OPINION | DOCUMENTS | BLAMING THE VICTIMS? | DOUBLE GENOCIDE | VILNIUS GENOCIDE CENTER | ANTISEMITISM
by Dovid Katz
VILNIUS—The following (text below) is a translation from Lithuanian of the 2 March 2017 letter from the state-sponsored Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania (widely known as the Genocide Center) to a nationalist group that put on this year’s March 11th Independence Day neo-Nazi march, with authorities’ permission, in the center of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. The group had complained about Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite, having granted an award on February 16th to Lithuania’s oldest Holocaust survivor, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, soon to turn 95, for her work in the field of Holocaust education. The president’s office had referred the complaint to the Genocide Center which issued this letter (facsimile of the original below). The correspondence was then read out at a bizarre ceremony that some observers thought bore the hallmarks of a 2017 “Jew-witch hunt” when the Independence day festivities announced a detour to the presidential palace to read out the various letters and condemn Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, who is the only one of her family to survive the Holocaust precisely because she escaped the Vilna Ghetto in September 1943 and joined up with the anti-Nazi Soviet partisans, the only force seriously challenging Hitler’s rule of Lithuania.
The letter itself will go down in history as one of the most bizarre and extraordinary 21st century documents to come from a government agency (all the more so in an EU/NATO country). After years of defamation of Ms. Brantsovsky (and other Holocaust Survivors who had joined the anti-Nazi resistance), including armed police turning up to “look for her” and fellow partisan Dr. Rachel Margolis (1921-2015) on 5 May 2008, the accusations that she “was at” the battle of Koniuchy (Kaniukai) on 29 January 1944 never included an iota of evidence, let alone the simplest legal charge that she had done something specific there meriting 21st century prosecution (the context being the last survivors of of the Vilna Ghetto joining up with the Soviet anti-Nazi partisans to fight the Nazi superpower from bases in the forests of Lithuania during “a” Holocaust that took the innocent lives of 96.4% of Lithuanian Jewry, some of whose collaborators have streets named for them). As the head of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, Dr. Shimon Alperovich, explained in 2008, it was part of an antisemitic effort to distort the history of World War II by criminalizing the Jewish survivors who were alive because they joined the anti-Nazi partisans, who in alliance with the United States and Great Britain as well as the Soviet Union, are heroes of the free world. The dozen or so years of a campaign against Holocaust Survivors has done Lithuania’s reputation much harm, most unfairly to the people of the land who have nothing to do with these ultranationalist, antisemitic machinations from on high.
The 2 March 2017 letter from the Genocide Center finally (after nine years of defamation) declares her to have not been “present” at Kaniūkai, but rather “just” at Jurkonys and Krūminiai, and effectively accuses her of having married a man who must have been a “murderer” because he “was at” Kaniūkai (her late and deeply mourned husband, whom she met at the Jewish underground fort populated by around 100 Vilna Ghetto escapees, a site now sinking rapidly into the earth). Between the lines of all this is the implied regret that even one Jew survived the Holocaust here. If she survived, well, she must be a murderer, and if that can’t be proven, she must have married a murderer, and to heck with the rest if that too is sheer malicious antisemitic defamation.
The Genocide Center letter also takes the trouble to counter the many historic views that Koniuchy / Kaniukai was indeed a Nazi-allied base from which partisans were frequently shot, and their movements passed onto Nazi HQ in fatal detail. Its language in a by-the-way style of citing a truism refers to the anti-Nazi partisans’ operations in wartime, against the genocide machine of Nazi Germany in Lithuania as “subversive action,” “criminal, ferocious action” and so forth. In the worst traditions of cynical Soviet-style campaigns of personal destruction, the letter concludes, after the most cruel and unjustified defamation of the 95 year old survivor, with a “defense” of the president’s awarding her a medal as being in the spirit of Western democracy! (No mention that the medal is for Holocaust education, something the Genocide Center might not appreciate when it’s not Double Genocide education pretending to be Holocaust education). In other words, the last 95 year old Holocaust Survivor in Vilnius is being made into a witch for the sake of revising history in the direction of the pro-fascist, antisemitic, far right and Holocaust revisionist spirit of various contemporary state-sponsored East European “history institutions.” It is illuminating to compare the public statement on Ms. Brantsovsky, “charmingly” delivered at Ponár (Poneriai) by Ronaldas Racinskas, executive director of the state-sponsored “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania” (the so-called “Red-Brown Commission”).
Is all this what it is that the “patriots” have to celebrate on Independence Day in the forecourt of the presidential palace? The late Lithuanian philosopher and Europarliamentarian Leonidas Donskis had this to say on the campaigners against Jewish partisan veterans: “Intoxicated with hatred against the vanishing Lithuanian Jews.” Is this how national patriots want to say farewell to the last 95 year old scions of the obliterated Litvak civilization? Our own appeal to newly elected Pres. Grybauskaitė in May 2009.
On the effort to rewrite Holocaust history by “blaming the victims in the spirit of “Double Genocide” enters its 12th year next month; Early international responses. Comment by Dr. Shimon Alperovich. US Congressmen Berman, Hodes, Wexler. US Congressmen Berkley, Berman, Hodes, Moran, Wexler. Former UK PM Gordon Brown. Milan Chersonski. Prof. Leonidas Donskis. Abraham Foxman (ADL). Sir Martin Gilbert. Edward Lucas in the Economist. Dovid Katz. UK MP Denis MacShane. See the 2012 analysis by Yitzhak Arad.
It seems that there is no limit to the byzantine national politics in play manipulating the last and rapidly vanishing Holocaust survivors of Lithuania. In a recent article on potentially antisemitic attacks on Ms. Brantsovsky in publications of the currently ruling Peasant and Greens Union party, the author quotes “Red-Brown Commission” member Arvydas Anušauskas as criticizing the tone and nature of the attacks on the Holocaust survivor. But there is no mention that he himself played a documented role in drumming up the hysteria of 2006 that led to the initial prosecutorial defamation of Yitzhak Arad, putting in train the progression of events that sadly made Lithuania the only country on the planet to “investigate” heroes of the anti-Nazi resistance (indeed, Jewish partisan veterans only, those who escaped the ghetto and certain death at the hands of the Nazis and their multitude of local collaborators, and had the courage to take up arms against Europe’s Nazi superpower that was using the might of its military to annihilate every last Jew). Brantsovsky has for years also been manipulated by the member of the Red-Brown Commission who took over and purged the Yiddish institute at Vilnius University (never mind about knowing Yiddish, this is all for ultranationalist Holocaust-revisionist propaganda). The German-made film Liza ruft chronicles some of the sad process of manipulation.
The letter from the state-sponsored Genocide Center is followed (below) by a translation of the response from the Nationalist Union, the group that organized and carried out the Brantsovsky Jew-Witch Hunt outside the presidential palace (video here).
State-budget institution, Didžioji Street 17/1, LT-01128 Vilnius. tel. (8 5) 231 4139, faks. (8 5) 279 1033, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Records collected and preserved in the Registry of juridical persons, code 191428780
For the Chairman of the Nationalist Union
2017-03-02 Nr. 14R-10
Copy: To the Chancellery of the Lithuanian President, Department of Service for Individual Persons
With regards to the Partisan activity of Fania Brancovskaja
Fania Brancovskaja (maiden name Jocheles) — during the years of German occupation a member of a (Communist) anti-fascist organization, a prisoner of the Jewish ghetto [=Vilna Ghetto — DH]. Just prior to the liquidation of the ghetto in 1944 she escaped, hid, and integrated into the Soviet partisan squad “Avengers” that was active in southeastern Lithuania, in the Rūdininkai Forest. In Soviet partisans’ documentation she was characterized as a partisan, actively taking part in subversive action and combat missions.
The Soviet partisans in the early morning of the 29th of January 1944 in the district of Eišiškės in the county Jašiūnai attacked and burned down the village of Kaniūkai, and killed there 35 people (among whom were women and children), and severely wounded 10-15 people. Criminal, ferocious, action with no period of limitation was executed by the joint squad of Soviet partisans of the Rūdininkai Forest ([comprising] approximately 120-150 people). While executing the action the main role was attributed to the squad of [Vilna] Ghetto partisans “Death to the Occupiers”, though a portion of the “Avenger” squad fighters also took part.
As per sources from the archives of the Soviet partisans there is no data about the participation of F. Jocheles Brancovskaja in the Kaniūkai action. Her surname is not listed among the participants in the action. As distinguished from the case of documents of other participants in this partisan action, there was no finding of participation by Jocheles-Brancovskaja in the action of Kaniūkai throughout all the lengthy Soviet period. It is worth underlining, that some of the chiefs of Soviet partisan activity would, after the war, revise the personal documents of participants of partisan activity to boost their partisan “merits”. In the list of the merits of the Soviet partisans the only record of F. Jocheles-Barancovscaja is that of participation the action of 27-28th of May whilst disarming the self-security guards of Jurkonys and Krūminiai villages, that fought with the “White Polish” forces (personal file of F. Jocheles, LYA, f 13, ap. 1, b. 4,1.1).
But the participation in the massacre of Kaniūkai of another member of the same partisan squad Michailas Brancovskis (who afterwards became the spouse of Fania Jocheles) is well documented, in an outright and detailed manner, further so by a special order of gratitude for him for the action of Kaniūnai that was issued (LYA, f. 13, ap.1, b.9, 1. 1). This circumstance reinforces the opinion that F. Yocheles did not partake in the action of Kaniūnai, and for this reason such a fact is not present neither in her file, nor recorded in other documents.
The participation of F. Jocheles-Brancovskaja in the events of Kaniūnai is based on material in memoirs. Its worth underlying that the memoirs of Jewish partisans, even some authors writing about the action at Kaniūnai, are extremely subjective, and they are full of figments of imagination, things that never took place (about a “fortress” installed by the self-security guards, excavated trenches, guard towers, the results of action, all residents killed, of which there were 300); with ferocity of the Jews depicted with relish). This is now used for authors’ own purposes (also directed against Jews themselves) by some authors.
The award by the Lithuanian State is not to be considered as a hasty, inappropriate action. With it a European, and Western democratic world view of the events of the Second World War War’s event is expressed.
With the honoring of Fania Brancovskaja a homage to all Lithuanian Jewish Holocaust Survivors is expressed, and their fight against nationalism.
General Director /signature/ Teresė Birutė Burauskaitė
Dr. Rimantas Zizas, (85) 2661519, email@example.com
Open letter to the President of the Republic of Lithuania, HE Dalia Grybauskaitė
9 March, 2017, Vilnius
In Response to the written statement by the Chancery of the President of LR dated 2017-03-01 Nr. (1D-753)-2D-951
In Response to the written statement by the center of Genocide and Resistance Research Center dated 2017-03-02 Nr. 14R-10
With Regard to revocation of the award “For Merits to Lithuania” awarded to the partisan Fania Jocheles-Brancovskaja
Thank you for your reply to the request by The Nationalist Union to revoke a decree of the President of Lithuania that presented an award on the occasion of the 16th of February to a Soviet partisan, whose squad on the 29th of January 1944 annihilated the civilians of a Lithuanian village Kaniūkai in the southeast of Lithuania (along with the women and children!). The Nationalist Union has drawn to the attention of your Excellency, that it is a certain and unjustified mistake that calls for correction.
In this reply co-signed by the chief of the Department of Service for Individuals it was instructed that this be addressed to the Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania (GRRCL), which as per its own competence would supposedly justify the motives of the above mentioned award. A similar direction was most likely issued to the GRRCL’s leadership, as already the next day the nationalists received a written explanation consigned by the director (both herein attached).
In this explanation by the GRRCL (hereinafter “The Explanation”), it is contained in fact the motives and factual circumstances of such an award, that your Excellency was making her judgment upon, and here there occurred a grand misunderstanding to which we repeatedly request to draw your attention to and to revoke (that is to recall the award).
From the explanation it is clear that a squad of Soviet partisans, of which F, Brancovskaja was an active member, was carrying out a crime with no limitation. Furthermore, GRRCL does not dispute the sources (that is the memoirs of the Jewish nationals), claiming that F. Brancovskaja herself partook in this “operation”. But GRRCL suggests we should not trust these sources for Soviet partisans would invent facts that did not happen in order to gain a bigger backing from the Soviet authority. There GRRCL claims, that some of the residents of Kaniūkai had been wounded, therefore not all were massacred (but in any way it is left unclear what was their destiny!).
Distinct astonishment is raised by a new fact, that the spouse of F. Brancovskaja was definitely partaking in the massacre. Even if F. personally did not kill any of the villages children, then she lived with a murderer from then onward (also possibly for the willingness to please the Soviet regime and to attain its indulgence).
Where are the merits to the Lithuanian Republic? Be it only the case of unproven allegation for a committed crime, though the participation of F. Brancovskaja in the operations of Soviet partisans and her role remains highly controversial, and this can not be considered a merit by any means, the more so given the fact that from publicly available video material it is clear that F. Brancovskaja does not regret her subversive Soviet activity, not for the “appeasement”of the village itself (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaPFiaAB8cQ&feature=youtu.be).
According to the explanation of GRRCL, one would conclude that your Excellency thinks, that from now onward a “broader” attitude has to be observed with regards to the Soviet partisan action with the Nazis, as an “exclusive anti-civilization occurrence”, a fight for the Western world’s values has to be recognized. And this is acclaimed to be a merit to Lithuania. But according to this logic we should also award the Soviet “Lithuanian division” veterans or even the war veterans residing in Russia (as they also fought against the Nazis, and a big part of them even did not annihilate Lithuanians!). According to this “broader”view even Stalin was fighting for the values of the West… And why did we then need to boycott the jubilee celebration of the “Great Patriotic War” in Moscow?
The Nationalists have always supported Your Excellency’s dignified and resolute poise with regards to questions of national security. We believe that also the majority of Lithuanian citizens respect a clear position of the nation’s leader. But this vexatious mistake, whilst attributing an award to a person that served the structures of occupation, and whose sole merit to Lithuania is that it is not proved that she has committed a war crime, may undermine that respect and trust.
It is recognized internationally that a threat from the Kremlin is ever increasing, and in the public domain it is aspired to reinforce the resoluteness of Lithuanian citizens to defend their country, to counteract the actions of the information war, that is being carried out by the Kremlin. How will in this context an award to a Soviet partisan be defended? What will the message be to the citizens, with regards to what it is that is considered a merit to the Lithuanian state?
If someone is suggesting that through such “awards” the relationship with s will be improved, and now there is fear that a revocation would harm that relationship, that too would be yet another mistake. Among decent Jews not susceptible of any crimes it is surely possible to find people who are worthy of their merits being recognized. And so it is in the sphere of scientific work, and creative work, and promoting the name of Lithuania, its culture and its history in the entire world.
We hope, That your Excellency will carry out a just decree and will remain a moral authority in the eyes of Lithuanian citizens.
Chairman Sakalas Gorodeckis / Signature/