Dr. Rokhl (Rachel) Margolis (1921-2015)
Police Come to Rachel Kostanian’s Residence, Looking for Vilna Ghetto Survivors Rachel Margolis and Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky
Efraim Zuroff Hands the Lithuanian Ambassador a Letter of Protest in Tel Aviv on her State’s Campaign against Jewish Partisan Heroes in Vilnius
At an event today in Tel Aviv the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, hand-delivered a letter of protest to the Lithuanian ambassador to Israel, HE Asta Skaisgirytė Liaukšienė.
Dr. Zuroff’s letter (PDF here, and reproduced in full below from facsimile transmission), in addition to noting the neo-Nazi parade held with police help in the center of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital on March 11th this year, and the ongoing “investigation” against former Yad Vashem director Dr. Yitzhak Arad, emphasizes the shocking events earlier this month, when police in Vilnius came looking for two Jewish women Holocaust survivors and heroes of the Jewish partisan resistance against Nazi Germany, Dr. Rachel Margolis and Ms. Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky.
The British Embassy in Vilnius today released a letter, organized by the British ambassador, HE Simon Butt, signed by nine ambassadors to Lithuania, to Dr. Rachel Margolis, now resident in Rehovot, Israel. The initiative comes in response to Lithuanian prosecutors’ campaign of defamation, harassment and attempted prosecution of Dr. Margolis and other heroes of the Jewish resistance against Nazi forces and their allies during the Holocaust.
The nine participating embassies are those of Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Ireland, Sweden the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
The letter is available as PDF and follows below.
Dissenting Academic Rapidly Replaced with Foreign Stand-in at the Jerusalem Book Fair; Dr Rachel Margolis Betrayed Again
After authoring the book on Litvak culture for the Lithuanian section at the Jerusalem Book Fair, the editor of this website declined to attend to chair the Yiddish culture session, when he was asked not to bring to the fair Dr Rachel Margolis, resident in Rechovot; she is one of the heroic Jewish partisans defamed by the Double Genocide industry.
The Lithuanian government unit running these affairs rapidly replaced him with the Yiddish professor from the Borns Jewish Studies program at Indiana University (Bloomington).
The ‘Book Fair Affair’ was widely reported. See: Haaretz: ‘When Lithuania was Yiddishland’ by Raphael Ahren; also: comments by Milan Chersonski, editor of the Jewish community’s periodical, Jerusalem of Lithuania: ‘It’s not just about the Jerusalem Book Fair’ (Jan-March 2009); May 2010 update on Dr Margolis’s situation here.
More details here on the ‘Book Fair Affair’ and the further cooperation of the Borns Jewish Studies program with the nationalist establishment in Vilnius.
Prague’s Declaration of Disgrace. A European attempt to equate Communism with Nazism will falsify history.
Not many have heard about the Prague Declaration, which is currently making the rounds at the European Parliament. Proclaimed last June in Prague (but cooked up in the Baltics), its innocuous theme is “European Conscience and Communism”. Now who would oppose that? The heinous crimes of Communist regimes clearly merit full exposure. Victims deserve recognition. When the grand jamboree of freedom, fun and prosperity got under way for us lucky westerners in 1945, entire nations ceded to Stalin were condemned to totalitarian rule.
also marked Dr Rachel Margolis’s 88th birthday. Dr Margolis, anti-Nazi partisan veteran, historian and biologist, lives in Rechovot, and feels unable to return to Vilnius because of the situation. Birthday greetings at Responses (→ 28 Oct 2009, II). [Added Sept 2010: See now the later report of 27 January 2010 on the letter sent by five senior members of the United States Congress to the prime minister of Lithuania concerning Dr Margolis and the other Holocaust Survivors defamed by the far right’s ‘Double Genocide’ industry in the Baltics.]
This essay first appeared in Transitions on Line on 10 October 2008, with the following editor’s note: “Lithuanian authorities in late September closed their two-year investigation into the wartime partisan activities of Yitzhak Arad, a Lithuanian-born Israeli historian and a former head of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, reportedly on the urging of the European Union and the United States. Prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to link Arad to possible war crimes committed by Soviet partisans during a 1944 fight with German forces that left many Lithuanian civilians dead. The authorities are still considering whether to put two Lithuanian Jewish women, Fania Brantsovskaya (Brantsovsky) and Rachel Margolis, on the witness stand in connection with the killings.”
It is republished here with Professor Donskis’s permission. For a history of the issue, see our page on the subject of Holocaust survivors defamed by prosecutors.
A disturbing tendency has recently appeared in Lithuania. In the words of the eminent scholar of Yiddish Dovid Katz, this tendency may best be described as the “Holocaust Obfuscation movement.” Its essence lies in subversion of the logic and evidence of the Holocaust, whitewashing or at least selectively reading the history of the Second World War and drastically shifting the roles of victims and evil-doers.
U.S. Congress Protests Lithuanian Gov. Campaign against Rachel Margolis and other Holocaust Survivors who joined the anti-Nazi Resistance
On the occasion of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Margolis family in the United States released to the media a 3 December 2009 letter from the United States Congress to the prime minister of Lithuania, protesting in no uncertain terms the campaign being waged against 88 year old historian, museum builder and biologist, Dr Rachel Margolis; 87 year old Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, librarian of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute; and 83 year old Holocaust scholar Dr Yitzhak Arad, who was founding director of Yad Vashem. All three have been the subject of ongoing ‘investigations into war crimes’ by Lithuanian prosecutors and of extensive defamation by the country’s mainstream media. Since the saga got underway in the spring of 2006, none has been charged, and not one has been cleared. Holocaust studies specialists increasingly suspect a ruse to create a bogus paper trail of ‘investigations’ of Holocaust survivors as a diversion to the documented history of massive Baltic participation in the Nazi-led genocide of the Jewish population, as well as to the region’s dismal record of not punishing a single Nazi war criminal since independence. See the media coverage; responses to the anti-survivor campaign; critiques of the underlying ‘red=brown’ movement and the state-funded apparatus that underpins it.
Sir Martin Gilbert Releases August 2008 Letter on his Resignation from the Lithuanian Government’s “Red-Brown Commission”
Sir Martin Gilbert has today authorized publication of his 24 August 2008 letter to this journal’s (future) editor. The facsimile follows. The letter had confirmed his April 2008 resignation from the “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania” (known informally and for brevity as the “Red-Brown Commission”), citing the Yitzhak Arad affair.
In view of the subsequent developments, the 24 August letter also cites the need for the Commission to condemn the defamation of additional Holocaust survivors Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, Professor Sara Ginaite, and Dr. Rachel Margolis. Professor Gilbert’s authorization for publication came after the Commission’s website failed to remove his name from the list of members in spite of his resignation on principle.
Joseph Melamed, chairman of ALJ, Speaks Out Forcefully at Yad Vashem Event to Mark Anniversary of Vilna Ghetto Liquidation
Attorney Joseph Melamed, chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel (at right) delivered the keynote speech today at an event held at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem to mark the September 23rd anniversary of the 1943 liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto. Because of the Jewish holidays, the event was moved up to the 20th this year.
Those in attendance included Uri Chanoch, chairman of the Holocaust Survivors’ Association; Mr Michael Schemyawitz (left of photo), head of the Association of Vilna Jews in Israel and director of its Beit Vilna premises in the Montefiore section of Tel Aviv; and the top leadership of Yad Vashem including chairman Avner Shalev and director general Nathan Eitan. The program of speakers and was released in advance (in Hebrew) by the ALJ. Lithuania’s ambassador to Israel, HE Darius Degutis, delivered a conciliatory address (full text here), which included the moving line: ‘It breaks my heart and casts a shadow of shame that among the perpetrators of these crimes were also my countrymen. This cannot be, and will not be, either forgotten or forgiven’.
אַ ליכטיקן געבאָרנטאָג טייערסטע רחל
Happy Birthday dear Rachel!
Retired Vilnius University lecturer Irena Tumavičiūtė, whose 29 January 2008 article in the antisemitic newspaper Lietuvos aidas is credited with egging on right-wing parliamentarians and prosecutors to ‘go for’ Holocaust Survivors Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky and Dr Rachel Margolis, has published a new article on the Holocaust, concentrating on Auschwitz, in the popular mainstream magazine Veidas. It appeared in the magazine’s January 10th issue.
marked three years to the day since police in Vilnius came looking for Holocaust Survivors Dr Rachel Margolis (born 1921, at right of photo) and Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky (born 1922) in a ‘war crimes investigation’ that has still not been publicly closed.
Both women were incarcerated in the Vilna Ghetto from 1941 to 1943. Both lost their entire families to the barbarity of the Nazis and their local collaborators. They both escaped, on different days in September 1943, to join up with the anti-Nazi partisans in the forests of Lithuania. The underground forest fort, a half-hour’s drive from Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, where Fania lived with another hundred or so Jewish escapees of the Vilna Ghetto, is being allowed to sink into the ground and disappear from history’s view.
Litvaks and their Descendants Issue Public Letter Calling for Change in Lithuanian Government’s Holocaust Policies
We the undersigned Litvaks — Jews of Lithuanian origin and their direct and immediate descendants — hereby express:
With non-stop defamation: Lithuanian ‘Human Rights’ [!] Association calls for ‘sentencing’ of named ‘citizens of Jewish nationality’ for ‘organizing a massive slaughter’; Document is here; Comment here & here.
Et tu, Yivo? Holocaust Survivors Jolted by Plan for Lithuanian Foreign Minister to be ‘Guest of Honor’ at Vilna Ghetto Commemoration
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
When you have loved an institution all your life — and written over decades about its impact on the history of ideas — it becomes a responsibility, even when painful, to try to dissuade it from making a serious error that would put in jeopardy its integrity.
The Lithuanian foreign minister, who has to date not apologized publicly for his widely reported antisemitic outburst in October 2010, has been named by the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research as its ‘guest of honor’ at a concert on 22 September 2011. The remnant Jewish community of Lithuania is small and fragile. Nevertheless it responded robustly, less than a year ago, to the foreign minister’s comments and proceeded to publish its response in English, Lithuanian, Russian and Yiddish.
Yivo’s website enumerates the joint sponsorship for the 22 September 2011 event by ‘the Embassy Series in cooperation with the Lithuanian Consulate and the Lithuanian Delegation to the United Nations’. The event is being held to commemorate the anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto on 23 September 1943.
In 2011 — to mark the 70th anniversary of Hitler’s invasion, and to the chagrin of Holocaust survivors internationally — the Lithuanian government has invested in a series of events honoring the local perpetrators who began to kill Jewish neighbors in dozens of towns before the Germans even arrived (a reading list on the history is available here). The ‘logic’ has been that they were actually rebelling against Soviet rule, though it is not disputed by historians that the Soviets were obviously fleeing the Nazi invasion.
The Lithuanian ambassador in Washington recently told a Jewish genealogical conference that the investigations against Holocaust Survivors who joined the resistance were “closed”. One questioner wanted to know why, in that case, is there no clear public announcement by a leading official to that effect, as these Holocaust survivors continue to be defamed by prestigious voices in Lithuanian society.
The saga took a bizarre twist this morning in Tel Aviv, when Israeli police, on demand of Lithuanian prosecutors and police, and referring to international police agreements to which both nations are signatories, felt obligated to hold a meeting with 86 year old Holocaust survivor Joseph Melamed, the long-time and widely beloved director of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel. It is the world’s last active Litvak organization.
Milan Chersonski, Longtime Editor of ‘Jerusalem of Lithuania’, Releases a Public Letter to the Director of Yivo in New York
O P I N I O N
by Milan Chersonski
Milan Chersonski (Chersonskij), longtime editor (1999-2011) of Jerusalem of Lithuania, the quadrilingual (English-Lithuanian-Russian-Yiddish) newspaper of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, released to the media today a public letter to the director of Yivo in New York. Mr. Chersonski stressed that the views are his own, and do not reflect any official opinion. From 1979 to 1999, he was director of the Yiddish Folk Theater of Lithuania, which was one of the USSR’s very few Yiddish amateur theater companies. Jerusalem of Lithuania ceased publication in 2011.
The text of Milan Chersonski’s letter follows in English. Translated from Russian by Asya Fruman and approved by Milan Chersonski.
Vilnius, Lithuania, 12 September 2011
Dear Mr. Brent,
I, a World War II refugee, a citizen of the independent Republic of Lithuania, address you as a resident of the city where Yivo, the first and most important academic institute of Yiddish language, literature, culture and history, was founded.
For more than eighty years Yivo was run by the most prominent Yiddish scholars, renowned for their research works as well as for their outstanding organizational skills. They and their successors maintained Yivo’s honor and dignity.
Was Rachel Margolis Honored (or Mentioned) at the “Vilna Ghetto Experience” Yivo Event Sponsored by the Lithuanian Government?
The Yivo concert mounted in memory of the Vilna Ghetto was held on 22 September, a date near the September 23rd anniversary of its liquidation (in 1943). Survivors questioned find it unconscionable that the Yivo evening could not also be utilized as a forum for polite, constructive and appropriate protest at the Lithuanian government’s targeting precisely of Vilna Ghetto survivors (among other Holocaust survivors) for kangaroo ‘war crimes investigations’ that have drawn international protest.
A usually knowledgeable source has today made available to DefendingHistory.com what purports to be a letter from a prosecutor in Lithuania to Dr. Rachel Margolis in Rechovot dating from spring of 2011. According to the source, who asked not to be identified by name, it is this letter that has been the basis of claims by the current Lithuanian government, and its foreign apologists on Jewish issues, that the case is ‘closed’.