Debates on Juozas Lukša
Painful Setback for Vilnius’s Standing in the West: Square is Named for a Brutal 1941 LAF Holocaust Collaborator
Chronology: 2021 Dedicated to Glorifying Juozas Lukša (Daumantas), Alleged Participant in June 1941 Kaunas Atrocities
JUMP TO MOST RECENT: On 23 Nov. 2021, Vilnius inaugurated a square named for the alleged 1941 Holocaust perpetrator…
23 June 2020: “Setting the stage”: After the longtime ultranationalist head of the “Genocide Center” is replaced by a meek looking “member of the Tatar community” in attempt to repair the disastrous image of an EU/NATO democracy financing a Nazi-whitewash ethnic-purity-inclined institute paid for by the state, the chief historian of the Center (a longtime member of the state’s “red-brown commission”) delivers a fiery June 23rd speech proudly flanked by huge images of two proven Holocaust collaborators, J. Noreika and K. Škirpa. Defending History was on the scene and reports.
29 June: 2020 In response to media reports, Dovid Katz presents a case against the official state naming of the upcoming year 2021 for June 1941 LAF activist Juozas Lukša, invoking the publications of Alex Faitelson, Joseph Melamed and a British parliamentary motion. Cnaan Liphshiz reports in JTA (also in Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel; European Jewish Congress).
VILNIUS—Two days before tomorrow’s government-sponsored international “academic” conference (on September 10) that glorifies alleged 1941 Holocaust perpetrator Juozas Lukša (without a single paper devoted to the issue of his Kaunas 1941 Holocaust participation), the foreign minister led a high-end Holocaust remembrance ceremony (yesterday, 8 Sept.) bewailing the calamity of the Holocaust and its scale in Lithuania. That ceremony dated the onset of the Lithuanian Holocaust to the first week of September, when the Nazis set up the Vilna Ghetto, and others.
As ever, curious acrobatics seen to be in play in choice of the date to deflect attention from 23 June 1941, the day the barbarity and slaughter were initiated in dozens of Lithuanian towns before arrival of the first German soldiers. June 23rd is the day the Holocaust in Lithuania started according to all Holocaust survivors interviewed over the last thirty years, and it has been particularly painful for them that Vilnius has a street called “June 23rd Street.”
Eyewitness accounts of Lukša’s Kaunas deeds were assembled by Alex Faitelson and Joseph Melamed regarding the Lietukis Garage Massacre in that last week of June 1941. An early day 2011 motion in the British Parliament cited eyewitnesses to his alleged participation in the beheading of Rabbi Zalmen Osovsky in Kaunas, also in June 1941 (for more citations see Defending History’s initial report on the Lithuanian parliament’s decision last year to dedicate 2021 to Lukša’s memory). Last week’s Lukša events have included inauguration of a major new monument with an address by the prime minister.
Statements painfully protesting the Lithuanian parliament’s decision to name 2021 for this infamous alleged participant in the Kaunas atrocities of June 1941 have been issued by Faina Kukliansky, head of the official Jewish Community of Lithuania, jointly with Rabbi Andrew Baker, head of international affairs for the American Jewish Committee in Washington, D.C. The Jewish Community went on (very unusually) to bitterly critique the state-sponsored “Genocide Center” on the glorification of Lukša. Other voices of dismay have come from Dr. Laurence Weinbaum of the World Jewish Congress who edits its prestigious academic j0urnal Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Yakov Faitelson, who recounts his late father’s being honored for telling the truth by the late Lithuanian president and statesman Algirdas Brazauskas.
In Lithuania, President’s Speech, New Monument, and Major Conference Glorify Alleged Participant in June 1941 Kaunas Atrocities Against Jewish Citizens
VILNIUS—Not for the first time, the annual Jewish High Holiday period encompassing Rosh Hashonna and Yom Kippur have provided “optimal timing” for state-sponsored activities glorifying Holocaust collaborators and perpetrators. Lithuania’s Seimas (parliament) had declared that the year per se, 2021, would be dedicated to the memory of Juozas Lukša, identified by eyewitnesses as one of the barbaric butchers of Jews in the Lietukis Garage Massacre in Kaunas in June 1941, during the week when fascist “LAF” (Lithuanian Activist Front) Hitlerist thugs murdered thousands of Jewish neighbors before the Nazis had even taken control. In 2011 a motion in the British Parliament referred to testimony that Lukša was also involved in the beheading of Rabbi Zalmen Osovsky the same week.
“The hard-working people of Lithuania deserve much better than for their tax euros to be squandered by ultranationalist leaders on state glorification of Hitler accomplices.”
This week’s festivities included, on 4 September 2021, a speech by the president of Lithuania to honor Lukša, a brand new Lukša monument unveiled to in a village where he operated, with participation by the director general of the Genocide Center, Dr. Arūnas Bubnys. The monument was “consecrated” by a major bishop who holds the title “president of the Commission on the External Relations of the EU”.
Why The First Week of the Lithuanian Holocaust is Historically Unique. Whom to Honor on the 80th Anniversary?
by Dovid Katz
For years now, Defending History has, on the first of January each year, named the newborn year in honor of Lithuanian Holocaust-era Rescuers, or Righteous of the Nations as they are also known (tsadíkey úmes ho-óylem in Yiddish). In 2020 — Antanas Zubrys and Dr. Matilda Zubrienė; in 2019 — Jonas Paulavičius; in 2018 — Malvina Šokelytė Valeikienė. That is a tradition we hope to resume next year. But 2021, the eightieth anniversary of 1941, calls for something more focused, not least when some governmental bodies have chosen, shockingly, to use the anniversary to glorify the perpetrators rather than commemorate the victims and honor those who helped a neighbor to escape the rapidly closing death vise in the last week of June 1941.
By and large, the 916 Rescuers recognized by Yad Vashem (and a somewhat larger number if those recognized by Lithuanian institutions and assorted survivor families are added) are people who risked their own and their families’ lives to hide (and feed, sustain, care for and guard) a Jew or Jews for an extended period, risking it all for weeks, months or years, until the fall of the Nazi regime at the hands of the USSR — then in alliance with the United States, Great Britain and the other Allies — in July of 1944 (there were no American or British forces in Eastern Europe…). As an old adage, variously attributed, goes: One fascist with an automatic weapon could murder hundreds of trapped innocent civilians in some moments, but to save one person took years of heart-wrenching, inspirationally courageous effort by entire families and networks of incredibly good people. In the Baltics, the courage had to be greater than most other places, because they were regarded as traitors to their own nationalist leaders, not only to the occupying Nazi forces. And frankly, because things are different when much or most of the actual killing is done by willing locals idolized by the nationalists of the day.
Yakov Faitelson Calls on Lithuania’s Parliament to Reconsider Naming 2021 to Glorify Alleged Participant in 1941 Kaunas Atrocities
OPINION | CHRONOLOGY OF THE 2020-2021 LUKŠA DEBATE | GLORIFICATION OF COLLABORATORS | LITVAK AFFAIRS
by Yakov Faitelson
Editor’s note: Following the Lithuanian parliament’s decision last June to name the year 2021 for an alleged participant in the Kaunas (Kovno) atrocities of June 1941, rapid protest ensued from Defending History, and in rapid succession, the official Jewish Community of Lithuania in partnership with the American Jewish Committee, and Dr. Laurence Weinbaum, executive director of the World Jewish Congress Israel and director of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations. See Evaldas Balčiūnas’s summary, and DH’s chronology of the debate, which also provides additional sources on the alleged activities of the honoree, Juozas Lukša, including the UK parliamentary statement on his alleged participation in the 1941 Kaunas beheading of Rabbi Zalmen Osovsky. Note that the Lithuanian parliament named 2020 for the Gaon of Vilna, and minted a controversial coin to mark that. Before that, the year 2019 had been named for a leader of a murderous Hitlerist militia of 1941.
I respectfully call on members of the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas), to read pp. 33-34 in my father’s book, The Truth and Nothing But the Truth (Gefen Publishing, Jerusalem & New York 2006), and to reconsider the tragically misguided proposal to name 2021 for Juozas Lukša (Luksha), a participant in atrocities committed against the peaceful Jewish citizens of Kaunas (Kovno) in the last week of June 1941, when massive local violence broke out before the invading German army had set up its authority.
I would like to emphasize that in his books, my father Alex (Alter-Henoch) Faitelson (1923–2010) provided a meticulously researched description of those tragic events of the Lithuanian Holocaust. As a professional auditor who worked for a major Israeli bank for over twenty-five years, he adhered to very strict rules also in his studies of the Holocaust. He repeatedly encountered and tested — corroborating or rejecting — details of testimonies of his former comrades in the anti-fascist struggle and Holocaust survivors more generally. In the same book, he included chapters “Forgery, Communist Style” (chapter 20), “The Tricks of Memory” (21), and “Everyone’s a Hero” (22), titles that speak for themselves to anyone in the field. In fact, these are part of a larger five-chapter section called Legends and Fables.
On the Seimas Declaring 2021 to be Year in Honor of Alleged Participant in Lietukis Garage Massacre of 1941
The resolution of the Seimas (Lithuanian parliament) to declare 2021 the “Year of Juozas Lukša” has resulted in heated discussions. They are attentively chronicled by Defending History.
Those who remember the Holocaust and its lessons for history and for life discuss the name Juozas Lukša in conjunction with the LAF (Lithuanian Activist Front) of June and July 1941, including the versions that link him to a barbaric massacre of Jews at the Lietukis Garage in central Kaunas where some seventy innocent Jewish people, caught in the streets, were brutally killed before cheering crowds.
Juozas Lukša looks very similar to one of the murderers in one of the photos (and he was identified by some from a photo of himself after the war). It links him to one of the versions noting that the Garage Massacre was committed largely by prisoners who had been released from a Kaunas jail (we know that Lukša was released from a Kaunas jail). Opponents to those versions claim that Juozas Lukša is innocent and level accusations of slander against those who implicate him. This discussion is not new and there have not really been any new proofs offered on either side since the flare-up of the argument over the last month.
Holokaustą išgyvenusio Alexo Faitelsono teksto vertimas: Juozo Lukšos vaidmuo 1941-ųjų birželio įvykiuose
Pristatome Holokaustą išgyvenusio ir aprašiusio Alexo Faitelsono knygos Tiesa ir tik tiesa (The Truth and Nothing But the Truth; Gefen Publishing, Jerusalem and New York, 2006) ištraukos, kurioje aptariami Juozo Lukšos (Daumanto) veiksmai, vertimą iš anglų kalbos. Originalų tekstą galite rasti čia.
Will Lithuania’s Parliament Really Name 2021 for Alleged Participant in LAF’s Kaunas Atrocities of June 1941?
by Dovid Katz
According to Lithuanian media reports, the nation’s parliament (Seimas) will be declaring the year 2021 to be dedicated to the memory of Juozas Lukša (Daumantas).
Let us assume for the sake of argument that the identification of Mr. Lukša (Luksha) as one of the brutal murderers of defenseless Jewish neighbors in an infamous photo of the Kaunas Garage Massacre of June 1941, best known from Joseph Melamed’s 1999 Crime and Punishment, published by the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, is erroneous. Then, that the reference to Mr. Lukša in the text (p. 38) in a listing of perpetrators (known from a half century of testimonies from the survivor community), and a photo with other alleged collaborators (p. 105), are likewise mistaken. And that the information on the Association’s website, posted during Mr. Melamed’s lifetime, is also in error.
Let us even grant that there is no current courtroom-grade proof for the details of the following text from Holocaust survivor Alex (Alter) Faitelson, in his classic memoir The Truth and Nothing But the Truth: Jewish Resistance in Lithuania (Gefen Publishing House 2006, p. 34). It is a text that includes the author’s recollection from after the war: Lukša’s “photograph was found and shown to witnesses who were interrogated. They all confirmed his participation in the torture of Jews in the garage” (Lithuanian translation). Incidentally, in 1993, Mr. Faitelson was awarded a certificate of honor by Lithuanian president Algirdas Brazauskas. He was not some “enemy of Lithuania” who spent his time making up stories about people. He was a Holocaust survivor, heroic member of the resistance and escape, and renowned memoirist.
O P I N I O N
LONDON—British author Peter Jukes, best known for his screenplays, literary criticism and political journalism, tweeted last week on the release in the United States of a new documentary film that heroizes certain postwar anti-Soviet “forest brothers” in Lithuania. The film, “The Invisible Front,” that premiered in Greenwich Village’s prestigious Cinema Village theater on 7 November, fails to even mention the view that various of the specific figures it glorifies for their post 1944 activities were in fact alleged recycled Nazi collaborators of 1941. That was the year when, in the days following the Nazi invasion launched on 22 June, the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) started butchering local civilian Jews, often elderly rabbis or young women, before the first German forces had arrived. Premeditation becomes evident from perusal of the LAF’s prewar leaflets.
by Peter Jukes
The following review of Laima Vince’s Journeys through the Backwaters of the Heart originally appeared in Aspen Review (Dec. 2013). The review is now republished here by permission of Peter Jukes, whose latest book is The Fall of the House of Murdoch.
Ms. Vince’s Journeys was also reviewed in Defending History by Geoff Vasil.
While filming a re-enactment of a battle between Lithuanian nationalists and their Soviet- backed NKVD persecutors, Jonas Kadzionis (a survivor of the “Forest Brothers” partisans) warned the author Laima Vince: “Don’t get lost in the forest, and don’t lose your conscience.”
Unfortunately, in her book Journeys through the Backwaters of the Heart Vince has managed to do both.
VILNIUS—Defending History confirmed today that renowned documentary film maker and Holocaust researcher Saulius Beržinis, founding director of the Independent Holocaust Archive of Lithuania (IHAL), has been the latest recipient of a letter from police on account of his work documenting the alleged Nazi collaboration of various Lithuanian “1941 freedom fighters” who allegedly collaborated with the Nazi regime and in the murder of their civilian Jewish-citizen neighbors in the days, weeks and months following 22 June 1941. The letter demands he turn over a “list” of criminals which it was never his, nor the Archives’ intention, to produce or comment upon. Over the years, the Holocaust specialist has won the confidence of groups worldwide for his willingness to seek out and tell the unvarnished truth, among them the Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office.
The March 19th letter to IHAL’s director, letterheaded “Vilnius District Senior Police Commission, Vilnius City First Police Commission, Police Criminal Division” is reproduced below (followed by translation into English).
Saulius Beržinis has been collecting testimonies on the Holocaust for a quarter of a century. He is known internationally for his singular achievement of interviewing on camera actual admitted killers (some are in the film Lovely Faces of the Killers, 2002), and his extensive documentation work with survivors and witnesses. He has partnered over the years with BBC, The United States Holocaust Museum, the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum of Lithuania, Yad Vashem, and other international bodies, in addition to dozens of Holocaust survivors. His Holocaust documentaries include Farewell Jerusalem of Lithuania (1994), Yudel’s Unwritten Diary (2004), The Road to Treblinka (1997). Most recently, his film on the Holocaust in Jurbarkas (Yúrberik) became controversial for daring to name the killers of the town’s Jewish citizens in 1941 (see reviews by Milan Chersonski and Geoff Vasil).
Genocide Center in Vilnius Responds to the List of Alleged Holocaust Perpetrators Published by the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel
Editor’s note: The following is an English translation by Geoff Vasil of an article that appeared on Delfi.lt on October 25, 2013. The images that appeared with the original Lithuanian text are not reproduced here.
In 1999, The Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel published Crime and Punishment, compiled after many years of work, by its chairman, Tel Aviv attorney Joseph Melamed, a native of Kovno (Kaunas), Holocaust survivor and veteran of the Jewish partisan resistance in Lithuania and of the Israeli War of Independence. In the late 1990s, Mr. Melamed wrote repeatedly to Lithuanian prosecutors, explaining that some Holocaust perpetrators and witnesses were still alive and investigations could be pursued.
B O O K S
by Geoff Vasil
Journey into the Backwaters of the Heart: Stories of Women Who Survived Hitler and Stalin by Laima Vince. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform: 2012.
The first problem the reader comes across is in the introduction, where the author asserts two waves of Jewish immigration into Lithuania in the 8th and 11th centuries. Much later in the book she says, twice, Jews settled in Lithuania in the 16th century, a claim that leaves the informed reader wondering for whom the grand duke Vytautas (Witold) issued his famous charters on the rights of Jews in the 14th century.
The introduction also presents the events of 1940 and 1941 in Lithuania in a manner calculated to make the reader think the Lithuanian Provisional Government of 1941 and the Lithuanian Activist Front were two altogether separate entities.
The Lithuanian parliament (Seimas)will host a reception on 12 November in honor of the appearance of the English translation of the book of memoirs by Juozas Lukša-Daumantas, a postwar hero of the ‘Forest Brothers’ resistance movement against Soviet occupation. There is lively argument among scholars about whether Lukša is or is not the person on an infamous photograph of LAF butchers at the Lietukis Garage. But there is no dispute that he was an active member of the LAF and that he never expressed a word of regret about the LAF’s principal ‘accomplishment’: premeditated announcement, launch and intense participation in the actual butchery of Lithuanian Jewry.
The diplomatic corps in Vilnius was invited to the 12 November reception (invitation here). The ambassadors of France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, and others informed Defending History that they would not attend.