OPINION | POLITICS OF MEMORY | LITHUANIA
by Dovid Katz
The decision announced by leaders of the three major universities in Lithuania, and of its History Institute, to belatedly break off ties with the antisemitic, ultranationalist, far-right, history-revisionist “Genocide Center,” a state-sponsored institution, is both “better than nothing” and “better late than never.” For over a dozen years now, Defending History has documented the Center’s role in spewing antisemitism, while underpinning ultraright Nazi-sympathetic nationalism and Holocaust obfuscation and denial wrapped up in pseudo-historical research; a similar record has been kept of its obedient showcase of fake history to the outside world, the “Genocide Museum”). The shocking wall of skittish silence on the part of professors, diplomats, and political leaders has been apparent not only within Lithuania, but also from some Holocaust, history and international (particularly American-based) Jewish organizations whose leaders covet the local medals, honors, photo-ops and junkets that give them that certain godlike ego-boost that is only to be had, it seems, east of the former Iron Curtain.
This development seems to be part of a brand new trend of “finding the least courageous way” (as British understatement might have it) to speak up against Double Genocide revisionism, blaming of the victims and survivors, and glorification of major local Holocaust perpetrators, including the LAF (Lithuanian Activist Front) butchers who murdered thousands of helpless Jewish neighbors in the week of 22 June 1941, before the arrival or establishment of German Nazi forces. In museums across Lithuania, these murderers who unleashed the Holocaust locally are represented as “heroic anti-Soviet rebels” (an obvious nonsense, the Soviets were fleeing the Nazis’ Operation Barbarossa, the largest invasion in human history, not the white-armbanded Jew-killers). The eightieth anniversary of the LAF’s launch of barbaric violence is coming up this June. Who will be honored here by such “establishment” entities as the government, parliament and the universities: the victims or the perpetrators?
The newest trend came to the fore in the wake of last week’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January 2021, when Western ambassadors in Vilnius, including those of America and Germany, jumped with glee on the unknown small-fry head of the Lithuanian parliament’s “History Committee” (known by Western diplomats for years as the “History-Fixing Committee”), for his article laying Holocaust blame on the Jews themselves, while heaping praise on notorious Hitler collaborators. What an easy fun target and how quickly he was made to resign (from that committee, not heaven forfend the Seimas…), giving everyone such a sweet victory, what with gloating over the severed head of the smallest fish in the sea.
But what about all the higher-ups, institutions and national leadership that continue to espouse, formalize and sell those very thoughts but in a refined PR package for naive Western sensibilities (and Useful Jewish Idiots / UJIs). Has a single one of them spoken out about the disingenuous narrative in the Genocide Museum in central Vilnius? About the Defense Ministry’s continuing to flaunt on its website, with no disclaimer or warning, a cover of its own magazine from just one year ago glorifying one of the most heinous Baltic “theoreticians” of ethnic cleansing of his nation’s Jewish minority?
The same ambassadors and organizations are pathetically silent about the naming of 2021 for an alleged perpetrator (for the second time in three years); about the “bigger and better” Noreika Plaque in central Vilnius; about the glorification of Holocaust collaborators up and down the country on public land and with state funds; about plans to situate a national convention center in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery; about the ongoing failure to apologize to the heroes of the Jewish anti-Nazi partisan resistance whose names have been defamed by state prosecutors for posterity; verily — the current minister of defense is the “history buff” who back in 2006 was prime initiator (in a public spirit of blatant antisemitism and Holocaust Envy) of the campaign to defame and prosecute Israel’s war-of-independence hero Yitzhak Arad — an eminent historian and former director of Yad Vashem — for having in his youth survived the Holocaust by joining the partisans to fight Hitler.
The particular hue of hypocrisy varies from case to case.
Take note heaven and earth, Kaunas’s Vytautas Magnus University has broken off its (non-existent?) relations with the Genocide Center while continuing itself to flaunt a lecture hall named for (and boasting a bas relief glorifying) the Nazi puppet prime minister of 1941, whose reburial with full honors was condemned by much of the free world back in 2012.
The History Institute has provided brazenly fraudulent conclusions about the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery designed to enable the developers and builders to cash in on the humiliation of the graves of tens of thousands of Vilna Jewish citizens spanning half a millennium.
Vilnius University purged itself of Jewish academics who would dare question Holocaust obfuscation, revisionism and denial, putting all Jewish studies into “safe nationalist hands.”
And heck, the City of Kaunas is gearing up to be the Capital of European Culture in 2022, which is excellent — but will it shed itself of its shrines to Nazi collaborators in the run-up to that position of European Union glory?
But the crown for flopped self-heroization must go to one Mr. P. Packer, head of the US taxpayer-funded “Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad,” that exists to defend and preserve minority cemeteries internationally. He has yet to utter a public word insisting that the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery is no place for a convention center (the Commission, Washington’s most corrupt agency, is long a vast debacle of corruption and hypocrisy, brazenly used by a certain Satmar sub-sect to enlist the US government’s support for the sale of Holocaust-area cemeteries). But once everyone was throwing stones at the puny head of that parliamentary committee for his Holocaust inversion article (not mentioning the major media outlet that saw fit to print it without hesitation), Packer found some gonads to issue a statement of sudden manly outrage garnering for himself some nice little PR in Jewish media.
By exercising freedom of speech and defense of Western values (which include the defeat of Nazism) within the lands of the European Union and NATO, by speaking up about unacceptable state-sponsored attempts at a revisionism rooted in racism, antisemitism and far-right politics, one is a true friend to the wonderful people of Lithuania and other East European countries who must not be held collectively responsible for the history-repairing obsessions of a state-sponsored “Double Genocide Complex,” a matrix of elites that continues to enjoy lavish financial and political support to the detriment of the region’s noble and hard-working citizens who deserve much better use of their tax euros.
Thankfully, however, there are also voices of courage, dignity and integrity about.
Last week’s Holocaust Remembrance Day produced two outstanding major-media products promoting the simple truth: Silvia Foti’s in the New York Times on the legacy of her own grandfather, and Lev Golinkin’s in the Forward (incorporating a new genre of world map of robust historic significance), exposing the shockingly vast matrix of memorials to Holocaust collaborators in Eastern Europe and their export, ever more, to an unsuspecting West.
It is a sign of the times that this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Week turned on the raging battle over history. “Fixing the history” must not be allowed to become the twenty-first century’s post-survivor, post-witness brand of Holocaust Denial.
Defending History opinion pieces reflect the views of the author.