O P I N I O N
Members of the US-based “Litvak SIG” (both those on the free lists, and those who paid their $36 a year dues for full membership), have been informed of the following event and the book it features, coming up this Thursday evening in San Francisco. (When Messiah will come, the subscribers to both “SIG” sections will learn about the existence of Defending History, too and its modest, but free, Litvak interest sections. We must have patience.)
- Date: Sat, 1 Mar 2014 17:39:03 -0500 (EST)
- X-Message-Number: 1
- Remembering Vilna
- A presentation by Ellen Cassedy
- Thursday, March 6, 7 P.M.
- Jewish Community Library
- 1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA
- Ellen Cassedy, author of the award-winning book, “We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust,” will explore the Jewish history of the city once known as the “Jerusalem of the North,” using images and quoting from the illustrious Jewish writers for whom the city is renowned.
Having read the reviews by (in reverse alphabetical order) Zuroff, Zabludoff, Nadler and Katz, organizers might consider setting up a discussion panel with at least one person representing opposition to the current Lithuanian government’s lavish investment in Holocaust-related PR in the United States, of which this book is arguably a major component. Having a panel with real difference of opinion can only enhance the status of the esteemed author.
Some report that the author’s more recent presentations have made use of power-point slides, sometimes even sporting images from Defending History (with attribution? or just reference to “the campaigners”?) to present something rather closer to the actual situation. But that is scant solace when the purpose is to promote a book whose content is subservient to the narrative and politics of the far-right Holocaust revisionist establishment here in Eastern Europe.
The central issue at stake is known as “Double Genocide,” the effort to downgrade the Holocaust into one of two “equal genocides” and to make that purported equality between Nazi and Soviet crimes into a matter of European (and international) law, most famously via the 2008 Prague Declaration. For readers far from the academic and political scene, it is put in terms of equal suffering. Everyone was killing everyone, and now, in glorious reconciliation, everyone is here together rejoicing (hence We Are Here).
Byproducts of Double Genocide entail glorification of Holocaust collaborators (including street names), defaming Holocaust survivors who survived by joining the anti-Nazi resistance, giving city centers for neo-Nazi marches on independence day, and then trying to cover it all over with lavish events for westerners. One of the hard-to-fathom political imperatives is to make happy both local East European ultranationalists and at the same time, well-meaning Western Jewish audiences who may enjoy trips, honors, and the glitter occasionally associated with ambassadors and plenipotentiaries.
But proud non-Jewish Lithuanian citizens actually have the courage to stand up for the truth here on ground zero of the Holocaust. One of them is being investigated right now by the police for writing an article about a notorious Holocaust collaborator, Jonas Noreika, who is sometimes feted as a hero by state agencies here. Another non-Jewish Lithuanian truth-teller, Evaldas Balčiūnas, who naturally didn’t make it into the book, may soon be pursued too for legal consistency, after his own 2012 article on the glorification of the same Nazi collaborator. Perhaps the Ellis Street Jewish Community Library will send them both short messages of support, which would mean so much.
Then there are the elderly Jewish survivors who are defamed and denounced by the very state-sponsored commission that is so lauded in the book as harbinger of truth, justice and the American way. One of them, Vilna survivor Prof. Pinchos Fridberg, has been defamed for over a year now on the website of that commission.
Ninety-two year old Rachel Margolis is afraid to return to Vilnius for one last visit after prosecutors’ defamation and threats. Her situation attracted the attention of a former prime minister of Great Britain.
Former Yad Vashem director Yitzhak Arad is being sent to eternity as a suspect of war crimes, in the absence of a written apology for the kangaroo investigations to which he was subjected for years. In 2012, he decided to publish, in Defending History, his own take on the situation.
The campaign to glorify collaborators while defaming survivors (purpose: blurring the distinction between perpetrator and victim, a blurring so essential for Double Genocide) has resulted in the real human suffering of our dearest and very last survivors of the Lithuanian Holocaust in their last days and years, may they all live and be strengthened. They deserve our support.
So Ellis Street’s Jewish Community Library might want to drop them a nice note too. Take it from us: Nothing to fear in the San Francisco Bay Area.
For further reading:
On Double Genocide: Shimon Alperovich, Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, Yitzhak Arad, Evaldas Balciunas, Yehuda Bauer, Danny Ben-Moshe, Milan Chersonski, Leonidas Donskis, Pinchos Fridberg, Dovid Katz, Rachel Kostanian, Denis MacShane, John Mann, Geoff Vasil (Vasiliauskas), Olga Zabludoff, Efraim Zuroff.
Some PDFs of press coverage: 2008: Dana Gloger in the Jewish Chronicle; Arne Bengtsson in Baltic Worlds; 2009: Raphael Ahren in Haaretz; Avi Friedman in Mishpacha; 2010: Ricky Ben-David in the Jerusalem Post; Esther Goldberg in Canadian Jewish News; Cindy Mindell in the Jewish Ledger; 2011: Dovid Katz in JHC; 2012: Efraim Zuroff in Haaretz; Dovid Katz in London Jewish News; 2013: Bernard Dichek in Jerusalem Report.