Facebook Discussion (3 to 11 Dec. 2013) on a Nov. 2013 University of Toronto Event

Dovid Katz shared a link.
Friends in TORONTO and CANADA: Some links relating to the recent “Holocaust in Lithuania” symposium at the University of Toronto: https://defendinghistory.com/summary-coverage-of-toronto-24-nov-2013-symposium-on-the-holocaust-in-lithuania/61406 Toronto | DefendingHistory.com defendinghistory.com
Js Kopstein I was there. It was actually an excellent discussion. Lots of disagreement, lots of back and forth. Whatever the motives of the Lithuanian government, you really can’t characterize the event as one sided.
Dovid Katz Thanks, and good to know. We’re hoping to get a tape of the segment where Sara Ginaite, a survivor, eyewitness and terrific scholar, spoke up; we learned of the event from a number of people who were also there and felt morally compelled to write to DefendingHistory.com (though no signed articles yet, we’re hoping for one!).

In academic terms “one-sided” needn’t refer to results which are often multi-sided because of good discussions; by one-sided I meant that the invited specialists (invited as actual speakers, as part of the program) on the suibject of the Lithuanian Holocaust (at a conference on THAT precise topic) are members of the government’s (try this one on for Orwellian semantic stature and enunciation in a single breath): “The International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania.” 
The question for the organizers is: Did they invite one specialist who is a critic of the Commission and unaffiliated with the Lithuanian government? Did the Commission’s current “actual issues” come up in these discussions? If they did not, it means that some of these important issues may have de facto been covered up by excellent discussions on more general (or other) topics. That is a frequent result when university-affiliated conference organizers invite specialists who are all working for government x which has a vested interest in setting the agenda and deciding which issues are important.

For some of the Commission’s “issues” that are of deep concern to many who are interested in the Holocaust and its current legacies in Eastern Europe, please see:
(a) https://defendinghistory.com/an-appeal-to-conscience…/59751;

(c) And would you believe that the Commission whose members travel the world making such a good impression of open discussion continue to call a beloved Vilna Holocaust survivor a liar on their website (because he corrected a miststatement) —http://www.komisija.lt/en/naujiena.php?id=1361200737

Was the audience informed that Sir Martin Gilbert and Yitzhak Arad had resigned on principle from the Commission which supplied the academic specialists in Toronto? That the Commission supports the Prague Declaration which is the bible of Double Genocide? That the government that pays for its members to fly around the planet continues to name streets and lecture halls for Holocaust perpetrators? (e.g.https://defendinghistory.com/memorials-to-holocaust…)
That the defamed Jewish partisan survivors (including the Commission’s own former member Yitzhak Arad, just check his Wikipedia bio) go down in history as suspected war criminals in the absence of apologies from the same government that sends such polished performers to naive Jewish audiences in the West. For an excellent perspective on the Commission’s actual purpose, please have a look at Yitzhak Arad’s own take: 

All good wishes from Vilnius, DK
  • Js Kopstein Actually, the entire discussion focused almost exclusively on kowno in June and July 1941 and the misdeeds of the provisional government and the LAF versus the Germans. In some ways I wish the discussion had been MORE general, so other aspects of the Holocaust in Lithuania could have received more attention. The issue of the the commission did come up and so did the misbehaviour surrounding the now aborted prosecution of arad. I’m not saying I was thrilled with every moment of the morning but as someone who writes on the holocaust and has seen dozens of these kinds of events, I can say that it was good.
  • Js Kopstein And I should add, Sara ginaite did not just speak up. She was one of three panelists.
Dovid Katz Thanks for raising these important points.

(1) Hundreds of eyewitness accounts confirm murders of Jewish civilians in dozens of Lithuanian towns before arrival (or assumption of power) by German Nazi forces. That evidence is now being systematically undermined by the state-sponsored Commission, and one of the reasons for its “success” is that many conferences do not include specialists critical of the Commission or of the current efforts to undermine the dozens of years of work of top scholars. But turning from results to motive: the LAF and Provisional Government are being turned into “heroes of history” (“anti-Soviet rebels” though not a shot was fired at Soviet troops before they were running from the German onslaught), and I repeat, there is something wrong when the same government that finances that sends its commission members to prestigious universities around the world for events which do not include current professors who disagree (this is distinct from and not intended to be a statement about the individual professors sent or their own views on each question). Yes, it is darned good that Sara lives in Toronto and was included; that is terrific. On many other stops of the same basic roadshow, there doesn’t happen to be a local Holocaust survivor / scholar who can respond, and the principle of equal academic representation is one that universities would do well to bear in mind on such issues. The online version of the session program has THREE members of the Lithuanian state commission plus dear Sara of Toronto, whose paper title makes clear her status as a survivor and witness.

(2) It is not quite the case that “the prosecution of Arad” (or of Rachel Margolis and Fania Brantsovsky) was “aborted”… There never was any prosecution, nor any charges, or proceedings. This was one massive abuse of state power to DEFAME these (and by analogy all) Jewish resistance heroes of the Baltic Holocaust by defamatory leaks to the press about “war crimes” in the absence of an iota of evidence. Nothing can help to undo the damage except an apology from the state’s leaders. These survivors are still waiting for that public apology. Whether it’s Wikipedia or the final chapter of Prof. Chodakiewicz’s book “Intermarium” it is evident that without apologies from the state that financed the defamation in the first place the damage cannot be repaired, least of all by misinformation about “aborted prosecutions”…

(3) Turning to history and the manipulation of the narrative for future generations, the attempts to put into the record bogus and legally never-leveled charges against anti-Nazi resistance fighters, while investing in glorious reburials with full honors of LAF and Provisional Government Holocaust collaborators, are today part of the machinery of Double Genocide: finding fault with the victims and survivors, and turning the local perpetrators into heroes, all as part of the wider effort to “equalize” Nazi and Soviet crimes. The major document of that movement is the 2008 Prague Declaration publicly supported by the Commission. I hope and trust there was ample discussion of that and at least mention of the European parliamentary response, the Seventy Years Declaration of 2012, that was so courageously signed by eight Lithuanian parliamentarians (six MPs, two MEPs) —- but alas, they don’t get sent to foreign events, and it’s a pleasure to take even this small opportunity here once again to praise their bravery and integrity.
(4) I agree with you entirely that the focus on June-July 1941 at such events often means that the wider history of the Baltic Holocaust doesn’t get proper coverage. There’s a certain irony here: The state campaign to discredit the works of Prof. Dov Levin and other eminent scholars is in its own Baalamic way drawing attention to the very things that a number of East European states (not just Lithuania!) want to “change” for history. Even this little exchange right here….. Happy Chanukah from freezing and beautiful Vilnius, D.
Js Kopstein I’m afraid you’ll have to make another correction. In addition to Sara only two others were on the panel. The third was a no show. I should also add that Dieckmann’s was invited by me and not by the embassy. Plus I introduced the panel and Doris Bergen, our chair of holocaust studies, commented.
Dovid Katz In that case, please enter the corrections at the University of Toronto Centre for Jewish Studies website which continues to indicate for the record:
(a) THREE members of the Lithuanian government supported red-brown commission; sadly the web announcement fails to include that vital affiliation for a symposium on this very topic; the commission is the de facto major engine in the European Union for dissemination of the 2008 Prague Declaration, and
(b) the financial support for the event of the Embassy of Lithuania in Canada (again vital for honest disclosure, given the state support for the commission of which all three are members). Please see:

Dovid Katz's photo.
Fern Smiley Although it has been several weeks, my memory still works and I am convinced that something was clear about the lecture, which I attended. Sara was convincing in her hour by hour description of events. I found it distressing to hear the scholar, Dieckmann insist that she is wrong. Using the mantra “there are no such records” he attempts to make the case for the Lithuanians to be acting, only because the Germans are on the ground. But, as I was confused and talked to people (in Vienna and Vilnius), it became possible to understand Diekmann, as there would be no records in the German archives if Sarah’s version is accepted. Had he produced records of the sort that proved German interaction in Kovno during these moments, he would have been more convincing. Furthermore, one simply has to consider the question of whose idea was it to hold this conference. Everything will flow from there.
  • Dovid Katz Greetings and and thanks. This is really not about ‘he said, she said’ or what one can hear on the circuit to which foreigners are exposed here in Vilnius. There is a mass of empirical evidence confirming Prof. Sara Ginaite’s correct recollection (and the occurrence of similar events in dozens of towns), and it is kind of sad that the Lithuanian government, via its embassy in Canada, can put far right revisionism into believable play at places like the University of Toronto. On the outbreak of murder on 22/23 June 1941 please see various of the sources listed at: https://defendinghistory.com/readinglist; Dov Levin’s entry for “Lithuania” in Encyclopedia of the Holocaust; Efraim Zuroff’s recent review of a major collection of testimonies (https://defendinghistory.com/…/Efraim-Zuroff-reviews-3…), and among many others, our own collection of eyewitness testimony that we have begun to post on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA2BAA3ADC43CC101…). Dozens more remain to be excerpted and posted as and when resources permit.
Js Kopstein Sara came to us with the idea based on her conversations with the ambassador, so that settles that. Doris Bergen and I both agreed that the panel was a good idea, so long as both of us would book end it (you’ll recall I started it off with a long quote from a testimony describing in gruesome detail the infamous garage massacre) and Sara would be a panelist.

As to Dieckmann and Ginaite, it was a good exchange. The question is one of balance of blame. Sara was convincing about the Provisional government (she talked less about the LAF) and Dieckmann was more keen to blame the Germans for the atrocities in the days after June 22, 1941, but did not at all deny that the whole thing could not have happened without significant local collaboration. 

I have read Dieckman’s two volume study. It is a very solid piece of work. To accuse him of being an agent of far right revisionism is beyond unfair. I think he is wrong on several issues, some important ones but these are scholarly disagreements.
  • Dovid Katz Prof. Dieckmann is not the only very serious scholar to have been persuaded to join the Lithuanian government’s state-funded Commission and to be effectively instrumentalized by it. When the website of the University of Toronto lists an event with THREE members of the state-supported Commission, and lists funding from the Lithuanian embassy (but not the affiliation of the three to the same state’s Commission on these issues) there is legitimate cause for concern and discussion, and this becomes a document out there for history that is a legitimate subject of conversation, with no disrespect to any individual scholar or speaker, and without reference to whether this or that one was a “no-show”…
    There are real issues with this Commission, for which all its current members share moral responsibility, as an issue separate from their individual statements and writings (no matter how eminent and solid some may be). Sir Martin Gilbert, Dr. Yitzhak Arad and Prof. Konrad Kwiet (among others) did not resign for nothing from this Commission. Why do others hang about?

    For Westerners, it can be daunting to understand how fine scholars with secure careers and terrific publications to their credit can be intoxicated with honors, trips, glories in return for lending legitimacy (by simple membership!) to the primary Holocaust-revisionist document of our century, the 2008 Prague Declaration, which the Commission has supported with massive resources and which remains a major issue whether or not it gets mentioned at a Lithuanian Embassy funded event in Toronto.
    To get a flavor of the Commission’s work here in Vilnius, see its own website, 
    where one of the handful of Vilna Holocaust survivors still with us, Prof. Pinchos Fridberg is accused of “purposely spreading lies” because he dared correct a mistake by the Commission concerning Holocaust era rescuers (particularly absurd that Fridberg is defamed in this way, when he devotes his life to helping the inspirationally brave Lithuanian rescuers and their families). If Prof. Dieckmann and the other honorable members of this Commission don’t want to take moral responsibility for the Commission’s actual work in Holocaust revisionism and defaming survivors, they are free to do the right thing and follow the example of Sir Martin Gilbert and the others. And if the University of Toronto announced on its website an embassy supported event with THREE members of the Commission slated to speak, then surely the audience should be informed of their membership in the Commission and its support for the Prague Declaration and other agendas and activities. Otherwise, the entire affair becomes part of the ongoing effort to cover for the Double Genocide / Prague Declaration campaign by (perfectly innocuous, perfectly okay) Holocaust events that nevertheless serve the far right revisionists of Eastern Europe by legitimizing such Commissions and the international declarations they support. Hopefully, the Toronto symposium was also told about the Seventy Years Declaration, which replies to the Prague Declaration and is now available in a number of languages:

    Last but not least, the Commission includes some members from here (Vilnius) whose work actually sanitizes and glorifies the local killers, including the Genocide Center which continues to feature antisemitic exhibits in museums under its control. The troublesome presence of major Western scholars on its roster of members serves to legitimize that too.
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