Jewish and Holocaust Polemics Flare up in Vilnius



There has been a two-pronged assault today in the mainstream mass media in Lithuania on the tiny but vibrant Jewish Community of Lithuania. The community has been busy in recent days with concluding Chanukah festivities and moving on one day later to a photography contest for young people. The judges include some of the top Lithuanian art photographers, and the event, popular on Facebook, features Jewish and Lithuanian photography lovers enjoying themselves together in harmony.

But while such wholesome activities quietly continue to fill with cultural and communal events the tranquil, dignified  and bustling premises of the Jewish Community on Pylimo Street in central Vilnius, the local Hate Industry, comprising nationalist antisemites, and their tiny handful of elite  ‘useful’ Jewish spokespeople, have been smearing the nation’s very small Jewish community. The once renowned Lithuanian Jewish community was nearly entirely wiped out during the Holocaust when the country had the highest rate of murder (around 95%), in all Europe, of its Jewish population. This was principally because of massive voluntary local participation in the killings.

Today, Artūras Račas, the head of the powerful media organization BNS (Baltic News Service), came out with a new broadside called ‘Hysteria over “Holocaust Denial.” Enough already!?’ It appeared on his blog, but because of his position as the head of BNS, on which virtually all news organizations rely for news of the Baltics, it carries a different weight than the mass of antisemitic or Holocaust-obfuscating personal comments that proliferate.

Mr Račas has consistently tried to whip up public animosity toward Jewish Holocaust Survivors who are alive because they joined the anti-Nazi resistance and are heroes of the free world. In August 2008, as head of BNS’s Business Division, he repeated as facts the far right’s accusations against Holocaust Survivors Dr Yitzhak Arad, Ms Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, and Dr Rachel Margolis, helping strengthen the ‘guilt by conviction by the antisemitic press’ tendency that has brought so much dishonor to Lithuania. In May 2009, by then director of BNS, he called, without a shred of evidence, for war crimes trials for Arad and Brantsovsky. There was complete and utter silence from the smirking Double Genocide Industry that continues to obtain grants from the West for ‘Holocaust Studies’. Meanwhile, the travesty that has become known as Blaming the Victims continues unabated in the public arena, to the utter silence of the ‘special prosecutors’ who are themselves closely linked to the antisemitic Genocide Research Center and Museum.

In his newest article, which appeared today (English translation here), Račas writes that he is ‘disgusted’ by the essay by Andrius Bielskis, one of Lithuania’s foremost champions of human rights, intercommunity tolerance and liberalism. Bielskis’s essay, published on Delfi.lt is titled ‘If we don’t recognize the Holocaust, we won’t take responsibility for the tragedy’. (Full English translation of Andrius Bielskis’s essay here.)

‘To deny the Holocaust, not to be able to ask forgiveness, and not to be able to condemn it, doesn’t just insult the memory of its victims. It also doesn’t allow us to learn from historical mistakes and tragedies, which are also our own mistakes and our own tragedies.’

—Andrius Bielsksis on Delfi.lt

10 Dec 2010

‘I am reading this and I am becoming — how do I say this nicely… Disgusted.’

—Artūras Račas on Racas.lt

10 Dec. 2010

Diplomatic observers were gratified that Lithuanian and Jewish forces for tolerance and dialogue continued to work together visibly, earlier this week convening a public discussion conducted in an amicable atmosphere and reported in this journal by Algirdas Davidavicius, another Lithuanian champion of intercommunity relations and tolerance.

Many of the recent discussions have made reference to the ongoing Holocaust Denial scandal that started with a publication in Veidas magazine.

When it comes to the question of the Double Genocide paradigm legislated as absolute truth as a point of criminal law last June, Račas’s article follows ultranationalist writers in turning the issue around  to one of complaint against reactions in the world against the rampant Holocaust distortion in Lithuania (rather than against the now illegal status in Lithuania of asserting that there was one genocide here, and that this was the Holocaust). Račas’s article makes mocking reference to the recent statement by seven European ambassadors in Vilnius, whom he accuses of ‘acting rather hysterically’ (for having issued a polite letter to government officials).

Andrius Bielskis, a member of the New Left 95 group, has won widespread acclaim this week for his courage in standing up and publishing in Delfi.lt. There was little surprise that a far-right member of the establishment, in this case the director of BNS, quickly responded with the less-than-journalistically elegant terms ‘disgust’ and ‘hysteria’. The upshot is that Lithuanian liberals now risk rapid and severe defamation  in mainstream venues if they speak out freely and openly on Jewish issues.

Day’s Second Volley came from prime minister’s Jewish advisor on restitution affairs

Also today, a classic antisemitic attack appeared in the mainstream daily Lietuvos rytas, accusing the Jewish Community of Lithuania, which represents over 90% of the remaining Jews in the country, of being under the control of Moscow, ‘in league with enemies of Lithuania’, and in fact conspiring with Russia to undermine Lithuania. This, the very worst calumny conceivable against the Jewish community in this part of the world, is moreover cited as an argument against the Community benefiting from any future restitution of communal Jewish properties that were looted. Not coincidentally, this comes on the eve of a crucial vote in parliament on the long-delayed restitution bill. Lithuania is the only country in the Eastern part of the EU that has failed to settle this issue many years ago.

The remarkable aspect of this attack on the Jews of Lithuania is that it came not from a nationalist who runs a news agency, but from one of the handful of Really Useful Local Jews who serve the interests of the right-wing government forces who are hoping to divert restitution from the living Jewish community, which they seek to delegitimize, and toward what is popularly called a Vilna Ghetto Disneyland Theme Park that the living Jewish community has rejected and lambasted.

Mr Arkadijus Vinokuras, the author of the attack, entitled ‘Compensation and Trustworthiness’,  that appeared this morning in the nation’s most prestigious daily, Lietuvos rytas, is a close confidant of right-wing Lithuanian parliament member Emanuelis Zingeris. Mr Zingeris resigned from the Jewish Community in the late 1990s, and went on to join the ultranationalists who produced and signed the Prague Declaration. It is the flagship statement of the Double Genocide movement.

Although having no community of any kind with which to ‘compete’  in Vilnius with the Jewish Community of Lithuania — no address, no activities, no support, no activities, not a single ‘member’ — Mr Vinokuras, a professional journalist, clown and humorist, has led the government’s broadsides against the Jewish community for years now, in an apparent attempt to thwart the property restitution bill slated to be voted on very soon by the country’s parliament. In a recent statement to DefendingHistory.com (published in full), Mr Vinokuras describes himself as ‘public advisor to the Prime Minister of Lithuania on the issue of Compensation of Religious Jewish Property’. He went on to explain that ‘the public consultant’s responsibility first of all is to defend the public interest’.

Today’s assault, which implicates the Jewish Community in secret subservience to Moscow, is the most offensive Mr Vinokuras has ever produced. One diplomat called it ‘a gift from heaven to the far right; they now have a Jew saying that the Jewish community is a front for Russia and communism.’

‘This dangerous collaboration by the leaders of the association called Jewish Community of Lithuania with forces hostile to Lithuania is nothing other than the compromising of all Jews in Lithuania.’

—Arkadijus Vinokuras in Lietuvos rytas

10 Dec 2010

The political upshot, shocking for many observers, is that the prime minister’s official adviser on Jewish restitution issues considers it to be in the ‘public interest’ to publish in the nation’s main daily the ‘fact’ that the internationally admired Jewish Community of Lithuania is a tool of Moscow and collaborator with enemies of Lithuania, the precise opinion of the country’s hardline antisemitic establishment which frequently expresses the same views in a less sophisticated turn of phrase (e.g. ‘All Jews are communists and got what they deserve’). Moreover, it is a rhetoric that strikes fear into the hearts of elderly Jewish citizens who enjoy immensely the facilities, projects and services of the Jewish Community in Lithuania. JCL is the only Jewish community address in Vilnius, excepting the synagogue and the separate religious community of Chabad-Lubavitch.

The Jewish Community of Lithuania, referring to inaccurate Russian press statements, rapidly issued a statement countering the wave of antisemitic sentiment unleashed by Mr Vinokuras’s broadside. The statement refers proudly to the universal loyalty of Lithuania’s Jews to the state’s independence, democracy and future, to which the community contributes in a large variety of ways.

As ever here, there is a Double Genocide Industry twist to events. Vinokuras’s attack against the Jewish community takes as ‘evidence’ the opinions of Arvydas Anušauskas, chairman of the parliament’s National Security and Defense Committee, who has a long history of close involvement with the Genocide Research Center, itself closely involved with the ‘special prosecutors’ who have failed to punish a single Nazi war criminal and have failed to bring to a close with an apology their kangaroo investigation of Dr Rachel Margolis and the other Holocaust Survivors absurdly defamed.

But Mr Anušauskas’s recent statement (1 Dec 2010) did not even mention the Jewish community. It is about the political group headed by left-wing activist Algirdas Paleckis. Vinokuras, on the basis of an alleged visit by Paleckis to the building of the Jewish community for some book launch event or other, succeeds in conflating Paleckis with the Jewish Community, to the point where it seems that  Anušauskas had meant to include the Jewish community in his own dire statement on threats to Lithuania’s security.

Diplomatic observers find it disconcerting that Mr Anušauskas’s office did not immediately issue a denial or statement of clarification on Vinokuras’s interpretation, published this morning in the nation’s most prestigious national daily. Nor has the office of the prime minister, Andrius Kubilius, issued any statement on whether Mr Vinokuras continues to  have  his confidence as someone who reliably represents ‘the public interest’  as the prime minister’s official advisor on restitution issues.

Meanwhile, in faraway Rechovot, Dr Margolis, a Holocaust historian and f0rty year veteran of Vilnius University’s biology department, who recently turned 89, dreams of seeing her native Vilnius one more time.

And here in Vilnius, Jewish and Lithuanian photography enthusiasts continue to work together in harmony at the beloved Jewish community center.

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