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“Why on earth does the Lithuanian government, that is so keen to improve its image, simply not send the books and papers back to their rightful owner as a matter of simple justice?”
Katz also criticized YIVO for sending “a multiplicity of messages” about the status of the YIVO Room. He accused YIVO of simultaneously suggesting that an accord is imminent and protesting that the fate of YIVO’s books and materials is far from certain.
“There has been a lack of moral clarity, straightforwardness and plain honesty to its nearer and international constituency that does not do justice to the institution’s proud past in Vilna before the war and then in New York City,” Katz said.
Some of the confusion may stem from Brent’s insistence in recent months that talks with the Lithuanian government have only just begun. The YIVO newsletter article, in contrast, stated that the agreement was the result of “a yearlong negotiation.”
Brent clarified in an e-mail to the Forward that the yearlong talks were limited to “the agreement to begin negotiations.”
He said, “It is our intent to establish the room, yet obviously everything depends on the course of the future negotiations that have not even begun.
“We are not envisioning and never have envisioned ceding our legal ownership of the books or archives that once belonged to YIVO.”
Brent said he would be going soon to Vilna, to meet with members of the Jewish community, members of the Lithuanian government and scholars “to initiate the discussions that will, I hope, produce a formal understanding.”
Contact Paul Berger at firstname.lastname@example.org