Some Simple and Constructive Solutions to the Irksome “Jewish Issues” that Continue to Haunt the Lithuanian Government and Its Agencies
Abandonment of the state’s financing of the campaign to obfuscate the Holocaust by means of its Double Genocide campaign, including “cooked” international events, conferences, film screenings and panel discussions; withdrawal of formal state support for the Prague Declaration and similar projects, closing down of the “red-brown commission” and the inauguration of an atmosphere of full freedom for citizens and organizations to support alternatives including the Seventy Years Declaration. Holocaust history to be included in historically accurate proportionality in the Genocide Museum and all relevant tourist locations that deal with genocide. Abandonment of the extensive state sponsored program to glorify the local Holocaust perpetrators of 1941, including the “Lithuanian Activist Front” (LAF), whose leaflets indicated desire to murder the country’s Jewish citizens even before arrival of Nazi forces. Rapid correction of the mischaracterization of the early local perpetrators as supposedly heroic rebels in the new basement room on the Holocaust in the Genocide Museum.
Most urgent in the correction of Holocaust distortion (and inversion) is the urgent need for removal of all street names and plaques, and public monuments and memorials to Holocaust collaborators (petition). The reversal of course became ever more urgent in 2012 with the state-sponsored reburial with full honors and accompanying glorification of the 1941 Nazi puppet prime minister and the re-launch of the red-brown commission. The summer of 2015 saw a renewed effort for the removal of plaques honoring one Holocaust perpetrator (J. Noreika) in central Vilnius. Then, 2016 saw a litany of requests that the mayor of Vilnius and the nation’s president and PM speak up for replacing a street name in the capital’s center named for another Holocaust collaborator (K. Skirpa). Last year, 2018 has been named by the nation’s parliament for an alleged Holocaust collaborator (see the critiques by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Lithuanian ethicist Evaldas Balciunas). This year, in 2019, the Genocide Center is being challenged to tell the truth about one major Holocaust collaborator, as reported in The New York Times and Chicago Tribune. It is so clearly to Lithuania’s benefit for this policy of glorifying collaborators to be reversed.
Written public apologies for the defamed and slandered Jewish Holocaust survivors, including three Israeli citizens (background here; international responses here): Dr. Yitzhak Arad; Ms. Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky; Professor Sara Ginaite; Dr. Rachel Margolis (1921-2015); Mr. Joseph Melamed (1924-2017); Professor Pinchos Fridberg. It was a major and unwelcome shock in the autumn of 2011 that a new and unseemly campaign (via Interpol) had been launched against Holocaust survivor and Litvak leader Joseph Melamed of Tel Aviv. Then came the renewed defamation of Dr. Arad in late 2012. In 2013, the head of the state’s own “red-brown commission” went on to defame Professor Pinchos Fridberg, followed up in 2015 with further defamation of Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky and in spring 2017 with a massive new campaign underpinned by a shameful public statement from the Genocide Center, and a new media frenzy. The climate would be improved exponentially by the simple gesture of a letter of apology and recognition for lifetime achievement for the inspiring contributions of these Lithuanian Jewish survivors of the Holocaust from the current president or prime minister, such as once provided by the late eminent president Algirdas Brazauskas, before the state’s campaign of defamation got underway. The ultimate issue is of unjust defamation for history and in perpetuity along with the concomitant distortion of history (see for example final part of a review of a recent major history book).
Commitment to the simple truth, for example in a low-cost Information Board or plaque about (a) the erstwhile Jewish population’s volume, cultural history and contributions; and (b) its destruction in the Holocaust in the town center of every city and town (not just at the mass grave sites “for the Jews who come in the summer”). In the case of Vilnius and Kaunas, there is an absolute need, in addition to monuments with accurate texts, for city-center Holocaust museums that are wholly accurate and not under the control of the Genocide Center, red-brown commission or other state entities dedicated in part or whole to Double Genocide revisionism.
Serious action to combat the growing state-sponsored (or state-tolerated) antisemitic activity in the country, including: mass media hate material worthy of 1930s fascist countries; city-center state-sanctioned neo-Nazi marches on national holidays in Vilnius and Kaunas; derogatory public impersonations of Jews and Roma at public Užgavėnės celebrations; court rulings legalizing swastika displays; state-sponsored institutions’ failure to disemploy their own outspoken antisemitic activists; antisemitic exhibits in the state sponsored Genocide Museum in central Vilnius and the Gruto Parkas theme park near Druskininkai; failure of officials to condemn mainstream organizations that issue antisemitic statements (e.g. the Lithuanian Human Rights Association); failure of officials to acknowledge and encourage apprehension of the culprits of major antisemitic desecration of Holocaust and Jewish sites; failure of the former foreign minister to apologize for his 2010 antisemitic tirade (reported also on LithChat), which drew a statement of protest from the small remnant Jewish community in Lithuania. Specific 2014-2015 issues: failure to call for the resignations of “Zeppelinus” and the head of the parliament’s budget committee.
Action to repeal the 2010 legislation that would punish with prison sentences up to two years those who would not agree to (in effect) equalizing Soviet and Nazi crimes by regarding the former, in Lithuania, as not amounting to genocide. This law is an affront to democracy and open society, and has already intimidated liberal and Western oriented voices in the country. The people of Lithuania deserve the same level of freedom and democracy as all other people in NATO, the European Union and the OSCE. That freedom includes the equal right to support inter alia the Seventy Years Declaration. The shocking new legislation proposed in 2018 that would ban books critical of official history must be abandoned, in the first instance in the interests of the people of Lithuania. For a list of Lithuanian residents who have suffered government-sponsored harassment, defamation or disemployment after speaking up on Holocaust issues, please see our summary.
Commitment to preserve as a world heritage site Lithuania’s last Jewish anti-Nazi underground fort which is rapidly disappearing because of failure to take elementary steps to ensure preservation for future generations.
Respect for equal human rights includes respect for Jewish heritage objects being equal to that in play for Christian and ethnic Lithuanian heritage objects. Major 2019 issue is the plan to further desecrate Vilnius’s old Jewish cemetery at Piramónt (in the Šnipiškės district) with a $25,000,000 convention center. Objections and protests have come from far and wide, including members of the local Jewish community, its rabbis, Litvak and non-Litvak rabbis internationally, and numerous Jewish and Christian friends of Lithuania. An international petition has passed the 46,000 signature mark. Twelve US congressmen have spoken up loud and clear. The simple solution is to rapidly move the convention center project to another venue in Vilnius where it can be a source of pride and joy for all the peoples of the city and beyond for many generations to come.
Vilnius, 1 August 2019
NOTE: The original (2009) version of this document was constructed in close cooperation with the late Dr. Shimon Alperovich (1928-2014), elected head of the Jewish Community of Lithuania for many years. Naturally, he does not bear responsibility for the document’s annual updates since that time but his intellectual imprint on its spirit should not go uncredited. . .