The Embassy of Ireland in Lithuania issued a certificate of lifetime achievement to Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, signed by HE Ambassador Dónal Denham, who presented the award at a reception today at the ambassador’s residence. Ambassador Denham’s speech concluded with the words: ‘Fania is one brave woman! You are a beautiful person, a special person, an inspiration to us all.’
Ireland’s Ambassador Donal Denham Hosts a Reception for Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky at his Residence in Vilnius
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.
At the initiative of the UK’s ambassador to Lithuania, HE Simon Butt, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, one of the Jewish partisan veterans being subjected to “war crimes investigations” by Lithuanian prosecutors, was asked to give a talk and lead a walk through the streets of what had been the Vilna Ghetto during the Holocaust in Lithuania. Fania was incarcerated in the ghetto from its first day, 6 September 1941, through to its last, 23 September 1943, when she and Dobke Develtov (now of Los Angeles) escaped through a hole in the wall to join up with the Jewish veterans in the forests where both women fought heroically against the Nazis and their collaborators.
The participants in today’s event to honor Fania Brantsovky and, by extension, the Jewish partisans generally, were:
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.
Vilna Ghetto Victims Substituted for War Criminals List in the Baltic Times; VYI Chief calls the Association of Lithuanian Jews ‘Extreme Right-Wingers’
Part of a list of Jewish victims of the Vilna Ghetto (including fallen resistance hero Yechiel Sheinboim) appears in the Baltic Times instead of the captioned list of alleged Nazi-allied murderers (zoom-in).
The young foreign reporter was wholly innocent; a still unidentified source provided the wrong list. An obscure and ambiguous correction appeared the following week.
Moreover, director of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute Sarunas Liekis is quoted (misquoted?) in the article (column 2), as calling the last active group of Litvak Holocaust survivors in the world (the ALJ in Tel Aviv) ‘extreme right-wingers’, adding that ‘scholars don’t talk to them’. Although now aged, these survivors’ ranks still include prominent Holocaust scholars.
The Baltic trend to delegitimize Holocaust survivors and their supporters is part of the wider series of attempted conceptual realignments deemed ‘necessary’ to propagate the Double Genocide bandwagon, and obfuscation of the Holocaust, within the context of regional unltranationalism.
A certificate of appreciation for Dr Rachel Margolis, issued by Great Britain’s Lord Janner of Braunstone, was delivered at the Dr Rachel Margolis event chaired today at Leivick House in Tel Aviv by its director, composer Daniel Galay.
The keynote speaker was Israeli ambassador to Latvia and Lithuania, Chen Ivri Apter, who awarded Dr Margolis a certificate of merit from the Israeli embassy in Riga. Tel Aviv schoolchildren who study Yiddish with Hannah Pollin-Galay presented a cultural program of song, and a gift of flowers to Dr Margolis. Other speakers included professors Israel Bartal, Dov Levin (Jerusalem) and Dovid Katz (Vilnius).
‘Jewish property and a burnt-out land’ on the country’s main news portal Delfi.lt by the former director of the ‘Litvak Foundation’ (Litvaku fondas), whose accomplishments include the projects to erect statues of famed Jewish personalities Tsemakh Shabad and Romain Gary; image published with the article. Text includes the statement: ‘There are about 3000 Jews in Lithuania, and one must keep in mind that only some 1000 are really Lithuanian Jews (heirs and successors to the former Jewish communities), rather than aliens from the East.’ English translation.
Holocaust in the Baltics, established on 6 September 2009, is dedicated to the memory of Professor Meir Shub (1924—2009), pictured at right teaching a class at Vilnius University in the early 2000s.
A historian and philosopher, he dedicated the last decades of his life to rebuilding Jewish studies in Vilnius, despite severe health issues deriving from his World War II wounds sustained as a Red Army soldier during the struggle against Nazism.
He was determined to inspire and train students of all backgrounds who would freely research Judaic topics, including the Holocaust. He was convinced that the success of these studies depended on the retention of a robust and intellectually free-feeling Jewish community component in such projects in Eastern Europe.
Meir Shub’s booming voice (which grew louder as his deafness worsened), straight talk, and high Litvak expectations of his students were trademarks. He is sorely missed. He played a pivotal role in achieving the first Oxford-Vilnius agreement in Judaic studies, and, in 1991-1992, was a visiting fellow at the Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Oxford University. His works include a study of the Gaon of Vilna.
Jonathan Freedland’s article in today’s Guardian includes the sad tale of the founder of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute having to give his lectures at students’ homes after being banned by the (non-Yiddish-specialist) government operative installed as “director” after state prosecutors launched proceedings against Holocaust survivors for their “crime” of having escaped the ghetto to join up with anti-N azi Soviet forced who were, in alliance with the United States and Great Britain during the Holocaust, the only force seriously fighting the Nazis in Lithuania and the rest of Eastern Europe.
Is the Vilnius Yiddish Institute about to become a PR unit of the government agencies responsible for Holocaust manipulation and the ongoing investment in Yiddish and Jewish projects as cover for history manipulation?
The article, by Jonathan Freedland is available here.
The Lithuanian parliament (Seimas)will host a reception on 12 November in honor of the appearance of the English translation of the book of memoirs by Juozas Lukša-Daumantas, a postwar hero of the ‘Forest Brothers’ resistance movement against Soviet occupation. There is lively argument among scholars about whether Lukša is or is not the person on an infamous photograph of LAF butchers at the Lietukis Garage. But there is no dispute that he was an active member of the LAF and that he never expressed a word of regret about the LAF’s principal ‘accomplishment’: premeditated announcement, launch and intense participation in the actual butchery of Lithuanian Jewry.
The diplomatic corps in Vilnius was invited to the 12 November reception (invitation here). The ambassadors of France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, and others informed Defending History that they would not attend.
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.
Ronald Lauder, President of World Jewish Congress, Speaks Up in Response to Lithuania’s Justice Minister
The following report today appeared on the website of the World Jewish Congress. The initial DefendingHistory.com report of 2 December 2009 is here.
04 December 2009
Lithuanian Justice Minister Remigijus Šimašius has said his country should answer questions regarding its behavior during World War II with its head held high. Writing in his internet blog, Šimašius dismissed accusations that Lithuania had been an anti-Semitic country and collaborated with the Nazis. “First of all, the fact that many Jews were killed in Lithuania does not in itself mean that Lithuanians were Jew killers. Quite on the contrary: Lithuania was a place where Jews were safe and lived in peace. Until the Nazis came. Had Lithuanians been anti-Semitic, Lithuania would not have become a haven for the Jews, and Vilnius would not have been known as ‘Jerusalem of the North’,” the justice minister argued.
MONTREAL — Concordia University professor Mikhail Iossel was cautiously optimistic as he was about to leave for Vilnius, Lithuania, to take the first steps in launching a historically unprecedented undertaking, the Litvak Studies Institute (LSI).
The institute will operate as a permanent, non-profit studies program in Vilnius – known as Vilna to generations of Jews – seeking to preserve and transmit the rich religious, literary, linguistic and cultural legacy that defined Jewish Lithuania and was all but obliterated in the Holocaust, the creative writing professor said in an interview.
But the endeavour, Iossel acknowledged, is being undertaken in a country that – like most of eastern Europe – is experiencing rising nationalistic undercurrents and rumblings that depict Nazism and Stalinism as equal historic evils. Lithuania itself is being presented as a victim of genocide as the government attempts to sanitize its own involvement in the Holocaust.
Sir Martin Gilbert Writes to State Jewish Museum in Lithuania, Asking for Halt to Campaign Against Kostanian
The following is the text of an email sent by Sir Martin Gilbert to an official of Lithuania’s Jewish state museum in defense of Rachel Kostanian, the internationally acclaimed cofounder and longtime director of the Holocaust section of the state Jewish museum, long known as “The Green House” (it is housed in a green wooden house at Pamenkalnio 12, invisible from the street, and up a steep driveway). She is also an eminent author, creator of exhibits and catalogues, and Holocaust educator who has engated with thousands of loval and foreign visitors to the museum. At Sir Martin’s request, the name of the recipient, and of others mentioned in the letter, have been redacted to maintain confidences and avert unnecessary embarrassments. The alleged “mistake” referred to in the final paragraph refers to a powerful new Holocaust documentary film directed by Saulius Beržinis, which Rachel Kostanian enabled, helped to research and complete, and obtained the funding for from a prominent Litvak family in the United Kingdom. The film was apparently deemed unacceptable for its “excessive truth telling,” as one (non-Jewish) museum worker, speaking off the record, put it with some irony. It will presumably one day find its way to the public square one way or another.
Update of Oct. 2010: See also our report on the October 2010 re-opening of the Green House following extensive renovations. Black and white photos below are©Richard Schofield.
Rachel Kostanian, the courageous director, valiantly keeps alive one of the rare local bastions of public integrity on the Holocaust in Lithuania, having constantly to fend off obstacles. Read Esther Goldberg’s portrait in the special Jewish New Year’s supplement on great Jewish women of the ages in the Canadian Jewish News (8 Sept 2010). A follow-up article on Rachel Kostanian’s epic struggle for truth in Holocaust history appeared a month later (7 Oct 2010).
Litvak Studies Institute Protests “Fake Litvak” Game by Politicians; Director Mikhail Iossel Issues Statement
Litvak Studies Institute Protests Lithuanian Government’s “Fake Litvak” Forum, Calls on State to Halt PR Gimmickry and Reverse Anti-Jewish Policies
Posted in Press — 20 July 2010
For the dwindling number of aged Litvak survivors who grew up in the East European Jewish civilization decimated by the Holocaust, the anti-Jewish and Holocaust-distorting policies of the Lithuanian government in recent years are deeply painful.
Professor Mikhail Iossel, founding director of the Litvak Studies Institute (LSI), has given a major radio interview on salient Litvak issues to RCI — Radio Canada International. The sound track of the interview is available here. For more information, see coverage on the LSI site.
In May 2010 a Lithuanian court legalized public displays of swastikas, with nearly no reaction from foreign embassies or human rights groups. Reports here and here. Jewish community’s reaction here. See also the page on Antisemitism. On the term swasticals, see our report for 8 May 2010.
11 March 2008
16 February 2010
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.
Esther Goldberg Gilbert on Life’s Work of Rachel Kostanian, Intrepid Director of Vilnius’s ‘Green House’ Holocaust Museum
VILNIUS—Esther Goldberg Gilbert, wife and partner to Sir Martin Gilbert and an accomplished Holocaust scholar in her own right, published a profile today of Rachel Kostanian, the widely admired director of Vilnius’s Green House, which many consider to be the only honest Holocaust exhibit or museum in the entire country. The PDF is available here, and a facsimile follows. Please use handles in the upper left hand corner to turn pages.20108SeptGGoldergOnKostanian