The polite fiction that the renewed Lithuanian state sponsored “Red-Brown Commission” will advance Holocaust research and research on Soviet crimes strictly at the academic and educational levels took a big hit today, before even its first meetings.
A BNS report released today confirms that the Commission, officially known as The International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania, is one of the bodies that will be involved with demanding compensation from Russia for Soviet crimes against Lithuania.
There is no mention of separate sub-commissions or of any other non-academic political sub-unit of the renewed Commission being tasked to this deeply political and geostrategically sensitive role, ultimately part of contemporary east-west relations in Europe. Instead the political capital of the “Commission in general” is invested via its inclusion among the state institutions involved in the campaign for compensation from the Russian Federation.
This places Yad Vashem in a position of further embarrassment, as the announced participation by Yad Vashem in the Commission lends the prestige and sanctified status of Yad Vashem, and by implication, the Israeli and Jewish Holocaust scholarly and commemorative communities, to the Lithuanian state’s long-standing dispute with Russia.
This wholly new entanglement comes on top of the recent protests by Lithuanian Holocaust survivors in the United States and Israel concerning the Commission’s revival, and a separate statement for posterity released by the Israeli survivors. Those protests focus on the Commission’s role in promoting the 2008 Prague Declaration, the central document of the Double Genocide doctrine as well as the Commission’s failure to condemn the prosecutorial campaign against its own former member, Dr. Yitzhak Arad, himself the founding director of Yad Vashem.
The decision by Yad Vashem to rejoin attracted shock and disbelief in the Holocaust survivor community internationally.
Sir Martin Gilbert (London), Prof. Gershon Greenberg (Washington, DC), Prof. Konrad Kwiet (Sydney) and Prof. Dov Levin (Jerusalem) all resigned on principle from the Commission or its committees of experts. Moreover, its role in attempting to downgrade the Holocaust has drawn criticism from Holocaust survivors and specialists since its inception in 1998.
The Commission’s executive director has made speeches and given interviews deeply offensive to the Holocaust survivor and wider Jewish communities. One of its newly appointed members has spearheaded efforts to rehabilitate the 1941 fascist Provisional Government that oversaw the onset of the Lithuanian Holocaust under the aegis of Nazi Germany. He was recently a star speaker at a book launch for MEP Landsbergis’s new book sanitizing the Nazi puppet regime of 1941.