VILNIUS—A prominent Vilnius academic known for Holocaust “fixing”, “proud” antisemitism, and a desire to make a national holiday of the day the anti-Jewish violence broke out in Lithuania in 1941, Dr. A. Liekis, returned this week to the fray with a mainstream media attack on the presence of “foreign Jewish” scholars in the state’s history commission, known formally as “The International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania, and less formally, and for brevity, as the “Red-Brown Commission.”
Tag Archives: Vilnius Yiddish Institute
VILNIUS—Beware of any academic conference hosted by a nation’s parliament. This isn’t about Lithuania, the Baltics, or Eastern Europe. It’s about the intellectual independence and academic integrity of bona fide academic conclaves anywhere. There are elementary questions. Was there a public call for papers? Was there an academic committee established to select those papers by the most competent specialists on the actual topic of the conference? An academic committee that would guard against the petty jealousies, politics of revenge and personal exclusions, as well as larger political correctnesses or state-sponsored-agency attempts to predetermine the proceedings or (ab)use them for governmental PR? Is the conference a free tribune for the exchange of ideas in an atmosphere of collegiality and mutual respect? One where scholars of opposing views can thrash it out, robustly and publicly — without the loss of interpersonal respect — to yield positive results for the area of human enquiry to which the conference was dedicated in the first place. One of the ironies is that Vilnius is nowadays host to some of the world’s best (and most academically free) conferences in an array of fields, both in the humanities and the sciences. That Soviet-style rigging should survive in the case of Judaic studies, of all things, will itself be studied one day.
OPINION | RED-BROWN COMMISSION (PAGE) | RB COMMISSION (SECTION) | DOUBLE GENOCIDE | VILNIUS YIDDISH INSTITUTE
VILNIUS—The news portal Delfi.lt reported yesterday on Lithuanian sharpshooting star Ronaldas Račinskas making a hit at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics not only for his talents with a rifle, but on his work back home for which the headline calls him the “Nazi-Soviet hunter,” in the latest of a long series of Holocaust terms appropriated and ably recast by the Red-Brown movement’s PR wizzards. Besides heading a commission that now includes the gentleman who launched the campaign, a decade ago, to “hunt” Holocaust survivors who joined the Jewish partisans, his “Nazi and Soviet hunting” refers to his role as Director of the Secretariat of that comission, popularly known as the Red-Brown Commission, a state-financed entity that is one of the main European engines for spreading the revisionist far right’s “Double Genocide” model of World War II history. In that history, as an example, those who liberated Auschwitz are declared to be equal in principle to those who committed the genocide there. Moreover the movement’s primary document, the 2008 Prague Declaration (PD), insists that all European “minds” accept the revised history and regard Nazi and Soviet crimes as equal, a stance widely considered to be a camouflage for obfuscating and diminishing the Holocaust. The response in the European arena came in the form of the 2012 Seventy Years Declaration (SYD).
SEE ALSO: JEWISH RESOURCES IN VILNIUS
IN ALPHABETIC ORDER:
Center for Studies of the Culture and History of East European Jews
Universiteto 7, Vilnius 01122, Lithuania
International Yiddish Center of the World Jewish Congress
Vienuolio 4-7, Vilnius 01104, Lithuania
With additional city center premises at Gedimino 24
Judaica Research Center at the National Library of Lithuania (in partnership with the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, NY)
c/o Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania, Gedimino 51, Vilnius 01504, Lithuania
Vilnius Jewish Public Library
Gedimino 24 (courtyard), Vilnius
Vilnius Yiddish Institute
Daukantas Courtyard, Vilnius University, Universiteto 3, Vilnius 01513, Lithuania
UPDATE: VYI was closed down by its director Dr. S. Liekis in 2018-2019. There is widespread hope the institute’s rich library, donated by hundreds of generous donors over many years, will rapidly be transferred to one of the functioning Judaica libraries in Vilnius, hopefully the National Library where local and international readers alike can access these materials.
O P I N I O N
LOS ANGELES—Richard A. Maullin, elected less than a year ago as the chair of the California Independent System Operator (ISO) Board, was lavishly honored here on May 31st by both the Lithuanian ambassador to the United States and the Foreign Minister of Lithuania. The latter, in the tradition of royalty, meticulously placed the Lithuanian Diplomatic Star around the neck of Dr. Maullin, a major American pollster and principal of the LA polling and public policy research firm FM3, often still known by its older name Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.
Its Prehistory (1990-1999), History (1999-2010) and Posthistory (2010-2018) from the Year of Lithuania’s Declaration of Independence Onward
CAN GOVERNMENT AGENCIES STILL WRITE INDIVIDUALS OUT OF HISTORY IN POST-SOVIET SPACE? DO VILNIUS UNIVERSITY’S DEANS AND RECTOR APPROVE OF THE PRACTICE? CAN A PAST PROFESSOR WITH A PERFECT RECORD OVER 11 YEARS (NO COMPLAINTS, NO INCIDENTS) BE WRITTEN OUT OF THE UNIVERSITY’S HISTORY AND DEFAMED IN THE UNIVERSITY’S NAME ON ORDERS OF SOMEONE AT THE “INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION FOR THE EVALUATION OF THE CRIMES OF THE NAZI AND SOVIET REGIMES IN LITHUANIA” (THE “RED-BROWN COMMISSION“)?
A “for the record” page in progress, developed in response to repeated public statements by the current director of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, a member of the state-sponsored Commission on Nazi and Soviet crimes, claiming that Defending History’s editor (a) was never a professor at the university, (b) if he was an elementary Yiddish alphabet teacher paid by some surfers in California, he got fired for not turning up to work. Further documents are being processed for inclusion in the bizarre but curiously telling chapter of the history of Yiddish Studies in the 21st century. The political manipulation (ranging from West European far-left to East European far-right) of Yiddish-less “Yiddish” is a theme in the final chapter of Yiddish and Power (Palgrave Macmillan 2015) by the Yiddishist in question, Dovid Katz.
Dovid Katz’s visit to Lithuania (Dec. 1990) results in an agreement between Vilnius and Oxford universities, reported in the New York Times in April 1991. Among the first Vilnius students to benefit from scholarships for Oxford one-year programs and summer courses are S. Liekis, V. Davoliute, T. Balkelis, and others who went on to academic prominence in Lithuania and internationally.
Dovid Katz leaves his visiting professorship at Yale University (1998-1999, with invitations to stay on in various capacities) to accept Vilnius University’s invitation to take up a new professorship in Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture, and to serve as founding director of the university’s Center for Stateless Cultures. Takes up the new post in Vilnius on 1 September 1999.
Report (see 2nd item) in the journal Lietuvos Istorijos studijos, published by the Faculty of History at Vilnius University.
Presentation to the Habilitation committee considering the advancement of Dr. Sarunas Liekis at Vilnius University, June 2005. After the Habilitation, there were boasts that the candidate had wrongfully told the committee that the referee (who had to be from an outside university), was employed at Manchester University [?!]. There are calls for this Habilitation procedure to be investigated thoroughly.
October 2005 entry in the Vilnius Yiddish Institute’s newsletter:
Letter from Professor Alfredas Bumblauskas, Faculty of History, Vilnius University (7 February 2006), in English translation, followed by a facsimile of the Lithuanian original:
- Professor Dr. A. BUMBLAUSKAS
- Vice-Dean of the Faculty of History, Vilnius University
- Vilnius University
- History Faculty
- University Street 7
- Vilnius 01513, Lithuania
- February 7, 2006
- I have known Professor Dovid Katz since 1998. Between 1999 and 2001 D. Katz founded and headed the Center for Judaic Studies and Studies of Cultural Communities at Vilnius University. At the current time he works at Vilnius University, where he is director of research at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute and teaches.
- I have extraordinary esteem for this exceptional specialist in Yiddish language, culture and literature who has achieved global recognition in academic circles, and whose work ensures the high quality and excellence of the Judaic Studies program at Vilnius University.
- I attest that over eight years of working together with Professor D. Katz, I have come to know him not just as a great scholar and a real expert in his field, but also as an especially dutiful and scrupulous person and colleague who has sought only the highest of standards in his work and in his professional relationships.
- A. Bumblauskas
2006 Nostrification certificate of professor’s original University of London doctorate (confirming the 2005 Lithuanian Academic Council’s nostrification enabled to enable certification as examiner for Dr. Liekis’s progression to the habilitation process):
18 September 2006 official Vilnius University course description for “History and Culture of East-Central European Jewry before 1939” in the Faculty of History. As of 1 April 2015 on Vilnius University’s website.
2008 Vilnius University summary of a 2006 project of nine of the university’s academics. As of 1 April 2015, online at Vilnius University’s website (scroll to: 2006).
On 30 March 2008, Prof. Katz alerts the Vilnius Yiddish Institute’s board to a series of issues, including defamation and/or attempted prosecution of Jewish partisans (including the VYI’s own librarian), the campaign of Holocaust Obfuscation, and the disturbing then-brand-new phenomenon of a neo-Nazi march, replete with shouts of Juden raus! being allowed to take over the central boulevard of Vilnius on Lithuania’s March 11th independence day. The memo was titled “Can a Yiddish Tree Grow in Vilnius (in a Time of Holocaust Obfuscation)?”
In April 2008, the memo is somehow leaked to the state-sponsored “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania” and the VYI’s executive director, Prof. S. Liekis insists on a meeting with the commission’s executive director whom he introduces as his cousin and shooting-range partner, Mr. Ronaldas Racinskas. During the meeting, Mr. Racinskas threatens Prof. Katz, resulting in a formal letter of notification on 21 April 2018 to the American Embassy’s political officer Joe Boski. At Prof. Katz’s recommendation, the American Embassy shows support for the defamed [at that point in the media only] Jewish partisans by awarding Fania Brantsovsky a certificate of achievement on 30 April 2008. Less than a week later…
On 7 May 2008, Prof. Katz alerts his colleagues to the news that police had two days earlier come looking for the institute’s librarian, a veteran of the Jewish partisan resistance against the Nazis. In subsequent weeks, he works closely with Western ambassadors to counter the campaign against Jewish partisans, one prominent result being Irish Ambassador Donal Denham’s 3 June 2009 reception for the accused Jewish partisan, attended by most of the Western diplomatic community.
During the 2008 Vilnius summer course, to which Prof. D. Katz recommended his former doctoral student (at Oxford), Prof. D.B. Kerler of Indiana University (whom he recommended for that position) to become a teacher, the former doctoral supervisor published a tribute, in Yiddish, to the achievements of his former pupil who was now teaching a summer at Vilnius. The former doctoral candidate was meanwhile being recruited to betray his own teacher and participate in his disemployment in return for glorious summer and conference escapes from Bloomington, Indiana.
Dovid Katz publishes first two op-eds on Holocaust revisionism and persecution of Jewish partisan veterans, in the Jewish Chronicle (London) on 21 May 2009, and in the Irish Times (Dublin) on 30 May 2009. VYI’s executive director sends the VYI’s lecturer in Yiddish folklore to explain to Prof. Katz that these articles are scandalous and make it impossible for him to stay on in Vilnius, that he would do well to leave himself at once. The same day, another long-time VYI staff member tells him she heard from director S. Liekis that “a lot of money would be spent” along with honors and prizes to flip against him his own longtime friends and students, including D.B. Kerler of Indiana University and Prof. A. Polonsky of Brandeis. Her advice: “Don’t start up with the state or you’ll never work again.”
Six NATO ambassadors, from Canada, Hungary, Ireland, Norway, United Kingdom, United States, write to the chairman of the board of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute about the plan afoot to dismiss the Yiddish professor for having spoken out in defense of Holocaust survivors accused of “war crimes” and published articles opposing the far right’s Holocaust revisionism, 8 June 2009.
During the 2009 summer course, groups of students wishing to hear a lecture from Prof. Katz are told that it is impossible (at the summer course he had founded and brought to Vilnius). As a result a series of lectures on Yiddish studies and Holocaust obfuscation are held in private apartments throughout the course, noted in following months by Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, and in two student memoirs, by Josh Markovitz and Michael Cohen.
The “quiet” winter 2009-2010 endeavor between certain professors at Vilnius University and at Indiana University (Bloomington) to rid the VYI of its own Yiddish professor curiously uses the title “Professor” for all the professors named, including several of Dovid Katz’s own students, but strips him of it. The plot was abandoned when troubled by pangs of conscience or fears of scandal, one Bloomington professor (no longer there) leaked the document causing collapse of the project, intended by Bloomington Yiddish staff to provide a “summer palace” escape from boring US campus life. More background here.
AND THEN THERE WERE TWO: In the summer of 2009, the official summer course program distributed eliminated Prof. Katz’s name from the institute’s staff ( in the absence of any notification or incident). By the summer of 2010, when a university institute was being converted to a de facto summer program only, there was need for just two academic Yiddish Studies specialists to be listed (from that summer’s official leaflet).
On 4 November, 2009 Vilnius summer course participants Josh Markowitz publishes his personal memoir “August Hidden in Lithuania” in UCLA’s The Bruin Standard. The Comments section contained an apparently coordinated massive array of personal attacks against Prof. Dovid Katz led by California “historian” and “emperor of Africa” Grant Arthur Gochin, who had previously been on Maullin’s “Board” of the “Friends of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute” where he tried to arrange a PR conference for the Lithuanian government that was cancelled after intervention from the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The same day, Prof. Liekis boasted to colleagues at the institute: “Dovid Katz will never work in Yiddish academia again, let him clean the streets here, and his old friend Kerler will be the real professor of Yiddish here. Four weeks a year is enough for this Yiddish, we are very busy.”
Professor Sidney Rosenfeld’s letter of resignation from the board of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute at Vilnius University, 11 November 2009. In later years, Prof. Rosenfeld became one of the donors to Defending History.
Professor Daniela Mantovan (Heidelberg) reports on 7 March 2010 on the result of her suggestion to Professor Dov-Ber Kerler to draft a petition to the rector of Vilnius University concerning the planned dismissal of his own former supervisor for having stood up for Holocaust survivors and opposed Holocaust obfuscation in his non-university time. This was the same period when Prof. Kerler was appointed de facto joint academic director of the program, replacing his one-time teacher who was being disemployed. With the VYI “director” in effect becoming dean of the faculty of diplomacy (!) at a university in Kaunas, the VYI was being quietly transitioned to “just a summer course” with no serious academic Yiddish studies during the academic year (no replacement Yiddish professor has been appointed to date). The upshot was that the Indiana summer-is-fun professor was used from start to finish to displace and “replace” his own former teacher, in addition to his own full-time position in faraway Bloomington. In addition to titles and junkets and the grand power to provide summers in Vilnius, the royal treatment included a glorified image on t-shirts dedicated to “Lithuania” and “Vilnius” (along with another of Prof. Katz’s former students, Estonian and Baltic nationalist A. Verschik).
Vilnius University list of doctoral theses defended and the doctoral student’s supervisors. As of 1 April 2015 on Vilnius University’s website.
Joshua Markovitz’s 30 November 2011 account of a conference in Israel at which the director of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute assured the assembled scholars that Dovid Katz had never worked at the university, just taught Yiddish there for a Californian organization.
By then, all reference to Professor Dovid Katz was removed from academic staff pages, including pages citing historic faculty and staff … A Soviet style removal of intellectual dissidents from university records? Did someone hastily neglect to readjust the layout after the brushout?
Around the same time, the long-time executive director, historian Prof. S. Liekis, whom Prof. Katz brought from the Soros Foundation to the Yiddish Institute in 2001, began presenting himself to the media as the Yiddish Studies Professor at Vilnius University, e.g. to the Economist (10 February 2011). [Try having a Yiddish conversation with him, or doesn’t it all matter — it’s “only Yiddish”?]
In 2012, Prof. Liekis was rewarded with membership in the state-funded “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania.” Upon his appointment to the state-sponsored commission, he explained to the media his conception of its purpose, without however mentioning the role to be played by Yiddish Studies. This turn of events was a painful shock for those who invested in him as a future Judaic Studies academic leader free of the government’s Double Genocide industry.
In Fall 2012, the last organization of Lithuanian Holocaust survivors in the United States included (a) the “part-timization” and (b) purging of the one Yiddish professor at the one Yiddish institute in its report on issues in Lithuania.
Reviews of Danny Ben-Moshe’s documentary, Rewriting History (2012) which covers the dismissal of Vilnius University’s last Jewish (and only Yiddish) professor.
On 6 December 2013 Dr. Maria Krupoves wrote to explain her shock at the ongoing campaign of defamation against her former teacher, and to confirm the resignation of her husband, VYI board member Dr. Danny Berg (1949-2015), from the board. For an appreciation of Dr. Berg’s life and work, see here.
Winter 2015: A 24 February 2015 Jewish Telegraphic Agency article by Cnaan Lipshiz (widely republished, e.g. Jewish Chronicle, Times of Israel) quotes Vilnius Yiddish Institute director and red-brown commission member Prof. Dr. Sarunas Liekis: “Mr. Katz is prone to conspiracy theories. The truth is he hardly showed up for work from 2007 to 2010.” The reporter also informed us that he was assured that “Katz was never a professor here, it’s all made up,” echoing a similar statement made to an audience of hundreds in Philadelphia during a 2011 American tour. [This page resulted from the reporter’s request for evidence of the professorship ever having existed following the brotherly sounding words of the Yiddish institute director.] Do the director’s statements reflect the standards, ethos, goals and principles of Vilnius University and its Yiddish institute?
June 2015: Richard Maullin, chairman of the board of the Los Angeles based “Friends of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute” is at long last rewarded for covering for the dismissal of “his” institute’s one Yiddish professor and its becoming a base for nationalist and antisemitic revisionism of the Holocaust narrative (in the interim, the entire board had resigned in protest. The reward? S. Liekis, with his superior ties to the top echelons of Lithuanian political society, arranged for the Foreign Minister of Lithuania (!) to personally come and deliver the Diplomatic Gold Star of the Republic of Lithuania to Mr. Maullin in his California home. A year earlier, Maullin was elected elected chair of the California Independent System Operator Board of Governors.
Spring 2015: Professor Michael Shafir writes (in his paper “Conceptualizing Hungarian Negationism in Comparative Perspective: Deflection and Obfuscation” p. 266):
“Meanwhile, a new concept has emerged in professional literature: Holocaust Obfuscation. We owe it to Dovid Katz, a Yiddish literature scholar who had returned to Lithuania, the land of his forefathers, where he was shocked to witness how the Holocaust was transmogrified to serve the purposes of post-Communist political and intellectual elites.5 For the time being, Katz has paid the price of his audacity not only by being dismissed from the Vilnius University, but also by being described by academic collaborationist colleagues as an ‘activist rather than a scholar.'”
5 Dovid Katz, “On three definitions: Genocide, Holocaust Denial, Holocaust Obfuscation.” In Leonidas Donskis (ed.), A Litmus Test Case of Modernity. Examining Modern Sensibilities and the Public Domain in the Baltic States at the Turn of the Century, Bern: Peter Lang, 2009, p.259-277, as well as his “Prague’s Declaration of Disgrace,” The Jewish Chronicle, 22 May 2009, http://www.thejc.com/comment/comment/prague’s-declaration-disgrace; “Halting Holocaust Obfuscation”, The Guardian, 8 January 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/08/holocaust-baltic-lithuania-latvia; “The Seventy Years Declaration and the Simple Truth”, The Algemeiner, 2 February 2012, http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/02/03/the-seventy-years-declaration-and-the-simple-truth/.
Summer 2015: Facebook comment by Kristina Sulikienė: “Thank, you, Dovid Katz. I know you since 1999 when we met at Kerry’s [American poet and educator Kerry Shawn Keys]. Later you became “valstybes priešas”. For me you always will remain true professor. And true professor never lies. That is why I try to act the same way.”
Summer 2016: Vilnius University’s Vilnius Yiddish Institute website is purged again, to remove the name “Dovid Katz” from older “historical posts” about the past. There is an associated rewriting of the history of Yiddish studies at both Vilnius and Oxford. But the brushers-out of their target’s name from history is accomplished without the necessary English editing skills, resulting in some strange sentences…
Some July 2016 Soviet-style air-brushing out of history by Yiddish professors S. Liekis and D. Kerler. But where is the follow-up English editing to clean up the text? Another take on the history of the Yiddish program at Oxford.
The Yiddish institute’s summer course boasts a handsomely revamped website with sophisticated new graphics. But the telltale formulation on the primary page, the summer course information page (other pages are dedicated to PR for Prof. Liekis’s “managed foreign and domestic Jewish academics” whether or not connected to Yiddish), dutifully maintains the 2016 wording on the course’s origins in Oxford: “was founded by at Oxford in 1982” . . .
Prof. Liekis closes down the Yiddish institute and the summer program in Yiddish (with no public appeals for funding to keep the summer program going, and turning down funding offered from a major foundation in Vilnius), removes the website even as a historic site (replacing it with a disrespectful “definition of Yiddish”), and, instead of donating the library to the National Library (by 2019 an international hub of Judaic studies with materials available to scholars), puts them in secret storage without informing the many donors of the fate of their own precious books over the years, people who trusted Prof. Liekis with “Yiddish in Vilnius”. Nevertheless, significant parts of the institute’s history can be gleaned from preserved earlier versions of its website.
So much for the nationalist (and Holocaust revisionist) establishment’s “love of Yiddish” in Eastern Europe. . .
O P I N I O N
A recent report, also available as PDF, suggests sudden and deep involvement of the World Jewish Congress in the Lithuanian government’s repeatedly documented use of Yiddish, Judaic studies and even Holocaust studies as means to advance — or cover for — state-sponsored Double Genocide revisionism with respect to the essential narrative of the Holocaust. The report has proven to be disturbing for the wider Holocaust survivor community and its supporters.
WJC Executive Director Michael Schneider Goes on the Record in Vilnius, about Yiddish and Secret Donor
The following is a reprint of the interview given by Michael Schneider, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, dated 9 April 2014 and posted shortly thereafter on the website of the Jewish Community of Lithuania (PDF here).
UPDATE: See Section on WJC and ORT Yiddish involvement in Vilnius. Open letters to the WJC from Milan Chersonski, Daniel Galay, Regina Kopilevich, Prof. Olegas Poliakovas.
World Jewish Congress and Lithuanian Jewish Community Attention to and Support for the Vilnius Yiddish Institute
April 9, 2014
Michael Schneider, a well-known leader of the World Jewish Congress and former executive director of WJC and the JDC (Joint), is currently visiting the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Discussions are taking place at the community on improving and expanding the activity of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute at Vilnius University and changes in its administration.
Sources in Bloomington, Indiana and Vilnius, Lithuania, confirmed this week that Dr. Daniel R. Berg, an eminent physician in the greater Bloomington area, has resigned from the rump “Board of Friends” of Sarunas Liekis’s “Vilnius Yiddish Institute” (VYI). The institute’s website abruptly removed Dr. Berg’s name and photograph from the board. No letter of resignation was released to the media, but a source close to the doctor said he was dismayed to see the institute’s resources being dedicated to a campaign of defamation against its own former Yiddish professor and founder, whose name and contributions have been deleted from the historic faculty page, in the classic Soviet style of revising history.
Wiesenthal Center’s Israel Office Releases 2007 Correspondence with LA Board Chief of Vilnius Yiddish Institute
Editor’s note: The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office today released for the record the following September 2007 email exchange with the director of the Los Angeles based “Friends of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute” (VYI).
Red-Brown Commission Member Takes Katz-Bashing Campaign to Litvak Culture Fest in Philadephia; LA Next?
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A senior historian and his government’s “master fixer for foreign Jewish academics,” Professor Sarunas Liekis told an audience of hundreds in Philadelphia last Sunday that Dovid Katz had never been a professor of Yiddish at Vilnius University, and had been discontinued in 2010 by the American Friends of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute (led by Richard Maullin of Los Angeles) for not having turned up for class for several years (!).
EHU Center for German Studies: “Colloquium Vilnense 2013” is Short on “The Second Opinion” when it comes to The Holocaust
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
Colleagues at the prestigious European Humanities University in Vilnius (EHU, also known as the Belarusian Humanities University, in exile here in Vilnius) have passed on the public poster for this year’s series of seminars under the title Colloquium vilnense 2013, running from May to November 2013. The A3 size poster is reproduced (much reduced) at the bottom of this page in two halves.
Bloomington-Borns Jewish Studies Arranges for 2nd Right-Wing Soviet-Israeli Self Publishing Poet to be “Professor of Yiddish in Vilnius”
Through the good offices of the Borns Jewish Studies program at Indiana University (Bloomington), and its Dr. Alice Field Cohn Chair Yiddish studies professor, D.B. Kerler (“Boris Karloff”), who allegedly knifed his own doctoral supervisor in pursuit of a summer position in Vilnius (despite having a tenured position in the US), a comrade Soviet-Israeli self-publishing Yiddish poet has been announced as visiting professor of Yiddish on the home page of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute. Both have in some views allowed themselves to be instrumentalized by the right-wing Holocaust-revisionist establishment that seeks to cover for state policies including rampant antisemitism and the “Double Genocide” campaign via events and stunts in the field of Yiddish and Jewish studies.
According to the announcement, Dr. Velvl Chernin is now the “visiting professor” of Yiddish at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, which was purged of full-time Jewish staff in 2010 and has been criticized for being Yiddish-free for eleven months of the year.
That situation has apparently now been remedied by the appointment of Dr. Chernin, who, it is announced,
Vilnius University Calls Antisemitic, Racist, Homophobic Artist “Humanistic” as 9 Young Lithuanians Protest; Yiddish Institute, US Backers, Bloomington-Borns — All Silent
O P I N I O N
A dedicated Facebook page provides facts and photos on today’s dignified and courageous demonstration by a small group of young Lithuanian human rights advocates against Vilnius University’s proceeding with an exhibition of an envelope designer whose work features flagrant antisemitic, homophobic and racist material (larger selection here).
Fiokla Kiure’s images of the event are available here; a small selection follows this article.
Earlier report (21 Sept)
Delfi.lt report by Eglė Samoškaitė (25 Sept) [English here]
“אַ מעדאַל פון אחשוורושן„
Can history be bought with state budgets? Can awards and honors from high officials of the Lithuanian government for Western and Jewish personalities provide public cover for the campaign to diminish and downgrade the history of the Holocaust in accordance with Baltic Holocaust revisionism?
NOTE: There is no suggestion that any of those honored, all eminent persons, realized that they were being elevated with ulterior motives. But the de-facto linkage of honors with espousal of varying aspects of red-brown revisionism (and/or simply to join in discrediting colleagues who disagree with Lithuanian government policies) makes way for disturbing questions, given the state investment in the politics of the Prague Declaration and Double Genocide. Persons entangled in the campaign would no doubt wish to be made aware of the wider patterning, with absolutely no disrespect.
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 remaining 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.
March 11th: A Grand Opportunity for the Lithuanian Human Rights Community — and the People of Vilnius
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
When three of us from the DefendingHistory.com community headed out from Vilnius on February 16th to confront the neo-Nazi march in central Kaunas, we were sure we would be joined by dozens, or more, true lovers of Lithuania — folks who cannot remain silent that perverted political leadership allows today’s neo-Nazis to achieve free reign in the center of a great city in the middle of the nation’s cherished independence day. Folks who cannot let the glorification of stylized swastikas (including the “Lithuanian swastika“), and white armbands (celebrating the LAF Holocaust perpetrators of 1941) go unchallenged in the country with the largest rate of murder of its civilian Jewish population in all Holocaust-era Europe. Folks who want to send at least some modicum of support to today’s minorities. And a message to the world that the neo-Nazis do not represent Lithuanian society.
It was a shock to find in Kaunas on February 16th, that the somewhat quixotic DefendingHistory.com threesome would find itself the only visible anti-Nazi presence during the march and the rally that followed.
Was the OSCE’s (ODIHR) ‘High Level Meeting on Confronting Antisemitism’ another East European Whitewash?
The OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) today released its report on the ‘OSCE High Level Meeting on Confronting Antisemitism in Public Discourse’ that was held in Prague on 23 and 24 March 2011 under the auspices of its ODIHR department (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights). The full report is available here (alternate link here).
Professors Saulius Sužiedėlis (Millersville University, Pennsylvania) and Šarūnas Liekis (Vilnius Yiddish Institute, Vilnius University, Vytautas Magnus University, etc), two excellent historians with impressive track records, have again been engaged by the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry to present a Holocaust program abroad for foreign consumption.
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.