The Lithuanian government sponsored “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes of Lithuania,” known for short as the “Red-Brown Commission” has recently added a new layer of obfuscation and opacity to its activities.
Its website has deleted the names of the “Members of the Commission” thereby rendering it a kind of “secret society.”
The long list of scandals plaguing the far-right inspired body started with the commission’s failure to publicly condemn antisemitic prosecutors’ kangaroo “war crimes investigations” into its own founding member Dr. Yitzhak Arad, a Holocaust survivor who has recently published his own views of the commission’s history and purpose.
The commission’s website publicly endorses the far-right Holocaust revisionist Prague Declaration, boasting of its role in the declaration’s dissemination and providing its text in both English and Lithuanian. The commission’s website does not mention the European reply to the PD, the Seventy Years Declaration, signed in January 2012 by seventy-one European Union parliamentarians including eight bold Lithuanian parliamentarians. Instead of praising them, the commission’s executive director ridiculed them on Lithuanian radio.
Defending History has exposed the discourse on the Lithuanian Holocaust propounded to Lithuanian audiences by its executive director, in a speech before the Seimas. More recently his denials of early violence by Lithuanian nationalists in late June 1941 “on a racial basis” were documented by the Australian documentary film Rewriting History.
Yad Vashem’s succumbing to political pressure to rejoin the commission last summer resulted in pained protests from Holocaust survivors, in a public statement and in a letter to the current director of Yad Vashem. American Holocaust survivors and their families issued a separate statement.
Holocaust survivors have objected to the commission since its inception in 1998. Inexplicably, an official of the American embassy in Vilnius gave statements to the press offering unqualified praise for the commission’s “revival” in 2012 (see entry for 17 October 2012 on page charting the shifts in State Department policy on Baltic Holocaust Denial). No mention was made of the resignations on principle by eminent former members of the commission and its associated committees, including Sir Martin Gilbert (London), Prof. Gershon Greenberg (Washington, DC), Prof. Konrad Kwiet (Sydney) and Prof. Dov Levin (Jerusalem).
THE DISTURBINGLY UNCRITICAL SUPPORT FOR THE COMMISSION’S ANTICS BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT AND THE EMBASSY IN VILNIUS
When challenged in 2012 to publicly stand up to the neo-Nazi marches in central Vilnius (coordinated at the time by an official of the commission’s partner institution, the Genocide Research Center), the commission’s chairman, who was the only Jew in Europe to sign the 2008 Prague Declaration, issued an incredible statement that failed to mention the march itself.
In May 2012, the commission passed over in complete silence the state reburial and glorification of the country’s wartime Nazi puppet prime minister.
But in November, the commission played a pivotal role in hosting a major red-brown conference in Vilnius, a track its leaders seem to consider unrelated to its “Holocaust education” activities for the benefit of western audiences and naive foreign funders. Reports on the conference were published by Evaldas Balčiūnas, Pinchos Fridberg, Geoff Vasil, and the news section of Defending History.
In recent weeks, the commission has been mired in a new scandal over serious misstatements of history by its coordinator for educational activities, exposed by a Vilnius born and based Holocaust survivor on the website of the Jewish Community of Lithuania. The survivor’s article also appeared in the Algemeiner Journal and in Defending History.