November 11, 1926
Święciany, Second Polish Republic
|Occupation||Historian, retired IDF brigadier|
Yitzhak Arad (Hebrew: יצחק ארד) (né Itzhak Rudnicki) (born November 11, 1926), is an Israeli historian, retired IDF brigadier general and a former Soviet partisan who has served as director of Yad Vashem from 1972 to 1993.
Early life and war experiences
Arad was born Itzhak Rudnicki on November 11, 1926, in what was then Święciany in the Second Polish Republic (now Švenčionys, Lithuania). In his youth, he belonged to the Zionist youth movement Ha-No'ar ha-Tsiyyoni. During the war – according to Arad's 1993 interview with Harry J. Cargas – he was active in the ghetto underground movement from 1942 to 1944. In February 1943, he joined the Soviet partisans of the Markov Brigade, a primarily non-Jewish unit in which he had to contend with antisemitism. Apart from a foray infiltrating the Vilna Ghetto in April 1943 to meet with underground leader Abba Kovner, he stayed with the Soviet partisans until the end of the war, fighting the Germans, taking part in mining trains and in ambushes around the Naroch Forest of Belarus. "The official attitude of the Soviet partisan movement was that there was no place for Jewish units" acting independently, said Arad.
Historian Mark Paul explains that Arad (then Rudnicki, aged 18), belonged to a partisan unit which was part of the Voroshilov Brigade based in the Narocz forest, involved in punitive missions against other partisan groups whom they considered as enemies. The Voroshilov brigade partisans were representing Soviet interests in the region and followed the NKVD directives in numerous actions. Noah Shneidman estimates that there were at least 300 Jewish partisans in it, one-fifth of its numerical strength. Piotr Zychowicz (Rzeczpospolita), claims that Arad joined the NKVD at the end of 1944, and became active in combating Lithuanian Liberation Army. In his interview Arad insisted that he was not associated with NKVD, thus contradicting claims of Rytas Narvydas from the Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania. He was allegedly dismissed from the NKVD ranks for his undisciplined behaviour.
In December 1945, Yitzhak Arad immigrated without authorization to Mandate Palestine, on the Ha'apala (Aliyah Bet) boat named for Hannah Szenes. In Arad's military career in the IDF, he reached the rank of brigadier general and was appointed to the post of Chief Education Officer. He retired from the military in 1972.
In his academic career as a lecturer on Jewish history at Tel Aviv University, he has researched World War II and the Holocaust, and has published extensively as author and editor, primarily in Hebrew. His current research deals with the Holocaust in the USSR. Dr. Yitzhak Arad served as the director (Chairman of the Directorate) of Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Authority, for 21 years (1972–1993). He remains associated with Yad Vashem in an advisor's capacity. Arad was awarded the Honorary degree of Doctor honoris causa by Poland's Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń on 7 June 1993.
War crimes investigation in Lithuania
In the Soviet era Arad was honored in Lithuania as a war hero. For his service fighting the Nazis and their Lithuanian allies he was awarded the Partisan Medal, First Degree. However in post-Communist Lithuania anti-Nazi partisans, particularly Jewish ones, are portrayed as traitors, and Nazi-aligned nationalists are considered anti-Soviet heroes. In June 2007, Lithuania asked the State of Israel to question Arad on suspicions of war crimes and crimes against humanity. An investigation found that Arad had served in the NKVD. The Vilnius Battalion, the unit with which Arad served, has been accused of killing Lithuanian anti-communist partisans and civilians in 1943-1944, and the chief prosecutor of Lithuania suspected that Arad had been involved in these alleged crimes. Israel refused the request, and called it "nothing short of outrageous". Lithuanian prosecutor Rimvydas Valentukevicius told AFP that the suspicions were based on Arad's own memoirs and documents obtained from the Lithuanian Genocide and Resistance Research Center.
Arad’s memoir The Partisan refers to a 1944 “mopping-up operation” against “armed Lithuanians” after the Nazi withdrawal from Lithuania. An openly anti-semitic newspaper deemed this an admission of “ethnic cleansing of Lithuanians", and demanded his prosecution.The state-sponsored Genocide Center takes a revisionist view of the Holocaust and honors war criminals such as Jonas Noreika as national heroes. While the Nazi genocide of the Jews and Lithuanian collaboration is minimized, the "genocide" of Lithuanians by Soviet partisans is described extensively. One plaque at the Genocide Center says that these partisans were “mostly of Jewish nationality [since] native people didn’t support Soviet partisans.” The head of the Genocide Center at the time, Arvydas Anusauskas, was responsible for the initiation of a criminal investigation against Arad.
Arad denied accusations of committing war crimes, calling the investigation a vendetta for his documentation of atrocities committed by Lithuanian Nazi collaborators. Arad has commented: "I am proud that I fought the Nazi Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators. That fate made it possible for me to fight against the murderers of my family, the murderers of my people."
The General Prosecutor’s office dropped the criminal investigation regarding possible war crimes of Arad in September 2008, citing "failure to collect sufficient data". According to Nazi hunter Ephraim Zuroff, "Not a single Lithuanian war criminal has sat one day—not one minute!—in a Lithuanian prison since independence."
Bibliography in English
- The partisan : from the Valley of Death to Mount Zion (1979)
- Ghetto in flames : the struggle and destruction of the Jews in Vilna in the Holocaust (1980)
- Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka : the Operation Reinhard death camps (1987) ISBN 0-253-21305-3
- In the Shadow of the Red Banner (2010), Gefen Publishing House. ISBN 978-965-229-487-6
- Documents on the Holocaust: selected sources on the destruction of the Jews of Germany and Austria, Poland, and the Soviet Union (1982, rev. 1989, 1999) with Israel Gutman and Abraham Margaliot
- The Einsatzgruppen reports: selections from the dispatches of the Nazi Death Squads’ campaign against the Jews July 1941-January 1943 (1989) with Shmuel Krakowski and Shmuel Spector
- Pictorial History of the Holocaust (1990)
- Ponary diary, 1941-1943 : a bystander’s account of a mass murder, by Kazimierz Sakowicz (2005, from the Polish)
- Izhak Arad (Rudnicki) vital statistics at Jewish Partisans' website
- Yitzhak Arad interview for Martyrdom & Resistance, September/October 2010. Tishri/Cheshvan, 5771
- Mark Paul, "A Tangled Web. Polish-Jewish Relations in Wartime Northeastern Poland and the Aftermath. (Part Two)," (Toronto: PEFINA Press, 2008).
- N. [Noah] N. Shneidman, Jerusalem of Lithuania: The Rise and Fall of Jewish Vilnius—A Personal Perspective (Oakville, Ontario: Mosaic Press, 1998), page 113.
- Piotr Zychowicz, "Wybory Icchaka Arada." Rzeczpospolita, 12-07-2008
- Piotr Zychowicz, "Icchak Arad: od NKVD do Yad Vashem" (From NKVD to Yad Vashem) Rzeczpospolita, July 12, 2008
- UMK Senat (2016). "Doktorzy honoris causa UMK". Nicolaus Copernicus University, UMK.pl.
- Information on suspicions against Yizthak Arad Archived 2013-11-06 at WebCite, General Prosecutor's Office, 10/Sep/2007
- Russia Today- "Lithuania wants to grill top Israeli historian over war crimes," AFP Vilnius, 12/Sep/2007
- Slate: Double Genocide - Lithuania wants to erase its ugly history of Nazi collaboration—by accusing Jewish partisans who fought the Germans of war crimes.
- "Lithuania drops war crimes probe of Israeli historian," canada.com (September 24, 2008).
- "Yitzhak Arad: Lithuania wants to grill top Israeli historian over war crimes". History News Network. September 12, 2007. Retrieved September 11, 2011.
- "Part of the pre-trial investigation in respect of crimes committed by the Soviet partisan squad during the WWII and related to Yizthak Arad was closed", a press-release of the Prosecution Service of the Republic of Lithuania (retrieved February 19, 2013)
- Burkhard Schröder, Litauen und die jüdischen Partisanen (Lithuania and the Jewish Partisans), Heise Online, September 14, 2008
- "Lithuanian-Israeli row brewing over WW2 killings," RT Newsline, "TV-Novosti", 18 September 2007
- Brook, Daniel (July 26, 2014). "Double Genocide: Lithuania wants to erase its ugly history of Nazi collaboration—by accusing Jewish partisans who fought the Germans of war crimes". Slate.