Sir Martin Gilbert Writes to State Jewish Museum in Lithuania, Asking for Halt to Campaign Against Kostanian

The following is the text of an email sent  by Sir Martin Gilbert to an official of Lithuania’s Jewish state museum in defense of Rachel Kostanian, the internationally acclaimed cofounder and longtime director of the Holocaust section of the state Jewish museum, long known as “The Green House” (it is housed in a green wooden house at Pamenkalnio 12, invisible from the street, and up a steep driveway). She is also an eminent author, creator of exhibits and catalogues, and Holocaust educator who has engated with thousands of loval and foreign visitors to the museum.  At Sir Martin’s request, the name of the recipient, and of others mentioned in the letter, have been redacted to maintain confidences and avert unnecessary embarrassments. The alleged “mistake” referred to in the final paragraph refers to a powerful new Holocaust documentary film directed by Saulius Beržinis, which Rachel Kostanian enabled, helped to research and complete, and obtained the funding for from a prominent Litvak family in the United Kingdom. The film was apparently deemed unacceptable for its “excessive truth telling,” as one (non-Jewish) museum worker, speaking off the record, put it with some irony. It  will presumably one day find its way to the public square one way or another.

Sir Martin Gilbert’s foreword to Rachel Kostanian’s book Spiritual Resistance in the Vilna Ghetto

From: Martin Gilbert <>
⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ <⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛>
Cc: ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛
Sent: Wed, June 30, 2010 11:10:21 PM

From: The Rt Hon. Sir Martin Gilbert 

Wednesday, 30 June 2010


Dear ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛

As a friend of ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ and ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛, I am concerned at the precipitate action that you are taking against Rachel Kostanian. This email is a formal request for her to be allowed to stay at her post. As I believe you are aware, she is about to be the subject of a special article in the Canadian Jewish News about women who across the ages have made their contribution to Jewish life — in her case to Jewish education and memory. This article will have a wide circulation, and will bring credit to the work that the museum is doing (work which will of course be acknowledged in the article).

As a member of the Lithuanian Commission on Nazi and Communist Crimes, I feel a particular concern that Rachel Kostanian should be allowed to continue with her work at the Green House. It would be a blow to Lithuania’s place in the world of Holocaust teaching and memory if she were to be sent away in this abrupt manner (while, I believe, ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ is out of the country).

The short (48-hour) time span you have given her is in clear violation of European Union employment rules, and would have to be taken to the European Court, with a resulting black mark for Lithuania, which surely cannot be your intention. It would also be raised with the Lithuanian Government by Rachel Kostanian’s many friends abroad who have benefitted from her work.

I am copying this to ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛, who will I am sure agree to allow Rachel to continue her work. If she has made some mistake, you should accept her apology, and continue to gain — especially overseas — from her work and high reputation.

Your sincerely

(Sir) Martin Gilbert

This entry was posted in Free Speech & Democracy, Human Rights, Identity Theft of Litvak Heritage, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Museums, News & Views, Politics of Memory, Rachel Kostanian, Saulius Beržinis and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
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