O P I N I O N
by Geoff Vasil
last revision 26 May 2012, 23:55.
The second conference in Kaunas on the 1941 Nazi puppet prime minister and Holocaust collaborator Juozas Ambrazevičius cum Brazaitis, held Thursday, May 24, was treated to some harsh facts presented by a living Litvak, Kovno (Kaunas) historian and Jewish tour guide Chaim Bargman.
Although Vytautas Magnus University initially agreed to and then reneged on a deal with the Lithuanian government to host the earlier “academic conference” last Saturday May 19 purely to adulate the “prime minister” of 1941, they changed their minds yet again—possibly under influence from chairman of their board of directors, former president Valdas Adamkus, who in 2011 celebrated the seventieth anniversary of the LAF fascists—and provided university resources this week for a second event announced as an open discussion event. To their great credit, they did webcast the event and have posted the video (here).
Following up on last Saturday’s May 19 “academic conference/commemoration” which was removed from VMU to the Kaunas municipality town hall under the patronage of the city’s mayor, Thursday’s event was initially stocked with the exact same personalities who delivered their paeans last Saturday to a Holocaust collaborator: a journalist named Valiušaitis; head of the Orwellian Center of the Study of the Resistance and Genocide of the Residents of Lithuania Teresė Burauskaitė; apologist historian Arūnas Bubnys; two academics from VMU itself—Prof. Viktorija Skrupskelytė and Dr. Ilona Strumickienė; and Dr. Augustinas Idzelis, a Lithuanian-American head of an expatriate Lithuanian Studies center.
Additional contenders, all serious scholars well-known within Lithuania, and not from the circle of last Saturday’s glorifiers, were added to this second event. Prof. Šarūnas Liekis and Dr. Darius Udrys appeared, along with VMU historian Prof. Egidijus Aleksandravičius. Another addition was that of Darius Kuolys (an advisor to Adamkus during his presidency).
Mere minutes before the conference was set to begin the VMU webmaster added the name of a prominent member of Kaunas’s tiny surviving Jewish community: Chaim Bargman. (A DefendingHistory.com report posted a day earlier noted that not a single representative of the Jewish community was on the then-posted program for this second Kaunas conference.)
Bargman, who actually had the last word at the “conference,” was one of the first speakers as well. He began by carefully recounting the historical facts about the Ambrazevičius “government,” including their efforts and success in murdering masses of Jews at the Seventh Fort in Kovno (the “concentration camp” which Ambrazevičius personally signed an order for on June 30, 1941).
A somewhat spineless final statement by Šarūnas Liekis, the head of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute who doesn’t speak Yiddish, was followed by Darius Udrys, who spoke out in a rather lukewarm fashion against official participation in honoring the dead Nazi collaborator, saying “…I see great defects in what the government of Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis did. I believe, as I said, that the state honors […] were unnecessary, and even morally harmful, because they caused confusion among people about that government’s values. [The ceremonies] were done in a way which left the impression that there was an attempt to cover up some of the morally harmful actions of his government. And much was said here about the context in which his activity took place, the same context in which hundreds of people, as I said, risked and sacrificed their lives to save Jews and others from suffering and who faced death. I believe their heroism is what we should be honoring, and that a hero is a person who is distinguished by his bravery and aid to the innocent, and unfortunately that’s something Mr. Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis did not achieve, and that’s why I’m not convinced he should be honored in the way he was honored” (italics added).
Chaim Bargman concluded the “discussion period” by saying everyone had ignored his comments and the facts he provided concerning the culpability of the Provisional Government and Lithuanian Activist Front in carrying out the mass murder of the Jews of Lithuania, as so clearly chronicled in publicly available documents.
10 May 2012. Genocide Center (Vilnius): Program of the conference to commemorate and re-inter Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis, prominently featuring the 19 May conference at Vytautas Magnus University. [English here]
15 May 2012. Jerusalem Post: ‘Lithuania’s shame’ by Efraim Zuroff.
17 May 2012. DefendingHistory.com: ‘International Christian Assembly Directors in Lithuania Speak Out on the Glorification of Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis’ [with full text of statement by Michael and Fausta Maass].
21 May 2012. Lietuvos rytas: ‘E. Aleksandravičius: „Perlaidodami J. Brazaitį norėjome parodyti, kad lietuvių drama dar nesibaigė“’ [interview] by Valdas Bartasevičius. [English translation, ‘Egidijus Aleksandravičius: “By reburying Brazaitis, we wanted to show that the Lithuanian drama hasn’t ended yet.” [posted on 27 May 2012]
21 May 2012. DefendingHistory.com: ‘Lithuanian newspaper accuses Kaunas rector of misleading parliament about whether he knew in advance of VMU’s planned conference to honor Nazi puppet prime minister’.
21 May 2012. Forward: ‘Amid quisling furor, Lithuanian shul defaced’.