Politics of Memory

Chronicle of the Lithuanian Government’s Campaign to Blame Holocaust Survivors who Joined the Resistance


UPDATED MARCH 2017. See also (older, not updated) Responsespage.

2006    2007    2008    2009    2010    2011

2012    2013    2014    2015    2016    2017


PREFACE

The campaign of defamation by Lithuanian state prosecutors and allied elites (particularly in the Genocide Center and the antisemitic right-wing press) has resulted in a number of cherished Holocaust Survivors being smeared as “war criminals” without a single charge ever having been leveled against anybody. Launched in 2006, the campaign, abusing tools such as “pre-trial investigations” and leaks to the media, have sought to brand as “war criminals” the heroes of the war against Hitler. It grew in 2011 with the addition of equally perverse  “libel charges,” launched with fanfare when Interpol (!) was sent to disturb in Tel Aviv the elected head of the last active group of Litvak Holocaust survivors in the world. Then, in 2013, the state’s “red-brown commission” defamed one of Vilnius’s last survivors on equally perverse grounds, all the while putting on “Holocaust events” for naive Western audiences, usually funded by the (unknowing) Lithuanian taxpayer, in venues  including LondonNew YorkToronto, and Vilnius.

A single public letter from the president could fix it all. Instantly.

The campaign of defamation results in permanent calumny in historians’ worksWikipedia, and elsewhere (see below) that is more than a grave injustice to the Holocaust survivors targeted (and their families). It is a deliberate ultranationalist falsification of history in the spirit of the wider campaign to find fault with the victims and make heroes of the perpetrators. These are components of the movement to obfuscate the issues, and downgrade the Holocaust in the spirit of the Double Genocide movement and its central document, the 2008 Prague Declaration.

All but one of the accused survivors — most in their late eighties or nineties — are still alive (as of February 2016). Dr. Rachel Margolis passed away on 6 July 2015, having failed to fulfill her final wish of one last trip to her native Vilna.

A single public letter of apology from the president or prime minister of Lithuania, accompanied by an apology from the state prosecutors, would be the minimal gesture of good will needed to repair the damage. Public defamation can only be (partly) repaired by public apology. Moreover, the state has a splendid last chance to end its relationship with its own Holocaust survivors, after a 700 year history in Lithuania, on a rather higher note than police coming to look for aged women veterans of the heroic Jewish resistance in the forests of Lithuania.

During his own tenure before these events, Lithuania’s eminent late president (later prime minister) Algirdas Brazauskas, a champion of confronting historical truth with courage and dignity, awarded certificates of honor to the selfsame Jewish partisan veterans for the selfsame service in helping to liberate Lithuania from Nazism. . .


2006

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.]

2007

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.

2008

29 January 2008.  Article in the daily Lietuvos aidas that called on prosecutors to investigate Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky and Dr Rachel Margolis. English translation.

6 April 2008.  Professor Dov Levin of Jerusalem protests, returning his own earlier award to the president of Lithuania.

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.

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Britain’s MP John Mann, Speaking in UK Parliament, Blasts Tallinn’s “Double Genocide” Conclave



UK  |  DOUBLE GENOCIDE  |  ESTONIA  |  EU

VILNIUS—The following is an excerpt from John Mann’s speech in the House of Commons of 31 January 2008. The entire speech, along with others in the debate, is on the UK Parliament website.

 

2.30 pm

John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab):

On 22 January, in Tallinn, Estonia, five MEPs from five different countries met to launch a group called Common Europe—Common History.

It has the same theme—the need for an equal evaluation of history. It is just a traditional form of prejudice, rewritten in a modern context. In essence, it is trying to equate communism and Judaism as one conspiracy and rewrite history from a nationalist point of view. Those are elected MEPs.

 

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Police Come to Rachel Kostanian’s Residence, Looking for Vilna Ghetto Survivors Rachel Margolis and Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky


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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.

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Ireland’s Ambassador Donal Denham Hosts a Reception for Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky at his Residence in Vilnius


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.’

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Legal Ban on Nazi and Soviet Symbols in the Spirit of Red-Brown ‘Equivalence by Law’, a Blow to Freedom of Speech


BBC report, ‘Lithuanian ban on Soviet symbols’. A legally imposed ‘equivalence’ of ‘Nazi and Soviet symbols’ came as a grave moral blow to elderly veterans of the war against Nazism, and their proud families (notwithstanding an addition to the law technically exempting veteran memorials).


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Jewish Community and Union of Ghetto Survivors Speak Out on Harassment of Holocaust Survivors who Joined the Resistance



O P I N I O N

by Shimon Alperovich and Tuvia Jafet

The following Open Letter was published today by the Jewish Community of Lithuania in partnership with the Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Prisoners.


VILNIUS, 19 JUNE 2008

AN OPEN LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY VALDAS ADAMKUS, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

ČESLOVAS JURŠĖNAS, SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

GEDIMINAS KIRKILAS, PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

ALGIMANTAS VALANTINAS,
PROSECUTOR GENERAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 

The prosecutors of Lithuania do not cease to persecute anti-Nazi Jewish partisans. The Prosecution Service’s claims that “hundreds of witnesses are being questioned” are belied by the fact that only Jewish names are being heard in the media: Yitzhak Arad, Fania Brantsovsky, Rachel Margolis, and others.

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Genocide Museum in the Center of Vilnius Features Antisemitic Exhibits; Plus: Temporary Exhibit Trivializes Auschwitz


Exhibition panel at the state sponsored Genocide Museum, exemplifying the nexus of Holocaust trivialization and antisemitism: ‘In Auschwitz we were given some spinach and a little bread’. Zoom-in of the text (2008 exhibit).

The permanent exhibit includes a post-Holocaust caricature of a Soviet jeep being driven by Lenin, Stalin and ‘the Jew Yankel’  (with no comment on the antisemitic portrayal). Sample of another antisemitic exhibit; & another. Such is sometimes the local face of the ‘Soviet-Nazi equivalence’ that is disseminated at the European Parliament via the Prague Declaration and other resolutions.

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UK Ambassador Simon Butt Organizes Letter from Nine Ambassadors to Rachel Margolis


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.

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British Ambassador to Lithuania Organizes Vilna Ghetto Walk Led by Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky


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:

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Jewish Community and Union of Ghetto Survivors Speak Out Again on Harassment of Holocaust Survivors who Joined the Resistance



O P I N I O N

by Shimon Alperovich and Tuvia Jafet


VILNIUS, 1 SEPTEMBER 2008

AN OPEN LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY VALDAS ADAMKUS, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

ČESLOVAS JURŠĖNAS, SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

GEDIMINAS KIRKILAS, PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

ALGIMANTAS VALANTINAS, PROSECUTOR GENERAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 

The Lithuanian Jewish Community did not fail to notice the quite rapid reaction of the country’s President and Prime Minister, who urged law enforcement authorities and special services to find as quickly as possible the criminals (and their masterminds) who organized the attack on the LJC building in Vilnius on August 9-10.

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State Prosecutors Defame Anti-Nazi Resistance Hero Yitzhak Arad while Closing Part of ‘Investigation’; Anonymous ‘Expert Historian’ Attacks Arad’s Book as Public is Asked to Provide ‘Evidence’


While closing ‘part’ of its ‘investigation’ against Holocaust survivor and eminent historian Dr Yitzhak Arad, the Prosecution Service of the Republic of Lithuania issues a public call ‘to the society [public] for assistance’ searching for ‘people who can give evidence or have important information’. More incredibly, the prosecutors’ press release attacks Dr Arad’s famous memoir The Partisan, a classic of Holocaust resistance memoir literature, on the basis of an anonymous ‘Doctor of Humanitarian Sciences (expert-historian)‘. And so, the prosecution service that never achieved the slightest punishment of a single Nazi war criminal in connection with the genocide of 200,000 Lithuanian Jews, leaves for posterity its call to the public for ‘evidence’ against the anti-Nazi resistance hero Yitzhak Arad along with a gutless attack on the scholar’s book based on an anonymous trasher. Perhaps the prosecutors’ mysterious ‘Doctor of Humanitarian Sciences (Expert-Historian)’ will muster the courage to come forward and identify himself for history?

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Concept Inflation and the Criminalization of Debate



O P I N I O N

by Leonidas Donskis

This English version of the essay (the original Lithuanian text appeared in Lietuvos aidas, 28 November 2008) first appeared in the English edition of Jerusalem of Lithuania (Oct-Dec 2008, PDF here) and is republished here with the author’s and editor’s permission.


 

I have already written that we live in a period of not only monetary inflation, but of concept and value inflation as well. In our time oaths have become worthless, while formerly a person who broke one lost not only all of his own power, but the capacity to represent his values and to participate in the public sphere as well. Nothing, other than his own person and his private life, remained. He no longer had the right to speak on behalf of either his group, his nation, or his society.

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Lithuanian Government’s Holocaust Conference in Jerusalem



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.

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Parliamentarians Explain that Red-Brown Criminalization Law is Necessary to ‘equate the crimes of Soviet Genocide with the Nazi Genocide’


Delfi.lt reports that ‘in the Lithuanian legal system, acts regarding the the crimes of Soviet genocide, i.e. their denial or justification, are not criminalized, and, experts say, this is an obstacle in attempting to equate the crimes of Soviet genocide with the Nazi genocide’.  Full English translation.  BNS’s English summary.


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Prague’s Declaration of Disgrace. A European attempt to equate Communism with Nazism will falsify history.



O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
Reprinted from the Jewish Chronicle (London), 21 May 2009


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.

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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.


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Rachel Margolis Honored in Tel Aviv


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).

Images: Dr Margolis addresses the audience. After the event. Dr Margolis with Ambassador Apter. Photos by Leyzer Burko. Leivick House report on the event.

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Seminars in Secret at the Annual Summer Program in Yiddish when the Topic is Holocaust Obfuscation


Seminars on Holocaust Obfuscation had to be held in private apartments during the Summer Program in Yiddish Language and Literature. [UPDATES added in later months as these materials appeared: Memoirs have been published by  Julia Blaukopf (Photographic Interiors, Pennsylvania); Jana Hock (Museum Ritter, Waldenbuch); Michael Cohen (more recent article here); Josh Markovitz (both UCLA). There have been comments in the Guardian and the Nation.]

The Vilnius Yiddish Institute staff list distributed to summer course students was purged of staff who spoke out publicly on behalf of the accused survivors and against ‘Double Genocide’. Lectures were convened at private apartments on August 10, 17, 19, 20 (more details at: Events). Image from 17 August; first and last slides; slide on European Parliament issues; more at Jamie Ehrenpreis’s Facebook siteGroup of participants after the 19 Aug. presentation; more by J. Ehrenpreis here.

Austrian Holocaust museum volunteer Adalbert Wagner set up power-point facilities, generously lent by the Green House Holocaust Museum. The organization of these lectures was assisted by VYI summer course participants  Dr Judy Freier, Dr Ilya Levin, Prof Abraham Lichtenbaum, Daniel Nemenyi, Dr Shimon Samuels, Berti Wagner. Larry Mandel, Daniel Nemenyi and  Martina Ravagnan for opened up their homes to one lecture each.

It is thought that the ‘Dirty Tricks Department’ of the Lithuanian government unit aiming to manipulate Jewish issues is planning for the Yiddish institute to become a PR tool of the government, with the Yiddish professor of Bloomington, Indiana brought over summertime and for select events to provide the necessary Yiddish Studies Cover for several weeks a year.


UPDATES HERE


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Lithuanian Holocaust Survivors Release 1998 Letter on the “Red-Brown Commission”


The Tel Aviv office of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, one of the world’s last active organizations of Holocaust survivors hailing from Lithuania, today authorized HolocaustInTheBaltics to publish its 6 November 1998 letter to the president of Lithuania protesting the establishment of the “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania.” The letter first appeared in facsimile form in the book Crime and Punishment, edited by the association’s chairman, Tel Aviv attorney Joseph A. Melamed. The letter follows.

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