Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky (Fania Brancovskaja)
Police Come to Rachel Kostanian’s Residence, Looking for Vilna Ghetto Survivors Rachel Margolis and Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky
Efraim Zuroff Hands the Lithuanian Ambassador a Letter of Protest in Tel Aviv on her State’s Campaign against Jewish Partisan Heroes in Vilnius
At an event today in Tel Aviv the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, hand-delivered a letter of protest to the Lithuanian ambassador to Israel, HE Asta Skaisgirytė Liaukšienė.
Dr. Zuroff’s letter (PDF here, and reproduced in full below from facsimile transmission), in addition to noting the neo-Nazi parade held with police help in the center of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital on March 11th this year, and the ongoing “investigation” against former Yad Vashem director Dr. Yitzhak Arad, emphasizes the shocking events earlier this month, when police in Vilnius came looking for two Jewish women Holocaust survivors and heroes of the Jewish partisan resistance against Nazi Germany, Dr. Rachel Margolis and Ms. Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky.
Ireland’s Ambassador Donal Denham Hosts a Reception for Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky at his Residence in Vilnius
The Embassy of Ireland in Lithuania issued a certificate of lifetime achievement to Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, signed by HE Ambassador Dónal Denham, who presented the award at a reception today at the ambassador’s residence. Ambassador Denham’s speech concluded with the words: ‘Fania is one brave woman! You are a beautiful person, a special person, an inspiration to us all.’
Jewish Community and Union of Ghetto Survivors Speak Out on Harassment of Holocaust Survivors who Joined the Resistance
O P I N I O N
by Shimon Alperovich and Tuvia Jafet
The following Open Letter was published today by the Jewish Community of Lithuania in partnership with the Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Prisoners.
VILNIUS, 19 JUNE 2008
AN OPEN LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY VALDAS ADAMKUS, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA
ČESLOVAS JURŠĖNAS, SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA
GEDIMINAS KIRKILAS, PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA
PROSECUTOR GENERAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA
The prosecutors of Lithuania do not cease to persecute anti-Nazi Jewish partisans. The Prosecution Service’s claims that “hundreds of witnesses are being questioned” are belied by the fact that only Jewish names are being heard in the media: Yitzhak Arad, Fania Brantsovsky, Rachel Margolis, and others.
At the initiative of the UK’s ambassador to Lithuania, HE Simon Butt, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, one of the Jewish partisan veterans being subjected to “war crimes investigations” by Lithuanian prosecutors, was asked to give a talk and lead a walk through the streets of what had been the Vilna Ghetto during the Holocaust in Lithuania. Fania was incarcerated in the ghetto from its first day, 6 September 1941, through to its last, 23 September 1943, when she and Dobke Develtov (now of Los Angeles) escaped through a hole in the wall to join up with the Jewish veterans in the forests where both women fought heroically against the Nazis and their collaborators.
The participants in today’s event to honor Fania Brantsovky and, by extension, the Jewish partisans generally, were:
Prague’s Declaration of Disgrace. A European attempt to equate Communism with Nazism will falsify history.
Not many have heard about the Prague Declaration, which is currently making the rounds at the European Parliament. Proclaimed last June in Prague (but cooked up in the Baltics), its innocuous theme is “European Conscience and Communism”. Now who would oppose that? The heinous crimes of Communist regimes clearly merit full exposure. Victims deserve recognition. When the grand jamboree of freedom, fun and prosperity got under way for us lucky westerners in 1945, entire nations ceded to Stalin were condemned to totalitarian rule.
…Antisemitic Tirade Follows in Vilnius
Antisemitic reaction on Lithuania’s main news portal came within minutes of the German embassy’s press release announcing its award to anti-Nazi Jewish partisan veteran Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, librarian of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute. The award is the president’s Federal Cross of Merit. It was presented to her by Germany’s ambassador to Lithuania Hans-Peter Annen in a ceremony at his embassy in Vilnius. Details at Responses (→ 28 Oct 2009). [May 2010: Disturbingly, neither Fania’s award nor the antisemitic barrage against her has been mentioned to this day on the VYI website.]
English translation of the report on the Baltic internet portal Delfi, including the remarks of a ruling-party member of parliament. It appeared with this caricature of the 87 year old Holocaust survivor who had just been honored by Germany’s president. Posted comments that threatened her with violence have now been removed. More details at Blaming the Victims (→ 28 Oct 2009). Daiva Repečkaitė and Milan Chersonski reply.
Lithuania’s Main News Portal Calls Jewish Partisan Hero Fania Brantsovsky a Suspect in a Mass Murder after she is Honored by the President of Germany
Minutes after the German Embassy in Vilnius issued a press release announcing that it had awarded Germany’s Federal Cross of Merit to Holocaust survivor Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky (born 1922), Lithuania’s main news portal, Delfi.lt, published a bileful attack replete with libelous and ridiculous accusations about her ‘war crimes’ (in effect trying to blame the Holocaust’s victims, a frequent ploy of the Baltic region’s Double Genocide Industry that is pushing the Prague Declaration in the European Parliament). The campaign against Holocaust survivors was launched by the antisemitic press and picked up by state prosecutors, starting in 2006 (see Blaming the Victims and the 28 Oct 2009 entry on the home page). English translation. The Lithuanian original appeared with this caricature of anti-Nazi resistance veteran Brantsovsky, librarian of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, whose entire family perished in the Holocaust. It is not known why the Yiddish institute’s website contains no mention of the award, or of the unseemly attack against its own beloved librarian, who has been with the VYI since its inception in 2001. Speculation has centered on pressure ‘from above’ and fear of falling into disfavor with powers that be. On a related note, there is growing international interest in preservation of the underground partisan fort where Fania lived from September 1943 until the region’s liberation in July 1944. Authorities in the country seem to wish the fort to disappear. Fania is the country’s last Holocaust survivor who actually lived there. She continues to accompany visitors and students there. The international effort to save this remarkable Holocaust site is spearheaded by Samuel Gruber’s Jewish Art & Monuments site.
At the initiative of Norway’s ambassador to Lithuania HE Steinar Gil, a group of ambassadors and chiefs of mission defied persistent rain to go on a historical walking tour of the Vilna Ghetto, where Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, 87, librarian of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, recounted the history of the city’s anti-Nazi resistance. They represented the embassies of Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Russia. Britain, Canada and the United States had participated on a previous date.
The walk was preceded by a meeting at the Jewish Community of Lithuania addressed by Norwegian ambassador HE Steinar Gil, JCL chairman Dr Shimon Alperovich, executive director Mr Simon Gurevich, and Professor Dovid Katz of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute. The event is perceived as a meaningful response to the campaign of defamation targeting Jewish veterans of the anti-Nazi resistance (see below at 28 October 2009). Report at: Responses (→ 26 Nov 2009).
This essay first appeared in Transitions on Line on 10 October 2008, with the following editor’s note: “Lithuanian authorities in late September closed their two-year investigation into the wartime partisan activities of Yitzhak Arad, a Lithuanian-born Israeli historian and a former head of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, reportedly on the urging of the European Union and the United States. Prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to link Arad to possible war crimes committed by Soviet partisans during a 1944 fight with German forces that left many Lithuanian civilians dead. The authorities are still considering whether to put two Lithuanian Jewish women, Fania Brantsovskaya (Brantsovsky) and Rachel Margolis, on the witness stand in connection with the killings.”
It is republished here with Professor Donskis’s permission. For a history of the issue, see our page on the subject of Holocaust survivors defamed by prosecutors.
A disturbing tendency has recently appeared in Lithuania. In the words of the eminent scholar of Yiddish Dovid Katz, this tendency may best be described as the “Holocaust Obfuscation movement.” Its essence lies in subversion of the logic and evidence of the Holocaust, whitewashing or at least selectively reading the history of the Second World War and drastically shifting the roles of victims and evil-doers.
U.S. Congress Protests Lithuanian Gov. Campaign against Rachel Margolis and other Holocaust Survivors who joined the anti-Nazi Resistance
On the occasion of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Margolis family in the United States released to the media a 3 December 2009 letter from the United States Congress to the prime minister of Lithuania, protesting in no uncertain terms the campaign being waged against 88 year old historian, museum builder and biologist, Dr Rachel Margolis; 87 year old Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, librarian of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute; and 83 year old Holocaust scholar Dr Yitzhak Arad, who was founding director of Yad Vashem. All three have been the subject of ongoing ‘investigations into war crimes’ by Lithuanian prosecutors and of extensive defamation by the country’s mainstream media. Since the saga got underway in the spring of 2006, none has been charged, and not one has been cleared. Holocaust studies specialists increasingly suspect a ruse to create a bogus paper trail of ‘investigations’ of Holocaust survivors as a diversion to the documented history of massive Baltic participation in the Nazi-led genocide of the Jewish population, as well as to the region’s dismal record of not punishing a single Nazi war criminal since independence. See the media coverage; responses to the anti-survivor campaign; critiques of the underlying ‘red=brown’ movement and the state-funded apparatus that underpins it.
Algirdas Brazauskas (1932-2010), visionary first elected president and later prime minister of free Lithuania died today in Vilnius. In each of his land’s highest offices he proved himself a leader in the grand spirit of the multicultural Grand Duchy of Lithuania who will be properly appreciated long after our time.
From the start of Lithuania’s new history as a proud democratic nation, Algirdas Brazauskas understood that it did no good for his country that war criminals had been rehabilitated by ultranationalist officials.
He paid tribute to Jewish partisan veterans for helping to free Lithuania from Nazi tyranny. As president, he honored Prof Dov Levin. As prime minister, he issued a certificate of recognition to Dr Rachel Margolis.
President Brazauskas’s historic speech to the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem on 1 March 1995 will never be forgotten (full text here). But in modern Litvak collective memory, there is perhaps one incident, that took place one day before, that will be remembered even more. The Lithuanian delegation was met by a picket line of Holocaust survivors near Yad Vashem. One elderly survivor, Y. Brosh, whose entire family was murdered at Ponar, made his feelings known robustly. Like the other survivors who protested, he was wearing a yellow star on his jacket. President Brazauskas went over to to the man, hugged him and kissed him.
The Last Jewish Fort in the Forests of Lithuania: Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky Calls for its Preservation
13 August 2010
by Dovid Katz
Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, born in 1922, who lost her entire family in the Holocaust, escaped the Vilna Ghetto several moments before it was encircled by police preparing for its final liquidation on 23 September 1943. Together with Dobke Develtov [update: who passed away in 2012 in Los Angeles], she made it to this underground anti-Nazi partisan fort that was home to fighters aligned with the Soviet partisans. The precise number of inhabitants varied with newcomers and deaths in battle. Fania remembers at one time 99 of 101 were Jewish Vilna Ghetto escapees, at another 101 of 107. An underground bunker like this was home until the fall of Nazi rule in July 1944.
Along with other Holocaust Survivors who resisted — including Yitzhak Arad and Rachel Margolis — Ms Brantsovsky, librarian of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, has in recent years been the object of a campaign of defamation and harassment in Lithuania.
The antisemitic press has targeted her (January 2008). Armed police came to search for her (May 2008). Prosecutors told the press she could not be found (May 2008). The editor of Lithuania’s main news portal called for her to be tried (May 2009). The mainstream media, citing ruling-party members of Lithuania’s parliament, branded her a war criminal (Oct 2009). And one of the country’s leading associations for human rights (!) demanded that she and other Jewish partisan veterans be ‘sentenced’ for committing ‘a massive slaughter’ (Dec. 2010).
All in the absence of any charge or iota of evidence.
“I dream that good people from all over the world will not forget the Holocaust in Lithuania or our struggle to stay alive and to fight the Nazis and their collaborators, that for generations to come they will make their way here to look and see where we, a hundred Vilna Ghetto survivors who lost our entire families, lived, loved, fought, and dreamt of a better tomorrow.” — Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky
In the opinion of this journal, the entire charade is a ruse of the red-brown movement and its local and powerful Double Genocide Industry. This is the part of the effort to rewrite history that specializes in generating bogus paper trails of ‘equal investigation’ of perpetrators and victims in order to obfuscate the Holocaust; the ‘equality of investigation’ is then triumphantly trumpeted by diplomats and politicians in service to the red-equals-brown movement. To many in the international community it is quite outrageous, bearing in mind the dismal record of Lithuanian prosecutors in bringing to justice Nazi war criminals, not a single one of whom was ever punished, howsoever slightly, in modern, independent Lithuania.
Sir Martin Gilbert Releases August 2008 Letter on his Resignation from the Lithuanian Government’s “Red-Brown Commission”
Sir Martin Gilbert has today authorized publication of his 24 August 2008 letter to this journal’s (future) editor. The facsimile follows. The letter had confirmed his April 2008 resignation from the “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania” (known informally and for brevity as the “Red-Brown Commission”), citing the Yitzhak Arad affair.
In view of the subsequent developments, the 24 August letter also cites the need for the Commission to condemn the defamation of additional Holocaust survivors Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, Professor Sara Ginaite, and Dr. Rachel Margolis. Professor Gilbert’s authorization for publication came after the Commission’s website failed to remove his name from the list of members in spite of his resignation on principle.
The Green House, as the Holocaust exhibit of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum of Lithuania is internationally known, was formally relaunched today in Vilnius after a closure of several months for renovations, technical upgrading of a number of exhibits and the addition of video screens and other facilities.
In a massive show of support for Rachel Kostanian, its beloved guardian and director since its inception over two decades ago, the diplomatic corps came out in force, including the ambassadors of Austria, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, UK and chargés d’affaires or consuls of Bulgaria, the Netherlands and the United States. There was a sense of relief that Ms Kostanian and her staff had succeeded to preserve not only the vast majority of images, texts and topics from the venerated old exhibit, but also its key message of straight-talking Holocaust studies that stays clear of the obfuscating discourse of ‘artificial balances, mitigations and excuses’ that runs rampant in this part of Europe.
Ambassadors of Britain, Estonia, Finland, France, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden protest Antisemitism in Lithuania; Red-Equals-Brown Movement is Noted
BNS reported today that the Vilnius-based ambassadors of Britain, Estonia, France, Finland, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have written in no uncertain terms to the president and other major officials of Lithuania to express concern over the growing manifestations of antisemitism.
Two of the signatories confirmed privately to Defending History that the initiative had come from British ambassador HE Simon Butt, who also drafted the letter. Ambassador Butt had in 2008 organized a letter in moral support of Dr. Rachel Margolis, a walk through the Vilna Ghetto with Ms. Fania Brantsovsky, and had, together with other senior Western diplomats stationed in Vilnius, visited the decaying Jewish partisan fort in the forest.
“Spurious attempts are made to equate the uniquely evil genocide of the Jews with Soviet crimes against Lithuania, which, though great in magnitude, cannot be regarded as equivalent in either their intention or result.”
Excerpt from a letter to the president of Lithuania from the ambassadors of Britain, Estonia, Finland, France, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, 25 November 2010
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
“Also, it has been started to require the sentence of the citizens of the Jewish nationality ― Yitzhak Arad, Fania Brantsovsky and Rachel Margolis, as these citizens (former Soviet guerrillas) have organized the massive slaughter of civilians in Kaniūkai Village, Lithuania (killing 38 civilians) on 29 January 1944. Attention should be paid to the fact that the very Y. Arad has departed to Israel.” — from the statement just published by the Lithuanian Human Rights Association (LHRA), signed by ten of its leading experts and approved by its committee.
Retired Vilnius University lecturer Irena Tumavičiūtė, whose 29 January 2008 article in the antisemitic newspaper Lietuvos aidas is credited with egging on right-wing parliamentarians and prosecutors to ‘go for’ Holocaust Survivors Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky and Dr Rachel Margolis, has published a new article on the Holocaust, concentrating on Auschwitz, in the popular mainstream magazine Veidas. It appeared in the magazine’s January 10th issue.
marked three years to the day since police in Vilnius came looking for Holocaust Survivors Dr Rachel Margolis (born 1921, at right of photo) and Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky (born 1922) in a ‘war crimes investigation’ that has still not been publicly closed.
Both women were incarcerated in the Vilna Ghetto from 1941 to 1943. Both lost their entire families to the barbarity of the Nazis and their local collaborators. They both escaped, on different days in September 1943, to join up with the anti-Nazi partisans in the forests of Lithuania. The underground forest fort, a half-hour’s drive from Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, where Fania lived with another hundred or so Jewish escapees of the Vilna Ghetto, is being allowed to sink into the ground and disappear from history’s view.
Litvaks and their Descendants Issue Public Letter Calling for Change in Lithuanian Government’s Holocaust Policies
We the undersigned Litvaks — Jews of Lithuanian origin and their direct and immediate descendants — hereby express: