Dr. Rokhl (Rachel) Margolis (1921-2015)
Chronicle of the Lithuanian Government’s Campaign to Blame Holocaust Survivors who Joined the Resistance
UPDATED MARCH 2017. See also (older, not updated) Responses page.
The campaign of defamation by Lithuanian state prosecutors and allied elites (particularly in the Genocide Center and the antisemitic right-wing press) has resulted in a number of cherished Holocaust Survivors being smeared as “war criminals” without a single charge ever having been leveled against anybody. Launched in 2006, the campaign, abusing tools such as “pre-trial investigations” and leaks to the media, have sought to brand as “war criminals” the heroes of the war against Hitler. It grew in 2011 with the addition of equally perverse “libel charges,” launched with fanfare when Interpol (!) was sent to disturb in Tel Aviv the elected head of the last active group of Litvak Holocaust survivors in the world. Then, in 2013, the state’s “red-brown commission” defamed one of Vilnius’s last survivors on equally perverse grounds, all the while putting on “Holocaust events” for naive Western audiences, usually funded by the (unknowing) Lithuanian taxpayer, in venues including London, New York, Toronto, and Vilnius.
A single public letter from the president could fix it all. Instantly.
The campaign of defamation results in permanent calumny in historians’ works, Wikipedia, and elsewhere (see below) that is more than a grave injustice to the Holocaust survivors targeted (and their families). It is a deliberate ultranationalist falsification of history in the spirit of the wider campaign to find fault with the victims and make heroes of the perpetrators. These are components of the movement to obfuscate the issues, and downgrade the Holocaust in the spirit of the Double Genocide movement and its central document, the 2008 Prague Declaration.
All but one of the accused survivors — most in their late eighties or nineties — were still alive (as of February 2016). Dr. Rachel Margolis passed away on 6 July 2015, having failed to fulfill her final wish of one last trip to her native Vilna. A single public letter of apology from the president or prime minister of Lithuania, accompanied by an apology from the state prosecutors, would be the minimal gesture of good will needed to repair the damage. Public defamation can only be (partly) repaired by public apology. Dr. Yitzhak Arad died in May 2021.
Moreover, the state has a splendid last chance to end its relationship with its own Holocaust survivors, after a 700 year history in Lithuania, on a rather higher note than police coming to look for aged women veterans of the heroic Jewish resistance in the forests of Lithuania.
During his own tenure before these events, Lithuania’s eminent late president (later prime minister) Algirdas Brazauskas, a champion of confronting historical truth with courage and dignity, awarded certificates of honor to the selfsame Jewish partisan veterans for the selfsame service in helping to liberate Lithuania from Nazism. . .
22 April 2006. Article in Respublika accuses Dr. Yitzhak Arad, Holocaust survivor, resistance hero, veteran of the Israeli war of independence and long-time director of Yad Vashem, of being a war criminal on the basis of misquoted, decontextualized passages in his own 1979 book, The Partisan. [ADDENDUM of April 2014: One of the chief stone-throwers (final section) is A. Anušauskas, who is today a member of the state’s commission on Nazi and Soviet crimes. In 2006 he was “scientific editor” at the Genocide Center. Since 2008 he has been a member of parliament where he was for some years chair of the Committee on National Security and Defense.]
10 September 2007. Prosecutors in Lithuania confirm that their investigation of Holocaust survivor, anti-Nazi resistance hero and former director of Yad Vashem Dr. Yitzhak Arad, on suspicion of “crimes against humanity” had been initiated in May 2006. The “investigation” was based on an article in the antisemitic daily Respublika (22 April 2006), in which the special prosecutor and head of the Genocide Center are extensively quoted. In June 2006 the daily triumphantly proclaimed that prosecutors were acting on its earlier article. English summary. See below at 25 September 2008 for “conclusion” of the investigation and the 2010 report of the “Lithuanian Human Rights Association” . . . In 2014, ongoing defamation evident from Wikipedia entry.
30 April 2008. The Embassy of the United States in Lithuania issues a certificate of appreciation, signed by Ambassador John A. Cloud, to Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky; presented by political officer Joseph Boski at a luncheon organized by the Vilnius Yiddish Institute.
NEW YORK—The Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, founded in Vilna (then Wilno, Poland) in 1925 as the world’s premier Yiddish-in-Yiddish academic institute, has, to the consternation of many of its life-long supporters and participating scholars, in recent years been (temporarily, its long-time supporters hope) “hijacked” by a few elite circles in the Lithuanian government who are determined to exploit Judaic, and especially the now-weak branch of Yiddish studies as a tool to cover for policies of rewriting the history of the Holocaust in a far-right East European nationalist spirit, as well as state programs of glorification of alleged Holocaust collaborators. The best known cry of protest came several years ago from Vilna-born Holocaust survivor and lifelong resident, Prof. Pinchos Fridberg.
וואָס וואָלטן טאַקע טראַכטן מאַקס ווײַנרײַך, זלמן רייזען און דינה אַבראַמאָוויטש וועגן די נײַע צילן פון ניו⸗יאָרקער ייוואָ?
Even as ever more circles in today’s free, democratic, and delightful Lithuania have come to understand the Jewish, Litvak and Holocaust issues in a spirit of friendship and partnership, New York’s Yivo continues to function as a political arm of the Holocaust revisionists’ “International Commission on the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania” (Yivo’s director even joined the commission), and a small “Jewish manipulation unit” in the Foreign Ministry, neither of which reflect so much of what is really going on. For a month now, the headline of Defending History has honored Vilnius’s mayor for boldly taking down two long-standing, and contemptible, public space memorials for Holocaust collaborators.
Still, yet again, Yivo has opted to exclude all other voices, while enabling the ongoing shenanigans of nationalist manipulation which recently resulted in the NY Yivo director’s being awarded the Cross for the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania, from the Lithuanian government, even as Holocaust survivors and their families continue to be betrayed in a way that would make Yivo’s founders twist in their graves.
DH EDITOR’S NOTE: While the interview per se was broadcast fairly and honestly, Jazz TV provided a wholly incorrect title in the version posted online. At no point did Dovid Katz assert that his 2010 discontinuation at Vilnius University was due to him saying that the anti-Nazi Soviet war effort between 1941 and 1945 saved many Jews during the Holocaust (which it did). Instead it was because of three articles in 2009 and 2010 (in the Jewish Chronicle (London), the Irish Times (Dublin) and the online Guardian which expressed disagreement with the 2008 Prague Declaration, the “Double Genocide” theory and particularly with Lithuanian state prosecutors who initiated campaigns of defamation against Holocaust survivors (and anti-Nazi partisan heroes) Yitzhak Arad, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, Rachel Margolis and others. Professor Katz believes his views to be in the very best interests of Lithuania and its citizens. among whom he has chosen to live for the past twenty years.
[Update of 8 April: Following the smashing of the Noreika plaque one week after the interview, our report and “unequivocal condemnation” of all violence against property appeared in Defending History.]
[Update of 9 August: Amidst an antisemitic demonstration, a new and “better” Noreika plaque is put up.]
Full Lithuanian Translation of the Interview
Pilnas video interviu su prof. Dovydu Kacu (Vilnius, 2019 m. balandžio 1 d.) vertimas į lietuvių kalbą
Vilnius Genocide Center: “Legitimized” by 19 Nov. Yad Vashem Conference in Jerusalem?
Its chief historian Dr. A. Bubnys is a major speaker; See DH review of his book on the Vilna Ghetto and report on Jewish community’s response to his publication on the Shavl (Šiauliai) Ghetto. Are pliant “Jewish academics” being flown in and wheeled out to provide cover for the newest chapters in Holocaust revisionism? These include East European state glorification of collaborators and denial of the outbreak of mass violence by the LAF and other “nationalist heroes” against Jewish neighbors before the onset of German administration in the last week of June 1941.
Take Note, Historians of Israeli Diplomacy: Betraying the Truth about the Holocaust is Not a Good Idea
OPINION | ISRAEL PAGE | ISRAEL SECTION | HONORING COLLABORATORS | LEGACY OF JOE MELAMED | LEGACY OF DOV LEVIN | FOREIGN MINISTRIES AND THE HOLOCAUST
by Dovid Katz (Vilnius)
VILNIUS—We had the painful responsibility last week to record the folly of the Israeli embassy in an East European country that would go out of its way to lend “Jewish legitimacy” to a lamentable decision of a national parliament to name the incoming year 2018 in honor of a man, who in addition to whatever acts of bravery as a resistance figure in the postwar Soviet period, was also a leader of an armed pro-Nazi militia in the early days of the Lithuanian Holocaust, in late June and early July of 1941. The primary achievement of these groups, many affiliated with the LAF (Lithuanian Activist Front) fascist “white-armbanders” was the unleashing of pillage, humiliation, harm and murder of their Jewish citizen neighbors. Make no mistake, the Soviets were fleeing, in June 1941, from Hitler’s invasion, the largest in human history, not from the local Jew-killers.
OPINION | ISRAEL PAGE | ISRAEL SECTION | HONORING COLLABORATORS | LEGACY OF JOE MELAMED | LEGACY OF DOV LEVIN | FOREIGN MINISTRIES AND THE HOLOCAUST
by Dovid Katz (Vilnius)
VILNIUS—Israel may have crossed a red line today when it was flaunted on the major News portal Delfi.lt here, both in Lithuanian and in English, that Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon had found the time this week to stage a demonstrative PR-photographed visit to the chief campaigner for the parliament’s decision less than one month ago to name 2018 in honor of Adolfas Ramanauskas — his daughter in Vilnius, Auksutė Ramanauskaitė-Skokauskienė, who is a prime icon of the ultranationalist camp that often glorifies various collaborators and participants in the Holocaust on the grounds that they were also anti-Soviet activists. The PR move came just after a major political commentator asked what Lithuania is getting in return for its staunch political support for the Netanyahu government.
UPDATES TO THIS ARTICLE: WEEKLY OF VILNIUS COMMENTARY; AMBASSADOR’S BETRAYAL OF HOLOCAUST HISTORY A FIASCO AS LITHUANIA VOTES ANYWAY AGAINST U.S. DECISION TO MOVE ITS EMBASSY (PARTING WITH NEIGHBORING LATVIA)
One of the PR photos released shows the ambassador posing underneath adulatory photos of the 1941 pro-Nazi militiaman (from various other periods in his life). Of course Lithuania has a vast number of inspirational historical heroes, including many anti-Soviet heroes, who were not Holocaust collaborators, and state decisions to honor collaborators cause untold pain to survivors, their families, and the remnant Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. They all send a message that becomes part of the history-revision campaign to downgrade the Holocaust in the context of “Double Genocide” revisionism.
Forward Coverage of Yivo Strife Omits Mention of Instrumentalization by Lithuanian Holocaust Revisionism Industry
NEW YORK CITY—A 9 March 2016 Forward article, by Britta Lokting, focused on Martin Peretz’s recent resignation from Yivo’s board, cited a number of current Yivo issues. It did not, however, mention the major issue of instrumentalization by the Lithuanian government’s campaign of Holocaust obfuscation, relativization and revisionism. It did reference the now-famous Vilnius-based digitization project.
In 2011, Yivo honored an antisemitic foreign minister while failing to honor the Yiddish speaking Vilna Holocaust survivors maligned by Lithuanian prosecutors, resulting in a heartfelt plea from the long-time editor of the Jewish community’s quadrilingual newspaper. Then, in 2012, it sent its director to Vilnius to help cover for the reburial with full honors of a Holocaust perpetrator, and saw its director join (and thereby give legitimacy to) the notorious “Red-Brown Commission.” A year ago, the organization was called to task by a Vilna Holocaust survivor in the Yiddish Fórverts (English translation here; unmentioned in the English Forward?). See Defending History’s section on Yivo issues in recent years.
As the Lithuanian government-sponsored “Red-Brown Commission” (popular moniker for the “International Commission for Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes of Lithuania“), quiet on the international front for a time, announces a comeback global conclave for 17-19 March 2016, suspense is rising as to whether various Jewish organizations, including Yivo and the AJC, but above all the Israel Foreign Ministry, will again be coming on board to legitimize the body that is the midwife of the Double Genocide movement in the European Parliament.
Efraim Zuroff asked in the Jerusalem Post that the Baltic state’s campaign to revise Holocaust history — and its plans to plonk a convention center in the middle of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery — be on the table; Zuroff’s post-visit article in i24
AFTER MEETING NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER BUTKEVICIUS GLOATED TO MEDIA THAT ISRAEL DOESN’T OBJECT TO THE “GRAVEYARD CONVENTION CENTER” DESPITE INTERNATIONAL OPPOSITION; JTA REPORT; IN THE JERUSALEM POST
CAMPAIGN AGAINST JEWISH PARTISANS NOT EVEN MENTIONED? Does Israel betray its own citizens by not asking apologies for the World War II heroes Yitzhak Arad, (the late) Rachel Margolis and Joseph Melamed? Arad and Melamed are heroes of Israel’s 1948 war of independence. Will there now be a public apology on the prosecutors’ page that still defames him [as PDF] and from the “Human Rights Association”? Apologies to Israeli citizens Rachel Margolis and Joseph Melamed? The 2009 Leivick House (Tel Aviv) speech of the late Ambassador Chen Ivri Apter. What does Dr. Arad think?
BUT PM DECRIED “DOUBLE GENOCIDE” IN PUBLIC (JP REPORT). HE WILL HOPEFULLY FOLLOW UP AT HOME ON STREET NAMES AND PUBLIC HONORS FOR HOLOCAUST PERPETRATORS [CURRENT DEBATE]; OVERDUE APOLOGIES TO JEWISH PARTISANS; RAPID REFORM OR ABOLITION OF GENOCIDE CENTER AND RED-BROWN COMMISSION — AND REPUDIATION OF THE PRAGUE DECLARATION. NEO-NAZI PARADES ON INDEPENDENCE DAYS?
RECENT MEDIA: Slate. The Forward. Jerusalem Post. JTA. Times of Israel.
רחל מאַרגאָליס (מַרְגָלִית) ז″ל
Vilna, 28 October 1921 — Rehovot, 6 July 2015
About Rachel Margolis: Shimon Alperovich, Algirdas Brazauskas, Gordon Brown, Abraham Foxman, Steinar Gil, Martin Gilbert, Chen Ivri Apter, Dovid Katz (Y), Francois Laumonier, NCSJ, Geoff Vasil. UK House of Lords, 5 US Congressmen, 9 Western ambassadors in Vilnius.
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
Note: This text is the Lithuanian translation, provided by the Being a Jew project, of the written text of a lecture from the 17 April 2015 conference on the Holocaust in Lithuania organized by Rūta Vanagaitė. The original English is here.
by Dovid Katz
The unfortunate and wasteful campaign of Holocaust obfuscation waged by certain East European state institutions continues apace. The level of investment continues to strike outsiders as puzzling, given current economic and cultural issues and the younger population’s clear focus on the future and a better life for all in the new and multicultural European Union. Here in Lithuania, the first victims of the government’s (rather Soviet-style) “genocide industry” are the hard-working people of the country who deserve more judicious disbursement of their nation’s resources. The state-sponsored Genocide Center has just released three simultaneous editions (English, Lithuanian and Russian) of a new book on the Vilna Ghetto by historian Arūnas Bubnys, its own “director of the Genocide and Resistance Research Department.”
Dr. Bubnys is also a member of the state-sponsored “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania” (known for short as the “red-brown commission”). He was one of a minority of members of the Commission who refused to sign the (in the opinion of some, inadequate) letter of 14 October 2013 to Dr. Yitzhak Arad.
One-Sided Vilna Ghetto Roadshow in Berlin?
CINDERELLA NOT INVITED TO THE BALL? Her 92nd birthday was 28 Oct, in the middle of the conference.
Dr. Rachel Margolis, Vilna native, Vilna Ghetto survivor, heroic resistance fighter against the Nazis, co-founder of the Green House Holocaust museum in Vilnius, who rediscovered and published long lost diary of eyewitness to the Ponár massacres, defamed by Lithuanian state prosecutors, is not on the list of speakers in Berlin.
FROM RECENT YEARS: CHEN IVRI APTER, GORDON BROWN, US CONGRESSMEN,LORD JANNER. BACKGROUND. FACT SHEET. RACHEL ON VIDEO. THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS.
Vilna Ghetto is Back in Focus
But Will “Vilna Ghetto Fest” Include Public Apologies to Defamed Vilna (and Kovno) Ghetto Anti-Nazi Jewish Partisan Heroes? Invitations to Come Join the Party?
1. The Secret “Big-Bucks Vilna Ghetto Disneyland Theme Park” Project (minus the Jewish community, minus apologies to the Partisans of Vilna, minus removals of memorials to local Holocaust perpetrators).
4. Government delegation in South Africa trying to pry Disneyland “investment” from unsuspecting South African Jews.
UCL Hebrew-Jewish Studies Dept Rejects Request for Five Minutes for Holocaust Survivor to Read Petition at Lithuanian Gov. Sponsored Conference
London observers were wondering whether the medal Professor Antony Polonsky received earlier this year from the president of Lithuania for his PR work for the Lithuanian government may have something to do with his denial of Monica Lowenberg’s request, asking for five minutes for her father, a Holocaust survivor, to read out at next week’s conference her petition to the Lithuanian government, proposing constructive solutions to the issues at hand. The petition has to date garnered over 250 signatories from two dozen countries. The following is the correspondence, which started with Ms. Lowenberg’s appeal to Professor Ada Rapoport-Albert and Dr. Francois Guesnet. Dr. Guesnet, the Corob Reader in Jewish History at UCL is one of the conference coordinators on behalf of the Lithuanian government funded institutions financing the conference. Holocaust survivors consulted cannot understand why safe and secure academics who hold high posts at Western institutions should so fear “even to give five minutes for somebody else to come and disagree” with the conference’s pay-masters in the freedom of the British capital.
Tel Aviv’s Leivick House Releases Video of 2009 tribute by the late Ambassador Chen Ivri Apter ♦ Also: FORMER UK PRIME MINISTER GORDON BROWN ♦ 5 MEMBERS OF US CONGRESS ♦ LATE LITHUANIAN PM ALGIRDAS BRAZAUSKAS ♦ TABLET MAGAZINE ♦ ACADEMIC STUDIES PRESS ♦ KEENE STATE COLLEGE ♦ SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE ♦ LORD JANNER OF BRAUNSTONE ♦ ADL DIRECTOR ABRAHAM FOXMAN ♦ NCSJ ♦ METRO WEST HOLOCAUST COUNCIL ♦ JEWISH CHRONICLE ♦ ALGEMEINER JOURNAL (& 2) ♦ RACHEL MARGOLIS.COM ♦ FACT SHEET
Leivick House, one of Israel’s (and the world’s) last Yiddish-in-Yiddish cultural institutions, has released a video clip of the June 2009 visit to its Dov Hoz Street headquarters in central Tel Aviv by Israel’s then ambassador to Latvia and Lithuania, the late Chen Ivri Apter, at an event to honor Dr. Rachel Margolis. It is posted on YouTube (partial English translation here). The event itself was reported in DefendingHistory and the Leivick House website, among other venues.
Dr. Margolis, due to celebrate her 91st birthday next week, is a Vilna Ghetto survivor and anti-Nazi resistance hero who has been targeted by Lithuanian prosecutors, in effect according to some for “the crime of surviving.” Tributes to Dr. Margolis have come from around the world, including former UK prime minister Gordon Brown in 2011.
Ambassador Ivri Apter died last month at the age of 54 after a long battle with cancer that friends always said he never allowed to cloud his love of life and the day ahead.
His short speech at Leivick House is thought likely to go down in history for its courage and forthrightness at a time when his nation’s foreign policy was noticeably starting to tilt in a contrary direction. The Tel Aviv event was organized jointly by DefendingHistory.com and Leivick House.
Holocaust survivors from Lithuania, and their families and advocates, are reporting feelings of “shock and betrayal” at “unbelievable reports” that Yad Vashem might again be lending legitimacy to the Lithuanian government sponsored “red-brown commission.” These accounts derive from a BNS (Baltic News Service) report today that appeared in various Lithuanian media, including Alfa.lt (full translation below), reporting that the president herself signed the decree today for substantial new state investment in the commission.
The Vilnius and Jerusalem rumor mills are equally putting out the word that there had been pressure from the Israeli foreign ministry, itself pressured by the Lithuanian foreign ministry for Holocaust-revising gestures in line with the current Baltic state policy often referred to as “Double Genocide.”
C O M M E N T
[updated 17 Feb] The following “SAVE THE DATE GALA DINNER” announcement was recently posted on the Telfed Online website [update: page taken down; similar text is at the ILCCI site of the organizing “Israel-Lithuania”]: