The assistant director of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, Ruta Puisyte, reported today that Dr. Efraim Zuroff’s scheduled seminar at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute was cancelled on the orders of the institute’s director, Professor Sarunas Liekis. No explanation was given.
by Dov Levin
This opinion piece, under the heading “Lithuanian Hypocrisy” appeared today in Haaretz. It reappears here by permission of the author, Professor Dov Levin of Jerusalem.
Last week I was caught in a debate with myself: whether or not to appear, despite the feeling of nausea, in a discussion with Lithuanian historians, writers and poets at the International Book Fair in Jerusalem. The idea made me so sick that in the end I decided to stay away and I also convinced my friend, former partisan and former chairman of Yad Vashem Yitzhak Arad, to excuse himself from the discussions.
Leading Baltic news portal Delfi.lt attacks Israel’s president Shimon Peres for differentiating Nazi and Soviet crimes. English translation. Peres’s remarks were distorted (see original; English translation). The Delfi piece includes this graphic:
Daiva Repečkaitė replies.
In a statement issued at the launch in Jerusalem of the 2009 Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, the Association of Lithuanian Jews called on the Forum ‘to forcefully condemn the Prague Declaration, which seeks to create a false symmetry between Nazi and Soviet crimes, and is an attempt to obfuscate and diminish the Holocaust by various means (including an attempt to redefine genocide)’. The statement describes the Prague Declaration as ‘a prime symptom of a new and dangerous strain of antisemitism that seeks to distort the history of the Holocaust and to confuse perpetrators and victims’.
German Social Democratic parliamentarian Gert Weisskirchen was awarded a certificate of honor at the Israeli Knesset on 16 December for a lifetime of fighting antisemitism, racism, and Holocaust distortion. The Knesset session was integrated into the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism.
During an informal celebration at Jerusalem’s Crowne Plaza Hotel, Mr Weisskirchen penned, in his famed telegraphic style, on Global Forum letterpaper, his opposition to the ‘Prague Declaration’ in the spirit of three new ‘DEs’: ‘De-valuation of the victims, De-stortion of history, De-legimitization of the Holocaust. These are the reasons why I oppose the Prague Declaration’ — Gert Weisskirchen
State Prosecutors ‘Visit’ Jewish Community on Holocaust Remembrance Day to ask Questions about ALJ chief Joseph Melamed
Officials from Lithuania’s state prosecution service came to the Jewish Community’s premises at Pylimo Street 4 in Vilnius today — during a Holocaust Remembrance Day event — to ask community officials for information about Joseph Melamed, 85, a Tel Aviv resident. The news spread rapidly and caused disquiet among the small remnant community.
Mr. Melamed, head of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, possibly the world’s last active Litvak survivor organization, is himself a Holocaust (Kovno Ghetto) survivor, a veteran of the anti-Nazi partisans, veteran of the Israeli war of independence in 1948, a retired Israeli diplomat and a prominent attorney. He is the author and editor of various works about the Lithuanian Holocaust.
Prosecutors told the Lithuanian Jewish Community that they are ‘investigating’ Mr. Melamed in relation to his organization’s publication of lists of alleged local war criminals who are alleged to have participated in the annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry. A few of the people on these lists are considered ‘national heroes’ by various nationalist elements, especially those who joined the anti-Soviet resistance in and after 1944.
Vilnius Prosecutors ‘visit’ Lithuanian Jewish Community on Holocaust Remembrance Day, questioning ties to Survivor in Tel Aviv who is the latest to be ‘investigated’
Confirmation has been obtained that on Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January (respected internationally as the day marking the liberation of Auschwitz), Lithuanian prosecutors visited the premises of the Jewish Community of Lithuania at Pylimo Street 4, Vilnius, to question community leaders about their ‘knowledge’ of Joseph Melamed, a Holocaust survivor resident in Tel Aviv.
Yitzhak Arad, Survivor, Resistance Fighter, and Major Holocaust Scholar, Wins Book Award in New York City
Dr Yitzhak Arad won a National Jewish Book Award for his new 700 page volume, The Holocaust in the Soviet Union (University of Nebraska Press).
The award was presented at the Center for Jewish History in New York on 9 March. Dr Arad, a Holocaust survivor whose family perished, is a veteran of the heroic anti-Nazi partisan resistance in the forests of Lithuania, and the Israeli War of Independence.
A retired brigadier general and chief education officer of the Israeli Army, he served as director of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem for 21 years. He lives near Tel Aviv.
Algirdas Brazauskas (1932-2010), visionary first elected president and later prime minister of free Lithuania died today in Vilnius. In each of his land’s highest offices he proved himself a leader in the grand spirit of the multicultural Grand Duchy of Lithuania who will be properly appreciated long after our time.
From the start of Lithuania’s new history as a proud democratic nation, Algirdas Brazauskas understood that it did no good for his country that war criminals had been rehabilitated by ultranationalist officials.
He paid tribute to Jewish partisan veterans for helping to free Lithuania from Nazi tyranny. As president, he honored Prof Dov Levin. As prime minister, he issued a certificate of recognition to Dr Rachel Margolis.
President Brazauskas’s historic speech to the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem on 1 March 1995 will never be forgotten (full text here). But in modern Litvak collective memory, there is perhaps one incident, that took place one day before, that will be remembered even more. The Lithuanian delegation was met by a picket line of Holocaust survivors near Yad Vashem. One elderly survivor, Y. Brosh, whose entire family was murdered at Ponar, made his feelings known robustly. Like the other survivors who protested, he was wearing a yellow star on his jacket. President Brazauskas went over to to the man, hugged him and kissed him.
An opposition party member of the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament) has leaked this memo (English translation here), dated 20 July 2010, which purports to be a circular letter from the deputy foreign minister, Sarunas Adomavicius, to the working group (names blocked out) of the ‘Fake Litvak’ Forum (the official name is the ‘Litvak Heritage Forum’). The Forum is viewed as a ploy to hijack Litvak identity and put it to use for government PR purposes.
The day it was announced, 15 July 2010, the prime minister’s chancellor boasted of ‘rich Litvaks’ having been found to finance it. Protests followed immediately from Holocaust Survivors of the ALJ, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Litvak Studies Institute and this website (see here). There is particular fear that it is to serve as cover to deflect attention from the ongoing Continue reading
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’.
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
“Also, it has been started to require the sentence of the citizens of the Jewish nationality ― Yitzhak Arad, Fania Brantsovsky and Rachel Margolis, as these citizens (former Soviet guerrillas) have organized the massive slaughter of civilians in Kaniūkai Village, Lithuania (killing 38 civilians) on 29 January 1944. Attention should be paid to the fact that the very Y. Arad has departed to Israel.” — from the statement just published by the Lithuanian Human Rights Association (LHRA), signed by ten of its leading experts and approved by its committee.
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
Yet again, Lithuania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is misinvesting assets in cooking up one-sided events that are designed to pose as open and honest forums for a variety of opinions, treating audiences as if they were idiots who will not notice something is amiss.
Lithuanian ‘Government Historians’ blame Efraim Zuroff and Dovid Katz for the Country’s Holocaust Problems
Professor Saulius Sužiedėlis (Millersville University, Pennsylvania), a major historian who has recently been flown to conferences far and wide courtesy of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, and politician Ronaldas Račinskas, deputy chairman of the state-funded ‘Red-Brown commission’ have blasted Dr. Efraim Zuroff and Professor Dovid Katz for being responsible for Lithuania’s international Holocaust issues, in a major panel discussion that appeared in the media both as a sound file and in an edited transcript format. There were also other members of the panel discussion.
Yad Vashem, Causing Pain to Survivors with Participation in Lith. Parliament Conference Lauding Collaborators, Withdraws at Last Moment (after Defending History’s Plea)
UPDATE 1: On 27 June 2011 at 3:31 PM (Vilnius time), the Israeli Embassy in Riga (responsible for Lithuania as well as Latvia) emailed DefendingHistory.com to say that Yad Vashem’s participation in the event has been cancelled. This was confirmed in a further email from Yad Vashem at 3:56 PM. In Vilnius, however, the name of Yad Vashem and its designated representative continue to appear on programs and brochures, giving the impression that the event enjoys the formal participation of Yad Vashem. See our public query to Yad Vashem.
According to a conference program posted on the website of the Lithuanian Parliament, Yad Vashem is the only Jewish institution sending a representative to the latest conference mounted by the Lithuanian government in its campaign to downgrade the Holocaust and whitewash the Lithuanian Holocaust’s first murderers (the L.A.F. and other fascist groups), often by glorifying them as ‘freedom fighters’. The printed brochure for the conference, to be held on 29 and 30 June 2011, announces the event as a joint project of the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) and the deeply antisemitic Genocide Research Center. One of the Center’s top ‘specialists’ participated in the recent neo-Nazi parade and went on to launch a public antisemitic campaign. He was neither removed from his post nor publicly reprimanded, as the season’s conferences plow ahead full steam.
DefendingHistory.com reported June 7th on Yad Vashem’s announced participation in the Lithuanian parliament’s 29-30 ‘International Conference: The Beginning of the Soviet-German War in the Baltic States in 1941’.
We commented on the pain caused to Lithuanian Holocaust survivors and their families by a decision to confer legitimacy, via the sterling name of Yad Vashem — the world’s premier Holocaust museum and research institution — on a conference held on the seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Lithuanian Holocaust. The agenda of the Lithuanian-government sponsored event has appeared to be yet another cover for the massive local violence that unleashed the Holocaust here, and to attempt yet again to recast the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF), the Provisional Government (PG) and other fascist bodies as supposedly heroic freedom fighters.
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.
Haaretz reporter Yossi Melman, author of the 7 Sept. article which brought the Lithuanian government campaign against Holocaust survivor Joseph Melamed to wide attention, and who today broke the story about Yad Vashem’s disinvitation of a Lithuanian minister over the Melamed affair, has today authorized release to the media of his 13 Sept. letter to Yivo director Jonathan Brent. The letter is in response to Mr. Brent’s 9 Sept. circular email to the entire staff of Yivo. Mr. Melman explained to DefendingHistory.com that he is releasing the letter because he had received no response from Mr. Brent.
From: Yossi Melman
Sent: Tuesday, September 13, 2011
To: Jonathan Brent
Yad Vashem Withdraws Invitation to Lithuanian Minister over Campaign against Joe Melamed; British Parliamentarians Move an ‘Early Day Motion’; Melamed Speaks Eloquently at Yad Vashem, Blasts Efforts to Glorify Holocaust Perpetrators as ‘Heroes’
Yad Vashem rescinded the invitations to the Lithuanian culture minister and ambassador to the 19 September event held in memory of the victims of the Lithuanian Holocaust. The cancelation of invitations came in response to the new investigation launched by Vilnius prosecutors (via Interpol) against a Holocaust survivor. The 30 August visit to Mr. Melamed by Interpol liaison officers in Tel Aviv was reported in DefendingHistory.com and by Yossi Melman in Haaretz.
The report on the disinvitation, also by Yossi Melman in Haaretz was rapidly picked up by the Associated Press and carried widely (e.g. CBS News, Fox, MSNBC, Washington Post, YahooNews). Further reports have appeared in the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Chronicle (London), Mishpacha, and JTA (WJC, JJ, Juedische.at, etc).
O P I N I O N
by Danny Ben-Moshe
NOTE: This op-ed appeared in today’s Jerusalem Post (and in the Jerusalem Report).
Recent developments suggest Holocaust remembrance has fallen by the wayside as a key element of Jewish Foreign Policy, at least as far as Lithuania is concerned.
Holocaust remembrance is a central plank of Jewish Foreign Policy (JFP), a term that encompasses how Israel and Diaspora organizations act on issues of common Jewish concern. The establishment of Yad Vashem in 1953 and the Eichmann trial in 1961 showed how central the memory of the Holocaust was to Israeli public and foreign policy.