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Defending History

Lawrence Bush
May 8, 2017

Yiddish scholar and teacher Dovid Katz, who built the Oxford University Yiddish program from 1978 to 1996 before relocating to Vilnius University, where he developed the Yiddish program (and trained numerous American Yiddishists) until 2010, was born in Brooklyn to the Yiddish poet Menke Katz and artist Rivke Katz on this date in 1956. A periodic contributor to Jewish Currents and its website, Katz has maintained a “Defending History” website since 2010 in which he challenges the “Double Genocide” theory of the Holocaust (that the USSR bears equal responsibility for what happened in Eastern Europe between 1939 and 1945) and links it to the rise of rightwing governments, the maintenance of antisemitic sentiment in Lithuania and other lands, and the politics of the U.S. State Department. Katz has also been deeply involved in helping to bring relief to isolated survivors of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Survivor Mitzvah Project. He is a prize-winning fiction writer (including Israel’s Manger Prize, in 1997) and has also published several works on Lithuanian Jewish Culture, including Windows to a Lost Jewish Past: Vilna Book Stamps.

“As a native -- and obviously Jewish -- New Yorker, I can report being treated splendidly by the terrific, humorous, tolerant people of Lithuania for the last seventeen and a half years. The problem is with some nationalist elites (government, academia, media, arts, and more). Especially in the Baltics, they can be obsessed with having a perfect history (no country does). They do not want their massive collaboration with the Nazis, which included providing thousands of actual killers, in the history. Many are also anti-Semitic. But in the higher spheres of “history,” they want their rank rewrite in the ultranationalist spirit to be their prime export to the rest of the world in the realm of ideas. That rewrite includes reconceptualizing the Nazis as liberators of the eastern nations from Soviet yoke, as well as the postmodernist mush of confounding perpetrators and victims in a world of mental toffee.” --Dovid Katz in Jewish Currents

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.