צו די שלשים פון יוסף (יאָסקע) מלמד ז″ל
VILNIUS—At Sabbath services at Vilnius’s Choral Synagogue this morning, word began to spread that Vilnius’s oldest surviving veteran of the Jewish Partisans, Chasia (Khásye) Langbord Shpanerflig, had passed away at the age of 96.
PROF. DOV LEVIN
Kaunas (Kovno) 1925 — Jerusalem 2016
VILNIUS—While some biographies cite 1937 as the year of Professor Valerijus Čekmonas’s month, many of his numerous students and admirers both here in Vilnius, and internationally, who were heartboken by his untimately death in 2004, are taking the 1936 year as definitive and celebrating his life this season on the occasion of what would have been his eightieth birthday.
The following message following the death of Uri Chanoch (1928-2015) was circulated this week by Julius Berman, president of the Claims Conference in New York.
I am heartbroken to share the news that Uri Chanoch, a dear friend and stalwart supporter of the Claims Conference, and a member of the board of directors and negotiating committee, passed away at his home in Israel on Tuesday night, September 1. I wrote Uri a note earlier this week and told him how much we appreciate and look forward to his exhortations at board meetings as he cried out from the heart about the continuing despicable conduct of certain European nations regarding restitution.
Vilnius has just lost one of its most powerful and authentic Litvak personalities, and one of the last Vilna-born prewar Jews still resident in the city. Meilach Stalevich, who was born on June 28th 1923 passed away peacefully during the night of 8 t0 9 November this month, in the middle of his ninety-second year, following a heart attack several days earlier.
For some who didn’t know him personally, he will forever be celebrated for his extraordinary soundbite in Wendy Robbins’ BBC radio documentary in 2010, when he was asked what he thought of the idea that the Nazi and Soviet regimes were similar in nature. In a few seconds, in the rich Yiddish tones of a Vilna native, he was able to debunk the current array of Holocaust revisionists rather more effectively than perhaps all of the academic efforts underway taken together.
Ernst Josef Lowenberg
(28 December 1922 — 26 August 2014)
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.
Rabbi Dr. Abraham N. Zuroff passed away peacefully at the age of 92 in Jerusalem on Sunday August 3rd. He is widely remembered as the legendary founding principal of BTA (Brooklyn Talmudic Academy, or Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Brooklyn, NY).
Rabbi Zuroff built one of the rare educational institutions that was able to synthesize deep authentic Jewish learning with modern cutting-edge and culturally successful American education. In that specific period of American Jewish history, it took the steadfast and uncompromising devotion of the American born Abraham Zuroff to demonstrate that the two could be combined in a way that would attract Jewish youth to the unique fusion of authentic Jewishness and authentic wordliness (rather than a watered down version of either).
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”).
Vitas Tomkus’s daily tabloid, Respublika has, alongside its sister title, Vakaro Žinios (Evening News, also owned by Tomkus) in many views inflicted tangible damage upon Lithuania and its image. The papers leave a long trail of racist, antisemitic, and homophobic invective, not seldom in sensationalistic formats that mirror the 1930s.
The most notorious instance was perhaps the 2004 front page featuring the unseemly cartoon of the The Jew and The Gay holding up a globe under the headline “Who runs the world?” recycled (and again, on page 1), in 2009. Vakaro Žinios (Evening News) even featured a sickening photo montage of the then head of the Jewish community Dr. Shimon Alperovich, and a Soviet-era abacus, with text suggesting the Jews were conspiring to defraud the Lithuanian people. More recently, a front page was devoted to a local rabbi with a headline about Jews not having to pay taxes. The word Žydai (Jews) alone was in massive size type, as on numerous occasions, e.g. when the paper accused “The Jews” of plotting to steal the building housing the Culture Ministry. It is almost all out of a dark satire.
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel Office issued this statement today in the wake of the passing of Dr. Shimon Alperovich, the former Chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish community (PDF here):
“It is with great sorrow that we learned of the passing last night of Dr. Shimon Alperovich, the venerable leader for many years of the Lithuanian Jewish community. Dr. Alperovich displayed great courage and fortitude in leading the renewed Lithuanian Jewish community and fought bravely against the ongoing efforts to minimize local participation in Nazi crimes and the promotion of the canard of equivalency between Nazi and Communist atrocities.
ד″ר שמעון אַלפּעראָוויטש ז″ל
Dr. Marina Solodkin, 60, a Moscow native and former member of the Israeli Knesset, died in her hotel room, of an apparent heart attack or stroke, in Riga, the capital of Latvia, on March 16th. She had come to join activities to protest this year’s Waffen SS march earlier that day. [UPDATE: See now reports in Arutz Sheva, Haaretz, Jerusalem Post, Jewish Press, JTA, The Times of Israel, YNet; a brief biography appears on the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s website.]
A screen-capture of Dr. Solodkin’s final Facebook posting, from Israel on March 15th before setting off for Riga, appears below. It translates:
Algirdas Brazauskas (1932-2010), visionary first elected president and later prime minister of free Lithuania died today in Vilnius. In each of his land’s highest offices he proved himself a leader in the grand spirit of the multicultural Grand Duchy of Lithuania who will be properly appreciated long after our time.
From the start of Lithuania’s new history as a proud democratic nation, Algirdas Brazauskas understood that it did no good for his country that war criminals had been rehabilitated by ultranationalist officials.
He paid tribute to Jewish partisan veterans for helping to free Lithuania from Nazi tyranny. As president, he honored Prof Dov Levin. As prime minister, he issued a certificate of recognition to Dr Rachel Margolis.
President Brazauskas’s historic speech to the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem on 1 March 1995 will never be forgotten (full text here). But in modern Litvak collective memory, there is perhaps one incident, that took place one day before, that will be remembered even more. The Lithuanian delegation was met by a picket line of Holocaust survivors near Yad Vashem. One elderly survivor, Y. Brosh, whose entire family was murdered at Ponar, made his feelings known robustly. Like the other survivors who protested, he was wearing a yellow star on his jacket. President Brazauskas went over to to the man, hugged him and kissed him.
Holocaust in the Baltics, established on 6 September 2009, is dedicated to the memory of Professor Meir Shub (1924—2009), pictured at right teaching a class at Vilnius University in the early 2000s.
A historian and philosopher, he dedicated the last decades of his life to rebuilding Jewish studies in Vilnius, despite severe health issues deriving from his World War II wounds sustained as a Red Army soldier during the struggle against Nazism.
He was determined to inspire and train students of all backgrounds who would freely research Judaic topics, including the Holocaust. He was convinced that the success of these studies depended on the retention of a robust and intellectually free-feeling Jewish community component in such projects in Eastern Europe.
Meir Shub’s booming voice (which grew louder as his deafness worsened), straight talk, and high Litvak expectations of his students were trademarks. He is sorely missed. He played a pivotal role in achieving the first Oxford-Vilnius agreement in Judaic studies, and, in 1991-1992, was a visiting fellow at the Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Oxford University. His works include a study of the Gaon of Vilna.