Editor’s note: The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office today released for the record the following September 2007 email exchange with the director of the Los Angeles based “Friends of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute” (VYI).
Although the one-sided conference in LA was aborted, the Friends, and the institute it supports, eventually succumbed to pressure, honors and inducements of Lithuanian government agencies determined to enlist Jewish and Yiddish studies to cover for the ongoing Holocaust revisionism campaign in the spirit of Double Genocide and the Prague Declaration. By 2009-2010, the Friends of the VYI had received (and ignored) letters from six NATO/EU allies’ ambassadors in Vilnius as well as from the Israeli ambassador in Riga. Rendered Yiddishless (and Jewless) for some eleven months each year (outside the lucrative summer course), the institute’s director, who has on occasion been announced as a Yiddish professor, has since been appointed to the state’s red-brown commission and to a deanship at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, which continues to boast a lecture hall and bas relief that honor the LAF / Provisional Government Nazi collaborator Juozas Ambrazevicius Brazaitis.
Various of the American board members resigned on principle in 2009 and 2010, including Zane Buzby, Professor Sidney Rosenfeld and S. Chic Wolk. It is assumed that those who remain and permit their pictures to appear as Board members continue to support (and presumably organize or provide financial gifts to) the VYI’s revised agenda as cover for Baltic nationalism and Holocaust revisionism in the spirit of Eastern Europe’s new far right. with “Yiddish” as cover.
The Friends of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute (and its local leadership) had no public comment during the antisemitic “envelope exhibition” scandal at Vilnius University, in 2012, or the state reburial with full honors of the 1941 Nazi puppet prime minister the same year. Today, the Yiddish-less director of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute continues as member of the state’s red-brown commission, an overlap that some say implicationally reflects on the Yiddish institute’s LA board’s opinions on the Holocaust in Lithuania and state policies to rewrite history in the spirit of the East European far right.
In 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Committee spoke out about the 2010 legalization of swastikas in Lithuania. But the VYI’s board members, in the safety of California and Indiana, have yet to put their views on the record.
Finally, the Soviet practice of airbrushing out of history people no longer in favor with the party establishment seems alive and well at the VYI.
From: Simon Wiesenthal Center-Israel Office
Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 10:23 AM
To: Richard Maullin
Subject: Los Angeles conference on Lithuanian-Jewish relations
Although we have have never met personally, I am well aware of your great efforts on behalf of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, an institution whose work I very much admire. In fact, I was privileged to have attended the opening of the Institute in August 2001 and have closely followed its activities over the years. Both Director of Research Prof. Dovid Katz and Associate Director Ruta Puisyte are esteemed colleagues and personal friends whose work over the years to document Jewish life in Lithuania and the cruel fate of Lithuanian Jewry during the Holocaust I consider extraordinary and whose devoted care and concern for the existing community I find incredibly heartwarming.
It is therefore that I was shocked and extremely pained to learn that the Institute would be among the sponsors of a symposium on “Lithuanian-Jewish Relations in the New Millennium,” at which the absolutely critical subject of Lithuanian complicity in Holocaust crimes was nowhere to be found on the agenda. Perhaps this is not surprising, given the co-sponsorship of the local association of Lithuanian-Americans, but how can Lithuanian-Jewish relations be discussed without extensive reference to the crimes committed by Lithuanians against Jews during the Holocaust both in Lithuania and outside her borders??
As someone who has devoted many years to the efforts to encourage Lithuania to bring local Nazi war criminals to justice and Lithuanian society to face the truth about its Holocaust past, I am well-aware of how difficult these issues are, but having said that, I think you will agree that only by telling the truth about the past can a solid foundation for reconciliation and good relations be created. Unfortunately, there are too many Lithuanian leaders and officials, and even members of the local Jewish community such as Irena Veisaite and others, who think that if we only speak about the positive aspects of Lithuanian-Jewish relations and forget about the local killers, a basis can be created for mutual respect and good relations. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, and the best proof is the incredible chutzpa of the Lithuanian Special Prosecutor who now seeks to investigate Holocaust hero, survivor, and scholar (the former Chairman of Yad Vashem!!!), Dr.Yitzhak Arad, for war crimes against Lithuanians. Ironically, it was Dr. Arad who agreed, despite the serious reservations of many of us in Israel for obvious reasons, to serve on the historical commission established by Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus to investigate the crimes committed in Lithuania during the Nazi and Communist occupations. Perhaps it was his refusal to accept a sanitized whitewash of Lithuanian complicity in the mass murder of Jews and/or his expert testimony in the cases of three Lithuanian Nazi war criminals (two in the US and one in Canada) which ultimately encouraged the attack upon him. (Attached please find my op-ed on this subject which is scheduled appear tomorrow in the Jewish Chronicle in a slightly-abridged version.)
I cannot imagine that you would want the Institute to be part of such a conference and thereby lend legitimacy of any sort to those who seek to create a false symmetry and distorted moral equivalency between Holocaust and Communist crimes and I therefore very much hope that you will withdraw the Institute’s sponsorship from this problematic event. I can assure you that the Simon Wiesenthal Center will do whatever it can to make sure that the public is fully aware of the agenda and content that will be presented, and that those who seek to distort the true history of the destruction of Lithuanian Jewry will be exposed once and for all.
Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center-Israel Office
Coordinator, SWC Nazi war crimes reasearch (worldwide)
Dear Dr. Zuroff,
I appreciate your e-mail of the 25th and share your sentiments regarding the necessity of full and honest discussion of the Holocaust in Lithuania. I am also very disturbed by the Arad matter, as well as the manner in which the Jewish cemetery commission report has been dealt with. Prior to your e-mail, the VYI had already determined that the symposium in LA would be indefinitely delayed and would only go forward with any VYI association if and when a full spectrum of viewpoints could be achieved. I have so informed the individuals who have been attempting to organize this symposium. Please do not hesitate to contact me if we need to address this issue further.
Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates
2425 Colorado Ave. Suite 180
Santa Monica, CA 90404