JERUSALEM—The 1 February 2018 letter of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites in Israel to the president of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė, was released here today for publication. In it, the world-renowned rabbi who heads the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, pleads with the president of Lithuania to “cancel this plan to make this site a convention center.” He reminds her of the tens of thousands of Jews buried at the old Piramónt cemetery of Vilna, now in the Šnipiškės district of Vilnius, capital of Lithuania. His letter follows the 7 January 2018 letter from the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, and the pleas of virtually all the world’s leading rabbis of Litvak heritage (and many others) over recent years, in addition to many people of good faith of all backgrounds.
Per beveik penkis šimtmečius (jau nuo 15 amžiaus), Vilniuje, Lietuvos sostinėje, senosiose Piramónto žydų kapinėse Šnipiškėse buvo palaidoti tūkstančiai Vilniaus gyventojų žydų, tarp jų ir daug iškiliausių žydų mokslininkų, kurių miestas savo laiku buvo pramintas „Lietuvos Jeruzale“. Blogu Sovietų Sąjungos valdymo metu visi šių kapinių antkapiai buvo išvežti ir sudaužyti. Pačiame kapinių vidury buvo pastatyti Sporto rūmai, kurių pamatai buvo išlieti žemėje, sumaišytoje su žmonių palaikais. Daug kapų aplink Sporto rūmus iš visų keturių pusių liko nepaliesti. Tūkstančių palaikai yra ten pat, kur ir buvo palaidoti. Tai šventa vieta, kurioje reikia atkurti kapines ir atminimo vietą, kur galima būtų grąžinti sudaužytus antkapius, kurių dalys dabar aptinkamos visame mieste.
VILNIUS—Following Defending History’s publication last weekend of the 28 July 2017 letter to the president of Lithuania signed by twelve United States congressmen, pleading for the new national convention center project to be moved away from the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery (Piramónt, in the Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius), the news was reported by The Weekly of Vilnius, an elite diplomatic publication on Lithuanian affairs, and then by BNS (Baltic News Service, and in English via the Lithuania Tribune), which put it into the wider Baltic domain. Last Monday, 14 August, there were at least four panel discussions broadcast on Lithuanian TV and radio. The following are full English translations of each of these broadcasts, provided by DefendingHistory.com.
WASHINGTON—A resolute letter (facsimile below; as PDF) signed by twelve United States congressmen to the president of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė, was released here today. Dated 28 July 2017, the letter expresses American “opposition to the conversion of the old Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports into a convention center on the site of the old Jewish cemetery.” It asserts that “the very presence of the existing structure in the middle of the old Jewish cemetery desecrates it and conflicts with the respect for human dignity that forms the basis of Western Civilization. By contrast, moving the convention center project to another site, and permitting the dismantling of the abandoned Sports Palace it was to replace, would affirm the Lithuanian government’s commitment to basic human rights.”
VILNIUS—For the first time in the history of modern Lithuania, a non-Jewish campaign initiative for a Jewish cause has seen its poster flood the streets of this city’s storied Old Town at the height of the summer tourist season. Conceived and produced by Julius Norwilla (Norvila), a former Protestant minister, using a quote from Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas, a Catholic philosopher, and based on an artistic visualization of a young Vilnius artist who supports the campaign, the poster is entitled “Vilnius Without its Ugliest Soviet Eyesore”. That is a reference to the hated ruin of the Soviet Sports Palace which stands in the middle of the old Vilna cemetery, where the city’s Jewish residents were buried in graves paid for by their families as freehold property, from the 15th to the 19th century. The poster makes reference to Vilnius native Ruta Bloshtein’s international petition, which is, at 40,000 signatures to date, arguably the largest Litvak initiative since the Holocaust. Members of Lithuania’s Jewish community who have spoken out to date include Moyshe Bairak, Ruta Bloshtein, Milan Chersonski, Pinchos Fridberg, Dovid Katz, and Josif Parasonis (more here). Current and recent rabbis in Vilnius who have taken a public stand include Chaim Burshtein, Shmuel Jacob Feffer, Kalev Krelin, and Sholom Ber Krinsky.
VILNIUS—Ms. Milda Dargužaitė, since December 2016 the highly respected Chancellor of the Office of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, on 2 June 2017 issued a written reply to Ruta Bloshtein, the Vilnius-born Orthodox Jew who last December initiated a petition on the old Vilna Jewish cemetery at Piramónt, in today’s Šnipiškės (Yiddish: Shnípishek). The petition asks the Lithuanian government to move the national convention center project away from the old Jewish cemetery, and to restore the historic burial ground which dates to the fifteenth century and contains the remains of many of the greatest Lithuanian Jewish scholars. There has been a massive international outcry against plans to cite a convention center in the heart of the old cemetery where revelers would cheer, clap, do politics, sing, drink at bars and use toilets surrounded by thousands of Jewish graves. Ms. Bloshtein’s petition has been signed by 40,000 people, and has been the subject of coverage in Algemeiner.com, Ami, the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Journal, Tablet, and numerous other publications.
VILNIUS—In recent weeks, Lithuania’s Jewish community has been shaken by a number of vicious attacks against various of its members, apparently written by operatives out to provoke “senseless interethnic strife and division” who have infiltrated to echelons of the official community’s power structures, and published personal invective replete with “demonstrable falsehoods” under the imprimatur not of any named author but of the “Lithuanian Jewish Community” per se (examples here, here, and here). Against that backdrop many Jews and Lithuanians alike, who enjoy some of the best daily relations of any two groups in Eastern Europe, have been finding it necessary to stress that Lithuanian-Jewish relations are excellent and will not be disturbed by such mischief makers (see also today’s JTA report, and a 2015 paper by this journal’s editor). The ongoing passionate debates about the Holocaust, “Double Genocide”, defamation of Jewish partisans, glorification of local Nazi collaborators, city-center neo-Nazi marches on independence days, plans to have a new national convention center in the heart of the old Jewish cemetery, and the fair allocation of restitution funds, are not disputes between “Jews and Lithuanians”: there are, at least locally, proponents from both groups on all sides of each of these debates and various others.
TEL AVIV—The following is the text of the speech delivered by Julius Norwilla during the gathering earlier today at the Lithuanian Embassy in Tel Aviv where a delegation of major Litvak rabbis, joined at their request by Mr. Norwilla, who flew in from Vilnius for the event, was welcomed by Ambassador Edminas Bagdonas. Details of the event are here.
What should be done with the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery (Piramónt, in the Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius)? It should be restored. For this to happen, the Soviet ruin in its center should be taken down to ground level, with no further earthworks in the cemetery, ever. Let it forever remain a testimonial to the vibrancy of Jewish life in Vilna.
Two of Vilna’s greatest photographers and artists, Juozapas Kamarauskas (d. 1946) and Jan Bulhak (d. 1950) were mesmerized by Vilna’s Jewish sites, and especially by the Old Jewish Cemetery. They left us with an abundance of photographs and sketches of the Old Jewish Cemetery. Jewish scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries, residents of Vilna, recorded and published for posterity meticulous transcriptions of the texts of hundreds of epitaphs inscribed on the tombstones of the Old Jewish Cemetery.
The Defending History community protests the annual “Baltic Marching Season” in which states and major cities gift their most prestigious city centers for pro-Nazi marches that brim with racism and ethnic hatred, sometimes on cherished national holidays. Where are the local voices of dissent? The lavishly financed human rights monitoring organizations? Western voices? A media that reports?
Head of the Committee on the Old Vilnius Jewish Cemetery for the US government’s Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad (USCPAHA), Herbert Block (left) with Defending History editor Dovid Katz after two Vilnius meetings in mid December 2017 resulted in full agreement on the need for the national convention center project to be moved away from the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (Šnipiškės). See report. Meanwhile, international consensus comes into focus with growing support within Lithuania, including its Jewish community.
Vilnius screening of The Last Sunday in August, major new documentary film on the Holocaust in Lithuania, focused on Malát (Molėtai) in eastern Lithuania, is so far ignored by mainstream media and the “Double Genocide Industry”. To date: not one media outlet has published a review. The film documents the murder of all 2,000 Jews of the shtetl in one day (29 August 1941), entirely by enthusiastic, volunteer local murderers working for the German Nazi occupiers of their own country, who killed all of their own neighbors who were Jewish. There was not a single rescuer in the town (but there were incredibly brave Righteous in the surrounding countryside). It also documents those inspiringly courageous Lithuanian citizens today who are determined to tell the simple truth. Defending History calls on the film’s producers to make it very rapidly widely available. The film’s historic narrative and moral message are a precise opposite of the state-sponsored “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes of Lithuania” (“red-brown commission”) that specializes in spewing moral confusion and doubletalk.
Defending History’s comment: “Instead of simply highlighting the legitimate need to recognize, condemn, study and memorialize Communist crimes, as a distinct issue, the injection of “equality” by eight (only East European!) countries, once again underscores the far-right ultranationalist drive to obfuscate and downgrade the Holocaust by way of “Prague Declaration” style ruses to invoke a bogus equivalence between Nazism and Communism. One of the prime motives is to write the massive local collaboration (and in some countries active participation) in the Holocaust out of history, while finding cunning ways to glorify local Holocaust collaborators as “heroes”. It is high time for the West, once again, to Just Say No.”
Our take? Putin’s shameful “Zapad 17” military exercise demo, in regions bordering the eastern democratic lands of NATO and the EU, intended to intimidate their peaceful populations, needs to be exposed for what it is and countered with stalwart determination. That makes it all the more critical for NATO (and the EU) not to succumb to regional far-right, ultranationalist, chauvinist, Holocaust-revisionist, and antisemitic forces in the course of the proceedings. Indeed, when NATO has a lapse in upholding Western ideals, principles and causes, especially those for which the Allies fought during World War II and the Holocaust, it is incumbent upon genuine friends of NATO to point it out sharp and clear. This latest episode also impacts the principle that citizens of Eastern NATO countries deserve the same standards of freedom of speech and democracy as all others. It is, moreover, incumbent on US embassies in the Baltics, particularly in Vilnius, to stop defaming (as “Russian lackeys”) those (including US citizens these embassies exist to represent!) who stand up to far-right Holocaust revisionism and work for human rights in the region.
Non-Jewish Lithuanian citizens are starting to take the lead in the campaign to save the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery from plans to plonk a convention center in its center, where people would revel, cheer, drink at bars and flush toilets surrounded by thousands of Vilna Jews buried there from the 15th to the 19th centuries (a fate that would never befall a Christian cemetery in today’s EU). This poster, produced in July 2017 by Julius Norwilla, includes a quote from philosopher Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas, and the visualization created by a young Vilnius artist.
“The common denominator here is state-sponsored inversion of history for the purposes of today’s ultra-nationalist, far-right politics: Glorify the Holocaust’s collaborators, defame the victims, survivors and heroes, and you’re heading for the bogus Double Genocide (with its attendant yearned-for obfuscation of the Holocaust)” — Dovid Katz
Does the National Library’s inclusion and celebration of a center named for an “ethnic cleansing advocate” (during the Lithuanian Holocaust) derive “legitimacy” from its neighbor, the Judaic Studies Center opened less then one month ago to universal acclaim, on the same floor, by New York’s Yivo and the National Library’s leadership?
Yivo has won back a lot of credibility by now building Jewish studies in Lithuania in cooperation with the National Library and other academic institutions instead of the Red-Brown Commission and Holocaust revisionist agencies as in past years (see Yivo section, scroll to bottom to review chronologically; the 2015 letter from Vilna born Holocaust survivor Prof. Pinchos Fridberg, 2012 participation in a conference set up to camouflage the concurrent reburial with full honors of the 1941 Nazi puppet prime minister). Has the Holocaust revisionist establishment nevertheless found a way yet again to abuse the Yivo board’s good will and enlist the Yivo brand in attempts to kosherize “by juxtaposition” the glorification of Holocaust collaborators and cheerleaders? Hopefully Yivo’s leaders will this time speak out rapidly with moral clarity and ensure the new center does not remain under the same roof as its neighbor that exists to sanitize the Holocaust’s local supporters. What would Chaikel Lunski, Zelig-Hirsh Kalmanovitsh, Zalmen Reyzen, Tsemakh Shabad, and Max Weinreich have said?
Trending in Defending
A Vilnius Visualization Artist Offers Starting Point for Restoration of City’s Old Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės)
Among the 17 is Sąjūdis (Vilnius & Kaunas), whose honorary national chairman is Prof. V. Landsbergis, and whose national council includes MP Emanuelis Zingeris. Will Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius in his reply stand up for what’s right?
Annual Bandera Birthday March in Center of Kiev, Ukraine’s Capital, Now Includes “JUDEN RAUS”
Will the West maintain its silence on Ukraine’s ongoing glorification of major Holocaust collaborators? What about Western values? Will media coverage again be limited to “Jewish” and “Russian” publications? Background from 2014. Last July, a Kiev street was officially renamed for Stepan Bandera.
As 2017 gets underway, Defending History is proud to honor three Vilnius personalities, all from its Orthodox Jewish community this year, who have stood up for cherished principles against powerful forces. In all cases, the principles defended pertain not only to Jewish affairs but to human rights more generally. Their courage and determination can serve as an example to all who defend human rights and history, even when it is inconvenient and draws the ire of power-invested (often state-related) institutions. The three are Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky, Ms. Ruta Bloshtein, and Rabbi Kalev Krelin. More here. See from previous years the Prophet Amos Human Rights Awards and the 2014 Person of the Year.
In 2000, Dov Levin’s Trumpa žydų istorija Lietuvoje (A Short History of the Jews of Lithuania) appeared in Vilnius in the translation of Jonas Morkus, published with the assistance of the Israeli Embassy in the Baltics (then in Riga). But today’s Israeli Embassy in Lithuania (in Vilnius) has yet to release a statement on the death of the last great historian of Lithuanian Jewry of the Holocaust survivor generation. Levin was a citizen of Israel from the day of its establishment. He was a veteran of both the Jewish partisans in the forests of Lithuania and the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. After the war, he lived all his life in Jerusalem where he was professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Related: section on Israel related issues.
Reports on Vilnius Jewish Public Library panel & views of Marius Ivaškevičius, Tomas Kajokas, Rūta Vanagaitė, Jurgita Verbickienė, Irena Veisaitė, Efraim Zuroff and others: Library’s Facebook page; Lzinios.lt. Comments to Lzinios.lt article refer to Jewish partisans who have still not received an apology for defamation from state agencies, resulting in ongoing abuse for Holocaust Obfuscation in de facto public discourse (as well as permanent historical defamation). Announced panel included no member of Lithuania’s living Jewish community. Also: Vanagaitė exposes a Vilnius-region Holocaust mass grave now for sale. In 15min.lt
VILNA YIDDISH LITERARY CIRCLE TO READ FROM CHAIM GRADE (1910-1982)
EVERYONE WELCOME! Next Session Wednesday 30 November 2016, 6 PM at the Jewish Cultural and Information Center, Mėsinių Street 3 in the Old Town. Always with a sharp lens for Lithuanian Yiddish language and culture.
Holocaust Obfuscation (and deflection of blame from the actual perpetrators) not far from the surface? Law follows years of criminalization of dissent to aspects of Double Genocide, maxing out at two years of imprisonment in Lithuania, three in Hungary, five in Latvia, and ten in Ukraine. The explanation for such laws…
EARLIER REPORT (WHEN COMPETITION WAS ANNOUNCED). Winners and celebration banquet now seem to be flaunted on website of Prague Platform but suppressed on the website of the “Shoah Legacy Institute” . . .
(3) New wave of publicity on Jewish gravestones found all over Vilnius (following mayor’s “Yiddish sign” campaign), a diversion when accompanied by utter failure to condemn (or even mention) plans for new National Congress Center on top of thousands of Jewish graves where thousands will clap, cheer and urinate over remains of Vilnius citizens buried there for over half a millennium.
(4) Lithuanian Foreign Ministry source tells DH that “our Israeli ambassador” [i.e. in Vilnius] helped organize Benjamin Netanyahu’s alleged Nov. 2015 blessing for desecration of the cemetery where his own ancestors lie buried. More background to the tale of power, antisemitism (Christian cemeteries don’t get this treatment), greed, photo-op glory, and collusion against the moral force of the thousands of graves honorably purchased over 500 years by Jewish citizens of Vilnius. Israeli embassy invited to clarify its involvement (if any), and above all, to clarify PM Netanyahu’s position. See Israel issues.
GOOD WILL SOLUTION:
Preserve the old Jewish cemetery as a cemetery cum memorial park to which pilfered Jewish gravestones from all over town can be brought to stand in dignity. See essays by Julius Norwilla and Sid Leiman. Move the congress center project to a venue where it will be a pride to all the peoples of Lithuania and Europe.
In late August 2015, world’s leading Litvak rabbis came to beg the mayor of Vilnius to oppose placing the new National Congress Center atop thousands of Vilnius citizens’ graves in the old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Pitramónt.
Official Jewish community’s lay leader, Faina Kukliansky, standing in front of key government officials, valiantly challenged the sincerity of Holocaust commemoration when there are streets and squares named for major Holocaust collaborators and perpetrators. One participant said: “Her courageous remarks and invoking of specific names made for the moral highlight of the day.”
But Western media has largely ignored the deterioration of free speech on Holocaust issues in much of Eastern Europe. See Free Speechsection; the long saga of police and prosecutorial harassment of Evaldas Balčiūnas in Lithuania; and the introduction of “Double Genocide” laws criminalizing, in effect, the Western narrative of World War II, with punishments of up to 2 years imprisonment in Lithuania (2010), 3 years in Hungary (2010), 5 years in Latvia (2014), 10 years in Ukraine (2015); but no specific prison sentences mentioned in Estonia’s “Valentine’s Day Law” (2012) …
Will there finally be discussion on why so many Western and Israeli scholars don’t speak up on vastly more state-sponsored Holocaust obfuscation, history fixing, and actual glorification of collaborators in the Baltics and Ukraine? Do free speech and frank discussion end at Poland’s eastern borders?
FOR MORE BACKGROUND ON KAZYS ŠKIRPA (CENTER) SEE DH ARTICLES BY ANDRIUS KULIKAUSKAS, EVALDAS BALČIŪNAS, AND MILAN CHERSONSKI. PROF. T. SNYDER’S BLOODLANDS: “Škirpa used this suffering in his radio broadcasts to spur mobs to murder. Some 2,500 Jews […]” … (p. 192)
One of the Škirpa signs is right on the Museum of Applied Arts building. But is this what the museum wants to be known for? Could its directors join efforts to replace the name with one that brings pride and inclusiveness to modern Vilnius?
VERDICT IN: EVALDAS BALČIŪNASNOT GUILTY (AFTER 4 YEARS OF HARASSMENT AND A DOZEN 450 KM ROUND TRIPS FROM HOME — BUT COURT ALLOWS FAR RIGHT “PLAINTIFF” 20 DAYS TO APPEAL)
After years of legal harassment, Evaldas Balčiūnas is found “not guilty” of — telling the truth. He has protested his country’s government continuing to use state funds to honor Nazi collaborators and Holocaust perpetrators. Photo: Julius Norwilla for DH.
Five years ago in 2011, on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Lithuanian Holocaust on 23 June 1941 and the following days — nationalist murderers killed thousands of Jewish neighbors before the first German forces arrived or assumed control — the state sponsored an array of activities honoring the “rebels” (an historic nonsense, the Soviet occupying forces were fleeing Hitler’s invasion, the largest in human history, not the local Jew-killers). That sham was followed a year later by the reburial with full honors of the Nazi puppet prime minister. This year, celebrations have been limited to fringe ultranationalist groups with the government maintaining its distance (there was a regrettable parliamentary document last Nov. proposed by some right-wing MPs, but it was largely ignored). Congratulations to Lithuania’s leaders on this progress toward historic truth during this week’s 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Lithuanian Holocaust that left 96.4% of its Jewish residents dead. See our proposed seven solutions to the issues remaining.
Event in Paris on the Lithuanian Holocaust on Tuesday 3 May at 5 PM at 9 rue Mahler (Room 107). Organized by Yahad-in-Unum with unspecified Lithuanian partners and including a video link with a team in Lithuania…
READERS IN CALIFORNIA: We are lecturing at UCLA 17-20 April 2016. To book lectures, seminars, meetings in the days just before or after, please contact us at: info<at>defendinghistory.com. LIST OF TOPICS.
This year’s theme was a front-of-march We Know Our Nation’s Heroes banner featuring six figures who share the following unsettling common denominator: all were alleged Nazi collaborators and/or Holocaust perpetrators (from left): Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, Jonas Noreika, Povilas Plechavičius, Kazys Škirpa, Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas, and Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis. It is as if the marchers are celebrating the murder of the 30,000 Jewish citizens of Kaunas, the more than 95% of the over 200,000 strong Lithuanian Jewish population on the eve of the Holocaust, and the resulting “cleansing” of Lithuania’s Jewish minority.
“We, (Jews) will turn Europe into mixture of Asian people — Negroes, ruled by Jews…” — R. Coudenhove-Kalergi, “Father” of European Union. NO TO THE ISLAMIZATION OF LITHUANIA!
MAJOR NEW BOOK ON THE LITHUANIAN HOLOCAUST AND ITS CURRENT LEGACIES LAUNCHED IN VILNIUS
For the first time, a Lithuanian author teams up with an Israeli Holocaust scholar in search for the truth about widespread local enthusiasm, seventy-five years ago, for mass murder of civilian neighbors, and today’s failures in coming to grips with that history, in a land of hundreds of Jedwabnes. A genuine historic advance in Lithuanian-Jewish relations is seen in the startling partnership of Rūta Vanagaitė and Dr. Efraim Zuroff in Vanagaitė’s Mūsiškiai: Kelionė su priešu (“Our People: Journey with an Enemy”). A selection of the vast media coverage is available here. The book was launched in Vilnius on 26 January 2016.
Cover-Up Attempts Crumbled Back in 2015: Adulation of Holocaust Perpetrators was Confirmed as Poroshenko and Parliament Enacted Laws “Codifying” Fascist-Leaning History and Criminalizing Other Points of View
INCLUDING REDEFINITION OF GENOCIDE; GLORIFICATION OF HOLOCAUST PERPETRATORS AS “FREEDOM FIGHTERS”; AND CAMPAIGN OF REPUTATION DESTRUCTION AGAINST HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS WHO JOINED THE ANTI-NAZI RESISTANCE
Left to right: Evaldas Balčiūnas, Milan Chersonski and Darius Pocevičius on Monday 30 Nov. 2015 after another “totally time-wasting” hearing in the case against Balčiūnas and Pocevičius for their articles condemning fascism and the adulation of Holocaust collaborators. A more substantial hearing is now promised for Thursday 10 December, 3:30 PM (15:30), as ever at Vilnius District Court at Laisves prospektas 79a. Hopefully at long last human rights and free speech advocates, and opponents of Holocaust falsification will come to monitor. They are still looking for a pro bono human rights lawyer. For background (for English readers) please see Evaldas’s articles (and the legal harassment he has been enduring) by scrolling to the end and surveying chronologically (upwards) his articles exposing the glorification of Holocaust collaborators.
Conference press release invokes summaries of views of major foreign heritage specialists who took part in the conference. But their own statements awaited. Click here for a directory of opponents, including Holocaust survivors, heritage specialists and others in Vilnius whom delegates would have enjoyed hearing out.
One of the keynote morning speakers (amateur video) at the 30 Sept. conference, known for his documentary films that ignore the alleged Holocaust atrocities of “heroes” as well as for his incessant Israel-baiting (and of late association with far-right antisemitic Ukrainian nationalists), proposes solving Mideast issues and local antisemitism at once by “bringing the Palestinians to Vilnius, Jerusalem of the North” [!]. Israeli ambassador boldly calls him out (see from timecode 13:17) for “rewriting history” of Israel’s struggles. The organizer, the “Human Rights Monitoring Institute” has record of ignoring antisemitism and failing to even mildly protest neo-Nazi marches in city centers on independence days or the abuse of prosecutorial power to harass Lithuanian truth-tellers about the Holocaust and local antisemitism.
CONFERENCE FEATURED EXCELLENT PRESENTATIONS ON HISTORY OF THE HOLOCAUST IN GENERAL, ANTISEMITISM IN GENERAL, AND ISSUES OF ISLAMIST RADICALIZATION IN WESTERN EUROPE. DANGERS OF THE FAR RIGHT DISCUSSED BY SPEAKERS FROM HUNGARY AND NORWAY, IGNORED OR PLASTERED OVER FOR LITHUANIA.
Ponár (Paneriai) Commemoration on Lithuania’s Annual Holocaust Day is Dejudaicized Even More in “Nationalist Takeover of Litvak Heritage”: No Rabbi, No Cantor, No Kaddish
But ethnic Lithuanian costume and song are featured at the mass grave of Vilna Jewry. Honor guard with bayoneted rifles was a questionable touch.
There were well-received speeches by (among others) Jewish community chairperson Faina Kukliansky; MP Emanuelis Zingeris; survivor and partisan hero Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky; and president of Beit Vilna in Tel Aviv, Mickey Kantor. There was a well-organized laying of stones by schoolchildren at the main monument.
The Israeli ambassador’s speech was considered a disappointment by some survivors in attendance. There was no mention of the recent death of Dr. Rachel Margolis (1921-2015), an Israeli-Lithuanian citizen, and Vilna Ghetto and anti-Nazi partisan hero. She discovered and published Kazimierz Sakowicz’s long lost eyewitness diary revealing the gruesome truth about Ponár. She dreamt of one last trip to her native Vilna but was intimidated by the prosecutors’ campaign of defamation against her and other Jewish partisan heroes. It was a sharp and painful contrast with the stirring and unforgettable words of the late Israeli ambassador to the Baltics, Chen Ivri Apter. Margolis’s life was considered worthy of note by, among many others, Lithuania’s late president, Algirdas Brazauskas, former UK prime minister Gordon Brown, the ADL’s Abraham Foxman, the late Sir Martin Gilbert, a British House of Lords member, and five members of the US Congress.
IS THE COMMITTEE CHOOSING THE NEW CHIEF RABBI REALLY BOUND TO ENSURE HE WILL BE “GOVERNMENT MAN” AND SUPPORT A $25,000,000 CONVENTION CENTER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CITY’S OLD JEWISH CEMETERY? DE-LEGITIMIZED FROM DAY ONE?
At the meeting with Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius (right to left): Rabbi David Niederman (Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA and Canada); Rabbi Osher Kalmanowitz (dean of Mir Yeshiva, Brooklyn, N.Y.); Rabbi Avrohom Yaffe Schlesinger (chief rabbi of the Orthodox community in Geneva, Switzlerand); Rabbi Malkiel Kotler (dean of Beth Medrash Govoha, Lakewood, N.J.).
At the old Soviet Sports Palace on the old cemetery (left to right): Rabbi Osher Kalmanowitz, Rabbi Schlesinger, Dr. Schaps, Rabbi David Niederman, Rabbi Chizki Kalmanowitz (Asra Kadisha, Jerusalem).
Above: Prime Minister of Lithuania Algirdas Butkevičius welcomes London-based rabbis from CPJCE who “permitted” a $25,000,000 convention center project for the middle of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery. Below: Government’s top Jewish affairs maestro Lina Saulėnaitė entertains the delegation. PM is 3rd from left. A 2009 document refers to these rabbis being paid $100,000 for “supervising” some “beautification” and “exploratory digging” but what are they being paid this time, for “supervising” construction of the convention and entertainment center?
Escaped to join the partisans and fought valiantly against the Nazis in the forests of Lithuania. The only one in her family to survive the Holocaust.
Volunteered for the short-lived Jewish museum after the war.
Dedicated half a century to Biology, as PhD and professor, at Vilnius University.
Helped establish the Green House Holocaust museum in Vilnius. Rediscovered, deciphered and published Kazimierz Sakowicz’s diary of Ponár. Author of a remarkable memoir. Beloved guide, lecturer and teacher on Jewish Vilna and the Holocaust. A beloved lecturer at the Vilnius Summer Program in Yiddish untl prosecutors’ threats prevented her coming in 2008 and beyond. Will there be a session honoring her at this summer’s program? Will students be told about her accomplishments?
At 90, she was afraid to return to her beloved Vilna for one last visit she yearned for. The Lithuanian government refused to reach out to her, its ambassadors in Israel would not acknowledge her, while prosecutors repeated threats of kangaroo “war crimes investigation” (most recently for the record in the 2012 documentary “Rewriting History“).
Rachel Margolis (second from right) honored at Tel Aviv’s Leivick House in June 2009. From left to right: Dalia and Ambassador Chen Ivri Apter; Prof. Dov Levin; Prof. Israel Bartal; Prof. Dovid Katz; Leivick House director Daniel Galay.
June 23rd 2016 will mark the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Holocaust in dozens of Lithuanian towns. The Soviet army was fleeing Hitler’s invasion of 22 June 1941 (the largest invasion in human history), not the LAF murderers, but some nationalists, antisemites, Double Genociders and far-right revisionists want to turn Holocaust perpetrators into “anti-Soviet rebels.” See details from the last time around, the 70th anniversary of 2011. Defending History was there to cover it all: The events, the LAF’s intentions, the Jewish Community’s response, the government attempts to play double games. See also Brandišauskas’s classic critique of an earlier attempt by Liekis to turn the reign of Hitlerist terror into a glorious chapter of modern history.
“Equally” at Monuments for Jewish, Lithuanian and Polish Victims, but Skipping the Stone Commemorating the 7,514 Red Army Prisoners of Various Nationalities Starved and Murdered at the Site.
NO WREATHS HERE. Presidential wreaths for all but this one: modest plaque in memory of 7,514 Red Army prisoners-of-war, of various nationalities, starved and murdered.
The Lithuanian monument bewreathed on May 8th is not for Lithuanian civilians or anti-Nazis, but for a group of volunteers for pro-Nazi service who were then shot for alleged desertion. The one Jewish MP paid tribute there as well.
May 8th (Western Europe) and May 9th (Eastern Europe) Commemorate the Allied Victory over Hitler in Europe. But the government’s commemoration activities offered zero mention of the sacrifices of the forces that defeated Hitler and brought an end to the genocide at Ponár.
ANOTHER SHOCK FOR VETERANS AND SURVIVORS, AND FOR OBSERVERS OF THE CAMPAIGN TO USURP THE MASS MURDER SITE OF VILNA JEWRY — AND THE HOLOCAUST — FOR CURRENT POLITICAL ENDS
But no government officials turned up at the later event commemorating Jewish partisans and war veterans at the Jewish cemetery
Free thought in East European academia: Dissenters to “Double Genocide” dismissed, then accused of being non-academics? Coming soon: Prof. Michael Shafir’s “Deflection and Obfuscation.” Also: Times of Israel report.
16 March 2015
In the East of EU-NATO-Land: Again, Latvian Authorities Grant Riga Old Town and its “Liberty Monument” on March 16th to 1500 Worshippers of Hitler’s Waffen SS Latvian Divisions
All Waffen SS members swore an oath to Adolf Hitler, some were recycled Holocaust killers. Lithuania’s far-right leaders J. Panka and R. Čekutis, fresh from neo-Nazi march in Vilnius, were on hand as honored guests; British neo-Nazis came for the event. For the second year in a row, the prime minister forbade ministers from attending. The antisemite who went around seeking Jewish observers to “enlighten” them (video).
Top left: Sea of flowers placed at Liberty Monument to honor Waffen SS. Top right: throng marches through historic old town. Bottom from left: heavy police presence; an antisemitic poster distributed by one of the event’s supporters.
Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Dr. Efraim Zuroff leads a silent, peaceful protest of Just 2 (SWC and Defending History)
Top: Dr. Efraim Zuroff is besieged by a throng of media. Bottom: He and Dovid Katz made for an on-site protest of just 2; Famous Latvian Jewish tour guide and genealogist Alex Feigmanis makes an appearance too.
Separate protest by “Latvia Without Nazism” was allowed after event’s conclusion, with members carrying symbolic fumigation gear to Liberty Monument after Waffen SS admirers’ departure.Monica Lowenberg’s international petition reaches 6700 mark.
Once the main event was over and the “Waffen SSers” had left, a small contingent from “Latvia Without Nazism” (affiliated with the controversial “World Without Nazism”) was allowed to protest. Led by the ever colorful Joe Koren (top), the group dressed as fumigation & disinfection specialists, with full gear and uniforms, to symbolically clear away the pro-Nazi residue of the marchers.
“Lithuania for Everyone. But where, then, is the country of the Lithuanians?” The signs read “I am Lithuania” with symbols interpolated, based on the actual sign (center) carried by head of the Union of Jewish Students at last Wednesday’s neo-Nazi march in central Vilnius.
The poster’s theme, mocking the inclusivist “Lithuania for Everybody [visiems]” (the common reply to the neo-Nazis’ “Lithuania for Lithuanians” [Lietuviams]) is taken from the courageous anti-Nazi demonstration by the head of the Union of Jewish Students in Lithuania at the city-center neo-Nazi event allowed by authorities on the nation’s independence day. See next story.
11 March 2015
1,500 Neo-Nazis and Far-Right Extremists Again Given Vilnius’s Main Boulevard on Nation’s March 11th Independence Day; They Parade from Cathedral Square to Nation’s Parliament with Fascist Symbols and Chants of “Lietuva Lietuviams” (Lithuania for [Pure] Lithuanians)
Section of the march gets underway at Vilnius’s Cathedral Square on the March 11th independence day event organized by neo-Nazi and far-right elements with state acquiescence.
Flag with Swastika Hoisted Outside Nation’s Parliament for Over an Hour
Photo: Geoff Vasil
For First Time, Leaders of Jewish Community, Including Chairperson Faina Kukliansky, and Jewish Student Union Come Out to Monitor and Protest the Vilnius March; Community Issues Statement; But No Sign of “Human Rights Monitoring Institute” or Bagels.
Amit Belaitė, president of Jewish Students’ Union boldly approaches far-right figure Ričardas Čekutis with sign that reads (in Lithuanian): “I am [star-of-david] Lithuania”. For years, Mr. Čekutis was a high official of the Genocide Center. Photo: DefendingHistory.com.
Continuing to flank the fascist spokesman (right), Ms. Belaitė is supported by Simas Levinas (left), head of the Jewish Religious Community of Lithuania. Photo: DefendingHistory.com.
Left to right: Julius Norwilla, Markus Pollak, Dovid Katz, Simas Levinas, Pinchos Fridberg, Efraim Zuroff, Milan Chersonski. For a dozen years (1999-2011), Mr. Chersonski edited the Jewish community’s quadrilingual newspaper, Jerusalem of Lithuania. Photo: DefendingHistory.com.
Once again, thousands of fascists march past the “Jewish Public Library” and once again, not one member of staff came out to politely protest the glorification of fascism in a city whose 60,000 Jews were massacred. Photo: DefendingHistory.com.
Right-wing party politician Emanuelis Zingeris unexpectedly bumps into the SWC / Defending History crowd near the march. He was warm and chatty, but when invited to be photographed together with our team, says “Bye” and heads down Gedimino Boulevard via express. Photos: DefendingHistory.com. However, thanks to Julius Norwilla’s camera, the image of a cetain threesome was captured. SEE ALSO: Geoff Vasil’s take on the encounter.
Scenes from the day….
Photomontage by DefendingHistory.com
From the monitors…
Photomontage by DefendingHistory.com
16 February 2015
Wiesenthal Center – Defending History Team of 12 Monitors & Protests Kaunas Independence Day Neo-Nazi March
Dozen protesters (vs. a march of up to 500) included five members of Lithuanian Jewish community (in private capacity), but no sign of any Bagels or other funded antisemitism (or human rights) monitors.
New Book Poses Question for US and EU Foreign Policy. Should the West not demand, as matter of ethics, values and history, the abandonment of allies’ state glorification of major Holocaust collaborators?
22 November 2014
A Historic Low for US (and Canadian) Foreign Policy?
The Real Question: Should the US, UK, Canada, the EU and the rest of the free world not sponsor their own resolution combating the glorification of Nazism which is a real problem in the eastern EU and Ukraine?
Seventy Years Declaration (SYD) Relaunched for 2015
PROF. DANNY BEN-MOSHE LAUNCHES DECLARATION’S NEW WEBSITE ◊ RELAUNCH FOR JANUARY 2015 HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY ON 70th ANNIVERSARY OF LIBERATION OF AUSCHWITZ ◊ NEED UNDERLINED BY THE BALTIC-NATIONALIST INSPIRED RESOLUTION SLIPPED INTO THE US CONGRESS LAST JUNE
HOPES RISE FOR LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT PUBLIC APOLOGY TO DR. YITZHAK ARAD, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, HERO OF THE ANTI-NAZI RESISTANCE AND ISRAEL’S WAR OF INDEPENDENCE, MAJOR HOLOCAUST SCHOLAR AND FORMER DIRECTOR OF YAD VASHEM
The Defending History Community Celebrates the 77th Birthday of
Vilnius author (in Russian), editor (in English, Lithuanian, Russian, Yiddish), historian (European), theatre director (Yiddish) and tireless, fearless (global) intellectual champion in the struggle against the far right’s Holocaust revisionism, racism and antisemitism
A pillar of strength in the Jewish Community of Lithuania and far beyond
In his final months, London Holocaust survivor Ernst Lowenberg, a native of Halle am Saale in Germany, wrote to UK prime minister David Cameron asking the government to take a stand on East European Holocaust revisionism.
Ukrainian Government’s Use of Neo-Nazi Paramilitaries is Reported by London’s Daily Telegraph
“But Kiev’s use of volunteer paramilitaries […] should send a shiver down Europe’s spine. Recently formed battalions such as Donbas, Dnipro and Azov, with several thousand men under their command, are officially under the control of the interior ministry but their financing is murky, their training inadequate and their ideology often alarming. The Azov men use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbol on their banner and members of the battalion are openly white supremacists, or antisemites.”— Tom Parfitt in the Daily Telegraph.
Azov Unit fighting for Ukraine’s government. Photo: Tom Parfitt (Telegraph)
BUT USE OF PRO-HITLER ELEMENTS BY WASHINGTON’S ALLY GETS ONE SENTENCE AT END OF NEW YORK TIMES REPORT
Bunk’s massive wooden sculpture at the forest hill spot (Plungyán/Plungė, western Lithuania), where 74 teenage Jewish girls (from the local high school) were murdered by locals who knew them. Photo: DefendingHistory.com.
Are we back to Springtime for Hitler, just focused on celebrating a local mass murderer of Latvian Jewry? Will the hosting venues, including the City Cultural Centers in Jelgava and Valmiera, and prestigious halls in Riga, Liepāja, Rēzekne and Ventspils also be holding memorials for their citizens murdered in the Latvian Holocaust in which HerbertsCukurs, known as the “Hangman of Riga,” took such a personal and violent part?
QUESTION: Does the new musicalSugar Herbert Sugar perhaps violate the new law which bans (with punishment up to five years jailtime) “glorification, denial, justification or gross derogation of genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes against peace or war crimes against Latvia perpetrated by the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany.” Or is the law null and void when it comes to the Holocaust in Latvia?
EvaldasBalčiūnas (left) joined Dr. EfraimZuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Israel office, last February in Kaunas, Lithuania, for a small, silent, peaceful protest against the state-approved neo-Nazi march in the city’s center on the nation’s independence day.
Did Someone Sneak Some Holocaust Revisionism into the US Congress?
Under the Radar: Did East European nationalists — trying to insinuate the “Two Holocausts Theory” into the West — slip a resolution right onto Capitol Hill?
Ernst Lowenberg, 91, pictured at the May 2014 UK consultation with Holocaust survivors, has written to David Cameron calling for rejection of the “Double Genocide” revisionism emanating from Eastern Europe. In 2012, he handed a petition to the Lithuanian embassy in London.
Putin’s indefensible actions are robustly exposed. But there is reluctance to look critically at “pro-Western” forces that glorify (as “national heroes”) Nazi collaborators and Holocaust mass murderers…
What’s Western about that?
HISTORY FOR SALE? AS EVENTS UNFOLD, ARE WESTERN GOVERNMENTS TACITLY HELPING TO “FIX” THE HOLOCAUST BARBARITY OF BANDERA, THE UPA AND THE OUN? THESE GROUPS MURDERED TENS OF THOUSANDS OF CIVILIANS (UKRAINIAN CITIZENS) ON AN ETHNIC BASIS IN THE CAUSE OF HITLERIST RACIAL ELIMINATION.
WESTERN VALUES?IS IT MORAL FOR THE US, NATO AND THE EU TO COVER FOR THE ELEVATION OF HOLOCAUST PERPETRATORS TO NATIONAL HERO STATUS? CAN STATE-SANCTIONED NAZI-WORSHIP REALLY BE IRRELEVANT TO TODAY’S RACISM, ANTISEMITISM & HOMOPHOBIA?
HISTORIANS FOR HIRE?ARE BIG (AND SMALL) GUN HISTORIANS ALREADY BEING MOBILIZED TO OBFUSCATE THE ISSUES AND SANITIZE THE MASS MURDERERS OF UKRAINIAN JEWRY? TO PROMOTE MORE “DOUBLE GENOCIDE” REVISIONISM? ALLIES’ DEFEAT OF HITLER AT HUGE SACRIFICE IS INCREASINGLY MARGINALIZED BY THE REVISIONISTS.
Four of them, in their late 80s or 90s, are heroic veterans of the anti-Nazi war effort who escaped the Vilna, Kovno or Svintsyán Ghetto to join up with the partisans in the forests of Lithuania. All their families perished in the Lithuanian Holocaust.
Defending History, in harmony with the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, monitored the three 2014 Nazi-ally glorifying marches in the Baltics. Authorities invested shrewdly this year in downplaying all three, but failed to simply move them away from prestigious city centers (which would have offended the far right and ultranationalist base). Visible fascist symbols were reduced from previous years, local opposition sometimes neutralized, and media interest discouraged.
But the noxious worship, in 2014’s EU, of Hitler’s allies in Holocaust-era Europe (now being cast as implicitly “acceptable”) remains a shameful constant, one that calls out for urgent scrutiny in the West. Yet again, Defending History is defense of today’s — and tomorrow’s — human rights and EU/NATO values. The adulaters of wartime Hitlerism are its moral heirs: today’s propagaters of racism, ultranationalism, antisemitism, homophobia and Aryanist theories of national purity.
Honoring a Hero of the Anti-Nazi Resistance in Rechovot
Dr. Rachel Margolis, 92, Honored on Holocaust Remembrance Day
Rachel Margolis, 92, is honored at her home in Rechovot on 27 January by Brig. Gen. Zvi Kan-Tor (center), head of the task force establishing Museum of the Jewish Soldier of World War II and Abraham Grinzaid, head of Israel’s association of Soviet army veterans who fought against the Nazis.
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.
TWEET FROM 20 JAN. 2016: “STATE DEPT COMMISSION’S MR. HERBERT BLOCK REPORTING TO SATMAR REBBA” Mr. Block brought his sons along for the photo-op. One of those pictured is Mr. Gary Schlesinger, author of defamatory tweets (see sample, bottom of page) against Professor Bernard Fryshman and others who have opposed desecrating the old Vilna Jewish cemetery.
As 2017 gets underway, Defending History is proud to honor three Vilnius personalities, this year all from its Orthodox Jewish community, who have stood up for cherished principles against powerful forces. In all cases, the principles defended pertain also to human rights more generally. Their courage and determination can serve as an example to all who defend human rights and history even when it is inconvenient and draws the ire of power-invested institutions that are often associated with state-supported entities.
NEW YORK CITY—Dr. Bernard Fryshman, physics professor at the New York Institute of Technology here, today published a new article concerning the imminent danger to thousands of Jewish graves in Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery upon which a huge $25,000,000 convention center, structured to yield hundreds of millions for property developers is about to be erected, where revelers will clap, sing and use toilets surrounded by the graves of Vilna Jewry paid for, on the understanding of possession in perpetuity, by untold thousands of families between the late fifteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. Protestant and Catholic ethicists have noted that such would never be the disrespect shown a cemetery full of Christian (or majority ethnicity) scholars in a great capital city of Europe. Last summer, Lithuania’s chief rabbi was rapidly fired by the Jewish community’s lay-leader-cum-private-attorney, after he spoke against the convention center project. His replacement has yet to speak out for the record; in the interim the search for a new chief rabbi was the subject of latter day Vilna folklore).
VILNIUS—In a strictly private capacity, Ruta (Reyzke) Bloshtein, a Vilnius born member of Lithuania’s small Jewish community, whose maternal ancestors hail from the shtetl Tríshik (Tryškiai), has released to the media a remarkable Yiddish public poster issued by the Vilna Board of Rabbis on 30 Nissan 5695 — the Jewish calendar date corresponding with 3 May 1935 — that she discovered in Lithuania’s central state archive. It is an impassioned plea by the Board of Rabbis asking the then Polish authorities in the city to abandon their plans for a sports stadium on the site of Piramónt (in the Šnipiškės district), the old Vilna Jewish cemetery that goes back to the late fifteenth century, and where thousands of luminous Litvak scholars lie buried.
VILNIUS—A massive new construction site is being dug up next door to the Soviet-era Sports Palace building in the Šnipiškės section of Vilnius. The former Sports Palace, now the subject of intense international debate over plans for a 25 million dollar conversion into a national conference center, itself “indisputably rests in the middle of the former cemetery,” as confirmed by the United States government a decade ago. But what is unknown is where that may leave this bordering site, which may or may not lie outside various hypothesized boundaries of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery, in use from the late fifteenth century to the 1830s. The last generations of pre-Holocaust Vilna Jewry called the cemetery Piramónt.
VILNIUS—Slovakian scholar, author and Jewish heritage specialist Dr. Beata Nemcová, a delegate at last week’s Rothschild Foundation London (Hanadiv) conference on Jewish cemeteries, has issued a statement calling on authorities here to move the state’s $25,000,000 convention center project away from the old Vilna Jewish cemetery, known as Piramónt, in today’s Šnipiškės district, to another location. The statement reads as follows (followed by a facsimile).
NEW YORK—A spokesperson for the rabbinic delegation from the United States, Israel and Europe that came to plea for a reprieve for the old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius issued the following press release upon completion of the group’s meetings. Its content contrasts sharply with the BNS report published in various Lithuanian media today.
International Rabbinic Delegation Travels to Vilnius to Plea for the Cancellation of Development Plans on the Šnipiškės Cemetery
Group Meets Deputy Chancellor and the Vilnius Mayor to Relay Calls of World Jewry to Spare 500-Year Old Šnipiškės Cemetery from Further Desecration
VILNIUS—A rabbinic delegation visited Vilnius yesterday and met the authorities to plea with them to cancel plans to construct a congress hall on Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery. The Šnipiškės cemetery was established over five centuries ago, and it interred the most famous Jewish leaders of Vilnius.
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK—The high rabbinical court of the most populous Hasidic group in the world, Satmar, today released to the media the text of its judgment of 6 July 2015 calling on the Lithuanian government to abandon its multimillion dollar convention center project in the heart of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery. The bilingual text, in rabbinic Hebrew and English, also calls on the American government to exert its influence to save the thousands of graves on the site from further desecration. The document was further signed, with an added note, by Satmar grand rabbi (der Sátmerer Rébe)Yekusiel Yehuda Teitelbaum on 10 July 2015.
VILNIUS—The chairperson of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, Faina Kukliansky, today released the following statement on the community’s website. It is reposted here in full in virtue of its references to the debate over plans for a $25,000,000 convention center project in the heart of the old Jewish cemetery at Piramónt (Šnipiškės) in Vilnius.
Head of LJC Faina Kukliansky on Articles in Foreign Press about Chaim Burshtein
Recently there has appeared in the world press an article and information that a rabbi has been deported from Lithuania and that this event is connected with plans by the Government to construct new buildings in the old Jewish cemetery in Shnipishok (Piramont) in Vilnius. The Lithuania Jewish Community denies these rumors. According to LJC chair Faina Kukliansky, no one has deported Rabbi Chaim Burshtein from Lithuania.
This week we Jews observed the saddest day in our people’s tradition — Tisha B’Av (Yiddish: Tíshebov), the annual fast day which commemorates the anniversary of a number of disasters in Jewish history, primarily the destruction of both the first and second temples in Jerusalem. On this day of mourning and lamentation we fast. While sitting on the floor and reading the Book of Lamentations and the Kinoys (sacred poems of mourning), I thought about the Tíshebov tradition of visiting graves of our great sages and of departed family members.
In Vílne (Vilnius), this tradition was observed for ages by visiting the Piramónt cemetery, where throughout a period of more than five hundred years hundreds of thousands have been buried there — the Jews of Vílne, our ancestors among them — and so many illustrious rabbis and sages, who passed on the infinite treasures of their wisdom to us, to help us find the most honest and ethical way of life. It is, in our belief, on account of their merits that the rebuilding of the third temple will come sooner.
Šią savaitę mes, žydai, minėjome tragiškiausią mūsų tautos istorijos datą — Tiša b’Av (jidiš: Tišebov) — abiejų Jeruzalės Šventyklų sugriovimą. Gedulą ir netekties skausmą išreiškiame pasninkaudami. Sėdėdama ant grindų ir skaitydama Kinojs knygą (gedulingas elegijas), mąsčiau ir apie tradiciją šią dieną lankyti mūsų didžių išminčių kapus.
Vilniuje ši tradicija buvo puoselėjama lankant Piramont kapines, kuriose per penkis šimtmečius palaidoti šimtai tūkstančių mano protėvių — Vilniaus žydų, tarp jų iškilių rabinų ir išminčių, palikusių neišsemiamus išminties lobius mums, siekiantiems kilniai ir dorai eiti gyvenimo keliu. Per jų nuopelnus bus, duok Dieve, pagreitintas Trečiosios Šventyklos atstatymas.
VILNIUS—After two apartment and business buildings started to go up a decade ago on the grounds of the old Jewish cemetery at Piramónt in the Šnipiškės (Shnípishok) district of this city, across the river from the city center, a damaging international conflict ensued between elements of the Lithuanian government on the one hand and Jewish groups around the world and a number of Western governments on the other.
VILNIUS—A memo from the United States Embassy here in the Lithuanian capital, dated 27 May 2009, released by Wikileaks and in the public domain, expressed optimism about solution of the disputes that had arisen over desecration of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery. The cemetery, known to generations of Vilna Jews as Piramónt, is within the Šnipiškės district (itself in Yiddish: Shnípishok).
VILNIUS—Because of its renewed relevance, the press release of the Experts Group summarizing the findings of the Geophysical Survey, dated 3 September 2008, concerning the old Vilna Jewish cemetery, is republished:
VILNIUS—The following excerpt from a 21 June 2006 United States report from the American Embassy here to the Secretary of State in Washington deals with questions around the old Vilna Jewish Cemetery. The site, known to generations of Vilna Jews as Piramónt, is within the Šnipiškės district (itself in Yiddish: Shnípishok).
The document, entitled “Jewish Cemetery in Vilnius — Overview and Update,” now published at part of the Wikileaks Public Library of US Diplomacy (PDF here) emanates from a period when the “current debate” was focused on two new buildings, rather than on the Sports Palace per se.
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK—The Central Rabbinical Congress (CRC) of the U.S.A. and Canada today released to the media the facsimile of the original Hebrew letter it has issued concerning plans for a convention center at the old Vilna Jewish cemetery at Piramónt, now in the Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania (background; the paper trail to date). The facsimile is followed by an English translation provided by the CRC.
“We turn to the enlightened government of Lithuania, and to the European Union, and say: Please Brothers—do no evil! O Heaven! Aren’t we all children of the same father and mother? Why are we different than every other nation, that you decreed such terrible things against us?”
Editor’s note: The author is president of the World HaGró (Gaon of Vilna) Center in Israel, and co-editor of the Center’s seventy published volumes of the Gaon of Vilna’s works. He has been based in Vilnius around twenty-five years. The original handwritten document, with the rabbi’s signature and personal stamp, is available here. For background on the issue, see here. For the paper trail to date, see here. A registry of the mounting international agreement with Rabbi Feffer’s position is here.
בס″ד ח′ תמוז התשע″ה לפ″ק פה ווילנא
למען אוהביך שוכני עפר בבית העלמין הישן דווילנא
אני הרב הדר בעיר הזאת זה קרוב ל-25 שנה ומכיר היטב תהלוכותי′ה ובעיותי′ה, וחרד לעתידה היהודי ועל זכרון עברה הק′ והחשוב כידוע לכל, ועתה ראיתי חובה גדולה בנפשי לצאת בגלוי ולהסיר הלוט בעניין הנשגב דלהלן, ולפרסם האמת ללא צל ספק – העובדות הברורות כשמש בצהרים ולעמוד בפרץ ולא לתת למשחיתים לבוא ולנגוף ח″ו, ואדרבה ביתר תוקף ועוז דקדושה לעמוד איתן על משמרת הקודש למען ה′ ותורתו הק′ והאמונה הטהורה.
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.