PAUL GILLESPIE’S fine report (May 16th) on a recent conference in Vilnius, Lithuania,
about the history of Europe, touches on a part of the agenda that is
often left unreported. That agenda is, in short, “Holocaust obfuscation”.
Not a single death is denied. Instead, an array of ruses is used to
talk away the Holocaust. These include mitigation of Nazi crimes; downplaying
of local participation in the murders; finding fault with victims and
survivors; bogus redefinitions of the word “genocide”; tacit encouragement
of antisemitic and racist public moods.
The effort is now concentrated on the “Prague Declaration”
proclaimed last June. At first sight, this declaration “on European
Conscience and Communism” seems innocuous. After all, when the grand
Western party of freedom and prosperity got under way in 1945, the
nations of Eastern Europe were enslaved for around half a century to
the totalitarian Soviet regime. Soviet crimes must be exposed, and
the victims honoured.
But history, just like life, tends to get complicated.
The Baltic states have dismal Holocaust-era records: the highest percentages
in Europe (in the mid to high nineties) of their Jewish citizens were
murdered. This resulted from vast numbers of actual volunteer killers
coming forward, far beyond the usual forms of collaboration. One must
at the same time never forget the magnificent inspired heroism of those
Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians who just did the right thing, and
saved a neighbour.
Let there be no mistake. All our nations’ histories have
stains. It is a sign of maturity and patriotism to own up and move
forward. In Lithuania, where I have lived for much of the last decade,
I have been treated with exceptional kindness and have come to have
high affection, and the highest aspirations, for the country. The Baltics
are dynamic democracies that deserve our staunch support, for continued
growth and against future threats from a certain unpredictable bear
to the east.
Bold non-Jewish Lithuanian scholars have worked tirelessly
to tell the simple truth about the Holocaust. One of them, historian
Ruta Puisyte, whose pioneering thesis is on the web, is in Dublin this
week as part of an exhibition on Holocaust survivors. She is a true
hero of modern Lithuania. Catch her lectures!
But the work of these truth- telling patriots is undermined
by government agencies that misuse strapped resources to try to replace
the notion of the Holocaust with a theory of equal genocides where
everybody was killing everybody.
The catalogue is not pretty. The state funds a veritable
“genocide industry”. There is (this one is for you, George Orwell)
an “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the
Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania” (similar contraptions
were set up in the other two Baltic states). It is cosily housed in
the prime ministers office, eliminating any distancing from politics.
Moreover, the inquiry’s name implicitly suggests the foregone conclusion
– equality; and, the name conveniently excludes the mass murder committed
by local (rather than “occupation”) forces.
To give “the Red-Brown Commission”, as it is commonly
called, international legitimacy, a leading Holocaust scholar, himself
a survivor who moved to Israel after the war, was coaxed into joining.
He is Yitzhak Arad. After he joined, prosecutors here started a kangaroo
war-crimes investigation against him. The only real charge was that
he escaped certain death by joining the anti-Nazi partisans in the
When the Arad “investigation” was losing steam amid international
protests, prosecutors, spurred on by the antisemitic right-wing press,
found two new “objects” for a new and more vicious witch-hunt: Fania
Yocheles Brantsovsky, librarian of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, and
Dr Rachel Margolis. Both amazing women, now 87, are Holocaust survivors
who escaped the Vilna Ghetto before its liquidation in September of
1943 to join the partisans in the forests.
A little over a year ago, on May 5th, 2008, armed plainclothes
police came “looking” for both women. And a lamentable low point in
modern Lithuanian history that was. Later, prosecutors told the press
that the women “cannot be found” implying that they are fugitives.
To this day, the calumny stays uncorrected. Verily this has been not
about prosecution (no charges, no subpoenas) but about defamation (just
last week the director of Baltic News Service called for war crimes
trials of these heroic Holocaust survivors). Last August, the Economist
wisely commented: “Lithuania must stop blaming the victims”.
DR RACHEL Margolis, a co-founder of Lithuanias only Holocaust
exhibit of integrity, has been unable to return to Lithuania since
the sordid affair started. She has since been honoured by members of
the US Congress and the British House of Lords.
Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, still resident in Vilnius,
has been feted here by the Irish, American, British, Austrian and other
embassies. Ireland proudly led the way!
Sad to have to note that it is the first time since Soviet
days that the Western powers saw fit to honour a person being trashed
by an East European state’s judicial organs.
A recent exhibit in a downtown state-sponsored “genocide”
museum compared Auschwitz with the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s. An
elderly woman is shown telling visitors from around the world, in English
translation: “In Auschwitz we were given some spinach and a little
bread. War is terrible, but famine is even worse.” The same museum
houses blatantly antisemitic exhibits.
So much for “equality” back at home.
“Red-equals-Brown” started big-time at the European Parliament
in January 2008, with the “Common Europe – Common History” group. Their
press release complained bitterly that “Never Again” is unfairly monopolised
by Holocaust survivors. It took a member of the British Parliament
to see right through it all. John Mann, valiant chairman of the All-Party
Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism, told the Commons where this
is coming from: “In Tallinn, Estonia, five MEPs from five different
countries met to launch a group called Common Europe – Common History.
It has the same theme – the need for an equal evaluation of history.
It is just a traditional form of prejudice, rewritten in a modern context.
In essence, it is trying to equate communism and Judaism as one conspiracy
and rewrite history from a nationalist point of view. Those are elected
Repeatedly pressed to assent during her Baltic trip last
August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel refused, simply saying: “National
Socialism was a unique phenomenon.” Good for her.
Alas, Red-Equals-Brown is sometimes underpinned by wheeling
out ambitious local Jewish politicians whose political careers depend
on being “more ultranationalist and more anti-Russian” than anybody
else. These “show Jews” (once upon a time called “court Jews”) regularly
betray Holocaust victims and survivors alike. Similarly, unsuspecting
foreign academics enjoy junkets without realising they are being abused
for the “obfuscation” agenda.
One proposed new Euro-law in the Prague Declaration would
force the “overhaul of European history textbooks so that children
could learn and be warned about Communism and its crimes in the same
way as they have been taught to assess Nazi crimes”. Another would
insist that Soviet misdeeds be judged “in the same way Nazi crimes
were assessed by the Nuremberg Tribunal”. The hard-working Baltic peoples
deserve better than this massive misguided expenditure on a shambolic
Lithuania has just elected a dynamic new president, Dalia
Grybauskaite, an economist born after the war. And what a grand opportunity
she has to rapidly dismantle the ultranationalist, history-distorting,
antisemitic, and racist “genocide industry” that is a blot on her fine
country, from the commissions to the devious resolutions before the
European Parliament. What an opportunity to recreate the majesty of
the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and to attract talent from every corner
of the planet.
As for the Prague Declaration, all of Europe should unite
to rapidly relegate it to the junk heap. It should be replaced by a
new project to deal with the legacy of Soviet totalitarianism.
Without the “equals sign”.
Dovid Katz is Research Director at the Vilnius Yiddish
Institute, and professor of Judaic Studies at Vilnius University, Lithuania.
His latest book is Seven Kingdoms of the Litvaks (Vilnius 2009