"A Project to Delete the Holocaust from European History."
Warsaw, 5 October 2009
In a Statement to the 56 member state Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Chief Delegate and Director for International Relations, Dr Shimon Samuels, exposed a new form of antisemitism emanating from East-Central Europe.
Known as the "Prague Declaration", Samuels Sounded the Alarm on "a Project to Delete the Holocaust from European History":
A new and insidious combination of antisemitism and Holocaust distortion has been disseminated from the eastern area of the OSCE, and in particular the Baltics.
Local Jews are branded as the purveyors of Soviet communism (even when these countries' tiny remnant survivor communities are near demographic extinction).
The Wiesenthal Centre shares its concern with the OSCE by exposing a well-coordinated effort to 'rewrite history', to persuade Western Europe to join in jettisoning the historic concept of the Holocaust and to replace it with a model of 'two equal genocides (Nazi and Soviet)'.
The goal of this sophisticated new incarnation of extreme forms of local ultranationalism, antisemitism and racism is to whitewash the massive Baltic nations' participation in the murder of their Jewish populations (the rate of Holocaust murder in the Baltics was the highest in Europe).
State-sponsored Commissions (known informally as 'red-brown committees') seek to 'equalize' Nazi and Soviet crimes in addressing Western Europe, while at home, in each of these countries' museums, a different tale is told: a bogus account of overwhelming Jewish complicity in Soviet rule, the glossing over of local participation in the killings, and increasingly efforts to tarnish Holocaust victims, survivors and resistance fighters with antisemitic stereotypes of 'Jewish Bolshevik conspiracies'. The state-sponsored 'Genocide Museum' in central Vilnius, for example, has almost deleted the Holocaust while permanently exhibiting antisemitic materials. The State Museum of the [Soviet ] Occupation in Riga iconizes the Latvian battalion of Nazi volunteer auxiliaries responsible for mass murder of their Jewish neighbours.
In Lithuania, this campaign is even more revisionist. After persuading Holocaust survivor, resistance fighter and scholar Yitzhak Arad (founding director of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem), to join its commission, an antisemitic newspaper article in April 2006 accused him as a war criminal on the basis of misrepresented passages from his own memoir (published in English decades earlier, in 1979). Two months later, prosecutors, in the service of the state, initiated a 'pre-trial investigation'. In 2008, the 'new investigation' (which has still not included a single charge or subpoena) was expanded to include two women veterans of the anti-Nazi partisans, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky and Rachel Margolis, both now 87. To this day, neither of these investigations has been dropped, and Holocaust survivors remain 'under investigation'. This is most disturbing, all the more so when Lithuania, and the Baltic generally, have the worst record for prosecuting Nazi war criminals since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
It is against this background of history-distorting and victim-blaming that blatant antisemitic and neo-nazi activity is taking place, while Baltic governments have begun to mislead the European Union and Parliament with resolutions that are ostensibly anti-Communist, but invariably contain language and proposed laws whose real purpose is to erase the Holocaust from history, by introducing a new model of equal genocides and, alarmingly, as the Economist has put it, to 'blame the victims'.
On 3 June 2008, the Prague Declaration was proclaimed. It would propose, inter alia, legislation in the European Parliament that would compel European Union countries to 'overhaul [...] 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'. It would also insist that Soviet misdeeds be judged 'in the same way Nazi crimes were assessed by the Nuremberg Tribunal'.
Most European leaders and media have failed to appreciate the ulterior agenda of the Prague Declaration and the movement behind it, which promotes 'equality of all evils'. Using this instrument, its protagonists have been gathering support in the European Parliament, through related resolutions being introduced without proper discussion or exposure of their underlying motives. One such effort (April 2009) voted for a new European day of commemoration of Nazi and Soviet crimes equally, the real purpose of which is to supplant Holocaust Memorial Day in Europe.
It is indeed true that Europe and the world at large still do not appreciate the degree of suffering of the East European nations at the hands of Communism, both before the war and in the Soviet near-half-century of occupation after its conclusion. This serious issue needs to be addressed by separate exposure, study and commemoration of Soviet crimes and their victims.
Given the antisemitic, racist and Holocaust distortionist motives and practice associated with the Prague Declaration, and related resolutions and proposals, this matter should be of urgent concern to the States Parties of the OSCE. Thus, the Wiesenthal Centre hereby urges ODIHR to note and condemn the pernicious intent of this campaign."
Samuels acknowledged the role of Professor Dovid Katz, founder of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, as the principal protagonist in containing "the two equal genocides" campaign, which he has termed "Holocaust obfuscation".