WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?
THE LITVAK GUIDE
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- ♦ Three Yiddish institutions in Vilnius…
- ♦ New section on the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery and its fate
- ♦ Michael Shafir on Holocaust deflection and obfuscation in Hungary (and beyond)
- ♦ Litvak Links page relaunched
- ♦ Nationalist critique in Vilnius on Rūta Vanagaitė’s Holocaust remembrance project
- — Lithuania Tribune (Eng. Delfi) report
- ♦ Debate over plans for congress and entertainment hall on Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery site
- — New Lithuanian gov. commission to preserve Jewish heritage
- ♦ Will Yiddish poetry serve Neocon politics at SLS?
- ♦ Geoff Vasil reviews Lithuanian TV show with viewers’ votes on whether “the Jews should return”…
- ♦ VIDEO: Would a nation’s president and its one Jewish MP honor Holocaust-era fascist police volunteers alongside Shoah victims?
- ♦ Josh Cohen has advice for Ukraine in Foreign Policy magazine
- ♦ Rachel Kostanian speaks out on integrity and future of Holocaust commemoration in Lithuania
- ♦ Vilna Holocaust survivor writes to head of NY Yivo about Red-Brown Commission; director replies
- ♦ Andrius Kulikauskas explores the role of Lithuania’s 1941 leaders in the Holocaust
- ♦ Hungarian Holocaust museum leaves out “C word” (collaboration)
- ♦ Poets rise to the occasion
- ♦ USA page
- ♦ Aleksandras Bosas (1951—2014), valiant poet
- ♦ Strange tale of Yiddish, Vilnius, the WJC and ORT
- ♦ Hungary
- ♦ Latvia
- ♦ Ukraine
- ♦ Free Speech
- ♦ Film and video
- ♦ Books in the debate
- ♦ New section: Lithuanian citizens speak out with courage
- ♦ New section: Christian-Jewish Relations
- ♦ New section: Obituaries
- ♦ Free speech in Paris? Efraim Zuroff slams Latvian veto of UNESCO Holocaust exhibit in French capital
- ♦ One-sided coverage in Canada of Ukraine’s far right?
- ♦ Auschwitz debates rage on
- ♦ Czech president decries Ukraine’s choice of World War II fascists as “national heroes”
- ♦ Wiesenthal Center protests event featuring Genocide Center maestro at a Jewish memorial event
The Years and The Sites
Far & Wide
- ♦ View by Country
- ♦ US
- ♦ UK
- ♦ EU
- ♦ Hungary
- ♦ Ukraine
- ♦ The Baltics: Efraim Zuroff in JP
- ♦ Lithuania: Shimon Alperovich (1928-2014)
Survivors & Memory
- ♦ Dobke Yonis of Zezmer dies in Vilnius at 102
- ♦ What brings Anatoly to Vilnius from faraway Brest
- ♦ Zoya’s death leaves husband Meishke the last Jew in Svintsyán
- ♦ The bottle that waited in the attic 70 years to remind us of its unknown owner
- ♦ Meilach Stalevich turns 90
- ♦ Vilnius Holocaust survivor Pinchos Fridberg will not remain silent at distortion of history
- ♦ Nor will Shavl survivor Rachel Kostanian, former director of the Green House Holocaust exhibit
- ♦ Nor will flight survivor Milan Chersonski, former editor of Jewish community’s “Jerusalem of Lithuania”
- ♦ Survivors in Israel say no to abuse of Sutzkever’s legacy
- ♦ More from Holocaust survivors
- ♦ Survivor, resistance hero, scholar: Yitzhak Arad unravels the obfuscation of history
- ♦ Petitions by 2nd gen survivor Monica Lowenberg
- ♦ Let’s celebrate the bold Lithuanian citizens who speak up with courage
The Baltic Holocaust
Battle of Ideas
- • Bernard Dichek on the unfolding debate
- • Vytenis Andriukaitis on the freedom of history
- • Yitzhak Arad on Holocaust Obfuscation
- • Disagreeing with Snyder’s “Bloodlands”
- • Danny Ben-Moshe on Double Genocide
- • Leonidas Donskis on honoring of collaborators
- • Dovid Katz on three definitions
- • Monica Lowenberg on UK policy
- • Efraim Zuroff on Israeli policy
VILNIUS—As the first small shipment of Harvard Library’s new book, Catalog of the Leyzer Ran Collection in the Harvard College Library arrived this week in the Lithuanian capital, there was widespread satisfaction that at least a tabulation of the contents of Leyzer Ran’s extensive archive of Jewish Vilna is finally available. The collection was bequeathed to Harvard University where the Library maintains it as a distinct entity with its own name, space, and now, a handsome catalogue brought out by Harvard University. Leyzer Ran (1912-1995) is widely considered to be the primary postwar chronicler of the centuries-old unique Jewish civilization of the city known in Yiddish as Vílne, Yerusholáyim d’Líte — Vilna, Jerusalem of Lithuania. The newly appeared catalogue was compiled and edited by Dr. Charles Berlin, who is Head of Judaica at Harvard Library and Harvard University’s Lee M. Friedman Bibliographer in Judaica.
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.
VILNIUS—Beware of any academic conference hosted by a nation’s parliament. This isn’t about Lithuania, the Baltics, or Eastern Europe. It’s about the intellectual independence and academic integrity of bona fide academic conclaves anywhere. There are elementary questions. Was there a public call for papers? Was there an academic committee established to select those papers by the most competent specialists on the actual topic of the conference? An academic committee that would guard against the petty jealousies, politics of revenge and personal exclusions, as well as larger political correctnesses or state-sponsored-agency attempts to predetermine the proceedings or (ab)use them for governmental PR? Is the conference a free tribune for the exchange of ideas in an atmosphere of collegiality and mutual respect? One where scholars of opposing views can thrash it out, robustly and publicly — without the loss of interpersonal respect — to yield positive results for the area of human enquiry to which the conference was dedicated in the first place. One of the ironies is that Vilnius is nowadays host to some of the world’s best (and most academically free) conferences in an array of fields, both in the humanities and the sciences. That Soviet-style rigging should survive in the case of Judaic studies, of all things, will itself be studied one day.
VILNIUS—Professor Dov-Ber Kerler, deeply involved in the 2010 purge of Vilnius Yiddish Institute staff (including his own former doctoral supervisor at Oxford) for having disagreed with some Lithuanian government policies on the Holocaust, and in an alleged ongoing effort to obfuscate the history of Yiddish studies at Oxford and Vilnius, will be lecturing this Wednesday, 9 August 2017, at the new Judaica Research Center at Lithuania’s National Library in Vilnius. He is the head of the leading American Yiddish graduate studies program, that currently produces more Yiddish Studies doctorates than any other, at the Borns Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University at Bloomington. The topic of the lecture is “Yiddish: A Language in Contact Within and Without” on which Prof. Kerler has carried out pioneering research for decades. The event is open to the public free of charge. The lecture is underwritten by the government’s Ministry of Culture. More details are available on the Center’s Facebook page. Professor Kerler is also a specialist on Ethics in Yiddish Studies. He was honored for his efforts by a popular t-shirt in Lithuania.
Defending History Releases Yiddish Version of Julius Norwilla’s Lithuanian and English Poster for Piramónt
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | CEMETERIES | VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE
VILNIUS—Defending History today released here a Yiddish version of Julius Norwilla’s Lithuanian and English posters produced in the course of the current campaign to save the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery from becoming the “geo-basis” for a new national convention center where revelers would cheer, clap, sing, and dance, and use bars and toilets, surrounded by thousands of Jewish graves from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Human rights specialists concur that such a fate would not be contemplated for a Christian cemetery in the European Union, much less with the proposed EU contribution of millions of euros in “structural funds”.
As in the case of the Lithuanian and English posters, readers are invited to make as many printouts as possible, and to distribute them far and wide, mentioning wherever possible the ongoing international petition which has to date attracted some 40,000 signatures from many parts of the globe. The Yiddish poster is also available as PDF and higher-res image.
Has Yivo Again been Manipulated for Promotion of Holocaust Revisionism? (or: “Ót azélkhe shkhéynim?”)
VILNIUS—Less than one month after an inspiring, and by all accounts successful launch of the new Yivo-backed Jewish Studies Center at the Martynas Mažvydas National Library on 22 and 23 May 2017, the same institution, a national library of an EU and NATO member state, has launched, on the very same floor, another new center. This slightly-later launched institute, named for Holocaust collaborator and ethnic cleansing supporter Adolfas Damušis, made its debut on 15 and 16 June 2017. Its opening ceremony is described by Andrius Kulikauskas.
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.
The following new Rules of the Synagogue document appeared in two long-standing dusty frames in the entrance hallway on approximately 29 September 2016, at the Vilnius Choral Synagogue on Pylimo Street 39 in Vilnius, Lithuania. The document, dated 22 September 2016, in Lithuanian alone, replaces a set of rules that were posted bilingually for many years, in Yiddish and Lithuanian. Some members of the congregation believe that these Rules were enacted only after a 27 September 2016 morning services incident, at which a rabbi resident in Vilnius for 22 years was asked by the gabbai (Yiddish gábe, the official synagogue administrator), at a time when the official rabbis were not present, to blow the traditional ram’s horn (shofar, Yiddish shóyfer, Litvak Yiddish shéyfer, Israeli shofár), in the run-up to the Jewish New Year.
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.
The following comment appeared on Facebook today:
YAD VASHEM’S “political department” and the group that visited Lithuania last week:
Thanks to both members of the group who quietly reached out to the Defending History team for a meeting. As you saw, nothing but good comes from relaxed, pleasurable, respectful and frank exchange of ideas and knowledge, over a cup of coffee. It was sad that the group was (again) hermetically sealed from “The Second Opinion” here in Vilnius (and those Holocaust survivors who hold such opinions), as if Israeli citizens cannot be trusted to cope with a rich tapestry of opposing views when they visit Eastern Europe. (That various “Yiddish” institutions gleefully, at times, play the role of gatekeeper of ideas here is another issue.) For background on the issues from our team’s perspective, please see:
Over the years some amazing Israeli heroes of truth and courage have indeed spoken out.
OPINION | RED-BROWN COMMISSION (PAGE) | RB COMMISSION (SECTION) | DOUBLE GENOCIDE | VILNIUS YIDDISH INSTITUTE
VILNIUS—The news portal Delfi.lt reported yesterday on Lithuanian sharpshooting star Ronaldas Račinskas making a hit at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics not only for his talents with a rifle, but on his work back home for which the headline calls him the “Nazi-Soviet hunter,” in the latest of a long series of Holocaust terms appropriated and ably recast by the Red-Brown movement’s PR wizzards. Besides heading a commission that now includes the gentleman who launched the campaign, a decade ago, to “hunt” Holocaust survivors who joined the Jewish partisans, his “Nazi and Soviet hunting” refers to his role as Director of the Secretariat of that comission, popularly known as the Red-Brown Commission, a state-financed entity that is one of the main European engines for spreading the revisionist far right’s “Double Genocide” model of World War II history. In that history, as an example, those who liberated Auschwitz are declared to be equal in principle to those who committed the genocide there. Moreover the movement’s primary document, the 2008 Prague Declaration (PD), insists that all European “minds” accept the revised history and regard Nazi and Soviet crimes as equal, a stance widely considered to be a camouflage for obfuscating and diminishing the Holocaust. The response in the European arena came in the form of the 2012 Seventy Years Declaration (SYD).
Appeal to the conscience of the members of the renewed state-financed “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania”
Forward Coverage of Yivo Strife Omits Mention of Instrumentalization by Lithuanian Holocaust Revisionism Industry
NEW YORK CITY—A 9 March 2016 Forward article, by Britta Lokting, focused on Martin Peretz’s recent resignation from Yivo’s board, cited a number of current Yivo issues. It did not, however, mention the major issue of instrumentalization by the Lithuanian government’s campaign of Holocaust obfuscation, relativization and revisionism. It did reference the now-famous Vilnius-based digitization project.
In 2011, Yivo honored an antisemitic foreign minister while failing to honor the Yiddish speaking Vilna Holocaust survivors maligned by Lithuanian prosecutors, resulting in a heartfelt plea from the long-time editor of the Jewish community’s quadrilingual newspaper. Then, in 2012, it sent its director to Vilnius to help cover for the reburial with full honors of a Holocaust perpetrator, and saw its director join (and thereby give legitimacy to) the notorious “Red-Brown Commission.” A year ago, the organization was called to task by a Vilna Holocaust survivor in the Yiddish Fórverts (English translation here; unmentioned in the English Forward?). See Defending History’s section on Yivo issues in recent years.
HISTORY | PIRAMÓNT | CEMETERIES | PAPER TRAIL | OPPOSITION
The following is a reprint, with Professor Leiman’s permission, of his essay originally published on 14 January 2016 in The Seforim Blog. His October 2015 essay on the current plans for a convention center in the heart of the same cemetery is available here. He is Professor Emeritus of Jewish History and Literature at Brooklyn College in the City University of New York.
by Dovid Katz
VILNIUS—This city’s dashing young new mayor, Remigijus Šimašius, elected last spring, has now added Yiddish to the previously bilingual (Lithuanian-English) signs, wrought of expensive metal in rounded-edged casement, in times of austerity for pensioners and others in town. These signs are being placed near Soviet-era edifices made of pilfered Jewish gravestones (matséyves) that are a blot on this charming East European capital. This is the latest model featured on the mayor’s office website:
Police Prevent Kaunas Jewish Guide Chaim Bargman from Attending Annual Memorial for the Annihilated Jews of Ukmergė (Vilkomir)
VILNIUS—Chaim Bargman, Jewish guide in Kaunas, asked today in Vilnius that DefendingHistory.com record a statement in Yiddish from him on an incident that occurred on 6 September (video here). Bargman, a beloved guide and genealogist for international Jewish-interest tourists in the Kaunas (Kovno) area for decades, was immortalized in the late Dan Jacobson’s Heshel’s Kingdom (1998). September 6th was the date of this year’s annual commemoration ceremony for the murdered Jews of Ukmergė (Yiddish: Vílkomir) held at the nearby mass grave, where, according to the Lithuanian Holocaust Atlas, between 6,358 and 10,000 Jews from the region were humiliated and murdered. There was massive local collaboration as well as large-scale local participation in the slaughter of one of Lithuania’s most famous Jewish communities over many centuries. Disturbingly, for many, a town square in the heart of Ukmergė has a monument dedicating it to the memory of a notorious Holocaust perpetrator.
by Defending History Staff
The well-organized conference “Antisemitism, Radicalization and Violent Extremism” was held on 30 September 2015 at Vilnius’s Novotel Hotel by the Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HMRI) with partners (see program). It will go down in history as one of the most remarkable capers yet in the fraught local “Dead Jew Business,” as it is increasingly becoming known. The biggest shock of the day was that one of the three keynote morning session speakers was Swedish-born Lithuania-resident filmmaker Jonas Ohman, known in town for his (far right style) glorification of postwar resistance fighters — one of the most painful issues of Baltic antisemitism in the twenty-first century — without the slightest mention of the alleged Holocaust perpetrator background of the precise figures glorified.
But the film maker chosen for the morning session manages at the same time to also be a (far left style) Israel baiter, whose current “humanitarian project” is a petition asking the mayor of Vilnius to sack a Jewish (Israeli-Lithuanian) advisor on the basis of social media “silly photos” that become bacteriologically antisemitic when recycled in his own petition, and beyond, in its recontextualized, politically charged incarnation. Far from doing the same to counter officials and advisors with neo-Nazi links, he boasted in his talk (amateur video) of his links to Right Sector and other Ukrainian groups that adulate wartime Holocaust perpetrators. When he was trashing Israel, the Israeli ambassador to Lithuania, Amir Maimon, sitting in the hall, boldly called out a question: “Are you rewriting the history?” (at time code 13:31).
VILNIUS—Despite the relatively modest number of participants in the hall, around fifty, the 90th Anniversary Conference of Yivo in Vilnius was unanimously judged to be a major success with Yiddish scholars and cultural leaders from Buenos Aires, New York, Tel Aviv and Vilnius reading papers in English, Lithuanian, and Yiddish. Four papers were in Yiddish (by Lea Garfinkel, Dovid Katz, Abraham Lichtenbaum and Mordehay Yushkovsky), representing a serious Yiddish-in-Yiddish component of an academic conference for the first time in years. Yiddish greetings were also delivered by Emanuelis Zingeris, parliamentarian and founder of the city’s Jewish museum. There were greetings from the Israeli ambassador and the Lithuanian parliament and foreign ministry.
ברוכיﬦ הבﬡיﬦ ﬡין וויﬥנע, דעלעגאַטן ﬡויף דער ייוואָ קאָנפערענץ!
SVEIKI ATVYKĘ Į VILNIŲ, JIVO KONFERENCIJOS DELEGATAI!
WELCOME TO VILNIUS, DELEGATES TO THE YIVO CONFERENCE!
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.
רחל מאַרגאָליס (מַרְגָלִית) ז″ל
Vilna, 28 October 1921 — Rehovot, 6 July 2015
About Rachel Margolis: Shimon Alperovich, Algirdas Brazauskas, Gordon Brown, Abraham Foxman, Steinar Gil, Martin Gilbert, Chen Ivri Apter, Dovid Katz (Y), Francois Laumonier, NCSJ, Geoff Vasil. UK House of Lords, 5 US Congressmen, 9 Western ambassadors in Vilnius.
O P I N I O N
Editor’s note: Reprint from The Times of Israel, where this article, with several photographs, appeared on 25 June 2016.
I am a Holocaust survivor. I was born here in Vilnius (Yiddish: Vílne), today’s capital of Lithuania, known forever as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” for its vibrant Jewish culture, religious and secular, for hundreds of years. Today our post-Holocaust Jewish community is a tiny remnant, just a few thousand people, but we are vibrant, and, as always, a community of many opinions. Once again, a question has arisen that calls for robust discourse.
O P I N I O N
LOS ANGELES—Richard A. Maullin, elected less than a year ago as the chair of the California Independent System Operator (ISO) Board, was lavishly honored here on May 31st by both the Lithuanian ambassador to the United States and the Foreign Minister of Lithuania. The latter, in the tradition of royalty, meticulously placed the Lithuanian Diplomatic Star around the neck of Dr. Maullin, a major American pollster and principal of the LA polling and public policy research firm FM3, often still known by its older name Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.
O P I N I O N
The bizarre saga of the Montreal-based Summer Literary Seminars (SLS) “Jewish Lithuania Sutzkever Prize” continues apace with ever-increasing disrespect toward Abraham Sutzkever and his fellow Jewish partisans who helped liberate Lithuania from the Nazis, and ever more political entanglement with current geopolitical instrumentalization of Yiddish and Jewish causes in Eastern Europe in the context of East-West tensions.
O P I N I O N
VILNIUS—Yiddish comedy is alive and kicking. Here’s the plot for the new play. The World Jewish Congress gets millions from a Kyrgyz-Kazachstani donor with Lithuanian connections to set up the International Yiddish Center in Vilnius that will save the Yiddish language, a high priority for both the Kyrgyz and Kazachstani peoples. There are just a few strings attached from Lithuanian government-related units and commissions about who may not have a Yiddish teaching job there (for example those who oppose Holocaust Denial or have stood up for Yiddish speaking survivors accused by Lithuanian authorities of war crimes). The new International Yiddish Center is offered an opportunity one day to raise its profile bigtime by being showcased in the Lithuanian Parliament. Who could refuse that? There may even be some medals to go around. But what is it they have to pull off to get there?
Joseph Levinson’s Symbolic Gravestones for His Parents “Speak Out” During His Own Funeral (12 April 2015)
C E M E T E R I E S / P H O T O G R A P H Y
by Dovid Katz
As dozens gathered at Vilnius Jewish cemetery to bid farewell to dear Joseph Levinson today, those who read Yiddish could not fail to notice the two symbolic gravestones he erected on the family plot, in Yiddish by choice.
Member of Red-Brown Commission and Trasher of Yiddish Dissidents is Appointed to Council of Europe’s “Commission against Racism and Intolerance” (ECRI)
O P I N I O N
VILNIUS—Waves of shock laced with the “actual” human rights community’s usual black humor undulated through the different struggling branches of that community this week as the Council of Europe announced the appointment of one of the most multiply-titled intellectuals of modern Lithuania (or Europe), Prof. Dr. S. Liekis, as a new member of the Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (CARI). Professor Liekis is professor at Vilnius University, Romeris University, Vytautas Magnus University, and a crack member of the government’s red-brown commission, formally known by its somewhat Orwellian name, The International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania. The local term “actual human rights” community in Lithuania refers to those who monitor and publicly post on issues, as opposed to those on endless government and EU budgets who are sometimes accused of covering up issues and shirking from anything that is not nationalist PR meant for naive Westerners.
One immediate opportunity presents itself. CARI and the Council of Europe could quickly make clear their view of the Lithuanian government’s decision to allow an SS banner with a swastika to be foisted at the nation’s Parliament (the Seimas) for over an hour on the nation’s hallowed independence day, 11 March 2015. Reports on the day, which funded human rights organizations here generally failed to monitor, in Defending History and on the website of the Jewish Community of Lithuania.
O P I N I O N
Editor’s note: The following open letter has been translated from the original Yiddish which will appear separately. See also the English version of the statement referred to in the open letter.
For many years now I have been starting the day by reading the latest on the website of the Jewish Community of Lithunia. Today for the first time in a long time I saw a published statement by chairperson Faina Kukliansky which I would happily sign on to. I would like to say: Bravo, Faina Kukliansky!
Editor’s note: The following is a translation of the open letter by Professor Pinchos Fridberg, a Holocaust survivor in Vilnius, and the reply by Yivo’s director, Dr. Jonathan Brent. Both were published in the Yiddish Forward (Forverts) on 1 March 2015. Prof. Fridberg has also posted an audio file of his reading his letter aloud in his native Vilna Yiddish. In the case of any issue arising, the Yiddish text is authoritative. For readers’ reference, hyperlinks have been added (by Defending History) to various of the documents and topics cited. See also the Pinchos Fridberg page and section in Defending History, page and section on the state-sponsored commission discussed, and section on Yivo issues.
September 2014 at Ponár, the mass muder site of Vilna Jewry: Three representatives of the controversial state sponsored commission on Nazi and Soviet crimes pay respects in unison: (from left): Dr. Jonathan Brent, Emanuelis Zingeris, Ronaldas Račinskas. Photo: Defending History.
ear Dr. Jonathan Brent,
I appeal to you in Yiddish. Do you know why? Because I believe, that a person who is the leader of the Yivo institute will understand me. My name is Pinchos Fridberg. I was born in Vilna before the war and am a survivor of the Holocaust. My grandmother and grandfather, and all our relatives on my mother’s side — 28 people — lie [at the mass murder site] Ponár.
by Dovid Katz
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.
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-Svintsyán — Švenčionėliai), and Tseykín (Ceikiniai).
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
In a widely disseminated press release today, the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research announced the launch of a fundraising campaign for US $5,250,000 for the “Yivo Vilna Project.” We are told that it is for “a seven-year international project to preserve, digitize and reunite virtually Yivo’s prewar archives located in New York City and Vilnius, Lithuania, through a dedicated web portal” that will create “the largest collection of Yiddish language materials in the world.”
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.”
A Kyrgyz-Kazakhstani Yiddish Twist? Was A. Mashkevich, Major Jewish Philanthropist, Manipulated by Lithuanian Operatives?
Sources in the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and ORT, themselves asking to remain anonymous, have leaked to select media contacts that the “secret donor” for the secretive new WJC/ORT Yiddish cultural center in Vilnius is none other than Kyrgyz born Alexander Mashkevich, a charismatic, brilliant, well-liked, and decidedly flamboyant “Russian Jewish oligarch” who is mostly associated with Kazakhstan.
Mr. Mashkevich holds a doctorate in linguistics, is descended from Lithuanian Jews, and is known for his generosity to numerous charities and his leadership in the Russian-speaking Jewish world. He is a former president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress. The WJC and ORT sources supplying the information claim to be worried on his behalf about manipulation by the Lithuanian government’s “double genocide unit” via the medium of famous Jewish organizations.
The center’s establishment was announced in a Vilnius interview with World Jewish Congress executive director Michael Schneider last April, in which he indicated that the new center would be funded by “an anonymous donor who doesn’t want his name to be mentioned.”
Regina Kopilevich, Genealogist and Historical Tour Guide for Jewish Lithuania, Speaks Out on Yiddish in Vilnius
VILNIUS—Regina Kopilevich, whose extensive contributions to Jewish genealogy and tourism have been covered by the New York Times, today released a statement about the new Yiddish language teaching positions planned in Vilnius. Ms. Kopilevich is one of the leading tour guides in the Baltic region for both Jewish history and family roots voyagers.
The statement follows in short order those released by Milan Chersonski, longtime editor (1999-2011) of Jerusalem of Lithuania, the Jewish community’s former newspaper; Daniel Galay, director of Leivick House and the Union of Yiddish Writers and Journalists in Israel; and Professor Olegas Poliakovas, a philology professor at Vilnius University and longtime member of the university’s senate. The positions are being arranged by high officials of the World Jewish Congress.
The text of Ms. Kopilevich’s statement follows.
Open Letter from Regina Kopilevich
Vilnius, 28 July 2014
Professor Dovid Katz first came to Lithuania when it was part of the Soviet Union, and set out on 25 years of interviewing and recording (and always helping) aged Holocaust survivors in Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, and northeastern Poland.
Milan Chersonski, Longtime Editor of “Jerusalem of Lithuania” Calls on World Jewish Congress to Advertise New Yiddish Positions in Vilnius
VILNIUS—Milan Chersonski made public today the text of his letter to Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress. Mr. Chersonski was editor-in-chief of the quadrilingual (English-Lithuanian-Russian-Yiddish) Jerusalem of Lithuania, the official publication of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, from 1999 to 2011. From 1979 to 1999 he was artistic director of the Jewish Folk Theatre in Vilnius, which for many years had been the only Yiddish theatre in the Soviet Union. A film documentary tribute to his work was released in 2012 (part 1; part 2).
Mr. Chersonski is a regular contributor to Defending History. This statement reflects his personal views.
An Open Letter to Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress
Vilnius, 25 July 2014
Dear Mr. Lauder,
I am one of your loyal admirers who for many years, as editor (in the years 1999-2011) of the quadrilingual newspaper of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, Jerusalem of Lithuania, has been following your achievements, and also your deep commitment to Judaism via a range of philanthropic initiatives that have made a substantial difference for the betterment of Jewish life. When you were appointed to the presidency of the World Jewish Congress in 2007, I was proud as editor to give the event and your many achievements front page coverage (see Jerusalem of Lithuania, 2007, no. 5-6: page 1).
Prof. Olegas Poliakovas, Longtime Member of Vilnius University’s Senate, Speaks Out on New Yiddish Positions in Vilnius
VILNIUS—The office of Vilnius University’s Professor Olegas Poliakovas, a leading philologist and member of the Senate of Vilnius University (from 2001 to 2014), issued this statement today concerning possible new Yiddish studies positions in Vilnius.
For background to recent developments, please see the earlier report on the World Jewish Congress initiative; the statement issued by Daniel Galay, director of Leyvik House, the center of Yiddish cultural activities in Israel; and a Facebook comment by Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office.
In the meantime, the World Jewish Congress has included news of the new institute in its newsletter, without confirming that the academic positions will be advertised in a fair and transparent process to ensure academic quality, moral integrity, and independence from political pressures. As widely reported, the previous professor of Yiddish (1999-2010), Dr. Dovid Katz (DH’s editor), was terminated following eleven years of incident-free service after speaking out for the Holocaust survivor veterans of the Jewish partisans who are accused of war crimes (in the absence of any charges or specific issues).
Text of Statement issued by Professor Olegas Poliakovas:
Vilnius, 22 July 2014
I was delighted to hear of the possibility that a professorship or major teaching position in Yiddish Studies would be restored in Vilnius. Before World War II, Vilnius was one of the greatest centers of Yiddish culture in Europe. It ceased to have that distinction due to the tragic fate of the Jewish population during the war. Thus, this teaching position could play a part in the restoration of historic justice.
TEL AVIV— Daniel Galay, director of Leyvik House in central Tel Aviv, one of Israel’s major Yiddish culture institutions, issued the following statement today on the Leyvik House website (copy), and on its Facebook page (see also Efraim Zuroff’s Facebook comment). For background see our earlier report.
Appeal to the World Jewish Congress
Tel Aviv, 12 June 2014
Like all lovers of Yiddish language and culture, we at Leyvik House in Tel Aviv, home to the Union of Yiddish Writers and Journalists in Israel, were happy to see the recent announcement that the World Jewish Congress would be facilitating a new Yiddish center in Vilnius, Lithuania.
O P I N I O N
A recent report, also available as PDF, suggests sudden and deep involvement of the World Jewish Congress in the Lithuanian government’s repeatedly documented use of Yiddish, Judaic studies and even Holocaust studies as means to advance — or cover for — state-sponsored Double Genocide revisionism with respect to the essential narrative of the Holocaust. The report has proven to be disturbing for the wider Holocaust survivor community and its supporters.
WJC Executive Director Michael Schneider Goes on the Record in Vilnius, about Yiddish and Secret Donor
The following is a reprint of the interview given by Michael Schneider, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, dated 9 April 2014 and posted shortly thereafter on the website of the Jewish Community of Lithuania (PDF here).
UPDATE: See Section on WJC and ORT Yiddish involvement in Vilnius. Open letters to the WJC from Milan Chersonski, Daniel Galay, Regina Kopilevich, Prof. Olegas Poliakovas.
World Jewish Congress and Lithuanian Jewish Community Attention to and Support for the Vilnius Yiddish Institute
April 9, 2014
Michael Schneider, a well-known leader of the World Jewish Congress and former executive director of WJC and the JDC (Joint), is currently visiting the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Discussions are taking place at the community on improving and expanding the activity of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute at Vilnius University and changes in its administration.
Another Panel at Yivo, Neo-Nazi Marches in Lithuania, and American Silence on Glorification of Nazi Collaborators
O P I N I O N
by Olga Zalubdoff
The following is the text of Olga Zabludoff’s op-ed published on 13 February 2014 in the Algemeiner Journal. Comments by readers are available at the original site of publication.
Yivo, Lithuania, The Holocaust
Nobody could love or respect the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research more than I do. It was founded as the Yiddish Scientific Institute in Vilna, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania) in 1925. Yivo remains a symbol for all who cherish our Yiddish heritage and, now, its last prewar survivors. Through the years I have spent many wondrous hours at Yivo, digging, discovering, and learning about my Litvak ancestors, their shtetlakh, and their culture. Being there always felt like being home. The books and documents I handled seemed almost sacred. Memories of conversations with Yivo’s’s revered librarian Dina Abramowicz still make me smile. . .
Updates to 14 February 2014: Neo-Nazi March in Kaunas, Gov. Sponsored Camouflage Symspoium at Yivo in New York
Colleagues in Lithuania of all backgrounds invited to meet Dr. Efraim Zuroff, and join silent, peaceful protest against state-enabled neo-Nazi glorification of local Holocaust collaborators: Sunday 16 Feb, 2 PM, Ramybes Park, Kaunas
A new page has been launched to provide selected articles from the English edition of the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s Jerusalem of Lithuania. The newspaper was regularly published in four separate editions (English, Lithuanian, Russian and Yiddish) from 1989 to early 2011. These selections are from the years 1999-2011, when the quadrilingual publication was edited by Milan Chersonski, now a senior staff writer at Defending History. The page is being developed in close consultation with Mr. Chersonski.
Sources in Bloomington, Indiana and Vilnius, Lithuania, confirmed this week that Dr. Daniel R. Berg, an eminent physician in the greater Bloomington area, has resigned from the rump “Board of Friends” of Sarunas Liekis’s “Vilnius Yiddish Institute” (VYI). The institute’s website abruptly removed Dr. Berg’s name and photograph from the board. No letter of resignation was released to the media, but a source close to the doctor said he was dismayed to see the institute’s resources being dedicated to a campaign of defamation against its own former Yiddish professor and founder, whose name and contributions have been deleted from the historic faculty page, in the classic Soviet style of revising history.
Wiesenthal Center’s Israel Office Releases 2007 Correspondence with LA Board Chief of Vilnius Yiddish Institute
Editor’s note: The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office today released for the record the following September 2007 email exchange with the director of the Los Angeles based “Friends of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute” (VYI).
Red-Brown Commission Member Takes Katz-Bashing Campaign to Litvak Culture Fest in Philadephia; LA Next?
O P I N I O N
A senior historian and his government’s “master fixer for foreign Jewish academics,” Professor Sarunas Liekis told an audience of hundreds in Philadelphia last Sunday that Dovid Katz had never been a professor of Yiddish at Vilnius University, and had been discontinued in 2010 by the American Friends of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute (led by Richard Maullin of Los Angeles) for not having turned up for class for several years (!).
Chersonski Replies to Aleksandravičius on the 2012 Kaunas Reburial of the 1941 Nazi Puppet Prime Minister
Translated from Russian by Ludmila Makedonskaya (Grodno); updated English version approved by the author, Milan Chersonski (Chersonskij), longtime editor (1999-2011) of Jerusalem of Lithuania, quadrilingual (English-Lithuanian-Russian-Yiddish) newspaper of the Jewish Community of Lithuania. He was previously (1979-1999) director of the Yiddish Folk Theater of Lithuania. The views he expresses in Defending History are his own. Photo: Milan Chersonski (image © Jurgita Kunigiškytė). Milan Chersonski section.
Real Heroes and Supposed Heroes
Who Protested and Why?
In May 2012 solemn funeral events were held in Kaunas: the ashes of the interim prime minister of the Provisional Government of Lithuania (hereinafter PG) Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis were transferred from the state of Connecticut in the United States, where he was buried in 1974, to Kaunas, the former temporary capital of Lithuania. There the ashes were reburied.
O P I N I O N
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.
Dr. Shimon Alperovich, Former Chairman of Lithuanian Jewish Community, Motivates his Doubts on Plans to Rebuild the Great Synagogue
Dr. Shimon Alperovich, who was chairman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania from 1992 to earlier this year when he retired, gave an interview today on the contentious subject of the project to rebuild the Great Synagogue in Vilnius’s old town. It was lovingly known in Vilna Yiddish as di gréyse shúl or di shtót-shul.
Dr. Alperovich stressed that he was speaking in a personal capacity.
EHU Center for German Studies: “Colloquium Vilnense 2013” is Short on “The Second Opinion” when it comes to The Holocaust
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
Colleagues at the prestigious European Humanities University in Vilnius (EHU, also known as the Belarusian Humanities University, in exile here in Vilnius) have passed on the public poster for this year’s series of seminars under the title Colloquium vilnense 2013, running from May to November 2013. The A3 size poster is reproduced (much reduced) at the bottom of this page in two halves.
On the 15 July 2013 centenary of the birth of the illustrious Yiddish poet of Vilna, Abraham Sutzkever (1913–2010), the last active association of Holocaust survivors from Lithuania released the statement below (also available as PDF). It urges organizers, participants, judges and prize winners to avoid being instrumentalized as cover-up props for Holocaust obfuscation. It proposes that they simply issue public statements calling for written public apologies from the Lithuanian government to the defamed Jewish partisans who knew Sutzkever well from the forests of Lithuania and dozens of years of contact in survivor circles. See the related debate on this year’s Sutzkever Prize.
Bloomington-Borns Jewish Studies Arranges for 2nd Right-Wing Soviet-Israeli Self Publishing Poet to be “Professor of Yiddish in Vilnius”
Through the good offices of the Borns Jewish Studies program at Indiana University (Bloomington), and its Dr. Alice Field Cohn Chair Yiddish studies professor, D.B. Kerler (“Boris Karloff”), who allegedly knifed his own doctoral supervisor in pursuit of a summer position in Vilnius (despite having a tenured position in the US), a comrade Soviet-Israeli self-publishing Yiddish poet has been announced as visiting professor of Yiddish on the home page of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute. Both have in some views allowed themselves to be instrumentalized by the right-wing Holocaust-revisionist establishment that seeks to cover for state policies including rampant antisemitism and the “Double Genocide” campaign via events and stunts in the field of Yiddish and Jewish studies.
According to the announcement, Dr. Velvl Chernin is now the “visiting professor” of Yiddish at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, which was purged of full-time Jewish staff in 2010 and has been criticized for being Yiddish-free for eleven months of the year.
That situation has apparently now been remedied by the appointment of Dr. Chernin, who, it is announced,
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 Emily Sheinbaum
On a rainy London evening, Thursday the 7th of March, six protesters met at University College London (UCL), for Cassedy had come to town. Her public talk initially scheduled to take place in the Garwood lecture theatre was unexpectedly changed to the Medawar Lankester lecture theatre two days prior. People on the Hebrew department’s Institute of Jewish Studies email list were notified of the change in venue but the details were, curiously enough, not updated on UCL’s website.
Nevertheless, despite such last-minute logistical alterations, protesters against Cassedy’s book tour that is underway “in association” with the Lithuanian government met at 6:30 PM in the narrow corridor leading to the Lankester theatre. By a small table they strategically positioned themselves ready to warmly greet the 45 odd attendees who politely walked past and eagerly took handouts concerning the Lithuanian government’s recent actions since 2006, Ms. Cassedy’s association with the government, petitions, letters and book reviews.
Sutzkever Translation Prize: American Poets in Discourse on “Being a Judge in a Judenrat Circumstance”
The New York office of Cross-Cultural Communications Press today released the following statement by its director, poet and publisher Stanley H. Barkan, in response to a 26 Dec 2012 Forward article on the recently announced Abraham Sutzkever Translation Prize competition. Sutzkever (1913-2010), a Vilna Ghetto survivor and Jewish partisan, was a major Yiddish poet and editor.
The prize is related to events to be held in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, next summer on the centenary of Sutzkever’s birth. Details of the award and an opinion piece on its problematic aspects appeared earlier, on 6 Dec 2012, in Defending History. The text of Mr. Barkan’s statement first appeared in the Comments section following the Forward report.
O P I N I O N
Dear Mr. Hirsch,
Congratulations on your selection as judge of the new literary translation contest named for the eminent late Yiddish poet Avrom (Abraham) Sutzkever (1913-2010). News of the contest was today disseminated far and wide (information affixed below, for readers’ rapid reference, and to help inspire more entries in your competition).
You may know that in addition to being a major twentieth century Yiddish poet and editor, Sutzkever survived the Holocaust by escaping the Vilna Ghetto to join the anti-Nazi Jewish partisans. You may or may not know that elderly Lithuanian Jewish Holocaust survivors, who like Sutzkever escaped certain death by joining the partisans, but who are still alive and relatively well, have been defamed as “war criminals” by the same Lithuanian government that recently invested in a Sutzkever plaque in Vilnius, brought over his Israeli family for festivities, and invests in ever more Jewish and Yiddish PR stunts (complete with honors for compliant foreigners) to camouflage a campaign of revisionism.
This is on top of a disturbing toleration of serious antisemitism, including in recent years, state-sanctioned neo-Nazi marches in the heart of the capital city on independence day, the legalization of public swastikas (the UN Human Rights Committee has commented), and inaction regarding front pages of mass circulation newspapers worthy of the 1930s. The most famous examples in recent years are depictions of the Jew and the Gay controlling the world (2009), and, less than a year ago, of one of the city’s resident rabbis.
Leivick House, one of Israel’s (and the world’s) last Yiddish-in-Yiddish cultural institutions, has released a video clip of the June 2009 visit to its Dov Hoz Street headquarters in central Tel Aviv by Israel’s then ambassador to Latvia and Lithuania, the late Chen Ivri Apter, at an event to honor Dr. Rachel Margolis. It is posted on YouTube (partial English translation here). The event itself was reported in DefendingHistory and the Leivick House website, among other venues.
Dr. Margolis, due to celebrate her 91st birthday next week, is a Vilna Ghetto survivor and anti-Nazi resistance hero who has been targeted by Lithuanian prosecutors, in effect according to some for “the crime of surviving.” Tributes to Dr. Margolis have come from around the world, including former UK prime minister Gordon Brown in 2011.
Ambassador Ivri Apter died last month at the age of 54 after a long battle with cancer that friends always said he never allowed to cloud his love of life and the day ahead.
His short speech at Leivick House is thought likely to go down in history for its courage and forthrightness at a time when his nation’s foreign policy was noticeably starting to tilt in a contrary direction. The Tel Aviv event was organized jointly by DefendingHistory.com and Leivick House.
O P I N I O N
by Efraim Zuroff
reprinted with the author’s permission from today’s Times of Israel
This week, one of the more shameful events in Lithuanian-Jewish relations since the Baltic republic regained independence in 1991 will be hosted in New York by the once-venerable Yivo Institute. Under the heading “Reclaiming the Jewish Narrative in Lithuania Today,” the Yiddish research institute will host Markas Zingeris, whom it describes as a “Lithuanian-Jewish poet and writer,” to speak about relations between Jews and Lithuanians since the fall of Communism.
O P I N I O N
by Milan Chersonski
Milan Chersonski (Chersonskij), longtime editor (1999-2011) of Jerusalem of Lithuania, quadrilingual (English-Lithuanian-Russian-Yiddish) newspaper of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, was previously (1979-1999) director of the Yiddish Folk Theater of Lithuania, which in Soviet times was the USSR’s only Yiddish amateur theater company. The views he expresses in DefendingHistory are his own. This is an authorized English version (updated by the author) by Ludmilla Makedonskaya (Los Angeles). Russian original.
Photo: Milan Chersonski at this desk at the Jewish Community of Lithuania (image © 2012 Jurgita Kunigiškytė). Milan Chersonski section.
Dear Mr. Jonathan Brent,
A little over a year ago, on 12 September 2011, I wrote my first open letter to you. I wrote that it is inappropriate to hold an event commemorating the Jews of Vilna who were victims of genocide together with the minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Lithuania Audronis Ažubalis on the premises of Yivo. If you did not then find time to read my letter, you can find it now online.
Vilnius University Calls Antisemitic, Racist, Homophobic Artist “Humanistic” as 9 Young Lithuanians Protest; Yiddish Institute, US Backers, Bloomington-Borns — All Silent
O P I N I O N
A dedicated Facebook page provides facts and photos on today’s dignified and courageous demonstration by a small group of young Lithuanian human rights advocates against Vilnius University’s proceeding with an exhibition of an envelope designer whose work features flagrant antisemitic, homophobic and racist material (larger selection here).
Fiokla Kiure’s images of the event are available here; a small selection follows this article.
Earlier report (21 Sept)
Delfi.lt report by Eglė Samoškaitė (25 Sept) [English here]
According to Vilnius University’s website, a ceremony to open an exhibition of “envelope art” by Antanas Šakalys will be held in the White Hall of the university’s main library on 27 September at 2 PM. Mr. Šakalys’s antisemitic postcards were on sale for many years at the capital’s main Post Office, and were exposed in 2008 by the Jewish community’s newspaper, Jerusalem of Lithuania.
Last March 11th, Lithuanian Independence Day, when over a thousand neo-Nazi marchers passed the sign for the government’s Jewish Public Library on the capital’s main boulevard, no member of the library’s staff turned up to oppose the neo-fascists, with even a modest, polite sign of disapproval. The march proceeded with official permits and the participation of several members of parliament identified with the ruling coalition. The Lithuanian Embassy in Washington DC failed to respond to a DC based petition that attracted 2,156 signatories, many from Lithuanian citizens.
Holocaust Survivors Picket TA ‘Gala’ Where South African Bigwigs Honor Lithuanian Right-Wing Politician
Kovno Ghetto Survivor and Resistance Hero Joe Melamed, 87, Leads March 5th 2012 Picket Line Against “Sellout Gala” at the Tel Aviv Dan Panorama
Lithuanian Foreign Minister and Brothers Zingeris are Greeted by Protesting Holocaust Survivors
Report on YNET. The Times of Israel. 15min.lt. Itongadol.com. Agencia Judia. Forverts (Yiddish Forward). Background. More.
Holocaust survivors Shlomo Cheskov (left, from Shavl/Šiauliai), and Joseph Melamed (from Kovno/Kaunas) at the Tel Aviv demonstration. Mr. Cheskov’s sign says (in Yiddish) “With our partisan heroes, against neo-Nazism. We are here!” Mr. Melamed’s (in Hebrew) addressed to the South African businessmen diners at the gala dinner: “Dear Diners! Where is your conscience? Your solidarity with Holocaust survivors and resistance fighters and partisans?” Photo: Bella Bryks-Klein.
די זיבעציק יאָריקע דעקלאַראַציע
צום יאָרטאָג פון דער „ענדלייזונג“ קאָנפערענץ אין וואַנזע
דעם 20טן יאַנואַר 2012 \ פינף און צוואַנציק טעג אין טבת תשע″ב
צו אָט דעם זיבעציקסטן יאָרטאָג פון דער פאָרמעלער אָננעמונג דורך דער נאַצישער אָנפירערשאַפט פון דער „ענדלייזונג פון דער יידישער פּראָבלעם“, טרעטן מיר די אונטערגעחתמעטע אַרויס, בכדי:
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.
O P I N I O N
by Evaldas Balčiūnas
The Vilna Ghetto memoir of Rozka Korczak-Marlé (1921–1988) is unfortunately completely unknown to Lithuanians today. I have therefore decided to translate the book into Lithuanian (from the Russian edition that Korczak herself edited), and have published two samples, here and here, on Anarchija.lt.
E Y E W I T N E S S R E P O R T / O P I N I O N
by Joshua Markovitz (Jerusalem)
It was Thursday November 24th. Thanksgiving. One couldn’t really feel it in Jerusalem, though; the city was bustling as it would on any other crisp autumn morning. I made my way through its fashionable Baka neighborhood, asking several passersby where to find Efrata College. (One of them couldn’t understand my question, and asked me if I spoke English. I happily replied in the affirmative. When one is an immigrant to a faraway land, it’s quite delicious to be mistaken for a native!)
Yivo Director’s Statement on Lithuanian Foreign Minister’s 2010 Antisemitic Comments, Plus Some Facts
“Fact: The anti-Semitic comment allegedly made by Foreign Minister Ažubalis and quoted by Efraim Zuroff (Simon Wiesenthal Center, Israel) as fact was hearsay.”
14 October 2010: Respected journalist Vytautas Bruveris publishes his report (“Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Strategist Sees Jewish Conspiracy”) in Lietuvos rytas, on the foreign minister’s comments made to a meeting of his entire political faction (Homeland Union / Christian Democrats), now the country’s ruling party, in a meeting in the country’s parliament. PDF here. Full English translation here.
14 October 2010: Immediate response of the Jewish Community of Lithuania after the convening of a special meeting of the community’s Board of Directors in which twenty-one board members participated. Authorized English text here.
14 October 2010: DefendingHistory.com report here.
15 October 2010: Alfa.lt reports, citing in detail the press release issued by the foreign minister in reply. His remarks, made to his entire party faction, could not easily be denied, so the reports are attacked by the ministry’s press release as ‘hearsay’, the foreign ministry line since then, faithfully produced verbatim on 13 September 2011 by the obliging head of Yivo in New York City (see quote and link at top of this page).
Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Triumphantly Announces Its Yivo Coup — A Capitulation on ‘(Looted) Books and (Hijacked) Brand’ Sought for Two Decades — on 23 September, Day of Commemoration for the Vilna Ghetto
But confusion reigns after Yivo director tells Jewish press in New York that surrender of books and brand is not yet final
Yivo Director Sends New Circular to Staff, Refining Lithuanian Government Talking Points; Claims Support of Veidlinger and Zipperstein for (Inaccurate) Public Statement
Following up on his 9 September 2011 circular to the staff of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research in New York, the executive director today circulated a new missive, likewise sent to all members of staff, and claiming the support of two eminent professors, Steven J. Zipperstein and Jeffrey Veidlinger. [Full disclosure: Veidlinger was one of Bloomington’s Borns Jewish Studies program staff involved in secret 2009 negotiations with the by-then government-manipulated Vilnius Yiddish Institute, a factor in the disemployment of this journal’s editor as professor of Yiddish, language and literature, the post he held from 1999 to 2010.]
This statement follows the publication of concerns of members of the British parliament (on its website), the open letter of Milan Chersonski, longtime editor of the newspaper of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, and coverage in English, French, German and Hebrew publications, in addition to the earlier coverage in the Forward, Haaretz and DefendingHistory.com (which first interviewed Joseph Melamed at length on 30 August).
Milan Chersonski, Longtime Editor of ‘Jerusalem of Lithuania’, Releases a Public Letter to the Director of Yivo in New York
O P I N I O N
by Milan Chersonski
Milan Chersonski (Chersonskij), longtime editor (1999-2011) of Jerusalem of Lithuania, the quadrilingual (English-Lithuanian-Russian-Yiddish) newspaper of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, released to the media today a public letter to the director of Yivo in New York. Mr. Chersonski stressed that the views are his own, and do not reflect any official opinion. From 1979 to 1999, he was director of the Yiddish Folk Theater of Lithuania, which was one of the USSR’s very few Yiddish amateur theater companies. Jerusalem of Lithuania ceased publication in 2011.
The text of Milan Chersonski’s letter follows in English. Translated from Russian by Asya Fruman and approved by Milan Chersonski.
Vilnius, Lithuania, 12 September 2011
Dear Mr. Brent,
I, a World War II refugee, a citizen of the independent Republic of Lithuania, address you as a resident of the city where Yivo, the first and most important academic institute of Yiddish language, literature, culture and history, was founded.
For more than eighty years Yivo was run by the most prominent Yiddish scholars, renowned for their research works as well as for their outstanding organizational skills. They and their successors maintained Yivo’s honor and dignity.
Director of Yivo Sends Circular to Staff, Taking on the Role of Manhattan Office of Lithuanian Government’s PR Department; Calls Holocaust Survivors ‘Helpless’ and ‘Ageing’
The executive director of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research in New York circulated the following set of documents in an email sent to the entire staff of Yivo today. This circular statement has come after Paul Berger’s 7 September article in the Forward, the public letter from the last association of Lithuanian Holocaust survivors in Israel, and a public letter to Yivo’s academic advisory council from a French human rights association. The ‘attack on Yivo by Dovid Katz’, as it is acrimoniously called here, is the op-ed in DefendingHistory.com on the subject. More information and links on the various issues on the front page of DefendingHistory.com. This journal has made a series of proposals for genuine resolution of Lithuanian-Jewish issues.
[Update: On 15 September 2011 Yossi Melman released his direct reply to the attack on him in the circulated memo reproduced below.]
From: Jonathan Brent
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 10:05 AM
To: YIVO Staff
Subject: Melamed Issue in Lithuania
Et tu, Yivo? Holocaust Survivors Jolted by Plan for Lithuanian Foreign Minister to be ‘Guest of Honor’ at Vilna Ghetto Commemoration
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
When you have loved an institution all your life — and written over decades about its impact on the history of ideas — it becomes a responsibility, even when painful, to try to dissuade it from making a serious error that would put in jeopardy its integrity.
The Lithuanian foreign minister, who has to date not apologized publicly for his widely reported antisemitic outburst in October 2010, has been named by the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research as its ‘guest of honor’ at a concert on 22 September 2011. The remnant Jewish community of Lithuania is small and fragile. Nevertheless it responded robustly, less than a year ago, to the foreign minister’s comments and proceeded to publish its response in English, Lithuanian, Russian and Yiddish.
Yivo’s website enumerates the joint sponsorship for the 22 September 2011 event by ‘the Embassy Series in cooperation with the Lithuanian Consulate and the Lithuanian Delegation to the United Nations’. The event is being held to commemorate the anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto on 23 September 1943.
In 2011 — to mark the 70th anniversary of Hitler’s invasion, and to the chagrin of Holocaust survivors internationally — the Lithuanian government has invested in a series of events honoring the local perpetrators who began to kill Jewish neighbors in dozens of towns before the Germans even arrived (a reading list on the history is available here). The ‘logic’ has been that they were actually rebelling against Soviet rule, though it is not disputed by historians that the Soviets were obviously fleeing the Nazi invasion.
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
The article was signed by ‘Jacob London (Oxford)’, the pseudonym of Sovetish Heymland veteran Gennady Estraikh who was secretary to the Soviet magazine’s editor Aaron Vergelis for many years. Now, a resident of New York, he is listed as the paper’s editor for its ‘European Bureau’. It is quite shocking for many readers that the paper’s editor-in-chief, Boris Sandler, himself a Sovetish Heymland veteran, allows for the paper’s abuse for fake-name, fake-place vicious attack on colleagues in the field of Yiddish Studies.
Vilnius ‘Yiddish Studies Professor’ tells ‘Economist’ that Litvaks who Speak Out for Lithuanian Jewry are ‘Taliban’
Dispatched to London by the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, the state-approved director of the Vilnius Yiddish(-less) Institute bemoaned feeling himself ‘between two Talibans’, referring to the antisemitic establishment in Lithuania on the one hand, and to a polite letter of Litvak protest on the other. The comment was reported in today’s Economist, in an article by Edward Lucas, which also reports that the VYI director, Sarunas Liekis, described himself as ‘a Yiddish-studies professor from Vilnius’.
The ‘Taliban’ letter was signed among others, by Lord Janner; British MP Denis MacShane; head of the last active Litvak organization in the world, Joe Melamed; the master historian of the Lithuanian Holocaust Prof. Dov Levin; Rabbi Barry Marcus, leader of London’s Central Synagogue. Text of the ‘Taliban’ letter here. Signatories here.
Jewish & non-Jewish Yiddishists, and Judaic Studies Enthusiasts, March Together in Warsaw to Protest the Fascist March
photo courtesy Bogna Eliza Pawlisz
Under the leadership of Yidish lebt (‘Yiddish Lives’), a group uniting non-Jewish and Jewish enthusiasts and students of Yiddish language, literature and culture in Warsaw, a peaceful counter-demonstration is being planned in response to the neo-Nazi march slated to take place on November 11th, Polish Independence Day. More details here. Image of the Yiddish group’s poster:Continue reading
Director of Yiddish Institute heading to Kazakhstan to Promote Freedom of Expression for Journalists
YIDDISH BORAT, HAVING SAVED FREEDOM OF THE PRESS IN LITHUANIA, HEADS FOR KAZAKHSTAN TO EDUCATE THE OSCE. HE ‘CLEANSED’ HIS ‘YIDDISH INSTITUTE’ OF YIDDISH FOR 11 MONTHS OF THE YEAR. . .
Sarunas Liekis, director of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute has been appointed by Lithuania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to an elite team of experts who were sent to a Review Conference in Warsaw (30 Sept — 8 Oct), in preparation for a second Review Conference in Vienna (18-26 Oct), and a third in Astana, Kazakhstan (26-28 Nov). These are all in preparation for a much larger OSCE summit scheduled for Kazakhstan that will follow on 1-2 December in Astana, that nation’s capital.
A prime theme of the OSCE summit, which marks Lithuania’s accession to the chairmanship of OSCE, is media freedom and safety of journalists.
This journal sincerely hopes the VYI’s director, Professor Sarunas Liekis, will report to the OSCE on the failure of Lithuanian prosecutors to abandon the lamentable investigation into his own institute’s librarian, 88 year old Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, who has, along with other Holocaust Survivors, been the victim of an ultranationalist state-sponsored campaign of defamation. Details here. These are grave violations of human rights that were duly brought to the attention of the OSCE in December 2009.
The role of the press has been vital in these sad events.