DIGNIFIED MORNING PROTEST
Member of the UK Parliament, human rights champion and author RH Denis MacShane (right), led a good-natured moment of protest Monday morning, 7 February in London at the Lithuanian Embassy, 84 Gloucester Place, London W1.
MP MacShane presented a letter of protest to the embassy, drafted and organized by Professor Danny Ben-Moshe (center), who flew in from Melbourne to be at the event. At left is Danny Stone, director of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism. The letter was signed by 21 people, including academics, political figures, those involved with the fight against antisemitism, representatives of Litvak organizations, and Lithuanian Holocaust survivors. The ambassador declined a written request to meet to discuss the letter.
PRESS: REPORT IN THE JERUSALEM POST ♦ IN THE ECONOMIST (REPLY HERE) ♦ ALFA.LT (8 Feb) ♦ BNS ♦ CLEMENS HENI (DH) ♦ DOVID KATZ (DH) ♦ LRYTAS.LT ♦ JONNY PAUL (JP) ♦ SIMON ROCKER I (JC) ♦SIMON ROCKER II (JC) ♦ SIMON ROCKER III (JC) ♦ NITZA SPIRO (JN) ♦ EFRAIM ZUROFF (JC)
The Holocaust Survivor community had responded with perplexity to news that the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, which oversaw a new attempt in December 2010 to insert ‘Double Genocide’ and downgrade the Holocaust in European Union law, was now funding — and keeping tight control over — a colloquium on ‘Jewish-Lithuanian Relations Between Coexistence and Violence’ on 6-7 Feb 2011 in London (poster here). See our earlier report here.
- No Litvaks included
- in a London conference on Litvaks.
- Declared extinct in 2011?
In the course of its planning for a week of lavish Jewish events, the Ministry has, it seems, entangled major London players, including University College London (UCL), the Warburg Institute, Spiro Ark, and West London Synagogue, none of whose leaders were aware that sophisticated political manipulation was in play. At one point in January, there was a threat to rescind the UCL conference’s entire Lithuanian Foreign Ministry funding if the former Vilnius professor of Yiddish, a UCL alumnus (now editor of this journal) would be invited, as had been suggested by the chair of the Dept of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at UCL.
At the same time, there is no question about the eminence and scholarship of a number of the famous scholars brought from around the world to the conference; it is rather about the ongoing government machinations to manipulate history on the very points being focused upon, and the absence of any who have dared disagree in public.
The head of Spiro Ark, obviously with no ill intent, provided an inaccurate account of the outbreak of the Lithuanian Holocaust in London’s Jewish News, one that coincides with that put forward by state institutions in Lithuania. Within Lithuania, various contortions are put forward to try to mask the fact that barbarity and murder of innocent Jewish neighbors broke out in many localities, in the days from 22 June 1941 onward, well before the Germans arrived (or set up their rule), at the hands of Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) ‘rebels’, who are being glorified by the Lithuanian government, and in state-funded museums, especially in 2011 (for 70th anniversary events), even as money is poured into lavish events in Vilnius, Jerusalem, New York and now, London.
The state-financed participants include the current director of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, who some hold responsible for purging staff who spoke out for Holocaust Survivors who have been harassed by kangaroo ‘war crimes investigations’ for a period that recently hit the one thousand day mark. As a result, the Yiddish institute now has no Yiddish specialists.
But the attempted London ‘graywash’ was slightly stymied. Thanks to swift and decisive last-minute action by Professor Ada Rapoport-Albert, head of the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at UCL, plans were made in the last days of January, at Professor Rapoport-Albert’s suggestion, for the brief and dignified reading of a polite letter of protest addressed to the Lithuanian government. Professor Rapoport-Albert had offered to read out the letter herself, but as its primary author, Professor Danny Ben-Moshe of Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, flew in for the week’s events, it was agreed that he would read it at the conference.
Professor Ben-Moshe read out the letter at the ‘War, Occupation, Holocaust’ session of the UCL conference on Monday afternoon 7 February to what witnesses called ‘a rude reception rather well-prepared’. There was particular surprise that leading historian of Polish Jewry Professor Antony Polonsky of Brandeis, the session’s chairman, instead of rising to dignified chairmanship, himself attacked the document and its reader without letting Professor Ben-Moshe respond on behalf of its 21 signatories, a sad sight at a Western academic conference. In the spirit of the (some call it: Soviet-style) Vilnius ‘Dirty Tricks Department’, there were also comments about the alleged psychological instability of the signatories. At a UCL conference. In London.
Indeed, the final conference program, on UCL letterhead, released at 16:28 London time on 3 February 2011 (available here), made no mention of the letter’s reading that had been agreed with the head of Jewish Studies at UCL, or indeed anything that was not part of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry approved listings. Serious questions about manipulation of academic freedom have come up, with passionate views on both sides of the argument.
The public letter was signed by, among others, Professor Rapoport-Albert, a leading historian; the major historian of the Lithuanian Holocaust, Professor Dov Levin (Jerusalem); head of the last surviving association of Lithuanian Holocaust Survivors, Joseph Melamed (Tel Aviv).
British personalities who signed the petition include Lord Janner of Braunstone, chair of the Holocaust Educational Trust; MP Denis MacShane, author of Globalising Hatred: The New Antisemitism (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 2008); and Rabbi Barry Marcus, rabbi of London’s Central Synagogue and an eminent Holocaust educator. He is the son of the late Lithuanian rabbinic scholar, Rabbi Nochim Leib Marcus of Mir (1915–1986), author of a unique 1938 book of Yiddish verse and essays recently rediscovered for Litvak Studies.
The conference program for London excluded scholars from (and representatives of) the Lithuanian Jewish Community as well as from Vilnius’s Green House(Holocaust museum). Moreover, there were no speakers from anywhere (including courageous Lithuanians!) who have spoken out against state policy on the Holocaust, whether on the Prague Declaration, the abrogation of freedom of speech on the subject, the Double Genocide industry, or the defamation of Jewish partisan veterans. Representatives of the Holocaust Survivor community too were shut out of an event whose title euphimized the Holocaust into — ‘violence’.
In a recently published op-ed, Berlin-based antisemitism scholar Dr Clemens Heni found it ‘remarkable’ that scholars would accept funding or perks from today’s Lithuanian Foreign Ministry. Back in 2010, the same Ministry invested much time, resources and energy in its ‘Fake Litvak Forum’ (see here and here), boasting that ‘rich Litvaks’ abroad had been found to finance the scheme.