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Defending History believes it important to defend the history of the Holocaust from the onslaught of the New Far Right’s East European campaign (by states, their proxies, and other elites) to downgrade and obfuscate the Holocaust into one of two supposedly equal Holocausts; to defend the integrity of victims and support Holocaust survivors and their families; to support local people who courageously speak out; to support freedom of speech and particularly the freedom to oppose government and (ultra)nationalist history-warping agendas; to monitor media coverage; to defend human rights and equality of all people; to support the remnant East European Jewish communities, Yiddish and Litvak culture, and defend old Jewish cemeteries. Support for the Seventy Years Declaration (of 2012).
Defending History believes it important to resist attempts to impose Double Genocide as a new model for World War II history, and the various perversions and inversions of history inherent in these attempts, including glorification of the local collaborators and perpetrators, and defamation of victims who survived by heroically joining the anti-Nazi partisans; to oppose the European campaign of revisionism (and the redefinition of “genocide” for that purpose); to oppose state-dictated nationalist incursion into mainstream historiography, as well as the attempts to silence or marginalize dissent by criminalizing opposing views; to expose investment in “Jewish” events that are intended to provide camouflage for the foregoing; to combat racism, the neo-Nazi movement, antisemitism and homophobia. Opposition to the Prague Declaration (of 2008).
Based in Vilnius, Lithuania, DH also monitors relevant events and reactions in Canada, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, South Africa, the UK, Ukraine and the United States, among others.
We provide a robust Opinion section; resources for studying the Holocaust in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, including a reading list, interactive online map and place-name list for Lithuania; a chronological record of media on the issues covered, starting with the day police came looking for two elderly Holocaust survivor women in Vilnius; means of studying the Litvak heritage of the Jews in the Lithuanian lands via a new field of Litvak Studies, including a booklet, reading list, map, Yiddish virtual mini-museum of old Jewish Vilna, and guidance for visits to the region including exotic tourism and dark tourism, basics for reading local Jewish gravestones, and advice on finding today’s remnant living Jewish communities.
We offer lectures, seminars and personnel for Jewish cultural and historic tours, intensive short courses and research expeditions in the Litvak areas of Eastern Europe (Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, northeastern Poland, and northern/eastern Ukraine).
Defending History leads fully transparent public campaigns on many of these issues, including support for international petitions and the effort to keep in the public eye the sometimes-less-than-transparent efforts of far-right Holocaust revisionists, racists, antisemites, and homophobes as well as the associated neo-Nazi and racist marches and hate materials. Many of our regular authors also contribute to a wide variety of much larger publications. It is necessary for someone to play the thankless role of the watchdog, and gratifying to behold the roster of results, which often entail influencing for good events, decisions and perceptions in myriad ways.
Why? Because a Europe and a West that is lulled into conformity with those who glorify Hitlerism and its allies, who can buy cardinal revisions in history by investment of state treasure, is a Europe and a West — and a world — that will yet again be blind to the march of racism, antisemitism, homophobia and the Nazi-Aryan goals of supposedly pure nation states. Let’s not let history become the fiefdom of ministries and geopolitics. Let’s defend it.
The first aim, “the call of the hour,” is to provide the missing or underrepresented Second Opinion to counter the ongoing efforts financed by governments (and other elites) in Eastern Europe to minimize, relativize and confuse the Holocaust. Collectively these efforts constitute the Holocaust Obfuscation movement. It seeks to write the Holocaust out of history as distinct concept (without necessarily denying a single death), and replace it with the “Double Genocide” model throughout the European Union (where it is sometimes known in Eurospeak as “equal evaluation of totalitarian regimes”).
The Double Genocide campaign seeks to rewrite history in the spirit of Nazi and Soviet crimes being equal, equivalent or the same. This has been manifested in attempts to utterly redefine genocide; painfully absurd accusations against aged Holocaust survivors; glorification of local perpetrators; encouragement of racist and antisemitic moods, particularly victimizing today’s remnant Jewish community in this part of the world; attempts to restrict freedom of debate; state financed commissions campaigning to persuade the European Union to accept the revisionist model, via the Prague Declaration, via a Europe-wide mixed Nazi-Soviet commemoration day, and other mechanisms.
Under no circumstances should citizens of East European nations be held responsible for these campaigns being waged by governmental, media, academic and other elite circles.
DefendingHistory’s Opinion page is one of the acknowledged forums for opposition to Holocaust Obfuscation and the attendant web of associated maladies.
Moreover, every effort is made to credit bold citizens who stand up proudly against government attempts to manipulate history.
A longer-term project is to defend the history of the Holocaust from the mounting onslaught, which has on occasion taken on board Western supporters. There is a vibrant debate underway on occasion focusing on the role played by major scholars.
The Double Genocide movement reached its apex with the 2008 Prague Declaration (PD). DefendingHistory.com has helped expose it, and has spearheaded the opposition to that document and the commissions that support it. One of the outcomes was the international partnership, resulting from an initiative in Melbourne, Australia, that gave rise to the 2012 Seventy Years Declaration (SYD), the first serious challenge to the Prague Declaration in the European Parliament. The two sets of ideas are now part of the debate which has proceeded with particular zest in Lithuania.
In the case of Eastern Europe, where obfuscation is pervasive, it is moreover necessary to continue to develop tools to provide information on the Holocaust at individual locations, rapidly accessed by clicking on a place name (in both alphabetic list form and on a map). These will include detailed memoirs by survivors, many of which have yet to be translated. The beginnings of an attempt for Lithuania include a map, list of place names, and bibliography. First attempts for Latvia and Estonia are underway.
Such resources, when more fully developed, will enable (a) today’s local residents and (b) people anywhere who cherish their ancestral heritage, and (c) students internationally to quickly access information on the basis of location. Second, it has in the present climate become necessary to give lucid evidence for the universality of liquidation of the entire target population that constitutes genocide.
DefendingHistory.com has been proud to play a part in various of the current battles that are part of the collective memory and history in Europe. These include opposition to the defamation of survivors, and equal opposition to the glorification of perpetrators. As in all major intellectual arenas, specific cases arise that are part of the whole. These have included covering on-site the absurd attempt by a war criminal in Hungary to sue for “libel” the world’s leading Nazi hunter, the recent reburial with full honors of the 1941 Nazi puppet prime minister in Lithuania, and the exposing of various and sundry double games that entail one narrative (in English) for naive foreigners, and quite a different one in local languages and media.
In the case of Lithuania, there has been a major attempt to obfuscate the outbreak of the Holocaust in the barbarities preceding in dozens of locations the arrival of German forces, in the last week of June 1941. DefendingHistory.com has been out in the field conducting interviews with survivors and witnesses. Video clips are being posted on YouTube.
But these constituent details have become part of something bigger. Attracted by honors and largess, ever more Western historians have become fellow travelers in the revisionist history of “two equal genocides.” DefendingHistory.com will continue to support historians who are not afraid to fight back, and to disagree with even world-famous professors.
Defending History also entails the need to defend the free debate of history from the kind of legislation passed in 2010 in Hungary and Lithuania that effectively enshrines Double Genocide as autocratic truths in the laws of European Union states, and threatens imprisonment for those who would dissent. Already, free debate has been largely stifled at the local level by younger researchers rightly worried about their future careers.
This issue goes to the heart of the democratic values of NATO and the European Union. This journal believes passionately that the peoples of the eastern European states in these organizations deserve the same standard of democracy and free speech as anywhere in the free world.
While it is wrong to generalize and stigmatize all those powers investing in Double Genocide in Eastern Europe, it is nevertheless the case that much of the investment of time, energy and resources is coming from the new far right that espouses racism, antisemitism, and homophobia.
As a unique microcosm of the new far right that poses as the center right, Lithuania’s government (again, not its people) has epitomized the excesses attainable by an unparalleled degree of glorification of local Holocaust collaborators, while embarking on an absurd campaign against Holocaust survivors who joined the anti-Nazi resistance. Courts have even legalized public swastikas, and since 2008, neo-Nazi parades have been sanctioned in the heart of the capital city on the nation’s independence day.
DefendingHistory.com has been proud to play a part in the battle against both individual manifestations (e.g. protesting on site in Kaunas on 16 February, Vilnius on 11 March, and Riga on 16 March), and against the rising tide of racism, antisemitism and homophobia more generally.
In Eastern Europe, these issues are inextricably linked with the state sponsored movements to revise history in the far-right direction of Double Genocide, heroization of local perpetrators, and degradation of victims and survivors.
They are also inextricably linked with the special brand of East European antisemitism that degrades surviving remnant local Jewish communities while heaving honors on foreign Jewish personalities who visit or become involved with projects. The human rights of the surviving in-situ remnant Jewish communities include recognition of legitimacy of the current successor communities, and of equal citizenship for those of a unique heritage whose views on history may differ from what the state is promulgating.
The study of the genocide of the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, and the robust defense of historic truth — and of the waning Survivor community — against the current calumnies, should not deflect from the ongoing need for much more intensive, serious and widespread study of the living language, literature and culture that is left for us and ever-new generations to study, teach and nurture into the future. This is most conspicuously applicable to the Yiddish heritage, which was most severely impacted by the Holocaust, and is today in urgent need of dedicated and wholehearted study, preservation and dissemination internationally. Serious study of this heritage entails study of the Yiddish language aimed at high levels of mastery. (It goes without saying that the instrumentalization of a Yiddish-less “Yiddish” by East European governments, as cover for Holocaust Obfuscation and Double Genocide, is unacceptable and will be exposed.)
The destruction of the Litvak heritage was arguably the most complete in the Holocaust, because: (a) the areas where local Baltic killers carried out much of the genocide had the highest murder rates in Europe; (b) Litvak communities reestablished abroad after the war have been of much lower viability than those carrying forward the southern traditions of East European Jewish culture.
The positive-thinking task before us is therefore clear: the establishment of a viable, robust and intellectually free field of Litvak Studies that will cover with a sense of mission and aspiration to high academic standards the religious, secular, historical, literary, cultural and folkloristic components of Lithuanian Jewry.
There is a hope to develop on-site programs of study and historical tourism that will be free of government spin and in harmony with the happy tradition of free intellectual discourse.↑ Return to Top