Lithuanian Supreme Court Clears the Path for European Human Rights Court to Review Lithuanian Holocaust Distortion Case
On August 18, 2020, the Lithuanian Supreme Court issued a ruling denying review of a July 16, 2020 decision of the Vilnius District Court (equivalent to the US Appeals Court) which refused to consider the merits of complaint alleging that the Lithuanian government agency known as the “Genocide Center” has deliberately distorted Holocaust history. Lithuanian law supposedly prohibits Holocaust denial but the Lithuanian judicial system has repeatedly turned a blind eye to the historical distortions and fabrications of this government agency.
With the new, final ruling of Lithuania’s highest court having jurisdiction over the agency’s Holocaust revisionism, all avenues to truth within Lithuania’s highly politicized legal system have now been exhausted. The case may now be presented to the European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”).
The ECHR, which sits in Strasbourg, France, has jurisdiction to hear and issue binding decisions in all cases involving human rights and fundamental freedoms within 47 countries, including Lithuania and all other members of the European Union. Under the treaty and rules which govern the ECHR, a case that originates in the courts of a signatory country can only be accepted after all appeal opportunities in that country’s judicial system have been exhausted. The August 18 decision now meets the procedural precondition and thus clears the way for the Strasbourg court to hear the case.
In addition to being politicized, Lithuania’s courts have a reputation for corruption. Multiple judges have been arrested for selling judicial decisions. In the current situation, as in previous ones, Lithuanian courts have repeatedly avoided attempts which raise questions regarding how 200,000 of its Jewish citizens were murdered, primarily by pro-Nazi ethnic Lithuanian citizens. The ECHR, being independent of the political forces in Lithuania, is far more likely to hear and decide this case on its merits.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Lithuanian government has repeatedly given assurances that it will reveal to its citizens the truth about the Holocaust. In fact, however, it has spent 30 year developing elaborate theories as to why ethnic Lithuanian perpetrators should not be held to account.
One strategy used by the government is to intimidate those who tell the truth about Lithuania’s unique Holocaust history – during the Second World War 96.4% of the country’s Jewish citizens were murdered, a higher percentage than in any other country. Lithuania will impose criminal and civil penalties on individuals who “defame” Holocaust perpetrators. Additionally, those who present facts about the perpetrators are routinely attacked as being agitators working on behalf of some “enemy” of Lithuania.
In 2015, nineteen of Lithuania’s leading intellectuals (including Lithuania’s own Member of the European Parliament) signed a petition to ask the government to tell the truth about a Holocaust perpetrator – Captain Jonas Noreika, who was the all-powerful ruler of western Lithuania when the Jews in the area were thrown out their homes, crammed in temporary concentration camps, and then methodically murdered. The government responded by publicly accusing the nineteen of being “agents of the east” (Kremlin agents), “Jews, and other stupid people.” This was intended to intimidate truth seekers into silence, and succeeded.
Lithuanian police have also “interviewed” people who have discussed Holocaust crimes by Lithuanians. One Lithuanian author who discussed the country’s participation in the Holocaust, Ruta Vanagaite, was subjected to such government contempt and private threats that, fearing for her personal safety, she left Lithuania for several years.
Even in the face of evidence well documented by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the German government, Yad Vashem, and other the Holocaust investigatory bodies, the Lithuanian government agency has spent decades of denying and minimizing the role of ethnic Lithuanians in the murder of their Jewish fellow citizens. The agency was been thoroughly discredited and is itself a stain on a country that wants to be regarded as an open 21st Century state.
Unfortunately, the Lithuanian legislature, the Seimas, seems unlikely to move the country out of the very intolerance that was at the root of the Holocaust in Lithuania. Members of the Parliament have been filmed casting the Nazi salute. During an event at the building of the Parliament to celebrate Lithuanian independence, the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community was told “you do not belong in Lithuania, get out.” And among the general population intolerance persists. Jewish monuments have been repeatedly desecrated, without consequences.
The Lithuanian Government had no choice but to replace the leader of their department reporting on the Holocaust. The agency was the subject of at least five lawsuits and three criminal complaints (all denied) about Holocaust revisionism. Furthermore, they are publicly exposed as incessant blatant liars about even the most basic of facts.
The new director promptly appointed a master Holocaust revisionist and antisemite, Vidmantas Valiusaitis, as his new senior advisor. This reflects the government’s position on doubling down on their re-writing of history, and makes clear their intention of never being truthful.
The Lithuanian government has used tactics such as misusing US Congressional documents to claim facts that do not exist (US Congress objected). They use known forgeries and suppress the identified originals. They use substitutions and deflections to change the subject, and invent outlandish explanations why clearly guilty Holocaust perpetrators saw nothing, did nothing, heard nothing, but were all trying to save Jews in their spare time. It is expected that Valiusaitis will expand on these tactics.
In response to statements and objections to his appointment, Valiusaitis said: “No one dared put their signature to it, to present in whose name it was being made. It is anonymous, and that is a relic of the totalitarian regime which, unfortunately, is being used in independent Lithuania as well, although it shouldn’t exist,”, unfortunately he ignores the consistent totalitarian conduct of his own government to silence truth. He accuses others of his own governments conduct.
On September 8, 2020, the Israeli-American Civic Action Network, and Holocaust Museum LA will bring together four individuals to discuss the pervasive State sponsored Holocaust distortion in Lithuania. The distortion exists at every level of Lithuanian government and in every branch (Judicial and Parliamentary). The four are Grant Gochin, Silvia Foti, Efraim Zuroff, and Ruta Vanagaite. The Lithuanian Embassy to United States has been invited to participate to present their government’s position and has thus far ignored the invitation. To register for the event, please go to: https://israelusa.org/holocaust-distortion-massacre-of-memory/
The joint education campaign by these four individuals has had a substantial effect on the world, bringing together disparate forces. The city of West Hollywood, USA, issued a public condemnation of Lithuania, as did one of the wealthiest cities in the world, Beverly Hills, USA. The City of Los Angeles added its voice and also passed a condemnation. Other cities worldwide are currently consulting on adding their voices. The combined GDP of the three cities that have already passed resolutions exceeds that of Lithuania many dozens of times over. These resolutions were passed prior to knowledge of Valiusaitis’s appointment. Now that Lithuania has displayed their revisionist agenda so boldly, we expect the ire of decent human beings will be raised even further. Just as Lukashenko’s revision of facts in Belarus is unacceptable to the world, and Putin’s revision of WWII history is unacceptable, so too is Lithuania’s.
The orthodoxy of the Holocaust lie inside Lithuania has become absolute. It is tied into patriotism and nationalism, promoted by the national government and validated by the legal system. It has become their fundamental truth and not subject to correction. The foundational narrative of Lithuania is built on the purity of its partisan heroes. To admit that so many were Holocaust perpetrators calls into question the very essence of the state created. Valiusaitis’s appointment reflects the cementing of ideology over facts.
As past external scrutiny has brought about increased Holocaust revisionism and increased antisemitism inside Lithuania, further European scrutiny is also not expected to be welcomed.
This month, the Lithuanian government gave Juozas Streikus Stumbras a state funeral. He was a known Holocaust perpetrator. President Nauseda called him a “very brave hero, a real freedom fighter”. Just one month earlier, the Lithuanian government signed a pledge not to convert Holocaust perpetrators into national heroes. Their agreement on international pledges is clearly worthless.
Lithuania would like to develop a commercial conference center on top of a historic Jewish cemetery in the capital city. This is consistent with their previous sales of murder pits of Jews for a venue for parties and weddings. This will be the biggest land and development project in Lithuania. In an environment of zero trust, their project is paralyzed. The Lithuanian government takes steps only to increase distrust between itself and Jews, and where there is no reason for any trust at all, no progress is possible. All of this therefore has real world economic consequences in Lithuania. Their consistent choice is ideology over facts and the stability of the nation.
The physical safety of Jews inside Lithuania is imperiled by the quest for truth. In exchange for physical safety, should the Government of Lithuania be allowed to re-write Holocaust history, glorify Holocaust perpetrators, build a convention center on top of a Jewish cemetery and abrogate international agreements? Will that provide a long term safety net for Lithuania’s Jews? Will allowing Lukashenko to revise facts allow for the freedom of Belarusians? Will allowing Putin to rewrite WWII history protect Lithuania from another Russian invasion? Clearly, only foreign truths matter to Lithuania.
In a country populated with hundreds of death pits containing 220,000 murdered Jews, where not a single murderer of a Jew has been punished since Lithuania regained independence in 1990, and where the government has been caught out repeatedly falsifying the record of the Holocaust, the Lithuanian government asks Jews for trust. They promise the future will be different. Their conduct proves the opposite.
Valiusaitis also commented. “And on the interests for ruining the Genocide Center, as I understand it, there are people who want the Center to disappear completely. Because someone wants to monopolize the explanation of history and to stifle all discussion,” I know of nobody that has called for the disappearance of the Genocide Center, but in this regard, Valiusaitis is correct. Lithuania has proven itself incapable and unwilling to be truthful about their Holocaust history. At this point, only outside intervention will bring about change. The Genocide Center is so utterly corrupt, that the only possible path is to revoke all their prior findings, replace their staff with legitimate professional historians, and start over from the beginning.
I believe that the majority of Lithuanians are repulsed by the conduct of their government. History and the future are interwoven. Lithuania might reap what it so abundantly sows; for the sake of the good people, I hope not.