Prof. Lipstadt is Star at Lithuanian Government’s Latest One-Sided ‘Holocaust & Litvaks’ Conference on 29-30 May

VILNIUS—Various officials of the Lithuanian government’s Genocide Research Center, its Genocide Museum, and its “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania” (known for short as the “Red-Brown Commission”) are rather gleeful this week at the latest master PR coup for the long hard road to “soft core” Western legitimization of East European Holocaust revisionism. One of the world’s leading Holocaust scholars, and the activist who did more than any other to bring to an end the era of classical 20th Century Holocaust Denial, Professor Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University, has been attracted to headline a “one-sided Holocaust conference in a Baltic capital” where the naive foreign star’s eminence may help provide cover for ongoing policies. The  conference program has just been released in PDF format with, as usual, the star’s appearance artfully sandwiched between much else.

The “ham sandwich” model for political conferences made to look like pure, open, intellectually balanced academic conclaves?

In this case the plot thickens, because the very policies that are so controversial here involve the twenty-first century incarnation of Holocaust Denial: Double Genocide, with its corollaries that have included a state-sponsored campaign against Holocaust survivors who joined the resistance (apologies still awaited!), glorification of alleged collaborators, and a massive history revisionism movement best symbolized by the Prague Declaration of 2008 (Defending History was proud to partner in 2012 with Professor Danny Ben-Moshe in authoring and seeing through to seventy signatures the Europarliamentary reply, the Seventy Years Declaration).

Professor Lipstadt is sharing her session with the chairperson of the above-cited state-sponsored “Red-Brown Commission.” It could not hurt for the infamous summary of Double Genocide discourse recorded for a German documentary by the Executive Director of the same commission to be played at the conference for full transparency about its policies.

In the case at hand, it is hoped that Professor Lipstadt will use her influence, and that of the sponsorship of Emory University, will ensure that the following topics are dealt with in depth at the conference rather than being brushed under the proverbial rug by the conference:

(1) The Lithuanian parliament has named the current year, 2018, for an alleged Holocaust collaborator (see the statement by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and leading Lithuanian Holocaust ethicist Evaldas Balciunas, whose name seems not to appear on the conference program (could he still be invited?). Most recently, the Foreign Ministry  has attempted to erect a city-center public-space monument to the same gentleman in New Britain, Connecticut. Incidentally, a courageous scholar, Prof. Andrius Kulikauskas, who has stood up to the Genocide Center concerning a Holocaust collaborator (for whom a street is named in central Vilnius) seems also not to be among the invited speakers (he’s also the scholar who recently pointed out that the conference venue is conveniently “also” home to a center named for a Holocaust era enthusiast of ethnic cleansing of Lithuania’s Jews). All melts down to conceptual mush. Is this a conference only for local scholars who are spineless, would never dare disagree with state history policy on the Holocaust while profiting bigtime from campaigns of destruction against colleagues and their own former  teachers?

(2) For daring to criticize the postwar record of the same alleged collaborator for whom 2018 is named in Lithuania, Lithuanian best-selling author Ruta Vanagaite had all her books pulled from the market, she was viciously attacked by the highest levels of state officials and according to media reports has had to leave the country. This reached the New Yorker last December. Will the conference organizers ensure an invitation for Ms. Vanagaite and discussion of her predicament, as well the future of her 2016 book in Lithuanian on the Lithuanian Holocaust that was, it seems, the real cause for the campaign of destruction against her? To put it differently, is the persecution of a Lithuanian author who countered today’s Holocaust Denial by writing a simple book about “what happened” going to be on the agenda of this Holocaust conference in the Lithuanian capital this month which features the world’s top scholar on classical Holocaust Denial? Will the conference issue a call for the rapid return of her 2016 book on the Holocaust to full and free availability?

Even as the conference will be in session, the government will be considering a proposed new law that would make books challenging the state’s own version of Holocaust Denial inspired revisionist history illegal. What more politically brilliant way to divert attention than Prof. Lipstadt in glorious public conversation with a member of parliament who was the only Jew in Europe to sign the Prague Declaration, superbly ham-sandwiched between Yiddish folksongs and odes to Litvak glory?



(3) Will there be state apologies to the Jewish partisan heroes and other Holocaust survivors defamed by state-sponsored authorities in recent years? A posthumous honor for Dr. Rachel Margolis and state apologies to Dr. Yitzhak Arad would constitute a major advance. Incidentally, conference speakers may wish to know the academic views of Dr. Arad on the local history institutions being showcased at the conference.

(4) Will there be any change to the exhibits at Vilnius’s most successful museum, the Genocide Museum, that make unqualified heroes (“heroic rebels”)  of the white-armbanded LAF militias who began to slaughter Jewish neighbors before the first German soldiers arrived in the week of 22 June 1941?

(5) Will the centers of Vilnius and Kaunas, the nation’s two greatest cities (the conference is taking place in both), continue to be gifted to neo-Nazis on national independence days for city-approved marches that often flaunt banners of local Holocaust collaborators, in effect celebrating the “ethnic purification” achieved?

(6) Will European Union, NATO and Western standards of free speech and democracy be restored to ensure that episodes like the multi-year prosecutorial harassment of Evaldas Balciunas, and actions against numerous others, are never repeated? It would be a handsome act of reconciliation for the organizers to bring as guest of honor Rachel Kostanian, whose incredibly courageous stewardship of the Green House Holocaust exhibit for some two decades, despite numerous campaigns of petty harassment, remain a great credit to Lithuania. Her work was championed for years by the late Sir Martin Gilbert. Though retired in Berlin, her intellectual vigor is undiminished. It would be the right thing to do.

(7) While it is not “directly” a “Holocaust issue” the fate of the old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, recently discussed in The New York Times, is deeply relevant. The Holocaust wiped out the massive Jewish cultural presence in the city’s heart, and there are powerful forces that prefer to see a convention center surrounded by thousands of still extant graves on all four sides than a restored cemetery that would be a permanent reminder of what it is that was here. Because of the Holocaust, the tens of thousands of people buried have no living descendants on site to stand up for the integrity of the burial plots purchased for perpetuity; this would never happen to a Christian majority population cemetery. The major Lithuanian intellectual standing up to authorities, Julius Norwilla, has also been a prominent opponent of Double Genocide Holocaust revisionism. At his lecture at the Lithuanian Embassy in Tel Aviv nearly a year ago, he made clear the connection to the Holocaust. Seems he’s not in the conference program either.

Many prominent Western and Jewish personalities  have unwittingly contributed to the twentieth century Holocaust revisionism movement by innocently accepting invitations, honors and medals as part of an effort to “fix the history of the East European Holocaust”. One of the major ways and means over the years has been the “one sided conference” that brings much that is truly valuable and genuinely important to the table while covering up what is being suppressed, and excluding and thereby delegitimizing all those who have dared express a second opinion in the twenty-first century European Union. The inspiring contributions of Yitzhak AradEvaldas Balciunas, Milan Chersonski, Pinchos Fridberg, Rachel Kostanian, Andrius Kulikauskas, Julius Norwilla, Darius Udrys, and Ruta Vanagaite should be recognized at this conference.

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