Monthly Archives: September 2019
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Israeli Foreign Policy and the Holocaust in Eastern Europe (1990 — 2020)
JAN 2019: ARON HELLER IN THE WASHINGTON POST ON NETANYAHU’S “SALE OF HOLOCAUST HISTORY” IN EASTERN EUROPE; SAM SOKOL’S NEW PAPER
LOOKING BACK AT 2018-2019:
Also: Netanyahu’s Trip to Lithuania. Ten Knesset members call on country’s president to cancel convention center project in old Vilna Jewish cemetery; Interior Minister adds his voice.
Chief Rabbi of South Africa Calls on Lithuania’s Leaders to Move Convention Center Project Away from Old Jewish Cemetery
OPINION | HUMAN RIGHTS | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | USCPAHA | CPJCE | ADMAS KODESH
JOHANNESBURG—The Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein, today added his voice to the international Litvak and wider opposition to state-sponsored desecration of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt in the form of a national convention center surrounded by Jewish graves going back half a millennium in Vilna, the city once known as Jerusalem of Lithuania. The office of the chief rabbinate made public his letter to Lithuania’s president, Gitanas Nausėda and prime minister Saulius Skvernelis.
A PDF of his letter is available here, and follows below. Please use handles in the upper left-hand corner to turn pages.
Chief Rabbi of South Africa on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
Schedule of September 23rd 2019 Events on Lithuania’s Holocaust Day, in Plea for Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
VILNIUS—The following is the schedule for today’s events organized by Mr. Dov-Ber and Mrs. Chaya Fried of New York City in cooperation with the Vilnius Committee for Preservation of the Piramónt Jewish Cemetery (chaired by Julius Norwilla) and the European Foundation for Human Rights (represented by attorney Evelina Dobrowolska). The first event, at twilight, is on a ridge above the cemetery, moderated by Rabbi Yehuda Genut. The second, more formal, seminar is at the nearby Marriott Hotel, moderated by Mrs. Chaya Fried.
This Year’s Sept. 23 Events Remembering Holocaust to Include Pleas for the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt
Monday September 23 in Vilnius
Day of Prayer and Respectful Challenge to Spare Old Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (Šnipiškės) from Plans to Site a Convention Center in its Heart
September 23rd is Lithuania’s Holocaust Commemoration Day. It is because of the Holocaust that there are almost no local descendants of the many thousands of buried there to stand up for the dignity and integrity of ancestors’ graves. This is a matter of human and minority rights: it would not be happening to a five-hundred year old cemetery of the majority population. It would not happen in the west of the European Union, and must not happen in its east, whose peoples deserve the same standards of equal rights and human dignity. Cheering at conventions, drinking at bars and flushing toilets surrounded on all four sides by extant graves is not human dignity. Vilnius deserves better for the years and generations to come.
All welcome! Major Litvak rabbis and scholars will be flying in for the one-day event among them Rabbi Asher Arielli, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Rabbi Orin Reich, and Rabbi Yaakov Shapira . Local speakers include Vilnius Jewish Community head Simon Gurevich and Lithuanian philosopher Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas. Coordinated by Julius Norwilla, chair of the Vilnius Committee for the Old Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt, in cooperation with the European Foundation for Human Rights, whose appeal before the Vilnius courts is now supported by 235 affidavits, including the Elyashiv, Finkel, Levine, Segal, Shternbruch & Soloveitchik families. Established by Dov-Ber and Chaya Fried.Continue reading
I agree that the name of this piece is quite shocking. To see what I am talking about, it suffices to look through just one publication, published by the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania in cooperation with the “Versmė” publishing house. The academy is itself named for an alleged Holocaust collaborator (See my 2013 article), but that is not the topic of today’s piece, save that yet again it turns out that “state agencies just naming something” for a Holocaust collaborator is not seldom itself an ominous portent of institutional and state-sponsored racism. Indeed, the state Military Academy named for one alleged collaborator actually published an antisemitic tome by another, Jonas Noreika, who of course went on to active collaboration with the Holocaust.
Here are several excerpts from this 2016 publication brought out by the Academy that recently made it to foreign book purchasers, that would be universally recognized as antisemitic. The first refers to folks from the different regions of Lithuanians, naturally ignoring that they were for many centuries home to people of diverse origins, religions, nationalities (indeed, the Yiddish language has the term Zámeter for a person from the first named region):
Samogitians, Aukštaitians, Dzūkians, and Klaipėdians!
Your future is full of prosperity and wealth! We must know it well! Because it will depend only on us if we are going to benefit from this prosperity ourselves or give it away to Jews, Germans, and other foreigners that keep invading Lithuania! They see that the highest standard of living in the whole world is going to be here! Indeed! It will not be us migrating to other countries, but others coming to us to earn heaps of money!
Most of the auctioned off farms are bought by Jews! They feel and perhaps know that, in three years’ time or even sooner, that land will be worth tenfold! Indeed!”
NEW YORK—The Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, founded in Vilna (then Wilno, Poland) in 1925 as the world’s premier Yiddish-in-Yiddish academic institute, has, to the consternation of many of its life-long supporters and participating scholars, in recent years been (temporarily, its long-time supporters hope) “hijacked” by a few elite circles in the Lithuanian government who are determined to exploit Judaic, and especially the now-weak branch of Yiddish studies as a tool to cover for policies of rewriting the history of the Holocaust in a far-right East European nationalist spirit, as well as state programs of glorification of alleged Holocaust collaborators. The best known cry of protest came several years ago from Vilna-born Holocaust survivor and lifelong resident, Prof. Pinchos Fridberg.
וואָס וואָלטן טאַקע טראַכטן מאַקס ווײַנרײַך, זלמן רייזען און דינה אַבראַמאָוויטש וועגן די נײַע צילן פון ניו⸗יאָרקער ייוואָ?
Even as ever more circles in today’s free, democratic, and delightful Lithuania have come to understand the Jewish, Litvak and Holocaust issues in a spirit of friendship and partnership, New York’s Yivo continues to function as a political arm of the Holocaust revisionists’ “International Commission on the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania” (Yivo’s director even joined the commission), and a small “Jewish manipulation unit” in the Foreign Ministry, neither of which reflect so much of what is really going on. For a month now, the headline of Defending History has honored Vilnius’s mayor for boldly taking down two long-standing, and contemptible, public space memorials for Holocaust collaborators.
Still, yet again, Yivo has opted to exclude all other voices, while enabling the ongoing shenanigans of nationalist manipulation which recently resulted in the NY Yivo director’s being awarded the Cross for the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania, from the Lithuanian government, even as Holocaust survivors and their families continue to be betrayed in a way that would make Yivo’s founders twist in their graves.
As for teaching of the living Yiddish language, literature and culture, not a penny of the millions raised by Yivo has gone into the smallest class. Conversely, Yiddish teaching and study continue in the city despite the campaigns of personal exclusion and defamation by those enabled and directed by Yivo.
Defending History has been following events since 2011, when a gala event on the Vilna Ghetto invited as guest of honor a foreign minister called out for his overt antisemitism by the Jewish community, through recent weeks, when the director of Yivo, Dr. Jonathan Brent, was duly awarded his knighthood. Never once has Yivo invited to New York the Vilna Ghetto Holocaust survivors Rachel Margolis and Fania Brantsovsky, whose families have still not received apologies for the state-run campaigns to characterize them as war criminals in the history books and on the web, in virtue of their having survived the Holocaust by joining with the anti-Nazi partisans who were the only force in Lithuania seriously fighting the Nazis during the genocide.
This Thursday’s event, cosponsored by the Lithuanian consulate in New York, follows the usual pattern (scroll through the history for examples) of having one genuine Lithuanian hero who has stood up for the truth and has little idea that (or how) he is being manipulated. This time it is the great Lithuanian-American humanist, writer and professor Tomas Venclova. The Yivo program lists the title of his September 5th talk as virtually identical with his 2015 publication in Defending History: “Lithuanians and Jews: What’s Changed and What Hasn’t over the last Forty Years?” It was based on a Vilnius conference paper he read, on a podium he shared with Defending History staff, whom he entrusted with the translation to English (see also his DH section, also the DH editor’s lecture at the same conference).