Five Years of Defending History Dot Com




F

ive years have elapsed since this journal was founded as Holocaust in the Baltics on 6 Sept. 2009, in memory of Professor Meir Shub (1924-2009). Outside coverage includes David Hirsch in Engage and Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian (2009); Avi Friedman in Mishpacha, Ricky Ben-David in the Jerusalem Post, Mark Ames in The Nation, and Wendy Robbins on BBC World Service (2010); Cindy Mindell in the Jewish Ledger and Peter Jukes in Motley Moose (2011); Danny Ben-Moshe in his film Rewriting History (2012); Bernard Dichek in Jerusalem Report (2013); Richard Bloom in his film Defending Holocaust History (2014).

“The small Defending History community has howsoever modestly lingeringly impacted the historic course of some ideas. Among them: catching the phenomena of Double Genocide and Holocaust Obfuscation; countering attempts to confuse perpetrators and victims and to vaporize simple definitions; and exposing state-sponsored far right that is masked as center right in much of Eastern Europe (whoever worships Nazi collaborators is far right, period). The nobility of a just battle of ideas is inspiration enough to continue. It is heartwarming to see on our pages dozens of authors of such diversity. Thank you to all our supporters who have enabled these past five years. On to the next five.”

Successful projects, in partnership with colleagues from around the world, include memorable episodes.

The AmericanGermanIrish and Norwegian embassies honored Fania Brantsovsky, turning to unambiguous hogbull the absurd accusations against her and other Jewish partisan heroes leveled by the history-fixing agencies of a state (2008/9). The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s legendary Efraim Zuroff publicly handed that state’s ambassador a letter of protest at a major Tel Aviv event. The Israeli foreign ministry  honored Rachel Margolis as its extraordinary ambassador to Latvia, the late Chen Ivri Apter, boldly exposed “Double Genocide” doubletalk. Seven Western ambassadors issued a powerful letter, so “explosive” that the British Foreign Office has yet to release the full text (the valiant British ambassador who drafted the letter has since retired).

The European Union sank a major attempt to sneak “Double Genocide” into European law (2010). The Canadian Jewish News honored Rachel Kostanian (2010) and ultranationalist attempts to disemploy her were reversed. The Genocide Museum in Vilnius, exposed in 2010, was shamed into adding a single cell cubicle on the Holocaust (2011). Similarly, the Genocide Center was shamed into finally adding an outside placard about the Vilna Ghetto.

Sir Martin Gilbert (2008), Prof. Dov Levin (2008) and Prof. Konrad Kwiet (2011) resigned from the “red-brown commission” thereby revealing the abuse of Holocaust studies as camouflage for the far-right revision of history that entails criminalization of the anti-Nazi Jewish resistance.

The incredible abuse of Interpol to harass Holocaust survivor Joseph Melamed was met with a response from the British Parliament and Haáretz newspaper. Attempts to further defame Rachel Margolis were met by the robust voice of former UK prime minister Gordon Brown.

Dr. Yitzhak Arad, who had been director of Yad Vashem for over twenty years, chose the pages of Defending History to expose Holocaust Obfuscation and those driving it in the European Parliament (2012).

Yad Vashem in Jerusalem was rescued from being manipulated into legitimizing a conference honoring Holocaust perpetrators. Ambassadors of France, Germany, Ireland and Norway, among others, forewarned by our team, boycotted a celebration of a Nazi collaborator at the Lithuanian parliament. We tried to save Yivo in New York from the error of honoring a far-right foreign minister who had made public antisemitic comments, and would go on just a couple of months later to come out with his infamous moustache proclamation.

Attempts to keep off the radar a state reburial of a 1941 Nazi puppet prime minister were thwarted (2012). Robust international responses were inspired regarding state-sponsored glorification of Nazi collaborators, and neo-Nazi and pro Waffen SS marches. The campaign to denigrate Holocaust survivors who resisted was stalled in its tracks and rapidly exposed before the scrutiny of history. Top American professors, from Yale and Brandeis, have been addressed frankly about being instrumentalized by Holocaust-obfuscating East European state agencies.

The Seventy Years Declaration was created, signed by seventy European parliamentarians, issued in fifteen languages, and presented to the president of the European Parliament (2012). It was valiantly defended by a major Lithuanian parliamentarian, Dr. Vytenis Andriukaitis, who brought further honor to his country by protesting on the floor of his nation’s parliament the state honoring of a major Holocaust collaborator. This has been part of the truly multifaceted response to the Prague Declaration movement.

Resources made freely available include the Holocaust map of Lithuania, list of place names, reading list, and extensive bibliographies of coverage of Holocaust obfuscation, the policies of the United States, the EUUnited KingdomCanada, and Israel, plus a growing video archive of survivor testimonies.

A new Litvak Times section provides and brings together resources. Often battling East European state efforts to hijack the Litvak heritage (most painfully — for the cause of Holocaust Obfuscation), we aim to provide non-polemic real resources including indexes to our own offerings and to external sources. Among the areas included are a history of the Litvakstourism and travel, the fate of old Jewish cemeteries (and how to read the stones and say a Litvak Kaddish). Materials on Vilna include a Yiddish virtual mini-museum and collection of ex-libris stamps. New material is generated in Yiddish, as work continues on the atlas of Litvak dialects.

Countries covered include EstoniaLatviaLithuaniaPoland, and with renewed vigor in 2014, Hungary and Ukraine.

Dozens of authors have been attracted to contribute, and Defending History has evolved into an address for Human Rights in Eastern Europe, including sections on free speechwomen’s rightsLGBTRoma, and against racism. On the human rights front, we have endeavored to really stand up, proud and tall, and to give a voice to voiceless victims, starting with the victims of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe. Moreover, the people of Eastern Europe deserve the same standard of freedom of speech as all members of the EU. We have tracked progress across the region, while encouraging local citizens who stand up with courage and dignity. The battle of ideas naturally includes the arts,booksfilm, theatre. and music.

For years, in close cooperation with Dr. Efraim Zuroff of the Wiesenthal Center, the Vilnius-based Defending History team has been monitoring and silently, peacefully protesting three annual pro-fascist events: the February 16th and March 11th independence day neo-Nazi marches in Kaunas and Vilnius, respectively, and the March 16th Waffen SS fest in Riga. We have made certain that the memory of the victims of the Nazis’ local forces is not forgotten. It has been an unexpected and perverse honor to feature repeatedly in the hate materials of the neo-Nazis for whom adulation of Holocaust collaborators is a sacred tenet. But that is the easy part.

One of the toughest and most unexpected challenges has been the incorporation of some of the most unseemly aspects of Double Genocide and Holocaust Obfuscation — acquiescence to (and covering for) racism and glorification of Nazi collaborators — into some Western governments’ geostrategic policies in the spirit of the new cold war, in effect supporting Eastern Europe’s far-right Holocaust revisionists not on any merits but as a ready locally-generated tool in NATO-Russia polemics. We have openly disagreed at times with AmericanBritishCanadian, German, and Israeli policies. We will continue where necessary to do so, precisely in the spirit of the Western democratic love of free and open debate, even as we robustly defend Evaldas Balčiūnas, a member of our writing staff who has been subjected to an ongoing harassment by police that is not tenable in NATO or the European Union.

And now to the next five.

— Dovid Katz

 

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