“Jewish” Events as Cover?
Protected: Authorized Translation of Michael Levinas’s Dec. 2021 ‘Le Figaro’ Op-ed on Kaunas’s ‘Levinas Center’
News and Views on a ‘Levinas Center’ in Kaunas that May Serve PR Interests of Deflecting from City’s Shrines to its Holocaust Perpetrators
LEVINAS CENTER IN KAUNAS | FRANCE | KAUNAS | GLORIFICATION OF COLLABORATORS | BALTIC JEWISH INVESTMENTS THAT DEFLECT FROM HOLOCAUST REVISIONISM
Tracking media coverage.
Composer and pianist Michael Levinas, the son (and sole legal heir and custodian of his father’s works) of French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, has publicly protested Lithuania’s naming an institute in Kaunas for his father. See his op-ed in Le Figaro (21 Dec. 2021) [English]) and his interview in Actualité Juive (13 Jan. 2022) [English]). Initial coverage by JTA (19 Jan.) does not mention Michael Levinas’s protest, but unusually, the protest has been covered by Lithuanian mainstream media’s Lrt.lt (9 Jan., updated 17 Jan. 2022) which reported on the refusal of the French Embassy in Vilnius to send any representation to the center’s opening ceremony in Dec. 2021. A report also appeared on the website of the official Lithuanian Jewish Community (10 Jan.). However, a second local Kaunas community posting on 12 Jan. was alone cited by the European Jewish Congress website as an uncontroversial news item.
“Question on everybody’s mind”:
Will the Levinas Center leaders, staff, sponsors and visitors politely ask, with dignity, that the city of Kaunas now, in its year as “Capital of European Culture” rapidly remove state-sponsored shrines to the local murderers of Levinas’s family and the other 30,000 Jewish citizens of Kaunas? Or will the Levinas Center become one of the “Useful Jewish Idiot (UJI) addresses” that are used to cover for current Kaunas policies of glorification of Nazi perpetrators, while providing handsome photo-ops, lavish hospitality and generous amenities to visiting foreign Jewish dignitaries who maintain studious silence on current policies of honoring Holocaust collaborators in the public space.
Levinas for veterinarians?
The philosophy community is taken aback: Why such a new entity, howsoever named, was not deemed suitable at, for example, Vilnius University’s prestigious Faculty of Philosophy, just the “Health Sciences” unit (Medical School & Veterinary Univ.) in Kaunas, during the period of the Ramanauskas Year (2018), the Lukša Year (2021), & Kaunas Capital of European Culture year (2022), all of which have served to glorify Kaunas’s Holocaust enablers. Some Levinas scholars internationally see in recent events a “series of multilayered intellectual humiliations”…
French Composer and Pianist Michael Levinas, Son of Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, Explains Opposition to Wanton Use of Father’s Name in Kaunas’s New ‘Levinas Center’
OPINION | USE OF ‘JEWISH PROJECTS’ TO DEFLECT FROM HOLOCAUST OBFUSCATION | ‘LEVINAS CENTER’ | LITVAK AFFAIRS | KAUNAS | FRANCE
PARIS—The French Jewish journal Actualité Juive published in its print edition a full-page interview with the eminent French composer and pianist Michaël Levinas, concerning his protest at a new center in Lithuania’s second city, Kaunas (once Kovno, Yiddish Kóvne), being named for his late father, the great French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995). Coinciding with the European Union’s naming of Kaunas as “Capital of European Culture” for 2022 and the city’s refusal to remove even one of the many street names, shrines, plaques and monuments to local Nazi collaborators who helped ensure the massacre of nearly all the city’s Jewish residents in 1941, and who participated in the unleashing of the Holocaust in Lithuania even before the arrival of the first German soldiers in late late 1941, the composer’s powerful moral protest represents a singular voice of justice, reason and moral courage to date.
The composer’s stance stands in marked contrast with many others, including artists, assorted academics and a wide range of Western wannabees, who are accepting funding, honors, junkets, invites, and photo-ops with “important people” in return for an unspoken assurance of silence in face of the city’s refusal to take down a single shrine to the local perpetrators of the Holocaust.
The following is a PDF of Michaël Levinas’s interview in the print edition of Actualité Juive of 13 January 2022:
When “white-armbanders” and LAF followers began to injure, plunder, humiliate and (in 40 locations) murder thousands of Jews across Lithuania (before arrival or set-up of the first German forces or their setting up their rule)
Will the state and its “history” units finally honor the victims or again perpetuate the far-right pro-fascist false history that this was some minor crossfire in a “great revolt against the Soviets”? The Soviets were fleeing Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa, the largest invasion in human history — not the local white-armbanded Jew killers.
The 23rd of June 1941 is the date remembered by Lithuanian Jewry as the outbreak of the Holocaust with onset of widespread murder, dehumanizing degradation and humiliation of civilian Jewish neighbors by the “white armbanders” and “LAF” forces (whose pamphlets declared explicitly their plans for their nation’s Jewish citizens). But instead of honoring the victims, the state’s far-right historians-in-tow glorify the perpetrators as “anti-Soviet rebels,” a well known historic nonsense: the Soviet army was fleeing Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s invasion of the USSR, the largest invasion of human history, not the local Jew-killers with their white armbands. More on the historic background of the Double Genocide revisionism that has evolved into 21 Century Holocaust Denial.
And who will honor the real Lithuanian heroes of 1941 — the amazing, inspirational folks who risked everything to just save a neighbor from the LAF and Hitlerist hordes of the hour?
VILNIUS—Yet again, “The Editors” (which editors?) of the lofty online academic Yiddish studies journal “In geveb” have omitted mention of Defending History and of publications by any of its editors or contributors (except for occasional unsigned disparaging remarks on papers published, unbecoming of academic discourse). The context this time is a bibliography-style list of articles and opinion pieces that have appeared online concerning Yivo’s tragic recent decision to fire its entire library staff. The one omission in the list of articles? Defending History’s response to Yivo’s actions, titled: “Chelm or New York? Yivo Fires All its Librarians, While Investing ‘Fortune’ in PR for Lithuanian Government’s Jewish Politics.” Hopefully, it was an oversight.
Chelm or New York? Yivo Fires All its Librarians, While Investing “Fortune” in PR for Lithuanian Government’s “Jewish Politics”
by Dovid Katz
The Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, founded here in 1925, in historic Vilna (then Wilno, Poland; in Yiddish forever Vílne) 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, to be sure) “hijacked” to serve as the prime unit (with the AJC a close second) for Jewish PR. Not “general” Jewish PR but specifically on behalf of certain circles in the Lithuanian government determined to revise Holocaust history (and “sell” the revisions to American Jews particularly), while covering for the use of major Jewish cemeteries for building projects, all the while projecting adulation of “Litvak and Yiddish culture.”
Two of the best-known protests from Holocaust survivors in Vilnius came from Milan Chersonski, longtime editor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s quadrilingual newspaper, and Vilna-born physicist Professor Pinchos Fridberg. More pain was expressed in responses from the Leyzer Ran Family in New York, and the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel.
VILNIUS—An ad-hoc group of rabbis, lawyers and Jewish communal leaders, mostly from the United States, today issued a statement of protest calling the new “Vilna Gaon coin” issued by the Lithuanian government a “rare display of cynicism.” Their press release:
The author is a native of Vilnius hailing from centuries of Litvaks, who has worked for years in the Judaica department of Lithuania’s Martynas Mažvydas National Library. She is a prominent member of Vilnius’s small Orthodox Jewish community. She is the author of the international petition to save the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery. English translations of some of her writings are available online. For more on the 10 euro “Gaon coin” referred to, see its DH section. The views reflected in this article are strictly Ms. Bloshtein’s. The Lithuanian original of this article appeared in 7md (PDF of print version).
How does one hurt and humiliate a person (or a people)?
2020 has been declared “The Year of the Vilna Gaon and the Jewish Heritage.” Sounds solemn? It only sounds so. Empty pots make the most noise. What are these words based on? On plans to build a convention center on Jewish graves? On the remains of the Vilna Gaon’s family members and tens of thousands of other Jews. How does that sound? Like a mockery of the close to 50,000 Jews and Non-Jews from around the world who signed the protest petition. How does that sound? Like laughing at the sorrow of the venerable rabbis, of the great leaders of Lithuanian-tradition yeshivas. How does that sound? Like a rape of the very spirit, of the religious and moral norms of the entire nation.
When is a Hollowed-Out Jewish Menorah a Flowerpot for a Symbol Nowadays Brandished by Far-Right Antisemites?
by Dovid Katz
[UPDATE OF 27 NOV: See now the same author’s follow-up article of 22 Nov. including links to the known responses and debates up to that date. See now Ruta Bloshtein’s short essay in DH].
Many in the local Lithuanian Jewish and the international Litvak communities have responded with some shock to the news that the Lithuanian government’s official “Year of the Gaon of Vilna and Jewish Heritage” has been launched by a handsome, shiny 10 Euro Coin that plonks a symbol beloved in recent years of neo-Nazis (and prominently used in their new projects) onto a Jewish Menorah. The symbolism strikes some as evoking the idea that the largely vanished Lithuanian Jews and their language make for one of the “cute Jewish toys” for the ultranationalist camp to exploit in its PR outreach to unwitting foreigners.
YIDDISH AND JUDAIC STUDIES MANIPULATED FOR HOLOCAUST REVISIONISM | VILNIUS YIDDISH INSTITUTE | BORNS JEWISH STUDIES PROGRAM AT INDIANA UNIVERSITY | RICHARD MAULLIN
Its Prehistory (1990-1999), History (1999-2010) and Posthistory (2010-2018) from the Year of Lithuania’s Declaration of Independence Onward
CAN GOVERNMENT AGENCIES STILL WRITE INDIVIDUALS OUT OF HISTORY IN POST-SOVIET SPACE? DO VILNIUS UNIVERSITY’S DEANS AND RECTOR APPROVE OF THE PRACTICE? CAN A PAST PROFESSOR WITH A PERFECT RECORD OVER 11 YEARS (NO COMPLAINTS, NO INCIDENTS) BE WRITTEN OUT OF THE UNIVERSITY’S HISTORY AND DEFAMED IN THE UNIVERSITY’S NAME ON ORDERS OF SOMEONE AT THE “INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION FOR THE EVALUATION OF THE CRIMES OF THE NAZI AND SOVIET REGIMES IN LITHUANIA” (THE “RED-BROWN COMMISSION“)?
A “for the record” page in progress, developed in response to repeated public statements by the current director of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, a member of the state-sponsored Commission on Nazi and Soviet crimes, claiming that Defending History’s editor (a) was never a professor at the university, (b) if he was an elementary Yiddish alphabet teacher paid by some surfers in California, he got fired for not turning up to work. Further documents are being processed for inclusion in the bizarre but curiously telling chapter of the history of Yiddish Studies in the 21st century. The political manipulation (ranging from West European far-left to East European far-right) of Yiddish-less “Yiddish” is a theme in the final chapter of Yiddish and Power (Palgrave Macmillan 2015) by the Yiddishist in question, Dovid Katz.
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.
Midsummer Week of Vilnius Synagogue Closure, Antisemitic Demo Glorifying Holocaust Collaborators; A Roskies-Fishman Conference for Neat Cover?
[updated 29 August 2019]
Twenty years after Joe Melamed named Noreika & Škirpa as Holocaust collaborators in Crime & Punishment. Ten years after Defending History published images of the plaques. Seven years after DH’s Evaldias Balčiūnas brought the case of J. Noreika to the English speaking world. Four years after Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas‘s classic DH essay on K. Škirpa:
Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius Leads City Council Decision to Rename “Skirpa Street” and Personally Orders Removal of “Noreika Plaque” in 4 AM Raid
Official Lithuanian Jewish Community Closes Premises and Synagogue on 6-8 Aug. in View of Threats, Citing Conservative Party’s Ongoing Campaign to Protest Mayor’s Actions and Glorify Holocaust Collaborators
Statement issued by Vilnius Jewish Community; JTA reports of 6. Aug; 7 Aug; 8 Aug (+TOI); LJC’s circulated reply to VJC
Summer Glut of Lithuanian Gov. Awards for (Alleged) “Useful Jewish Enablers” of Holocaust Revisionism
OPINION | AWARDS FOR WESTERN AND JEWISH ENABLERS | BACKGROUND TO EAST EUROPEAN HOLOCAUST REVISIONISM | WHEN FOREIGN MINISTRIES PLAY WITH HOLOCAUST HISTORY FOR POLITICAL GAIN | DOUBLE GENOCIDE | (AB)USE OF JEWISH, JUDAIC, HEBRAIC & YIDDISH STUDIES | UPS AND DOWNS OF ISRAELI POLICY | LITHUANIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY SAGA | YIVO MANIPULATED
More Lithuanian Government Glories & Medals for Alleged “Useful Jewish Enablers” of Baltic Holocaust Revisionism
♦ To the outgoing Israeli ambassador, HE Amir Maimon, after he posed with a portrait of an alleged Nazi collaborator Adolfas Ramanauskas (Vanagas) in support of the collaborator’s glorification. Defending History’s Evaldas Balčiūnas has reported for years on the collaborator, who is also featured on the front banner of neo-Nazi torchlit parades. The Wiesenthal Center had spoken out in good time.
♦ To the “fudged election” government-backed head of the state-supported Jewish community, eminent attorney Faina Kukliansky, after she granted “legitimacy” to the erection of a statue in Chicago to the same alleged Nazi collaborator, the first on American soil. The same monument was soundly rejected a year earlier by the democratically elected town council of New Britain, Connecticut. Head of the Jewish Agency now calling for monument’s urgent removal.
♦ To the current head of New York’s Yivo, Dr. Jonathan Brent, after a decade of intimate collusion in Holocaust obfuscation, glib betrayal of Holocaust victims and survivors and defamation of Yiddish scholars who disagree with far-right instrumentalization of this fragile language and literature and are loyal to the survivors and their families. See the plea by Vilnius’s last Vilna-born survivor, Prof. Pinchos Fridberg.
OPINION | YIDDISH AFFAIRS | VILNIUS YIDDISH INSTITUTE (VYI) | “YIDDISH” AS COVER FOR HOLOCAUST REVISIONISM IN EASTERN EUROPE | MEDIA WATCH
by Dovid Katz
Over many years, the jaundiced personal attacks by the Yiddish Forward (Forverts) on colleagues in the field of Yiddish who may hold different opinions, or are just not part of the “Yugntruf” or “Sovetish Heimland” cliques that took over the paper at the turn of the century, have been a cause for concern. For that matter, not the only cause for concern at the many millions of dollars squandered that could have built a genuine revival of Yiddish-in-Yiddish culture among younger generations worldwide that has instead gone on these two clubs and their very specific agendas. I have myself over the years been the object of a number of attacks, for the most part published without the name of the author, in the worst traditions of a yellow press. On one occasion, back in 2011, when “Mr. Jacob London of Oxford” wrote about the Vilnius-based issues of Yiddish studies in the city and its abuse by far-right elements intent on rewriting history in the spirit of East European ultranationalism, we responded on these pages with a piece entitled “Has the Forward Association Abandoned Elementary Ethics?” that was, naturally, signed by its author.
OPINION | UCL MANIPULATED | LITVAK AFFAIRS | COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED | UK | JEWISH EVENTS AS COVER | USEFUL JEWISH IDIOTS (UJIs) | VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE
LONDON—It’s that time of year again. The “Litvak” and “Yiddish” grandees of University College London’s Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and various cohorts from near and far, queue up to bask in the pot-of-lentil glories offered for their repeated championing of state PR, even when it entailed betrayal of the interests and causes of Holocaust survivors, the actual Litvak legacy, and bona fide Yiddish language and culture. The roster from previous years includes the 2011 conference intended to “fix” the narrative of the Holocaust in the direction of Double Genocide, which resulted in a major protest that included, to her (and the department’s) great credit, the then head-of-department (For the Economist’s coverage see here and here; more media). The record also includes the 2012 refusal of conference organizers to allow a Holocaust survivor five minutes to read a polite statement of concern.
VILNIUS—Beware of any academic conference hosted by a nation’s parliament. This isn’t about Lithuania, the Baltics, or Eastern Europe. It’s about the intellectual independence and academic integrity of bona fide academic conclaves anywhere. There are elementary questions. Was there a public call for papers? Was there an academic committee established to select those papers by the most competent specialists on the actual topic of the conference? An academic committee that would guard against the petty jealousies, politics of revenge and personal exclusions, as well as larger political correctnesses or state-sponsored-agency attempts to predetermine the proceedings or (ab)use them for governmental PR? Is the conference a free tribune for the exchange of ideas in an atmosphere of collegiality and mutual respect? One where scholars of opposing views can thrash it out, robustly and publicly — without the loss of interpersonal respect — to yield positive results for the area of human enquiry to which the conference was dedicated in the first place. One of the ironies is that Vilnius is nowadays host to some of the world’s best (and most academically free) conferences in an array of fields, both in the humanities and the sciences. That Soviet-style rigging should survive in the case of Judaic studies, of all things, will itself be studied one day.
VILNIUS—Professor Dov-Ber Kerler, deeply involved in the 2010 purge of Vilnius Yiddish Institute staff (including his own former doctoral supervisor at Oxford) for having disagreed with some Lithuanian government policies on the Holocaust, and in an alleged ongoing effort to obfuscate the history of Yiddish studies at Oxford and Vilnius, will be lecturing this Wednesday, 9 August 2017, at the new Judaica Research Center at Lithuania’s National Library in Vilnius. He is the head of the leading American Yiddish graduate studies program, that currently produces more Yiddish Studies doctorates than any other, at the Borns Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University at Bloomington. The topic of the lecture is “Yiddish: A Language in Contact Within and Without” on which Prof. Kerler has carried out pioneering research for decades. The event is open to the public free of charge. The lecture is underwritten by the government’s Ministry of Culture. More details are available on the Center’s Facebook page. Professor Kerler is also a specialist on Ethics in Yiddish Studies. He was honored for his efforts by a popular t-shirt in Lithuania.
by Dovid Katz
A“designer menorah” proposed as an official “new Litvak logo” featuring the candelabrum’s center replaced by a Lithuanian national symbol that is perfectly legitimate but has in recent years frequently been adopted by neo-Nazi and far-right nationalist groups? One that is also at the center of the logo of the far-right organization that sponsored a demonstration defaming 95 year old Holocaust survivor (and anti-Nazi partisan hero) Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky just a few months ago? One over which women’s rights campaigners have been prosecuted in recent years (at the whim of far-right groups) for “desecrating”? One which a far right political candidate has used on his poster along with swastikas?
The official Lithuanian Jewish Community website, lavishly financed in three languages by the restitution-funded “Good Will Foundation” has this week featured on its English and Lithuanian pages the design, under the headline A New Litvak Logo. The accompanying unsigned editorial purporting to represent the “Jewish community” boasts with some potentially obsequious glee that the Justice Ministry has graciously given the community “permission” to use the symbol in its “Jewish” logo, going on to announce for the benefit of readers that incorporating the symbol “into a Litvak logo makes perfect sense” and indeed, to warn any would-be copycats that this dazzling invention is being “patented”. There is no mention anywhere about any local Jewish people (in other words the members of the community in whose name various pronouncements are being made) being surveyed, questioned or consulted.
Lithuanian Jewry may be small and fragile but it is vibrant as ever. The first published protest came within minutes of its publication in the “Motke Chabad” blog on the website of the Vilnius Russian-language publication Obzor [update: following this article, a report appeared in Izrus.il].
Scholars Issue Public Letter on Ukrainian Holocaust Revisionist Participation in 9-11 March 2017 Paris Conference
The following open Letter of Concern appears on the Academia.edu page of Professor Tarik Cyril Amar and others.
To the Organizers of the Symposium “The Holocaust in Ukraine. New Perspectives on the Evils of the 20th Century,” Paris, March 9-11, 2017:
by Dovid Katz (Vilnius)
Full credit to the Forward’s Paul Berger, who has, as ever, sought to be meticulously fair in his new article on some aspects of contemporary Lithuanian Jewish life. This “addendum” goes in a sense more to the wider issues encountered when Western journalists cover stories in the “slightly exotic east,” here in Eastern Europe, on ground zero of the Holocaust, where Jewish communities are ipso facto remnant communities, and where certain larger trends can at times be in play.