Dispatched to London by the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, the state-approved director of the Vilnius Yiddish(-less) Institute bemoaned feeling himself ‘between two Talibans’, referring to the antisemitic establishment in Lithuania on the one hand, and to a polite letter of Litvak protest on the other. The comment was reported in today’s Economist, in an article by Edward Lucas, which also reports that the VYI director, Sarunas Liekis, described himself as ‘a Yiddish-studies professor from Vilnius’ [the article as PDF].
The ‘Taliban’ letter was signed among others, by Lord Janner; British MP Denis MacShane; head of the last active Litvak organization in the world, Joe Melamed; the master historian of the Lithuanian Holocaust Prof. Dov Levin; Rabbi Barry Marcus, leader of London’s Central Synagogue. Text of the ‘Taliban’ letter here. Signatories here.
While continuing to mount an excellent one-month summer course in Yiddish each summer, the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, under Liekis’s direction, has become academically close to Yiddish-less and bereft of any Jewish academic staff for the other eleven months of the year, after he purged it of its one Yiddish professor (and Jewish member of the university’s faculty). As a kind of reward, the director began to travel the world at the expense of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry on PR missions to naive Jewish audiences to help cover for Holocaust Obfuscation and resurgent antisemitism. This year’s journeys have included London, Prague and Warsaw, following a series of earlier excursions to Kazakhstan.
The VYI director was also exposed as one of the clandestine committee of Fake Litvaks appointed by the Lithuanian government to persuade wealthy foreign Jews of Litvak origin to invest in a ‘Litvak Forum’ intended to serve the Foreign Ministry’s PR interests.
In 2009, he referred to the last active association of Lithuanian Holocaust survivors in the world as ‘extreme right wingers’.
Since converting the Vilnius Yiddish Institute from a Western-grade free academic institution to a government PR unit, its director has enjoyed a multiplicity of academic appointments, that cumulatively include the titles Director of the School of Diplomacy at Vytautas Magnus Unviersity in Kaunas, professor at Romeris University in Vilnius, professor at Vilnius University, director of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, and of course, point man for international trips to persuade western and Israeli audiences that there are no genuine issues of Holocaust Obfuscation or antisemitism in Lithuania today.
Apart from the phalanx of government financed political activity, he is a highly respected and accomplished historian whose most recent book, 1939: The Year the Changed Everything in Lithuania’s History, has been very well received (though some might quibble with the premise of the title — it was perhaps the year 1941 that “changed everything” in Lithuania’s history…).
He should not be confused with the antisemitic historian A. Liekis, exposed by, among others, Valentinas Brandišauskas.