The loudest voice here is that of the European Jewish Congress whose head is a Kremlin-leaning oligarch who has businesses in Russia, poses with Vladimir Putin for pictures and is often praised by the latter, but the fact is – the word has spread outside Lithuania. And musings whether the rights of those thinking differently are not being suppressed, books are being burned for having an individual opinion and among those books – the topic of the holocaust or are we once again trying to avoid the responsibility for Jew massacres, this does not benefit Lithuania, LRT.lt writes.
Was Lithuania ready for such a scenario? It would appear that the head of the Lithuanian Jewish Community attempted to talk the head of the European Jewish Congress, the same oligarch favoured by Putin, out of accusing Lithuania. When we attempted to find out what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its special ambassador for relations with Jewish organisations did, we simply received the response that work is constantly ongoing. Meanwhile commenters we've spoken to say the opposite. And the responses have to be prepared because the public letter by R. Vanagaitė is only for the domestic audience. All she said outside Lithuania remains, she did not withdraw her words and did not admit guilt. That said she did thank the embassy for support in expressing her truths, that is to say the Foreign Ministry.
"It turns out that he collaborated with the KGB, that he betrayed all 22 people who hid as forest brothers and finally he began glorifying the Soviet Union, screamed at the court that he cooperated fully and will repent for his guilt," R. Vanagaitė told the Israel television ITON.TV on October 29.
That this text for the Israeli television is a lie, R. Vanagaite likely did not reveal in that country, but the European Jewish Congress strongly condemned Lithuania for the supposed attacks against R. Vanagaiė who wrote about the Holocaust, with her supposedly being confronted with threats and the private company's decision to cease cooperation and remove her books from sale.
The president of the European Jewish Congress is Viatcheslav Kantor, one of the wealthiest Russian businessmen, a member of V. Putin's entourage, with the Russian president visiting his companies.
The head of the Lithuanian Jewish Community Faina Kukliansky says that three years ago she demanded for and received official information about the actions of Lithuanian partisan leaders. A. Ramanauskas-Vanagas' name is not among those who participated in the Holocaust, he was fully pardoned in 1991 by the Supreme Court. F. Kukliansky says that upon finding out about the European Jewish Congress president V. Kantor's decision to condemn Lithuania, she attempted to convince him to not do so.
"We tried talking on the topic, however perhaps we did not come to an understanding and perhaps for the future I would recommend all international organisations to trust local communities more in specific cases. That said, we are victims of the Holocaust and not some sort of lords who lecture and give advice, what to do with those who perhaps participated in the Holocaust," F. Kukliansky stated.
Awarded by the Wiesenthal centre for her courage R. Vanagaitė presented her book about the horrors of the Holocaust widely abroad. By the way, the organisation of the meetings was assisted by the Lithuanian embassies. In Belarus R. Vanagaitė spoke at the Nobel Prise laureate Svetlana Aleksijevich's Intellectuals Club how Lithuanian archives contain facts, hidden truths and the persecution and suppression she is faced with in Lithuania for revealing that truth.
"No-one in Lithuania invites me to conferences, nor schools, to no events because in Lithuania the narrative remains that our Jews were massacred by a handful of degenerates who cooperated with the Nazis, while the rest of Lithuania had nothing to do with it. I am glad that the Lithuanian embassy provided this location, I did not think that with such views of the book it could happen," R. Vanagaitė said in Minsk.
R. Vanagaitė stated that every Lithuanian's home contains items from people killed in the Holocaust and the homes most Lithuanians live in are those of Jews. Vanagaitė's new partner, dubbed the angriest Nazi hunter, the head of the Israel bureau of the Wiesenthal Centre Efraim Zuroff has supposedly told her that the emptying homes of Lithuanian towns are revenge for the spilt blood.
"As I was told by E. Zuroff, this is revenge for you – 200 thousand Jews disappeared, soon Lithuania will only have the elderly and no-one will be left to live in those Jewish homes," R. Vanagaitė said.
And on Holocaust day this autumn a step further was taken – the Russian information agency Sputnik announced on September 23 that R. Vanagaitė claims that even some of the highest state officials had a hand in Jewish massacres.
"Rūta Vanagaitė, the author of a book about the Holocaust in Lithuania named Mūsiškiai, calls former Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus (head of state 1998-2003 and 2004-2009) a participant of Jew mass murders," Sputnik announced on September 23.
Vanagaitė herself denies saying this.
"Nonsense. I am telling you – nonsense. And I do not comment on rumours and smoke," the author of Mūsiškiai responded by phone.
This May R. Vanagaitė claimed at the Latvian city of Jelgava that she had found out that the State Security Department (VSD) intends to declare her book Mūsiškiai as a threat to national security, include it in the VSD annual list of threats to national security. Vanagaitė said that she was aided by officials at the US embassy – she met with the ambassador's deputy Howard Solomon.
"Later I was contacted by the US ambassador. He said "We cannot publically support you – diplomacy stops us. We can go to cafés with you, take pictures and post them on Facebook. And we will also do some other things. We later met, had some coffee and they say "You know what we did for you? We made an official call from the embassy to the Lithuanian Committee of National Security. Guys do you know what a threat is? This book is not that. They tell us: yes, you told us, that's it, that's it, we're stopping," R. Vanagaitė said in Jelgava.
The officials at the VSD categorically denied any such claims by Vanagaitė.
"The State Security Department and intelligence overall do not perform any mass wiretapping or monitoring. It is activity strictly regulated by the intelligence law. The VSD is not the institution you can call, ask make deals with and such. This is why we also cannot comment about such things, about partners, connections," the head of the VSD strategic communication office Aurelija Katkuvienė said.
According to political analyst Marius Laurinavičius, the public which long passively watched talks which peculiarly conformed to Kremlin rhetoric has finally awakened when limits were overstepped – a brutally tortured and killed by the KGB resistance leader has been slandered. At the same time the other side is seeking to spread the slander about us across the World.
"When such a number of pro-Kremlin individuals have gotten involved, it is completely clear that it is a planned operation. This is not just the case of Vanagas alone. They are trying to do it at the moment and it is failing, thus they have moved on to the international front and are trying to slander us on the international stage," Vilnius Institute of Policy Analysis chief analyst Marius Laurinavičius stated.
Public relations expert Arijus Katauskas agrees that Lithuania has become the target of unfriendly forces, however it so far has no defensive tactic. According to the expert, we do not know the diplomats' actions, however it is clear that the Lithuanian leadership is only forming their opinion for the domestic audience and are almost completely ignoring how to present information in the influential foreign media, whose target audience is the leaders of foreign countries and influential businessmen.
"This whole situation will likely force state officials and particularly the cabinet to think whether we have the needed resources and the necessary competences to adequately at least defend our interests, present our information, which needs to be presented in time. Because now it is putting out a fire, "call things by their names"," senior partner of the public relations company Nova Media A. Katauskas said.
After the European Jewish Congress accusations to Lithuania, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed regret that the Jewish genocide and Lithuanian anti-Soviet resistance are being compared in this context which is completely unacceptable and only serves to distort history. However the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refused to explain what its special ambassador for Jewish questions and ministry leadership itself did to avoid this situation.
The written response contains generic phrases: "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has long dedicated great attention to cooperating with the world Jewish community: from 2002 the ministry has a special ambassador curating relations with the Lithuanian and world Jewish communities <...> Lithuanian diplomats are bringing together Litvaks, the embassies also commemorate important Jewish dates, for example the Lithuanian Jewish genocide victim's memorial day."
However veteran diplomat, former Lithuanian ambassador to the United States, MP Žygimantas Pavilionis explains the opposite – Lithuanian diplomacy is inert.
"Up to 2012, particularly in 2011 when we had declared it the Holocaust Year, every embassy had a clear action plan how to act, what we are doing to shift it and bring the world Jewish community's opinion to our side so they would support us on vital questions. Now the reaction is uncoordinated, not supported by any funding or activity. It is clear that in such a case we can only lose," Ž. Pavilionis said.