A revisionist historian whose work on World War II has been harshly criticized by Jewish experts on the Holocaust in Lithuania has been confirmed as head of the country’s state-sponsored Lithuanian Genocide and Resistance Research Center (LGGRTC).
Dr. Arūnas Bubnys, currently the head of the LGGRTC’s research department, was approved as its new director by a vote of the Seimas, Lithuania’s parliament, on Thursday. A total of 76 parliamentarians voted in favor of Bubnys’ appointment, while 34 voted against.
Bubnys will replace his predecessor, Adas Jakubauskas, who was fired as the center’s director at the beginning of April amid allegations of internal bullying alongside deeper concerns about the center’s academic credibility. One parliamentarian in the Seimas debate that resulted in Jakubauskas being fired remarked that “universities and the Lithuanian Institute of History refuse to cooperate with the center’s current management, because its activities do not meet scientific standards.”
For his part, Bubnys has pledged to restore what he called the center’s “recently damaged prestige,” but outside observers remained skeptical that the LGGRTC will pull back from its mission to recast Lithuania’s wartime anti-Soviet resistance as national heroes — despite the documented participation of the pro-German regime in the extermination of nearly 200,000 Lithuanian Jews during the Holocaust.
Bubnys is regarded as a particularly ardent defender of Lithuania’s wartime independence leaders. Last year, he addressed a meeting of Lithuanian ultranationalists on June 23rd — the date in 1941 when Nazi forces invaded the Soviet Union, creating a puppet “provisional government” in Lithuania that was led by local collaborators.
Bubnys spoke on a platform that was dominated by large photographs of Jonas Noreika, a Lithuanian independence advocate and military general who participated in the mass murder of Jews in the summer of 1941, and Kazys Škirpa, a founder of the wartime-era Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) whose writings advocated the ethnic cleansing of Lithuania’s Jewish citizens. The website Defending History — which closely monitors the politically-charged environment around the study of the Holocaust in Lithuania and other eastern European countries — published several “absolutely non-photoshopped, non-manipulated photographs of Dr. Bubnys proudly standing beneath the banners of Noreika and Škirpa for the duration of his address to his adoring far right and neo-Nazi crowd on 23 June 2020.”
Noreika’s granddaughter Silvia Foti, a US-based journalist, recently published a book-length account of how she discovered that her grandfather — whose nom-de-guerre was “General Storm” — was a war criminal who engaged in slaughtering Jews. Having originally intended to write a flattering biography of Noreika, Foti said that she had “encountered so much evidence proving my flesh and blood ‘hero’ was a Jew-killer, even I could no longer believe the lie.”
Grant Gochin — a California-based descendant of a Lithuanian Jewish family ravaged during the Holocaust who has worked closely with Foti — told The Algemeiner on Thursday that Bubnys’ official appointment demonstrated that the Lithuanian state was actively promoting Holocaust revisionism.
“The Lithuanian government, public prosecutor and courts have acted in total collusion to rewrite the history of the Holocaust in Lithuania,” said Gochin, who has initiated multiple lawsuits against the LGGRTC over its rehabilitation of Noreika.
“I’m not expecting any change now,” Gochin continued. “They have threatened me with criminal and constitutional charges for addressing their Holocaust revisionism.”
Gochin insisted that there was “no basis for Jews to trust the Lithuanian government.” He pointed out that at a 2020 meeting of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), the Lithuanian delegate voted in favor of a resolution that condemned “all attempts to rehabilitate the reputations of persons who were complicit in the crimes of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma.” Yet the activities of the LGGRTC went directly against the grain of this resolution, Gochin said.
The IHRA has also expressed concern about the LGGRTC. In a rare statement in April 2019 that was entirely devoted to a trenchant criticism of the center, the IHRA’s academic experts excoriated its serial attempts to restore Noreika’s reputation. The statement ended with the academics — who included Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Israel’s leading expert on the Holocaust, and Dr. Deborah Dwork, a leading US Holocaust expert — urging “the government of Lithuania and the Center to acknowledge and condemn the activities of Jonas Noreika during the German occupation of Lithuania.”