UPDATED MARCH 2017. See also (older, not updated) Responses page.
The campaign of defamation by Lithuanian state prosecutors and allied elites (particularly in the Genocide Center and the antisemitic right-wing press) has resulted in a number of cherished Holocaust Survivors being smeared as “war criminals” without a single charge ever having been leveled against anybody. Launched in 2006, the campaign, abusing tools such as “pre-trial investigations” and leaks to the media, have sought to brand as “war criminals” the heroes of the war against Hitler. It grew in 2011 with the addition of equally perverse “libel charges,” launched with fanfare when Interpol (!) was sent to disturb in Tel Aviv the elected head of the last active group of Litvak Holocaust survivors in the world. Then, in 2013, the state’s “red-brown commission” defamed one of Vilnius’s last survivors on equally perverse grounds, all the while putting on “Holocaust events” for naive Western audiences, usually funded by the (unknowing) Lithuanian taxpayer, in venues including London, New York, Toronto, and Vilnius.
A single public letter from the president could fix it all. Instantly.
The campaign of defamation results in permanent calumny in historians’ works, Wikipedia, and elsewhere (see below) that is more than a grave injustice to the Holocaust survivors targeted (and their families). It is a deliberate ultranationalist falsification of history in the spirit of the wider campaign to find fault with the victims and make heroes of the perpetrators. These are components of the movement to obfuscate the issues, and downgrade the Holocaust in the spirit of the Double Genocide movement and its central document, the 2008 Prague Declaration.
All but one of the accused survivors — most in their late eighties or nineties — are still alive (as of February 2016). Dr. Rachel Margolis passed away on 6 July 2015, having failed to fulfill her final wish of one last trip to her native Vilna.
A single public letter of apology from the president or prime minister of Lithuania, accompanied by an apology from the state prosecutors, would be the minimal gesture of good will needed to repair the damage. Public defamation can only be (partly) repaired by public apology. Moreover, the state has a splendid last chance to end its relationship with its own Holocaust survivors, after a 700 year history in Lithuania, on a rather higher note than police coming to look for aged women veterans of the heroic Jewish resistance in the forests of Lithuania.
During his own tenure before these events, Lithuania’s eminent late president (later prime minister) Algirdas Brazauskas, a champion of confronting historical truth with courage and dignity, awarded certificates of honor to the selfsame Jewish partisan veterans for the selfsame service in helping to liberate Lithuania from Nazism. . .
22 April 2006. Article in Respublika accuses Dr. Yitzhak Arad, Holocaust survivor, resistance hero, veteran of the Israeli war of independence and long-time director of Yad Vashem, of being a war criminal on the basis of misquoted, decontextualized passages in his own 1979 book, The Partisan. [ADDENDUM of April 2014: One of the chief stone-throwers (final section) is A. Anušauskas, who is today a member of the state’s commission on Nazi and Soviet crimes. In 2006 he was “scientific editor” at the Genocide Center. Since 2008 he has been a member of parliament where he was for some years chair of the Committee on National Security and Defense.]
10 September 2007. Prosecutors in Lithuania confirm that their investigation of Holocaust survivor, anti-Nazi resistance hero and former director of Yad Vashem Dr. Yitzhak Arad, on suspicion of “crimes against humanity” had been initiated in May 2006. The “investigation” was based on an article in the antisemitic daily Respublika (22 April 2006), in which the special prosecutor and head of the Genocide Center are extensively quoted. In June 2006 the daily triumphantly proclaimed that prosecutors were acting on its earlier article. English summary. See below at 25 September 2008 for “conclusion” of the investigation and the 2010 report of the “Lithuanian Human Rights Association” . . . In 2014, ongoing defamation evident from Wikipedia entry.
29 January 2008. Article in the daily Lietuvos aidas that called on prosecutors to investigate Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky and Dr Rachel Margolis. English translation.
6 April 2008. Professor Dov Levin of Jerusalem protests, returning his own earlier award to the president of Lithuania.
30 April 2008. The Embassy of the United States in Lithuania issues a certificate of appreciation, signed by Ambassador John A. Cloud, to Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky; presented by political officer Joseph Boski at a luncheon organized by the Vilnius Yiddish Institute.
5 May 2008. Police come looking for Dr. Rachel Margolis [born 1921] and Ms. Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky [born 1922] on a ‘war crimes’ investigation. Dovid Katz’s report to colleagues at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute. Reports in the Jerusalem Post (PDF here), and Jewish Chronicle (PDF here). [Note: Three years earlier, on 8 May 2005, then Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas had awarded Dr. Margolis a certificate of appreciation for her role as an anti-Nazi partisan.]
28 May 2008. Prosecutors tell news agencies that Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky and Rachel Margolis cannot be found; English translation.
28 May 2008. Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Israel office, hands the Lithuanian ambassador to Israel a letter of protest.
3 June 2008. The Embassy of Ireland in Lithuania issues a certificate of lifetime achievement to Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, signed by Ambassador Dónal Denham, who presented the award at a reception at the ambassador’s residence.
11 July 2008. Prosecutors reply to the Jewish Community of Lithuania.
19 June 2008. Open Letter of the Jewish Community of Lithuania and the Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Prisoners.
20 July 2008. Washington Times op-ed by Dan Mariaschin, of B’nai B’rith International.
1 August 2008. United States congressmen Howard Berman, Paul Hodes and Robert Wexler protest the actions of the Lithuanian government.
19 August 2008. Open Letter from students and faculty of the summer program in Yiddish language and literature at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute at Vilnius University (text by Elliott Palevsky, director of the cultural program).
20 August 2008. Jewish Week op-ed by Mark Weitzman (director of government affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center USA): ‘Capital of culture or injustice?’
21 August 2008. Economist article [by Edward Lucas]: ‘Prosecution and persecution: Lithuania must stop blaming the victims’; alternate link; 2nd alternate link.
25 August 2008. Letter to Dr Rachel Margolis from nine NATO embassies in Vilnius.
22 August 2008. Director of the Business Division of Baltic News Service (BNS) attacks Yitzhak Arad, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, Rachel Margolis; English translation.
22 August 2008. Report in The New Centrist.
1 September 2008. Open Letter of the Jewish Community of Lithuania and the Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Prisoners.
2 September 2008. Prosecutors comment on investigations “related to persons of Jewish nationality”.
4 September 2008. Question to the German parliament by a group of members.
25 September 2008. Prosecutors close part of the Arad investigation, ask the public for assistance in looking for “evidence” and fault his book on the basis of an anonymous “doctor of humanitarian sciences (expert-historian)”. Question: Will the anonymous expert-historian trasher of Dr Arad’s book please identify himself and share his evidence with colleagues?
25 September 2008. Response of UK MP Denis MacShane: excerpt from p 33 of his Globalising Hatred. The New Antisemitism (see Recent Books → 2008 → MacShane).
September 2008. ‘Investigating Jewish partisans in Lithuania: the protest of a veteran Jewish partisan’ by Sara Ginaite in Jewish Currents.
October-December 2008. ‘Bitter pill of history’ by Milan Chersonski in Jerusalem of Lithuania, 143-144 (7-8), p 7.
15 March 2009. Holocaust Council of Metro West issues a Woman of Valor award to Dr Rachel Margolis.
7 April 2009. Letter to Dr Rachel Margolis from the chairman, president and executive director of NCSJ.
9 April 2009. Keene State College in New Hampshire honors Dr Rachel Margolis.
16 April 2009. Letter to Dr Rachel Margolis from the National Director of ADL.
20 May 2009. Director of Baltic News Service (BNS) calls for Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky and Yitzhak Arad to be put on trial for war crimes; English translation.
21 May 2009. Dovid Katz’s op-ed in the Jewish Chronicle posits a link between the Double Genocide movement (and its prime document, the Prague Declaratin of 2008) with the campaign against Holocaust survivors.
19 June 2009. Lord Janner of Braunstone issues a certificate of appreciation to Dr. Rachel Margolis, delivered at the Dr Rachel Margolis event chaired at Leivick House in Tel Aviv by its director, composer Daniel Galay. The keynote speaker was Israeli ambassador to Latvia and Lithuania, Chen Ivri Apter, who awarded Dr. Margolis a certificate of merit from his embassy. Tel Aviv school children who study Yiddish with Hannah Pollin-Galay presented a cultural program of song, and a gift of flowers to Dr. Margolis. Other speakers included professors Israel Bartal, Dov Levin (Jerusalem) and Dovid Katz (Vilnius). Dr. Margolis addresses the audience. After the event. Dr. Margolis with Ambassador Apter. Photos by Leyzer Burko. Leivick House report on the event.
23 September 2009. Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman of the Vilnius Jewish Community, and legal advisor to the Jewish Community of Lithuania, speaking at the annual September 23 commemoration a Ponar (Paneriai), cites prosecutors’ attempts to mischaracterize the status of Jewish anti-Nazi partisan veterans Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky and Rachel Margolis; comments cited in column 5 of the report by Milan Chersonski, editor of the Jewish community’s Jerusalem of Lithuania (Fall 2009 issue).
28 October 2009. The mainstream Delfi.lt reports: “Germany honors red partisan under investigation for mass murder in Vilnius”; caricature of Holocaust survivor and anti-Nazi partisan veteran Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky published with the article. English translation. BNS’s 29 Oct 2009 English summary. Coverage of the situation in Jerusalem of Lithuania (autumn 2009 issue), publication of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, by its editor Milan Chersonski: “Congratulations on the Award!”
3 December 2009. United States congressmen Shelley Berkley, Howard Berman (chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee), Paul Hodes, James Moran, and Robert Wexler (chairman, House Subcommittee on Europe) protest the Lithuanian government’s defamation and persecution of Holocaust Survivors Dr. Rachel Margolis and Ms. Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky.
1 January 2010. Avi Lehrer posts video of Dovid Katz’s Dec. 2009 interview with Dr. Rachel Margolis who explains her fear to return to Vilnius for one last visit. Part 2.
27 January 2010. On 27 January (Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the liberation of Auschwitz), Lithuanian prosecutors visited the Jewish Community of Lithuania at Pylimo Street 4 in Vilnius, demanding information about Joseph Melamed in connection with a new ‘investigation’, the nature of which is not publicly known. Mr. Melamed, a Kovno Ghetto survivor, veteran of the anti-Nazi partisans in the forests of Lithuania and of Israel’s War of Independence, is the elected chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel. It is one of the last active associations of Litvaks in the world. Mr. Melamed and the Association have spoken out boldly against the Prague Declaration and the “Double Genocide” movement, most recently during the recent Global Forum on Combating Antisemitism. Prosecutors in Vilnius have yet to announce the basis of their interest in Mr. Melamed, the author of a number of works on Litvak issues. There has moreover been no explanation of why they came to disturb the local Jewish community in Vilnius on Holocaust Remembrance Day instead of contacting Mr. Melamed directly with any questions they might have. Report on the home page includes quotations from an exclusive Holocaust in the Baltics interview with Joseph Melamed. February 10 report on Interfax. February 11 report on Izrus.
23 July 2010. Lithuanian Human Rights [!] Association issues statement replete with false and defamatory accusations against Holocaust survivors who joined the anti-Nazi resistance. Report here.
6 September 2010. Article blaming the Vilna Ghetto’s United Partisan Organization for war crimes, attacking Yitzhak Arad, Leonidas Donskis and others. English translation.
7 October 2010. ‘Nazi crimes have been downgraded in Lithuania’ in the Canadian Jewish News by Esther Goldberg.
3 January 2011. Report that the Lithuanian Human Rights Association (LHRA) had released on its website at the end of December 2010, a July 2010 document, prepared and signed by ten of its experts, defaming Yitzhak Arad, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky and Rachel Margolis more outrageously than ever before. See full report.
9 March 2011. Former UK prime minister Gordon Brown speaks out on Rachel Margolis in the Independent.
5 May 2011. ‘Three years later. Neither charged nor cleared’ on DefendingHistory.com.
30 August 2011. On the demand of Lithuanian prosecutors, Interpol agents in Tel Aviv visit with Joseph Melamed, Holocaust survivor (of the Kovno Ghetto), veteran of the partisans’ struggle against Nazi forces, and of the Israeli War of Independence. He is interviewed concerning his 2009 book Crime and Punishment. Yossi Melman’s report in Haaretz. Other reports in Arutz Sheva (English), in Neues Deutschland and Junge Welt (in German), and JSS (in French); also: Associated Press (→ CBS News, Fox, MSNBC, Washington Post, YahooNews etc); JTA (→ WJC, JJ, Juedische.at, etc); Mishpacha. Geoff Vasil in the Jewish Chronicle.
8 September 2011. Early Day Motion 2161 in the British Parliament on the Melamed case.
9 September 2011. Yivo director Jonathan Brent issues circular to staff denying Yossi Melman’s report in Haaretz on the Interpol visit to Joseph Melamed. Yossi Melman’s reply.
15 September 2011. Yossi Melman’s reply to Jonathan Brent.
22 September 2011. Yad Vashem withdraws invitation to Lithuanian minister over Melamed affair.
28 September 2011. An event held by the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry to mark the publication (with the ministry’s financial support) of Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands includes a speech by the director of the History Institute that included an attack on Jewish anti-Nazi partisans.
2012. Final chapter of Marek Jan Chodakiewicz’s Intermarium (2012) is a chapter of defamation against Jewish partisans including (by name) Yitzhak Arad, Fania Brantsovsky, and Rachel Margolis. See review by Dovid Katz in Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs (2013).
6 March 2012. Holocaust survivors Tel Aviv led by Joseph Melamed, picket an event hosted by wealthy South African Jews to honor the Lithuanian foreign minister infamous for his “moustache comparison” of Hitler and Stalin and antisemitic slurs. The accusations against Jewish partisans are very much in the air, as Melamed, 87, holds a sign asking the diners in the Panorama Hotel: “Where is your conscience? Where is your solidarity with Holocaust survivors, with veterans and with the partisans?”
2012. Prosecutor Rimvydas Valentukevicius, asked by Danny Ben-Moshe in the documentary Rewriting History whether Rachel Margolis can safely return to Vilnius for one last visit, replies: “Are you her lawyer?” followed by Prof. Ben-Moshe’s commentary.
September 2012. Vilnius University honors an antisemitic, homophobic “envelope artist,” one of whose prime creations is a further defamation of Dr. Yitzhak Arad. More samples of the designer envelope collection. A group of nine young Lithuanians protested the exhibit. Years earlier, the Jewish community’s newspaper Jerusalem of Lithuania had exposed the envelope artist. For years, the envelopes, including the one “featuring” Dr. Arad, were sold in Vilnius’s Central Post Office on Gedimino Boulevard.
20 October 2012. Tel Aviv’s Leivick House releases for the June 2009 video of the late Ambassador Chen Ivri Apter’s speech on Yitzhak Arad, Fania Brantsovsky and Rachel Margolis.
Dec. 2012. Yitzhak Arad analyzes the campaign to criminalize Jewish veterans of the war against Hitler as part of a wider Double Genocide program of historical revisionism.
February 2013. State sponsored “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania” defames Vilnius Holocaust survivor Pinchos Fridberg on its own website [Chronology of the Pinchos Fridberg affair here].
February 2013. Artūras Račas, editor-in-chief of Baltic News Service (BNS), attacks Holocaust Survivor Prof. Pinchos Fridberg. Professor Fridberg replies.
October 2013. Part of the “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania” writes a letter of regret to Yitzhak Arad. The letter was pointedly not signed by members Arūnas Bubnys (Genocide Center, Vilnius), Jonathan Brent (Yivo), Norman Neimark (Stanford University), Janos Rainer (Institute for History of 1956 Hungarian Revolution), Timothy Snyder (Yale University) and Francoise Thom (Sorbonne).
2014. Defending History names Prof. Pinchos Fridberg Person of the Year following his consistent courage in telling the truth about the Holocaust in the face of defamation by the (former) head of BNS and the state’s International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania.
2014. Wikipedia entry for Dr. Yitzhak Arad is a sample of continuing defamation in the absence of Lithuanian government apologies. See now Dr. Arad’s December 2012 paper in Defending History on the Lithuanian Holocaust and its obfuscation.
2014. Monica Lowenberg’s ongoing petition on Change.org.
2014. Dr. Efraim Zuroff’s interview on Salford City Radio (UK), with reference to four of the ‘investigations’ against Jewish partisan heroes who escaped the Vilna, Kovno and Svintsyan ghettos to join up with the anti-Nazi partisans.
2015. On Youtube: The executive director of the Lithuanian government sponsored “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” to local diplomats) speaks out publicly, at Ponar (Paneriai), in a German documentary film, on why he thinks Holocaust survivors who survived by joining the anti-Nazi resistance need to be investigated. His explanation rapidly became an iconic encapsulation of Double Genocide.
4 March 2016. Prosecutor General Rimvydas Valentukevičius, closely involved in the effort to “investigate” Jewish Holocaust survivors who were partisan veterans from 2006 onward, issues a reply to the Jewish Community of Lithuania in which he fails to even mention the growing request for his office (and the affiliated Genocide Center) to release the names of around one thousand alleged local Holocaust perpetrators generated by his own state-sector colleagues. In other words prosecutors, who for ten years have been publicizing (= defaming) Holocaust survivors by name, never coming up with a single charge or accusation, in a veritable campaign, now refuse to publish the names of Holocaust perpetrators.
22 February 2017. Far right news portal Propatria.lt publishes condemnation of Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, 95, in connection with President Dalia Grybauskaite’s award to Ms. Brantsovsky on 16 February for her work in Holocaust education in Lithuania.
24 February 2017. Slaptai.lt publishes report on condemnation of Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky by a statement composed by Statys Gorodeckis.
2 March 2017. The state-sponsored “Genocide Center” issues a statement stating that Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky was not at Koniuchy/Koniūkai, but was at other scenes of partisan battles, concludes that her late husband (!) was however present and was therefore a war criminal, considers the Soviet partisans (the only force effectively fighting the then Nazi regime of Lithuania) criminals, but explains that it was… nevertheless fine for the president to give her an award because of the Western narrative…
9 March 2017. The far-right ‘Union of Nationalists’ publishes facsimiles of its statement of 23 February 2017 against Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, addressed to Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaitė, asking the president to rescind an award made to Ms. Brantsovsky for work in the field of Holocaust education, on the basis of her service as a Jewish partisan in the war against Hitler. The statement accuses Ms. Brantsovsky and her late husband of participation in massacres against civilians, with not an iota of evidence.
10 March 2017. Report in Alkas.lt on the ‘Union of Nationalists’ statement condemning Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky and her late husband of participation in ‘massacres’ with no critical journalistic comment directing readers to other points of view.
11 March 2017. Author of the statement condemning Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky is offered an honored slot, in the forecourt of Lithuania’s Presidential Palace, as his statement is read out as part of the far right’s Independence Day activities for which the municipality of Vilnius, the nation’s capital, again granted the city center. A video of the “Witch Trial on Independence Day” was posted on Youtube by Alkas.lt.
20 March 2017. Lietuvos žinios article by Jurga Tvaskienė notes anti-Brantsovsky statements by forces of Ramūnas Karbauskis, the head of the country’s ruling party, the Peasants and Greens, and cites criticism of these statements by parliamentarian Arvydas Anušauskas, without, however, noting that it was Dr. Anušauskas who helped launch the anti-Jewish-partisan hysteria in the antisemitic daily Respublika back in 2006. See above under April 2006.
22 March 2017. Jewish Community of Lithuania protests anti-Brantsovsky statements in publications under the control of the ruling Peasants and Greens party, on the community’s official website.
26 March 2017. Defending History editor Dovid Katz’s summary of the 2017 campaign against Ms. Brantsovsky, including full English translations of the Genocide Center’s 2 March 2017 statement, and the reply by the Nationalist Union of 9 March 2017.
13 April 2017. English translation of the full transcript of the March 11th “witch hunt ceremony” on the presidential palace’s forecourt is published in Defending History.