O P I N I O N
A number of viewers of the new Australian documentary film Rewriting History, by Marc Radomsky and Danny Ben-Moshe, have submitted to Defending History near-identical transcripts of a statement on camera, made to the film’s producers, by the executive director of the “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania.”
Known for short as the “red-brown commission,” the state-sponsored body has long been opposed by Holocaust survivors and educators. The commission is responsible for Holocaust education in Lithuania, but has also taken an active political role in promoting the 2008 Prague Declaration and various details of alleged “equality” of Nazi and Soviet crimes. The commission’s website features the Prague Declaration in both English and Lithuanian.
The commission’s executive director, Ronaldas Račinskas, is quoted as saying on camera that his commission does not support “Double Genocide” but that he does support the 2008 Prague Declaration (though he concedes there are passages to be “discussed”). The problem is that the Prague Declaration is the primary document of the Double Genocide movement in Europe.
See also: Mr. Račinskas’s 2011 speech in the Lithuanian parliament; Critiques of his commission; 2015 Update: His call for investigations of Holocaust survivors who joined up with the anti-Nazi partisans.
Mr. Račinskas goes on to say, according to the transcripts provided of his Rewriting History interview:
“Not one historian, for me, presented any evidence, proven evidence, that killings of Jews by Lithuanians, based on racial basis, started before the Germans came.”
Note: the preciseness of the quote will be double-checked with the film clip.
This shocking “piecemeal Holocaust Denial” takes issue with the hundreds of confirmed testimonies of butchery by Lithuanian nationalists, particularly those in June 1941 who identified with the “Lithuanian Activist Front” (LAF) and other groups, in the days before the arrival of German forces, and/or before their assumption of local authority, in dozens of locations, most infamously Kaunas (Kovno) itself.
The accurate history of the initiation of the Lithuanian Holocaust in June 1941 has been published by numerous scholars from around the world, including Lithuania. A new “last minute in history” fieldwork project by Defending History has begun to post on YouTube eyewitness testimonies of survivors. Moreover, links to individual town Holocaust histories (often in the highly important new atlas by Milda Jakulytė-Vasil), can be accessed via a map of the country.
The LAF’s prewar leaflets spoke specifically of their plans for the country’s Jewish citizens.
Is he trying to say in code that the thousands of Jews murdered the first week “were all Communists”?
Perhaps Mr. Račinskas will clear things up by explaining his proposed “non-racial” (?) basis for the outbreak of murder against unarmed Jewish civilians in dozens of Lithuanian locations. Is he trying to say in code that the thousands of Jews murdered the first week, from Rabbi Zalmen Osovsky of Slabodka (Vilijampolė) to the teenage girl cut in half in Shavl (Šiauliai) “were all Communists”?
Last year, Mr. Račinskas gave a speech denying the early killings by locals and invoking alleged Jewish Communism at a conference dedicated to the seventieth anniversary of the events of June 1941. At the time, Defending History published a full English translation of the transcript.
For Holocaust survivors and educators, it continues to mystify that various foreign organizations continue to regard his commission as a legitimate representative of Holocaust Studies.
After one of the commission’s own members, Holocaust survivor and former Yad Vashem director Dr. Yitzhak Arad, was accused of “war crimes” for having served as an anti-Nazi Soviet partisan after escaping the ghetto, a number of the commission’s members and expert advisors publicly resigned. These resignations on principle include Sir Martin Gilbert (London), Prof. Gershon Greenberg (Washington, DC), Prof. Konrad Kwiet (Sydney) and Prof. Dov Levin (Jerusalem).
To this day, the commission, whose chairman is right-wing MP Emanuelis Zingeris, the only Jew in Europe to have signed the Prague Declaration, has failed to condemn the antisemitic efforts by prosecutors to tarnish the life and reputation of such Holocaust survivors and resistance heroes as Yitzhak Arad, Fania Brantsovsky and Dr. Rachel Margolis. The commission has likewise remained silent about state glorification of the local perpetrators, including the recent reburial with full honors of the 1941 Nazi puppet prime minister.
The commission’s site boasts of a trip of educators this month to study at Yad Vashem in Israel. Will they be visiting with Dr. Rachel Margolis in Rechovot? It was Dr. Margolis who rediscovered and published the eyewitness diary of Christian Polish journalist Kazimierz Sakowicz of the massacres at Ponár (Paneriai) near Vilnius. The English edition, edited by Dr. Arad, appeared in 2005. Dr. Margolis, who is close to 91, fears returning to Vilnius for one last visit. The commission educators’ visit to Israel provides a rare opportunity for showing solidarity with a Holocaust survivor and scholar of the Lithuanian Holocaust who has been victimized by the antisemitic establishment in Lithuania as part of the wider movement to blame the victims while glorifying the local perpetrators.
The educators’ trip also coincides with the recent appearance of David Bankier’s Expulsion and Extermination. Holocaust Testimonials from Provincial Lithuania, published by Yad Vashem, and they will hopefully wish to arrange for the book to be translated and used in Lithuanian education.
The commission website’s recent report on this month’s study visit notes that
“the executive director of the Commission R. Račinskas wished the group of trainees not only to acquire new knowledge, but also to generate some ideas for their lessons – how to teach about the Holocaust in the schools of Lithuania.”
Does the wish include permission for the teachers to “just say no” to the obfuscation practiced by Mr. Račinskas himself?