In May 2010 a Lithuanian court legalized public displays of swastikas, with nearly no reaction from foreign embassies or human rights groups. Reports here and here. Jewish community’s reaction here. See also the page on Antisemitism. On the term swasticals, see our report for 8 May 2010.
11 March 2008
Gedimino Boulevard, Vilnius. This is the ‘Lithuanian swastika’ with the added lines meant to evoke the ‘Columns of Gediminas‘. Details and video of the parade here.
16 February 2010
According to historians, the largest slaughter of people in a single day in the history of the Baltic states occurred on the 29th of October 1941, when between nine and ten thousand Jews were gruesomely killed at the ‘Ninth Fort’ near Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania, under Nazi German command. Highly motivated local forces carried out most of the killing and the associated humiliation and degradation of the victims. To mark the occasion there is a commemoration ceremony at the site held each year at midday on the last Sunday in October. This year it was held today, under a bright sun that warmed the clear chill of late fall in Lithuania.
Organized by the Jewish Community of Kaunas, and addressed by its leader, Gercas (Hershl) Žakas, this year’s event drew just over a hundred people, filling less than half the paved plaza near the memorial dais. Survivors present expressed concern for the future status of Ninth Fort remembrance here, and Holocaust commemoration more generally. The concern echoes various factors, including the gradual disappearance of survivors and witnesses, the shrinking of the vestigial Jewish community, and the shifting political trends.
O P I N I O N
by Michael Maass
The text of Pastor Michael Maass’s talk at the Sabbath dinner in Plungyán (Plungė), Lithuania, on 15 July 2011, during preparations for the commemoration ceremony at the nearby mass murder site on 17 July 2011. See also Abel Levitt’s speech here, and the imaginary speech of a Lithuanian official here (with further links at end of page).
Text provided by Pastor Michael Maass.
Good evening. We are Michael and Fausta Maass, the directors of the Lithuanian branch of the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem. You might say we are ambassadors from the Christian nation to the Jewish nation. We represent millions of Christians in over sixty countries who love Israel and the Jewish people. We are honored to be with you tonight.
We believe that friendship between Jews and Christians is vitally important, especially in light of recent developments in the world. The legitimacy of the nation of Israel is under attack from many sides. Antisemitism is rising to a level not seen since the Second World War.
O P I N I O N
by Geoff Vasil
Andrius Navickas, a religious studies expert and editor-in-chief of the Bernardinai.lt website, published a rather strange editorial at the end of 2011 taken from a speech he gave over Lithuanian Radio.
Posted in "Jewish" Events as Cover?, Christian-Jewish Issues, Geoff Vasil, History, Human Rights, Media Watch, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory
Tagged Andrius Navickas, Bernardinai.lt, Geoff Vasil
Many usually admiring readers of Bernardinai.lt were shocked today by an article by Archbishop S. Tamkevičius which contains the following paragraph (here in translation), and which was not followed by any editor’s comment.
“This month Juozas Brazaitis-Ambrazevičius, the former prime minister of the Provisional Government of Lithuania who worked for the anti-Nazi underground during the German occupation and after the war actively made the case for Lithuanian independence in the world, returns from America to Lithuania. His contributions to Lithuania are enourmous. But he didn’t just love Lithuania, he also loved God. Having chosen for himself in his youth friends who were sincerely faithful young people, and taking active part in the activities of the Futurists, he matured into a profoundly faithful man and for his entire life was consistently faithful to the principles of Christianity and nationalism. Professor Juozas Brazaitis is a living example of how much faith gives to a person who adheres to it consistently.”
The “return to Lithuania” refers to the flying over and reburying with full honors, at the culmination of four days of commemorative festivities, of the “prime minister” of the 1941 Nazi puppet “Provisional Government” in Kaunas which oversaw the onset of the Lithuanian Holocaust at the hands of its associated LAF (Lithuanian Activist Front), and then during the first weeks of Nazi genocide between late June and early August 1941. There was no public statement of regret from Juozas Ambrazevičius (Brazaitis) during his subsequent decades in the United States, where he died in 1974.
Michael and Fausta Maass, directors of the Lithuania section of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) issued the following statement today.
Michael and Fausta Maass, directors of the Lithuania section of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ)
“The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Lithuanian section, calls upon the Lithuanian government and parliament, the Kaunas mayor’s office, the Church of the Resurrection in Kaunas, and other possibly participating entities involved in the ceremonies honoring Juozas Ambrazavičius-Brazaitis, to cancel any and all such ceremonies.
Ambrazevičius, the “provisional government” of 1941 which he led, and the closely associated Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) were complicit in the murders of many thousands of Lithuanian Jews before and during the German occupation of Lithuania.
O P I N I O N
by Geoff Vasil
Lithuania’s Jewish community isn’t immune from the broader issues facing Jewish existence in Eastern Europe and there are the same problems of Jewish identity that crop up in Russia, Bulgaria, Poland and elsewhere. And just as there are Christian Evangelicals and others who support the policies of the right-wing in the State of Israel elsewhere in Europe, there are those same voices among Lithuanian politicians and public figures.
What is perhaps different in Lithuania than elsewhere in Eastern Europe is that this Gentile support for Zionist ideals doesn’t translate into support for the surviving local Jewish community or contribute to a profounder and more sympathetic understanding of the Holocaust.
UPDATE OF 5 AUGUST 2012: This essay was republished with permission in the Algemeiner Journal; in 15min.lt (where it seems to have been taken down, but is still listed in Search); in Jewish Ideas Daily (where it was chosen as one of the editor’s picks for 1 August 2012).
Visitors to Vilnius will see any number of plaques dedicated to famous Jewish residents of Vilnius and several dedicated to the Holocaust. Those who look a little deeper under the surface might find there are a number of agencies, organizations and institutions operating in Vilnius which seemingly are aimed at promoting Jewish history, language and culture. In fact, both the plaques and monuments, and the majority of these “Jewish” organizations, serve as little more than window-dressing and display show-cases the Lithuanian government rolls out as exhibits evidencing Lithuanian sincerity in addressing the incomparable atrocity of the Holocaust.
Posted in "Jewish" Events as Cover?, Christian-Jewish Issues, Double Games, Geoff Vasil, Humor (Of Sorts), Identity Theft of Litvak Heritage, Israel, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Symbology
by Dovid Katz
The following are translated (and edited) excerpts from a longer letter in Yiddish received from a survivor who has asked to remain anonymous, about the Jewish gravestones that form the steps going up to the Reformed Evangelical Church at Pylimo 18 in Vilnius.
Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Dovid Katz, Exotic Jewish Tourism, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Politics of Memory, Reformed Evangelical Church (Vilnius)
Tagged Antisemitism in Lithuania, Christian-Jewish relations, Jewish gravestones as steps to church, Lithuania, Reformed Evangelical Church in Vilnius, Reformed Evangelical Church Lithuania
O P I N I O N
by Geoff Vasil
And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. Genesis 3:13
And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. Genesis 4:10
Driving east out of Rokiškis, fields give way to forest, and the lake country leads on to strange and wild hills in an abandoned quarter of the country bordering Latvia. The lake country is beautiful, almost alpine in its effect, and spotted with small settlements and villages of varying sizes, some even boasting gas stations and schools.
Posted in "Red-Brown Commission", Arts, Christian-Jewish Issues, Collaborators Glorified, Foreign Ministries: Holocaust Politics Abuse?, Geoff Vasil, Lithuania, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Rákishok (Rokiškis), Symbology
Tagged Genocide Center in Vilnius, Geoff Vasil, Lithuania, Obeliai
O B I T U A R Y
Aleksandras Bosas (1951 — 2014). Photo: Sandrauga.
Aleksandras Bosas, a respected Lithuanian poet, died unexpectedly on July 24, 2014. The wider Defending History community extends deepest condolences to the family and friends of our suddenly departed colleague, who is survived by his wife, Natalija, three sons and a daughter.
We have lost a courageously active literary voice against fascism and against the contemporary attempts at high levels to glorify fascism via posthumous honors for collaborators and local perpetrators of the Lithuanian Holocaust.
At the beginning of 2014 his book of poems dedicated to commemorating the Holocaust in Lithuania appeared. It is called Iš ten sugrįžtantiems (“For Those Who Returned from There”).
VILNIUS—The website of the Reformed Evangelical Church services this weekend advertised today’s Sunday service with a previously-made photo of pastors and worshippers posing for a photograph with their shoes pressing into the pilfered Jewish gravestones, some of which still have visible writing, of which the steps to the church are made. The church has still issued no public statement on its retention of the Soviet-era made-of-pilfered-Jewish-gravestones steps even after its much-celebrated reconstruction and restoration less than a decade ago.
Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Reformed Evangelical Church (Vilnius)
Tagged Chief rabbi of Lithuania, Christian-Jewish relations, Christianity in post-Soviet space, Evangelikų reformatų bažnyčia, Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania, Jewish gravestones in Lithuania, Lithuania, Rabbi Chaim Burshtein, Reformed Evangelical Church in Lithuania
I would like to make an observation concerning the use of Jewish cemeteries for building projects, as this has come to be a major issue of controversy in Lithuania, and in other nations as well.
I would like to pose a question: Would these building projects be pursued if the cemeteries in question were the resting places of Catholics, Protestant Christians, or other non-Jewish people?
Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Appeals to the European Commission on Piramónt, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Michael & Fausta Maass, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Politics of Memory, Racism
Tagged cemetery at Piramont (Snipiskes, Christian-Jewish relations in Lithuania, Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania, Shnipishok)
by Ronald C. Kent
In January 2012 I became aware of a then-upcoming performance of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Since I knew that Carl Orff was a Nazi-approved composer, who created this work in 1936, I wrote a letter to Maestro Andreas Delfs and Music Director Edo de Waart, requesting that they place the biography of Orff during the Nazi period in the program, in the interest of enlightenment, transparency, and full disclosure, thereby situating “Carmina Burana” in its historical context for listeners.
Posted in Christian-Jewish Issues, Collaborators Glorified, Germany, Media Watch, Music, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory
Tagged Andreas Delfs, Carl Orff, Carmina Burana, Edo de Waart, ILHA, International Labor History Association, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Ronald C. Kent
NEW YORK—Rabbi Lazar Stern, New York area chairman of the international religious Asra Kadisha organization that calls for preservation of threatened Jewish cemeteries, issued a statement today concerning the latest prima facie instance of desecration of the final resting place of dead Jewish citizens of Lithuania. This time the fracas concerns a Holocaust-era mass grave site in Šiauliai (Shavl), in northwestern Lithuania. Published in a number of media outlets, including Baltic News Service (BNS), News.lt, Gnome.es, the Asra Kadisha statement calls for an immediate halt to the ongoing excavations. These works rapidly resulted in lurid pictures of human remains and personal possessions (including shoes) with which these people were murdered, being splashed over a number of Lithuanian online publications, including 15min.lt; Etaplius.lt; Skrastas.lt; Snaujienos.lt. Asra Kadisha is Aramaic for “Holy Place” and refers here to the sanctity of human burial grounds.
UPDATE OF 16 JULY:
Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok)
Tagged Asra Kadisha, Holocaust in Lithuania, Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, Jewish cemetery Snipiskes / Snipisek / Shnipishok / Piramont, mass grave in Siauliai (Shavl), Rabbi Chaim Burshtein
Ruta (Reyzke) Bloshtein
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.
Posted in Bold Citizens Speak Out, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Ruta (Reyzke) Bloshtein
Tagged Jewish cemetery at Piramont (Snipiskes, Ruta Bloshtein, Vilnius Jewish cemetery
VILNIUS—The office of Rabbi Chaim Burshtein, chief rabbi of Lithuania since 2004, today released to the media the following statement, adding to statements of opposition to the proposed convention center at Piramónt. It follows a contrary statement from the head of the Jewish Community of Lithuania published on its website.
From the Office of the Chief Rabbi of Lithuania
Vilnius, 26 Av 5775 / 11 August 2015
My dear fellow Jews in Lithuania,
A primary task of every Jewish community is to care about old and new Jewish cemeteries. The Vilnius cemetery in Šnipiškės (Shnipishok), long known as Piramont, was purchased by the Jewish community for the full price in 1487, and many thousands of the city’s Jewish citizens paid for their and their loved ones’ plots of burial ground. Among those buried there were many of the greatest of our nation: rabbis, dayanim, teachers, authors of books of rabbinical thought and Jewish learning. In virtue of their achievements, Vilna became the capital of the Jewish world for many generations.