Tag Archives: Herbert Block
Despite Ecumenical Spirit of Easter & Passover Season in Time of a Pandemic, Vilnius Authorities Pursue “Convention Center in the Cemetery” Project
For news in Lithuanian, see VieningaLietuva.com
Lithuania’s Defense Ministry magazine glorifies Nazi collaborator and Holocaust cheerleader Kazys Škirpa on its front cover and in a massive article. See reactions from the Lithuanian Jewish Community and G. Gochin’s Times of Israel blog, and Defending History. SEE OUR REPORT.
Incredibly, the Defense Ministry still flaunts the cover on its website (as PDF).
But what about mainstream media in Lithuania and Eastern Europe, or the officialdom of NATO and the EU?◊
BALTIC FAR RIGHT’S “MARCHING SEASON” AGAIN GLORIFIES HITLER’S COLLABORATORS
VILNIUS + KAUNAS ON 16 FEB: DH eyewitness report on 16 February march in Vilnius. Organizers again targeted DH staff; 16 Feb in central Kaunas.
VILNIUS 11 MARCH: DH’s report on the run-up. DH’s eyewitness report of the event.
RIGA 16 MARCH: West silent as central Riga again gifted for worship of Latvia’s wrtime Waffen SS on Monday March 16th; Coronavirus ban on rallies results in individuals laying wreaths for Waffen SS at city center’s Liberty Monument
Linas Vildžiūnas, Lithuania’s Leading Humanist, For Decades Key Educator (and Truth Teller) about the Holocaust, Wins Donskis Award for Tolerance
16 February 2020
Defending History Alone Monitored Torchlit Vilnius Old Town Far-Right March that Glorified Nazi Collaborators J. Noreika and K. Škirpa
9 February 2020
Doyen of Litvak Rabbis Signs Impassioned Decree on Saving Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery from “Convention Center in the Cemetery” Project
BOOKS IN THE DISCUSSION
Leyb Koniuchowsky & Jonathan Boyarin: The Lithuanian Slaughter of its Jews: Testimonies of 121 Survivors of the Holocaust in Lithuania
Ruta Vanagaite & Christoph Dieckmann: How Did It Happen? (Our People, Part II. Understanding the Holocaust in Lithuania)
Scene from their 2018 march in the heart of Vilnius (featuring on front banner six Nazi collaborators)…
European Foundation for Human Rights: Progress in Case for Equal Minority Rights for Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
For the first time a member of the Lithuanian parliament challenges the wisdom of glorifying (and reconstructing) an ugly Soviet dump that was built on Jewish bones of the centuries. See Kęstutis Masiulis’s new piece in the Lithuanian media. Also, progress in the Vilnius court case is reported in the media, citing comments from Prof. Josif Parasonis. In the report, Turto Bankas (the state’s “property bank”) falsifies history, claiming the unsightly Soviet ruin is outside the cemetery. In fact, the American Embassy confirmed years ago (see point 5) that it “The Sports Palace property indisputably rests in the middle” of the historic cemetery.
Don’t the people of Lithuania (and Europe) deserve a sparkling new and morally clean Vilnius convention center rather than a Soviet-era structure surrounded by five centuries of Jewish graves?
Clemens Heni in Times of Israel on recent Yad Vashem furore
Matt Rubenstein in The Battleground EU: “Changing the Historical Record”
David Pugliese in the Ottawa Citizen on East European Glorification of Holocaust Collaborators
Julius Norwilla in Vilnius’s 7MD on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
Clemens Heni in Times of Israel on dissident thinkers in Germany
Anna Shternshis in Canadian Jews News on Yivo Librarian Debacle (see also DH’s take; list of items approved by “In geveb”)
23 January 2020
VIDEO: Major Litvak Rabbis in Israel and American Christian Evangelist Meet with Lithuania’s Ambassador to Israel to Plea for Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
Late Jan. 2020 meeting follows “day of shame” in Vilnius in Dec. 2019, and “hateful libel” against Orthodox Vilnius Jewish woman (Jan. 2020) who launched the international petition; Prof. Shnayer Leiman’s response.
23 January 2020
JTA on Scandal Emanating from Lithuanian Parliamentarian Gumuliauskas’s Proposed Bill to “Fix” Holocaust History
13 January 2020
Defending History Joins Lithuania in Mourning the Fourteen Unarmed Pro-Independence Protesters Murdered by Soviet Forces on 13 Jan. 1991
LRT’s “Panorama” runs report on the Soviet sports palace building (timecode: 21:25—25:20), envisaging “hundreds of millions of euros” and “a bag of gold”
2 January 2020
Israeli and Polish Ambassadors to Ukraine Issue Joint Letter Protesting New State Glorification of Holocaust Perpetrators (T.O.I. report by Sam Sokol)
1 January 2020
Antanas Zubrys and Dr. Matilda Zubrienė: Defending History’s Persons of the Year (2020)
A Lithuanian hero of the War of Independence in 1920, one hundred years ago, who went on in 1941, with his wife, to risk their lives and their families and just do the right thing and save innocent neighbors from the racial genocide underway and supported by their own nation’s “nationalist leaders”… “Someone has to honor Lithuania’s real World War II heroes.” See background on current practice by some East European governments to honor Nazi collaborators (e.g. Lithuanian parliament’s 2018 decision; DH section). See DH’s Person of the Year awards for 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2019.
Year of 300th Birthday of the Gaon of Vilna: novel critical approach of Andrius Kulikauskas’s brand new website on calendar of events. Our editor’s papers & articles.
“7 Kingdoms of the Litvaks” is free online
19 December 2019
The upshot? The state owned property bank claims “Jewish support” for “the convention center in the old Jewish cemetery” via the alleged collusion of some London rabbis from the “CPJCE” and the head of the government sponsored Jewish community… But what about the opinion of all the others?
Lithuania, a Genuine, Robust Democracy, Continues to Struggle with Free Speech when it Comes to the Holocaust
See Efraim Zuroff in the Jerusalem Post; Arkadijus Vinokuras in Times of Israel; Instances from the past decade monitored by DH; Section on free speech and democracy. Dovid Katz’s new paper on the (ab)use of law to “fix history” in the Baltics.
Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas founds major new initiative dedicated to Lithuanian-Jewish friendship and sense of common purpose for future of the Grand Duchy heritage by way of open, free and respectful dialogue and inspiring new projects
Program of 16 Dec. Bar Ilan Univeristy conference on Zuroff-Vanagaite book on the Lithuanian Holocaust; Conference report & photos
Litvak World Shocked by New “Year of Gaon” 10 Euro Coin that Plonks a Symbol Beloved of Far Right onto a Mutilated Jewish Menorah
Vilnius’s Jewish satirist Motke Chabad shares his own perspective
Ruta Bloshtein (2 Dec.) and Ben Cohen (28 Nov.) in the Algemeiner Journal
Dovid Katz (15 Nov. and 22 Nov.) and Ruta Bloshtein (26 Nov.) in DH
Grant Gochin in The Times of Israel on other painful issues evoked by “Year of Gaon” plans (also on LJC website); See DH’s Seven Simple Solutions on Lithuanian-Jewish issues
More coverage by Algemeiner Journal, Arutz Sheva, Enlace Judío, Haaretz, Israel National News, Jewish Chronicle, JTA, YNet, YNetEspanol, Times of Israel (ToI French edition)
Is it perhaps an opportune moment for the government to abandon plans for a convention center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery, where hundreds of the Gaon’s ancestors and descendants still lie buried? International petition continues to grow.
Andrius Kulikauskas in Bernardinai on Vilnius Jewish Cemetery Saga; Chief Rabbi of South Africa Weighs In; But NY Yivo stages PR event for government’s positions only
Aleksandr Kuzmin in DH on Latvian Defense Minister’s Glorification of Waffen-SS; Jewish Voice on History of Latvian Holocaust
George N. Tzogopoulos at Begin-Sadat Center on Israel’s Role; See DH’s Israel Page
23 Sept. 2019
International Coverage of Vilnius’s Day of Prayer, Plea & Protest for the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt
Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas’s keynote address; Report (+ photo gallery) in Lithuania’s 15min.lt; LRT evening news (from timecode 4:56). European Foundation for Human Rights
London CPJCE “Jewish grave traders” are called to face charges at the Jerusalem rabbinical court. In London, a “Serious Incident” report is filed with the United Kingdom’s Charity Commission. Background on CPJCE’s Vilnius outrage. The video.
Canadian Govt. Officials “Duped” into Participating in Honors for Ukraine’s OUN / UPA Hitler Collaborators
Reports in National Post and Ottawa Citizen
Defending History’s Take: “Canada, a bastion of enlightened liberalism in today’s world, has blundered into a moral mouse-trap. Hopefully its highest leaders will now rapidly correct the error and join all those around the world who condemn the Nazis and their collaborators’ rampages of ethnic-based mass murder and genocide in World War II era Eastern Europe.”
23 September 2019
Day of Prayer and Respectful Challenge to Spare Old Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (Šnipiškės) from Plans to Site a Convention Center in its Heart
A Decade of Defending History
Defending History marks its 10th anniversary in Sept. 2019
Come and browse old issues; first post; mission statement; Samples of coverage over the years by Ricky Ben-David in the Jerusalem Post; Arne Bengtsson in Baltic World; Daniel Brook in Slate; Bernard Dichek in Jerusalem Report; Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian; Avi Friedman in Mishpacha; Cindy Mindell in the Jewish Ledger; Rod Nordland in the New York Times; Wendy Robbins on BBC World Service.
Documentary films: Danny Ben-Moshe’s Rewriting History; Richard Bloom’s Defending Holocaust History
9 Sept. 2019
Vilnius is Shamed by Brand New Noreika Plaque Glorifying a Holocaust Collaborator
Calls for government to rapidly “do the right thing: take it down”
Vilnius mayor calls plaque “illegal”; Faina Kukliansky issues powerful statement of protest; BNS; Baltic Times reports that sciences library is quite happy with its new plaque; JTA report
So far, a wall of public silence from the “Yiddish-loving culture minister“, from Yivo, and from the Western and Israeli embassies in Lithuania
Defending History’s take: “A very sad day for Lithuania and its proud ages-old tradition of Grand Duchy tolerance and its current record as a successful democracy. Ten years after Defending History published images of the plaque honoring Noreika, seven years after Evaldas Balciunas brought the issue to the English speaking world, and one month after Vilnius’s bold mayor boldly had the plaque removed, a mob of antisemites who celebrate the Holocaust’s perpetrators have put up an even shinier plaque, rapidly declared to be illegal by the mayor. The text of the new plaque is rather worse from the viewpoint of historic honesty, by referring to Noreika’s imprisonment by the Nazis at one point (the phenomenon of “Holocaust envy”), as if that makes a hero of a brutal Holocaust collaborator. Lithuania’s great people deserve better! Hopefully, the nation’s highest powers will remove the plaque without further delay, in the name of the rule of law, the nation’s standing, and basic human decency. See DH’s sections on: J. Noreika; Collaborators Glorified; the 2019 midsummer events that presaged the latest events.
Lithuanian Jewish Community Reports on State Investigation of “Red-Brown Commission” Chief (background; video)
Vilna-born Holocaust survivor Prof. Pinchos Fridberg’s “enormous courage” in challenging “perpetrator whitewashing” by nationalist icon V. Landsbergis
See Pinchos Fridberg section; DH’s 2012 take on Landsbergis. Meanwhile, controversial official head of gov. sponsored Jewish community, eminent attorney Ms. Faina Kukliansky, wins acclaim for (finally) standing up to Landsbergis, after he used crude anti-Jewish ethnic slur on FB; Baltic Times features a rude reply with no pretense of evenhanded journalism. EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis speaks out (see DH’s Andriukaitis section, and his classic statements on the Seventy Years Declaration and the reburial of wartime Nazi puppet prime minister in 2012).
Prominent Vilnius historian publishes article in mainstream media complaining that too many “foreign Jews” have been included in the state-sponsored history commission
9 Aug. 2019
Ten years after Defending History published images of the plaques. Seven years after DH’s Evaldias Balčiūnas brought the case of J. Noreika to the English speaking world. Four years after Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas‘s classic DH essay on K. Škirpa:
Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius Leads City Council Decision to Rename “Škirpa Street” and Personally Orders Removal of Noreika Plaque in 4 AM Raid
Official Lithuanian Jewish Community Closes Premises and Synagogue on 6-8 Aug. in View of Threats, Citing Conservative Party’s Ongoing Campaign to Glorify Holocaust Collaborators
Statement issued by Vilnius Jewish Community; JTA reports of 6. Aug; 7 Aug; 8 Aug (+TOI); LJC’s circulated reply to VJC
Baltic Times gives big-time coverage to Landsbergis’s attack on official Jewish community leader Kukliansky. Will they provide equal space for the community’s response?
Aug. 7 rally demanded restoration of public space plaques and street names that glorify Holocaust collaborators held at Mindaugas Monument; Baltic Times’s “shamefully one-sided” report in far right spirit of trivializing glorification of Holocaust perpetrators
Poster advertising Aug. 7th rally blasts mayor who took action against glorification of collaborators, shows Jewish and gay pride symbols as the culprits
Photoshopped version of painting by F. Reshetnikov depicts several boys observing what seems like a Jewish-LGBT event from around the corner. Text at top reads “Škirpa and Vėtra [Noreika] are heroes of Lithuania”. The lower text depicts a rooster (“gaidys” in Lithuanian, used as a homophobic slur) and is labeled “Šimašius”, i.e., the current Mayor of Vilnius Remigijus Šimašius who recently led efforts to remove public glorification of two Holocaust collaborators. Text at bottom: “Let’s defend the heroes of Lithuania! Rally under the Mayor’s windows, by the monument of King Mindaugas. August 7 (Wed.), from 18:00 to 19:30.”
Question: Will the Roskies & Fishman “Yiddish PR conference” financed to deflect attention from the painful issues, publish a morally clear statement of protest (and support for the Jewish community)? Do conference participants appreciate concerns they are being used as “useful Jewish idiots” (UJIs) in the wider effort to rewrite Holocaust history and cover for blatant antisemitism?
Are they aware of the systematic exclusion from their conference of all the local Jewish scholars in this field who have expressed disagreement with the glorification of Holocaust collaborators (including Holocaust survivors who have written about Jewish Vilna)? Will they consider signing Ruta Bloshtein’s petition on the old Vilna Jewish cemetery?
BACKGROUND: See DH sections on collaborators glorified; Noreika saga; Ramanauskas saga; seven Lithuanian-Jewish issues that could be easily resolved; academic background. the Seventy Years Declaration (SYD). signed by 71 European parliamentarians including eight valiant Lithuanian MPs and MEPs.
1 August 2019
“It Pays to Defend History”
Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius Orders Removal of Memorial Plaque for Holocaust Collaborator J. Noreika
According to reports, city’s removal squad came 4 AM on 27 July; see now: the nationalist backlash (2); new president falls back on “more discussions needed” ignoring years of such discussions. JTA report. Vilnius prosecutors considering challenges to mayor’s action. Vilnius’s Prof. Pinchos Fridberg takes the battle over glorifying Hitler collaborators right to Vytautas Landsbergis. Meanwhile, Conservative Party’s Landsbergis Jr. hits back and official Jewish community exposes antisemitic slur on his FB page.
Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius
A seven year saga since Defending History’s Evaldas Balčiūnas brought the Noreika case to the English speaking world in 2012
For years Mr. Balčiūnas was hounded by police, prosecutors and kangaroo hearings (scroll down to May 2014)
Over the years, Defending History’s campaign won support from the Simon Wiesenthal Center; the Rambam Mesivta High School that staged a peaceful demonstration at Lithuania’s consulate in New York; Noreika’s granddaughter, American author Silvia Foti; and Californian Litvak scion Grant Gochin, who took Vilnius’s “Genocide Center” to court. The GC’s public statement revealed its true view on the Holocaust. Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas is curator of online Captain Noreika Museum.
Marble Noreika stone continues to mar capital’s central boulevard
The mayor will hopefully soon speak out on fate of Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, slated to become a convention center, that would damage Vilnius’s brand for generations to come. Vilnius native Ruta Bloshtein’s petition now has over 46,000 signatures from every part of the world.
24 July 2019
Vote is 20 to 16
See Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas’s classic 2015 Defending History paper on Škirpa; Vilnius City Council efforts by Mark Harold
Prof. Pinchos Fridberg and Ruta Kaplinskaya concerned by report that new street name will be accompanied by new plaque glorifying Škirpa yet again
Changing toxic street names that glorify Hitler collaborators is high on the list of the very easy things Lithuania needs to do to achieve justice on the irksome history issues that will just not go away. See DH’s seven solutions compiled with the help of the late Dr. Shimon Alperovich.
Radio Free Europe (Radio Liberty) report fails to inform readers of the Double Genocide issues and abuse of history to further far-right Holocaust revisionism that includes glorification of Holocaust collaborators
More Lithuanian Government Glories & Medals for “Useful Jewish Enablers” of Baltic Holocaust Revisionism
California Resident Grant Gochin Appeals Vilnius Court Ruling that Whitewashed Notorious Holocaust Collaborator Jonas Noreika
IHRA weighs in. More reaction. For first time (?), Lithuanian TV presents both sides.
The Question: Will an EU/NATO democracy continue to sink government funds into glorification of Holocaust collaborators? Don’t the Lithuanian people have higher values and causes into which to invest their hard-earned taxpayer money?
23 June 2019
Kaunas (Slated to be 2022 “Capital of European Culture”) Hosts Far-Right (/Neo-Nazi) City Center Jamboree Honoring June 23 “Uprising” that Unleashed the Destruction of Lithuanian Jewry in 1941
In Vilnius, the parliament (Seimas) hosts a one-sided conference on the LAF (Lithuanian Ativist Front) Hitlerist militias that unleashed violence on Jewish neighbors before German forces even arrived.
Meanwhile, a naive article in National Review accepts the distorted history of Vilnius’s “Genocide Museum” (see our critique of the museum), that calls the Hitlerist “Lithuanian Activist Front” (LAF)’s outbreak of violence against Jewish neighbors a rebellion against the Soviets. The brutal Soviet occupation forces were fleeing Hitler’s invasion (the largest in human history), not the LAF Jew-killers.
These killers didn’t fire a single shot against the Soviets when they were in power. You can’t “rebel” against someone who is in panic running away from someone else. . . The Holocaust is being rewritten by the East European far right (in part to make heroes out of the Eastern European collaborators) even as leaders of major Jewish organization in the US and elsewhere remain silent.
16 June 2019
The Good Old Pattern Continues in Biržai (Birzh), Northern Lithuania:
The official museum in the city center continues to honor Holocaust collaborators and perpetrators as “national heroes”, an issue not mentioned at any of the public events.
State Glorification for Chaplain of a Holocaust-era Mass Murder Unit; Simon Wiesenthal Center Speaks Out
Chone Leibovich of Vilnius Jewish Community appeals to National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry (scroll down for English)
UPDATE OF JUNE 1: Head of Jewish Agency calls for monument to Nazi collaborator to be removed “as soon as possible”
First monument on American soil glorifying a wartime Nazi collaborator who is also a prime icon for his country’s neo-Nazis today was inaugurated last month (May 4) in the presence of the visiting Lithuanian foreign minister
LATEST MEDIA: Algemeiner; BBC; Grayzone; Independent; Simon Wiesenthal Center; Telegraph. And—Defending History’s take.
On Ramanauskas’s Holocaust-era role see courageous, pioneering articles of Lithuanian ethicist Evaldas Balčiūnas in 2014, 2017 and his latest that has just appeared. For years after starting his series of articles “Why does the state commemorate murderers?” Balčiūnas was hounded by prosecutors and police (scroll to May 2014).
Beyond the debates over Ramanauskas’s role in the early days of the Lithuanian Holocaust, he is today a major icon for Neo-Nazi parades and events.
From left to right on the neo-Nazis’ “We know our national heroes” banner (torchlit neo-Nazi parade of Feb. 2018): Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, Jonas Noreika, Povilas Plechavičius, Kazys Škirpa, Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas, and Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis
Latest far-right death threats against DH editor appear on Facebook (as PDF; transl.). They were apparently instigated by the neo-Nazis’ top blogger in Lithuania, “Zeppelinus” (PDF; part transl.) who is said to work in the Ministry of the Economy. These threats came in response to DH’s opinion that Lithuania’s interests are not best served by a monument in Chicago to an alleged Holocaust collaborator who is also a prime icon for today’s neo-Nazi parades here. Samples of Zeppelinus’s racist, misogynistic, homophobic, antisemitic output of hate. Some of his earlier “artwork” on DH editor.
This monument, honoring Adolfas Ramanauskas (Vanagas), who boasted in his memoirs of leading an LAF unit of fascist Hiterlist militia during the first weeks of the Holocaust (June-July 1941) in southeastern Lithuania, was overwhelmingly rejected for placement on public land by New Britian, Connecticut one year ago. But on Saturday, 4 May it was inaugurated by Lithuania’s foreign minister on the private property of the Lithuanian World Center in Chicago, Illinois. The English news release casually omits the reference to the Holocaust issues cited in the original BNS Lithuanian report.
On the legacy of Ramanauskas, see Evaldas Balčiūnas (in 2014, 2017 and 2019); Efraim Zuroff and the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and Dovid Katz. Defending History documented the entire 2017-2018 New Britain, Conn. saga. Sampling of survivor testimony on “what it was that the LAF was doing” in the last week of June 1941. SEE DEFENDING HISTORY’S SECTION ON ADOLFAS RAMANAUSKAS.◊◊
Defending History’s take: “The people of Chicago, and its proud Lithuanian and Litvak communities, should not have foisted on them a monument glorifying an alleged Holocaust collaborator who led a Hitlerist militia in the early days of the Holocaust, a monument that was overwhelmingly rejected by the New Britain, Connecticut city council one year ago. And, most certainly not without a free, public and transparent process of dialogue and consultation including Holocaust survivors and their families, as well as scholars and institutions representing a diversity of opinions. A one-year moratorium is called for to enable such a process to proceed with dignity.”
3 May 2019
28 April 2019
EUROPEAN FOUNDATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS PROTESTS EU FUNDING FOR VILNIUS MUSIC JAMBOREE ON WEEKEND OF 27-28 APRIL IN THE HEART OF CITY’S OLD JEWISH CEMETERY
Recent coverage in the Algemeiner Journal; English Delfi.lt (Lithuania Tribune); Jerusalem Post;
Protest letter from Julius Norwilla, chairman of the Vilnius Committee for Preservation of Piramont (Snipiskes) Cemetery to the Director of the Čiurlionis House and Museum
DEFENDING HISTORY MONITORING TEAM WAS ON THE SCENE FROM 12 TO 3 PM ON 28 APRIL 2019
Thousands (in groups of 25) were misinformed by guides’ prepared text assurance that convention center is with permission of “European Jewish Community in 2016” (!). Soviet kitsch was praised effusively in latest ruse to turn hated Soviet dump into “a national treasure”. Rabbi S. J. Feffer confronts one of the groups with a heartfelt speech of protest informing visitors of the “wanton theft of our forefathers’ graves” and blessing those who will help stop the travesty from moving forward.
Meanwhile in London, a Serious Incident Report has been filed with the UK’s national Charity Commission requesting an investigation of the role of the CPJCE in the destruction of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery.
Unique study in body language: “blockbuster video” of London CPJCE staff allegedly morally selling other people’s graves against the rulings of all the rabbis of Vilnius and of the planet. In fact, when the then chief rabbi of Lithuania, Rabbi Chaim Burshtein, spoke up in 2015, he was fired for expressing his views. Views of Rabbi S.J. Feffer (leading Litvak religious authority in the country) and Rabbi S.B. Krinsky (official rabbi of the synagogue / Chabad Lithuania).
Overviews by Shnayer Leiman, Juris Kaža, Michael Maass, Dovid Katz, and Vilna-born Holocaust survivor Pinchos Fridberg; Statements by elected head of Vilnius Jewish Community Simon Gurevich
24 April 2019
Granddaughter of Holocaust perpetrator J. Noreika, the American author and educator Silvia Foti launches a bold international petition calling on Lithuania’s gov. to stop glorifying him.
LATEST CHAPTER IN A SAGA OF SEVEN YEARS
23 April 2019
“The rights of minority cemeteries are human rights”
Legal Action Underway on Attempts to Pilfer Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery for National Convention Center
REPORTS IN ENGLISH DELFI (LITHUANIA TRIBUNE); IN THE ALGEMEINER (NY); BNS/LRT; THE JERUSALEM POST
UPDATE OF 24 APRIL: EUROPEAN UNION FINANCES MUSIC FESTIVAL ON CEMETERY GROUNDS THIS WEEKEND
8 April 2019
Vilnius Plaque Glorifying Holocaust Collaborator J. Noreika is Smashed by Maverick Candidate for the European Parliament, Attorney Stanislavas Tomas
All on film, streamed live Monday morning 8 April 2019, from candidate’s bilingual statements through to his calling the police and their eventual arrival to make the arrest
Defending History’s comment:
“We unequivocally condemn violent acts against any property. Plaques can and will be replaced, and acts of property violence are totally illegal, inherently unethical, and utterly counterproductive to the noble cause of ridding Europe of glorification of Nazism. There needs to be dignified, peaceful and lawful civic and international pressure for the removal of all state-sponsored, public-space glorification of Holocaust collaborators, not least in Lithuania where some 96% of the Jewish population was massacred with massive local collaboration and participation. The real heroes are the amazing Lithuanians who risked everything in 1941 to just save a neighbor and we pray for the day when plaques and streets for them will abound across the land. See our own Person of the Year for 2018 and 2019.”
On Jonas Noreika’s Holocaust activities, see Evaldas Balčiūnas and Andrius Kulikauskas
Samples of other monuments and street names glorifying Holocaust collaborators. DH section on glorification of collaborators. The major Noreika monument in Vilnius is actually the engraved marble stone on the city’s central Gedimino Boulevard outside the Genocide Museum:
8 April 2019
Andrius Kulikauskas calls on Lithuanian Parliament to Stand Up to State-Sponsored Genocide Center’s Glorification of Holocaust Collaborators
World Jewish Congress Replies to Vilnius Genocide Center; Stops Short of Mentioning Government’s Financing of Street Names and Honors for Holocaust Perpetrators; Official Jewish Community Breaks Long Silence on GC’s Antisemitism
3 April 2019
Case was over the state’s glorification of a cruel Holocaust collaborator and purveyor of racial hate. First time a court in an EU/NATO country ruled in favor of the government glorifying Holocaust collaborators with street names and majestic public plaques, reducing the Holocaust to a detail not worthy of interfering with its perpetrators’ “heroism”…
Verdict came down on 27 March. Since then: utter silence from the US, UK and Israeli embassies in Vilnius, and from the “Red-Brown” Commission (which has affiliations with the Genocide Center) and its foreign members representing Yivo and the American Jewish Committee. But on April 3rd, the World Jewish Congress issued a major statement, to some extent avoiding the current issue of state glorification of Holocaust perpetrators via street names and plaques.
At 1 PM on Wed. March 27th, a Vilnius Administrative Court judge read out the court’s ruling dismissing the query of US resident Grant Gochin over Lithuania’s state glorification of Nazi collaborator Jonas Noreika, active during the Holocaust in the region where Gochin lost around 100 relatives. The court said Mr. Gochin had no material interest, ruled that the state-sponsored Genocide Center had answered his query completely, without bias, and without abuse of power, in effect further enshrining in law an EU/NATO state’s glorification of Holocaust collaborators and perpetrators via the financing of ultranationalist and far-right history centers and departments determined to preserve the national hero status of Holocaust collaborators. Whenever government or municipal officials are asked about the numerous street names and plaques honoring collaborators, the invariable answer is that it is all in fact a matter for the experts at the Genocide Center.
Mr. Gochin’s academic specialist, Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas was on hand along with attorney Rokas Rudzinskas. Of the Genocide Center’s staff, only historian Dr. Arūnas Bubnys turned up, sitting in the small gallery surrounded in part by first and second generation Holocaust survivors who turned out to hear the verdict that the Western embassies, human rights organization and official (state-sponsored) Jewish community thought not worth sending an official representative to hear. By contrast the local Vilnius Jewish Community had two observers on hand.
JTA report is picked up by some Israeli papers but not one major American media outlet, general or Jewish… Why is that?
26 March 2019
Public welcome at the reading of the verdict at 1 PM at Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, Žygimantų 2 in the city center
Will a court in an EU/NATO country uphold a far-right Holocaust-obfuscating institution’s decision to make a national hero of a documented Holocaust collaborator?
See: Background. Report on 15 Jan. Report on 5 March.
Meanwhile, Bizarre Decision from EU Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is in Spirit of Far Right’s “Double Genocide” Revisionism
“The New Holocaust Denial is based on a postmodernist mush that confounds victims and perpetrators and tries to write the Holocaust out of history (without denying a single death) via an array of ruses emanating from Eastern Europe’s ultranationalist New Far Right.”
DH’s take. Report on 15 Jan. hearing. Report on 5 March hearing. Evaldas Balčiūnas’s 2012 article that brought Noreika to the attention of the English speaking world. Balčiūnas’s DH section.
25 March 2019
Reports on pro-Nazi marches in Vilnius and Riga; Canada condemns Riga’s Waffen SS celebration
English original of part of Lithuanian TV’s interview with Dovid Katz
20 March 2019
Vilnius Jewish Community Invites People of All Backgrounds to Purim Celebration with Traditional Reading of the Book of Esther
Wednesday evening, 20 March, at 7 PM, at the Vilnius Jewish Community & Jewish Cultural and Information Center at Mesiniu 3 in Vilnius Old Town
VJC’s additional family event features the traditional costume party competition on Thursday evening 21st
AROUND 1000 TAKE PART IN 16 MARCH CENTRAL RIGA PARADE GLORIFYING LATVIA’S WARTIME NAZI WAFFEN SS
Background: Monica Lowenberg’s blog; DH coverage of previous years’ marches; Lowenberg’s articles in DH; Latvia section. Can people peacefully protest this march? A disturbing court ruling
13 March 2019
More Double Dealing by US Taxpayer Supported “Commission to Preserve America’s Heritage Abroad” (USCPAHA)?
Is it Washington DC’s most corrupt federal agency?
Are they really in cahoots with the allegedly corrupt bodies (CPJCE in London, “Admas Kodesh” or “AK” in NY) who gave “permission” for a convention center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish Cemetery against the views of all other rabbis and ethicists? The NY branch (AK) has published crude personal invective against scholars who hold other opinions, including Prof. Bernard Fryshman (who has now taken USCPAHA to the courts).
VIDEO: Herbert Block’s formal new presentation to a major rabbi cites only USCPAHA’s partnership with these two bodies. No mention of the international petition (which he himself signed…) or the vast international opposition.
Tale of two videos: The CPJCE with the prime minister of Lithuania, and USCPAHA’s Herbert Block explaining his commission’s work to the rabbi in Israel . . . See also earlier Admas Kodesh photo gallery of USCPAHA “reporting to Satmar Rebba in Monroe”… (Note: Leader of the opposing Satmar dynasty has himself condemned the convention center project in Vilnius).
The basic story (DH’s section). International opposition to date. The USCPAHA. The CPJCE.
8 March 2019
After ‘Hearing Both Sides’ at Trial of March 5th, Vilnius Court Sets Verdict for 27th
Defending History was there. Our take:
Andrius Kulikauskas will go down in history not only as the hero of the day but as the true patriot of Lithuania whose love for his country is not infected by Holocaust obfuscation and the glorification of Holocaust perpetrators but by a pursuit of simple historic truth. By contrast, the Genocide Center’s shameful performance illustrated, as ever, why the government should not be using taxpayer or EU funds for a far-right ultranationalist Holocaust-obfuscating entity that disparages the freedom of Lithuanian citizens to have diverse opinions (by dictating fake history as per the Soviet playbook) and continues to damage Lithuania’s name in the world (East European democracies need state glorification of Holocaust collaborators like a hole in the head).
Evaldas Balčiūnas, whose 2012 article brought the case to international attention, was in attendance. Icing on the cake was the Genocide Center’s demand that the videographer leave at the outset. So much for government sponsorship of an open and transparent operation. There were close to 20 observers, mostly Vilnius Jewish personalities there in an individual capacity, including Prof. Pinchos Fridberg, who figured in a New York Times article on the subject last September. Elected Vilnius Jewish Community head Simon Gurevich, committed elsewhere, nevertheless made two brief appearances to show moral support for those who stand up to glorification of collaborators and to the community members in attendance. The VJC hosted Dr. Kulikauskas on Jan 14th.
“It had the air of a 21st century Lithuanian version of America’s Scopes Monkey Trial.”
Eyewitness reports and opinions by Evaldas Balčiūnas and Gershon Taic (Geršonas Taicas)
Finally, reports began to appear in mainstream Lithuanian media: BNS/Diena.lt; LRT; Delfi; Alkas.lt; Arkadijus Vinokuras in Delfi.lt. Official information on the court’s website.
Background: Run-up to eve of the trial
California Financial Planner Takes Lithuania’s State-Sponsored “Genocide Center” to Court on March 5th for Enabling Gov. Glorification of Holocaust Collaborator J. Noreika
Proceedings are open to the public (Tuesday March 5th, 10 AM at Vilnius Regional Administrative Court at Žygimantų 2 in central Vilnius). Media to date includes the BBC World Service, Chicago Tribune, JTA. The plaintiff is California wealth advisor Grant Arthur Gochin whose family lost around 100 relatives in the Holocaust in the area where Noreika operated. He will be represented in Vilnius by attorney Rokas Rudzinskas and specialist Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas, author of the Query that launched the case. He has a compelling letter of support from Noreika’s granddaughter, American educator and author Silvia Foti. See Ms. Foti’s remarkable 2018 essay in Salon, and the recent takes by Grant Gochin, Dovid Katz, Andrius Kulikauskas, and Efraim Zuroff.
The case of J. Noreika was brought to the English speaking world in 2012 by journalist and ethicist Evaldas Balčiūnas of Šiauliai (Shavl), Lithuania, as part of a series of articles asking why his government honors alleged Holocaust collaborators. He was “rewarded” with years of prosecutorial and police harassment and kangaroo trials. Please scroll down to May 2014 in DH’s Balčiūnas section. In some opinions, Lithuania is a totally free-speech country with the marked exception of Holocaust history.
UTTER SILENCE FROM THE GOV. FUNDED “RED-BROWN COMMISSION” (ONE OF WHOSE MEMBERS IS ACTIVELY SOLICITING 10,000 EUROS IN CROWDFUNDING FOR NEW BOOK ON LITHUANIAN HOLOCAUST; CROWDFUNDING PAGE)
WILL THE AMERICAN, BRITISH, CANADIAN, FRENCH, GERMAN, IRISH, ISRAELI, NORWEGIAN & SWEDISH EMBASSIES (AMONG OTHERS) AND HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS BE SENDING OBSERVERS TO THE TRIAL ON TUESDAY?
BACKGROUND: Collaborators glorified; street names and university lecture halls; the Genocide Center in Vilnius; the Genocide Museum; academic background to the “Double Genocide” movement for Holocaust revisionism
Lev Golinkin in The Nation on Ukraine’s issues with adulation of fascism and Holocaust collaborators
Petition against Waffen SS March on March 16th in Riga; Background: Monica Lowenberg’s blog; DH coverage of previous years’ marches; Lowenberg’s articles in DH; Can people peacefully protest this march? A disturbing court ruling in 2017
Julius Norwilla attends meeting of Lithuania’s state property bank that plans convention center in heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
20 February 2019
VILNIUS ALERT WED. 20 FEB. 2019
Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, Legendary Jewish Partisan who Fought the Nazis in the Forests of Lithuania, Currently Major Yiddish Culture Educator, Will be Guest of Honor at Today’s Yiddish Reading Circle
Fania Brantsovsky (left) with the late Dr. Rokhl Margolis (1921-2015) in Vilnius in 2007
SPECIAL SESSION IN HONOR OF THE NEW BILINGUAL YIDDISH-LITHUANIAN EDITION OF THE LATE AARON GARON’S ESSAYS ON JEWISH VILNA EDITED BY LINAS VILDŽIŪNAS, WHO WILL BE ATTENDING THE EVENT, ALONG WITH THE AUTHOR’S CHILDREN, TAMARA AND EVGENY GARON.
6 to 7:30 PM AT THE VILNIUS JEWISH COMMUNITY, MESINIU 3 IN VILNIUS OLD TOWN. ALL ARE WELCOME!
16 February 2019
“IT PAYS TO DEFEND HISTORY”
“Once again, it becomes clear how Defending History is the true friend of Lithuania and other democratic states in the Eastern EU that need glorification of Holocaust collaborators like a hole in the head”
DH’s Vilnius monitors, observing the event for a decade, report on “significant progress”: For the first time in many years, the far-right February 16 march, though at times noxious (e.g. when a group reveled in a “Noreika plaque photo-op”), had no visible banners glorifying local Holocaust collaborators and no visible swastikas on flags, and no organized chants of “Lietuva Lietuviams” (Lithuania for Lithuanians). By contrast, a few Latvian visitors wore jackets emblazoned with “Waffen SS”. At its conclusion, two of the march’s organizers approached our team for a civil discussion which turned to the participation of “non-Catholic & non-ethnic Lithuanians” in the war of independence leading to the rise of the democratic interwar Lithuanian Republic on 16 Feb. 1918.
Vilnius Authorities Again Gifting Capital’s Storied Old Town for Far-Right March on Cherished Independence Day
Are they celebrating the Holocaust and the massacre of Lithuanian Jewry?
Last year’s neo-Nazi event featured front banner glorifying a series of local Holocaust collaborators; it was addressed by a high Catholic Church official and “honored guest” neo-Nazis from abroad
Come and join Defending History’s monitoring team. Event scheduled to start Saturday 16 February 6 PM at Aušros Vartų. Facebook details; website.
See Defending History’s decade-long eyewitness coverage of far-right marches in Vilnius, Kaunas, and Riga.
A Short History Lesson:
All of interwar Lithuania’s 239 Jewish communities (massacred in 1941) cherished and celebrated February 16th with heart and soul. They were proud Lithuanian citizens. It was also their Independence Day. See the 2013 letter from the late Joe Melamed, longtime elected leader of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, and any of countless records and pictures. Here, a photo (with bilingual Hebrew and Lithuanian handwritten captions) of the Jews of Dorbyán (Darbėnai) celebrating February 16th 1928, the tenth anniversary of independence:
30 January 2019
AP Report on Netanyahu Government’s Alleged “Sale of Holocaust History” in Eastern Europe is carried by New York Times, Washington Post, & Israel’s Haaretz & YNet
See Israel Chronicle summary page; Israel section; Sam Sokol’s new paper.
Related: Matti Friedman’s New York Times op-ed on the politicization of Yad Vashem. Cf. Danny Ben-Moshe’s earlier op-ed in Jerusalem Report. See Defending History’s Yad Vashem section.
Highpoints of Israeli diplomacy on the Holocaust in Eastern Europe: Ambassador Chen Ivri Apter in 2009; Ambassador Joel Lion in 2018.
Lowpoint: Ambassador Amir Maimon in 2017 (his performance made it into the academic literature before he was even transferred to his next posting).
27 January 2019
Holocaust Remembrance Week 2019
In recent times, the greatest threat to Holocaust Remembrance Day is the Double Genocide Holocaust revisionist movement whose “constitution” is the 2008 Prague Declaration. Defending History is proud to have taken part in the Europarliamentary response, the 2012 Seventy Years Declaration. The relevance of all this to Holocaust Remembrance Day was made crystal clear nine years ago by Yehuda Bauer on the pages of the Jerusalem Post. See also the essay by Holocaust survivor and scholar, and former director of Yad Vashem, Dr. Yitzhak Arad, in Defending History. Identity Films has just made available free online its 2012 documentary Rewriting History. Richard Bloom Productions has done the same for its 2013 film, Defending Holocaust History.
Coverage of the report in Politico.eu; Grant Arthur Gochin’s blog in The Times of Israel.
26 January 2019
24 January 2019
“The rights of minority cemeteries to be left in peace are human rights”
Two Visualizations of a Convention Center in the Middle of Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery
I: Lithuania’s State Bank (“Turto Bankas”) triumphantly issues its latest visualization for a national convention center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery, surrounded by thousands of Jewish graves. The huge new annex is “artfully” obscured (at the back).
2: Defending History issues its reply visualization. The people of Vilnius deserve a sparkling new convention center that will be a pride to all peoples everywhere, where they will be greeted by leaders of the arts, culture, music, politics, not by the tens of thousands of ghosts of the Jews of Vilna whose families purchased their burial plots in perpetuity. Join the 45,000 people who have signed Ruta Bloshtein’s international petition.
OPINION | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | USCPAHA | HERBERT BLOCK’S POSITIONS ON THE SUBJECT | CPJCE | ADMAS KODESH
CEMETERIES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS | LITHUANIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS
Neo-Nazis Pick Up Hate Materials from… (Hijacked?) Official “Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community” Website
VILNIUS—Lithuania’s top neo-Nazi blogger “Zeppelinus” has republished with some noticeable relish, in a post dated 27 May 2017, parts of the 19 May official “Lithuanian Jewish Community website” attack (as PDF) on this journal’s editor, Dovid Katz. The attack was, some would say shamefully, signed “LJC staff” though sources rapidly revealed its prime author (see our rapid response on the day). It is not the first time that the antisemitic far-right has found its material on the website of the official Jewish Community under its current leadership (that is under legal challenge after the recent allegedly rigged election), at a time when the website is, disturbingly, allegedly under control of elements very far from the interests of Lithuania’s Jews. Last autumn’s website attacks on Rabbi Sholom-Ber Krinsky were picked up and elaborated by another key antisemitic blogger who went so far as to dig up the 1790s antisemitic attacks on a prime founder of Lithuanian Hasidism.
You know something is wrong when the neo-Nazis are finding their material on the “website of an official Jewish community”. It’s a website funded in fact by the state via restitution funds deriving from the communal religious properties of the annihilated Jewish communities of Lithuania, administered by a (this one’s for you, George Orwell) “Good Will Foundation”.
Then there was the most recent fiasco, a comparison of the democratic electoral congress of the Vilnius Jewish Community on 24 May to Russia’s “Zapad 2017” military exercises, and the charge that the assembled 300 or so Vilnius Jews were “mainly Russian speakers calling themselves Jews, with only a minority of people with Litvak blood” (see our report which led to JTA’s coverage, and the essays by Professor Pinchos Fridberg and by Leonas Kaplanas). This was a proverbial gift of the gods to the local antisemitic establishment here that revels in delegitimizing the country’s living Jews while embracing a de-Judaized ersatz “Litvak heritage” for PR, with some help from a tiny elite of privileged “court Jews” who themselves at times, it seems, become conduits for antisemitic invective against the local Jewish community. Prof. Fridberg has pointed out that a subsequent vague and unclear “apology” posted failed to disclose the author(s) of the offending text, and never even appeared in the Russian-language section of the website. Is the author of the offending text still employed by the official “Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community”? Why is his or her identity a secret?
VILNIUS—The following list of “Statistics: Project Funding Allocations” is a screenshot taken today of the page of that name on the website of the Lithuanian government’s Good Will Foundation (GWF). It is also available (with some browsers) in the alternative interactive Tableau format (below the screenshot).
Vilna or Chelm? After 22 Years of Service to Community, Rabbi is Driven from Synagogue Gates by Hired Armed Guards for Having “Called out Page Numbers”
VILNIUS—Security guards paid by the Jewish Community of Lithuania and financed by the “Good Will Foundation” via its allocations from the Restitution monies deriving from the religious Jewish properties of the annihilated pre-Holocaust Lithuanian Jewry, this morning physically prevented Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky from entering the prayer house, on Pylimo Street 39 for the shákhris (Israeli: shakharít) morning service. Defending History has confirmed via reliable sources that at least three foreign members of the Good Will Foundation’s Board, Herbert Block (New York), Nachliel Dison (Jerusalem), and Michael Hasenrath (London) do not agree that the campaign of destruction against Rabbi Krinsky and his many local students is appropriate use of the restitution funds. None of the three, however, has yet issued a public statement. Mr. Block, moreover, is deeply involved in the related scandal of the planned siting of a new national convention center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery. “The Good Will” Foundation, which usually sticks by charter to its stated business and purposes, has now published news of Mr. Block’s reappointment, in the last days of the Obama Administration, to the scandal-ridden Washington agency, USCPAHA, which has yet to issue a public word concerning the old Vilna cemetery’s planned desecration. The agency exists to preserve foreign cemeteries.
After “Blissful United Congregation” on Sabbath, Some Leaders of “Official” Community Again Take Aim at Rabbi Krinsky
by Dovid Katz (Vilnius)
VILNIUS—Since the Vilnius Choral Synagogue, the only one to survive the war as an in-use synagogue (there were around 160 in town before the Holocaust), was reopened for “one and all” several weeks ago by the controlling “Religious Jewish Community,” on Monday 13 February, services have been blissful and harmonious. On Friday night and Saturday morning services, more Litvak handshakes accompanied by Gut-Shábes and A gútn Shábes were echoed up on high than in many a moon. And, as a kind of special blessing for a demographically challenged post-Holocaust post-Soviet community, attendance has been growing, reaching the largest number in years last weekend (not counting visits by organized tourist groups). Cantor Shmuel Yusem had everyone transfixed with his magnificent cantorial talents. Both rabbis in town this past weekend, Rabbi Sholem Ber Krinsky, the Chabad rabbi who has lived here 22 years, and the community’s official junior rabbi, Samson Daniel Izakson, who arrived just over one year ago, gave excellent brief sermons at their usual junctures in the service (each has their traditional slot in the service for the Dvar-Tóyre, or Dvar Torah).
Ethical & Cultural Level of “Admas Kodesh” (/CPJCE) that is Underpinned by Taxpayer-Supported USCPAHA
The reference in the tweet is to the outstanding 24 June 2016 essay by the eminent Professor Bernard Fryshman in Yated Ne’eman. Professor Fryshman’s critical role in a landmark 2014 United States Congress law protecting vulnerable cemeteries of minorities internationally was explicitly recognized in the applicable Congressional Resolution. Why would a taxpayer supported agency, USPACHA, now be engaged in repeatedly honoring the Satmar-Aaronite sect’s de facto unit for trading away other people’s graves that publicly libels Professor Fryshman and any others who seek to defend the sanctity of human burial grounds around the world?
A Year & One Month Since US Commission on Heritage Abroad (USCPAHA) “Reported to Satmar Rebba” in Monroe, N.Y.
VILNIUS—Today marks one calendar year-and-a-month since “Admas Kodesh,” the American affiliate of the London “grave trading unit” called CPJCE (Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe) boasted on Twitter that Herbert Block, a prominent member of the State Department linked Commission for Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad (USCPAHA), came to Monroe, New York to “report to the Satmar Rebba”… Thirteen months later, there has still not been a single public word from the taxpayer-funded commission urging the Lithuanian government to move its convention center project away from the old Jewish cemetery, as now called for by a petition signed by 38,000 people including, in its first moments online in December, the official chief rabbi of Lithuania. The “Admas Kodesh” group had previously, in August 2015, posted triumphant photo-ops with the commission’s chairperson, Ms. Lesley Weiss. Earlier that month, they posted photos of USCPAHA’s Jules Fleischer thanking (!) the Lithuanian Consul General in New York for preserving the cemetery. The same “Admas Kodesh” group so dear to the US taxpayer-funded USPACAHA regularly attacks major Jewish scholars with whom it disagrees, particularly on the Vilna cemetery. One infamous July 2016 tweet refers to the esteemed Professor Bernard Fryshman, who played a major role in the US Congress’s passing of a 2014 law on preservation of cemeteries of minorities, as “Lying Professor Bernard Fryshman” for holding a different point of view on CPJCE / Admas Kodesh role in the Vilnius scandal.
See earlier summary of USCPAHA’s Vilnius cemetery record and DH’s USCPAHA section (best to scroll to bottom and peruse chronologically)
by Dovid Katz (Vilnius)
Full credit to the Forward’s Paul Berger, who has, as ever, sought to be meticulously fair in his new article on some aspects of contemporary Lithuanian Jewish life. This “addendum” goes in a sense more to the wider issues encountered when Western journalists cover stories in the “slightly exotic east,” here in Eastern Europe, on ground zero of the Holocaust, where Jewish communities are ipso facto remnant communities, and where certain larger trends can at times be in play.
NY Satmar Affiliate of “London Grave Traders” Tweets Triumphant Photos with US Gov “Heritage Abroad Commission” Rep
DOCUMENTS| | US GOV’S “HERITAGE ABROAD” COMMISSION | OPPOSITION TO DATE | PAPER TRAIL | SECTION | EU ASPECTS
KIRYAS JOEL, NY—The “Satmar Headquarters” of the movement’s “Aaronite” branch, partners of the London-based “CPJCE / Admas Kodesh” issued this tweet earlier today, which some observers take to convey the message that the politically connected Hasidic group continues to boast of preventing the “United States Commission for the Preservation [emphasis added] of America’s Heritage Abroad” from expressing even the mildest protest at plans to erect a twenty-five million dollar convention center in the heart of Vilnius’s oldest Jewish cemetery. With the exception of the CPJCE, exposed in Wikileaks as having demanded money for their “supervision” at the same cemetery in 2009 (see Jerusalem Post and JTA reports), major rabbis and rabbinic associations, alongside a variety of Jewish and non-Jewish figures, have expressed unanimous condemnation of the project.
The condemnations include the major groups of Lithuanian (Litvak) rabbis internationally, and also the rival branch of Satmar itself, the “Zalmanite” branch, whose own highest rabbinic court last summer added its voice to the Lithuanian rabbis worldwide. Vilnius has numerous venues appropriate for the new convention center. Some observers remain baffled at the insistence on the old cemetery site, where thousands of graves lie intact, and where revelers would clap, cheer, and use bars and toilets surrounded by a half millennium’s Jewish graves, including major Jewish scholars of the city, historically Vilna, once known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania.
Rothschild (of London) Finances “Closed” Conference (in Vilnius) on Jewish Cemeteries (That May be Cover for Most Painful Desecration Yet of Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery)
VILNIUS—Not for the first time, outstanding scholars and professionals are happy to accept a gracious invitation to a Jewish-topic international conference in this beautiful East European capital city that has for centuries been a symbol of the resilience of various minority cultures, including stateless cultures, to thrive side by side.
“HISTORY IN THE MAKING”
Delegates to a conference on Jewish cemeteries, held in Vilnius in 2015, can get to read the statement in 2015 on a certain Jewish cemetery by the Chief Rabbi of Lithuania of 11 years’ standing, for which he was dismissed a couple of months before the conference. Would the conference not wish to hear from the rabbi too?
Suspicions Rise on Role of “U.S. Commission for Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad” in Plans to Build a $25,000,000 Convention Center in Heart of Vilnius’s Old Jewish Cemetery
VILNIUS—The American taxpayer-funded agency known as the “U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad” has a mission statement that stresses commitment to preserving Jewish cemeteries in post-Holocaust Eastern Europe. They are in special danger because of the Holocaust: the people buried have no descendants or relatives to care for the preservation of their final resting place. Moreover, nationalism and antisemitism sometimes come into play, with powers that be not wanting any city-center reminders of major erstwhile Jewish populations in their cities, and in any case, applying very different standards to the preservation of Jewish and Christian cemeteries. The issue was addressed in a 2014 U.S. Congressional resolution.
NEW YORK—Herbert Block’s office today issued the following statement which in effect modifies the Lithuanian government’s published list of members of its new commission on the Lithuanian Jewish heritage. This clarification is now linked at relevant points in Defending History’s recent report on the cemetery saga in Vilnius.
Herbert Block has informed Defending History that, while he was appointed to the new Commission by the Government of Lithuania without prior notice, and was honored by the designation, he formally resigned this position. As a Member of the US Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, a US federal government agency, Mr. Block is not permitted to serve on any body appointed by a foreign government.
Mr. Block attended the May 7, 2015 meeting in Vilnius only as an Observer on behalf of the US Commission.
by Dovid Katz
Updates in [brackets] to 12 July 2015
VILNIUS—According to Lithuanian media sources, including the highly respected English-language Lithuania Tribune (now merged with Delfi.lt), the government, working in concert with property developers, plans to declare the controversial project of a huge convention and entertainment center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery site as a “project of national importance.” The move enables an application to the European Union for a grant of 13 million euros (14.64 million US dollars at current rates) as part of a grand-total (for now) of 22.8 million euros (25.67 million US dollars) for the new complex. The nation’s prime minister has told Lithuanian media that “after the modern congress center is completed, private investors could build a hotel, parking lots and other infrastructure,” eliciting fears that all of the old Jewish cemetery is becoming a cash cow slated for developers for years to come. The Lithuania Tribune / Delfi.lt report concludes with an estimate of “110 million euros in economic and social benefits over 15 years” in addition to “600,000 foreign tourists and 2.2 million local tourists to Vilnius over that time period, with their spending estimated at 183 million and 60 million euros, respectively,” in other words, with profits from the old Jewish cemetery exceeding the equivalent of 250 million dollars, apart from the millions to be had from the building projects per se. Some estimates are provided in Baltic Course.
D O C U M E N T S
The following English version of the Lithuanian government’s announcement of its new state commission on Jewish heritage was released today. A PDF of the entire document is available here. An excerpt containing the mission statement is available here.
Update of 22 July 2015: Evidence mounts that the “Heritage Commission” was set up by the Lithuanian government, in part, to cover for the decision, at the same time, to proceed with a twenty-five million dollar convention center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery at Piramónt. One or more members of the commmision are also members of the state’s “red-brown commission” that promotes Double Genocide revisionism of Holocaust history; of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad; of a London rabbinic group that profits from “selling rights” to build on cemeteries under its expensive supervision. See the narrative and the paper trail (where color-coding marks the heritage commission’s adventures in purple).
Update of 22 June 2015: See now our report on the recent history of the Vilnius cemetery dispute. See also the statement from Herbert Block’s office about his own membership in the commission below.
Update of 1 June 2015: See now the 1 May listing of twelve major issues for the commission (with 1 June addendum) and the media chronicle of the renewed dispute over construction of a congress and entertainment complex on the site of Vilna’s Old Jewish cemetery.