The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry’s Jewish PR campaign on Litvak culture and the Holocaust moves to Washington, DC this week, even as the government continues to invest in events glorifying the 1941 local Holocaust murderers, and to allow local antisemitism and neo-fascism to run rampant, often with the support of the state, or, one some occasions, open participation of officials of state-sponsored institutions.
What defies credulity this time around is that the series of events comes just as state prosecutors have used Interpol to harass yet another Holocaust survivor who joined the anti-Nazi resistance. This time the object of Lithuanian prosecutors’ interest is 86 year old Joe Melamed of Tel Aviv, elected chairman of one of the world’s last associations of Holocaust survivors from Lithuania (details in Haaretz and DefendingHistory.com; covered also in French, German and other Israeli publications).
One of the targeted Holocaust survivors is Dr. Rachel Margolis, an eminent Holocaust historian, resident in Rechovot, who feels unable to return to Vilnius for fear of prosecutors’ harassment. She is just over a month away from her 90th birthday.
Leaders of major American Jewish organizations received invitations from Lithuania’s ambassador to the United States, Žygimantas Pavilionis, for a meeting at the Lithuanian Embassy on Friday 16 September from 9 to 11:30 AM to be followed by lunch.
In a shock to observers following Lithuanian-Jewish affairs, the invitation noted that the government officials from Vilnius would be led by the speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament, Irena Degutienė. On June 22nd Speaker Degutienė honored the makers of a film glorifying the 1941 Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) Holocaust killers, in a scene that the country’s parliament put on its website as ‘Photo of the Day’. The film did not mention their role in unleashing the Lithuanian Holocaust and providing part of the core of the Germans’ subsequent murder squads that shot and buried in pits most of Lithuanian Jewry before the end of 1941. The film was reviewed in DefendingHistory.com by Milan Chersonski, longtime editor (1999-2011) of the Jewish community’s quadrilingual newspaper, Jerusalem of Lithuania. DH.com also published an eyewitness account of the Vilnius premiere, which was addressed by the country’s previous president.
Right-wing Jewish MP Emanuelis Zingeris is also slated to attend. He was the only Jew in Europe to sign and promote the Prague Declaration, and this year was wheeled out again in Brussels in support of new proposals to downgrade the Holocaust in European education and history. He resigned from the country’s Jewish Community back in 1997.
London’s Jewish Chronicle was among the various Jewish publications this year to expose the ‘dual track’ (or ‘double game’) policy that has included commemorating the Holocaust in 2011 and one week later declaring 2011 a year for commemoration of ‘heroes’ including the LAF / ‘white armbander’ murderers who published their intentions for Jewish citizens of Lithuania before the arrival of the first German soldier.
It is nevertheless hoped that genuine issues and genuine solutions will be discussed at the meeting. If the real issues are raised and addressed with mutual respect, there is every prospect of progress. That would mean putting on the table the campaign against Holocaust survivors who joined the resistance, particularly two women survivors, the city-center neo-Nazi marches with state permits (in 2011 with participation of a member of parliament and high official of the Genocide Center), the 2010 ruling legalizing swastikas as well as the law that year criminalizing the Western view of the Holocaust.
Still, it seems strange to many that yet again, not a single member or leader of the Jewish Community of Lithuania has been included in the meeting. Jewish community members interviewed off the record fear that plans are underway to bypass the living Jews still resident in the country in order to forge forward with ‘Jewish PR’ projects even while Holocaust Obfuscation, antisemitism and the red-brown campaign proceed unchecked.