VILNIUS—Defending History today released here a Yiddish version of Julius Norwilla’s Lithuanian and English posters produced in the course of the current campaign to save the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery from becoming the “geo-basis” for a new national convention center where revelers would cheer, clap, sing, and dance, and use bars and toilets, surrounded by thousands of Jewish graves from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Human rights specialists concur that such a fate would not be contemplated for a Christian cemetery in the European Union, much less with the proposed EU contribution of millions of euros in “structural funds”.
VILNIUS—For the first time in the history of modern Lithuania, a non-Jewish campaign initiative for a Jewish cause has seen its poster flood the streets of this city’s storied Old Town at the height of the summer tourist season. Conceived and produced by Julius Norwilla (Norvila), a former Protestant minister, using a quote from Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas, a Catholic philosopher, and based on an artistic visualization of a young Vilnius artist who supports the campaign, the poster is entitled “Vilnius Without its Ugliest Soviet Eyesore”. That is a reference to the hated ruin of the Soviet Sports Palace which stands in the middle of the old Vilna cemetery, where the city’s Jewish residents were buried in graves paid for by their families as freehold property, from the 15th to the 19th century. The poster makes reference to Vilnius native Ruta Bloshtein’s international petition, which is, at 40,000 signatures to date, arguably the largest Litvak initiative since the Holocaust. Members of Lithuania’s Jewish community who have spoken out to date include Moyshe Bairak, Ruta Bloshtein, Milan Chersonski, Pinchos Fridberg, Dovid Katz, and Josif Parasonis (more here). Current and recent rabbis in Vilnius who have taken a public stand include Chaim Burshtein, Shmuel Jacob Feffer, Kalev Krelin, and Sholom Ber Krinsky.
(Department of Philosophy & Cultural Studies, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University)
On Tuesday, July 4, 2017, at 11:00 pm, some forty residents of Alytus assembled at Vaclovas Jankauskas’s sculpture garden to welcome a new monument, “For a Person Who Tried to Save a Person” (Žmogui gelbėjusiam žmogų), and to forever honor those who risked all they had to help Jews during the traumatic days and years of the Holocaust. Continue reading
(Department of Philosophy & Cultural Studies, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University)
Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas of Vilnius Gediminas Technical University is scheduled to speak at the XIII Philosophers’ Rally on “Determining Personal Responsibility for a Social Calamity: The Origins of the Holocaust in Lithuania”. The event is Poland’s annual philosophy conference and will take place on 6-8 July at the University of Wrocław, at the Faculty of Law, Administration and Economics (LAE), Building D. He will speak on Saturday, 8 July, 12:30−13:00, in Lecture Hall 2D, which is the main hall. The LAE faculty is especially interested in how philosophy addresses challenges from the contemporary sociopolitical world. Dr. Kulikauskas’s talk will be based on his findings, which have appeared in English in Defending History: “How Did Lithuanians Wrong Litvaks?” and, in particular, his analysis of champions and facilitators of the Holocaust in Lithuania. His abstract for the upcoming Wrocław conference follows his analytic chart below.
(Department of Philosophy & Cultural Studies, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University)
On June 23, 2017, the Lithuanian Freedom Fighters Association (Lietuvos laisvės kovotojų sąjunga) organized a commemoration of the June 23, 1941 anti-Soviet uprising with a complete lack of sensitivity for Lithuanian victims of the Holocaust.
The official celebration at the Parliament’s Independence Square included an elaborately choreographed flag raising by the Lithuanian Army’s Honor Guard, music by the Armed Forces Orchestra, a reenactment of the Declaration of Independence with its hopes for a place for Lithuania in Hitler’s New Europe, and a speech by Vytautas Landsbergis, patriarch of modern-day Lithuania.
VILNIUS—The organizers of a July 4th event to unveil a new monument to the inspirationally brave Holocaust rescuers who risked all to just do the right thing and save a neighbor have issued a public invitation inviting people from near and far to attend. The monument, conceived by Vaclovas Jankauskas will be unveiled at the Sculpture Garden in Alytus (Yiddish Alíte), a town just under an hour and a half drive from Vilnius (Google map), about 110 kilometers southwest of the capital via the A4. There are regular buses. The event will be held at 11 AM on 4 July. The invitation is reproduced below and is available as PDF.
A new section has been added today to Defending History’s existing repertoire, one dedicated to the legacy of 23 June 1941, which for the Jews of Lithuania and other countries represents the onset of the Holocaust east of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop line, a day after the launch of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa, his attack on the then Soviet Union. On this day in a number of countries, including Lithuania, Latvia and (western) Ukraine, local “freedom fighters” began to molest, humiliate and butcher innocent Jewish neighbors before the arrival of the first German forces. Nothing can be more painful in the 21st century than pro-Western governments, elites, institutions and societal leaders glorifying the day as one of alleged uprising against the Soviet Union. For one thing, it is falsification of history: the Soviet forces were fleeing Hitler’s invasion, the largest in human history, not the local Jew-killers. For another, the current glorification of the Holocaust’s first local perpetrators is an affront to civilized society, human rights and basic decency. The new section is The Legacy of 23 June.
(Department of Philosophy & Cultural Studies, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University)
Adolfas Damušis (1908-2003)
The Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania has just celebrated the opening of the Adolfas Damušis Democratic Studies Center on June 15-16, 2017 with a one-sided view of his life. Gintė Damušytė, Lithuania’s ambassador to Denmark, and Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius founded the Center in 2013 to honor the memory of her father, Adolfas Damušis (1908-2003). He was a chemist and lifelong idealist. As a Catholic youth activist, he was arrested in 1931 by Smetona’s autocratic regime and held at the Varniai concentration camp for half a year. In 1941, he was one of the organizers in Kaunas of the anti-Soviet uprising on June 23, 1941, the leader of the Lithuanian Activist Front’s military staff in Kaunas, and the Minister of Industry in Lithuania’s short-lived Provisional Government. In 1944-1945, he was held by the Gestapo in a prison in Bayreuth, northern Bavaria, for his anti-Nazi activities. In the US, he served as the leader of the Lithuanian Catholic youth organization “Ateitis” (the Future) and many other organizations, and worked as an editor for “Radio Free Europe”.
VILNIUS—Ms. Milda Dargužaitė, since December 2016 the highly respected Chancellor of the Office of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, on 2 June 2017 issued a written reply to Ruta Bloshtein, the Vilnius-born Orthodox Jew who last December initiated a petition on the old Vilna Jewish cemetery at Piramónt, in today’s Šnipiškės (Yiddish: Shnípishek). The petition asks the Lithuanian government to move the national convention center project away from the old Jewish cemetery, and to restore the historic burial ground which dates to the fifteenth century and contains the remains of many of the greatest Lithuanian Jewish scholars. There has been a massive international outcry against plans to cite a convention center in the heart of the old cemetery where revelers would cheer, clap, do politics, sing, drink at bars and use toilets surrounded by thousands of Jewish graves. Ms. Bloshtein’s petition has been signed by 40,000 people, and has been the subject of coverage in Algemeiner.com, Ami, the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Journal, Tablet, and numerous other publications.
VILNIUS—Lithuania’s top neo-Nazi blogger “Zeppelinus” has republished with some noticeable relish, in a post dated 27 May 2017, parts of the 19 May official “Lithuanian Jewish Community website” attack (as PDF) on this journal’s editor, Dovid Katz. The attack was, some would say shamefully, signed “LJC staff” though sources rapidly revealed its prime author (see our rapid response on the day). It is not the first time that the antisemitic far-right has found its material on the website of the official Jewish Community under its current leadership (that is under legal challenge after the recent allegedly rigged election), at a time when the website is, disturbingly, allegedly under control of elements very far from the interests of Lithuania’s Jews. Last autumn’s website attacks on Rabbi Sholom-Ber Krinsky were picked up and elaborated by another key antisemitic blogger who went so far as to dig up the 1790s antisemitic attacks on a prime founder of Lithuanian Hasidism.
You know something is wrong when the neo-Nazis are finding their material on the “website of an official Jewish community”. It’s a website funded in fact by the state via restitution funds deriving from the communal religious properties of the annihilated Jewish communities of Lithuania, administered by a (this one’s for you, George Orwell) “Good Will Foundation”.
Then there was the most recent fiasco, a comparison of the democratic electoral congress of the Vilnius Jewish Community on 24 May to Russia’s “Zapad 2017” military exercises, and the charge that the assembled 300 or so Vilnius Jews were “mainly Russian speakers calling themselves Jews, with only a minority of people with Litvak blood” (see our report which led to JTA’s coverage, and the essays by Professor Pinchos Fridberg and by Leonas Kaplanas). This was a proverbial gift of the gods to the local antisemitic establishment here that revels in delegitimizing the country’s living Jews while embracing a de-Judaized ersatz “Litvak heritage” for PR, with some help from a tiny elite of privileged “court Jews” who themselves at times, it seems, become conduits for antisemitic invective against the local Jewish community. Prof. Fridberg has pointed out that a subsequent vague and unclear “apology” posted failed to disclose the author(s) of the offending text, and never even appeared in the Russian-language section of the website. Is the author of the offending text still employed by the official “Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community”? Why is his or her identity a secret?
VILNIUS—The following is an English translation (by Ludmilla Makedonskaya) of Professor Pinchos Fridberg’s article in Russian that appeared in the Vilnius-based publication Obzor on 26 May 2017. Note that the original Russian version is the only authoritative text for any issues arising. Professor Fridberg is a native of Vilna, a Holocaust survivor, a retired physics professor and the author of numerous articles and studies. For translations of a selection of his work on Defending History’s issues, in English translation, see our Pinchos Fridberg section.
VILNIUS—In one of the most remarkable events in post-Soviet Jewish Lithuania, around a hundred Jewish residents of this city, most of them from younger generations, came today to the Pylimo 4 headquarters of the “official” Jewish community to monitor the quadrennial elections for chairperson of the Jewish Community of Lithuania which they believed to be rigged. First, the rules had been changed right in the middle of the campaign, on 19 April, disenfranchising the small Jewish population of Lithuania by reducing to one vote each Jewish community and abandoning the long-standing formula of 1 vote for 100 persons which gave a voice to actual Jewish people (while retaining one, two or even three votes for various oligarchs from NGOs and other organizations, associations, and entities, including a not-yet built museum in a town with no Jews). That meant that the 2,200 or so Jews of Vilnius would have one vote rather than around 22.
Second, the fifteen representatives which the newly elected Vilnius Jewish Community Board designated to attend the election conference were not admitted to the conference. Last Wednesday evening, the VJC elected Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) its chairperson. He is the challenger candidate for the national chairpersonship position.
Third, a massive multi-layered security presence (guards in the building wore at least three kinds of fancy uniforms, police and security cars graced the sidewalk outside) added both bad will and farce to a day that will invariably go down in Vilna Jewish history on a number of counts. The Vilnius Jewish Community’s report on the day’s events (in Lithuanian) is available on its Facebook page.
Last night, Wednesday the 24th of May 2017, I came home from a long (three-and-a-half-hour) but wonderful gathering. It was the Vilnius Jewish Community’s conference, a democratic, well-organized and well-attended election for the Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC) as well as for its new board. When I got home I decided to listen to a disk of Yiddish songs by the late Nechama Lifschitz, a disk that her daughter Roza Litay gave me as a gift during a visit at her apartment in Tel Aviv. Around twelve midnight, while listening to songs of our “singing soul” I opened my Facebook page and could not believe my eyes when I saw the link to an article on the official website of the Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC) that presumed to cover the evening I had myself attended. It had a big picture not of any of the personalities of the evening, but of the chairperson, Faina Kukliansky standing next to a car and making a V for Victory sign like a victorious general gleeful over the destruction of an array of enemies.
“To remember would be to remember their life and their death. But that memory is forbidden, and one is afraid of thinking that something exists that is worth remembering, when one does not manage to remember this. All memory seems to be, ought to be, memory of that, all forgetting, forgetting of that. Like an unchanging symptom, the repeated pain caused by the realization that one constantly forgets places, moments, people, is like the simple reflection of the pain that finds in them its true name.”
N. Fresco, Remembering the Unknown
On the 18th of February 1960 my late father Ernest Lowenberg went to the German embassy in London to declare his brother Paul Loewenberg and Latvian born father David Loewenberg/Levenbergs dead.
VILNIUS—In recent weeks, Lithuania’s Jewish community has been shaken by a number of vicious attacks against various of its members, apparently written by operatives out to provoke “senseless interethnic strife and division” who have infiltrated to echelons of the official community’s power structures, and published personal invective replete with “demonstrable falsehoods” under the imprimatur not of any named author but of the “Lithuanian Jewish Community” per se (examples here, here, and here). Against that backdrop many Jews and Lithuanians alike, who enjoy some of the best daily relations of any two groups in Eastern Europe, have been finding it necessary to stress that Lithuanian-Jewish relations are excellent and will not be disturbed by such mischief makers (see also today’s JTA report, and a 2015 paper by this journal’s editor). The ongoing passionate debates about the Holocaust, “Double Genocide”, defamation of Jewish partisans, glorification of local Nazi collaborators, city-center neo-Nazi marches on independence days, plans to have a new national convention center in the heart of the old Jewish cemetery, and the fair allocation of restitution funds, are not disputes between “Jews and Lithuanians”: there are, at least locally, proponents from both groups on all sides of each of these debates and various others.
TEL AVIV—The following is the text of Mr. Julius Norwilla’s speech during the gathering earlier today at the Lithuanian Embassy in Tel Aviv where a delegation of major Litvak rabbis, joined at their request by Mr. Norwilla, who flew in from Vilnius for the event, was welcomed by Ambassador Edminas Bagdonas. Details of the event are here.
VILNIUS—Over 300 members of the Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC), representing all adult age groups, and constituting the numerically largest such conference this century, this evening elected a new VJC chairman at the Karolina Hotel in Vilnius. Professionally organized, members with voting rights had to present their membership cards and separate ID at conference tables organized by initial letters of surnames. The proceedings, started with a few sentences of Yiddish by Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevicius), were meticulously conducted bilingually, with all proceedings in both Lithuanian (first) and (then) Russian in an atmosphere of democratic catharsis of an East European Jewish community, many of whose members have felt sidelined by the interests of a handful of elites close to government circles in recent years. The assembly included virtually all of the known personalities of Vilnius Jewry who do not happen to have employment at Pylimo Street 4, the official community’s headquarters (but there were a few of those too, as well as some from the official synagogue minyan).
VILNIUS—Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), candidate for the leadership of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, today issued a statement on his public Facebook page inviting members of the community to participate in the electoral conference for chairperson of the Vilnius Jewish Community, to be held this Wednesday evening 24 May 2014 6 PM (18:00) at the Karolina Hotel in Vilnius. His statement, in Lithuanian, reminds readers that the recent attempts to cancel the conference (whose date was democratically voted on by a clear majority of Vilnius Jewish Community Board members) would result in the application of the “new rules” decided on in the middle of the current campaign that would effectively disenfranchise 2,200 Vilnius Jews by recounting their votes from the present 22 or so (via the longstanding formula of 100 people = one vote) to one vote, while each of the elite power brokers in the chairperson’s circle (not all of whom live in Lithuania) would in effect have the votes to decide the entire future of the Jewish community, resulting in a tragic undermining of the future of the actual living Jewish people in Lithuania. To make matters worse, various of these “machers” have two or three votes each.
LOS ANGELES AND JERUSALEM—The leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center have appealed to Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite to change the current plans of the government to build a convention center on the grounds of the ancient Jewish cemetery at Piramónt in the heart of the Lithuanian capital.
GEOFF VASIL: Heart, soul, brains and conscience of today’s official “Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community”?
VILNIUS—The author of a “Pravda” style invective (see below) absurdly accusing Lithuania (!) of troublemaking in the 2014 conflict in Ukraine is now a major figure in the office of the chairperson of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, eminent attorney Faina Kukliansky, leading to some security concerns about infiltration of political elements in small, vulnerable East European Jewish communities. These may include persons with no Jewish background or loyalty who are experienced “gun-for-hire journalists” who flip their convictions on a dime depending on who is paying them. The results can be tragic with astute sowing of concocted (and needless) interpersonal feuds within weak and fragile remnant Jewish communities that “have enough problems of their own” just surviving in the post-Holocaust post-Soviet environment.
According to sources in Ms. Kukliansky’s office, the author of today’s personal attack against this journal’s editor is the same Mr. Geoff Vasil, author of the piece below, and formerly, for years, a dedicated correspondent on Holocaust obfuscation and neo-Nazi monitoring at DefendingHistory.com (where nothing remotely pro-Putin is ever considered for publication; DH’s stance on the sacrosanct NATO mission to secure Lithuania’s security in perpetuity has been made clear on multiple occasions; authors’ uncovered Putinist advocacy results in severance from Defending History).
VILNIUS—Arkadijus Vinokuras, the highly talented and successful Lithuanian Jewish author, journalist, and comedian, has today jumped into the fray of the official Jewish Community’s elections for the post of chairperson of the Vilnius Jewish Community. In contrast to Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), who declared his candidacy at the start of the election season and whose candidacy has (as of the time of this posting) not even been reported on the official community website, Mr. Vinokuras’s effort comes one week before the scheduled May 24th Vilnius Jewish Community conference, and has been announced with respect and a fine photograph on the website today (the same moment it came out on his own Facebook page). But that is not the main reason his candidacy is thought by many in the community, on first reaction, to be in the service of chairperson Faina Kukliansky, whose democratic terms as chief of both the Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC) and the Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC) ran out last month.
VILNIUS—The official trilingual (English-Lithuanian-Russian) website of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, generously financed from the restitution funds (deriving from prewar Jewish religious communal properties) allocated by the state-sponsored Good Will Foundation, is in the nature of things meant to represent that community. Once a community chairperson’s tenure was expired and a democratic election campaign was underway, it was widely expected that the website and its editor, Lithuanian journalist Ilona Rūkienė, would take every care to ensure evenhandedness, giving the various candidates equal space and each campaign the same respect, coverage, and democratic tools for reaching the electorate, thereby enabling voters to make an informed decision.
The official Lithuanian Jewish Community website, lavishly financed in three languages by the restitution-funded “Good Will Foundation” has this week featured on its English and Lithuanian pages the design, under the headline A New Litvak Logo. The accompanying unsigned editorial purporting to represent the “Jewish community” boasts with some potentially obsequious glee that the Justice Ministry has graciously given the community “permission” to use the symbol in its “Jewish” logo, going on to announce for the benefit of readers that incorporating the symbol “into a Litvak logo makes perfect sense” and indeed, to warn any would-be copycats that this dazzling invention is being “patented”. There is no mention anywhere about any local Jewish people (in other words the members of the community in whose name various pronouncements are being made) being surveyed, questioned or consulted.
Lithuanian Jewry may be small and fragile but it is vibrant as ever. The first published protest came within minutes of its publication in the “Motke Chabad” blog on the website of the Vilnius Russian-language publication Obzor [update: following this article, a report appeared in Izrus.il].
VILNIUS—Coming hard on the heels of the mid-campaign rule-change of 19 April that effectively disenfranchised over 2,000 Vilnius Jews, by “recounting” their collective vote as one vote instead of over 20 (via the long-established formula of 100 persons = one vote), the chairperson of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, eminent attorney Faina Kukliansky, on 4 May placed an announcement on the Lithuanian-language page of the official community website (followed by the Russian section), Lzb.lt, cancelling the widely announced 24 May 2017 conference of the Vilnius Jewish Community decided upon by a clear majority vote of its Council (15 of 21 active members), for which the large hall of Hotel Karolina had already been booked. This was followed on 5 May by an English language version complete with “Red-Ink Warnings from the Leader” which seems to inaccurately report that the planned 24 May conference was an “arbitrary” act of “one” Council of the Vilnius Jewish Community member, presumably referring to her opponent in the race, Simonas Gurevičius.
The following is a full translation of the radio debate on the fate of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in the capital’s Snipiskes district), aired by LRT.lt radio as part of its People and Ideas series on 1 March and again on 5 March 2017 and available in the original Lithuanian on the station’s website. The debate was hosted by Audra Girijotė with the participants (in alphabetical order here): Renaldas Augustinavičius, Ruta Bloshtein, Faina Kukliansky, Andrius Kulikauskas, Shnayer Leiman, Remigijus Šimašius.
Note that this translation works from the Lithuanian voice-over on Professor Leiman’s originally English contribution, rather than from a separate tape of the full English interview with Professor Leiman used by the organizers (who put together the “debate” after separate interviews with the participants). This was decided upon in the spirit of trying to characterize, as best we can, the text and texture actually received by the Lithuanian language audience.
I am studying How do people behave? How should they behave? and as part of that, How do issues come to matter? or no longer matter? Today I will share what I am learning about the theoretical power of our imagination to produce and resolve a real life controversy.
VILNIUS—Interviews by several Defending History staffers with several dozen members of Vilnius’s Jewish community over the past several days have turned up what seems to be a widespread sense of (citing terms that recurred frequently in the conversations) “disappointment” or “shock” at the “unbelievable changing of the rules of an election in the middle of the campaign.” (Such mini-surveys are not scientific, and a professional survey of today’s Jewish community on a number of issues is a critical desideratum here.)
The change seems to be in the cause of in effect disenfranchising the actual living Jews of Lithuania by suddenly decoupling the numbers of living, resident Jews from votes cast for the leadership of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, for which elections are scheduled, as of today, for May 28th (for recent developments see the DH section on Vilnius Jewish Life). A number of those interviewed mentioned the role of the “Good Will Foundation” that allocates funding for the community’s administration, including elections, from the government finance provided as restitution for prewar communal religious Jewish property. Some of its allocations have been highly controversial.
VILNIUS—Two regular Sunday worshipers at the grand old church in Molėtai, a town of some 6,000 inhabitants in northeastern Lithuania, reported to the Defending History team in Vilnius earlier this week that their priest, Father Kęstutis Kazlauskas, has publicly announced that the church is organizing the production of a bas-relief to be commissioned from “a major Lithuanian artist” (?!) and erected within the sacred premises, to honor alleged Holocaust perpetrator Jonas Žvinys. Outside the two church goers, Defending History has been unable to obtain further corroboration of what would be a shocking development, and a very negative one for modern Lithuania, in a town where 100% of the Jewish residents were murdered in 1941 by the Nazis, with the majority of the actual killing, and its on-site organization, carried out by local nationalist elements.
VILNIUS—The disappointing failure of the official website of the Jewish Community of Lithuania to give Equal Space to each candidate, and to each campaign, in the current leadership contest is a scar in the modern community’s history that can still be repaired as the campaign turns to its final stages. Let us hope it will be, and that this minimal democratic standard will be respected by the site’s editor and by the Good Will Foundation that allocates lavish finance for the website, which was never intended to be a Soviet-style paean to a single never-to-be-questioned Leader. Perhaps the Board’s foreign members, in particular, will rise to the occasion, at long last, at next week’s scheduled meeting here in Vilnius, especially in light of the recent series of unsettling reports.
What should be done with the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery (Piramónt, in the Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius)? It should be restored. For this to happen, the Soviet ruin in its center should be taken down to ground level, with no further earthworks in the cemetery, ever. Let it forever remain a testimonial to the vibrancy of Jewish life in Vilna.
Two of Vilna’s greatest photographers and artists, Juozapas Kamarauskas (d. 1946) and Jan Bulhak (d. 1950) were mesmerized by Vilna’s Jewish sites, and especially by the Old Jewish Cemetery. They left us with an abundance of photographs and sketches of the Old Jewish Cemetery. Jewish scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries, residents of Vilna, recorded and published for posterity meticulous transcriptions of the texts of hundreds of epitaphs inscribed on the tombstones of the Old Jewish Cemetery.
Efforts, masquerading as history, patriotism, political science, mainstream media, and even Holocaust studies, are enabled by the current geopolitical backdrop and a Western tendency to silently “give them all a pass”
VILNIUS—This year’s March 11th independence day march here last month was again granted the route of highest prestige, from Cathedral Square, up the whole of the capital’s main thoroughfare, Gedimino Boulevard, and ending at Parliament Square. Defending History’s eyewitness report recounted this year’s “detour” to the presidential palace for the bizarre ceremony of attacking Lithuania’s oldest Holocaust survivor, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky (Brancovskaja), 95 next month, one of the Jewish partisans subjected to defamation by the state’s campaign of Holocaust revisionism that has included a “blame the victims” components that started eleven years ago.
VILNIUS—The Hon. Herbert Block, a prominent and popular personality known to New Yorkers from his days as the highly successful Jewish affairs liaison for the campaign and administration of New York City mayor David Dinkins years ago has emerged as a major force at the confluence of Jewish-Hasidic, American and Lithuanian-government politics on issues in Lithuanian-Jewish affairs. There are conflicting views about his myriad, and some would say conflict-of-interest laden, entanglements that include a Satmar group in Monroe, New York intent on fulfilling the wishes of Vilnius builders for a convention center and annex in the heart of the old Jewish cemetery of Vilnius (allegedly for the financial benefit of their London followers in the CPJCE), a US taxpayer funded agency that exists to preserve Jewish cemeteries (but has yet to issue a word of protest at the “convention center in the Jewish cemetery” project) and the Lithuanian government’s “Good Will Foundation” that allocates monies deriving from the religious properties of the annihilated Jewish communities of Lithuania.
Among the 17 who signed is Sąjūdis (Vilnius & Kaunas), whose honorary national chairman is Prof. V. Landsbergis, and whose national council includes MP Emanuelis Zingeris. Will Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius in his reply stand up for what’s right?
VILNIUS—The human rights of even small, weak and demographically struggling minorities to enjoy a free and open website that offers a forum to people and groups of diverse opinions is well established. It is also a test of democracy that members of such groups feel able to speak out when those rights are abrogated. Against that backdrop, it was significant today that a group of older members of Lithuania’s Jewish community (including Holocaust survivors), spoke out on the subject, around a week after a pubic appeal for website democracy by a younger generation on Facebook. The older group blogs under the name of the semi-legendary 19th century Vilna Jewish “wisecracker and whistleblower” Mótke Chabád in the Russian-language Vilnius-based publication Obzor (not to be confused with Defending History’s “own” Motke Chabad…).
“Bravo to Vilnius’s Jewish community for their pre-Passover 2017 stand for democracy, the younger generation in Facebook, the survivor generation in Obzor.”
VILNIUS—An invitation has been extended by the office of Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas to all interested colleagues to attend a seminar in Vilnius Old Town this Monday, 10 April 2017, from 1 to 5 PM (1300 to 1700) at the campus of Vilnius Gediminas Technical University on “Self-Identity and the Old Jewish Cemetery.” People who can only stop in for part of the event may come and go as needed.
MONDAY 10 APRIL
Come and visit between 1 and 5 PM at Workshop on Self-Identity and the Old Jewish Cemetery, at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, Traku Street 1, corner of Pylimo, entrance from Pylimo. Defending History’s section, opposition tracker, and paper trail.
The two Stahlecker Reports summarize the inner workings of Einsatzgruppe A during the Baltic invasion of Operation Barbarossa, which set in motion the Holocaust. We herewith offer a digitized version of the two reports. For an introduction to the reports and links for download please see our earlier article in January 2015. As of now, we have digitized half of the reports, and will give notice once we complete the conversion. The full reports can be viewed in their JPG version via the link above. Below we offer a digitized version of 1-100 from 1-143 of the first report, and, on a separate page, 1-73 of 150 from the second report.
East European state-sponsored “Holocaust Fixing” continues apace. The distinguished German scholar and author of a major two-volume work on the Lithuanian Holocaust, Professor Christoph Dieckmann, has given a major interview intended for the general public on the popular Delfi.lt news portal. He was in town for an IHRA conference held in intimate collaboration with the Lithuanian government’s units on the Holocaust and Jewish affairs, including the Red-Brown Commission, of which Prof. Dieckmann is, surprisingly for many of his genuine admirers, a longtime member and apologist.
VILNIUS—A member of the United States Congress today provided to Defending History the PDF of the letter sent by Senator Ron Johnson, then (and current) chair of the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, to Ms. Lesley Weiss, then (and current) chair of the taxpayer-funded “United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad” (USCPAHA). The letter concerned scarcely believable levels of corruption and wastage of taxpayer money. The 12 page PDF follows below (note the page-turning arrows in the upper left hand corner).
VILNIUS—The following (text below) is a translation from Lithuanian of the 2 March 2017 letter from the state-sponsored Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania (widely known as the Genocide Center) to a nationalist group that put on this year’s March 11th Independence Day neo-Nazi march, with authorities’ permission, in the center of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. The group had complained about Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite, having granted an award on February 16th to Lithuania’s oldest Holocaust survivor, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, soon to turn 95, for her work in the field of Holocaust education. The president’s office had referred the complaint to the Genocide Center which issued this letter (facsimile of the original below). The correspondence was then read out at a bizarre ceremony that some observers thought bore the hallmarks of a 2017 “Jew-witch hunt” when the Independence day festivities announced a detour to the presidential palace to read out the various letters and condemn Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, who is the only one of her family to survive the Holocaust precisely because she escaped the Vilna Ghetto in September 1943 and joined up with the anti-Nazi Soviet partisans, the only force seriously challenging Hitler’s rule of Lithuania.
VILNIUS—The Board of the Vilnius Jewish Community today issued a letter to the chairperson of both the Vilnius and Lithuanian Jewish communities, attorney Ms. Faina Kukliansky, calling on her to convene a meeting of the Board, as required by the Community’s bylaws. In the context of perceived silence over a number of years, the letter, signed by an overwhelming majority of members of the Board, is widely being taken as a sign of communal energy, courage and willingness to come together to act for the community’s democratic integrity, that some observers have felt has been lacking in the years since the death of the near-legendary longtime chairperson of the Jewish community, Dr. Simon Alperovich, in 2014. The facsimile follows.
VILNIUS—Ruta Bloshtein, author of the international petition to save the old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius from a massive convention center project, and Meyshe Bairak, director of the Choral Synagogue of Kaunas and chair of the city’s religious community, today presented a copy of Ms. Bloshtein’s petition in the Lithuanian translation of Julius Norwilla to Government House in central Vilnius. The large swath of paper, visible in the informal photograph, on the public counter, is the printout of the nearly 39,000 signatures from all over the world garnered to date. Ms. Bloshtein is a native of Vilnius, Mr. Bairak of Kaunas. Both are scions of old Litvak Jewish families of many centuries’ vintage in the depths of Lithuania. Most of their relatives perished in the Holocaust.
The following is an English translation of Monica Lowenberg’s speech that was read out at the protest at the Latvian Embassy in Berlin on 15 March 2017 also addressed by German member of parliament Volker Beck. Ms. Lowenberg could not be in attendance and her speech, published here in the author’s English translation, was read to the assembled by historian Dr. Hans Coppi, chairman of the VVN (Union of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime in Berlin).
Historian Dr. Hans Coppi (with microphone, center rear) addressing protesters at the Latvian Embassy in Berlin on the eve of the 2017 annual Waffen SS march in central Riga. PHOTO: LOTHAR EBERHARDT.
Last Wednesday, on 15 March 2017, eve of the annual events glorifying Latvia’s Waffen SS in the very heart of the capital city, Riga, one German member of parliament (the Bundestag), Volker Beck, came to the Latvian Embassy in the heart of Germany’s capital, Berlin, to give a speech of support to the protesters. Beck, a member of the Greens, is president of the German-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Group. The following is the text of his speech, which I have translated into English.
Volker Beck gives a speech of support to protesters at the Latvian Embassy in Berlin on the eve of the 2017 annual Waffen SS march in central Riga. PHOTO: LOTHAR EBERHARDT.
Can small East European Jewish communities preserve their independence in the face of powerful state (and non-state) interests? Should the granting of restitution deriving from the value of properties of annihilated Jewish communities be directed to preserving free, democratic, vibrant and diverse Jewish life into the future as opposed to the interests of certain environments of governments and other elites, and their tiny cliques of so-called “Court Jews” — an endeavor that has, at times, here in Lithuania, declined into a race to the PR status of “Ah, but I am the last real Litvak, the rest of them, I don’t know…”
Events are now coming to a head. Simon Gurevich, longtime former executive director of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, has announced his candidacy for the community’s leadership. The country’s chief rabbi, former chief rabbi, and hundreds of younger, everyday community members rapidly signaled their support on Mr. Gurevich’s Facebook page. (Older members of the community, who tend not to use the web, do not yet by and large know of the looming elections.) The incumbent, the eminent attorney Faina Kukliansky, has a significant base of support too. The stage is set for a lively and dignified contest of ideas, plans and dreams for a small but beautiful Jewish future in the country. What with a substantial diaspora of diverse kinds of Litvak identification and rediscovery of roots, the implications are to some degree international. Incidentally, both candidates are scions of centuries-old Litvak families hailing from the depths of Lithuania.
It bears the date 1 July 2016 and includes the following introductory text: “We thank all the applicants who submitted project applications to the Good Will Foundation (Geros valios fondas). You may find a list of all projects, including the ones that received funding allocation from the Foundation. All applicants will be contacted individually and informed about the results and decisions taken.”
Simóntshik (Shimen Gurevich) addressing a Vilnius conference
VILNIUS—Thirty-something Simonas Gurevičius (Yiddish — Shímen Gurévitsh, English — Simon Gurevich), who was from his earliest teens a Jewish camp counselor, head of the Jewish Students Union in his college years, and then, for years until spring 2015 executive director of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, this morning effectively announced his candidacy for the Community’s chairpersonship in a brief Lithuanian-language Facebook post (reproduced below). Universally known, with love and warmth, to Lithuanian Jews and to many non-Jewish friends who follow Jewish affairs as just Simóntshik, he is a native speaker of Yiddish (very rare for young people here outside the family of Chabad Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky), as well as Lithuanian and Russian, with practiced command of English and growing sophistication in Hebrew, both ancient and modern.
Is the mantle of Litvak leadership passing on to a new generation?
On 16 March 2017, in the Latvian capital of Riga, as in previous years since 1991, after a Lutheran church service, an honorary march and flag-lined rally will take place at the Freedom Monument in the heart of the city to honor Latvian units of the Waffen SS. Latvia, like Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Bulgaria is one of the Eastern European states where locally staffed antisemitic units and death squads under different names who collaborated with the Nazis are celebrated today as national heroes. This is done with tacit consent of the state and varying degrees of tacit or open support from state authorities.
VILNIUS—A six-person monitoring group assembled by Defending History was the only human rights team at this year’s March 11th neo-Nazi march in central Vilnius. DH’s monitors were Eveldas Balčiūnas, Dovid Katz, Julius Norwilla, Ruta Ostrovskaja, Jacob Piliansky, and Julia Rets. Two senior longtime annual observers, both major figures in Lithuania’s Jewish community for over half a century, Milan Chersonski and Prof. Pinchos Fridberg, were prevented by health issues from monitoring the event this year.
For years Defending History has asked that the marchers’ freedom of speech be respected at venues away from the center of the capital on the nation’s independence day. The granting of “that time and place” (only since 2008) conveys a sense of legitimization by both the municipality and national government, which are sometimes thought to be playing a “double game” by facilitating the honoring of Holocaust perpetrators locally, alongside commemorations for the victims for foreign consumption. At least two Western ambassadors were “quietly” among the observing crowds.
VILNIUS—DefendingHistory.com invites citizens and visitors in town, and the Human Rights community especially, to come join the annual monitoring mission that will meet this Saturday, 11 March, at 3:30 PM at the Bell Tower on Cathedral square. From 2008, the year the center of Vilnius was first gifted by the municipality to the neo-nazis on the nation’s cherished March 11th independence day, the Vilnius-based team has been keeping track of the annual event, which has caused unbearable pain to the last Holocaust survivors and their families, not least because the marchers often flaunt placards glorifying various specific local Holocaust collaborators, in what appears to be a kind of celebration of the murder of the country’s Jewish citizens in the Holocaust. Since 2009, the team has been monitoring personally, on an annual basis, at the same time silently protesting and commemorating the annihilated Jewish population of the city that was once called Jerusalem of Lithuania. The march’s Facebook page is here.
This journal holds leading historian Professor Timothy Snyder (Yale University) in the highest esteem, and trusts that this select list of reviews taking issue with aspects of Bloodlands of direct concern to DefendingHistory.com will not be taken amiss. It does not include reviews which have engaged in personal attack or pursued grudges, or which focus on other issues.
LONDON—Defending History has learned from reliable sources that The Judicial Division of the London Beth Din (Court of the Chief Rabbi) issued a summons on 27 February 2017 (1 Adar 5777 by the Hebrew calendar) calling upon Simas Levinas, chairperson of the Vilna Jewish Religious Community, and Faina Kukliansky, chairperson of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, to “agree to attend a hearing and sign a binding Arbitration Agreement, on receipt of which we will fix a hearing date for the mutual convenience of all parties.”
When NATO has a lapse in upholding Western ideals, principles and causes, especially those for which the Allies fought during World War II and the Holocaust, it is incumbent upon friends of NATO to point it out. This latest episode also impacts the principle that citizens of Eastern NATO countries deserve the same standards of freedom of speech and democracy as all others.
NATO issues new film extolling Baltic postwar “Forest Brothers” with no mention of the “problem” that many were recycled Hitlerist forces, that most of their targets for murder were civilians, and that most harbored Nazi views of racial purity and hatred of their nations’ minorities. The film’s official description incorrectly states that they were comprised of people from “both sides of the war” and includes no discussion of the related current issues of glorification of Nazi collaborators in Eastern Europe. In Vilnius, a city official was just fired for having questioned whether the “Brothers” were right to murder those who worked in state collective farms. While “Forest Brother” relics are preserved as national shrines, the last surviving anti-Nazi base of Jewish partisans who fled the Vilna Ghetto is being left to vanish into the earth.
Non-Jewish Lithuanian citizens are starting to take the lead in the campaign to save the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery from plans to plonk a convention center in its center, where people would revel, cheer, drink at bars and flush toilets surrounded by thousands of Vilna Jews buried there from the 15th to the 19th centuries (a fate that would never befall a Christian cemetery in today’s EU). This poster, produced in July 2017 by Julius Norwilla, includes a quote from philosopher Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas, and the visualization created by a young Vilnius artist.
“The common denominator here is state-sponsored inversion of history for the purposes of today’s ultra-nationalist, far-right politics: Glorify the Holocaust’s collaborators, defame the victims, survivors and heroes, and you’re heading for the bogus Double Genocide (with its attendant yearned-for obfuscation of the Holocaust)” — Dovid Katz
Does the National Library’s inclusion and celebration of a center named for an “ethnic cleansing advocate” (during the Lithuanian Holocaust) derive “legitimacy” from its neighbor, the Judaic Studies Center opened less then one month ago to universal acclaim, on the same floor, by New York’s Yivo and the National Library’s leadership?
Yivo has won back a lot of credibility by now building Jewish studies in Lithuania in cooperation with the National Library and other academic institutions instead of the Red-Brown Commission and Holocaust revisionist agencies as in past years (see Yivo section, scroll to bottom to review chronologically; the 2015 letter from Vilna born Holocaust survivor Prof. Pinchos Fridberg, 2012 participation in a conference set up to camouflage the concurrent reburial with full honors of the 1941 Nazi puppet prime minister). Has the Holocaust revisionist establishment nevertheless found a way yet again to abuse the Yivo board’s good will and enlist the Yivo brand in attempts to kosherize “by juxtaposition” the glorification of Holocaust collaborators and cheerleaders? Hopefully Yivo’s leaders will this time speak out rapidly with moral clarity and ensure the new center does not remain under the same roof as its neighbor that exists to sanitize the Holocaust’s local supporters. What would Chaikel Lunski, Zelig-Hirsh Kalmanovitsh, Zalmen Reyzen, Tsemakh Shabad, and Max Weinreich have said?
Trending in Defending
A Vilnius Visualization Artist Offers Starting Point for Restoration of City’s Old Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės)
Among the 17 is Sąjūdis (Vilnius & Kaunas), whose honorary national chairman is Prof. V. Landsbergis, and whose national council includes MP Emanuelis Zingeris. Will Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius in his reply stand up for what’s right?
Annual Bandera Birthday March in Center of Kiev, Ukraine’s Capital, Now Includes “JUDEN RAUS”
Will the West maintain its silence on Ukraine’s ongoing glorification of major Holocaust collaborators? What about Western values? Will media coverage again be limited to “Jewish” and “Russian” publications? Background from 2014. Last July, a Kiev street was officially renamed for Stepan Bandera.
As 2017 gets underway, Defending History is proud to honor three Vilnius personalities, all from its Orthodox Jewish community this year, who have stood up for cherished principles against powerful forces. In all cases, the principles defended pertain not only to Jewish affairs but to human rights more generally. Their courage and determination can serve as an example to all who defend human rights and history, even when it is inconvenient and draws the ire of power-invested (often state-related) institutions. The three are Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky, Ms. Ruta Bloshtein, and Rabbi Kalev Krelin. More here. See from previous years the Prophet Amos Human Rights Awards and the 2014 Person of the Year.
In 2000, Dov Levin’s Trumpa žydų istorija Lietuvoje (A Short History of the Jews of Lithuania) appeared in Vilnius in the translation of Jonas Morkus, published with the assistance of the Israeli Embassy in the Baltics (then in Riga). But today’s Israeli Embassy in Lithuania (in Vilnius) has yet to release a statement on the death of the last great historian of Lithuanian Jewry of the Holocaust survivor generation. Levin was a citizen of Israel from the day of its establishment. He was a veteran of both the Jewish partisans in the forests of Lithuania and the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. After the war, he lived all his life in Jerusalem where he was professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Related: section on Israel related issues.
Reports on Vilnius Jewish Public Library panel & views of Marius Ivaškevičius, Tomas Kajokas, Rūta Vanagaitė, Jurgita Verbickienė, Irena Veisaitė, Efraim Zuroff and others: Library’s Facebook page; Lzinios.lt. Comments to Lzinios.lt article refer to Jewish partisans who have still not received an apology for defamation from state agencies, resulting in ongoing abuse for Holocaust Obfuscation in de facto public discourse (as well as permanent historical defamation). Announced panel included no member of Lithuania’s living Jewish community. Also: Vanagaitė exposes a Vilnius-region Holocaust mass grave now for sale. In 15min.lt
VILNA YIDDISH LITERARY CIRCLE TO READ FROM CHAIM GRADE (1910-1982)
EVERYONE WELCOME! Next Session Wednesday 30 November 2016, 6 PM at the Jewish Cultural and Information Center, Mėsinių Street 3 in the Old Town. Always with a sharp lens for Lithuanian Yiddish language and culture.
Holocaust Obfuscation (and deflection of blame from the actual perpetrators) not far from the surface? Law follows years of criminalization of dissent to aspects of Double Genocide, maxing out at two years of imprisonment in Lithuania, three in Hungary, five in Latvia, and ten in Ukraine. The explanation for such laws…
EARLIER REPORT (WHEN COMPETITION WAS ANNOUNCED). Winners and celebration banquet now seem to be flaunted on website of Prague Platform but suppressed on the website of the “Shoah Legacy Institute” . . .
(3) New wave of publicity on Jewish gravestones found all over Vilnius (following mayor’s “Yiddish sign” campaign), a diversion when accompanied by utter failure to condemn (or even mention) plans for new National Congress Center on top of thousands of Jewish graves where thousands will clap, cheer and urinate over remains of Vilnius citizens buried there for over half a millennium.
(4) Lithuanian Foreign Ministry source tells DH that “our Israeli ambassador” [i.e. in Vilnius] helped organize Benjamin Netanyahu’s alleged Nov. 2015 blessing for desecration of the cemetery where his own ancestors lie buried. More background to the tale of power, antisemitism (Christian cemeteries don’t get this treatment), greed, photo-op glory, and collusion against the moral force of the thousands of graves honorably purchased over 500 years by Jewish citizens of Vilnius. Israeli embassy invited to clarify its involvement (if any), and above all, to clarify PM Netanyahu’s position. See Israel issues.
GOOD WILL SOLUTION:
Preserve the old Jewish cemetery as a cemetery cum memorial park to which pilfered Jewish gravestones from all over town can be brought to stand in dignity. See essays by Julius Norwilla and Sid Leiman. Move the congress center project to a venue where it will be a pride to all the peoples of Lithuania and Europe.
In late August 2015, world’s leading Litvak rabbis came to beg the mayor of Vilnius to oppose placing the new National Congress Center atop thousands of Vilnius citizens’ graves in the old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Pitramónt.
Official Jewish community’s lay leader, Faina Kukliansky, standing in front of key government officials, valiantly challenged the sincerity of Holocaust commemoration when there are streets and squares named for major Holocaust collaborators and perpetrators. One participant said: “Her courageous remarks and invoking of specific names made for the moral highlight of the day.”
But Western media has largely ignored the deterioration of free speech on Holocaust issues in much of Eastern Europe. See Free Speechsection; the long saga of police and prosecutorial harassment of Evaldas Balčiūnas in Lithuania; and the introduction of “Double Genocide” laws criminalizing, in effect, the Western narrative of World War II, with punishments of up to 2 years imprisonment in Lithuania (2010), 3 years in Hungary (2010), 5 years in Latvia (2014), 10 years in Ukraine (2015); but no specific prison sentences mentioned in Estonia’s “Valentine’s Day Law” (2012) …
Will there finally be discussion on why so many Western and Israeli scholars don’t speak up on vastly more state-sponsored Holocaust obfuscation, history fixing, and actual glorification of collaborators in the Baltics and Ukraine? Do free speech and frank discussion end at Poland’s eastern borders?
FOR MORE BACKGROUND ON KAZYS ŠKIRPA (CENTER) SEE DH ARTICLES BY ANDRIUS KULIKAUSKAS, EVALDAS BALČIŪNAS, AND MILAN CHERSONSKI. PROF. T. SNYDER’S BLOODLANDS: “Škirpa used this suffering in his radio broadcasts to spur mobs to murder. Some 2,500 Jews […]” … (p. 192)
One of the Škirpa signs is right on the Museum of Applied Arts building. But is this what the museum wants to be known for? Could its directors join efforts to replace the name with one that brings pride and inclusiveness to modern Vilnius?
VERDICT IN: EVALDAS BALČIŪNASNOT GUILTY (AFTER 4 YEARS OF HARASSMENT AND A DOZEN 450 KM ROUND TRIPS FROM HOME — BUT COURT ALLOWS FAR RIGHT “PLAINTIFF” 20 DAYS TO APPEAL)
After years of legal harassment, Evaldas Balčiūnas is found “not guilty” of — telling the truth. He has protested his country’s government continuing to use state funds to honor Nazi collaborators and Holocaust perpetrators. Photo: Julius Norwilla for DH.
Five years ago in 2011, on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Lithuanian Holocaust on 23 June 1941 and the following days — nationalist murderers killed thousands of Jewish neighbors before the first German forces arrived or assumed control — the state sponsored an array of activities honoring the “rebels” (an historic nonsense, the Soviet occupying forces were fleeing Hitler’s invasion, the largest in human history, not the local Jew-killers). That sham was followed a year later by the reburial with full honors of the Nazi puppet prime minister. This year, celebrations have been limited to fringe ultranationalist groups with the government maintaining its distance (there was a regrettable parliamentary document last Nov. proposed by some right-wing MPs, but it was largely ignored). Congratulations to Lithuania’s leaders on this progress toward historic truth during this week’s 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Lithuanian Holocaust that left 96.4% of its Jewish residents dead. See our proposed seven solutions to the issues remaining.
Event in Paris on the Lithuanian Holocaust on Tuesday 3 May at 5 PM at 9 rue Mahler (Room 107). Organized by Yahad-in-Unum with unspecified Lithuanian partners and including a video link with a team in Lithuania…
READERS IN CALIFORNIA: We are lecturing at UCLA 17-20 April 2016. To book lectures, seminars, meetings in the days just before or after, please contact us at: info<at>defendinghistory.com. LIST OF TOPICS.
This year’s theme was a front-of-march We Know Our Nation’s Heroes banner featuring six figures who share the following unsettling common denominator: all were alleged Nazi collaborators and/or Holocaust perpetrators (from left): Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, Jonas Noreika, Povilas Plechavičius, Kazys Škirpa, Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas, and Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis. It is as if the marchers are celebrating the murder of the 30,000 Jewish citizens of Kaunas, the more than 95% of the over 200,000 strong Lithuanian Jewish population on the eve of the Holocaust, and the resulting “cleansing” of Lithuania’s Jewish minority.
“We, (Jews) will turn Europe into mixture of Asian people — Negroes, ruled by Jews…” — R. Coudenhove-Kalergi, “Father” of European Union. NO TO THE ISLAMIZATION OF LITHUANIA!
MAJOR NEW BOOK ON THE LITHUANIAN HOLOCAUST AND ITS CURRENT LEGACIES LAUNCHED IN VILNIUS
For the first time, a Lithuanian author teams up with an Israeli Holocaust scholar in search for the truth about widespread local enthusiasm, seventy-five years ago, for mass murder of civilian neighbors, and today’s failures in coming to grips with that history, in a land of hundreds of Jedwabnes. A genuine historic advance in Lithuanian-Jewish relations is seen in the startling partnership of Rūta Vanagaitė and Dr. Efraim Zuroff in Vanagaitė’s Mūsiškiai: Kelionė su priešu (“Our People: Journey with an Enemy”). A selection of the vast media coverage is available here. The book was launched in Vilnius on 26 January 2016.
Cover-Up Attempts Crumbled Back in 2015: Adulation of Holocaust Perpetrators was Confirmed as Poroshenko and Parliament Enacted Laws “Codifying” Fascist-Leaning History and Criminalizing Other Points of View
INCLUDING REDEFINITION OF GENOCIDE; GLORIFICATION OF HOLOCAUST PERPETRATORS AS “FREEDOM FIGHTERS”; AND CAMPAIGN OF REPUTATION DESTRUCTION AGAINST HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS WHO JOINED THE ANTI-NAZI RESISTANCE
Left to right: Evaldas Balčiūnas, Milan Chersonski and Darius Pocevičius on Monday 30 Nov. 2015 after another “totally time-wasting” hearing in the case against Balčiūnas and Pocevičius for their articles condemning fascism and the adulation of Holocaust collaborators. A more substantial hearing is now promised for Thursday 10 December, 3:30 PM (15:30), as ever at Vilnius District Court at Laisves prospektas 79a. Hopefully at long last human rights and free speech advocates, and opponents of Holocaust falsification will come to monitor. They are still looking for a pro bono human rights lawyer. For background (for English readers) please see Evaldas’s articles (and the legal harassment he has been enduring) by scrolling to the end and surveying chronologically (upwards) his articles exposing the glorification of Holocaust collaborators.
Conference press release invokes summaries of views of major foreign heritage specialists who took part in the conference. But their own statements awaited. Click here for a directory of opponents, including Holocaust survivors, heritage specialists and others in Vilnius whom delegates would have enjoyed hearing out.
One of the keynote morning speakers (amateur video) at the 30 Sept. conference, known for his documentary films that ignore the alleged Holocaust atrocities of “heroes” as well as for his incessant Israel-baiting (and of late association with far-right antisemitic Ukrainian nationalists), proposes solving Mideast issues and local antisemitism at once by “bringing the Palestinians to Vilnius, Jerusalem of the North” [!]. Israeli ambassador boldly calls him out (see from timecode 13:17) for “rewriting history” of Israel’s struggles. The organizer, the “Human Rights Monitoring Institute” has record of ignoring antisemitism and failing to even mildly protest neo-Nazi marches in city centers on independence days or the abuse of prosecutorial power to harass Lithuanian truth-tellers about the Holocaust and local antisemitism.
CONFERENCE FEATURED EXCELLENT PRESENTATIONS ON HISTORY OF THE HOLOCAUST IN GENERAL, ANTISEMITISM IN GENERAL, AND ISSUES OF ISLAMIST RADICALIZATION IN WESTERN EUROPE. DANGERS OF THE FAR RIGHT DISCUSSED BY SPEAKERS FROM HUNGARY AND NORWAY, IGNORED OR PLASTERED OVER FOR LITHUANIA.
Ponár (Paneriai) Commemoration on Lithuania’s Annual Holocaust Day is Dejudaicized Even More in “Nationalist Takeover of Litvak Heritage”: No Rabbi, No Cantor, No Kaddish
But ethnic Lithuanian costume and song are featured at the mass grave of Vilna Jewry. Honor guard with bayoneted rifles was a questionable touch.
There were well-received speeches by (among others) Jewish community chairperson Faina Kukliansky; MP Emanuelis Zingeris; survivor and partisan hero Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky; and president of Beit Vilna in Tel Aviv, Mickey Kantor. There was a well-organized laying of stones by schoolchildren at the main monument.
The Israeli ambassador’s speech was considered a disappointment by some survivors in attendance. There was no mention of the recent death of Dr. Rachel Margolis (1921-2015), an Israeli-Lithuanian citizen, and Vilna Ghetto and anti-Nazi partisan hero. She discovered and published Kazimierz Sakowicz’s long lost eyewitness diary revealing the gruesome truth about Ponár. She dreamt of one last trip to her native Vilna but was intimidated by the prosecutors’ campaign of defamation against her and other Jewish partisan heroes. It was a sharp and painful contrast with the stirring and unforgettable words of the late Israeli ambassador to the Baltics, Chen Ivri Apter. Margolis’s life was considered worthy of note by, among many others, Lithuania’s late president, Algirdas Brazauskas, former UK prime minister Gordon Brown, the ADL’s Abraham Foxman, the late Sir Martin Gilbert, a British House of Lords member, and five members of the US Congress.
IS THE COMMITTEE CHOOSING THE NEW CHIEF RABBI REALLY BOUND TO ENSURE HE WILL BE “GOVERNMENT MAN” AND SUPPORT A $25,000,000 CONVENTION CENTER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CITY’S OLD JEWISH CEMETERY? DE-LEGITIMIZED FROM DAY ONE?
At the meeting with Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius (right to left): Rabbi David Niederman (Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA and Canada); Rabbi Osher Kalmanowitz (dean of Mir Yeshiva, Brooklyn, N.Y.); Rabbi Avrohom Yaffe Schlesinger (chief rabbi of the Orthodox community in Geneva, Switzlerand); Rabbi Malkiel Kotler (dean of Beth Medrash Govoha, Lakewood, N.J.).
At the old Soviet Sports Palace on the old cemetery (left to right): Rabbi Osher Kalmanowitz, Rabbi Schlesinger, Dr. Schaps, Rabbi David Niederman, Rabbi Chizki Kalmanowitz (Asra Kadisha, Jerusalem).
Above: Prime Minister of Lithuania Algirdas Butkevičius welcomes London-based rabbis from CPJCE who “permitted” a $25,000,000 convention center project for the middle of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery. Below: Government’s top Jewish affairs maestro Lina Saulėnaitė entertains the delegation. PM is 3rd from left. A 2009 document refers to these rabbis being paid $100,000 for “supervising” some “beautification” and “exploratory digging” but what are they being paid this time, for “supervising” construction of the convention and entertainment center?
Escaped to join the partisans and fought valiantly against the Nazis in the forests of Lithuania. The only one in her family to survive the Holocaust.
Volunteered for the short-lived Jewish museum after the war.
Dedicated half a century to Biology, as PhD and professor, at Vilnius University.
Helped establish the Green House Holocaust museum in Vilnius. Rediscovered, deciphered and published Kazimierz Sakowicz’s diary of Ponár. Author of a remarkable memoir. Beloved guide, lecturer and teacher on Jewish Vilna and the Holocaust. A beloved lecturer at the Vilnius Summer Program in Yiddish untl prosecutors’ threats prevented her coming in 2008 and beyond. Will there be a session honoring her at this summer’s program? Will students be told about her accomplishments?
At 90, she was afraid to return to her beloved Vilna for one last visit she yearned for. The Lithuanian government refused to reach out to her, its ambassadors in Israel would not acknowledge her, while prosecutors repeated threats of kangaroo “war crimes investigation” (most recently for the record in the 2012 documentary “Rewriting History“).
Rachel Margolis (second from right) honored at Tel Aviv’s Leivick House in June 2009. From left to right: Dalia and Ambassador Chen Ivri Apter; Prof. Dov Levin; Prof. Israel Bartal; Prof. Dovid Katz; Leivick House director Daniel Galay.
June 23rd 2016 will mark the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Holocaust in dozens of Lithuanian towns. The Soviet army was fleeing Hitler’s invasion of 22 June 1941 (the largest invasion in human history), not the LAF murderers, but some nationalists, antisemites, Double Genociders and far-right revisionists want to turn Holocaust perpetrators into “anti-Soviet rebels.” See details from the last time around, the 70th anniversary of 2011. Defending History was there to cover it all: The events, the LAF’s intentions, the Jewish Community’s response, the government attempts to play double games. See also Brandišauskas’s classic critique of an earlier attempt by Liekis to turn the reign of Hitlerist terror into a glorious chapter of modern history.
“Equally” at Monuments for Jewish, Lithuanian and Polish Victims, but Skipping the Stone Commemorating the 7,514 Red Army Prisoners of Various Nationalities Starved and Murdered at the Site.
NO WREATHS HERE. Presidential wreaths for all but this one: modest plaque in memory of 7,514 Red Army prisoners-of-war, of various nationalities, starved and murdered.
The Lithuanian monument bewreathed on May 8th is not for Lithuanian civilians or anti-Nazis, but for a group of volunteers for pro-Nazi service who were then shot for alleged desertion. The one Jewish MP paid tribute there as well.
May 8th (Western Europe) and May 9th (Eastern Europe) Commemorate the Allied Victory over Hitler in Europe. But the government’s commemoration activities offered zero mention of the sacrifices of the forces that defeated Hitler and brought an end to the genocide at Ponár.
ANOTHER SHOCK FOR VETERANS AND SURVIVORS, AND FOR OBSERVERS OF THE CAMPAIGN TO USURP THE MASS MURDER SITE OF VILNA JEWRY — AND THE HOLOCAUST — FOR CURRENT POLITICAL ENDS
But no government officials turned up at the later event commemorating Jewish partisans and war veterans at the Jewish cemetery
Free thought in East European academia: Dissenters to “Double Genocide” dismissed, then accused of being non-academics? Coming soon: Prof. Michael Shafir’s “Deflection and Obfuscation.” Also: Times of Israel report.
16 March 2015
In the East of EU-NATO-Land: Again, Latvian Authorities Grant Riga Old Town and its “Liberty Monument” on March 16th to 1500 Worshippers of Hitler’s Waffen SS Latvian Divisions
All Waffen SS members swore an oath to Adolf Hitler, some were recycled Holocaust killers. Lithuania’s far-right leaders J. Panka and R. Čekutis, fresh from neo-Nazi march in Vilnius, were on hand as honored guests; British neo-Nazis came for the event. For the second year in a row, the prime minister forbade ministers from attending. The antisemite who went around seeking Jewish observers to “enlighten” them (video).
Top left: Sea of flowers placed at Liberty Monument to honor Waffen SS. Top right: throng marches through historic old town. Bottom from left: heavy police presence; an antisemitic poster distributed by one of the event’s supporters.
Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Dr. Efraim Zuroff leads a silent, peaceful protest of Just 2 (SWC and Defending History)
Top: Dr. Efraim Zuroff is besieged by a throng of media. Bottom: He and Dovid Katz made for an on-site protest of just 2; Famous Latvian Jewish tour guide and genealogist Alex Feigmanis makes an appearance too.
Separate protest by “Latvia Without Nazism” was allowed after event’s conclusion, with members carrying symbolic fumigation gear to Liberty Monument after Waffen SS admirers’ departure.Monica Lowenberg’s international petition reaches 6700 mark.
Once the main event was over and the “Waffen SSers” had left, a small contingent from “Latvia Without Nazism” (affiliated with the controversial “World Without Nazism”) was allowed to protest. Led by the ever colorful Joe Koren (top), the group dressed as fumigation & disinfection specialists, with full gear and uniforms, to symbolically clear away the pro-Nazi residue of the marchers.
“Lithuania for Everyone. But where, then, is the country of the Lithuanians?” The signs read “I am Lithuania” with symbols interpolated, based on the actual sign (center) carried by head of the Union of Jewish Students at last Wednesday’s neo-Nazi march in central Vilnius.
The poster’s theme, mocking the inclusivist “Lithuania for Everybody [visiems]” (the common reply to the neo-Nazis’ “Lithuania for Lithuanians” [Lietuviams]) is taken from the courageous anti-Nazi demonstration by the head of the Union of Jewish Students in Lithuania at the city-center neo-Nazi event allowed by authorities on the nation’s independence day. See next story.
11 March 2015
1,500 Neo-Nazis and Far-Right Extremists Again Given Vilnius’s Main Boulevard on Nation’s March 11th Independence Day; They Parade from Cathedral Square to Nation’s Parliament with Fascist Symbols and Chants of “Lietuva Lietuviams” (Lithuania for [Pure] Lithuanians)
Section of the march gets underway at Vilnius’s Cathedral Square on the March 11th independence day event organized by neo-Nazi and far-right elements with state acquiescence.
Flag with Swastika Hoisted Outside Nation’s Parliament for Over an Hour
Photo: Geoff Vasil
For First Time, Leaders of Jewish Community, Including Chairperson Faina Kukliansky, and Jewish Student Union Come Out to Monitor and Protest the Vilnius March; Community Issues Statement; But No Sign of “Human Rights Monitoring Institute” or Bagels.
Amit Belaitė, president of Jewish Students’ Union boldly approaches far-right figure Ričardas Čekutis with sign that reads (in Lithuanian): “I am [star-of-david] Lithuania”. For years, Mr. Čekutis was a high official of the Genocide Center. Photo: DefendingHistory.com.
Continuing to flank the fascist spokesman (right), Ms. Belaitė is supported by Simas Levinas (left), head of the Jewish Religious Community of Lithuania. Photo: DefendingHistory.com.
Left to right: Julius Norwilla, Markus Pollak, Dovid Katz, Simas Levinas, Pinchos Fridberg, Efraim Zuroff, Milan Chersonski. For a dozen years (1999-2011), Mr. Chersonski edited the Jewish community’s quadrilingual newspaper, Jerusalem of Lithuania. Photo: DefendingHistory.com.
Once again, thousands of fascists march past the “Jewish Public Library” and once again, not one member of staff came out to politely protest the glorification of fascism in a city whose 60,000 Jews were massacred. Photo: DefendingHistory.com.
Right-wing party politician Emanuelis Zingeris unexpectedly bumps into the SWC / Defending History crowd near the march. He was warm and chatty, but when invited to be photographed together with our team, says “Bye” and heads down Gedimino Boulevard via express. Photos: DefendingHistory.com. However, thanks to Julius Norwilla’s camera, the image of a cetain threesome was captured. SEE ALSO: Geoff Vasil’s take on the encounter.
Scenes from the day….
Photomontage by DefendingHistory.com
From the monitors…
Photomontage by DefendingHistory.com
16 February 2015
Wiesenthal Center – Defending History Team of 12 Monitors & Protests Kaunas Independence Day Neo-Nazi March
Dozen protesters (vs. a march of up to 500) included five members of Lithuanian Jewish community (in private capacity), but no sign of any Bagels or other funded antisemitism (or human rights) monitors.
New Book Poses Question for US and EU Foreign Policy. Should the West not demand, as matter of ethics, values and history, the abandonment of allies’ state glorification of major Holocaust collaborators?
22 November 2014
A Historic Low for US (and Canadian) Foreign Policy?
The Real Question: Should the US, UK, Canada, the EU and the rest of the free world not sponsor their own resolution combating the glorification of Nazism which is a real problem in the eastern EU and Ukraine?
Seventy Years Declaration (SYD) Relaunched for 2015
PROF. DANNY BEN-MOSHE LAUNCHES DECLARATION’S NEW WEBSITE ◊ RELAUNCH FOR JANUARY 2015 HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY ON 70th ANNIVERSARY OF LIBERATION OF AUSCHWITZ ◊ NEED UNDERLINED BY THE BALTIC-NATIONALIST INSPIRED RESOLUTION SLIPPED INTO THE US CONGRESS LAST JUNE
HOPES RISE FOR LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT PUBLIC APOLOGY TO DR. YITZHAK ARAD, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, HERO OF THE ANTI-NAZI RESISTANCE AND ISRAEL’S WAR OF INDEPENDENCE, MAJOR HOLOCAUST SCHOLAR AND FORMER DIRECTOR OF YAD VASHEM
The Defending History Community Celebrates the 77th Birthday of
Vilnius author (in Russian), editor (in English, Lithuanian, Russian, Yiddish), historian (European), theatre director (Yiddish) and tireless, fearless (global) intellectual champion in the struggle against the far right’s Holocaust revisionism, racism and antisemitism
A pillar of strength in the Jewish Community of Lithuania and far beyond
In his final months, London Holocaust survivor Ernst Lowenberg, a native of Halle am Saale in Germany, wrote to UK prime minister David Cameron asking the government to take a stand on East European Holocaust revisionism.
Ukrainian Government’s Use of Neo-Nazi Paramilitaries is Reported by London’s Daily Telegraph
“But Kiev’s use of volunteer paramilitaries […] should send a shiver down Europe’s spine. Recently formed battalions such as Donbas, Dnipro and Azov, with several thousand men under their command, are officially under the control of the interior ministry but their financing is murky, their training inadequate and their ideology often alarming. The Azov men use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbol on their banner and members of the battalion are openly white supremacists, or antisemites.”— Tom Parfitt in the Daily Telegraph.
Azov Unit fighting for Ukraine’s government. Photo: Tom Parfitt (Telegraph)
BUT USE OF PRO-HITLER ELEMENTS BY WASHINGTON’S ALLY GETS ONE SENTENCE AT END OF NEW YORK TIMES REPORT
Bunk’s massive wooden sculpture at the forest hill spot (Plungyán/Plungė, western Lithuania), where 74 teenage Jewish girls (from the local high school) were murdered by locals who knew them. Photo: DefendingHistory.com.
Are we back to Springtime for Hitler, just focused on celebrating a local mass murderer of Latvian Jewry? Will the hosting venues, including the City Cultural Centers in Jelgava and Valmiera, and prestigious halls in Riga, Liepāja, Rēzekne and Ventspils also be holding memorials for their citizens murdered in the Latvian Holocaust in which HerbertsCukurs, known as the “Hangman of Riga,” took such a personal and violent part?
QUESTION: Does the new musicalSugar Herbert Sugar perhaps violate the new law which bans (with punishment up to five years jailtime) “glorification, denial, justification or gross derogation of genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes against peace or war crimes against Latvia perpetrated by the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany.” Or is the law null and void when it comes to the Holocaust in Latvia?