In the Debate to Late 2017
YEAR OF PUBLICATION VARIES.
See DH’s BOOKS SECTION
See DH’s BOOKS SECTION
Members of the US-based “Litvak SIG” (both those on the free lists, and those who paid their $36 a year dues for full membership), have been informed of the following event and the book it features, coming up this Thursday evening in San Francisco. (When Messiah will come, the subscribers to both “SIG” sections will learn about the existence of Defending History, too and its modest, but free, Litvak interest sections. We must have patience.)
Had this title been billed as a simple memoir of Cassedy’s trip to Lithuania in the summer of 2004, my criticism of her book would be tempered. She had gone to the land of her ancestors to study Yiddish at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute and to connect with her Jewish roots. The professors and mentors she encounters at the Yiddish Institute come alive, as do the various Lithuanians and Jews with whom she connects. Cassedy is a good writer who captures physical details well. But even at that, this reviewer found the memoir to be superficial.
The major problem is that Cassedy’s book is being promoted as the Bible of the Lithuanian Holocaust by advocates for the current Lithuanian government and elite establishment which aspire to paint for the outside world a distorted version of the Holocaust. A version defined in shades of gray and the confusion they generate. A version that incorporates the mythology of equivalency between crimes committed by the Nazi and Soviet occupation regimes.
SEE ALSO THE REVIEWS BY
Dovid Katz in the Algemeiner Journal
Allan Nadler in the Forward
“אַ מעדאַל פון אחשוורושן„
Vilnius, Lithuania, May 2012: Lithuanian Foreign Minister HE Audronius Ažubalis honors American historian Timothy Snyder during the week when the 1941 Nazi puppet prime minister was reburied by the state with full honors. An open letter to Prof. Snyder. Respectfully disagreeing with some aspects of his recent book.
Washington DC, Oct. 2014: the Gold Star from the embassy finally comes:
Washington, DC, March 2012: Ellen Cassedy’s book We are Here is launched at the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington DC by the nation’s ambassador, HE Zygimantas Pavilonis, who did not, however, respond to public petitions to halt his nation’s city-center neo-Nazi march that month, or subsequent requests for the removal of state sponsored memorials to Nazi killers and collaborators. Reviews of the book here and here. The Lithuanian edition is being rushed through the press. In a 2012 interview, Ms. Cassedy stated: “I went to Lithuania, hoping to decide who was right and who was wrong; to put people in a column, who was a victim, who was a killer. And then those lines began to blur.”
Recommended reviews of Ms. Cassedy’s book:
Vilnius, Lithuania, January 2012: Professor Antony Polonsky, one of the world’s leading historians of Polish Jewry, is awarded the Cross of the Officer of the Order for Merits to Lithuania by the president of the Republic of Lithuania HE Dalia Grybiauskaitė, after helping fudge the Rachel Margolis case and shifting by some degrees the acceptable definition of “genocide” to the liking of the Lithuanian government. Details here.
A few months later, the same honor guard welcomed to Lithuania, for reburial with full honors amid gala events, the remains of the 1941 Nazi puppet prime minister who signed papers confirming orders for Jewish citizens of his city, Kaunas, to be sent to a murder camp, and then for all the rest to be incarcerated in a ghetto within one month. There was no public comment from the decorated professor who went on to headline Lithuanian government sponsored PR roadshows in the United States.
Washington, DC, November 2011: Harley Felstein (right) is effectively crowned king of the (vassal) Litvaks by the Lithuanian ambassador to the United States (center) and his plenipotentiary (left). The “king” went on to co-author a PR op-ed that included a shocking pro-fascist reinterpretation of the history of the Holocaust (crediting the view that the initial murderers who unleashed the Lithuanian Holocaust were actually freedom fighters). It drew a swift response. More details in the comments section to a VilNews article, in a later discussion following a Forward article, and a DeeHist.com report.
See now Paul Berger’s exposé in the Forward (as PDF).
Vilnius, Lithuania c. 2006. Rabbi Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee receives the Cross of the Officers Award of Merit from President Valdas Adamkus, who also used his tenure in office to rehabilitate an array of local Nazi war criminals. Details here. Rabbi Baker continues to lend “Jewish cred” to the “red-brown commission.” Resignations to date from the commission and its committee of experts include Sir Martin Gilbert (London), Prof. Gershon Greenberg (Washington, DC), Prof. Konrad Kwiet (Sydney) and Prof. Dov Levin (Jerusalem).
UPDATE: In 2012, the foreign minister of Lithuania followed up the previous president’s cross with a new award : the Lithuanian Star of Diplomacy. This foreign minister’s record included antisemitic outbursts, the infamous “moustache” response to the Seventy Years Declaration, support for the state sponsored reburial with full honors of the 1941 Nazi puppet prime minister and publication of a plan to (ab)use the 2013 presidency of the European Union to push the “unified history” (i.e. red-brown-for-all) agenda.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) had this announcement on its website (screenshot of 11 October 2012):
Professor Evan Zimroth of the City University of New York (Queens College) is an accomplished author and educator with a long record of civic activity. Here she is awarded the millennial star at the Lithuanian consulate in New York by Foreign Minister Vygaudas Ušackas in September 2009 (see his 2011 published comments on the period of Nazi rule in Lithuania). She has since circulated personal attacks, complete with conspiratorial suppositions, against those who deign to criticize current Lithuanian government policies on Jewish affairs.
Vilnius, Lithuania, March 2006. Dr. Richard Maullin honored at the event to unveil the new plaque in his honor naming the main study area of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute as the Richard Maullin Study Hall (in the absence of any endowment or capital sum to the university or its institutes). Dr. Maullin and his partner Natasha (Natalia) Yatskevich, and high figures from Vilnius University were in attendance. Dr. Maullin had a year earlier purchased the “shares” of the Yiddish institute for US $25,000 from Israeli resident Mendy Cahan, a co-founder of the institute. Dr. Maullin, recruited by Lithuanian government-friendly forces after the 2008 start of “The Troubles,” failed to even respond politely to letters of concern about the institute’s purges that were coming from Western ambassadors in 2009, and from the Israeli embassy. Maullin duly fulfilled the Lithuanian government’s “requirement” that his institute be purged to staff who disagree with the state’s Holocaust revisionism policies. Since 2010, his “Yiddish institute” has had no full-time Jewish members of academic staff, no full-time Yiddish specialist, and it has become a PR tool of the far right’s history-revisionism agenda.
A further crunch came in September 2012 when Vilnius University mounted a major exhibit by an antisemitic, homophobic artist a few yards from his institute. Dr. Maullin and his rump board of three (Daniel Berg of Bloomington, Indiana, Tina Lunson of DC, and Steven Spielberg’s brother-in-law Dan Opatoshu of Sherman Oaks, California), and his Yiddish institute’s non-Yiddish speaking remaining staff, remained silent. He and Ms. Yatskevich have been feted in Vilnius on numerous occasions. In recent years, he has been appointed by California’s Governor Jerry Brown to the California Independent System Operator Board of Governors. In December 2013, Dr. Berg resigned from the Board, leaving T. Lunson, R. Maullin, and D. Opatoshu.
Finally, after five years of maintaining a “purged Yiddish institute” that exists for Lithuanian government propaganda, Maullin received the highest accolade yet for his political loyalty. He was honored by the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry (not the culture ministry….) in California where the Foreign Minister of Lithuania put the Lithuanian Diplomatic Star around his neck, and he was photographed for posterity between the foreign minister and the Lithuanian ambassador to the United States, together with Mrs. Natasha Maullin and other guests (DH report).
Yiddish professors Dov-Ber Kerler (Bloomington, Indiana; also a famous poet) and Anna Verschik (Tallinn, Estonia) are featured on t-shirts extolling (in Yiddish) “Lithuania” and “Vilnius” as part of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute where both cheerfully cover each summer for Lithuanian nationalist officials’ disemployment of the institute’s founder and only resident Yiddish professor who was for years a Yiddish teacher of both t-shirt honorees. The political instrumentalization of Yiddish by far right state-sponsored bodies remains a concern for the fragile field of Yiddish studies, particularly in Eastern Europe.
Note: The following letter to the editor appeared in today’s Baltimore Sun. It is republished here by permission of the author. [Update of 2 May 2012: The editor of VilNews, in a 29 April article, said of the letter’s author: “In this case, she goes too far.” This in turn elicited a response from the editor of DefendingHistory on 1 May.]
In response to Ellen Cassedy’s “We are here” (April 18), I offer a second opinion.
Can there be hope for a country that claimed the highest percentage of Jewish deaths in all of Europe? More than 95 percent of Lithuania’s Jews were annihilated — most of them murdered by Lithuanian collaborators who began the frenzied executions of their Jewish neighbors even before the Germans had marched into Lithuania. Yes, there can be hope — if lessons are learned from their past and if the truth is faced by this nation which is now an EU/NATO democracy.