23 June: “Setting the stage”: After the longtime ultranationalist head of the “Genocide Center” is replaced by a meek looking “member of the Tatar community” in attempt to repair the disastrous image of an EU/NATO democracy financing a Nazi-whitewash ethnic-purity-inclined institute paid for by the state, the chief historian of the Center (a longtime member of the state’s “red-brown commission”) delivers a fiery June 23rd speech proudly flanked by huge images of two proven Holocaust collaborators, J. Noreika and K. Škirpa. Defending History was on the scene and reports.
29 June: In response to media reports, Dovid Katz presents a case against the official state naming of the upcoming year 2021 for June 1941 LAF activist Juozas Lukša, invoking the publications of Alex Faitelson, Joseph Melamed and a British parliamentary motion. Cnaan Liphshiz reports in JTA (also in Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel; European Jewish Congress).
29 June: Prof. Kęstutis Girnius presents a hagiographic portrait of Lukša in mainstream media, with no mention of 1941 or its issues. Years earlier, the late Leonidas Donskis took issue with his attempts at “fixing 1941” (commentary on both views by Dr. N. Vasiliauskaite).
1 July: In a dramatic shift that was widely welcomed internationally, the American Jewish Committee’s Andy Baker and the official Lithuanian Jewish Community head Faina Kukliansky (cochairs of “Good Will Foundation”) jointly write to the Seimas speaker boldly asking for annulment of the decision. English version of their letter on AJC (as PDF), and LJC official sites (as PDF) and PRnewswire (2 July). Much praise in the Jewish community, the Holocaust studies and remembrance community, in Lithuanian liberal circles and beyond for their standing up against glorification of participants in the Kaunas 1941 rampages of murder, injury, pillage and humiliation of defenseless neighbors by the violent antisemitic Hitler-allied LAF (Lithuanian Activist Front) militias.
5 July: Far right Propatria.lt, in usual spirit of classical antisemitism, quotes “a political scientist” to “prove” that Jewish community’s statement on the naming of 2021 reveals it as an anti-Lithuanian tool of the Kremlin.
7 July: Lithuanian media reports on response of speaker of Seimas and Conservative MP A. Anušauskas (who had 16 years ago launched the campaign against Holocaust survivor and former Yad Vashem head Yitzhak Arad, which grew into a wider campaign against Holocaust survivors who joined the resistance). Ms. Kukliansky speaks on LRT television about the community’s appeal to the Seimas to cancel the naming of 2021 for an LAF member.
9 July: Dr. Laurence Weinbaum, executive director of World Jewish Congress Israel, and editor of the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, publishes a major article, “Lithuania Picks the Wrong Man to Honor” in London’s Jewish Chronicle. He credits best-selling author Ruta Vanagaite for her uncompromising truth telling, and indeed, her many followers on Facebook and elsewhere await her own powerful statement on the naming of 2021 by the Lithuanian parliament.
10 July: Vidmantas Valiušaitis publishes article in Slaptai.lt claiming that the victims of the Kaunas (Lietukis) Garage Massacre were all “members of the Communist party” and that the Bolsheviks had earlier armed “only Jews”…
11 July: Mr. Valiušaitis follows up in Slaptai.lt with an article claiming that local killers were “political prisoners from Lithuania who had just left prison. They took revenge by recognizing the individuals who tortured them in prison.”
13 July. The official Jewish community publishes a robust reply (as PDF) to Genocide Center personnel, noting the historic status of the LAF as a violently antisemitic organization with thousands of murders of Jewish civilians on its hands. The piece also refers to the role of accusations that the 2021 honoree was an actual participant in the Kaunas Lietukis Garage Massacre in June 1941 (more materials here).
14 July: In a bizarre twist some have described as a “classic East European style provocation,” a “Gang of Four” members of the Vilnius Jewish Community went to the media to critique the cochairs of the Goodwill Foundation (GWF). But instead of limiting themselves to the widely reported critiques of these cochairs’ non-representation of the community’s interests and local Jewish causes, nepotism, glorification of one leader’s interests etc, the statement strangely faults them also (or primarily) for protesting the naming of 2021 for an LAF member, one of the GWF’s rare acts that does indeed potentially have the support of an overwhelming majority of Lithuanian Jews (although reference is made to Ms. Kukliansky’s earlier television interview which declared local Jews’ “hate” of Lithuanians, to the shock of Jewish citizens living in perfect harmony with their neighbors).
The current “Gang of Four” statement, signed by Chona Leibovičius, Vitalijus Karakorskis, Dovidas Bluvšteinas and Lev Milner, appeared in Tiesos.lt, was picked up by Delfi, and finally, it appeared on the Facebook page of the Vilnius Jewish Community with a comment that it is “not an official community position”… The following week reprinted in the far right Propatria.lt. Things turned more bizarre still when a leading antisemitic and neo-Nazi blogger and photoshopper, “Zeppelinus” praised the four signatories as the true face of Lithuanian Jewry. Samples of Zeppelinus’s racist, antisemitic, homophobic, misogynistic work; selection of his captioned photoshops of DH’s editor. A 2013 appeal to the then Economy minister. This time, Mr. Zeppelinus (under the name “Raimondas Navickas”) “liked” a post shared onto the Vilnius Jewish Community FB page. “A strange old world.”…
16 July: The traditionally antisemitic daily Respublika (classic front pages here and here) goes to town with a long article on the opposition of the “four members of the community” with quotes from far right members of parliament.
17 July: Elected head of the Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC) Simon Gurevich posts his reply to the “Gang of Four” on the VJC’s FB (also, and with many more reactions, on his own page), but as yet no statement from the VJC board.
Meanwhile, the official state-sponsored community (LJC) issues a (for some) confusing new post, while maintaining a steadfast moral opposition to the honoring of any 1941 activists of the LAF, a violent, Hitlerist, antisemitic organization. The Genocide Center’s own pages confirm Mr. Lukša’s participation in the LAF in June 1941 (as PDF). Neither community’s post mentions (as of today) the evidence in the public domain (rather than in some hidden archives open only to specialists): Alex Faitelson’s 2006 memoir; his 1993 certificate of recognition from Pres. Brazauskas; the 1999 materials in Joseph Melamed’s book; the 2011 British Parliament motion (see also the recent summaries of the moral case by Laurence Weinbaum and Dovid Katz).
19 July: LNK.lt TV news report artfully ties the controversy over the naming of 2021 with the general Jewish and widespread dismay at the running of the official Jewish Community and its chief financing body, the state restitution financed Good Will Foundation. The formal response came in the form of a letter from the foundation signed by Andy Baker and Indre Rutkauskaite that appeared on their website on 31 July.
21 July: Facebook posting of a video from a Žinios.lt news broadcast about the scandal.
22 July: The one Jewish MP, Emanuelis Zingeris of the right wing (some would say far right) Conservative Homeland Union (which supports glorification of the 1941 LAF and PG Hitler collaborators and opposes LGBT equality), reverses himself on naming 2021 for an LAF activist: After being the only parliamentarian to abstain during the June 30 vote (see above), he came out today with a long interview in Delfi.lt, with Dalia Plikūnė, blasting the Jewish Telegraphic Agency for “defaming” Lukša. The article does not mention the evidence available: eyewitness accounts published and summarized by Alex Faitelson and Joseph Malamed, the British parliament’s 2011 early day motion, or indeed, the joint statements by the American Jewish Committee and the Lithuanian Jewish Community (via the Good Will Foundation) on 1 and 2 July. or the article by Dr. Laurence Weinbaum in the Jewish Chronicle on 9 July. Instead, Zingeris blasts any who would disagree about Lukša as de facto agents of Moscow who are out to defame Lithuania, ignoring the obvious argument that it is the true friend of Lithuania who would urge its parliament not to name a year for an alleged Holocaust perpetrator! Or that the courtroom-grade status of Holocaust collaboration guilt is different when the issue is not a trial to determine guilt bur rather a national parliament’s decision to name a year for an activist in one of the most brutal and violent East European Hitlerist entities, the LAF. Incidentally, Mr. Zingeris now appears as no. 26 in the right-wing Conservative Homeland Union party for the parliamentary elections this autumn.
Also on 22 July, the far right Propatria.lt carried Rasa Čepaitienė’s article rejecting the facts of the Nazi-allied history of Noreika, Škirpa and others; it traffics in the usual antisemitic tropes of Jewish responsibility for the origins of Soviet occupation.
Also on 22 July, the far right “National Union” issued a statement to the nation’s leaders accusing the Jewish community of de facto collusion with Moscow on account of its disagreements about various “heroes” naming proven Holocaust collaborators Noreika and Skirpa, along with Luksa, as national heroes.
23 July: The “National Union” statement was reported on in the far right Propatria.lt, as well as in Alkas.lt with a lurid headline accusing the Jewish community’s head of fomenting antisemitism and anti-Lithuanianism. Also, Propatria.lt. published an article by Vygandas Trainys. Considering Noreika, Brazaitis, Luksa, etc, there are no references to the evidence of Holocaust participation or collaboration, there is an open drive to further divide the Jewish community, with no consideration to the view that it would be to Lithuania’s huge benefit to abandon state glorification of participants in the genocide of citizens in 1941.
25 July: With a direct reference to original publication of the letter from the four, one of them, journalist Vitalijus Karakorakorskis, posts on Tiesos.lt a letter dated a day earlier, to Ms. Kukliansky, calling on her to take legal action against two prominent Jewish personalities he accuses of not being halachic Jews and of personally threatening him.
27 July: Voruta.lt reposts a previous (22 July) statement on Propatria.lt from the National Union calling on the powers that be to ensure the safety of Lithuanian Jews in light of the statement of Fania Kukliansky and Andrew Baker on the naming of 2021 for an alleged Holocaust collaborator and the ensuing discussion. The statement is widely interpreted as a psychological threat against a minority that might disagree with that or that aspect of nationalists’ “history politics”…
27 July: Prof. K. Girnius, in the major news portal Delfi.lt. trashes the statements from the American Jewish Committee and the Lithuanian Jewish Community, and the report in JTA, without however mentioning the sources cited by Defending History or the response of the World Jewish Congress’s Dr. Laurence Weinbaum. Wild comparisons are made with recognition of Stalin’s murder of Polish officers at Katyn, those who disagree with the professor are accused of being Moscow puppets, and he even seeks refuge in claiming that since the LAF butchers of June and July 1941 were not “official members” they can’t really have committed Holocaust crimes (in other contexts, his beloved “Genocide Center” is all too proud to trumpet the subject’s LAF participation). Will Lithuanian academics and major news outlets ever give the Lithuanian public both sides of the story, including the argument that huge damage is done to Lithuania by state glorification of 1941 Hitlerist militias and their supporters?
30 July: Presumably due to summer vacation schedules and/or the ongoing pandemic, there has (uncharacteristically) been a month of silence (since the 30 June Seimas vote) from the Simon Wiesenthal Center which generally takes the moral lead in such situations. For example, concerning the honoring of Adolfas Ramanauskas (against whom there is vastly less evidence of “physical” Holocaust participation), SWC spoke out with speed and singular moral clarity in 2017 (indeed, about the Seimas’s naming of 2018 for him), and in 2018 (about a proposed Ramanauskas monument in New Britain, Connecticut), and in 2019 (about the rejected monument’s unveiling in Chicago). Over the last month, powerful statements have been made by leaders of AJC, LJC, (+follow-up) and WJC Israel (in the London Jewish Chronicle) and in a JTA report carried also by the Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, and the European Jewish Congress. The question is not about how the information available on Mr. Ramanauskas and Mr. Lukša differs. It is about the moral message being sent by the Seimas in both cases.
31 July: Dr. Arvydas Anušauskas, who had in 2006 launched the campaign to prosecute Yitzhak Arad (which grew to include other Holocaust survivors who joined the anti-Nazi resistance), disparagingly mocks the Jewish Community’s position in his piece in Pozicija.lt.
2 August: Evaldas Balčiūnas publishes a new essay on the affair in Defending History on the ethics of the issue, inter alia replying to Professor K. Girnius’s arguments.
17 August: Dr. Arvydas Anušauskas, who had in 2006 launched the campaign to prosecute Holocaust survivors who joined the anti-Nazi resistance in the antisemitic daily Respublika, today published a long article in 15min.lt accusing any who would disagree with him about Juozas Lukša and others as being “Kremlin” agents, fails to mention the opposition from the country’s Jewish community or show it any respect, while attempting to rewrite the history of the Lietukis Garage and the week of barbaric LAF butchery of local Jewish citizens in June 1941 (the “revolt” — forgetting that you can only “revolt” against folks in power; during the days of the first butchery of Lithuanian Jewish citizens, the Soviet army was fleeing Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa, the largest invasion in human history, not the local fascist Jew-killers…).
21 August: Official Jewish community publishes a bold and measured protest, in Lithuanian, in English and in Russian on its website, over the state-funded Genocide Center’s appointment as deputy director of Vidmantas Valiušaitis, a veteran distorter of history who denies — in the face of vast and unquestioned empirical evidence — the participation of the LAF (Lithuanian Activist Front) and Provisional Government of 1941 in the early phases of the Lithuanian Holocaust comprising humiliation, injury, murder, plunder, incarceration, and organized slaughter. For more background see Andrius Kulikauskas’s articles of 2017 and 2018 which refer also to the “Holocaust fixing activities” of the Damušis Center (which Mr. Valiušaitis heads up) at the Mažvydas National Library.
26 August: LRT.lt journalist Modesta Gaučaitė publishes a report recording opposition to Mr. Valiušaitis’ appointment to deputy directorship of the Genocide Center not only from the official Jewish community, but also from (nationalist) historians.
27 August: JTA report by Cnaan Liphshiz on the Valiušaitis appointment protests, and the Lukša year scandal, pointing out Mr. Valiusaitis’s recent uncritical cheerleading (see 10 July and 11 July above) for the naming of 2021 for Mr. Lukša. JTA report picked up by Arutz Sheva, Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel.
Also on 27 August, Professor Pinchos Fridberg publishes an article on the official Jewish community’s website divulging that the new director general of the Genocide Center, who had previously listed his ethnicity as “Lithuanian” changed it on internet bio pages, after his new appointment, to “Lithuanian Tatar” in an apparent effort to show pride in ethnic minority roots in the country, even as a new campaign of honoring Nazi collaborators gathers state-financed steam (see above at 23 June etc.).
30 August: Lrytas.lt crritique by Vytautas Bruveris on the Genocide Center’s choice for deputy director and de facto boss a major Holocaust revisionist and far-right supporter, citing the the opposition from various groups including the American Jewish Committee.
3 September: MP Arūnas Gumuliauskas, himself the initiator of a notorious bill to exonerate Lithuanian collaboration in the Holocaust (while insisting on glorification of the participating units [see Jewish community’s reaction]), announced at a press conference today a new “commission of experts” to guide the state sponsored Genocide Center. The staff announced, it seemed to outside observers, were indicative of a wish to further embed Holocaust studies and history and education in “national security” enabling the silencing of the Western narrative in favor of the ultranationalists’ far-right narrative. In addition to national security and military backgrounds, the “experts” include some far-right icons, but not a single specialist in Holocaust studies was included among the new “experts guiding” the state’s “Genocide Center”. See Defending History’s section on the Genocide Center (and a summary page from a decade ago).
9 September: Retired University of South Carolina professor Kęstutis Skrupskelis publishes an article in Lithuanian media besmirching Lithuania’s Jewish official community for (finally!) standing up to state-sponsored glorification of Holocaust collaborators, even blaming Defending History’s editor for allegedly influencing them, and inventing a quote from our editor, supposedly attacking Vytautas Landsbergis for wanting “communists be held accountable for their crimes.” The facts are very different. Dovid Katz’s March 2011 talk at the University of South Carolina criticized the campaign to legally equalize Nazi and Soviet c rimes as per the Prague Declaration (with Prof. Danny Ben-Moshe, Dovid Katz coauthored the European parliamentary response—the Seventy Years Declaration). See his piece on Landsbergis’s life’s work, and his actual power point presentation at the March 2011 University of South Carolina lecture (in PDF format). His (and Defending History’s) views on Soviet crimes.
20 September: President of Lithuania launches new memorial. Most prominent banner in the crowd glorifies two major Holocaust collaborators. Photos of the event were then proudly posted on the presidential website.
29 October: Yakov Faitelson, son of Holocaust survivor, resistance leader and (decades later) historian Alex (Alter-Henoch) Faitelson (1923–2010), who documented the postwar identification of Lukša at the Kaunas Garage Massacre, issues a plea to the Lithuanian Parliament to reconsider its decision to name 2021 for the alleged participant in the Kaunas atrocities of 1941 on their eightieth anniversary.