The Lithuanian parliament amended the criminal code ‘to envisage criminal penalties for supporting, denying or downgrading crimes committed by the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany’ recommending ‘up to two years in prison’. The amendment’s initiator explained that the ‘changes were based on the European Union’s obligation to member-nations to take the necessary measures to ensure penalties for public support for genocide crimes’. BNS report.
Tepid Response from the Lithuanian Institute of History on the New Red-Brown Jailtime Law, plus: Will Judaic Studies Specialists Finally Speak up?
The Lithuanian Institute of History’s less than impressive response to the 15 June parliamentary amendment of the criminal code. BNS report.
Hopefully individual historians will respond rather more vigorously, especially those who specialize in Judaic and Holocaust studies, who risk further loss of credibility in the wake of continued silence.
On 29 June 2010, the Lithuanian Parliament criminalized the view that Soviet crimes in Lithuania do not rise to Genocide, in effect making belief in red-brown equivalence a matter of law.
The move followed adoption of a similar statute by Hungary’s new right-wing government.
The Lithuanian law’s framers explained earlier that establishing red-brown equality was the motive. Punishment maxes out at 2 Years in jail (original draft law was for 3 years). There is a new widespread reluctance to speak up freely in eastern EU democracies, even if nobody is charged or punished. Work of serious historians is crippled as dissenters lose their jobs.
There was no comment from the US embassy in Vilnius.
Red-Brown Bill with Two Years of Jailtime for Disagreeing with Government’s Position is Signed into Law
A new law in effect criminalizing anti Double Genocide opinions has been passed by the Lithuanian parliament and signed into law by the president. Full text of the law. In English translation. The move followed adoption of a similar statute by Hungary’s new right-wing government.
UPDATES (TO SEPT. 2011):
The new law criminalizes debate on the Holocaust and World War II, imposing punishments that include prison sentences of up to two years for those who would argue that Soviet crimes in Lithuania did not constitute genocide (hence: upon those who would challenge the notion that ‘Soviet and Nazi crimes are equal’). The opposing view (e.g. of this website) holds that Soviet crimes in Lithuania were horrendous but did not constitute genocide (following Donskis 2009, Katz 2009 etc; see page on Soviet crimes and draft response to the Prague Declaration).
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
Photos by Richard Schofield (© R. Schofield)
A ‘Lenin Statue Theme Park’ near the resort town of Druskininkai featuring: ‘Soviet Sculpture Exposition, Museum, Picture Gallery, Events, Cafes, Souvenirs, Lunapark, Zoo’ etc. Their website here. A summer 2010 visit.
Gruto Parkas (situated at Grutas, near Druskininkai and often popularly called ‘the Lenin Park’) is a private enterprise, but a large sign near the entrance boasts that the historical inscriptions were donated by the state-sponsored ‘Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania’.
THE QUESTION: Can you imagine a major theme park dedicated to the history of the Soviet period, in a member state of the European Union and NATO, that tries its best to present Soviet Communism as a largely Jewish enterprise? With a presentation in the spirit of a most infamous brand of 20th century antisemitism? That singles out by nationality only Jews among the many ‘rogues’ featured in its exhibits? That defames the memory of Holocaust Survivors who escaped Nazi ghettos to join the anti-Nazi partisans in the forests of Lithuania? And all this, without once mentioning the Holocaust . . .
O P I N I O N
by Leonidas Donskis
I will admit that when I read political analyst Kęstutis Girnius’s comments on the Lithuanian Provisional Government and the Lithuanian Activists Front, and about the supposedly low level of academic research and documentation of these phenomena, I found myself in a state of disbelief that a person whom I consider one of the most soberminded and most insightful of our political commentators could write this. Without citing his earlier statements on radio and in publications on this topic, here is the link to Kęstutis Girnius’s latest commentary:
The Jewish Community of Lithuania issued an eloquent public statement on 7 Sept 2010 (English translation here), following the proliferation of comments from high society circles of politics, academia and the media which sanitize and in some instances glorify the Nazi-collaborationist Provisional Government (see for example here and here).
Often lurking just under the surface is the closely related question of the 1941 ‘L.A.F.’ (Lithuanian Activists’ Front), whose campaign of murder of Jewish civilians in effect launched the Lithuanian Holocaust. They too are glorified by various antisemitic historians and by the state sponsored Genocide Museum in the capital’s center.
The barbaric rampage of murder was underway before the arrival at these sites of Nazi German forces in late June of 1941 (background here; information on specific towns here). The far-right establishment has been looking for a quick sanitization of fascist heroes (recast as ‘brave anti-Soviet partisans’) in anticipation of the 70th anniversary of the events in 2011.
The state-sponsored Genocide Museum in the center of Vilnius fails to even mention the L.A.F.’s murderous role in initiating the Holocaust locally, referring to its members exclusively as anti-Soviet rebels (failing to mention only the ‘detail’ that the Soviets were fleeing the German Nazi invasion, not them). Continue reading
Lithuanian Parliament Declares 2011 as Year of Remembrance for Holocaust Victims; Says Nothing about Ongoing Cases Against Survivors & ‘Double Genocide’ Policies
The Seimas (parliament of Lithuania) today issued this official English version of its ‘resolution on declaring the year 2011 as the year of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust in Lithuania’. The succinct statement expresses ‘sincere respect for the victims of the Holocaust in Lithuania’, mentioning ‘the genocide perpetrated against Jews by Nazis and their collaborators in Lithuania during the occupation by Nazi Germany’.
It goes on, in Article 2, to propose that by 1 November 2010 there be a specific program approved, that will include Continue reading
‘Holocaust Year’ in Lithuania, 2011, is Converted 1 Week Later to ‘Year of Freedom Defense, Memory of Great Losses [minus the Holocaust]’
One week ago today, on 21 September 2010, this journal reported on a document released by various Lithuanian embassies on the ‘Resolution of the Republic of Lithuania on Declaring the Year 2011 as the Year of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust in Lithuania’ (read document here).
In addition to ‘condemning the genocide perpetrated against Jews by Nazis and their collaborators in Lithuania’ the resolution pledges itself to ‘honoring the residents of Lithuania who fought against Fascism’. [In its report, HITB naturally asked for immediate action to halt the kangaroo investigations of Holocaust Survivors who did just that; to dismantle antisemitic exhibits in state museums; and to halt the campaign for the ‘Double Genocide’ model of history in Europe.]
At the solemn September 21st ceremony at the mass murder site Ponar (Paneriai), member of parliament Emanuelis Zingeris informed the assembled diplomats, citizens and visitors that the Seimas had unanimously approved the resolution and that 2011 would be dedicated to Holocaust commemoration, a most appropriate gesture, on the 70th anniversary of 1941, when nearly all of Lithuanian Jewry was annihilated by the Nazis, with the massive participation of local nationalist forces who are on occasion glorified in modern Lithuania as ‘anti-Soviet partisan heroes’ (see e.g. the Genocide Museum’s narrative).
Many of the assembled at Ponar went away believing that the Seimas had turned a new page in the country’s perception of its Holocaust history.
But today, one week later, September 28th, the Seimas announced the following ‘slightly revised’ version of its plan for the focus of 2011: ‘Parliament announces 2011 as year of freedom defense, memory of great losses in Lithuania’ (as per the text of BNS’s report in English here). The parliament’s own official statement is here; full English translation here, with the corrected English title: ‘Year of Commemoration of the Defense of Freedom and Great Losses’.
Frankly, there is unease in the Jewish community as to whether this title and text leave open the possibility that the LAF (Lithuanian Activist Front) and PG (Provisional Government), both massively complicit in the early stages of the Lithuanian Holocaust, are going to be celebrated as ‘defenders of freedom’ (or anti-Soviet patriots) during the 2011 seventieth anniversary of events unleashed by Hitler’s invasion of 22 June 1941.Continue reading
Jewish Community’s Alperovich Writes to Parliament, as Government’s ‘History Apartheid’ Becomes Official Policy
Dr Shimon Alperovich (Simonas Alperavičius), chairman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, has written to the chairperson of the Lithuanian parliament, MP Irena Degutienė, concerning the most recent travesty of the government’s ‘Jewish merry-go-round’, as one Western ambassador put it, off the record, during yesterday’s German National day event at Vilnius’s Old Town Hall.
At the September 21st commemorative ceremony at Ponar (Paneriai), the mass murder site of 100,000 civilians (70,000 of them Jewish), mostly at the hands of the Nazis’ fascist collaborators here, the government’s MP Emanuelis Zingeris (now head of the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee), boasted of a parliamentary resolution to declare 2011 the year of Holocaust Remembrance in Lithuania.Continue reading
Readers recall that the Lithuanian parliament’s 21 September proclamation of 2011 as the ‘Year of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust in Lithuania’ (text here) was mysteriously reincarnated one week later, on 28 September, as the ‘Year of Commemoration of the Defense of Freedom and of Great Losses’ (text here) with accompanying press explanations restricting the 1941 aspect to Soviet deportations to Siberia and no mention of the Holocaust among the ‘great losses’ (text here).
The text and press releases gave rise to fears that plans were still underway to sanitize, revise and glorify the memory of the 1941 LAF and Provisional Government collaborators of the Nazis. This painful subject was dealt with in a recent statement from the Jewish Community of Lithuania.
The ensuing History Apartheid, as this journal called it (2011 dedicated to one thing for foreigners and Jews and another for the country itself, in effect) led to a letter to the chair of the Seimas from the head of Lithuania’s tiny but proud Jewish community (text here).
A check today of the official website of Lithuanian parliament (the Seimas) added a further curious aspect to the parliamentarians’ thinking. The English version of the website explains that 2011 has been proclaimed as the ‘Year of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust in Lithuania’.
The corresponding sentence on the home page of the Lithuanian version of the official Seimas website indicates however that 2011 is the designated ‘Year of Commemoration of the Defense of Freedom and of Great Losses’.
One Western diplomat who requested anonymity commented to this journal: ‘You see, if you live long enough, you live to see everything’.
This page is contributed by Roland Binet (Belgium). © Roland Binet
See also his 10 November 2010 article in Le Monde. English translation here.
Open Letter to the President of the European Commission
Mr JOSÉ MANUEL BARROSO, ON THE “OCCUPATION MUSEUM” OF RIGA IN LATVIA
Dear Mr Barroso,
I recently visited the “Occupation Museum” in Riga/Latvia where I had the opportunity to see your picture — taken during your visit of that museum in 2008 — displayed on one wall of the entrance hall.
That museum prides itself on having thus welcomed a number of well-known symbolic personalities. Your persona grata is all the more important now that the EU has become an unavoidable partner in the world and, furthermore, now that Latvia has become a full member state of the European Union.
Milan Chersonski, editor of the quadrilingual (English-Lithuanian-Russian-Yiddish) Jerusalem of Lithuania, official publication of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, has published a bold new essay, History: Education or Modern Politics.
The author opposes the Lithuanian government’s attempt to monopolize and dictate the ultranationalist version of history by effectively criminalizing the opinion that the Holocaust was the one genocide that occurred in the country in the twentieth century.
The law passed by the Lithuanian parliament and signed by the president last June, and which came into effect in July 2010, imposes jail sentences of up to two years for those who might dissent.
November 16th 2010 has come and gone, but the ‘Public Meeting’ which the Red-equals-Brown lobby in the European Parliament announced extensively the old fashioned way — by disseminating a flyer that is not posted on the internet — seems to have been postponed. The flyer, echoing both the language and spirit of the Prague Declaration, called for overhaul of (all?) European Union textbooks ‘so that children and young people could learn and be warned about Communism and its crimes in the same way as they have been taught to assess the Nazi crimes’.
A sanitized formulation that is posted on the web, in a style uncharacteristic for Brussels exactitude, notes that the public meeting is ‘scheduled for November’ and makes reference to a group meeting held on 22 September.
An even more sanitized formulation announces the event for the 29th of March 2011, referring to a ‘group meeting’ held on 10 November.
This page has moved here. Thank you.
Ambassadors of Britain, Estonia, Finland, France, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden protest Antisemitism in Lithuania; Red-Equals-Brown Movement is Noted
BNS reported today that the Vilnius-based ambassadors of Britain, Estonia, France, Finland, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have written in no uncertain terms to the president and other major officials of Lithuania to express concern over the growing manifestations of antisemitism.
Two of the signatories confirmed privately to Defending History that the initiative had come from British ambassador HE Simon Butt, who also drafted the letter. Ambassador Butt had in 2008 organized a letter in moral support of Dr. Rachel Margolis, a walk through the Vilna Ghetto with Ms. Fania Brantsovsky, and had, together with other senior Western diplomats stationed in Vilnius, visited the decaying Jewish partisan fort in the forest.
“Spurious attempts are made to equate the uniquely evil genocide of the Jews with Soviet crimes against Lithuania, which, though great in magnitude, cannot be regarded as equivalent in either their intention or result.”
Excerpt from a letter to the president of Lithuania from the ambassadors of Britain, Estonia, Finland, France, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, 25 November 2010
Lithuanian Parliament and Genocide Research Center planning 2011 Film to Sanitize (and Glorify?) the ‘Rebels’ of 1941
Some highly respected international scholars have been persuaded to participate in a film which some leaders of Holocaust Survivor organizations around the world fear will be a cover-up for the main ‘accomplishment’ of the LAF (Lithuanian Activist Front) and related fascist groups, and their local supporters. These groups, often identified by white armbands and known as white armbanders, had started to carry out murder, molestation and pillage of Jewish neighbors in dozens of locations even before the arrival of German Nazi forces in late June 1941. Many of the same killers went on to serve voluntarily as shooters in the annihilation of most of Lithuanian Jewry in the second half of 1941.
O P I N I O N
by Nida Vasiliauskaitė
I read Kęstutis Girnius’s and Leonidas Donskis’s essays on this more than once and can’t get rid of some strange impressions. Even if I pretended that I knew nothing about the Provisional Government, the LAF and that historical period in general, and my only source of information were these two texts addressed to each other, they would suffice to start to make clear some things not just about the past, but also about its intimate connection with the present. How this is being talked about here and now is not less important than that (and the things connected with that) which actually happened.
Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry announced on 14 December 2010 that it was the initiator of a new demand from six East European countries ― Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania — to Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, that Double Genocide sentiments, and support for effective criminalization of the view that the Holocaust was a unique genocide, be incorporated in the new Stockholm Programme before the end of 2010. Less than a week earlier, Lithuania’s president took the same demand with her to a meeting in Brussels.