O P I N I O N
by Geoff Vasil
I’ve never met Christine Beresniova, but I’ve followed her career, so to speak, through the media and mutual acquaintances, and wish her only the best. She first came to my attention after apparently making some very limited and not very public criticisms of Lithuanian Holocaust education, which sufficiently pissed off the Holocaust Obfuscation establishment ensconced within the corridors of state power for them to label her some kind of Russian agent in informal conversations.
I’ve been through that myself. I consider that the first step in challenging the conspirators, who like to begin character defamation campaigns with some kind of KGB agent opening gambit, but who are perfectly willing to further defame and disemploy their opponents if they believe they can get away with it, and see no other remedies.
Beresniova didn’t follow up her initial criticism, whatever it consisted of, with anything substantial. In fact, she tried to influence Defending History through back-channel emails finding specific fault with one of various articles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) published concerning a recent (November 2012) sham “academic conference” held by the obfuscationist cabal at the Lithuanian parliament. Beresniova took Katz to task over a report by Mr. Pinchos Fridberg, a Vilnius born Holocaust survivor and retired professor, regarding Ingrida Vilkienė’s paper at that conference held in the nation’s parliament. Bersniova’s criticism was strange, because the way she put it was almost saying: is that the only thing you could find to criticize during the two-day conference? As if she had found much deeper problems. If so, where did Bersniova publish her critique? She never made any.
Vilkienė, for those who might have forgotten, took the podium and spun a fantastic yarn about a single Lithuanian farmer who rescued some incredibly high number of Jews from his fellow Lithuanians. Pinchos Firdberg during the question period afterward challenged her to provide at least the name of the heroic family, which she couldn’t, because her story was purely anecdotal and she wasn’t intellectually honest enough to even check any sources before trying to palm it off at the fake conference as fact (or — everyone makes mistakes — to simply issue a correction and/or apology that would have brought this matter to an elegant conclusion months ago).
Nonetheless, Beresniova is correct if she implies that there were greater lies told during that two-day conference. Anušauskas, for example, the then-chairman of the powerful parliamentary committee on national security and the man who before that worked for the sham Genocide Research Center and spent an hour and a half on national television explaining how the photographs of Lietūkis Garage were in his view shoddy counterfeits and the entire incident a conspiracy between the Gestapo and NKVD to soil the good name of Lithuanian fascists, told a whopper. His entire presentation seemed aimed at annoying modern-day Russia and he tried to use the issue of access to archives, or lack thereof, to prove Putin’s Russia is an authoritarian state (as if proof is needed!). He proclaimed from the podium (incorrectly) that all archives dealing with the Nazis have been opened in the Western countries. It’s difficult to determine whom Anušauskas was attempting to hoodwink outside of the Lithuanian public, since all the players, including Russia, know there are still reams of classified documents dealing with the Nazis during and after World War II. Presumably the Lithuanian domestic audience was Anušauskas’s intended target.
Many of the other speakers offered all sorts of disinformation, sophistry and inappropriate commentary.
Beresniova decided that rather than criticize the Holocaust Obfuscation movement, she would try instead to paint Efraim Zuroff and Dovid Katz as extremists, in a published article on her professionally presented blog. Actually, she called them vitriolic, an alchemical term denoting sulfur, as in sulfuric acid, deriving from the Latin word for glass, to describe the sheen of sulfur compounds, and often related to a fellow called the Devil (recall the Venezuelan president’s 2009 reference at the UN to America’s president in those terms). Katz replied on these pages a couple of days ago.
If Katz and Zuroff hail from the sulfurous nether-realms of the Evil One Himself (you know, the one with the tail from Christian lore), Beresniova paints herself as a herald of all the good, sweet and positive developments in Lithuanian Holocaust education, developments she doesn’t bother to specify and whose authors remain nameless, whose names do not matter in the long run, but whose efforts are paving a road that will eventually lead to universal understanding of the Holocaust among Lithuanians.
The problem with all this—besides Beresniova asking us to trust her on this without actually hinting at any evidence—is that most of us who have written this and that on “vitriolic” Dovid Katz’s Defending History website, have also read the primary sources, the textbook articles and workbook entries that pass for Holocaust education in Lithuania. Unless something changed radically within the last year, Lithuanian “Holocaust education” as viewed from the textbooks is nothing more than Holocaust revision, trivialization, obfuscation, confusion, double genocide, and a litany of lame apologetics.
Perhaps Beresniova was hinting at—I can only guess really—the efforts of staff at Lithuania’s only Holocaust museum, the humble and small Green House, aka Catastrophe Exhibit, of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum, itself a part of the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture, not the Lithuanian Jewish Community. If so, Beresniova ought to be perfectly aware that every real effort and project to commemorate the Holocaust by these staff has been sabotaged from within by the “higher-ups” who occupy the posh premises at the Vilna Gaon’s Tolerance Center HQ on Naugarduko Street, and by the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture, not to mention by “roving ambassador” who was taken on as an adviser by former president Valdas Adamkus, who during his term posthumously rehabilitated and honored a number of major Holocaust perpetrators and collaborators.
Given Beresniova’s style of ignoring sources, making personal, supposed-charm-based appeals and assertions and generally failing to criticize publicly anything the Holocaust Obfuscationist conspirators get up to, I have to believe the rumors are true: she seems to have relinquished independence of mind and has been rewarded with perks from the US embassy in Vilnius and a chance to hang out extensively with former US ambassador to Lithuania Anne Derse. HE Ambassador Derse promptly courted and sold out the Lithuanian Jewish real estate holdings for a pittance of a restitution deal (over which further conflicts have yet to start), most likely in exchange for continued Lithuanian silence on rendition assistance from Lithuania, though to be sure this remains unproven. What is not unproven is the pattern of US State Department apologetics for local antisemitism, noticed by a variety of foreign commentators, including Efraim Zuroff in the Guardian and Jerusalem Post, and by Mark Tracy and Dovid Katz in the Tablet, among others.
Beresniova, for reasons of her own, might wish to paint Katz and Zuroff as dangerous extremists, but in fact she’s wrong. Katz’s position is that of the most standard historiography, Zuroff’s position is that crimes including murder need to be prosecuted in courts of law, preferably in the countries where the crimes were committed. Neither is a sloucher and both work extremely hard at what they do. Beresniova’s position, on the other hand, is extremist, and the more she thinks she’s moving to the center, the more her position becomes one of the hapless Western apologists for extreme ultranationalism and neo- and pro-Nazi sentiment in the eastern regions of the European Union. In fact, the disturbing pattern of Western apologetics for academia slanted in pro-Nazi historical directions, sometimes by seemingly slight nuance, has barely begun to be studied. Be sure that it will be. And sooner rather than later.
The obliging attacker of Zuroff and Katz describes herself as an anthropologist, and while that could mean any number of things these days, I assume she means a cultural anthropologist. She might be confusing the de rigueur cultural relativism of her discipline for a kind of moral relativism which makes it acceptable to coddle Lithuanian ultranationalist apologists, especially when they occupy powerful positions and also carry out genuinely important educational work locally.
The problem is that Nazism remains what it always was, a dangerous organized crime cult which subsumes the regular features of normal human discourse for its own purposes. In its own way the same is true of perfectly respectable modern historians who try to minimize and relativize what Nazism did. You can’t compromise with these rewriters of history either, because they o never keep their word and are not honorable in any sense of the word. The world has known this since Neville Chamberlain.
The appropriate response to Nazi aggression and pro-Nazi relativist rewriting of history is to counter it with equal and greater determination, sense of purpose, and mutual loyalty between its honest opponents. This is the only appropriate response, and the one Lithuania failed to make in 1941. Instead, Lithuanians took up rifles against their unarmed and helpless Jewish neighbors. A violent reaction by Lithuanians would have been the only response Hitler would have respected, so Lithuanians ended up proving to Hitler what he already suspected, that Lithuania was in 1941 only a state on paper, as were the other Baltic states, and concurrently managed to alienate forever Roosevelt by merrily joining the Axis.
Lithuania today doesn’t need any grandiose and expensive Holocaust education projects; what she needs is for the official ongoing manipulation of the facts in the Lithuanian Holocaust to end, for the revisionism, sometimes known as red-brown equalization. lodged deep in the Lithuanian power structure to be exposed to the light of day and broken up.
Beresniova claims to have spent ten (!) years in Lithuania and never to have seen this conspiracy, when it would be sufficient to consider merely the two-day sham conference at the parliament last fall to trace its outlines and get a rough idea of the main players (nearly all far-right members of the Conservative Party). I’ve been in Lithuania twenty years now, most of that time as a dual Lithuanian and American citizen, and if Beresniova still doesn’t see what’s going on after ten years, she’s not paying enough attention. Or maybe it’s just too inconvenient to look the truth in the face. They will try to hurt your career if they think they can get away with it and you present a large enough threat to the Baltic mis-narrative being coddled (despite its disrespect to America’s enormous sacrifices to free Europe of Hitlerism), despite what any number of boosters claim about the rule of law. The dangerous far-right apologist cult at the heart of Lithuanian politics dressed up in the bright magazine covers of glorified Tolerance Education, Second Homeland, and all the rest of it are not a meritorious solution.
Better to speak up with integrity.