Objectivity needed

  • 2010-09-15
  • Dr. Efraim Zuroff

Anyone reading the anonymous editorial in the September 2 - 8 issue (“Looking at the Lithuanian August”), could easily get the impression that TBT had decided to shed any pretense of objectivity in dealing with the ongoing debate regarding the Prague Declaration, which seeks to achieve recognition that the crimes of Communism are equivalent to those of the Nazis. The article, which presented an op-ed by a local Jewish writer which supported the declaration and severely criticized its Jewish opponents as a noteworthy event, but did so in such a crude and partisan manner, as if the ongoing debate was being conducted by the forces of absolute truth against those of unmitigated evil. Thus the author of the article, Arkady Vinokur, and its primary local Jewish supporter, Emanuel Zingeris, neither of whom currently represents the Lithuanian Jewish community, were described in glowing terms, while their main opponent was presented as an idiot, Russian lackey, and a racist.

As the target of these personal attacks, I believe that the readers of TBT deserve an opportunity to consider the other side of the debate. In the Baltics no accusation could be more damning than being a puppet of the Russians, which is of course the reason that the anonymous author of the editorial chose to attack me in those terms without any consideration of the accuracy or lack thereof of his arguments. In this regard, my record of years of intensive activism on behalf of Soviet Jewry speaks for itself, as does my consistent and steadfast support for the commemoration of the victims of Communist crimes and the prosecution of Communist criminals. Less than a month ago, in an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post, I again reiterated the importance of such activities, explaining that my staunch criticism of the distortion of the historical record so integral to the Prague Declaration should in no way be interpreted as opposition to giving the victims of Communism their just due. It is also important to emphasize that for years I have attempted to convince the Baltic countries of the importance of prosecuting local Nazi war criminals and honestly confronting the important role played by local Nazi collaborators in the Holocaust without any support or assistance from the Russian authorities. And indeed my stance on these issues, as well as against the Prague Declaration, has no connection to them.

I also cannot ignore the disgusting misuse of my position on a very important internal Jewish issue to present me in an extremely unflattering light. I am referring to the cynical comment by the author regarding my negative reaction to the fact that Zingeris is married to a non-Jewish woman. If Emanuelis Zingeris were merely an anonymous Lithuanian citizen of Jewish origin, his choice of spouse would obviously be none of my business, nor would I ever comment on it publicly. But Zingeris seeks to be leader of the Jewish community, and under those circumstances the fact that he is married to a non-Jew and that his children are not Jewish becomes of public Jewish concern. Given the fact that the greatest danger facing the Jewish people worldwide is the loss of their Jewish identity through assimilation and intermarriage, Zingeris’ example is hardly one that should be emulated. His betrayal of Jewish interests in Lithuania on Holocaust issues is only an additional aspect of my debate with him. In fact, if he were to stop trying to exploit the fact of his Jewish birth, his record would be perfectly understandable.

The subject of the Prague Declaration and the struggle over the future of how we relate to the tragedies of the 20th century are too important to be dealt with in the tasteless and crude manner exhibited by the anonymous author of “Looking at the Lithuanian August.”

Dr. Zuroff is the chief Nazi-hunter and Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. His most recent book, “Operation Last Chance: One Man’s Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice,” (Palgrave/Macmillan 2009) deals extensively with the issue of local Nazi collaborators in the Baltics.


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