VILNIUS—The 22 November edition of the Jerusalem Post carried the following news item about an international meeting at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.
Lithuanian and Israeli diplomats, academics, and government officials, together with representatives of Litvak organizations in Israel, the American Jewish Committee, the World Jewish Congress and the Tel Aviv Municipality, will congregate on Thursday at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation to discuss Lithuania and Israel – Past, Present and Future. Among the Lithuanians will be Lithuanian Ambassador Edminas Bagdonas, Ronaldas Račinskas, executive director of the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania; Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community; and several other Lithuanian dignitaries. Among the topics tabled for discussion is the reinstatement of Lithuanian citizenship to Lithuanian expatriates living in Israel.
While the growth of Lithuanian-Israeli relations is welcomed warmly by people in both countries, and by the remnants of Litvak Jewry further afield, there is renewed concern that the longtime “motor of the Double Genocide industry in Europe,” the Lithuanian government sponsored “Red-Brown Commission,” is again using current politics for photo-ops with the head of Lithuania’s Jewish community and various “Litvak” groups, to acquire some kind of “kosher-stamp” status even while pursuing obfuscation of the Holocaust and revision of the European narrative.
The Red-Brown Commission’s official name is “The International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania” (see DH page and section on the commission). One of its current members is the former Genocide Center operative who in 2006 began the chorus of bogus accusations against the commission’s own founding member, Dr. Yitzhak Arad, a Holocaust survivor, resistance hero, hero of Israel’s war of independence and for over twenty years the head of Yad Vashem. When it came time for Dr. Arad to write his own evaluation of the Commission, the politics was such that he could not get it published in Israel, and he chose Defending History instead, in 2012. The Israeli government, and its embassy in Vilnius, have yet to publicly call for state apologies for the three Israeli citizens (Dr. Yitzhak Arad, Dr. Rachel Margolis [1921-2015] and attorney Joseph Melamed) defamed by Lithuanian state prosecutors for posterity and the history books. It seems remarkable to some that former UK prime minister Gordon Brown spoke out about Dr. Margolis, and the UK Parliament about Mr. Melamed, while the nation of which they held or hold citizenship fails to speak out. But that was not always Israeli policy. In former years its government and diplomats stood fast by the truth of the Holocaust. The most famous instance was the 2009 Leivick House evening in Tel Aviv featuring the late eminent Israeli ambassador to Latvia and Lithuania, HE Chen Ivri Apter (1958-2012), who is remembered with reverence and love by the Jewish communities of both countries.
Mr. Ronaldas Račinskas, the Red-Brown Commission’s executive director, representing the state-sponsored body at the Jerusalem meeting, has explained in public why he supports investigations of Holocaust survivors who joined the partisans, why he doesn’t believe there were any killings of Jews “on a racial basis” during the murder of thousands in the 20s of June 1941 prior to German forces’ arrival, and why he thinks a Vilnius Holocaust survivor who dared correct a mistake at a conference is a “liar” (see subsequent DH page). That, in turn, led to a Jerusalem Report article by Professor Danny Ben-Moshe back in 2013.
The danger of the present situation is that Litvak citizenship issues are being artfully confused and recombinated with Holocaust history issues. On more than one occasion, recipients of Lithuanian (ergo EU) citizenship have been mobilized to serve as conduits for state-dictated Holocaust history PR, in effect betraying both the victims and the survivors for one pot of lentils or another.