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.”
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?
EvaldasBalčiūnas (left) joined Dr. EfraimZuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Israel office, last February in Kaunas, Lithuania, for a small, silent, peaceful protest against the state-approved neo-Nazi march in the city’s center on the nation’s independence day.
Did Someone Sneak Some Holocaust Revisionism into the US Congress?
Under the Radar: Did East European nationalists — trying to insinuate the “Two Holocausts Theory” into the West — slip a resolution right onto Capitol Hill?
Ernst Lowenberg, 91, pictured at the May 2014 UK consultation with Holocaust survivors, has written to David Cameron calling for rejection of the “Double Genocide” revisionism emanating from Eastern Europe. In 2012, he handed a petition to the Lithuanian embassy in London.
Putin’s indefensible actions are robustly exposed. But there is reluctance to look critically at “pro-Western” forces that glorify (as “national heroes”) Nazi collaborators and Holocaust mass murderers…
What’s Western about that?
HISTORY FOR SALE? AS EVENTS UNFOLD, ARE WESTERN GOVERNMENTS TACITLY HELPING TO “FIX” THE HOLOCAUST BARBARITY OF BANDERA, THE UPA AND THE OUN? THESE GROUPS MURDERED TENS OF THOUSANDS OF CIVILIANS (UKRAINIAN CITIZENS) ON AN ETHNIC BASIS IN THE CAUSE OF HITLERIST RACIAL ELIMINATION.
WESTERN VALUES?IS IT MORAL FOR THE US, NATO AND THE EU TO COVER FOR THE ELEVATION OF HOLOCAUST PERPETRATORS TO NATIONAL HERO STATUS? CAN STATE-SANCTIONED NAZI-WORSHIP REALLY BE IRRELEVANT TO TODAY’S RACISM, ANTISEMITISM & HOMOPHOBIA?
HISTORIANS FOR HIRE?ARE BIG (AND SMALL) GUN HISTORIANS ALREADY BEING MOBILIZED TO OBFUSCATE THE ISSUES AND SANITIZE THE MASS MURDERERS OF UKRAINIAN JEWRY? TO PROMOTE MORE “DOUBLE GENOCIDE” REVISIONISM? ALLIES’ DEFEAT OF HITLER AT HUGE SACRIFICE IS INCREASINGLY MARGINALIZED BY THE REVISIONISTS.
Four of them, in their late 80s or 90s, are heroic veterans of the anti-Nazi war effort who escaped the Vilna, Kovno or Svintsyán Ghetto to join up with the partisans in the forests of Lithuania. All their families perished in the Lithuanian Holocaust.
Defending History, in harmony with the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, monitored the three 2014 Nazi-ally glorifying marches in the Baltics. Authorities invested shrewdly this year in downplaying all three, but failed to simply move them away from prestigious city centers (which would have offended the far right and ultranationalist base). Visible fascist symbols were reduced from previous years, local opposition sometimes neutralized, and media interest discouraged.
But the noxious worship, in 2014’s EU, of Hitler’s allies in Holocaust-era Europe (now being cast as implicitly “acceptable”) remains a shameful constant, one that calls out for urgent scrutiny in the West. Yet again, Defending History is defense of today’s — and tomorrow’s — human rights and EU/NATO values. The adulaters of wartime Hitlerism are its moral heirs: today’s propagaters of racism, ultranationalism, antisemitism, homophobia and Aryanist theories of national purity.
Honoring a Hero of the Anti-Nazi Resistance in Rechovot
Dr. Rachel Margolis, 92, Honored on Holocaust Remembrance Day
Rachel Margolis, 92, is honored at her home in Rechovot on 27 January by Brig. Gen. Zvi Kan-Tor (center), head of the task force establishing Museum of the Jewish Soldier of World War II and Abraham Grinzaid, head of Israel’s association of Soviet army veterans who fought against the Nazis.
VILNIUS—Security guards paid by the Jewish Community of Lithuania and financed by the “Good Will Foundation” via its allocations from the Restitution monies deriving from the religious Jewish properties of the annihilated pre-Holocaust Lithuanian Jewry, this morning physically prevented Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky from entering the prayer house, on Pylimo Street 39 for the shákhris (Israeli: shakharít) morning service. Defending History has confirmed via reliable sources that at least three foreign members of the Good Will Foundation’s Board, Herbert Block (New York), Nachliel Dison (Jerusalem), and Michael Hasenrath (London) do not agree that the campaign of destruction against Rabbi Krinsky and his many local students is appropriate use of the restitution funds. None of the three, however, has yet issued a public statement. Mr. Block, moreover, is deeply involved in the related scandal of the planned siting of a new national convention center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery. “The Good Will” Foundation, which usually sticks by charter to its stated business and purposes, has now published news of Mr. Block’s reappointment, in the last days of the Obama Administration, to the scandal-ridden Washington agency, USCPAHA, which has yet to issue a public word concerning the old Vilna cemetery’s planned desecration. The agency exists to preserve foreign cemeteries.
VILNIUS—Since the Vilnius Choral Synagogue, the only one to survive the war as an in-use synagogue (there were around 160 in town before the Holocaust), was reopened for “one and all” several weeks ago by the controlling “Religious Jewish Community,” on Monday 13 February, services have been blissful and harmonious. On Friday night and Saturday morning services, more Litvak handshakes accompanied by Gut-Shábes and A gútn Shábes were echoed up on high than in many a moon. And, as a kind of special blessing for a demographically challenged post-Holocaust post-Soviet community, attendance has been growing, reaching the largest number in years last weekend (not counting visits by organized tourist groups). Cantor Shmuel Yusem had everyone transfixed with his magnificent cantorial talents. Both rabbis in town this past weekend, Rabbi Sholem Ber Krinsky, the Chabad rabbi who has lived here 22 years, and the community’s official junior rabbi, Samson Daniel Izakson, who arrived just over one year ago, gave excellent brief sermons at their usual junctures in the service (each has their traditional slot in the service for the Dvar-Tóyre, or Dvar Torah).
The reference in the tweet is to the outstanding 24 June 2016 essay by the eminent Professor Bernard Fryshman in Yated Ne’eman. Professor Fryshman’s critical role in a landmark 2014 United States Congress law protecting vulnerable cemeteries of minorities internationally was explicitly recognized in the applicable Congressional Resolution. Why would a taxpayer supported agency, USPACHA, now be engaged in repeatedly honoring the Satmar-Aaronite sect’s de facto unit for trading away other people’s graves that publicly libels Professor Fryshman and any others who seek to defend the sanctity of human burial grounds around the world?
From 1800 until the 1860s, the Jews of Liepāja (Libau, Libava) were mainly under the cultural influence of German Jewry. The community’s educational system included both traditional religious bodies as well as institutions dedicated to the ideas of the Haskalah, or Jewish enlightenment movement that strived for modernization. Aharon Ber Nurok served as the rabbi in the city starting in 1907. Indeed, he and his brother, Mordechai headed the rabbinate for all of Latvia at one time. After pogroms grew rampant in Ukrainian Russia in the 1880s, Liepāja absorbed many Jewish refugees. The community established special relief institutions to deal with the newcomers. When a modern-style school opened in Liepāja in 1885, the Hebrew grammarian Mordechai Manischewitz taught Hebrew language and literature. That same year, a local Ḥoveve Tsiyon (Love of Zion) association was founded, and a Bund (Jewish socialist) group became active at the turn of the century.As Bella Scheftel Kass recalls, “Our town of Liepaja was something of an oddity. Situated within an Eastern European enclave, it boasted a slice of German culture (a hangover from the days of old Courland). A significant number of Jewish homes were under the influence of that culture. Many families were German speaking, sent their children to German-language private schools and read the local German-language press. In these circles assimilation was deeply rooted.”