Politics of Memory

Vilnius City Council Session of 8 July 2020: A Swift, Surgical Attack on the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery



OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  INTERNATIONAL PETITION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

by Julius Norwilla

The author is chairperson of the Vilnius Committee for Preservation of Piramont (Šnipiškės) Cemetery. A selection of his English articles is available here.

The triumphant new visualization of national convention center and “red annex” in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, produced at last week’s meeting of Vilnius City Council. Omitted at left: the  two “green buildings” constructed on the cemetery in 2005-2008. The earth and bones removed have never been made accessible. 

On the 8th of July, Vilnius City Council approved the Joint Activity (Partnership) Agreement Between Vilnius City Municipality Administration and State Enterprise Property Bank. The session is available online. The deliberations on the Jewish cemetery are at timecode 19:50 through to 26:43. The new agreement has been heralded, without mention of ongoing opposition, in triumphant mainstream media reports in Lithuanian and English.

One council member, Ms. Evelina Dobrovolska, a lawyer working with the European Foundation for Human Rights, which is (was?) pursuing the preventive case in the courts against restoration of the Sport Palace in the middle of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės), left the meeting for that part of the session, as is the custom for those City Council members whose personal commitments may be seen to be a conflict of interest. But that also meant that there was nobody on hand to effectively offer the Second Opinion (including moral and reputational issues, information on the ongoing court case via a European human rights organization, the international petition, and the scope of opposition).

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Human Rights, Julius Norwilla, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Politics of Memory | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Vilnius City Council Session of 8 July 2020: A Swift, Surgical Attack on the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery

Lithuanian Righteous of the Nations: Were They Hunted Down After the War by the ‘Forest Brother’ Guerrillas?



OPINION  |  GLORIFICATION OF COLLABORATORS  |  POLITICS OF MEMORY

by Evaldas Balčiūnas

This is a story of seven Jewish women rescued in Telšiai (Yiddish: Telz). They are: Lija Šapiro (Leye Shapiro), Eta Piker, Nija Miselevič (Niye Miselevich), Maša Richman (Masha Richman), Anna Levi, Zlata Chatimlianskaja (Chatimliansky), and Leja Šif (Leye Shif).

But it is first and foremost  a story of “the aftermath”: What happened to the Lithuanian rescuers when the war ended?

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Posted in Collaborators Glorified, Evaldas Balčiūnas, History, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Politics of Memory | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Lithuanian Righteous of the Nations: Were They Hunted Down After the War by the ‘Forest Brother’ Guerrillas?

Will Lithuania’s Parliament Really Name 2021 for Alleged Participant in LAF’s Kaunas Atrocities of June 1941?



OPINION  |  EVENTS  |  DOUBLE GENOCIDE  |  HISTORY   |  COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED

by Dovid Katz

According to Lithuanian media reports, the nation’s parliament (Seimas) will be declaring the year 2021 to be dedicated to the memory of, among others, Juozas Lukša (Daumantas).

Let us assume for the sake of argument that the identification of Mr. Lukša (Luksha) as one of the brutal murderers of defenseless Jewish neighbors in an infamous photo of the Kaunas Garage Massacre of June 1941, best known from Joseph Melamed’s 1999 Crime and Punishment, published by the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, is erroneous. Then, that the reference in the text to Mr. Lukša (p. 38), and a photo with other alleged collaborators (p. 105), are likewise mistaken. And that the information on the Association’s website, posted during Mr. Melamed’s lifetime, is also in error.

UPDATES TO JULY 2020

Let us even grant that there is no current courtroom-grade proof for the details of the following text from Holocaust survivor Alex Faitelson, in his classic memoir The Truth and Nothing But the Truth: Jewish Resistance in Lithuania (Gefen Publishing House 2006, p. 34). It is a text that includes the author’s recollection from after the war: Lukša’s “photograph was found and shown to witnesses who were interrogated. They all confirmed his participation in the torture of Jews in the garage” (Lithuanian translation).

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Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Collaborators Glorified, Debates on Juozas Lukša, Dovid Katz, Events, Foreign Ministries: Holocaust Politics Abuse?, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Will Lithuania’s Parliament Really Name 2021 for Alleged Participant in LAF’s Kaunas Atrocities of June 1941?

Chief Historian of Lithuania’s State-Sponsored “Genocide Center” is Key Speaker at Events Glorifying June 23rd 1941 and — Noreika and Škirpa



OPINION  |  EVENTS  |  DOUBLE GENOCIDE  |  HISTORY   |  COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED  |  VILNIUS “GENOCIDE CENTER”

Dr. Arūnas Bubnys, chief historian at the state sponsored “Genocide Center” proudly glorifying June 23rd 1941 under the visages of Holocaust perpetrator J. Noreika (left) and ethnic cleansing advocate K. Škirpa in central Vilnius. Photo: DefendingHistory.com

VILNIUS—The good news is that the press conference at the Seimas (Lithuanian parliament) this morning featuring two members of parliament was in the end a small fringe event by the far right, including a renewed attack on Holocaust survivor and resistance hero Dr. Yitzhak Arad, one of the Jewish partisan veterans defamed and harassed by local prosecutors for some years. The evening event in central Vilnius had a dismal turnout of a few dozen people. Both events were dedicated to the glorification of June 23rd, the day the mass murder, injury, plunder and humiliation of Lithuanian Jewry by local Hitler supporters, most prominently the LAF (“Lithuanian Activist Front”) got underway, in a multitude of locations, most lethally Kaunas, before the arrival of the first German forces. Although it is universally accepted by serious historians that the Soviet Army was fleeing Hitler’s onslaught (Operation Barbarossa, the largest invasion in human history), the local far right continues to spew the narrative that this was actually a “rebellion” that “drove out” the Soviet army. (See Defending History’s coverage of previous years’ events and debates, an introductory reading list on the history, and the new English translation of extensive survivor testimonies.)

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Posted in Collaborators Glorified, Events, Genocide Center (Vilnius), History, Human Rights, Legacy of 23 June 1941, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, State Glorification of Holocaust Collaborator J. Noreika | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Chief Historian of Lithuania’s State-Sponsored “Genocide Center” is Key Speaker at Events Glorifying June 23rd 1941 and — Noreika and Škirpa

Lithuanian Defense Ministry’s Glorification of Nazi Collaborator K. Škirpa Still on Website


[UPDATED / ORIGINAL REPORT 3 MARCH 2020]

COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED  |   KAUNAS MARCHES EU  |  OPINION 

Believe it or not, the Defense Ministry still flaunts its magazine cover glorifying Lithuania’s major  1941 “Holocaust advocate” on its website with no editorial comment or disclaimer from the defense minister (as PDF). Who was K. Škirpa?

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Subtext to June 25th Vilnius Event: Vanagaite & Dieckmann vs. Vanagaite & Zuroff? Hope is for Full Openness on June 1941 and LAF Killers (and Hitler’s Puppet Local Gov.)



OPINION  |  EVENTS  |  BOOKS  | JUNE 23rd  | SURVIVORS REMEMBER “THE FIRST WEEK”  |  BACKGROUND

VILNIUS—As ever, debates on the Holocaust in Lithuania take on their own drama, a drama never far from the ongoing alleged revisionism by Baltic governments, not least about the outbreak of local violence, plunder and murder of defenseless Jewish citizens by local “patriots” still glorified as “anti-Soviet heroes” for their unleashing of the Holocaust locally in the first days following the launch of Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. In the Baltics as in (western) Ukraine, thousands of Jews were victimized and killed before the first German soldiers set foot on, or set up their administration in the territories. Far from fleeing some local “rebellion” as mendaciously claimed by state museums and commissions, the Soviet army was fleeing Hitler’s invasion — the largest invasion in human history.

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‘New Book’ by Holocaust Killer H. Cukurs Hits Latvia’s Bookstores



OPINION  |  LATVIA  |  GLORIFYING COLLABORATORS  |  POLITICS OF MEMORY

by Aleksandrs Feigmanis (Riga)

June 2020. I go to buy some food in the supermarket near where I live. Passing by the display-stand of the “Jānis Roze” bookstore featuring its proud new titles I was shocked to see My flight to Japan (Mans lidojums uz Japānu) by Herberts Cukurs (pronounced [tsú-kurs]). The book was just published, not by some private publisher, but by the Latvian Museum of Aviation in Spilve. Description of the new title on the website Janisroze.lv presents Herberts Cukurs as “the aviator, traveler and man of courage.” No mention of his involvement in the Holocaust.

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Historic Petition on Vilnius Cemetery Reaches 50,000 Mark



CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES  |  OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  PETITION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—The international petition launched by Ruta Bloshtein, a native and resident of Vilnius, has today reached the 50,000 signature mark. People of diverse background and many countries are among the signatories. Opponents of the disturbing idea to site a convention center in the heart of the old Jewish cemetery  (with extant graves, albeit not stones, on all four sides), has been resolutely opposed by rabbis in Lithuania in recent years, including, in alphabetical order, chief rabbi of nine years’ standing Chaim Burshtein (who was  fired in 2015 for speaking out); Rabbi S. J. Feffer  (a Gaon of Vilna scholar who has been based in Vilnius for decades, and  issued edicts in Hebrew and English); Rabbi Kalev Krelin, now based in Riga, who was one of the first to sign Ms. Bloshtein’s petition, along with Chabad rabbi Sholom-Ber Krinsky, who has lived in the city for over a quarter century with his family and is now official rabbi of the one functioning synagogue. Only partly in jest, Vilnius residents say this is the first time these rabbis have agreed on much of anything.

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Politics of Memory | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Historic Petition on Vilnius Cemetery Reaches 50,000 Mark

How to Honor Gaon of Vilna in Style?





Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Human Rights, Humor (Of Sorts), Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Politics of Memory | Tagged , , | Comments Off on How to Honor Gaon of Vilna in Style?

Do the Bones of Old Vilna Jewry Still Lie at Piramónt Cemetery?



OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  INTERNATIONAL PETITION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS  DOCUMENTS

VILNIUS—A recent social media campaign has been spreading the message that there are no longer human remains at the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt, in today’s Šnipiškės section of modern Vilnius, the capital of democratic EU and NATO member Lithuania. Of course within the Jewish faith the sanctity of Jewish cemeteries remains in situ despite earth disruptions. “There is no such thing as a former Jewish cemetery,” Lithuania’s last chief rabbi, Chaim Burshtein, pointed out, before being fired in 2015 for expressing his opposition to “the convention center in the cemetery.”

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A “Lurid Display” (& Video) of Mock Euro Notes at Vilnius’s Old Jewish Cemetery


UPDATES TO 4 MAY ENCLOSED IN [ ]

OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  INTERNATIONAL PETITION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—According to a report [full translation here] and photo spread in today’s Lrytas.lt (rapidly picked up on other major portals), a multitude of chairs, each with a mock 1000 euro banknote taped on, were on display today on the still unbuilt part of the old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, directly on top of thousands of extant graves covered by concrete slabs from the Soviet era. This is reported as a demonstration coordinated by the National Tourism Business Association (NTVA), the Lithuanian Tourism Association (LTA), and the Lithuanian Hotel and Restaurant Association (LVRA). The NTVA also published a “video of the demo” on Facebook. The video carries one line of text which reads, in translation: “By this action of empty chairs, the tourism industry reminds the state about the unemployed Palace of Sports.”

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Respectfully Disagreeing with Professor Timothy Snyder


[last updated]


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THE LATEST

Reviews of Bloodlands

Reviews of Black Earth

Instrumentalization?

2012   2013   2014   2015   2016

This journal holds leading historian Professor Timothy Snyder (Yale University) in the highest esteem, and trusts that this select list of reviews taking issue with aspects of Bloodlands of direct concern to DefendingHistory.com will not be taken amiss. It does not include reviews which have engaged in personal attack or pursued grudges, or which focus on other issues.

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Former Lithuanian Foreign Minister Calls on Present FM to Renounce View & Support State Glorification of Holocaust Collaborator J. Noreika



GLORIFICATION OF HOLOCAUST COLLABORATORS  |  JONAS NOREIKA  | DOUBLE GENOCIDE   |  FOREIGN MINISTRIES MANIPULATING HISTORY?  | ANTISEMITISM  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—A former foreign minister and current MP, Audronius Ažubalis, today published, in partnership with a younger right-wing MP, a public appeal (on the main news portal Delfi.lt), to the current foreign minister to revoke his 2019 agreement with the Western consensus that Holocaust perpetrator Jonas Noreika should not be the object of state-sponsored glorification in a NATO or EU member state.

Mr. Ažubalis, a stalwart of the right-wing Homeland Union and Christian Democratic party, has a long history “with the Jews and the Holocaust.” In 2010, all 21 members of the board of the Jewish Community of Lithuania signed an official protest at the then foreign minister’s antisemitic remarks. Then, in 2012, when eight bold Lithuanian parliamentarians (six MPs and two MEPs) signed the Seventy Years Declaration (SYD), in opposition to the 2008 Prague Declaration that is the “constitution” of the Double Genocide movement, the then foreign minister issued his infamous remark about the only difference between Hitler and Stalin being the length of their moustaches. He rapidly accused the eight Lithuanian parliamentarians (all Social Democrats) of being Putinist lackeys.

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Simon Gurevich, Elected Head of Vilnius Jewish Community, Reaffirms Jewish Stance on Old Vilna Cemetery



OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  INTERNATIONAL PETITION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—Today’s edition of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung carries Judith Leister’s article (in German) on issues arising during the current official Lithuanian government celebrations of the three hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Gaon of Vilna, Elijah ben Solomon Zalman (Eylyóhu ben Shlóyme-Zálmen, 1720–1797).

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Is Convention Center in Old Jewish Cemetery Really Best Way to Jumpstart Post Covid-19 Economy?



OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  INTERNATIONAL PETITION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—The major news portal Delfi.lt reported this morning on the economic recovery plan for jumpstarting the Lithuanian economy in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. After reporting on the doldrums of the construction industry, the article cites at length Mantas Miseliūnas, a top specialist on the role of commercial property in the economy. No opposing views are cited. The article, which does not mention the old Vilna Jewish cemetery, the current litigation, the international petition, and the massive international protest, informs readers of an idyllic panacea to the economic downturn wrought by Covid-19:

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Politics of Memory | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Is Convention Center in Old Jewish Cemetery Really Best Way to Jumpstart Post Covid-19 Economy?

‘Weekly of Vilnius’ Is Again Only Vilnius Publication to Give Both Sides of Story



COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED  |  NOREIKA  |  MEDIA WATCH  |  CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS  | HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—Once again, The Weekly of Vilnius, considered by some to be this city’s most prestigious English-language news-and-analysis publication, was the only major media outlet here to “give both sides of the story” on the recent court judgment of Lithuania’s Supreme Administrative Court’s 1 April decision in effect proclaiming that Holocaust collaborator J. Noreika is a national hero, unblemished by his involvement in the ghettoization, pillaging and destruction of thousands of his fellow citizens who were Jewish. Various state institutions, most notoriously the far-right Genocide Research Center, continue to spend lavishly on the glorification of Holocaust collaborators. See Defending History’s report, which includes links to other media coverage in Lithuanian and English.

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Posted in Christian-Jewish Issues, Collaborators Glorified, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Media Watch, News & Views, Politics of Memory, State Glorification of Holocaust Collaborator J. Noreika | Comments Off on ‘Weekly of Vilnius’ Is Again Only Vilnius Publication to Give Both Sides of Story

Lithuania’s Supreme Administrative Court Reconfirms ‘National Hero’ Status of Holocaust Collaborator J. Noreika



THE NOREIKA DEBATE FROM 2012 ONWARD  |  COLLABORATGORS GLORIFIED   |  DOUBLE GENOCIDE

VILNIUS—Coronavirus or not, Vilnius’s Supreme Administrative Court yesterday issued its dismissal of the appeal against an earlier court ruling that effectively codified in Lithuanian law the conclusion that Holocaust collaborator Jonas Noreika is indeed a national hero. The Noreika saga reached the English speaking world in 2012, when Evaldas Balčiūnas’s article appeared in Defending History. Mr. Balčiūnas followed up with articles on other perpetrators glorified by the state, and was harassed by years of kangaroo prosecutions (scroll down to May 2014, further articles following). Thereafter, challenges were mounted both here and abroad  to state-sponsored glorification, in a NATO/EU state, of a proven Holocaust collaborator. These  have included Californian-resident wealth adviser Grant Gochin, Vilnius-resident Lithuanian-American scholar Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas, who curates a website on the subject, and, most sensationally, Noreika’s own American-born grandsaughter, the Chicago-based author and educator Silvia Foti, whose 2018 article in Salon led to international media coverage and work on a feature film project.

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Eyewitness Report: March 11th Far Right March & Rally in Central Vilnius



MARCHES SECTION  |  VILNIUS MARCHES  |  KAUNAS MARCHES  |  RIGA MARCHES  |  GLORIFICATION OF COLLABORATORS

by Julius Norwilla

The Totenkopf flag, with the “Lithuanian swastika” upper right, has featured each year. Swastikas were legalized by Lithuanian courts in 2010. Photo: Julius Norwilla.

VILNIUS—It was Wednesday March 11th at around 4 PM. The procession of the “nationalists” began, as usual,  in the heart of the Lithuanian capital, with authorities’ permission, at the city’s medieval Cathedral Square. It made its way up the central boulevard, Gedimino, up to Lukiškės Square, a stone’s throw from the nation’s Seimas, or parliament.

Only Defending History came out to monitor the march. . .

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DH Community Invites Readers to Join Monitoring Team for “Nationalist” March 11th Vilnius March



VILNIUS—The entire Defending History community celebrates Lithuania’s independence day this coming Wednesday March 11th. Lithuania’s independence and democracy, like those of of neighboring EU/NATO states, are splendid success stories in the annuals of the region. All the more reason to be vigilant — as genuine friends of the Baltics are — against those who would try to insert Nazist values of ethnic hatred and Holocaust revisionism into the mix. We sincerely hope that the “nationalist” march for which the beautiful center of Vilnius is gifted each year will this year not glorify local Holocaust and Nazi collaborators, will not heap scorn on  the nation’s minorities and will not flaunt fascist symbols.

The Defending History team has been monitoring these events since 2008

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Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Collaborators Glorified, Events, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Neo-Nazi & Fascist Marches, News & Views, Politics of Memory, Vilnius Neo-Nazi Marches | Comments Off on DH Community Invites Readers to Join Monitoring Team for “Nationalist” March 11th Vilnius March

Vilnius Braces for May 7th “Jewish Cemetery Trial of Century”; Around 160 Plaintiffs Recognized by Court



OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  INTERNATIONAL PETITION  |  CPJCE (LONDON)  |  USCPAHA (WASHINGTON DC)

VILNIUS—At a hearing at the District Court of Vilnius City, at Laisves Prospect 79A on Monday, the presiding judge set Thursday May 7th 2020 as the date of the trial over plans of the state-financed property bank, “Turto Bankas” to establish a national convention center in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery. The plaintiffs in the case are Jewish people whose ancestors and relatives are still buried in the old cemetery, at Piramónt (in the Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius). Of hundreds of claims submitted, sources close to the court reported that “around 160” have been accepted as legal plaintiffs for the trial, which is expected to attract expert witnesses from the United States and Israel as well as foreign media interest. There has been extensive international opposition to the convention center project, including impassioned pleas from major Lithuanian-origin rabbis internationally, most recently the doyen of Litvak rabbis, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a nephew of Vilna’s prewar Chazon Ish. A petition by Vilnius native Ruta Bloshtein has garnered some 47,000 signatures.

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