by Dovid Katz
Compilation of articles, documentaries, videos, and photos. Plus: from the saga of 2008…
Compilation of articles, documentaries, videos, and photos. Plus: from the saga of 2008…
Clockwise from upper left: Fania is at far left in family photo from 1932 or 1933 in front of her father’s shop on Vilna’s Zavalna St. (today Pylimo in Vilnius); Fania showing visitors the underground bunkers where she lived while fighting the Nazis in the Jewish partisan fort in the forest (now sinking into the ground, Fania’s last wish is that it be restored and preserved for posterity); Fania and fellow partisan veteran Chasia Langbord Shpanerflig sing the partisan hymn at a May 9th memorial; Fania bring honored at a banquet at the residence of the Irish ambassador to Lithuania, HE Dónal Denham in a pushback against state attempts to prosecute and defame her and other veterans of the Jewish partisans with ambassadors from Norway, Austria, France, the UK and other Western nations joining in; Fania in the Vilna Ghetto (1941-1943); with Dovid enjoying looking at some old Vilna Yiddish books together.
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.
NOTE: The original (2009) version of this document was constructed in close cooperation with the late Dr. Shimon Alperovich (1928-2014), elected head of the Jewish Community of Lithuania for many years. Revisions were discussed with him in detail until several days before his death in 2014. Naturally, he does not bear responsibility for the document’s annual updates since that time but his intellectual imprint on its spirit should not go uncredited.
Abandonment of the state’s financing of the campaign to obfuscate the Holocaust by means of its Double Genocide campaign, including “cooked” international events, conferences, film screenings and panel discussions; withdrawal of formal state support for the Prague Declaration and similar projects, closing down of the “red-brown commission” and the inauguration of an atmosphere of full freedom for citizens and organizations to support alternatives including the Seventy Years Declaration. Holocaust history to be included in historically accurate proportionality in the Genocide Museum and all relevant tourist locations that deal with genocide. Abandonment of the extensive state sponsored program to glorify the local Holocaust perpetrators of 1941, including the “Lithuanian Activist Front” (LAF), whose leaflets indicated desire to murder the country’s Jewish citizens even before arrival of Nazi forces. Rapid correction of the mischaracterization of the early local perpetrators as supposedly heroic rebels in the new basement room on the Holocaust in the Genocide Museum.
Nearly a decade after HE Dónal Denham’s 3 June 2008 historic reception for Fania Brantsovsky, a hero of the Holocaust-era anti-Nazi Jewish partisan resistance in Lithuania, held at the Irish Ambassador’s Residence in Vinius, the text of his speech has been released. It appears below. See our report on the June 2008 event. Historical note: Defending History believes it was the first time since collapse of the Soviet Union that Western embassies in one of the new democracies saw a need to honor a person who was being unjustly targeted by state prosecution services and other national elites. The American, Austrian, British, French, German, Norwegian and other embassies followed the Irish lead.
VILNIUS—This year’s March 11th independence day march here last month was again granted the route of highest prestige, from Cathedral Square, up the whole of the capital’s main thoroughfare, Gedimino Boulevard, and ending at Parliament Square. Defending History’s eyewitness report recounted this year’s “detour” to the presidential palace for the bizarre ceremony of attacking Lithuania’s oldest Holocaust survivor, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky (Brancovskaja), 95 next month, one of the Jewish partisans subjected to defamation by the state’s campaign of Holocaust revisionism that has included a “blame the victims” components that started eleven years ago.
VILNIUS—The following (text below) is a translation from Lithuanian of the 2 March 2017 letter from the state-sponsored Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania (widely known as the Genocide Center) to a nationalist group that put on this year’s March 11th Independence Day neo-Nazi march, with authorities’ permission, in the center of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. The group had complained about Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite, having granted an award on February 16th to Lithuania’s oldest Holocaust survivor, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, soon to turn 95, for her work in the field of Holocaust education. The president’s office had referred the complaint to the Genocide Center which issued this letter (facsimile of the original below). The correspondence was then read out at a bizarre ceremony that some observers thought bore the hallmarks of a 2017 “Jew-witch hunt” when the Independence day festivities announced a detour to the presidential palace to read out the various letters and condemn Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, who is the only one of her family to survive the Holocaust precisely because she escaped the Vilna Ghetto in September 1943 and joined up with the anti-Nazi Soviet partisans, the only force seriously challenging Hitler’s rule of Lithuania.
VILNIUS—A six-person monitoring group assembled by Defending History was the only human rights team at this year’s March 11th neo-Nazi march in central Vilnius. DH’s monitors were Eveldas Balčiūnas, Dovid Katz, Julius Norwilla, Ruta Ostrovskaja, Jacob Piliansky, and Julia Rets. Two senior longtime annual observers, both major figures in Lithuania’s Jewish community for over half a century, Milan Chersonski and Prof. Pinchos Fridberg, were prevented by health issues from monitoring the event this year.
For years Defending History has asked that the marchers’ freedom of speech be respected at venues away from the center of the capital on the nation’s independence day. The granting of “that time and place” (only since 2008) conveys a sense of legitimization by both the municipality and national government, which are sometimes thought to be playing a “double game” by facilitating the honoring of Holocaust perpetrators locally, alongside commemorations for the victims for foreign consumption. At least two Western ambassadors were “quietly” among the observing crowds.
Evaldas Balčiūnas; Julius Norwilla; Julia Rets; Alkas.lt; Delfi.lt. Did “mainstream media” coverage avoid imaging swastikas, other fascist symbols, and Hitler salutes?
Dozens of residents of Vilnius came to an evening this week to honor the visit of former Norwegian ambassador to Lithuania HE Steinar Gil (stationed in the Lithuanian capital from 2006 to 2011) and his wife Turi. Ambassador Gil played a legendary role in a number of human rights battles over the years.
Among those in attendance were Jewish veteran of the anti-Nazi partisans, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, who recently celebrated her 92nd birthday, and Milan Chersonski, long-time editor (1999-2011) of the Jewish community’s newspaper Jerusalem of Lithuania. There were representatives (ambassadors or consuls) from seven foreign embassies and a number of prominent personalities from the arts, media, business, and academia.
[date of last update]
A number of viewers of the new Australian documentary film Rewriting History, by Marc Radomsky and Danny Ben-Moshe, have submitted to Defending History near-identical transcripts of a statement on camera, made to the film’s producers, by the executive director of the “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,” the state-sponsored body has long been opposed by Holocaust survivors and educators. The commission is responsible for Holocaust education in Lithuania, but has also taken an active political role in promoting the 2008 Prague Declaration and various details of alleged “equality” of Nazi and Soviet crimes. The commission’s website features the Prague Declaration in both English and Lithuanian.
The commission’s executive director, Ronaldas Račinskas, is quoted as saying on camera that his commission does not support “Double Genocide” but that he does support the 2008 Prague Declaration (though he concedes there are passages to be “discussed”). The problem is that the Prague Declaration is the primary document of the Double Genocide movement in Europe.
See also: Mr. Račinskas’s 2011 speech in the Lithuanian parliament; Critiques of his commission; 2015 Update: His call for investigations of Holocaust survivors who joined up with the anti-Nazi partisans.
Mr. Račinskas goes on to say, according to the transcripts provided of his Rewriting History interview:
Last Thursday, 3 November, an article I’d submitted to the Jerusalem Post for consideration appeared on the op-ed page (PDF of the print edition here). In democratic societies, sending an opinion piece to a respectable publication, signing it with one’s real name, and opening it (and oneself) to further open debate and discussion are rather standard. As usual, I linked to the article on my Facebook page, expecting some to agree and some to disagree, moving debate forward.
But a number of Facebook Friends who did not react on my page, or any other open forum, did for some reason find it appropriate to join a kind of witch hunt against the article and its author on a page of a “Secret Group” called Lietuva be neonacizmo (Lithuania Without Neo-Nazism), located at: www.facebook.com/groups/135816956486382.
Delfi.lt journalist Eglė Samoškaitė reported today on this week’s book event for the Lithuanian language edition of Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, held at the Foreign Ministry and with the participation of some leading historians and heads of institutions in the country. A full English translation of Ms. Samoškaitė’s article is available here.
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.
We the undersigned Litvaks — Jews of Lithuanian origin and their direct and immediate descendants — hereby express:
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.
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.