O P I N I O N / M E D I A W A T C H
VILNIUS—Naturally the New York Times cannot publish or even post very many of the Letters to the Editor that it receives. But when a dozen or so reactions from different parts of the world to a single article are all discarded, it is perhaps worth someone posting a submitted letter elsewhere for the record. This is especially true where there is a larger concern. In this case, it is the paper’s imposition, in recent years, of a wall of silence about the Holocaust Obfuscation, World War II revisionism and far-right historiography peddled by East European countries. These are, as it happens, the same countries who are in today’s geopolitics America’s and the West’s most reliable European allies in the New Cold War against the authoritarian, revanchist Putin regime.
The Times’ policy has sometimes extended to misrepresenting the East European far right’s history revisionism as accepted fact by publishing multiple op-eds from only one side of the argument. When the Times did (obliquely) cover the Seventy Years Declaration in early 2012, its reporter, tightly controlled by the State Department, would not mention the declaration by name, would not meet any of the government’s critics to hear their views, confused the two declarations in contest, and quoted a famous Brandeis professor without mentioning he was in town to receive a medal from the Lithuanian president for helping the state’s PR.
On this occasion the article in question was in the Travel Section. Called 36 Hours in Vilnius, Lithuania (July 8), it gave a naively glowing, one-sided review to one of the most far-right and historically antisemitic museums on the planet, the state-sponsored “Museum of Genocide Victims” in the center of Vilnius, itself run by the state-sponsored Genocide Center. Even worse, its reference to the museum as “painstakingly researched” in the absence of any slight mention of its hugely controversial status seemed to many to imply the Times’ stamp of approval for some supposed academic truth. While unprepared Westerners are regularly roped in by the “Soviet-in-form but Nationalist-in-content” history shenanigans in Eastern Europe, there are very courageous local people who regularly risk their careers and advancement to simply tell the truth.
For the record, here is the text of the letter submitted (July 12):
The Travel Section’s “36 Hours in Vilnius, Lithuania” (July 8) did justice to many pleasures of our beautiful city, but a grave historic injustice in its “History Lesson” praising the “Museum of Genocide Victims” as “painstakingly researched.”
In fact it is a blot on the city’s moral standing, reflecting the ultranationalist, far-right elements in power that try to write the Holocaust out of history via the bogus theory of “Double Genocide.” In fact, 96.4% (not 90%) of Lithuanian Jewry was massacred, mostly by local enthusiastic nationalist henchmen of the Nazis (praised as “anti-Soviet rebels” in this most un-European museum — the Soviet army of course was fleeing the Nazi invasion, not the local white-armbanded Jew-killers). The massacre started before the first German soldier arrived in June 1941. While Soviet crimes were horrific here, and need to be studied, the Soviets left a Lithuania soon ready for NATO and the European Union. Not the Holocaust, not genocide.
No surprise, perhaps, that “36 Hours” has zero to say about the centuries before the Holocaust when our city was known as “Jerusalem of Lithuania” and was the world center of both rabbinic and secular Yiddish culture. The scant remains of that grand heritage, as it happens, attract quite a few visitors, too.