Lithuanian President’s Decree on “Red-Brown Commission” is Re-issued with “New Sentence”

Baltic News Service (BNS) has just released yet more convoluted news on the renewal of the “red-brown commission” by, it appears, yet another revised presidential decree. Full text of the BNS report follows below.

Political sources in Vilnius told DefendingHistory today that the commission “needs to be fixed and finalized” as a power base for the “double genocide industry” before the second round of national elections in several weeks and the apparent sidelining of many of its political leaders from the next government. The majority of double-genociders are close to the right-wing Homeland Union faction that includes the red-brown commission’s chairman, MP Emanuelis Zingeris. One source said: “The president was told that if she sticks another line in there, it will satisfy those Jews.”

News of the recently revived commission was reported in DefendingHistory on 28 August 2012, shortly after the release on 16 August of the tentative transcript of an on-camera interview with the commission’s executive director in which the early killings by Lithuanian nationalist forces are denied “on a racial basis” (local shorthand for saying that the Jews were killed presumably because they were communists). Last year, DefendingHistory published the full English translation of the executive director’s 2011 speech on Holocaust issues at the Lithuanian parliament, leaving survivors, historians, and Jewish community leaders dismayed.

The commission’s chairman, MP Zingeris, was the only Jew in Europe to sign the 2008 Prague Declaration, which has been unmasked over the years for its attempt to diminish or write the Holocaust out of history entirely.

The commission continues to advertise the Prague Declaration on its own website (in English and Lithuanian), and it was instrumental in formally organizing Lithuanian state support for the Prague Declaration. The Prague Declaration, containing the word “same” five times, is the central document of the Double Genocide movement spearheaded by the nationalist far right in Eastern Europe.

Since its formation in 1998, the Red-Brown Commission has elicited opposition from survivors, scholars and human rights activists. It fell into further disrepute over its failure to protest publicly the state defamation of its own founding member, Dr. Yitzhak Arad, and other Holocaust survivors harassed by prosecutors in recent years, including Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, Dr. Rachel Margolis and Tel Aviv attorney Joseph Melamed, to whom Lithuanian prosecutors sent agents of interpol in August 2011.

As a result, there were a number of resignations on principle from the commission and its associated committees. In addition to Dr. Arad himself, there were public resignations by Sir Martin Gilbert (London), Prof. Gershon Greenberg (Washington, DC), Prof. Konrad Kwiet (Sydney) and Prof. Dov Levin (Jerusalem).

The commission’s official name is The International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania, among other versions.

The August 2012 renewal of the commission was met by a public statement of protest by the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, a public letter from the association to Yad Vashem director Avner Shalev (English here), a statement from the families of Lithuanian Holocaust survivors in the United States, a statement posted on Facebook by Berlin-based political scientist Dr. Clemens Heni, and correspondence released yesterday by American documentary film maker Richard Bloom.

Today’s BNS press release tries to make a mountain out of a new phrase in the presidential decree: “to divide between crimes committed by the Nazi occupation regime and the Soviet occupation regime,” which it reports to be at the demand of Yad Vashem. It is not understood how this line in a press release has anything to do with the long-established text of the Prague Declaration and its concomitant documents in the European Union, or the ongoing campaign that has little to do with today’s announcement or its wording.

Moreover, in a related development, the Lithuanian government has announced plans to include unification of European history on the Baltic model as an explicit goal of the 2013 Lithuanian presidency of the European Union. Clearly, to boast a commission that has Yad Vashem, and, according to today’s BNS release, the US Holocaust Museum on board, will augur well for the wider Double Genocide campaign planned for 2013 in the European Union. Survivors fear that neither institution realizes how its name is being abused by a movement that seeks to undermine the status of the Holocaust in European history.

One of the commission’s new members is the director of the “Yiddish Institute” that was cleansed of Jewish and Yiddish academic staff in 2010. He recently told the Lithuanian press what he thinks the purposes of the commission really are. Another has attempted to sanitize the 1941 Provisional Government, and was recently the featured speaker at a book launch aimed at glorification of the Nazi puppet regime of that year.

Today’s BNS text cites the stalwart support of the US Embassy in Vilnius. In contrast to the recent letter from three US Congressmen, the Embassy since the 2009 change of ambassadors has shown uncritical support for Lithuanian government Holocaust machinations.

This past week, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, commented on his own blackballing from the 2011 Summer Literary Seminars program after his dismissal was made a condition for a grant by the American embassy. Yesterday in New York City, former ambassador Anne Derse, stationed in Vilnius 2009-2010, was scheduled to give the introduction to the Lithuanian consulate sponsored lecture at Yivo by Markas Zingeris, the prime minister’s official “advisor on genocide.”

Today’s BNS press release ends with discreet mention of the “Russian” politics of the commission. Since a state-released statement on 26 September, it has become clear that the renewed commission is being viewed as a political tool in Lithuania’s ongoing dispute with Russia over compensation. Still, a number of scholars who have been persuaded to sign up do not necessarily grasp the political implications of the commission on various fronts, either for the Double Genocide / Prague Declaration agenda locally, or for the Baltic-Russia conflict over compensation in the geopolitical arena of east-west relations.

Finally, the BNS release does not fail to repeat yet again in public the kangaroo allegations against Dr. Arad. In 2008, they were only partially withdrawn in a further public defamatory statement from prosecutors (quoting an unnamed “expert historian”)  that has never been withdrawn.

The following is the complete BNS text as released earlier today:

VILNIUS, Oct 17, BNS – Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite has signed a new decree on the International Commission for the Evaluation of Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes, highlighting the differences between the two regimes and including a new member from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, a step welcomed by US diplomats.

The commission will now include dozens of historians from Lithuania and abroad who will investigate and seek a joint assessment of the crimes committed in Lithuania during the years of occupation. Signed on Tuesday, the decree amends the legal act handed down in August.

According to the new decree, the commission is divided into two open and independent subcommissions “to divide between crimes committed by the Nazi occupation regime and the Soviet occupation regime.” The earlier decree also split the commission into two units but did not feature the phrase, thus triggering protests from representatives of the Israel-based Yad Vashem Museum.

The international panel was first set up by then president Valdas Adamkus in 1998. However, the commission has not met since Lithuania’s prosecutors in 2007 brought suspicions against commission member Yitzhak Arad of complicity in the massacres of Lithuanians during World War II.

Arad, a member of the war-time Soviet guerrilla force, categorically denied his complicity, and the investigation was closed in 2008 due to what prosecutors said was lack of evidence.

Both the earlier and the current presidential decree acknowledges unique features of the Holocaust, saying the commission had been set up in the light of “unparalleled character and scope of Holocaust, other crimes of the Nazi occupation regime and sore consequences of the Soviet occupation regime upon the residents of Lithuania.”

The US Embassy to Lithuania applauded resumption of the commission’s operations, saying this would contribute to better understanding of history.

“The United States Embassy welcomes the decree signed by President Grybauskaite to re-establish the International Commission for the Evaluation of Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes. This is an important step forward on the path toward further understanding this complex and tragic history of Lithuania,” the embassy’s spokesman Jonathan M. Berger told BNS.

Lithuania and some other Eastern European countries have come under criticism from abroad for allegedly attempting to equal Nazi crimes to Soviet crimes and undermine the Holocaust. Lithuania’s administration has ruled out the accusations, emphasizing that the Western world knew little about the crimes committed by the Communist regimes and saying that Russia had been avoiding to honestly evaluate the Soviet atrocities and occupation of the Baltic states.

Emanuelis Zingeris, chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee who has been appointed to head the commission, has said the commission should meet before the end of this year.

Two representatives of the Israel-based Yad Vashem organization Dina Porat and Arkadiy Zeltser, Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee, Saulius Suziedelis of Millersville University and Kestutis Girnius of Vilnius University will work in the fist subcommission.

Meanwhile, Soviet crimes will be evaluated by Alexander Daniel of international public organization Memorial in Russia, Nicolas Lane of the American Jewish Committee, Timothy Snyder from Yale University, Francoise Thomas from Sorbonne University, Hungarian historian Janos M. Rainer, Arvydas Anusauskas, chairman of the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defense.

With the new decree, the president includes a new member into the international commission, namely Jurgen Matthaus of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

After the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in 1940, thousands of local residents were killed and more than 17,000 were deported in June of 1941.

After the start of the German-Soviet war, Lithuania was taken over by Nazi Germany. Often assisted by local collaborators, the Nazis massacred nearly 90 percent of Lithuania’s pre-war Jewish population of 208,000.

Lithuania lost nearly 800,000 residents in the 1940-1952 Soviet occupation, including 444,000 who repatriated or left Lithuania, 25,000 were killed in the front, 275,000 were taken to forced labor camps or deported, furthermore, 20,000 participants of resistance efforts and their supporters were killed.

Last year, the Lithuanian parliament passed a law on compensation for nationalized property of Jewish religious communities, which envisages payment of 128 million litas (EUR 37.1 mln) over the next decade.

Last month, the government approved a commission for coordination of proposals in connection to implementation of the law on compensation of damages caused by the Soviet occupation. Russia, legal successor of the Soviet Union, has so far refused to hold compensation talks with Lithuania.

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