European Jewish Congress condemns attacks on Ruta Vanagaite and decision to prevent publication and distribution of her books in Lithuania

The European Jewish Congress (EJC) strongly condemns the outrageous attacks on Ruta Vanagaite, a Lithuanian author, who has written about Lithuanian complicity in the Holocaust, and which have included threats made against her and a decision to prevent the publication and distribution of her works.

“It should be unthinkable that in 2017, books with views that some disagree with are prevented from publication on purely political grounds and is reminiscent of far darker times,” Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the EJC, said. “Ruta is a brave woman whose voice is necessary for Lithuanians to face their past, especially during the Holocaust, and she should be praised instead of being attacked.”

Vanagaite’s publisher Alma Littera ordered all her books withdrawn from publication and distribution and severed all contacts with her after she raised questions about the Lithuanian Parliament’s decision to honour Adolfas Ramanauskas, who the Simon Wiesenthal Center has found evidence demonstrating his likely involvement in Holocaust crimes in Druskininkai in the initial weeks after the Nazi invasion.

“The decision by Alma Littera was accompanied by vicious attacks on me personally by various public figures, the most dangerous of which was an op-ed in Delfi, Lithuania’s most popular and influential website, by the country’s first head of state after independence, Vytautas Landsbergis,” Vanagaite said. “In a shockingly harsh article, he hinted quite strongly that the only thing left for me to do after betraying Lithuania was to commit suicide.”

The EJC calls on the government and political class in Lithuania to seriously examine the role of Lithuanians during the Nazi occupation, to cease honouring who took part in role in collaborating with the Nazi occupation and who played an active role in the murders of Lithuanian Jews. Such an internal national soul searching should obviously also include the positive role played by those Lithuanians who risked their lives to save Jews.

The EJC also calls on the publisher to deeply reflect on its decision to prevent the writings of a leading Lithuanian author on such pertinent issues as the country’s role during the annihilation of the country’s Jews in WWII. The line between the prevention of material reaching the general public and de facto censorship and banning is a thin one and the destruction of books reminds us of far darker periods in European history.

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