Commemorations for Destroyed Communities

New “Litvak” Postage Stamp is Disturbing for Lithuanian Jews, Holocaust Survivors, and Yiddish Lovers



OPINION  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  IDENTITY THEFT OF LITVAK HERITAGE  |  YIDDISH AFFAIRS  |  SYMBOLOGY

by Dovid Katz

One does not have to be a theoretical champion of Free Enterprise vs. Government Intervention to take stock of this week’s incredible contrast between the two major products of this last week in September, the annual week of intensive Jewish commemoration activity in Lithuania, and particularly, in its fabled capital, Vilnius. By “products” we mean things of substantive physicality that will outlive by far the week’s posturing, speeches, and meetings with glittering public officials and national leaders.

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Posted in Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Identity Theft of the Litvak Heritage, Israel, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Symbology, Yiddish Affairs | Tagged , | Comments Off on New “Litvak” Postage Stamp is Disturbing for Lithuanian Jews, Holocaust Survivors, and Yiddish Lovers

Premier Vilnius Showing of “Last Sunday in August” is Free and Open to Public



FILM AND THEATER  |  EVENTS  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  COMMEMORATIONS  |  MALÁT

Lat Sunday

All welcome at next Sunday’s Vilnius showing of the new film The Last Sunday in August about Malát (Molėtai). 24 September 2017 at 6 PM at the Ozas Multi Cinema, Ozo 18, Vilnius 08009. Admission free but pre-registration required (phone or SMS: +3706 718-6202 or +3706 153-9950). For background see DH’s Malát sectionTrailer for the film.

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Honest Error at German Embassy in Vilnius?



OPINION  |  USE AND ABUSE OF PONÁR  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS

VILNIUS—“There is nothing new under the sun,” as the Good Book says (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Sure, on occasion, Irish communities will feud in Boston, Italians in New York, Chinese in LA and Lithuanians in Chicago. It is part of the professional training, posture, and policy of diplomats to negotiate such inevitabilities by way of common sense, wisdom, and fairness. For years now, the widely admired German ambassador to Lithuania, HE Jutta Schmitz has kept her embassy’s diplomatic table open to people and organizations, governmental and non-governmental, from across the colorfully diverse spectrum of opinion in Lithuania. It is not known whether the recent completion of her Vilnius ambassadorship and departure from Lithuania,  and the temporary vacancy,  had anything to do with the embassy’s recent, and quite innocent, faux-pas.

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Posted in Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Ponár (Ponary, Paneriai), Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016) | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Honest Error at German Embassy in Vilnius?

Brand New Yiddish Signs Come to Malát (Molėtai), Town in Northeast Lithuania



MALÁT  |  SHTETL COMMEMORATIONS  |  YIDDISH AFFAIRS

MALÁT (MOLĖTAI)—At the initiative of Viktorija Kazlienė, founder and director of the Museum of the Molėtai Region (Molėtų krašto muziejus) in northeastern Lithuania, a series of Jewish historical signs were unveiled this week. The project came to fruition thanks to the material support of the Department of Cultural Heritage, that is under the aegis of Lithuania’s Ministry of Culture.

In the event, these signs mark the one-year anniversary of the internationally acclaimed march of memory held in August 2016 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the massacre of the town’s Jews in 1941 by local collaborators, under the aegis of the Nazis, and during the period of rapid annihilation of Lithuania’s provincial Jewry. In addition to playing a pivotal role in enabling the 2016 march and commemorative events, Ms. Kazlienė organized an extensive exhibition on the centuries-old Jewish life in the erstwhile shtetl, known in Yiddish as Malát. With Leonas Kaplanas, she coauthored a book based on the exhibition. It was featured in this year’s Vilnius Book Fair.

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Posted in Bold Citizens Speak Out, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Malát (Molėtai), News & Views, Politics of Memory, Symbology, Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016) | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Brand New Yiddish Signs Come to Malát (Molėtai), Town in Northeast Lithuania

Translation of Lithuanian Radio Debate on the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery



OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  PAPER  TRAIL   |  CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS  |  CEMETERIES

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.

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Media Watch, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016) | Comments Off on Translation of Lithuanian Radio Debate on the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery

Would a Lithuanian Church Proceed in 2017 to Honor an Alleged Local Holocaust Perpetrator?



COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED  |   CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS  |  COMMEMORATING DESTROYED COMMUNITIES

by Dovid Katz

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.

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Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Christian-Jewish Issues, Collaborators Glorified, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Malát (Molėtai), News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Would a Lithuanian Church Proceed in 2017 to Honor an Alleged Local Holocaust Perpetrator?

A Major New Shtetl Museum for Shádev (Shádov, Shádeve, Today’s — Šeduva)



OPINION  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  MUSEUMS

by Dovid Katz (Vilnius)

VILNIUS—The Litvak world, internationally fragmented and weak, yet so vibrant and creative, has been cheered by news reports of the new shtetl museum to rise in the near future in Shádev, a Lithuanian town of many centuries of Jewish heritage where a great rabbinic personality, Reb Móyshe Ha-Góyle (“Moses the Exile”, Méyshe Ha-Géyle in deep Litvish pronunciation, Moshé Ha-Golé in Israeli Hebrew) thrived in the fifteenth century.

A good shtetl museum here will be a blessing to the Litvak, European Jewish, Yiddish and shtetl heritage internationally. It will be a blessing to modern, democratic Lithuania. To this day, the basket of idols of the contemporary Jewish market downplays the magnitude of Yiddish language, literature, and culture, shtetl culture and heritage, and the magnificent East European Jewish legacy more generally. News media have gone with reports by AFP and by JTA, and there is more on the project’s website.

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Posted in Arts, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Dovid Katz, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Museums, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Shádov (Šeduva), Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Major New Shtetl Museum for Shádev (Shádov, Shádeve, Today’s — Šeduva)

Lithuanian Jewish Community Marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day



   COMMEMORATIONS  |  EVENTS  | CEMETERIES AND MASS GRAVES 

by Julius Norwilla

This year’s annual events organized by the Lithuanian Jewish Community to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day were held on the evening of Thursday, 26 January, on the eve of the officially designated day that falls on the 27th of each year. This year, the official Jewish Community organized two impressive public events to mark the occasion, which is important for every Jewish person in the country, where about 96% of the Jewish population was annihilated during the Holocaust.

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Antisemitism in the 21st Century Shtetl



 

OPINION  |  ANTISEMITISM  |  COMMEMORATIONS FOR DESTROYED COMMUNITIES

by Dovid Katz

This article appeared today in ISGAP Flashpoint:

The words “antisemitism in the shtetl” might evoke recollections of Fiddler on the Roof, a touch of family lore “from the old country” way back when, or for those familiar with modern Yiddish literature, a scene from this or that writer. Baffling as it may sound, however, it a substantial contemporary topic in the study of antisemitism, and, perhaps even more surprisingly, part of a phenomenon with implications for the future, given the vast number of cities, towns and villages in the world with a rich Jewish history but no living Jews, where potent anti-Jewish feeling (as well as pro-Jewish feeling) can be observed. As noted back in Flashpoint 21, antisemitism in Eastern Europe is very different from its much better known Western and Middle East incarnations.

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Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Collaborators Glorified, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Double Genocide, Dovid Katz, Exotic Jewish Tourism, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Malát (Molėtai), News & Views, Norway, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Yiddish Affairs | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Antisemitism in the 21st Century Shtetl

September 23rd Events in the Vilnius Region



DEFENDING HISTORY WAS THERE

Annual Sept. 23 Official Commemoration Ceremony at the Ponár (Paneriai) Mass Murder Site Outside Vilnius, Lithuania

Historic Breakthrough as Lithuanian Jewish Community’s Faina Kukliansky Finally Calls for Removal of Street Names and Memorials for Holocaust Collaborators, Boldly Citing Juozas KrikštaponisJonas Noreika, and Kazys Škirpa; Sharp Contrast with Last Year’s Failed Event

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Events, Israel, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Museums, News & Views, Politics of Memory, Ponár (Ponary, Paneriai), Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on September 23rd Events in the Vilnius Region

Run-Up to Lithuania’s Sept. 23rd 2016 Holocaust Commemoration Day



Events in the Week of Lithuania’s Official September 23rd Holocaust Commemoration Day

Vilnius mayor  — and nation’s president and prime minister — face a stark choice on whether to speak out with moral clarity on painful issues of city-center street names and plaques honoring Holocaust collaborators, and the desecration of the country’s oldest Jewish cemetery by a new congress center, prior to this year’s series of official gala Vilna Ghetto commemoration events, 20-28 September 2016

OUR TAKE ON THE NEW HEBREW-YIDDISH STREET SIGN IN THE OLD JEWISH QUARTER

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Events, Israel, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Politics of Memory | Comments Off on Run-Up to Lithuania’s Sept. 23rd 2016 Holocaust Commemoration Day

Yiddish Loses Last Global Position as Symbolic “First Jewish Language” in Vilnius



OPINION  |  COMMEMORATION OF DESTROYED COMMUNITIES  |  YIDDISH AFFAIRS  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  IDENTITY-THEFT LITVAK INDUSTRY

by Dovid Katz

VILNIUS—For close to three decades, Vilnius has been the only city in the world with municipally sponsored public plaques and signs that regularly include Yiddish. Symbologically for a small, weak, stateless, threatened and “threat-to-nobody” language in this part of the world, it was an equally important statement of respect for the language, literature and culture of the murdered Jewish people of the city that Yiddish sometimes came first, “on top,” and always so when it was a question between Yiddish and modern Israeli Hebrew.

For the first time in thirty years, Yiddish has been denied primacy of place among the Jewish languages of the city. The new sign starts with an Israeli Hebrew version used by nobody in pre-Holocaust Vilna.

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Posted in Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Dovid Katz, Events, Identity Theft of the Litvak Heritage, Israel, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Symbology, Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016), Yiddish Affairs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Yiddish Loses Last Global Position as Symbolic “First Jewish Language” in Vilnius

12 Holocaust Massacre Sites in Vilnius Region; Taking a Closer Look at 2



CEMETERIES AND MASS GRAVES  |  COMMEMORATIONS  |  LITHUANIA

by Julius Norwilla

There are at least twelve Holocaust mass murder sites in the immediate Vilnius region that are marked by some kind of memorial. They are noted in the online Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, founded by Milda Jakulytė. In Lithuania, there are over 227 such sites that are described in the atlas, which is historically a continuation of the painstaking 1990s work of the late Joseph Levinson, published in his The Book of Sorrow (Vilnius 1997) that documented close to 200 such sites.

The best known is the Paneriai Memorial as the largest mass grave in the country, known as Ponár in Yiddish and Ponary in Polish. It is the site where 100,000 people were humiliated and murdered, around 70,000 of them Jews. This is where official commemorations take place, particularly each year on September 23rd, the day (controversially) designated by the Lithuanian government as the Holocaust Remembrance Day, rather than the international day, on January 27th, or days specific to the Lithuania-wide Holocaust such as June 23rd when violence against and humiliation of Jewish neighbors broke out across Lithuania.

Other mass murder sites in the Vilnius region are visited much less frequently and very often — not at all. But visiting these places is important for the respect for those murdered there and for a deeper understanding of the Holocaust which has so distorted our nation’s qualities.

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Julius Norwilla, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Ponár (Ponary, Paneriai), Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016) | Comments Off on 12 Holocaust Massacre Sites in Vilnius Region; Taking a Closer Look at 2

My Take On Malát



OPINION  |  SHTETL COMMEMORATIONS  |  EVENTS  |  POLITICS OF MEMORY  |  COLLABORATOR GLORIFICATION

by Julius Norwilla

The year 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the genocide of the Jews of the Lithuanian shtetls, the smaller towns, villages and countryside, in fact, a solid majority of Lithuanian Jewry (with a smaller component being kept alive in four cities for slave labor and rolling annihilation over the remaining years of the Holocaust). Marking the anniversary, at the end of August and beginning of September this year (a period in 1941 when a number of the local massacres were concentrated), there have been commemorative events in (Yiddish names first) Birzh (now: Biržai), Dusát (Dusetos), Malát (Molėtai), Shádov (Šeduva), Vílkomir (Ukmergė) and more. By far the largest event took place at Malát on the 29th of August. The project, leading to establishment of a new foundation, was initiated by Tzvi Kritzer. The speakers included high representatives from the Lithuanian government, its official Jewish community, and various public and cultural representatives.

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Events, Julius Norwilla, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Malát (Molėtai), News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on My Take On Malát

Media Coverage of the Malát (Molėtai) Holocaust Remembrance Project


[UPDATED]

A Selection for English Readers

Project’s Facebook Page; Website

22 September 2016.  Tablet: ‘Holocaust commemorations planned throughout Lithuania this weekend’ by Anna Rudnistky.

9 September 2016.  Defending History: ‘My take on Malát’ by Julius Norwilla [Norvila].

8 September 2016.  En.Delfi.lt: ‘The day Lithuania became a culture of We’ by Alexandra Kudukis.

8 September 2016.  Jewish Community of Lithuania website: ‘Molėtai Holocaust procession draws record crowd’ [unsigned article presumably representing the chairperson’s views].

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Grigory Tzvi Kritzer’s Speech on the 75th Anniversary of the Malát Massacre



Grigory Tzvi Kritzer, a native of Vilnius, Lithuania, who settled many years ago in Israel, is a well-known Israeli soccer (football) agent. He was the primary organizer of the series of events that culminated in a march by thousands, unveiling of a multilingual monument, and launch of an exhibition, book, and film, in the small town (former shtetl) Malát (Molėtai, northeastern Lithuania) on 29 August 2016. The book and exhibition were the products of the initiative and creative work of regional museum director, Viktorija Kazlienė, in close cooperation with Leon Kaplan who edited and translated the book. 

The day marked the 75th anniversary of the 1941 massacre of the town’s 2,000 Jews, then a majority of its population. This year’s day of memorial events there has drawn wide and varied media comment and coverage

The following is the English text of Tzvi Kritzer’s speech, provided by his office at the request of Defending History. The translation is by Aleksandras Federas.


We decided to walk that road one and a half years ago, and then I imagined that there would be only a few people here… Now, look around, my heart is beating with joy that our relatives and loved ones, who perished here in Molėtai, have not been forgotten.

Thanks to all of you, to those who have come from faraway countries and to those who live here, in Lithuania. I am particularly moved to see here people from all corners of Lithuania. I would like to thank the mayor of Molėtai, Mr. Stasys Žvinis, and all his team for their help and support.

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Leon Kaplan’s Speech on the 75th Anniversary of the Malát Massacre



Leon (Liova) Kaplan (in Lithuanian: Leonas Kaplanas) is a native of Vilnius, Lithuania who settled in Washington DC in the early 1970s. He founded the Washington Conservatory of Music and is a noted pianist and master piano educator. He returned to live in Vilnius in 2004, and has over the past year and a half been one of the people involved in enabling the major series of events that culminated in a march by thousands, unveiling of a multilingual monument, and launch of an exhibition, book, and film, in the small town (former shtetl) Malát (Moletai, northeastern Lithuania) on 29 August 2016. The day marked the 75th anniversary of the 1941 massacre of the town’s 2,000 Jews, then a majority of its population. This year’s day of memorial events there has drawn wide and varied media comment and coverage

The following is the English text of Liova Kaplan’s speech, provided by his office at the request of Defending History. At the event the speech was given in both English and Lithuanian.


Honorable Guests,

Thank you to all gathered here, thanks to all those whose conscience does not allow them to forget the tragic events that happened here in Molėtai (Malát), and in almost 300 places across Lithuania, seventy-five years ago. Allow me to quote the book Night by Nobel prize laureate, the late Elie Wiesel:

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August and September 2016 Memorials for Destroyed Jewish Communities



Summer and Fall 2016: 75th Anniversary

of the Nazis’ annihilation, with vast local collaboration, of Lithuania’s Jews in the towns, villages, provinces; implementation of ghettoization and mass murder in the cities.

Perhaps among the simplest, most minimalist measures of a municipality’s sincerity (beyond PR bonanzas, photo-ops and legitimizations via useful foreigners): (a) Modest town-center information board on the origins, history, culture, contributions and (true) fate of the town’s Jewish citizens; (b) Rapid removal of any local shrines, street names, museum tributes etc. to the local collaborators and murderers. “You just can’t make heroes out of the killers and expect to cover it up with some annual PR event for the foreigners.”

Language and respect for the victims: In addition to Lithuanian and English, will new memorial texts (including those at forest mass graves and old cemeteries) continue to include Yiddish, the language of 100% of the murdered Jews in all these towns? For many years, Lithuania has had a uniquely admirable record in this regard.

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Posted in Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Events, History, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Malát (Molėtai), Media Watch, News & Views, Politics of Memory, Shádov (Šeduva), Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016) | Comments Off on August and September 2016 Memorials for Destroyed Jewish Communities

Amžinas tebus šventųjų atminimas



Julius Norwilla

Lietuvos Holokausto atlase Vilniaus apylinkėse pažymėta iš viso dvylika žudynių vietų. Geriausiai žinomas Panerių memorialas. Būtent čia organizuojami vieši Holokausto aukų atminties pagerbimo renginiai. Kitos gi vietos žinomos mažiau lankomos retai. Sekmadienį, gegužės 22 d., maža grupele išvykome aplankyti mažiau žinomos žudynių vietos Naujaneriuose.

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Lithuanian Prosecutor Writes to Jewish Community Head on Alleged Holocaust Perpetrators in Malát (Molėtai)



DOCUMENTSLITHUANIA | POLITICS OF MEMORY | GENOCIDE CENTER | OPINION

VILNIUS—The website of Lithuania’s official Jewish Community today published an English translation of a 2 March 2016 letter (original here) sent by Prosecutor Rimvydas Valentukevičius in reply to a letter from community chairperson Faina Kukliansky. The text of the translation published today follows. The correspondence relates to alleged perpetrators in the northeastern Lithuanian town Malát (Molėtai), where an international commemoration is planned for August 2016.

For other recent interactions with the prosecutor’s office, see our 3 March 2016 report on another request, that for release of  (or action regarding) the list of several thousand names of persons that the Genocide Center now concedes were potentially Holocaust perpetrators.

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Lithuanian Shtetl Malát (Molėtai) to be Commemorated in 2016



LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  EVENTS

by Tzvi-Hirsh (Gregory) Kritzer

Iam making a documentary film about the Jewish history and legacy of Malát (now Molėtai), a small shtetl in Lithuania. The film will endeavor to cover the history, life and culture of the Maláter, the Jews of Malát, and also the genocide of the entire community carried out by the Nazis and their local collaborators. My father’s family was killed there together with about 1000 Malát Jews.

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Šeduva  (Shádov):  The Memorial Events of Friday 9 October 2015



E V E N T S   /   O P I N I O N

by Evaldas Balčiūnas

On Friday 9 October 2015, the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Fund Society presented the results of their work on the project Lost Shtetl. There were, taken together, over two hundred visitors on the day. They included pupils of Vilnius’s Sholem Aleichem school and of the Šeduva high school, representatives of the Jewish community of Šiauliai (Shavl), Lithuanian Jewish Community chairperson Faina Kukliansky, the mayors of nearby towns, a deputy minister of foreign affairs, and ambassadors or embassy representatives of many countries, including the Netherlands, Japan, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, and Ukraine.

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Impressions of the 11 October 2015 Memorial Program in Svintsyán (Švenčionys)



VILNIUS—The following is an informal report on today’s Jewish memorial events in the Svintsyán (Švenčionys) region, posted by Dovid Katz on his Facebook page:
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Everybody Welcome at Svintsyán (Švenčionys) Memorial Events This Sunday 11 Oct. 2015


 


11 OCTOBER COMMEMORATION PROGRAM FOR THE 8000 HOLOCAUST VICTIMS OF SVINTSYÁN (ŠVENČIONYS) AND ITS REGION WHO WERE MURDERED ON 7-8 OCTOBER 1941 AT POLIGÓN OUTSIDE SVENČIONĖLIAI

Mass grave of the Jewish communities of Svintsyán (Švenčionys) and the neighboring towns Dugelíshik (Naujasis Daugėliškis), Duksht (Dūkštas), Haydútsetshik (Adutiškis), Ignáline (Ignalina), Kaméleshik (Kimelishki, Belarus), Koltinyán (Kaltanėnai), Lingmyán (Linkmenys), Líntep (Lintupy, Belarus), Maligán (Mielagėnai), Podbródz (Pabradė), Stayátseshik (Stajėtiškis), Svintsyánke / Náy-Svintsyàn (Švenčionėliai)

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Ponár (Paneriai) Memorial: No Rabbi, No Cantor, No Kaddish



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.

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Posted in Christian-Jewish Issues, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Events, Identity Theft of the Litvak Heritage, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Ponár (Ponary, Paneriai) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Ponár (Paneriai) Memorial: No Rabbi, No Cantor, No Kaddish

New Jewish Monument in Rokiškis (Rákeshik), Lithuania, Commemorates 3 Synagogues



E V E N T S   /   O P I N I O N

by Dovid Katz

For many years, international visitors to Rokiškis (in Yiddish: Rákishok, or less formally: Rákeshik), in northeastern Lithuania, have remarked that the town’s central area seemed to preserve little (or no) trace or commemoration of its erstwhile Jewish population, though a large monument now graces the entrance to the old Jewish cemetery outside town. Before the Holocaust, this town was home to around 3,500 Jews (some 40% of the total population, and the overwhelming majority in its central area). Luckily, a short film of pre-Holocaust Jewish Rákishok survives (from 1937), and is available on Youtube. Thanks to Polish film maker Tomek Wisniewski for circulating the link in recent days. 

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Posted in Christian-Jewish Issues, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Dovid Katz, Events, Exotic Jewish Tourism, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Rákishok (Rokiškis), Symbology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Jewish Monument in Rokiškis (Rákeshik), Lithuania, Commemorates 3 Synagogues

The June 2015 Memorial for the Lietūkis Garage Massacre in Kaunas, Lithuania



O P I N I O N   /   E Y E W I T N E S S   A C C O U N T

by Julius Norwilla

To mark the 74th anniversary of one of the iconic events of the Lithuanian Holocaust, the infamous Lietūkis Garage Massacre of 27 June 1941, the Kaunas Jewish Community organized its annual memorial event at the site, last Friday, 26 June 2015. The massacre, carried out by local Lithuanian “patriots” wearing the white armbands of the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF), butchered dozens of Jewish passers-by at a garage on Kaunas’s Vytautas Avenue, using a variety of execution methods, including clubbing to death with crowbars, and particularly, forcing water from high-pressure hoses into bodily orifices of the victims until they burst. A growing crowd, including women holding up their young children to get the best views, cheered them on.

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Twelve Issues in the Preservation of Lithuania’s Material Jewish Heritage (2015)



O P I N I O N

Note: Inspired by a Lithuanian government announcement (reported also on Delfi) of a new state-sponsored commission on these issues, and on the eve of its first international meeting in early May 2015, this list, the opinion of DH’s editor (who has benefited from discussions with specialists and the Holocaust survivor community in Lithuania), is offered in the spirit of a contribution to the debate on what is now most urgent in this field — what is morally pressing and unpostponable, and, also, what is, in general, not currently being dealt with by existing agencies, NGOs, projects and individuals. A proposed “urgent” list is ipso facto not an omnibus listing of issues, or of specific projects that are doing good work in their own areas; it is a list of what is “acute” rather than what is “chronic.” For more information, please consult Samuel D. Gruber’s outstanding website. See also our lists of external and on-site resources (including our Agranovski and Levinson sections). Hopefully, a comprehensive listing of issues — including these — will soon appear on the new commission’s own site.

UPDATE OF 1 JUNE 2015:  “THE THIRTEENTH ISSUE”

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Posted in Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Dovid Katz, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Politics of Memory | Comments Off on Twelve Issues in the Preservation of Lithuania’s Material Jewish Heritage (2015)

A Jewish Hideout Discovered in Butrimonys



E Y E W I T N E S S   R E P O R T   /   O P I N I O N

by Andrius Kulikauskas

Renovation of the ground floor of an art gallery in the town of Butrimonys, Lithuania has revealed the existence of an unusual cellar that was apparently a Jewish hideout during the Holocaust. Daina Nemeikštienė, the owner of the gallery, “Dainos galerija”, is moving forward with the renovation, which means that what remains of the cellar will be cemented over, at least for now. Could some day this hideout offer an opportunity for respecting, valuing, studying, preserving and highlighting Litvak and Lithuanian heritage? For now, it illustrates the challenges in honoring even the most heroic aspects of the Holocaust.

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Two “C Words” for Holocaust Museums: Center of Town, and — Collaboration



O P I N I O N

by Dovid Katz

Christmas-time congratulations are due to the four architects who have won the Vilnius state Jewish museum’s competition for plans to build a Holocaust museum at the mass murder site known as Ponár in Yiddish, Ponary before the war in Polish, and currently Lithuanian Paneriai. It is a short ride outside the capital city Vilnius. The victory of the foursome, Jautra Bernotaitė, Ronaldas Pučka (team leader), Andrius Ropolas and Paulius Vaitiekūnas, is announced on the museum’s website (and on Mr. Ropolas’s site). The competition was jointly run with the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania. The elaborate description of the project’s conception, by the Union of Architects, includes many sophisticated concepts, with multiple learned citations, from Freud to Foucault. Just one rather simpler word, a word (and exhibit) needed for any Holocaust museum, is missing from the text: collaboration.

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Annual Memorial for the Jews of Svintsyán (Švenčionys): Small but Well Done



by Defending History Staff

Svintsyán [Švenčionys] — Some fifty people gathered in the forest at midday today at the mass grave at Poligón, outside Švenčioneliai (Yiddish: Svintsyánke), in northeastern Lithuania, where around 8,000 Jews were murdered on 7 and 8 October 1941 after more than a week of barbaric incarceration and humiliation. The number includes nearly all the Jews of the county-seat town Švenčionys (Svintsyán) as well as the Jewish citizens of a number of towns and villages in the region, including (Yiddish names first in the following list, followed by current Lithuanian or Belarusian names): Dugelíshik (Naujasis Daugėliškis), Duksht (Dūkštas), Haydútsetshik (Adutiškis), Ignalíne (Ignalina), Koltnyán (Kaltanėnai), Kaméleshik (Kimelishki, Belarus), Labonár (Labanoras), Lingmyán (Linkmenys), Líntep (Lyntupy, Belarus), Maligán (Mielagėnai), Podbródzh (Pabradė), Saldúteshik (Saldutiškis), Salemánke (Salamianka), Stayátseshik (Stajotiškės), Svintsyánke (or Nay-SvintsyánŠvenčionėliai), and Tseykín (Ceikiniai).

Misha (Meyshke) Shapiro (at left), head of a region’s tiny remnant Jewish community, chairs the annual commemoration in the forest at a mass grave where 8,000 Jews were killed in two days in October of 1941.

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Tsemakh Shabad’s 150th Birthday Celebrated in Style at the Lithuanian Parliament



O P I N I O N

by Defending History Staff

Asuccessful, highly compressed one-day conference, exhibition and city plaque unveiling were all shoehorned into one day, today, in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, to mark the 150th birth year of the celebrated and beloved Dr. Tsemakh Shabad (1864–1935), Vilna physician, public health advocate, benefactor, Yiddishist theoretician and builder of Yiddish educational infrastructure from elementary schools to the university-level Yivo institute. He was also a  representative in the city’s municipality. Shabad was a legend in his own time. When poor sick children in any shtetl of Vilna province, of whatever nationality or background, were in danger of imminent death from disease, there were no greater words of relief than “Dr. Shabad is on the way.”

The conference banner, a joint production of the Lithuanian parliament (Seimas), the Jewish Community of Lithuania and the Ministry of Health, featured the Yiddish Folks-gezunt (public health) logo, beloved of Dr. Shabad.

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Dr. Efraim Zuroff’s Speech at the Annual Memorial for Lithuanian Holocaust Victims



O P I N I O N

by Efraim Zuroff

Authorized English translation of Dr. Zuroff’s speech at the annual commemoration event held by the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, received from the Israel Office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Hebrew original is here.


Good evening,

Attorney Yosef Melamed asked me to update you regarding the recent events which have taken place since the last memorial event a year ago, concerning the attempts by the Lithuanian government to distort the history of the Holocaust and to minimize or deny the participation of many Lithuanians in the murder of Jews, not only in Lithuania but also beyond its borders.

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Yad Vashem Awards Three Rescuers (Posthumously) in Žagarė (Zháger), Northern Lithuania



E Y E W I T N E S S   R E P O R T

by Evaldas Balčiūnas

Žagarė (known in Yiddish as Zháger), Lithuania, always brings a warm feeling. It is a small, multicultural town. While Jews long accounted for half the population, unfortunately they are only a memory now. Germans, Latvians, Roma and Lithuanians continue to live here. There was room enough for everyone up until 1941.

I had the opportunity today to visit Žagarė to honor those who sought to insure that Žagarė would continue to have enough space for everyone. I traveled to a ceremony to honor Edvardas Levinskas (1893-1975), Terese Levinskienė (1903-1949) and Lilija Vilandaitė (1900-1948), posthumous recipients of the Righteous Among the Nations, or Righteous Gentile, award, conferred by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

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Righteous Among the Nations: Zháger (Žagarė)



Yad Vashem Award to be bestowed by Israel’s Ambassador to Lithuania 19th March 2013 at the Gymnasium (High School), Žagarė at 1300 hours
to honor

 EDVARDAS LEVINSKAS 1893-1975

TERESE LEVINSKIENE 1903-1949

LILIJA VILANDAITE 1900-1948

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Holocaust Commemoration Vilnius Style — with an Israeli Twist


 


E Y E W I T N E S S   R E P O R T  /  O P I N I O N

 

The ceremony today to commemorate Lithuanian Holocaust victims at Ponár, the country’s largest mass murder site, outside the capital city of Vilnius, on the day officially known as Day to Commemorate the Lithuanian Jewish Victims of Genocide, went off pretty much as most official commemorations do here: inappropriate and with seeming desperation to focus on any topic except the circumstances of the actual Lithuanian Holocaust—the massive collaboration and participation that led to the country’s having the highest proportion of Holocaust murder in Europe.

Ponár is the site’s Yiddish name. It is today Paneriai and is known as Ponary in Polish.

The official date, the 23rd of September was marked this year on the 24th, apparently so officials wouldn’t have to interrupt their weekend break.

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Posted in "Jewish" Events as Cover?, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Double Games, Double Genocide, Dovid Katz, Events, Foreign Ministries: Holocaust Politics Abuse?, Identity Theft of the Litvak Heritage, Israel, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Ponár (Ponary, Paneriai), Symbology, Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Holocaust Commemoration Vilnius Style — with an Israeli Twist

Trilingual Memorial Plaque Unveiled on Zhager Town Square



O N – S I T E  R E P O R T / O P I N I O N

by Dovid Katz

ZHAGER, northern Lithuania. Over a hundred people gathered here today on the historic town square to unveil a trilingual plaque memorializing the erstwhile Jewish population of thousands in the town, today Žagarė. The event was incorporated into the annual Cherry Festival and suitably entitled “You can’t fudge the history.”

SEE ALSO THE REPORTS BY ROD FREEDMAN AND SARA MANOBLA

THE QUESTION: IS IT THE ONLY TOWN-CENTER IN ALL THE LAND WITH CLEAR AND TRUE WORDS ON THE TRUE FATE OF THE JEWISH POPULATION?

The text — in English, Lithuanian and Yiddish — summarizes the unvarnished history, with prominent reference to local Lithuanian collaboration (though historians will quibble with the use of “some” in place of “many” among other points). It is placed right in the center of town, rather than at a mass grave site deep in the forest; that might well be a first in modern Lithuanian history.

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Posted in "Vilnius Jewish Public Library", Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Dovid Katz, Events, Exotic Jewish Tourism, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, South Africa, The Great SLS About-Face, Zháger (Žagarė) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Trilingual Memorial Plaque Unveiled on Zhager Town Square

Explosive Reactions to Saulius Berzhinis’s New Film on the Holocaust in Jurbarkas (Yúrberik)



O P I N I O N  /  F I L M   R E V I E W

by Milan Chersonski

 

Vilnius film director Saulius Berzhinis

There has recently been extensive Lithuanian media coverage of a conflict between the authorities of the city Jurbarkas, Lithuania, and the film company Filmų Kopa, founded by film director Saulius Berzhinis (Beržinis) and managed by Ona Biveinienė.

To mark the seventieth anniversary of the beginning of World War II in Lithuania and the beginning of the total annihilation of its Jews, the Jurbarkas regional museum commissioned a documentary about Jews who lived in the town before World War II, paid for by the Ministry of Culture and the budget of the municipality. Filmų Kopa was awarded the commission and made a documentary called “When Yiddish was Heard in Jurbarkas.” The town’s name in Yiddish is Yúrberik or Yúrburg.

As the film has become a matter of sharp conflict, it is worthwhile in the first instance to take a good look at the actual product that Filmų Kopa delivered to the residents of Jurbarkas.

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No Gesture at Ponár


 


Note: This news box was posted on page one until the end of 19 April 2012.

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A Hidden Monument in Vilnius — Hopelessly Invisible?


In response to several requests from the United States, DefendingHistory.com this week asked three colleagues who found themselves in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, to try to see the “Flame of Hope” monument, by sculptor Leonardo Nierman, in memory of the victims of the Lithuanian Holocaust, located in the heart of the Old Town, in a yard that was in the Vilna Ghetto between September 1941 and the ghetto’s liquidation three years later.

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A Reconstructed Shtetl — Minus its Jewish Component



by Dovid Katz

Rúmshishok (informally: Rúmseshik), some twelve miles from Kaunas (Kovno), was a beloved Lithuanian shtetl where Lithuanians, Jews and others lived together for many centuries in peace (the town goes back to the fourteenth century). The massacre of the town’s Jews during the Holocaust was close to complete (outlines of the history here and here). According to the new Lithuanian Holocaust Atlas, the perpetrators were comprised of “white armbanders” from the town plus “Lithuanian self-defense unit troops” from Kaunas.

Now Rumšiškės in modern Lithuania, the town is internationally known for its neighboring extensive open air museum of the Lithuanian provinces, including town, hamlet and rural settings, all meticulously reconstructed.

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Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Chaim Bargman, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Double Games, Dovid Katz, Exotic Jewish Tourism, History, Human Rights, Litvak Affairs, Museums, News & Views, Politics of Memory, Yiddish Affairs | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Reconstructed Shtetl — Minus its Jewish Component

Why Shouldn’t Lithuanian People See the Monument I Helped Place in Vilnius?



O P I N I O N

by Shelly Rybak Pearson

The project occurred to me when I was present during the earthquake in Mexico City in 1984, while visiting my family there. I decided that I wanted to do something to provide a fitting memorial to the destruction of over 95% of the Jewish community of Lithuania during the Holocaust.

My negotiations with the government authorities in Vilnius to erect the monument lasted over six years. During that time, the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington, DC informed me that they had lost the documents which I had submitted to them requesting approval for the installation of the monument. I had to start anew.

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Faina Kukliansky’s Speech at Ponár (Paneriai) on 23 September 2011



O P I N I O N

by Faina Kukliansky

The following is the approved text of the speech by Faina Kukliansky at the September 23rd commemoration ceremony at Ponár (Paneriai), the mass murder site near Vilnius where some 70,000 Jews from the city and its surrounding areas, and around 30,000 non-Jews, were murdered by the Nazis and their local partners. A prominent attorney and constitutional specialist, Kukliansky is chairperson of the Vilnius Jewish Community and deputy chairperson of the Jewish Community of Lithuania. The text was translated from the Lithuanian by Geoff Vasil and approved by the author.


In 1994 September 23rd was declared the day of commemoration for Lithuanian Jewish genocide victims, dedicated to honoring the victims. The Vilna Ghetto was liquidated on 23 September 1943 when the last surviving Jewish residents of the Lithuanian capital were murdered or sent to concentration camps abroad.

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Was Rachel Margolis Honored (or Mentioned) at the “Vilna Ghetto Experience” Yivo Event Sponsored by the Lithuanian Government?


The Yivo concert mounted in memory of the Vilna Ghetto was held on 22 September, a date near the September 23rd anniversary of its liquidation (in 1943). Survivors questioned find it unconscionable that the Yivo evening could not also be utilized as a forum for polite, constructive and appropriate protest at the Lithuanian government’s targeting precisely of Vilna Ghetto survivors (among other Holocaust survivors) for kangaroo ‘war crimes investigations’ that have drawn international protest.

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A Speech Never Spoken at Plungyán (Plungė)



O P I N I O N

by Dovid Katz

An imaginary speech, not delivered by any of the high government officials who addressed the commemoration at the mass murder site of the Jews of Plungyán (Plungė) on 17 July 2011.


My dear friends, it is precisely because I am a proud official of the government of independent, democratic, Lithuania, and I love my country, that I am able to speak here today openly, on the seventieth anniversary of the murder of the Jews of Plungė  — Plungyán, as they proudly called it in the Yiddish that rang through its streets for so many centuries.

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Posted in "Jewish" Events as Cover?, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Dovid Katz, Events, Exotic Jewish Tourism, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Plungyán (Plungė), Politics of Memory, South Africa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Speech Never Spoken at Plungyán (Plungė)

70 Years On: Address by Abel Levitt at the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Plungyán (Plungė)


 


by Abel Levitt

According to Jewish Law, and according to custom in other religions, a tombstone must be placed at a grave with the name of the deceased.

In the case of Mass Murder, like what happened in Lithuania during the period which we know as the Holocaust, this has not been done. The scale was too big, thousands of people killed in a single day as happened in Ponár, near Vilnius, or at the Ninth Fort near Kaunas.  Only in Plungė (Plungyán), where 1800 people , men, women, and children were brutally killed in two frightening and bloody days, has this now, today, been done.

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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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March of the Living at Vilnius Mass-Murder Site: Sergey Kanovich Speaks Out


Sergey Kanovich

Vilnius-born author Sergey Kanovich (Sergejus Kanovičius) published in today’s issue of Bernardinai a short and powerful statement for the ceremony later today at Ponár (Paneriai), the mass-murder site outside Vilnius where 100,000 civilians, among them 70,000 Jews, were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Most of the actual shooting was carried out by local Lithuanian units sometimes nowadays glorified as ‘anti-Soviet heroes’ by certain establishment circles, even as a parallel series of Holocaust commemoration activities are produced during this year’s parallel years of commemoration proclaimed in late 2010 by the Lithuanian parliament (see here and here) for 2011, which marks the seventieth anniversary of the events.

“They took your life away. And there are those who continue to try to assassinate your memory — again, today, almost without resistance and with impunity, now and again, the spirit of swastikas and the white armbands of the LAF casts a shadow over Jerusalem of Lithuania. And today there are those who still desire to see your executioners as heroes.”

— SERGEY KANOVICH

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Obfuscationists planning Vilnius Holocaust Museum miles away from the City Center


Rumors are flying in the Lithuanian capital about plans to induce foreign institutions and governments to support the building of  a new Holocaust Museum at  the mass-murder site Ponár (Paneriai), where no unsuspecting tourist or visitor to Vilnius would ever see it, more than six miles out of town, unless they have prior special interest that would motivate the hiring of a taxi for that purpose.

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Revolving Posters at Ponár


Ponár (Polish Ponary, Lithuanian Paneriai) is the mass murder site outside Vilnius where around a hundred thousand civilians were murdered by the Nazi regime. Some 70,000 of them were the Jews of Vilna and its region.

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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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Gathering in the Forest to Remember the 8000 Jews of the Svintsyan Region


Some eighty people gathered at midday today, in an eerie mix of wind and autumn sun, at the forest mass grave memorial site just outside the town once known in Yiddish as Svintsyánke (or Nay-Svintsyán; now Lithuania’s Švenčioneliai, interwar Poland’s Nowo-Święciany). Such is the custom every year on the first Sunday in October, to remember the eight thousand Jewish civilians murdered there after a gruesome ten days of imprisonment, deprivation of basic human needs, and torture, in makeshift barracks here at the site, in October 1941. The eight thousand Jews were marched (with the lame and the old transported on wagons) from their hometowns in the area to the site on September 27th. They were all shot over a two-day period on the 7th and 8th of October 1941.

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‘Holocaust Year’ in Lithuania, 2011, is Converted 1 Week Later to ‘Year of Freedom Defense, Memory of Great Losses [minus the Holocaust]’


One week ago today, on 21 September 2010, this journal reported on a document released by various Lithuanian embassies on the ‘Resolution of the Republic of Lithuania on Declaring the Year 2011 as the Year of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust in Lithuania’ (read document here).

In addition to ‘condemning the genocide perpetrated against Jews by Nazis and their collaborators in Lithuania’ the resolution pledges itself to ‘honoring the residents of Lithuania who fought against Fascism’. [In its report, HITB naturally asked for immediate action to halt the kangaroo investigations of Holocaust Survivors who did just that; to dismantle antisemitic exhibits in state museums; and to halt the campaign for the ‘Double Genocide’ model of history in Europe.]

At the solemn September 21st ceremony at the mass murder site Ponar (Paneriai), member of parliament Emanuelis Zingeris informed the assembled diplomats, citizens and visitors that the Seimas had unanimously approved the resolution and that 2011 would be dedicated to Holocaust commemoration, a most appropriate gesture, on the 70th anniversary of 1941, when nearly all of Lithuanian Jewry was annihilated by the Nazis, with the massive participation of local nationalist forces who are on occasion glorified in modern Lithuania as ‘anti-Soviet partisan heroes’ (see e.g. the Genocide Museum’s narrative).

Many of the assembled at Ponar went away believing that the Seimas had turned a new page in the country’s perception of its Holocaust history.

But today, one week later, September 28th, the Seimas announced the following ‘slightly revised’ version of its plan for the focus of 2011: ‘Parliament announces 2011 as year of freedom defense, memory of great losses in Lithuania’ (as per the text of BNS’s report in English here). The parliament’s own official statement is here; full English translation here, with the corrected English title: ‘Year of Commemoration of the Defense of Freedom and Great Losses’.

Frankly, there is unease in the Jewish community as to whether this title and text leave open the possibility that the LAF (Lithuanian Activist Front) and PG (Provisional Government),  both massively complicit in the early stages of the Lithuanian Holocaust, are going to be celebrated as ‘defenders of freedom’ (or anti-Soviet patriots) during the 2011 seventieth anniversary of events unleashed by Hitler’s invasion of 22 June 1941.Continue reading

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Jewish Community’s Faina Kukliansky gives a Powerful Speech at Ponar Commemoration near Vilnius


This year’s commemoration ceremony at Ponar (Paneriai) was held today, attended  by government officials, the diplomatic corps, and a sizable crowd of mostly Jewish participants. Ponar is the mass grave site near Vilnius where 100,000 civilians ― around 70,000 of them Jews of Vilna and its environs ― were murdered by Nazi henchmen between 1941 and 1944.  In 2005, Yale University Press brought out Kazimierz Sakowicz’s eyewitness account, Ponary Diary, where it is reconfirmed that most of the killing was done by volunteer local killers.

The country’s small but vibrant Jewish community was proudly represented by Faina Kukliansky, head of the Vilnius Jewish Community and vice chairman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania. In her speech (English translation here), Kukliansky, one of the country’s foremost attorneys, did not mince words. She explained that whatever differences of opinion may exist, the community was unanimous in condemning the Double Genocide movement, as well as projects to equate Nazi and Soviet crimes whose purpose is to trivialize or mitigate the Holocaust specifically and the notion genocide more generally. Moreover, she stressed the need to expose the identities of all the local killers who carried out the genocide of Lithuanian Jewry. She also mentioned that it was only the Jewish Community of Lithuania, not the Lithuanian or Israeli government, that established a fund to help each and every Holocaust era Lithuanian rescuer live a better life to the end of his or her days.

Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, a Vilna Ghetto survivor and hero of the anti-Nazi partisan resistance in the forests of Lithuania, delivered her own eloquent address in Yiddish, declaring that the victims would never be forgotten, neither by Jewish people nor by humankind.

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Joseph Melamed, chairman of ALJ, Speaks Out Forcefully at Yad Vashem Event to Mark Anniversary of Vilna Ghetto Liquidation


Attorney Joseph Melamed, chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel (at right) delivered the keynote speech today at an event held at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem to mark the September 23rd anniversary of the 1943 liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto. Because of the Jewish holidays, the event was moved up to the 20th this year.

Those in attendance included Uri Chanoch, chairman of the Holocaust Survivors’ Association; Mr Michael Schemyawitz (left of photo), head of the Association of Vilna Jews in Israel and director of its Beit Vilna premises in the Montefiore section of Tel Aviv; and the top leadership of Yad Vashem including chairman Avner Shalev and director general Nathan Eitan. The  program of speakers and was released in advance (in Hebrew) by the ALJ. Lithuania’s ambassador to Israel, HE Darius Degutis, delivered a conciliatory address (full text here), which included the moving line: ‘It breaks my heart and casts a shadow of shame that among the perpetrators of these crimes were also my countrymen. This cannot be, and will not be, either forgotten or forgiven’.

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