Yivo Director’s Statement on Lithuanian Foreign Minister’s 2010 Antisemitic Comments, Plus Some Facts

“Fact: The anti-Semitic comment allegedly made by Foreign Minister Ažubalis and quoted by Efraim Zuroff (Simon Wiesenthal Center, Israel) as fact was hearsay.”

— Jonathan Brent, Executive Director of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, in a 13 September 2o11 memo sent to all members of his staff


14 October 2010:  Respected journalist Vytautas Bruveris publishes his report (“Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Strategist Sees Jewish Conspiracy”) in Lietuvos rytas, on the foreign minister’s comments made to a meeting of his entire political faction (Homeland Union / Christian Democrats), now the country’s ruling party, in a meeting in the country’s parliamentPDF here.  Full English translation here.

14 October 2010:  Immediate response of the Jewish Community of Lithuania after the convening of a special meeting of the community’s Board of Directors in which twenty-one board members participated. Authorized English text here.

14 October 2010:  DefendingHistory.com report here.

15 October 2010Alfa.lt reports, citing in detail the press release issued by the foreign minister in reply. His remarks, made to his entire party faction, could not easily be denied, so the reports are attacked by the ministry’s press release as ‘hearsay’, the foreign ministry line since then, faithfully produced verbatim on 13 September 2011 by the obliging head of Yivo in New York City (see quote and link at top of this page).

16 October 2010:  A detailed report on Lithchat by Lithuanian citizen Moacir P. de Sá Pereira.

18 October 2010:  Simon Wiesenthal Center’s central office (Los Angeles) publishes on its website the report ‘Wiesenthal Center harshly criticizes antisemitic remarks of Lithuanian foreign minister’.

20 October 2010:  A strong article of protest against the foreign minister’s speech by Arkadijus Vinokuras — then official government advisor on Jewish affairs and usually a staunch pro-government voice — appears in Lietuvos rytas.

December 2010:  The Jewish Community of Lithuania publishes its response to the foreign minister’s remarks in all four editions of the community’s newspaper Jerusalem of LithuaniaEnglishLithuanianRussian, and Yiddish.

14 December 2010: In a 14 December 2010 posting on the Lithuanian foreign ministry website, it was explained that the foreign minister took the lead in a new initiative to insert Double Genocide ideology and politics (insistence on the acceptance by all of the European Union of the equivalence of Nazi and Soviet crimes) into the Stockholm Declaration. Report here. To this end, the foreign minister organized a meeting of six eastern European Union nations in Vilnius, but the effort was thwarted by the European CommissionAfterwards, in January 2011, the foreign ministers of Lithuania and the Czech Republic announced that they would nevertheless pursue Double Genocide resolutions in the European Union.

12 September 2011:  Milan Chersonski — from 1979 to 1999 director of the Yiddish Folk Theater in Vilnius, Lithuania, and from 1999 to 2011 editor-in-chief of Jerusalem of Lithuania, quadrilingual (English-Lithuanian-Russian-Yiddish) official newspaper of the Jewish Community of Lithuania — issues a public letter to the director of Yivo, in which he tries to help colleagues in New York understand the actual local context of the remarks, and their impact on the remnant Jewish community here. Russian version here.

21 September 2011:  When given a further opportunity to deny or apologize for the antisemitic outburst by Forward journalist Paul Berger, the Lithuanian Consul General in New York could only offer the statement issued by the foreign ministry last year: ‘Since the beginning of his political career  [Ažubalis]  has always spoken for historical justice with respect to the Lithuanian nation  that had suffered the occupation and to all the other nations, which had  suffered atrocities under the Communist and Nazi totalitarian regimes of the  20th century, including the Jewish nation.’ It is widely assumed that denial is impractical because the statements were made to his entire political faction in the country’s parliament.

28 September 2011:  In his comments on his country’s dispute with Austria, over the Austrians’ non-extradition of a suspected Soviet war criminal in the summer of 2011, Foreign Minister Ažubalis was cited by BNS as follows:  ‘The complexity of the issue, in Azubalis’ words, is indicated by the long time it took the EU to formulate an aspiration to build a shared platform of European memory and consciousness, i.e., start talking about crimes committed by Communist regimes in the same language as it does about Nazi crimes.’  DefendingHistory.com report here. BNS report here.  Rather than speak about the merits of the case, the framework was immediately reduced to the far right’s attempt to impose the model of Double Genocide on all of Europe. Insistence on the ‘same language’ for discussing Nazi and Soviet regimes is paraphrased from a passage of the Prague Declaration, which has been condemned by Holocaust survivors and a number of specialist scholars in the field of antisemitism studies.

30 September 2011.  Report on the foreign ministry’s hosting of a book event about Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, at which the head of the History Institute mocked and belittled Holocaust survivors who joined the anti-Nazi resistance in the forests an survived. In the Lithuanian context, where Holocaust survivors who joined the resistance are being defamed by prosecutors, the use of the foreign ministry to lend prestige to the ultranationalist efforts at far-right revisionism is deeply regrettable, and hopefully the foreign minister will express his regrets at this abuse of his ministry.

20 January 2012.  The foreign minister’s infamous “moustache” response to the Seventy Years Declaration, which was soon after covered by the New York Times.

May 2012.  The foreign minister’s response in parliament concerning a Social Democratic question on the state’s decision to rebury with full honors and glorify the 1941 Nazi puppet prime minister.

August 2012. The foreign minister announces plans to (ab)use the forthcoming 2013 rotating presidency of the European Union to disseminate Double Genocide politics on Europe, in the form of insistence on a “unified” history which does not “contrast” Hitler and Stalin.

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