Christian-Jewish Issues

Swastika Sanitization



In May 2010 a Lithuanian court legalized public displays of swastikas, with nearly no reaction from foreign embassies or human rights groups. Reports here and here. Jewish community’s reaction here. See also the page on Antisemitism. On the term swasticals, see our report for 8 May 2010.

REPRESENTATIVE SELECTION

11 March 2008

Gedimino Boulevard, Vilnius. This is the ‘Lithuanian swastika’ with the added lines meant to evoke the ‘Columns of Gediminas‘.  Details and video of the parade here.


16 February 2010

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Sparse Turnout at Ninth Fort Holocaust Commemoration; Christian Leader Stirs the Assembled


According to historians, the largest slaughter of people in a single day in the history of the Baltic states occurred on the 29th of October 1941, when between nine and ten thousand Jews were gruesomely killed at the ‘Ninth Fort’ near Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania, under Nazi German command. Highly motivated local forces carried out most of the killing and the associated humiliation and degradation of the victims. To mark the occasion there is a commemoration ceremony at the site held each year at midday on the last Sunday in October. This year it was held today, under a bright sun that warmed the clear chill of late fall in Lithuania.

Organized by the Jewish Community of Kaunas, and addressed by its leader, Gercas (Hershl) Žakas, this year’s event drew just over a hundred people, filling less than half the paved plaza near the memorial dais. Survivors present expressed concern for the future status  of Ninth Fort remembrance here, and Holocaust commemoration more generally. The concern echoes various factors, including the gradual disappearance of survivors and witnesses, the shrinking of the vestigial Jewish community, and the shifting political trends.

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Pastor Michael Maass, Director of the Lithuanian Section of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), Speaks in Plungė



O P I N I O N

by Michael Maass

The text of Pastor Michael Maass’s talk at the Sabbath dinner in Plungyán (Plungė), Lithuania, on 15 July 2011, during preparations for the commemoration ceremony at the nearby mass murder site on 17 July 2011. See also Abel Levitt’s speech here, and the imaginary speech of a Lithuanian official here (with further links at end of page).

Text provided by Pastor Michael Maass.

Good evening. We are Michael and Fausta Maass, the directors of the Lithuanian branch of the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem. You might say we are ambassadors from the Christian nation to the Jewish nation. We represent millions of Christians in over sixty countries who love Israel and the Jewish people. We are honored to be with you tonight.

We believe that friendship between Jews and Christians is vitally important, especially in light of recent developments in the world. The legitimacy of the nation of Israel is under attack from many sides. Antisemitism is rising to a level not seen since the Second World War.

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Some Worrying Slippage at ‘Bernardinai.lt’?



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

Andrius Navickas, a religious studies expert and editor-in-chief of the Bernardinai.lt website, published a rather strange editorial at the end of 2011 taken from a speech he gave over Lithuanian Radio.

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Archbishop Adds his Blessing to the Nazi Collaborator being Reburied with Full Honors


Many usually admiring readers of Bernardinai.lt were shocked today by an article  by Archbishop S. Tamkevičius which contains the following paragraph (here in translation), and which was not followed by any editor’s comment.

“This month Juozas Brazaitis-Ambrazevičius, the former prime minister of the Provisional Government of Lithuania who worked for the anti-Nazi underground during the German occupation and after the war actively made the case for Lithuanian independence in the world, returns from America to Lithuania. His contributions to Lithuania are enourmous. But he didn’t just love Lithuania, he also loved God. Having chosen for himself in his youth friends who were sincerely faithful young people, and taking active part in the activities of the Futurists, he matured into a profoundly faithful man and for his entire life was consistently faithful to the principles of Christianity and nationalism. Professor Juozas Brazaitis is a living example of how much faith gives to a person who adheres to it consistently.”

The “return to Lithuania” refers to the flying over and reburying with full honors, at the culmination of four days of commemorative festivities, of the “prime minister” of the 1941 Nazi puppet “Provisional Government” in Kaunas which oversaw the onset of the Lithuanian Holocaust at the hands of its associated LAF (Lithuanian Activist Front), and then during the first weeks of Nazi genocide between late June and early August 1941. There was no public statement of regret from Juozas Ambrazevičius (Brazaitis) during his subsequent decades in the United States, where he died in 1974.

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International Christian Embassy Directors in Lithuania Speak Out on the Glorification of Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis


Michael and Fausta Maass, directors of the Lithuania section of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) issued the following statement today.


Michael and Fausta Maass, directors of the Lithuania section of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ)

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Lithuanian section, calls upon the Lithuanian government and parliament, the Kaunas mayor’s office, the Church of the Resurrection in Kaunas, and other possibly participating entities involved in the ceremonies honoring Juozas Ambrazavičius-Brazaitis, to cancel any and all such ceremonies.

Ambrazevičius, the “provisional government” of 1941 which he led, and the closely associated Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) were complicit in the murders of many thousands of Lithuanian Jews before and during the German occupation of Lithuania.

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Crying Over Dead Jews



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

 

Lithuania’s Jewish community isn’t immune from the broader issues facing Jewish existence in Eastern Europe and there are the same problems of Jewish identity that crop up in Russia, Bulgaria, Poland and elsewhere. And just as there are Christian Evangelicals and others who support the policies of the right-wing in the State of Israel elsewhere in Europe, there are those same voices among Lithuanian politicians and public figures.

What is perhaps different in Lithuania than elsewhere in Eastern Europe is that this Gentile support for Zionist ideals doesn’t translate into support for the surviving local Jewish community or contribute to a profounder and more sympathetic understanding of the Holocaust.

UPDATE OF 5 AUGUST 2012: This essay was republished with permission in the Algemeiner Journal; in 15min.lt (where it seems to have been taken down, but is still listed in Search); in Jewish Ideas Daily (where it was chosen as one of the editor’s picks for 1 August 2012).

Visitors to Vilnius will see any number of plaques dedicated to famous Jewish residents of Vilnius and several dedicated to the Holocaust. Those who look a little deeper under the surface might find there are a number of agencies, organizations and institutions operating in Vilnius which seemingly are aimed at promoting Jewish history, language and culture. In fact, both the plaques and monuments, and the majority of these “Jewish” organizations, serve as little more than window-dressing and display show-cases the Lithuanian government rolls out as exhibits evidencing Lithuanian sincerity in addressing the incomparable atrocity of the Holocaust.

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Yitzhak Arad’s Paper



The Holocaust in Lithuania, and Its Obfuscation, in Lithuanian Sources

by Yitzhak Arad

 

C O N T E N T S:

Introduction

Lithuanian Nationalism and Antisemitism Prior to the Holocaust

The First Soviet Occupation of Lithuania, 15 June 1940 – 22 June 1941 

 The Lithuanian Activist Front: Antisemitic Incitement

The German Invasion and the Organization of an “Independent” Lithuanian Government

The Period of Pogroms: Late June to Mid July 1941

The Lithuanian Press at the Time of the Pogroms: A Source of Incitement

The Lithuanian Provisional Government: Anti-Jewish Legislation

Systematic Mass Murder: German Design and Command, Lithuanian Perpetration (late July–November 1941)

Lithuanian Police Battalions and Their Role in the Murder of the Jews

The Lithuanian Catholic Church and the Holocaust

The Rewriting of Holocaust History and the Double Genocide Thesis — “The Jewish Holocaust and the Lithuanian Holocaust”

Anti-Soviet Guerilla Warfare in Lithuania

The Prague Declaration of June 2008 and the European Parliament Resolution of April 2009

Conclusion

Notes

 

Introduction

In Lithuania, as in other places in Europe conquered by Nazi Germany, a thorough and comprehensive inquiry into the tragic events that occurred compels consideration of three factors:

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Shock of 2012: 1941 Nazi Puppet Prime Minister Reburied with Full Honors



Compiled by Dovid Katz

EU/NATO Ally Honors Holocaust Collaborator; Lithuanian Jewish Community Issues Protest; 3 US Congressmen Write to Prime Minister

Remains of 1941 fascist leader  Juozas Ambrazevičius (Brazaitis) met by honor guard at Vilnius Airport on 17 May 2012 and reburied in Kaunas’s Church of the Resurrection on the 20th, as city’s mayor dismisses criticism.

Office of the prime minister, who signed off on government funding (€8,700 / US $11,000)defends reburial & honors of the 1941 Nazi puppet “prime minister” who personally signed the protocols confirming Nazi orders for (1) “all means” against Jews (but avoiding executions in public); (2)  setting up a concentration camp for Lithuanian Jews [euphemism for the carnage underway at the Seventh Fort]; (3) all Kaunas Jews to be herded into a ghetto within 4 weeks (English here).

SEE ALSO:

Collaborators Glorified section

Previous sanitization program

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Where You Have to Step on Old Jewish Gravestones to go to Church



C E M E T E R I E S    /    C H R I S T I A N – J E W I S H   R E L A T I O N S

by Dovid Katz

The following are translated (and edited) excerpts from a longer letter in Yiddish received from a survivor who has asked to remain anonymous, about the Jewish gravestones that form the steps going up to the Reformed Evangelical Church at Pylimo 18 in Vilnius.

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Old Blood Libel Plaque Still Displayed, Without Comment, at Bernardinai Church in Vilnius



O P I N I O N

by Dovid Katz

 

WHERE THE BLOOD LIBEL STILL STANDS: Seventeenth century plaque commemorating a seven year old allegedly killed by 170 Jewish-inflicted wounds, on display at Bernardinai Church, Maironio Street 10 in Vilnius

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Raising Cain on the Resurrection of Abel



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

 

And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. Genesis 3:13

And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. Genesis 4:10

Driving east out of Rokiškis, fields give way to forest, and the lake country leads on to strange and wild hills in an abandoned quarter of the country bordering Latvia. The lake country is beautiful, almost alpine in its effect, and spotted with small settlements and villages of varying sizes, some even boasting gas stations and schools.

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Aleksandras Bosas (1951-2014)



O B I T U A R Y

by Evaldas Balčiūnas

nuotr2

Aleksandras Bosas (1951 — 2014). Photo: Sandrauga.

Aleksandras Bosas, a respected Lithuanian poet, died unexpectedly on July 24, 2014. The wider Defending History  community extends deepest condolences to the family and friends of our suddenly departed colleague, who is survived by his wife, Natalija, three sons and a daughter.

We have lost a courageously active literary voice against fascism and against the contemporary attempts at high levels to glorify fascism via posthumous honors for collaborators and local perpetrators of the Lithuanian Holocaust.

At the beginning of 2014 his book of poems dedicated to commemorating the Holocaust in Lithuania appeared. It is called Iš ten sugrįžtantiems (“For Those Who Returned from There”).

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Advertisement for Church Service Flaunts Congregation Stepping on Old Jewish Gravestones



CEMETERIES  /  REFORMED EVANGELICAL CHURCH  /  CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS

VILNIUS—The website of the Reformed Evangelical Church services this weekend advertised today’s Sunday service with a previously-made photo of pastors and worshippers posing for a photograph with their shoes pressing into the pilfered Jewish gravestones, some of which still have visible writing, of which the steps to the church are made. The church has still issued no public statement on its retention of the Soviet-era made-of-pilfered-Jewish-gravestones steps even after its much-celebrated reconstruction and restoration less than a decade ago.

  ◊

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Tomas Venclova’s Lecture at Vilnius Conference on 17 April 2015



O P I N I O N

by Tomas Venclova

The following text is the authorized English translation of Professor Venclova’s address at a conference on Holocaust issues, organized by Rūta Vanagaitė, held at Vilnius City Hall on 17 April 2015. The original Lithuanian text. Video of Tomas Venclova speaking. Conference program. Conference’s final press release.

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Would this Building Project be Pursued if the Cemetery Were the Resting Place of Christians?



O P I N I O N    /   C H R I S T I A N – J E W I S H   R E L A T I O N S   /   C E M E T E R I E S

by Pastor Michael Maass

I would like to make an observation concerning the use of Jewish cemeteries for building projects, as this has come to be a major issue of controversy in Lithuania, and in other nations as well.

I would like to pose a question:  Would these building projects be pursued if the cemeteries in question were the resting places of Catholics, Protestant Christians, or other non-Jewish people?

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In Defense of Transparency at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra



O P I N I O N   /    M U S I C

by Ronald C. Kent

In January 2012 I became aware of a then-upcoming performance of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Since I knew that Carl Orff was a Nazi-approved composer, who created this work in 1936, I wrote a letter to Maestro Andreas Delfs and Music Director Edo de Waart, requesting that they place the biography of Orff during the Nazi period in the program, in the interest of enlightenment, transparency, and full disclosure, thereby situating “Carmina Burana” in its historical context for listeners.

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Asra Kadisha Faults Lithuanian Authorities for Forming “Heritage Commission” to Preserve Cemeteries While “Doing the Opposite on the Ground”



NEW YORK—Rabbi Lazar Stern, New York area chairman of the international religious Asra Kadisha organization that calls for preservation of threatened Jewish cemeteries, issued a statement today concerning the latest prima facie instance of desecration of the final resting place of dead Jewish citizens of Lithuania. This time the fracas concerns a Holocaust-era mass grave site in Šiauliai (Shavl), in northwestern Lithuania. Published in a number of media outlets, including Baltic News Service (BNS), News.lt, Gnome.es, the Asra Kadisha statement calls for an immediate halt to the ongoing excavations. These works rapidly resulted in lurid pictures of human remains and personal possessions (including shoes) with which these people were murdered, being splashed over a number of Lithuanian online publications, including 15min.ltEtaplius.lt; Skrastas.ltSnaujienos.lt. Asra Kadisha is Aramaic for “Holy Place” and refers here to the sanctity of human burial grounds.

UPDATE OF 16 JULY:

Protests lead to Rapid U-Turn by Authorities

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“Absolute Barbarism”: An Orthodox Jewish Resident of Vilnius Speaks Out on Piramónt (Šnipiškės) Cemetery



O P I N I O N     /     T H E   C E M E T E R Y   A T   P I R A M Ó N T

by Ruta (Reyzke) Bloshtein

Ruta Bloshtein

Ruta (Reyzke) Bloshtein

This week we Jews observed the saddest day in our people’s tradition — Tisha B’Av (Yiddish: Tíshebov), the annual fast day which commemorates the anniversary of a number of disasters in Jewish history, primarily the destruction of both the first and second temples in Jerusalem. On this day of mourning and lamentation we fast. While sitting on the floor and reading the Book of Lamentations and the Kinoys (sacred poems of mourning), I thought about the Tíshebov tradition of visiting graves of our great sages and of departed family members.

In Vílne (Vilnius), this tradition was observed for ages by visiting the Piramónt cemetery, where throughout a period of more than five hundred years hundreds of thousands have been buried there — the Jews of Vílne, our ancestors among them — and so many illustrious rabbis and sages, who passed on the infinite treasures of their wisdom to us, to help us find the most honest and ethical way of life. It is, in our belief, on account of their merits that the rebuilding of the third temple will come sooner.

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Lithuania’s Chief Rabbi Issues Statement Opposing Convention Center Project at Old Jewish Cemetery



O P I N I O N    /    D O C U M E N T S    /   C E M E T E R I E S    /   P I R A M Ó N T

VILNIUSThe office of Rabbi Chaim Burshtein, chief rabbi of Lithuania since 2004, today released to the media the following statement, adding to statements of opposition to the proposed convention center at Piramónt. It follows a contrary statement from the head of the Jewish Community of Lithuania published on its website.

From the Office of the Chief Rabbi of Lithuania

Vilnius, 26 Av 5775 / 11 August 2015


My dear fellow Jews in Lithuania,

A primary task of every Jewish community is to care about old and new Jewish cemeteries. The Vilnius cemetery in Šnipiškės (Shnipishok), long known as Piramont, was purchased by the Jewish community for the full price in 1487, and many thousands of the city’s Jewish citizens paid for their and their loved ones’ plots of burial ground. Among those buried there were many of the greatest of our nation: rabbis, dayanim, teachers, authors of books of rabbinical thought and Jewish learning. In virtue of their achievements, Vilna became the capital of the Jewish world for many generations.

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