Jewish Book Week defends Lithuanian invitation

By Jennifer Lipman, February 14, 2013

The Jewish Book Week director has defended her decision to host the author of a controversial book about Lithuania that critics have labelled a “PR exercise” for the Lithuanian government.

Ellen Cassedy is to discuss We are here, which she said covers “brave” Lithuanians, “Jews and non-Jews… working in an often hostile environment to bring the Holocaust out into the open”.

Her talk has been arranged “in association” with the Lithuanian Embassy.

But the book, which Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff criticised for taking an “unbalanced approach”, is deemed by the group Defending History to be “a PR tool”, and criticised for not fully addressing issues such as the backing of the “double genocide” campaign that falsely equates Soviet and Nazi crimes, or the continued occurrence of major neo-Nazi marches.

The concern, according to member Monica Lowenberg, is that Ms Cassedy has been “manipulated” by the Lithuanian government, “to write a narrative that is not true… in the spirit of tolerance”.

Book Week’s director, Hester Abrams, stressed the embassy’s association was limited to publicity.

“We do see that this is a sensitive and contentious matter. Our decision to hold this event is no reflection of either our views as an organisation or individually, of the current politics of Lithuania or its history.”

Last updated: 7:45pm, February 14 2013