Lithuania’s major daily newspaper, Lietuvos rytas — Lrytas.lt — made some local journalistic history today with an extensive article by Dovilė Tuskenytė on the dangerous mainstreaming of neo-Nazism in the country that succeeded in its principal interview in eliciting the unvarnished tone of the movement. The article’s title in translation: ‘Lithuanian Neo-Nazis, who use paganism for cover, work in state institutions and claim the swastika is only a historical symbol’. There was general agreement in the human rights community that the article represented an important advance and that its author is to be congratulated. An English translation is available here.
The article is accompanied by a series of 23 photographs making very clear the nature of ‘national patriots’ involved in neo-Nazi activity, as well as the intent of the ‘recycled pagan symbols’ used nowadays by neo-Nazi groups. It follows the recent Delfi.lt article exposing government financial support for such groups.
Ms. Tuskenytė’s article contains an interview with the state-sponsored Genocide Center’s Ričardas Čekutis, who continues to be listed as a ‘chief specialist’ by the Center, some five months after serving as one of the organizers and leaders of a neo-Nazi march through the center of the nation’s capital, Vilnius on 11 March. His statements to Ms. Tuskenytė include the following:
“Čekutis says that the world visions of the EU and Adolf Hitler are identical. Čekutis agrees with neo-Nazis on another issue: that there was no Holocaust. The Lithuanian Nationalist Center chairman says that the victims from all countries in World War II need to be counted, and that most of them lost the same amount of people as the Jews who were murdered. He also explains that the figure of victims in the millions is nothing more than a myth created for contemporary Jews to receive different kinds of compensation from different countries.”
Čekutis’s statements quoted include attacks on Dr. Shimon Alperovich, the elected 82 year old chairman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, MEP Professor Leonidas Donskis and MP Emanuelis Zingeris. Dr. Alperovich is attacked for an alleged ‘small business’ approach to the Holocaust; Professor Donskis is accused of being half-Jewish, and there is a slur on the late father of Emanuelis Zingeris who was a proud veteran of the Soviet army who helped liberate Lithuania and Europe from Nazi rule during World War II.
To foreign observers and local human rights advocates, the official legal permits granted to the neo-Nazis to march on the capital’s central boulevard on its independence day, starting in 2008, which have attracted more participants each year, are an alarming signal of official acquiescence to the far right, even as Jewish, Yiddish and Holocaust events are put on, with state support, for the benefit of diplomats and gullible foreign Jewish groups to serve as cover, some would say, not only for the toleration of antisemitism, racism and neo-Nazism in the country, but for the government’s own policies of Holocaust Obfuscation which have included a campaign against Holocaust survivors who joined the resistance, an effort by state prosecutors that has elicited much international opprobrium. Lithuania has also invested heavily in the international Double Genocide movement.
The Genocide Research Center, which has until recently continued to enjoy the prestige of direct and indirect partnerships with the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, Yad Vashem and the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius, despite the antisemitic institutions it runs in Lithuania — the Genocide Museum and Gruto Parkas — and its own profile, recently co-organized a conference glorifying as freedom fighters the Lithuanian Activist Front and other local Holocaust perpetrators of 1941 (reports here and here). It also supported a ‘documentary’ film dedicated to the same end (reports here and here).
Very recently, the neo-Nazi ‘Lithuanian Nationalist Center’, which Čekutis helps run, published a public enemies list that included writers, human rights advocates and a poet who is an official advisor to the Jewish Community of Lithuania. Čekutis’s own articles appear in mainstream media, for example the news portal Delfi.lt. A recent interview was published by Diena.lt.
Ms. Tuskenytė’s article contains a strong opposing interview with Lithuanian human rights champion and political scientist Algirdas Davidavičius. Here too, there has been widespread admiration for the journalist’s choice of a real human rights advocate to express the contrary opinion. Incidentally, Mr. Davidavičius’s 2010 contribution to DefendingHistory.com had to be withdrawn after untoward threats last December.
Members of the Jewish community contacted today were grateful to the country’s main newspaper for its long-overdue expose of neo-Nazism in the country that is directly or indirectly supported by the state. They regretted only that nobody at the Jewish Community of Lithuania had been contacted for a comment, just the Jewish member of parliament, Emanuelis Zingeris, who is the only Jewish signatory to the 2008 Prague Declaration, and who had proved his own right-wing credentials by championing the Holocaust-diminishing document in the Lithuanian parliament and continuing, in 2011, to be ‘wheeled out’ at European Union meetings in support of Double Genocide. He formally quit the Jewish community in the late 1990s. It was considered strange that no other member of parliament could be found to decry and disown the neo-Nazism of the Lithuanian Nationalist Center or its chairman, a task for the next article.
MP Zingeris is the only Jew in Lithuania closely associated with the Genocide Research Center, which continues to employ Mr. Čekutis, his adversary in the forum of today’s article. The Center’s primary stalking house in the international community is the closely associated ‘Red-Brown Commission’ (official name: International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania). Mr. Zingeris is the founding chairman of the Commission, from which Dr. Yitzhak Arad (Tel Aviv), Sir Martin Gilbert (London), Professor Gershon Greenberg (Washington DC), and Professor Konrad Kwiet (Sydney) have all resigned on principle. Most recently, the Commision’s executive director was exposed by DefendingHistory.com via an English translation of a speech given in the Lithuanian Parliament in late June 2011 at a conference organized by the Genocide Center (reports here and here). The ironic upshot is that Mr. Čekutis’s Genocide Center and Mr. Zingeris’s Red-Brown Commission maintain very close ties.
As for Mr. Čekutis, his continuing employment at the state institute entrusted to study the history of genocide in the country, all these months after leading a neo-Nazi march, is perhaps the most shocking part of the story, in the country with the highest proportion of murder of its Jewish population in all of Holocaust-era Europe, a function of the massive voluntary local collaboration and participation in the genocide. For introductory materials on the Lithuanian Holocaust, see here and here; a map still in progress is here.
A follow-up article might investigate the damage done to Lithuania by the court ruling in 2010 that legalizes the swastika as a symbol of the nation, in effect bringing state law into line with neo-Nazi arguments and antisemitic sentiment.