Leita í fréttum mbl.is

An EU member state wants to dance in a Jewish cemetery, with some useful cover from Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway

Earlier this year I expressed my personal views in an email to the Lithuanian Human Rights Monitoring Institute, where I urged the Institute to take serious action (or at least issue some minimal statements) against antisemitism in Lithuania rather than just maintaining a ghostly silence about such events as city-centre Nazi marches on independence day and the official state-sponsored glorification of Lithuanian Nazi collaborators and murderers of Jews. There are streets named for these perpetrators!

When my letter was published with some minor linguistic and stylistic editing in DefendingHistory.com, (see also here) the director of the Institute, Ms. Dovilé Sakaliené, who has done nothing as the institute´s director to actively prevent or even just to politely protest antisemitic acts in Lithuania (almost unmentioned on the elaborate expensive website of the Institute), reacted with a fiercely impolite email where she practically accused me of being an emissary of Vladimir Putin. She writes:

"... I have quite a good knowledge of the Icelandic human rights sector — we have ourselves organized multiple meetings between Icelandic and Lithuanian human rights NGOs which resulted in beautiful partnerships — whereas such behaviour as you have demonstrated simply does not fit with the picture of Icelandic civil society and their support and respect for the work that we do in Lithuania.  

Let me point out that slander, accusatory tone and directing orders at an independent human rights watchdog reflects a poor understanding of the fundamental principles of rights and freedoms. Radicalism and aggression is not acceptable under any pretence, I may only hope that these words shall not fall on deaf ears.

We are independent of the State financing, my team works very hard to fundraise for the critically important legal and political advocacy work that we do - which is not less important than loud actions. We welcome all help that we get from citizens and organisations, however we do not take orders, this is not Putin´s Russia".

In this aggrssive e-mail, where my Icelandic citizenship is made into an issue, instead of responding to my criticism of the institute´s inability to react against antisemitism and Holocaust Obfuscation in Lithuania, Ms. Sakaliené defends the inactivity of the Institute she directs, by dismissing any criticism as orders, radicalism and aggression. She borders on indecency by linking me to Vladimir Putin, just because I allow myself to criticize antisemitic acts in Lithuania, regularly promoted by the Lithuanian government and the municipalities of its two major cities, Vilnius and Kaunas.

Sieg Heil á Geimino
Nazi marches on EU-member state Lithania´s Indipendence Day 11. March 2013 above and below in 2011.

30 September 2015 conference on Antisemitism in Vilnius

Recently, I discovered that the Human Rights Monitoring Institute in Vilnius is hosting an international conference on 30 September in the Novotel Hotel in Vilnius, entitled  Antisemitism, Radicalisation and Violent Extremism  (See the conference program here). The conference is supported by the European Economic Area (EEA), an entity consisting of three Non-EU states, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway, which connect with the organizations of EFTA-states. Switzerland is also a member of the EFTA, but doesn't participate in the aids program of the EEA, whose goals are to give grants to reduce economic and social disparities and to strengthening bilateral relations with 16 EU countries in Central and Southern Europe and the Baltics. Although Norway represent 95.8% of the money spent on grants for EEA projects in EU countries, my home country Iceland which was financially ruined in 2008 by Icelandic banksters is obviously capable of aiding the fight against antisemitism. It is impressive and heart-warming to hear about the good will of small nations like Iceland and especially Norway, who are helping new EU States deal  with the evil of antisemitism. Remembering the rather sad antisemitic history of Iceland, which the nation has never really dealt with (see here and here), and which can explain today´s vivid antisemitic hate speech against Jews in a country with hardly any Jewish population, I am impressed by the will of Iceland to support venues to help Lithuania solve its problem with antisemitism in all forms.

However, when I saw the list of participants, who will gather in the Novotel Hotel on 30 September in Vilnius, I realised that for the most part, the same old foxes are watching the hen house. Members of the Holocaust-revisionist Red-Brown Commission, who are the brains behind the Double Genocide movement, and which actually officially still supports the 2008 Prague Declaration are represented but not one critic of the Commission. It didn´t have a word to say when the state in 2012 reburied with full honours Juozas Ambrazevicius-Brazaitis (see here), the Nazi puppet prime minister who signed papers sending the Jews of Kaunas to their deaths. Is there no limit to bad taste?

I see that Professor Sarunas Liekis, Member of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (CoE), is one of the key speakers. Prof. Liekis is one of the people, who made sure with slander and backstabbing that Lithuania lost its only Yiddish professor, Dovid Katz, who in fact was Mr. Liekis former benefactor and teacher. The non-Yiddish-speaking Liekis later was appointed a professor of Yiddish and director of the Yiddish institute at Vilnius University as “reward” for cleansing the institution of any who speak up for Jewish causes. When an antisemitic “artist” was exhibited next door, nine brave young Lithuanians protested, but not a word from Liekis or his institute or his “human rights” buddies whose main purpose is PR for the government in the spirit of the country’s right-wing nationalist sector. In 2011 and in 2015 Liekis missed no chance to trash his former academic mentor Katz (see here). He personally participated in the expulsion of the one Jewish professor from the Yiddish institute at Vilnius University, because that professor is the central figure of the local and international criticism of the antisemitic trends in Lithuania. Is Professor Liekis really the right person to address question of "Response by international community to radicalisation", when he himself as a Lithuanian official contradicts and categorizes any reaction of the international community against antisemitism in Lithuania as slander? When the conference does not invite a single one of the present critics of government policy on antisemitism which sadly includes gifting the centres of Vilnius and Kaunas for neo-Nazi marches on each of Lithuania´s independence days (Kaunas on 16 Feb, commemorating independence of 1918, and Vilnius on 11 March, commemorating 1990).

I also see among the key speakers Ms Faina Kukliansky, who since 2013 has been the chairperson of the Jewish Community of Lithuania. She will talk about "Contemporary forms of antisemitism in Lithuania". This is really interesting since Ms Kukliansky goes against all Jewish traditions and rights when facilitating the wishes of the City Council of Vilnius and the Lithuanian State, who want to build a $25 million convention hall right in the middle of the ancient Jewish Snipiskés Cemetery in Vilnius. She has been defied by many brave members of her own community, ranging from a Holocaust survivor to a young kashruth-supervisor. Her statements have shocked the entire Jewish world (see here). She just fired Lithuania’s chief rabbi after he dared disagree with her and asked that people not dance and cheer surrounded by thousands of graves (see here). Luckily she can’t fire the Vilnius Holocaust survivor who spoke out in The Times of Israel.

Sports Palace 2007 VOV

During my second visit to Lithuania in 2007, when I shot this photo of the Russian Sport Palace, I was told about the Piramont cemetery for the first time.

The Snipiskes cemetery, known as Piramont to generations of Vilna Jews before the Holocaust, was desecrated by the Soviets, when after WWII they built a Sports Palace  in the centre of the cemetery, which goes back to the fifteenth century, and where hundreds of great Jewish scholars still lie buried.

The sacked chief rabbi wrote on his FB that the many historical Jewish figures buried in the cemetery would never have expected that the “fate of their bones… would one day depend on the cognitive processes of the head of a Vilna Jewish community whose heart would be filled with the desire to serve the authorities and find honour in their eyes,”. Is Ms. Kukliansky really the right person to tell about the contemporary forms of antisemitism in Lithuania? Less than a year ago, the Wiesenthal Center took her to task for choosing a far-right nationalist Holocaust revisionist historian as main speaker for Holocaust Remembrance Day (see here).

d_billeder_snipishok_1270657.jpgA view over a small part of the Piramont cemetery in the early 20th Century.

Ms Kukliansy is clearly working for the authorities that want to convene, dance and drink on the location of the ancient Jewish cemetery. With the present tradition of honouring Lithuanian Nazi puppets and collaborators one might expect the Lithuanian authorities to later on give the centre an appropriate name after one of the so-called Lithuanian freedom fighters, who killed Jews without any assistance from the Germans.

Hopefully it will not be the case, but there is a clear danger that the Lithuanian Human Rights Monitoring Institute will on 30 September once again "talk" about antisemitism without addressing the problems of antisemitism in Lithuania, least of all its own steady silence over each and every incident that transpired. The institute according to Ms. Dovilé Sakaliené protests silently and obviously without saying anything else than what the Lithuanian authorities want them to say. That´s clearly how the staff secures its employment and funding.

Thus is the situation of Human rights in Lithuania. And to come back to Mr. Putin of the Kremlin, who director Sakaliené has “befriended me” with, it seems to me that Soviet traditions still are very much alive in Lithuania. Soviet rule has fortunately ended but the Soviet techniques and mindset remain even today when it comes to understanding that human rights watchdogs not affiliated with the government’s gravy train have an important role to play.

A human rights institute, whose experts do not see the many facets of antisemitism in Lithuania, will of course not address any problems and rather react in a fiercely nationalistic manner when critical voices contradicting the official policies are heard. Such an Institute is not able to, and more likely not willing to fight the many shades of antisemitism which are a major problem in the EU-state of Lithuania. 

I am sorry that my native non EU-country helps pay for such a misconceived and misleading waste-of-money roadshow in a European Union capital.

« Síđasta fćrsla | Nćsta fćrsla »

Bćta viđ athugasemd

Ekki er lengur hćgt ađ skrifa athugasemdir viđ fćrsluna, ţar sem tímamörk á athugasemdir eru liđin.


Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson
Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson



Kynning á nokkrum fćrslum, greinum og bókum PostDocs


Ath. Vinsamlegast kveikiđ á Javascript til ađ hefja innskráningu.

Hafđu samband