[UPDATED; ORIGINAL PUBLICATION 29 OCT. 2017]
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TWO GUYS IN VILNIUS: BUT ARE THEY REALLY JEWISH?
די צוויי מענטשן, אויסער דעם וואָס זיי האָבן דאָקומענטן אַז זיי זײַנען יידן, האָבן נאָך דערצו יידישע נשמות…
This is incredible. So the Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania became Home Depot for the Soviet-era construction industry? We need some granite blocks? Yo, take the Goldbergas family plot, there are five headstones! By the way, the big stone for Rabbi Whatshisname would make a great plinth, have it dragged here, please. Can’t somebody undo this bizarre mess, gather the stones and make an appropriate memorial?
This is crazy. The Soviets ravage your cemetery after the Nazis kill your co-religionists and you get this for asking independent Lithuania to stop desecrating graves? They should do their best to restore the burial and memorial place and build their conference center elsewhere, not on the site already desecrated by the Soviets. WTF??
Our community has asked me to help them find a new chief rabbi, and to formulate the primary requirements specific to Vilna, as only Motke can. No problem.
Antisemitism Conferences or Studies = Events guaranteed to exclude any mention of contemporary local antisemitism at the point of production, but will feature excellent glossy brochures on the past and on intolerance in faraway lands
Blizzard = Obfuspeak for when Estonia opts out of Obfuscationist documents and inches away from the expected Baltic positions
VILNIUS—Professor Pinchos Fridberg today posted a Youtube video replying to attacks on himself by the executive director of the Lithuanian government’s International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania.
In 1998 the “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania” was established by Lithuanian presidential decree.
The commission is directed in tandem by Emanuelis Zingeris and Ronaldas Račinskas. The former is the commission’s chairman and a Conservative MP in the Lithuanian Seimas, while the latter is the commission’s executive director. The Lithuanian Jewish Community has no representation on the commission.
This opinion piece and eyewitness report by Geoff Vasil relates to the July 10th event in honor of the Red-Brown Commission held at the Vilnius Jewish Public Library. See related reports on the library’s instrumentalization as a PR platform for the Commission and the more or less contemporaneous announcement of the Commission’s resumed activities, in the absence of apologies to Yitzhak Arad, Pinchos Fridberg, and the other accused Holocaust survivors.
Readers and supporters of Defending History likely realize there is a diversity of opinion and views held by contributors (made explicit on the About us page), and in that spirit I’d like to share my own impressions of the neo-Nazi march on Lithuanian Independence Day 2013 in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania’s second-largest city and the provisional capital in the interwar period.
First, Kaunas was colder than expected. The breeze contributed to the chill. There seemed to be half as many police as protestors at the staging area, Ramybės Parkas, next to the bus station in central Kaunas. The police wore three uniforms: green, grey and, I was told by someone representing himself as being from Interpol, a large number of plain-clothes officers dispersed among the crowd, presumably meaning the marchers, since the number of protestors was paltry, just a handful of people.
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.
Back in 2008 a friend and I put subtitles to the march by Lithuanian neo-Nazis through the capital, Vilnius, on independence day, and put the video with subtitles up on YouTube. Back then there was almost zero mention of the march where openly fascist youth chanted slogans about attacking and killing Jews and Russians, and the de rigueur “Juden raus.” Following the YouTube posting and as news travelled around the world, certain Lithuanian media figures and politicians felt the need to at least say something. Not much, but something.
1. Line up the names of people who agree with you and are ideologically reliable or beholden to you for their ticket there and back. Best to use locals as far as possible with a big-wheel foreign invitee or two, provided they’re safe.
2. Do some stuff, make a program, maybe provide a tour to foreign academics, get them sauced. The program of events can be created on the fly, tailored to meet the needs of attracting the right set of people, using up funds allocated, etc. Be creative.