Litvaks and their Descendants Issue Public Letter Calling for Change in Lithuanian Government’s Holocaust Policies


Text of the public letter follows. Queries may be sent to Professor Danny Ben-Moshe at:  UPDATES: Covered by JTA and the Jewish Chronicle.

We the undersigned Litvaks — Jews of Lithuanian origin and their direct and immediate descendants — hereby express:

OUR SOLEMNITY on this the 70th anniversary of the day that marked the beginning of the end of more than six centuries of Jewish life in Lithuania and the brutal destruction by genocide of a people so culturally and religiously rich that they made the city Vilna (now Vilnius) renowned as The Jerusalem of Lithuania.

OUR DISTRESS at the complete absence of any formal state events to acknowledge the barbaric campaign of humiliation, harm, plunder and murder unleashed in many locations across the land by the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) and similar groups under the Nazi-collaborationist regime known as the Provisional Government (PG).

OUR DISMAY that formal state celebrations of the events of 70 years ago celebrate the Lithuanian Activist Front, the Provisional Lithuanian Government and their allies and henchmen without acknowledging their voluntary and enthusiastic role in the murder of Lithuanian Jewry that preceded the arrival and of the Nazis or the establishment of Nazi authority in numerous locations.

OUR DEEPEST RESPECT and gratitude to those Lithuanians who assisted Jews in the days of June 1941 and beyond, who are the true heroes of the week of 22 June 1941 and beyond, and whose heroism should be a prime focus of this week and widely celebrated by the state and its agencies.

OUR RELUCTANT RECOGNITION that the official Lithuanian Government approach to the 70th anniversary is consistent with the anti-historical double genocide campaign which distorts, obfuscates and undermines the Holocaust and negates the lessons of history of both the Nazi and Communist eras by a double-gamed process of commemorating victims as well as their killers, who are being sanitized and glorified as ‘anti-Soviet patriots’.

OUR CALL for the Lithuanian Government to write without delay to Dr. Yitzhak Arad, Ms. Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky and Dr. Rachel Margolis, all survivors of the Lithuanian Holocaust who joined the ranks of the anti-Nazi partisans in the forests of Lithuania, to confirm, and to publicly declare, that they are not under investigation for war crimes or anything else, that they are esteemed persons of proud Litvak heritage most welcome to visit and stay in Lithuania at any time. It would be a credit to Lithuania’s standing in the world today if the public statement released included an apology or expression of regret for the years of suffering caused by state prosecutors’ investigations of these Holocaust survivors who are heroes of the free world.

OUR HOPE that bold leaders can come to the fore in Lithuania, as they have in other European nations, to engage in a meaningful process of reconciliation which entails recognising and accepting the Lithuanian role in the destruction of Lithuanian Jewry.

OUR EXPECTATION that the Lithuanian Government will cease efforts to pursue its Double Genocide campaign, domestically and across the European Union; and that European Governments will fight such efforts, including the Prague Declaration and its ensuing legislation, and the current “Prague Process” campaign.

OUR ACKNOWLEDGMENT that the Lithuanian nation suffered for many years under the rule of the Soviet regime and note that this has to be properly addressed as a separate set of issues of the highest importance, requiring specific European legislation to educate Europe and the world about the evils and crimes of Soviet domination and repression, and to ensure Lithuania’s security and independence for all time.

    • Associate Professor Danny Ben-Moshe, Victoria University, Australia
    • Rabbi Moses A. Birnbaum, D.D. Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills, Flushing, New York, USA
    • Zane Buzby, CEO, Co-Founder, The Survivor Mitzvah Project, USA
    • Uri Chanoch, Board Member, Claims Conference
    • Milan Chersonski, editor, Jerusalem of Lithuania (English-Lithuanian-Russian-Yiddish newspaper of the Jewish Community of Lithuania), 1999 to 2011
    • Michael Cohen, Community Outreach Coordinator, Holocaust Museum and Research Centre, Melbourne
    • Michael Freedland, broadcaster and journalist, London
    • Richard M. Golden, Professor of History, Director, Jewish Studies Program, University of North Texas
    • Professor Mikhail Iossel, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada; Director, SLS (Summer Literary Seminars)
    • Dr. Saul Issroff, Litvak genealogist and author of The Holocaust in Lithuania: A book of Remembrance 1939-1945, London
    • Lord Janner of Braunstone, Vice President of the World Jewish Congress
    • Rabbi YY Jacobson, editor-in-chief of the Algemeiner Journal, New York
    • Dovid Katz, Editor of; professor emeritus at Vilnius University (1999-2010); author of Lithuanian Jewish Culture (Vilnius, 2010)
    • Josi W. Konski, Motion Picture Writer Producer, LA
    • Professor Dov Levin, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, author of Lithuania: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities (Yad Vashem Pinkas Hakehillot series, 1996)
    • Phillip Maisel OAM,  Survivor of the Vilna Ghetto, Director of the Holocaust Testimonies Department at the Jewish Holocaust Centre, Melbourne, Australia
    • Evan Malnik, The Generation After, USA, Washington DC
    • Rabbi Barry Marcus, Central Synagogue, London; Trustee Holocaust Memorial Day; Patron of Yad Vashem, UK
    • Joseph Melamed, Chairman, Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel; author of Lithuania (in Hebrew)
    • Professor Faye Ran, Metropolitan College of New York
    • Clive Sheldon QC, London
    • Baruch Shub, Executive Director, Jewish Partisan Veterans Organization, Tel Aviv
    • Rabbi Lennard R. Thal, Senior Vice President Emeritus, Union for Reform Judaism, New York, descendant of Skópishok (now Skapiškis)
    • Dr. Efraim Zuroff, Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center-Israel Office, and Coordinator, SWC Nazi war crimes research worldwide
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