime against humanity and the initial massacre of the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry.
Even if I were Superman I wouldn’t be able to bring to justice all remaining Nazis. Of course not. It is impossible. Nobody can do it. But if you ask me what is better — a bit of justice or injustice, I would always say — a bit of justice. You know, to me it is clear that even when the last Nazi dies, a battle is not over, because it begins over and over again.
And it is a battle with history which is more important than people may think and understand. Facing the history with sincerity is the best way to build a better future, says Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, while answering a question on whether he thinks that he would be able to bring to justice all remaining Nazis.
In a statement issued in Jerusalem today, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel director Dr. Efraim Zuroff noted two major flaws in a recent report issued by the state-sponsored Genocide Center in Vilnius, Lithuania. The report’s key findings, presented by the Center’s Dr. Alfredas Rukšėnas, were published by the Lithuanian news portal Delfi on 25 October 2013 (English translation available in Defending History).
According to Dr. Zuroff:
“The findings of the report, as presented by the coordinator of this project, are clearly part of a systematic attempt by the Lithuanian government to minimize the role of ethnic Lithuanians in the mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust. Based on the records in our archives, I can unequivocally state, that the figure of 2,055 Lithuanians whose direct and indirect participation in Holocaust crimes was confirmed by this study, is a gross underestimate of the number of Lithuanians complicit in Shoah crimes, designed to deflect blame from local collaborators and hide the extensive scope of Lithuanian involvement in the mass murder of Jews, both in Lithuania and outside her borders.
“Also highly objectionable is the assertion by Dr. Rukšėnas that those Lithuanians who indeed murdered Jews really had no choice but to do so, having received orders to commit murder from their superiors. Besides the fact that in many cases, these superiors were themselves Lithuanians, such arguments have been consistently and unequivocally rejected by courts all over the world, starting with the Nuremberg Trials.”
Attorney Yosef Melamed asked me to update you regarding the recent events which have taken place since the last memorial event a year ago, concerning the attempts by the Lithuanian government to distort the history of the Holocaust and to minimize or deny the participation of many Lithuanians in the murder of Jews, not only in Lithuania but also beyond its borders.
ערב טוב לכולם,
עו″ד יוסף מלמד בקש ממני לעדכן אותכם לגבי האירועים שהתרחשו מאז האזכרה האחרונה לפני שנה בנסיונות של ממשלת ליטא לעוות את ההסטוריה של השואה, וכמו כן גם למזער או להעלים את השתתפותם של ליטאים כל כך רבים ברצח יהודים בליטא, אבל גם מחוץ לגבולותיה.
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center today denounced the commemoration of the “liberation” of the Latvian city of Limbazi, sponsored by the Visu Latvija political party, a member of the ruling coalition in the nation’s parliament in Riga.
A paste-in of the Facebook discussion to date on the upcoming Global Forum conferences in Jerusalem is available at:
Jerusalem—The Simon Wiesenthal Center today praised the steps taken earlier this week by the international football federation (FIFA) to punish the Hungarian Football Federation in the wake of the antisemitic behavior of many dozens of Hungarian fans at a friendly match against Israel held this past August 15 in Budapest.
From today’s Times of Israel.
The visit to Israel of a foreign prime minister used to be a big deal. That’s why there were so many photos of Burmese head of state U Nu’s visit in the early sixties. Those days, however, are long gone and today when most prime ministers visit us it’s usually of little or no interest to anybody and they get almost no coverage unless they are major world figures.
That would help explain why I only found out Tuesday morning that Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip was to be touring Yad Vashem that day.
Ostensibly, that is no occasion of any particular significance, and the visit is more or less a pro forma requirement for any head of state coming to Israel in that capacity, especially if he or she has never been here before. But that is not true in the case of the Estonian leader, who heads a country that is suffering from a severe Baltic variant of post-Communist Eastern European Holocaust amnesia. This is an intellectual disease whose four main characteristics are a systematic minimization of crimes by local Nazi collaborators, a distinct lack of political will to prosecute and punish such individuals, a tendency to glorify locals who fought alongside the Nazis – in Estonia’s case in Waffen-SS units – and a determination to promote the historical canard of supposed equivalency between Nazi and Communist crimes.
Note: The following letter to the editor in today’s edition of the Baltimore Jewish Times is republished here with the author’s permission.
According to the title chosen for Simone Ellin’s review (Oct. 19) of Ellen Cassedy’s book, We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust, the author “explores the Lithuanian Holocaust from all vantage points.” In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Cassedy neglects the most important vantage point of the history of the Shoa in Lithuania, the uniquely extensive role played by Lithuanians in the mass murder of Jews (not only in Lithuania, but also in Belarus and Poland), a fact incredibly omitted from Ellin’s review. In that respect, it is clear that Ellin was so captivated by Cassedy’s narrative that she failed to realize that the author presented her readers with a very one-sided picture of contemporary Lithuanian-Jewish relations in the wake of the Holocaust.
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.
Efraim Zuroff, the Holocaust historian, Nazi-hunter and author, today posted the following message on his Facebook page. It is reproduced here with the permission of Dr. Zuroff, who is director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Israel office and its Operation Last Chance. For more on the alleged US embassy (Vilnius) blackballing of Dr. Zuroff from an international 2011 summer program in Vilnius see here. Background to the Yivo event: see Milan Chersonski’s article.
This is a call for action to those in the NYC area. This coming Tuesday, October 16 at 7 PM, YIVO is hosting an evening at the Center for Jewish History at 15 West 16th St. entitled “Reclaiming The Jewish Narrative in Lithuania Today.” The problem is that the featured guests are all supporters of the Lithuanian government’s efforts to promote the canard of equivalency between Communist and Nazi crimes and are minimizing the huge role of Lithuanians in the mass murder of Lithuanian Jews. Anyone able to go and confront Markas Zingeris, the Lithuanian PM’s advisor on genocide, and former US ambassador to Lithuania Anne Derse whose embassy blackballed my participation in a seminar on Lithuanian Jewish history at the request of the Lithuanian authorities, will be doing a big mitzva!!!
Jerusalem—In a statement issued here today by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, Israel director Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Center denounced in the strongest terms a fake ad which appeared in the “humor pages” of the Estonian news magazine Eesti Ekspress with a photograph of concentration camp inmates under the heading: “One, two, three: Dr. Mengele’s diet pills work miracles on you. There were no fatties in Buchenwald.”
According to Zuroff:
JERUSALEM―The Simon Wiesenthal Center today called for the immediate dismissal of Dr. Stjepan Razum, director of the Episcopal Archives of the Croatian State Archives in the wake of his August 10 interview to www.hrsvijet.net in which he claimed that the figures of victims in the notorious Croatian concentration camp Jasenovac were exaggerated and a product of Serb propaganda.
In a statement issued here by its Israel director, Holocaust historian Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Center noted that such attempts to rewrite the history of World War II in Croatia by whitewashing the horrific crimes committed by the Ustasha cannot be tolerated and are inexcusable when asserted by prominent Church officials.
According to Zuroff:
The following is a transcription of the text that appeared in today’s edition of The Australian.
At the end of next week, I will have spent 32 years as a “Nazi-hunter,” trying to facilitate the prosecution of those individuals who in the service of Nazi Germany or in alliance with its regime, engaged in the persecution and/or murder of innocent civilians categorized as “enemies” of the Third Reich. During that period, I have dealt with many dozens of cases of all sorts of criminals from many different nationalities and walks of life, from mass murderers to individuals who were charged with the murder of a single person.
FROM THE SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER:
The Simon Wiesenthal Center harshly criticized this morning’s decision by the Australian High Court to block the extradition to Hungary for war crimes of suspected Nazi collaborator Charles (Karoly) Zentai.
“Today is a sad day for Australia, and for justice, but most of all for the Nazis’ victims, their families and those who empathize with their suffering. Our sympathies today are with the Balazs family, whose brother Peter was the victim of Zentai and his accomplices, and who tried to see justice achieved in this case, but were thwarted by the Australian authorities.”
— Efraim Zuroff
Unfortunately, this excellent article by David Mikics focuses almost exclusively on Poland, which for historical reasons is not the place where Snyder’s Bloodlands totally fails to present a historical account of the reality of the Holocaust. A far better place would be the Baltics in general, and Lithuania in particular. In these countries, three important phenomena took place:
I hate to spoil the Havel and the Jews festival in the wake of his demise, but I feel that it is important to point out a terrible mistake Havel made which directly relates to Jewish affairs. I am referring to his signing the Prague Declaration of June 3, 2008 (along with 39 other East European politicians and intellectuals), which basically equates Communist crimes with those of the Nazis, warns that “Europe will not be united unless it is able to unite its history [and] recognize Communism and Nazism as a common legacy”and seeks to deny the Holocaust its deserved status as a unique case of genocide.
This comment appeared in today’s Jewish Chronicle (London) and is reposted here by the author’s permission.
A financially-strapped small Eastern European country is spending tens of thousands of pounds to sponsor an extraordinarily large number of political and cultural events ― lectures, concerts, exhibitions and films ― in London next week. Why? That is the obvious question for the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, several Lithuanian cultural institutions, and local UK partners.
Under the heading No Simple Stories; Jewish-Lithuanian relationships: facing difficult questions, the events are projected as an honest attempt to address the ostensibly complex history of Lithuania’s once very large Jewish community, which was irreparably decimated during the Holocaust — 96.4% of the 220,000 Jews who lived in Lithuania under the Nazi occupation were slaughtered, with the help of a large number of local collaborators.
At an event today in Tel Aviv the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, hand-delivered a letter of protest to the Lithuanian ambassador to Israel, HE Asta Skaisgirytė Liaukšienė.
Dr. Zuroff’s letter (PDF here, and reproduced in full below from facsimile transmission), in addition to noting the neo-Nazi parade held with police help in the center of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital on March 11th this year, and the ongoing “investigation” against former Yad Vashem director Dr. Yitzhak Arad, emphasizes the shocking events earlier this month, when police in Vilnius came looking for two Jewish women Holocaust survivors and heroes of the Jewish partisan resistance against Nazi Germany, Dr. Rachel Margolis and Ms. Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky.