O P I N I O N
by Pinchos Fridberg
Editor’s note [updated 27 January 2013]:
Pinchos Fridberg, a native and resident of Vilnius, is a Holocaust survivor. He graduated from Vilnius University in 1961 and completed his PhD in theoretical and mathematical physics in 1965 and an additional doctoral science degree in radio physics in 1974. From 1961 to 1978 he was chair of the Laboratory of Theoretical Investigations at the Vilnius Scientific Institute of Radio Measuring Devices. In 1978 he joined Grodno State University, where he was named professor. In 1989 he became head of the Department of Theoretical Radio Physics at the Zondas Company in Vilnius.
The Russian original of this article appeared online in Zman.com, in Мы здесь, in Obzor.lt, in Shofar 7, on the website of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, and in print in the 18-24 Dec. 2012 issue of Еврейское слово.
This English version was supplied by the author for publication in Defending History, with the request that it not be subject to any editing. The English text also appears in Operation Last Chance, in the Algemeiner Journal and on the website of the Jewish Community of Lithuania.
As ever, authors carry responsibility for their contributions. Defending History honors the right of reply.
Other DH reports on the same conference: prior to the event; event coverage; Evaldas Balčiūnas’s report; Geoff Vasil’s essay.
The “Commission” the author refers to is the Lithuanian state sponsored “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania.” It is known for short in diplomatic circles as the “red-brown commission.” Outline of commission activities — here; outline of objections to the commissions — here (see also the Section devoted to the topic). Resignations to date on principle have included, in addition to Dr. Yitzhak Arad: Sir Martin Gilbert (London), Prof. Gershon Greenberg (Washington, DC), Prof. Konrad Kwiet (Sydney) and Prof. Dov Levin (Jerusalem). Dr. Arad’s views on the commission’s purposes and history are elucidated in a recent essay published in Defending History. In 2011, DH.com exposed the brand of “Holocaust Studies” propounded to Lithuanian audiences by the commission’s executive director. In 2012, an Australian documentary film revealed similarly shocking statements by the commission’s executive director.
The recent politically pressured decision by Yad Vashem to rejoin the Commission resulted in a statement from the last association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, a public letter from the elected president of the survivors’ organization to the director of Yad Vashem, and a statement from Holocaust survivors and their descendants in the United States.
The Commission, one of the main engines of the Prague Declaration campaign in the European Parliament, continues to feature the text of the PD on its website, in both English and Lithuanian, as uncritically presented “truth.” Its website also boasts about its role in the selling of the Prague Declaration. Defending History was one of the initiators of the principal reply to the PD — the Seventy Years Declaration.
Neither I nor my wife Anita are specialist researchers of the Holocaust. We are simply witnesses saved by a miracle. Until the last days of our lives we will consider the Righteous to be saints, the only ray of light in the darkest world of murderers and collaborators like Juozas Brazaitis-Ambrazevičius, Antanas Impulevičius and Aleksandras Lileikis.
In 1998, the International Commission for the Evaluation of Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania was formed by decree by the president of Lithuania. Everybody agrees that these two regimes have a lot in common and their crimes need objective and unbiased evaluation. However, I will never agree with the idée fixe of the president of this commission, Mr. Emanuelis Zingeris, about the complete identity of these regimes, with attempts to equate the Holocaust and Stalin’s crimes against the Lithuanian people. However, my opinion will hardly be of interest for Mr. Zingeris, a Lithuanian politician of Jewish descent. To my mind, the authorities are using his Jewish descent.
In recent years, attempts for the mass rehabilitation of collaborators have been made in Lithuania. Some collaborators were even reburied with military honors like national heroes. Simultaneously, myths about Jews are being created and disseminated. I’d like to share with the world by whom and how this is done. No fiction, just pure facts.
The commission mentioned above held a European forum at the Lithuanian Parliament on November 15-16 titled “United Europe – United History.” All of the countries of the European Union took part, together with former Soviet republics such as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldavia, and others.
I’d like to draw your attention to a report given by Mrs. I. Vilkienė, deputy director of the commission and coordinator for educational projects. That is how she was introduced by the chairman, Dr. N. Šepetys, who added that “she doesn’t only create curricula but also gets teachers of history into shape and makes them think.” I bring your attention to two audio files accompanying my article: a eulogy from Dr Šepetys to Mrs. Vilkienė (attachment 1) and the final part of her speech (attachment 2).
I am doing this for two reasons: firstly to avoid accusations of malicious libel against the commission, and secondly to give those readers who know Lithuanian a chance to “enjoy” her story. Others, unfortunately, will have to content themselves with the quotes in the text. I cannot add simultaneous interpretation of her speech, as its speed considerably exceeded the abilities of the interpreter.
In the final part of her speech, Mrs. Vilkienė took 4 min. 57 sec. to present a detailed story of a Lithuanian family who “saved 43 (forty-three!) Jews over the course of three years in a huge bunker that was dug with the family’s own hands.” She said she had “heard the story at a conference dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the extermination of ghetto in the town of Telšiai. About two or three hundred high schools pupils and lots of teachers from the schools in and around Telšiai took part in the conference.” Mrs. Vilkienė described the details of the story with brilliance, as if she was a real witness of the events. The participants of the forum were told that “the head of the family was 30-32-35 years old and his wife was pregnant” and “a girl was born in the bunker, so actually there were 44 saved, not 43.” And: “Although the family wasn’t rich, they fed everyone, and took the people from the bunker for fresh air at night.”
I thought I misheard the number 43. So after the speech I got up and said,
“Unfortunately, I’ve never heard of a Lithuanian family who saved 43 (forty three!) Jews in the course of three years in a huge bunker that was dug with the family’s own hands. Could you please give their surname?”
A fantastic answer followed:
“I can’t remember now!”
With full responsibility I can assure you: this Lithuanian family did not exist. This is pure myth running in the light of a high tribune of an international forum. Moreover, it was created by an official introduced as the “deputy director of the commission and coordinator for educational projects.” All the rest are minor details.
In relation to what has been said, I’d like to receive answers to three questions:
How to inform all the participants of the forum that instead of objective information they were palmed off with complete nonsense?
How to inform hundreds of Lithuanian pupils that while learning about the Holocaust they are given myths, not facts?
And, most importantly, can we trust any of the materials of the commission?
1. My grandmother Rahil, grandfather Itshak and numerous relatives from my mother’s side found eternal rest in Paneriai. I myself have lived through the Shoah. The story of my rescue is unique and could be the plot of a film.
2. Hirsh, my wife’s father, and her grandfather Joseph died in Dachau, her grandmother Sterle in Salaspils. My wife Anita was a prisoner (Ausweis #4426) of the Kovno Ghetto. Subdued by a sleeping pill, she was taken out of the ghetto in a bag of rotten potatoes by Righteous among Nations Bronislava Krištopavičienė, zikhroyno livrokho.