As anyone who has been following events in Lithuania for the last several years surely knows by now, the country sports street names and monuments honoring locals who collaborated with the Nazis during World War Two. It was in this context that I attended an event in Washington, DC yesterday at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute discussing Ruta Vanagaite’s controversial book “Our People” (it appeared in Lithuanian in 2016) that blows open the door describing the true extent of Lithuanian collaboration in the Holocaust. Vanagaite and her co-author Efraim Zuroff , director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel Office, spoke at the event.
Posted in Books, Collaborators Glorified, Events, Josh Cohen, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Politics of Memory, Rūta Vanagaitė, United States
Tagged Efraim Zuroff, Josh Cohen, Kennan Institute (Wilson Center), Lithuanian Embassy in Washington DC, Lithuuanian-Jewish relations, Piramont, Rolandas Krisciunas, Ruta Vanagaite, Snipiskes Jewish cemetery, Vanagaite + Zuroff
PEN America released this statement on its website today:
NEW YORK—The decision by the Alma Littera publishing house to cut all ties with their author Ruta Vanagaite, and to remove remaining copies of all of her five books from circulation and pulp them, is a troubling overreaction and should be reconsidered, said PEN America today.
The publisher’s decision to remove and destroy all of Vanagaite’s books was a response to her recent criticism of Adolfas Ramanauskas, a Lithuanian nationalist widely perceived as a hero. Vanagaite previously touched on sensitive historical issues in her most recent book, Mūsiškiai (Our People), published in Lithuania in 2016, which discusses the role of Lithuanian nationalists and freedom fighters in the persecution of Jewish Lithuanians and the Holocaust during World War II. Lithuania still denies their role in WWII and the Lithuanian authorities claimed that the book jeopardized national security. The destruction and removal of Vanagaite’s books demonstrates the tight borders of what is acceptable criticism of a national hero in Lithuania. Since the publication of the book, Vanagaite has received threats, which have escalated in recent weeks; a suit against her for slander and denigration of a deceased person has also been filed with the prosecutor by a patriotic group (the prosecutor has declined to take up the case, finding no evidence of malicious intent).
Posted in Debates on Adolfas Ramanauskas (Vanagas), Free Speech & Democracy, Human Rights, It Pays to Defend History: Success Over the Years..., Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Politics of Memory, Rūta Vanagaitė, United States
Tagged Alme Littera (publishers, Free speech in Lithuania, Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Mususkiai, PEN America + Lithuania, Ruta Vanagaite, Vilnius
VILNIUS—The Weekly of Vilnius, sometimes considered to be this city’s most prestigious English-language news publication, today released its weekly issue which contains a highly documented summary of many of the sides in the debate over author and PR specialist Ruta Vanagaitė’s comments concerning state plans to name 2018 for someone who led a pro-Nazi militia during the early days of the Lithuanian Holocaust in 1941, but who is being honored for his postwar service in the anti-Soviet resistance. Defending History has published its own take along with a much more limited summary of the debate which readers may consult for comparison and helping “complete the picture” as best as it can be in English. Note that selections of Lithuanian articles on the subject from the major news portal Delfi.lt, and from BNS (Baltic News Service), in both cases generally representing government and “nationalist establishment” positions, are available in English translation on the English Delfi.lt (Lithuania Tribune) site (search “Vanagaitė” for rapid reference).
Posted in Collaborators Glorified, Free Speech & Democracy, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Media Watch, News & Views, Politics of Memory, Rūta Vanagaitė
Tagged Free speech in Lithuania, Holocaust in Lithuania, human rights in Lithuania, Nehro Khalil, Ruta Vanagaite, Weekly of Vilnius
by Linas Vildžiūnas
The following English translation, by Laurynas Vaičiūnas, of Linas Vildžiūnas’s review of Rūta Vanagaitė’s Mūsiškiai appeared today in New Eastern Europe (as PDF).
A book review of Mūsiškiai (Ours). By: Rūta Vanagaitė. Publisher: Alma littera, Vilnius, 2016.
What makes Rūta Vanagaitė’s Ours (Mūsiškiai) very different from all other Lithuanian books on the Holocaust is that it was from the start written as a bestseller. Written by an experienced public relations professional as an appeal to the Lithuanian public, the book raises the painful issue of historical responsibility. The author does not refrain from giving a personal twist to the story (it would be impossible otherwise, as the Holocaust is an issue of individual position and individual responsibility). The author is piercingly direct and uses black comedy. She approaches the topic with composure and a sense of supremacy. These two features may irritate the reader. However, she is entitled to it as she aims to confront the reader, which she so eloquently achieves.
Posted in Arts, Bold Citizens Speak Out, Books, History, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Media Watch, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Rūta Vanagaitė
Tagged Efraim Zuroff, Holocaust in Lithuania, Linas Vildziunas, Musiskiai, Ruta Vanagaite
For the first time, a Lithuanian author teamed up with an Israeli Holocaust scholar in search for the truth about widespread local enthusiasm, seventy-five years ago, for mass murder of civilian neighbors, and today’s failures in coming to grips with that history, in a land of hundreds of Jedwabnes. A genuine historic advance in Lithuanian-Jewish relations is seen in the startling partnership of Rūta Vanagaitė and Dr. Efraim Zuroff in Vanagaitė’s Mūsiškiai: Kelionė su priešu (“Our People: Journey with an Enemy”), published in Vilnius in January 2016. See also the media tracking page on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Operation Last Chance website.
The following listing of coverage by language (English, Lithuanian, Russian, Polish) is far from exhaustive. The humongous reaction needs to be studied in its own right.
Posted in Bold Citizens Speak Out, Books, Documents, Efraim Zuroff, History, Israel, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Media Watch, News & Views, Politics of Memory, Rūta Vanagaitė
Tagged Efraim Zuroff, Efraimas Zuroffas, Holocaust in Lithuania, Mūsiškiai: Kelionė su priešu, Ruta Vanagaite, Vanagaite + Zuroff, Zuroff + Vanagaite
Tomas Venclova addresses Ruta Vanagaite’s conference at Vilnius City Hall on April 17, 2015. Photo: Julius Norwilla.
Posted in Events, History, Lithuania, News & Views, Rūta Vanagaitė, Views of Prof. Sarunas Liekis
Tagged Dovid Katz, Efraim Zuroff, Evaldas Balciunas, Holocaust in Lithuania, Ingrida Vilkiene, Julius Norvila, Julius Norwilla, Pavel Tychtl, Ruta Vanagaite, Sarunas Liekis, Saulius Suziedelis, Tomas Venclova
The national Lithuanian television channel Lietuvos rytas TV recently (on May 4) broadcast a show by veteran talk-show host Rūta Grinevičiūtė (surname recently changed to Janutienė) called Nuoga Tiesa, “Naked Truth,” which posed the question, “Do you want the Jews to return again [sic] to Lithuania?” Viewers were invited to call in and/or vote by special telephone lines for Yes and No with a one euro toll per call. For that and a number of other reasons the entire program had something of the macabre about it, and although some of the guests made some important points, all of them seemed to miss certain glaring details which would have been the center of attention in the West.
Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Dr. Arūnas Bubnys and State Holocaust Revisionism in Lithuania, Geoff Vasil, History, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Media Watch, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Ponár (Ponary, Paneriai), Rūta Vanagaitė
Tagged Antisemitism in Eastern Europe, Antisemitism in Lithuania, Darius Kuolys, Geoff Vasil, Holocaust in Lithuania, Julius Panka, Ponar (Paneriai, Ruta Vanagaite, Shimon Gurevich, Simonas Gurevicius, Tomas Baranauskas
by Rūta Vanagaitė
The following article by Rūta Vanagaitė, in the authorized English translation by Geoff Vasil, was first published in Lithuanian in Delfi. lt. The article emerged from the conference on Holocaust education organized by the author, held at Vilnius City Hall on 17 April 2015. Conference program. Conference’s final press release. Project website.
Vilijampolė — a part of Kaunas — wintertime. The project is “Being a Jew.” A group of thirty teachers led by a Jewish guide is standing in the former Kaunas ghetto. Houses, garages, storage spaces, wood piles where during the war thousands of Jews, herded here like animals by the Nazis, milled about, yards where Jewish children played, and were later taken to the square or to one of the Kaunas forts and shot. The houses and storage buildings have been rebuilt, renovated, replaced, and there are Kaunas residents living in them now who don’t know where they live and what happened here before they were here. And how could they know? There is no written notice, nothing preserved, only a stone next to the entrance. And a building is being renovated which was the store whose display window once featured the head cut off of the rabbi who lived here.
European exchange students on the Erasmus program in Lithuania have received this email from the program’s local leadership inviting them to join for free an interactive ‘Exchange Genocide Project’ complete with Russian speaking actors and psychological and physical punishment. Participating Erasmus students are required to sign this confirmation form.
There is no mention of any ‘Exchange Genocide Project’ to commemorate the Holocaust or to visit peacefully any of the 202 mass murder sites in the country.
Erasmus is financed by the European Union.