by Dovid Katz
Compilation of articles, documentaries, videos, and photos. Plus: from the saga of 2008…
Compilation of articles, documentaries, videos, and photos. Plus: from the saga of 2008…
Clockwise from upper left: Fania is at far left in family photo from 1932 or 1933 in front of her father’s shop on Vilna’s Zavalna St. (today Pylimo in Vilnius); Fania showing visitors the underground bunkers where she lived while fighting the Nazis in the Jewish partisan fort in the forest (now sinking into the ground, Fania’s last wish is that it be restored and preserved for posterity); Fania and fellow partisan veteran Chasia Langbord Shpanerflig sing the partisan hymn at a May 9th memorial; Fania bring honored at a banquet at the residence of the Irish ambassador to Lithuania, HE Dónal Denham in a pushback against state attempts to prosecute and defame her and other veterans of the Jewish partisans with ambassadors from Norway, Austria, France, the UK and other Western nations joining in; Fania in the Vilna Ghetto (1941-1943); with Dovid enjoying looking at some old Vilna Yiddish books together.
Today, May 22nd 2022, is Fania’s 100th. It has been a privilege to know her and work closely with her for some thirty years. A graduate of Vilna’s remarkable secular Yiddish school built by the legendary Sofia Markovna Gurevitsh, she went on to suffer loss of her entire family in the Holocaust. Her own incarceration in the Vilna Ghetto lasted from the Ghetto’s first day to its last, when she escaped to join the Jewish partisans with whom she fought heroically in the forests of Lithuania against the Nazis, based in the wooden underground bunkers at the “Jewish fort” outside Vilnius, which Fania dreams to this day will be restored and preserved for future generations to remember the Holocaust and the Jewish resistance (it is at present literally sinking into the earth). To come together to make this happen would be Fania’s most cherished 100th birthday present. (Alas efforts to date have faded with various organizations’ timidity, but may that now rapidly change!).
For a summary of the story of the Last Jewish Fort, please see Defending History’s report.
Please try to imagine the mental cruelty Holocaust survivor Fania (who lost her entire family, herself survived by joining the anti-Nazi resistance, becoming a hero of the free world) has had to endure from a major state-sponsored commission in an EU member state. This has been covered in a major documentary film (alternate link). See also recent ultranationalists’ defamation of Fania.
22 April 2006. Article in Respublika accuses Dr. Yitzhak Arad, Holocaust survivor, resistance hero, veteran of the Israeli war of independence and long-time director of Yad Vashem, of being a war criminal on the basis of misquoted, decontextualized passages in his own 1979 book, The Partisan. [ADDENDUM of April 2014: One of the chief stone-throwers (final section) is A. Anušauskas, who is today a member of the state’s commission on Nazi and Soviet crimes. In 2006 he was “scientific editor” at the Genocide Center. Since 2008 he has been a member of parliament where he was for some years chair of the Committee on National Security and Defense.]
10 September 2007. Prosecutors in Lithuania confirm that their investigation of Holocaust survivor, anti-Nazi resistance hero and former director of Yad Vashem Dr. Yitzhak Arad, on suspicion of “crimes against humanity” had been initiated in May 2006. The “investigation” was based on an article in the antisemitic daily Respublika (22 April 2006), in which the special prosecutor and head of the Genocide Center are extensively quoted. In June 2006 the daily triumphantly proclaimed that prosecutors were acting on its earlier article. English summary. See below at 25 September 2008 for “conclusion” of the investigation and the 2010 report of the “Lithuanian Human Rights Association” . . . In 2014, ongoing defamation evident from Wikipedia entry.
30 April 2008. The Embassy of the United States in Lithuania issues a certificate of appreciation, signed by Ambassador John A. Cloud, to Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky; presented by political officer Joseph Boski at a luncheon organized by the Vilnius Yiddish Institute.
Yitzhak Arad (originally Rudnitzky), a native of Svintsyán (Švenčionys, Lithuania, some 90 km north of Vilnius) passed away peacefully in Tel Aviv on Thursday. He was laid to rest Friday at Kibbutz Einat near Tel Aviv. His dramatic career included fighting the Nazis as a bold partisan in the forests of Lithuania, fighting with equal heroism in the air and ground forces that won Israel’s war of independence, rising to brigadier general, becoming a major Holocaust scholar and author, serving as director general of Yad Vashem for two decades (1972-1993), and, in the twenty-first century, becoming the first of a series of Holocaust survivors who joined the anti-Nazi resistance to be publicly accused by Lithuanian prosecutors of “war crimes” (with not a shred of evidence) as part of a massive campaign of Holocaust revisionism and inversion emanating from the state and its lavishly sponsored “genocide center” and “red-brown” commission as well and numerous elite operatives in the media, academia and literature.
The Holocaust revisionist who started the campaign against Arad in 2006 (in an infamous interview in the antisemitic Respublika representing the state’s “Genocide Center“) is today the nation’s Minister of Defense (!). It was, it turned out, the opening salvo in a years’ long saga that came to include Dr. Rachel Margolis (1921-2015), Ms. Fania Brantsovsky (1922- ), and other heroes of the anti-Nazi resistance regarded as “war criminals” by the far-right revisionist history units financed by East European states and their centers, professors, press maestros and operatives on an industrial scale.
Arad was the first Jewish partisan veteran to be libeled (in 2006) by kangaroo prosecutions of Lithuania’s “history fixing” units in the effort to revise Holocaust history. One major component of the multilayered effort, epitomized by Lithuania’s state-sponsored “Red-Brown Commission” and its Genocide Research Center, has entailed painting Holocaust victims who survived by joining the resistance as perpetrators and perpetrators (particularly of the atrocities of 1941) as victims. Follow the ins-and-outs in Defending History.
[most recent update]
Lithuanian journalists are raising questions that the Lithuanian government has yet to answer regarding its plans to repurpose as a modern convention center the Vilnius Sports Palace which the Soviets built on the oldest Jewish cemetery in Šnipiškės. These journalists are informing the Lithuanian public about spectacular increases in projected costs, the rabbinical court’s ruling which prohibits use of the building, the architects who propose reconsidering the future of the building, and the historical documents which show that the Soviets seized the Cemetery in 1940 from the Vilnius Jewish Community, whose rights have yet to be restored.
Skirmantas Malinauskas Publishes Expected Construction Costs of 64 Million Euros
Most dramatically, on September 12, 2020, independent journalist Skirmantas Malinauskas uploaded an hour-long You Tube video. “For the sake of the public interest”, he presented portions of a document leaked to him, namely the technical project submitted in March, 2020 by Karolis Maciulevičius of UAB “ArchiMenai” to Turto Bankas (the State Property Bank). Malinauskas’s investigative videos are supported by 4,000 Patreon subscribers (at about 3 euros per month) and typically viewed by more than 100,000 viewers, and this bombshell may reverberate across Lithuanian media. Skirmantas Malinauskas was until March, 2020 an advisor to Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis. Prior to that he worked as a journalist for 15min.lt, where he wrote detailed articles on September 20, 2016 and June 7, 2016 about problems in the bidding process for reconstruction of the Vilnius Sports Palace.
Pope Francis’s two-day visit to Lithuania this weekend includes a symbolic stop at the Vilna Ghetto on his second day, September 23, at roughly 4 PM at Rūdininkai Square. On that day, 75 years ago, Nazi Germans liquidated the Vilna Ghetto, murdering some of its Jews in Paneriai Forest (Ponár), and moving the rest to concentration camps in Latvia, Estonia and Germany. Since 1994, it has been the National Day of Commemoration of the Genocide of Lithuania’s Jews. Now it will surely be linked in the Lithuanian psyche with this visit by Pope Francis, and perhaps some day, Saint Francis.
However, his visit is also a chance for him to make plain to the children of God our lack of empathy for Lithuania’s Jews. A very short detour to the “Vilnius Sports Palace” — and a heavenly nod by the Pope — would let us tear down that “Soviet temple”, resurrect the holy Jewish cemetery beneath it, and enjoy a symbol of Litvak and Lithuanian friendship forever. This brings to mind the detour Jesus made in Jericho, when two blind men called out, “Lord, have mercy on us, you son of David!” And Jesus halted the crowd.
VILNIUS—This year’s March 11th independence day march here last month was again granted the route of highest prestige, from Cathedral Square, up the whole of the capital’s main thoroughfare, Gedimino Boulevard, and ending at Parliament Square. Defending History’s eyewitness report recounted this year’s “detour” to the presidential palace for the bizarre ceremony of attacking Lithuania’s oldest Holocaust survivor, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky (Brancovskaja), 95 next month, one of the Jewish partisans subjected to defamation by the state’s campaign of Holocaust revisionism that has included a “blame the victims” components that started eleven years ago.
VILNIUS—The following (text below) is a translation from Lithuanian of the 2 March 2017 letter from the state-sponsored Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania (widely known as the Genocide Center) to a nationalist group that put on this year’s March 11th Independence Day neo-Nazi march, with authorities’ permission, in the center of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. The group had complained about Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite, having granted an award on February 16th to Lithuania’s oldest Holocaust survivor, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, soon to turn 95, for her work in the field of Holocaust education. The president’s office had referred the complaint to the Genocide Center which issued this letter (facsimile of the original below). The correspondence was then read out at a bizarre ceremony that some observers thought bore the hallmarks of a 2017 “Jew-witch hunt” when the Independence day festivities announced a detour to the presidential palace to read out the various letters and condemn Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, who is the only one of her family to survive the Holocaust precisely because she escaped the Vilna Ghetto in September 1943 and joined up with the anti-Nazi Soviet partisans, the only force seriously challenging Hitler’s rule of Lithuania.
VILNIUS—A six-person monitoring group assembled by Defending History was the only human rights team at this year’s March 11th neo-Nazi march in central Vilnius. DH’s monitors were Eveldas Balčiūnas, Dovid Katz, Julius Norwilla, Ruta Ostrovskaja, Jacob Piliansky, and Julia Rets. Two senior longtime annual observers, both major figures in Lithuania’s Jewish community for over half a century, Milan Chersonski and Prof. Pinchos Fridberg, were prevented by health issues from monitoring the event this year.
For years Defending History has asked that the marchers’ freedom of speech be respected at venues away from the center of the capital on the nation’s independence day. The granting of “that time and place” (only since 2008) conveys a sense of legitimization by both the municipality and national government, which are sometimes thought to be playing a “double game” by facilitating the honoring of Holocaust perpetrators locally, alongside commemorations for the victims for foreign consumption. At least two Western ambassadors were “quietly” among the observing crowds.
Evaldas Balčiūnas; Julius Norwilla; Julia Rets; Alkas.lt; Delfi.lt. Did “mainstream media” coverage avoid imaging swastikas, other fascist symbols, and Hitler salutes?
PROF. DOV LEVIN
Kaunas (Kovno) 1925 — Jerusalem 2016
VILNIUS—The 22 November edition of the Jerusalem Post carried the following news item about an international meeting at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.
Lithuanian and Israeli diplomats, academics, and government officials, together with representatives of Litvak organizations in Israel, the American Jewish Committee, the World Jewish Congress and the Tel Aviv Municipality, will congregate on Thursday at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation to discuss Lithuania and Israel – Past, Present and Future. Among the Lithuanians will be Lithuanian Ambassador Edminas Bagdonas, Ronaldas Račinskas, executive director of the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania; Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community; and several other Lithuanian dignitaries. Among the topics tabled for discussion is the reinstatement of Lithuanian citizenship to Lithuanian expatriates living in Israel.
VILNIUS—The news portal Delfi.lt reported yesterday on Lithuanian sharpshooting star Ronaldas Račinskas making a hit at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics not only for his talents with a rifle, but on his work back home for which the headline calls him the “Nazi-Soviet hunter,” in the latest of a long series of Holocaust terms appropriated and ably recast by the Red-Brown movement’s PR wizzards. Besides heading a commission that now includes the gentleman who launched the campaign, a decade ago, to “hunt” Holocaust survivors who joined the Jewish partisans, his “Nazi and Soviet hunting” refers to his role as Director of the Secretariat of that comission, popularly known as the Red-Brown Commission, a state-financed entity that is one of the main European engines for spreading the revisionist far right’s “Double Genocide” model of World War II history. In that history, as an example, those who liberated Auschwitz are declared to be equal in principle to those who committed the genocide there. Moreover the movement’s primary document, the 2008 Prague Declaration (PD), insists that all European “minds” accept the revised history and regard Nazi and Soviet crimes as equal, a stance widely considered to be a camouflage for obfuscating and diminishing the Holocaust. The response in the European arena came in the form of the 2012 Seventy Years Declaration (SYD).
Ponary Diary, 1941 — 1943. A Bystander’s Account of a Mass Murder. by Kazimierz Sakowicz. Edited by Yitzhak Arad. Foreword by Rachel Margolis. Yale University Press: New Haven and London 2005.
It goes without saying that a book of eyewitness Holocaust testimony penned at Lithuania’s largest mass grave site in the years 1941 to 1943, and first published in English in 2005, does not lose its importance for those who have not read it even a decade later; even if many other, much less important books, sport a more recent date of publication. Moreover, given the Lithuanian government’s campaign against the scholar who rediscovered and first published the manuscript in the 1990s, and against the scholar who edited the English edition cited above (both as part of its campaign against Jewish partisan survivors), the poignancy and human interest are even greater. It is indeed a most appropriate time to pay tribute to that rediscoverer, Dr. Rachel Margolis (1921—2015), who passed away in Rehovot, Israel last summer, without realizing, in her nineties, her dying wish of visiting her native Vilna one last time, because of her fear of prosecutors’ threats and intimidation.
As the Lithuanian government-sponsored “Red-Brown Commission” (popular moniker for the “International Commission for Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes of Lithuania“), quiet on the international front for a time, announces a comeback global conclave for 17-19 March 2016, suspense is rising as to whether various Jewish organizations, including Yivo and the AJC, but above all the Israel Foreign Ministry, will again be coming on board to legitimize the body that is the midwife of the Double Genocide movement in the European Parliament.
VILNIUS—Over the past decade, few foreign embassies in Lithuania have done as much as Japan’s to help ensure that the Holocaust in Lithuania is never forgotten and indeed, that remembrance events and educational programs feed into both national and international efforts to raise awareness and sensitivities in the cause of averting future massacres of innocent civilians.
Japan’s Holocaust remembrance achievements in Lithuania are manifold. From 2008, when state prosecutors connected to the Genocide Center began defaming local Holocaust survivors, Japan’s embassy joined with others in giving honor to the wrongly accused, including the 2009 “Walk in the Rain” organized by then Norwegian ambassador Steinar Gil. More well known are the embassy’s activities in commemoration of Chiune (Sempo) Sugihara, the inspirational Japanese humanist who saved thousands of lives by issuing visas in Kaunas in 1940 (enabling those people to flee Soviet rule directly, and indirectly from what was to come a year later, in 1941, with Hitler’s invasion and the massive local collaboration in genocide). One of the most important goes back to the turn of our century when the embassy participated actively, and generously, in setting up Sugihara House in Kaunas.