O P I N I O N
LOS ANGELES—Richard A. Maullin, elected less than a year ago as the chair of the California Independent System Operator (ISO) Board, was lavishly honored here on May 31st by both the Lithuanian ambassador to the United States and the Foreign Minister of Lithuania. The latter, in the tradition of royalty, meticulously placed the Lithuanian Diplomatic Star around the neck of Dr. Maullin, a major American pollster and principal of the LA polling and public policy research firm FM3, often still known by its older name Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.
But little known to ISO and the California political scene, Maullin’s honor comes, according to some observers, not for helping establish the Vilnius Yiddish Institute in 2001, but for his role in purging it of dissidents on the issue of Holocaust Obfuscation. The institute had been established in 2001 without his participation, but in 2005 he “purchased the shares” from a previous donor, Mendy Cahan for $25,000. Under Maullin’s effective financial control, that started in 2005, the institute’s one Yiddish professor was discontinued, in 2010, at the Lithuanian government’s demand (via its non-Yiddish speaking executive director), followed by a campaign in the years following to remove the documentation, Soviet-style, that the professor or his contributions ever existed. The infraction? Writing articles exposing antisemitism and Holocaust obfuscation and revisionism, and especially, for defending the institute’s librarian, a Holocaust survivor and veteran of the Jewish partisans, who was — among other Holocaust survivors — being defamed by Lithuanian government authorities. She was this year again defamed by one of the government commissions that demanded the institute’s purge. One of the members of that commission is the current director of Dr. Maullin’s Yiddish institute, too. The geostrategic intrigue thickens further. His partner, Natasha, who has accompanied him on all his known trips to Lithuania for close to two decades, is herself a senior employee of the Belarusian government’s top military museum in Minsk, that nation’s capital. At least one Vilnius University professor who spoke on occasion of ties to the security services was in the habit of sharing by multiple emails his serious concerns about her frequent access to ministries and embassies.
How do you get a medal for saving Yiddish?
Buy the shares of a Yiddish institute in Lithuania, fire the one Yiddish professor, don’t replace him, be sure to support the far-right elements determined to “fix” the Holocaust and run that ol’ prof into the ground. Elementary.
Since 2010, Dr. Maullin’s institute in Vilnius has had no full-time Yiddish professor, no full-time Jewish academic staff. It has continued an excellent (and lucrative) summer program while leaving the other eleven months of the year free of Yiddish and free of Jewish academics, but a prime “Hollywood set” for Lithuanian government PR, like other “empty Jewish addresses” in Vilnius. Lithuanian Holocaust survivors in the United States duly noted the conversion to “part time.” It is not the first time Dr. Maullin has been honored for his Yiddish institute contributions, in the absence of any capital endowment or long-time guarantee of any kind. He and Natasha Maullin have been granted audiences with ministers and ambassadors during their many joint trips to Vilnius over the years.
Dr. Maullin’s “Yiddish institute” is led by an accomplished historian who does not speak Yiddish, but is a member of the state’s “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania” (known for short as the “red-brown commission”). The commission is widely considered to be the political engine of the “Double Genocide” movement in Europe (and beyond) which seeks to write the Holocaust out of history, in the spirit of the East European far right, by explaining it as one of two (or the second) of “two equal genocides, Soviet and Nazi.”
Since Dr. Maullin caved to the Lithuanian government’s campaign to purge the institute of its founding academic director, Professor Dovid Katz, nearly all of his fellow Yiddish institute board members have resigned in protest. They include (the late) Dr. Daniel Berg; Zane Buzby (director of the Survivor Mitzvah Project); Professor Sidney Rosenfeld; and S. Chic Wolk. Since then, in an intensive campaign of personal destruction on Maullin’s watch, the director of the Yiddish institute has been denying to the media that Dovid Katz ever was professor at the institute and otherwise using the institute as a platform for defamation of those dismissed for having stood up to the campaign against Holocaust survivors in Lithuania.
“Did he get this medal by betraying Holocaust survivors, the Litvak cause and his own ancestors, the truth about the Holocaust, bona fide Yiddish studies, and those in Eastern Europe who stand up with dignity against the new far right?”
The Lithuanian government strategy was recently summed in an academic paper by Professor Michael Shafir who puts it this way in his paper:
“Meanwhile, a new concept has emerged in professional literature: Holocaust Obfuscation. We owe it to Dovid Katz, a Yiddish literature scholar who had returned to Lithuania, the land of his forefathers, where he was shocked to witness how the Holocaust was transmogrified to serve the purposes of post-Communist political and intellectual elites.5 For the time being, Katz has paid the price of his audacity not only by being dismissed from the Vilnius University, but also by being described by academic collaborationist colleagues as an ‘activist rather than a scholar.’”
In the meantime, Maullin’s Vilnius institute has on its honorary board of directors one of the most reactionary members of the European Parliament, Dr. Laima Liucija Andrikiene, who has consistently opposed LGBT rights while supporting resolutions that diminish the uniqueness of the Holocaust in European history.
In one infamous instance in 2012, Dr. Maullin’s institute helped cover for a major instance of antisemitism on its doorstep.
He has now been rewarded for his loyalty to the Lithuanian government’s right-wing elements. Within the country, by contrast, many Lithuanians themselves have risked their career advancement and status to speak up honestly and frankly.
Something for Dr. Maullin to mull over, as he enjoys his very own Lithuanian Diplomatic Star, and as he celebrates his grand accomplishment with Natasha.