Painful Setback for Vilnius’s Standing in the West: Square is Named for a Brutal 1941 LAF Holocaust Collaborator
Finally, a “feminine government” for Lithuania. Having won the 2020 election, the right-wing parties formed a “feminine” government, led by Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, with liberal Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen taking the chair of the Speaker of the Seimas. One could be tempted to see this as a victory for liberalism and feminism in the Baltics, since the Social Democrats, who were in the majority for several terms, would either include no women in their government or at best, entrust to them one or two ministries of lesser importance.
Roma in Lithuania: When a Lavishly Financed Program has a 4-5% Success Rate, and Half the Inmates in Nation’s Only Women’s Prison are Roma
Back in 2017, I tried to acquaint the outside world, in Defending History, with some issues concerning the “Roma Integration Program” that was initiated by the Lithuanian Government and Vilnius Municipality in 2016. I noted that the main goal of the program was to raze the Roma settlement in Kirtimai to the ground and remove the Roma that used to live there, resettling them in scattered different places through Vilnius County.
Several years have passed. We can see how this Program has impacted Roma living conditions.
“Around half of the inmates in Lithuania’s only women’s prison are Roma women—while there are only a bit more than two thousand Roma in Lithuania, less than one percent of Lithuania’s estimated population of 2,795,000 for 2021.”
Open Letter to (1) Archimenai; (2) Institute of Design & Restoration; (3) Sigitas Kuncevičius; (4) Vilnius Architecture Studio
Institute of Design & Restoration
Vilnius Architecture Studio
Most regrettably, and we hope with no foreknowledge on your part, the state property bank Turto Bankas mentions you all by name in a public post dated 23 September, the anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto by the Nazis and their collaborators. According to this shameful report (whichh does not even botgher to mention the Jewish cemetery or the London-based paid vassals), you have personally agreed to participate in works to restore the miserable Soviet ruin that was once the Sports Palace, and that sits in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės) surrounded on all four sides by extant graves. As you know this would not be happening if it were thousands of Christian Lithuanian graves going back a half millennium and including great heroes of the people. The years-long saga has attracted massive international and local protest as well as a petition signed by, as of today, 53,678 people. Turto Bankas’s prominent participation in a day of shame has made it into the annals of Lithuanian Jewish history. By contrast, a talented young Lithuanian artist has shown us all the stark contrast between the two visions for Vilnius. Courageous Lithuanian intellectuals have spoken out with dignity and passion, including Julius Norvila and Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas. Their successful work has been recognized in international media.
16 AUG 2021—Defending History reports on the Lithuanian government’s cancellation of the “convention center in the cemetery” citing Alfa.lt and BNS and derivitate media reports. Congratulations are offered on the historic turnabout.
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”.
Leading Lithuanian (Litvak) Yeshivas Applaud Prime Minister’s Decision to Suspend Vilnius ‘Convention Center in the Cemetery’ (CCC)
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS
VILNIUS—Deans (rosh-yeshivas, Heb. roshei-yeshiva) of three of the world’s greatest Lithuanian tradition (Litvak) yeshivas, located in the United States and Israel, all proud to bear the Yiddish names of the Lithuanian cities from which they hail, today released a letter to Ingrida Šimonytė, prime minister of Lithuania, expressing admiration and gratitude for her recent suspension of the project to situate a national convention center in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in the Shnípishok/Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius), where thousands would cheer, sing and revel surrounded by multitudes of graves going back over half a millennium.
The project has, in some eyes, tarnished Lithuania’s image over the last seven years, eliciting considerable local and international opposition. Today’s public congratulations from three of the top Lithuanian yeshiva deans, who carry on the traditions of the Gaon of Vilna and numerous other Lithuanian rabbinic luminaries, is widely seen, in the broader context, to help Lithuania rapidly surmount recent setbacks and embark on a new era of Lithuanian-Jewish (and more generally, crosscultural) harmony in the run-up to international celebration of the 700th birthday of the founding of Vilnius (Vilna, Vílne, Wilno) coming up in 2023.
The following English text is a translation from the Hebrew original.
Translation of Vilnius City Council’s 25 Aug. 2021 ‘Shameful Resolution’ on Old Vilnius Jewish Cemetery
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS
VILNIUS—The following is Defending History’s translation of the text of today’s Vilnius City Council resolution posted on its website. See our report, and the earlier news of the prime minister’s widely heralded cancellation of CCC (“convention center in the cemetery”) to which this resolution is a direct response. See esp. the paragraph colored red below for rapid reference, where the resolution condemns the government’s “abandonment” of the CCC.
VILNIUS CITY COUNCIL
ON VILNIUS PALACE OF CONCERTS AND SPORTS
August 25, 2021, No. 41
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS
VILNIUS—Congratulations were pouring in this morning as soon as Lithuania’s media, led by Alfa.lt’s ace reporter, Arvydas Jockus, one of the few to have provided balanced reports throughout the saga, reported on the Lithuanian government’s decision, led by Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, to abandon the project to cite a national convention center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery at Piramónt, in the Shnípishok section of Vilna (today’s Šnipiškės in modern Vilnius). The Alfa.lt report was followed by BNS (Baltic News Service) confirmation, carried by Lrytas.lt, the business news portal Verslo zinios (vz.lt), as well as 15min.lt, Diena.lt, Kauno diena, and visosnaujienos.e2.lt, among others. JTA has reported the new development (and its report carried, inter alia, by Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, Enlace Judío, and the Forward). Ben Cohen’s originally researched article followed in New York’s Algemeiner Journal.
Chronicle of the Lithuanian Government’s Campaign to Blame Holocaust Survivors who Joined the Resistance
UPDATED MARCH 2017. See also (older, not updated) Responses page.
The campaign of defamation by Lithuanian state prosecutors and allied elites (particularly in the Genocide Center and the antisemitic right-wing press) has resulted in a number of cherished Holocaust Survivors being smeared as “war criminals” without a single charge ever having been leveled against anybody. Launched in 2006, the campaign, abusing tools such as “pre-trial investigations” and leaks to the media, have sought to brand as “war criminals” the heroes of the war against Hitler. It grew in 2011 with the addition of equally perverse “libel charges,” launched with fanfare when Interpol (!) was sent to disturb in Tel Aviv the elected head of the last active group of Litvak Holocaust survivors in the world. Then, in 2013, the state’s “red-brown commission” defamed one of Vilnius’s last survivors on equally perverse grounds, all the while putting on “Holocaust events” for naive Western audiences, usually funded by the (unknowing) Lithuanian taxpayer, in venues including London, New York, Toronto, and Vilnius.
A single public letter from the president could fix it all. Instantly.
The campaign of defamation results in permanent calumny in historians’ works, Wikipedia, and elsewhere (see below) that is more than a grave injustice to the Holocaust survivors targeted (and their families). It is a deliberate ultranationalist falsification of history in the spirit of the wider campaign to find fault with the victims and make heroes of the perpetrators. These are components of the movement to obfuscate the issues, and downgrade the Holocaust in the spirit of the Double Genocide movement and its central document, the 2008 Prague Declaration.
All but one of the accused survivors — most in their late eighties or nineties — were still alive (as of February 2016). Dr. Rachel Margolis passed away on 6 July 2015, having failed to fulfill her final wish of one last trip to her native Vilna. A single public letter of apology from the president or prime minister of Lithuania, accompanied by an apology from the state prosecutors, would be the minimal gesture of good will needed to repair the damage. Public defamation can only be (partly) repaired by public apology. Dr. Yitzhak Arad died in May 2021.
Moreover, the state has a splendid last chance to end its relationship with its own Holocaust survivors, after a 700 year history in Lithuania, on a rather higher note than police coming to look for aged women veterans of the heroic Jewish resistance in the forests of Lithuania.
During his own tenure before these events, Lithuania’s eminent late president (later prime minister) Algirdas Brazauskas, a champion of confronting historical truth with courage and dignity, awarded certificates of honor to the selfsame Jewish partisan veterans for the selfsame service in helping to liberate Lithuania from Nazism. . .
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.
Alan Dershowitz Calls Plans for Convention Center in Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery a Violation of Lithuania’s Constitution
VILNIUS—Alan Dershowitz, often deemed to be America’s leading constitutional lawyer, confirmed to Defending History this morning that the following statement, that has been circulating in emails and social media, is wholly accurate. This is the precise text sent to DH by Professor Dershowitz:
“The 2015 Seimas resolution green-lighting the conference center on the Shnipishok cemetery in Vilna, Lithuania, undermines the provisions of the Lithuanian Constitution, Articles 22 and 26. These respective provisions in the Constitution protect religious freedom and religious institutions.
“Beyond raising a compelling constitutional issue, this resolution is wrong as a matter of justice, historical preservation, basic decency and the dignity of the dead.”
OPINION | HUMAN RIGHTS | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH ISSUES | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO ‘CONVENTION CENTER IN THE CEMETERY’ PROJECT |INTERNATIONAL PETITION
II: City Intent on Obliterating and Humiliating its Jewish Heritage for Benefit of Some Greedy Business Interests
83 Descendants of People Buried in Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery File Appeal; London’s CPJCE and the AJC are Cited as ‘Authorities’
VILNIUS—The following are excerpts in English translation (from the original Lithuanian text) of the 9 June 2021 Appeal filed by 83 plaintiffs still recognized by the court as having proper standing, out of the original 157 claimants, all descendants of persons buried in the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (Shnípishok, in today’s Šnipiškės district). These people, whose ancestors paid for their burial plots in freehold perpetuity, do not understand how an EU/NATO member country could plan to cite a national convention center on land surrounded by these graves on all four sides. These excerpts from the translation are limited to paragraphs explicitly citing the London-based “Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe” (CPJCE) which is alleged to accept secret large payments in return for their “permissions and supervisions” of the wanton business-and-profit-led destruction of major Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe.
As detailed in Defending History’s report last week concerning the 10 May 2021 court verdict, the CPJCE’s role has been roundly rejected and condemned by virtually all leading Litvak (Lithuanian tradition) Jewish rabbinic authorities and institutions internationally. The CPJCE has moreover been banned explicitly from further involvement in the Vilnius fiasco by decree of the Conference of European Rabbis duly reported to the former Lithuanian minister of culture, making it clear that the London group has no standing to be representing anyone in the saga.
Vilnius Court’s May 10th Verdict Illustrates “Insidious and Tragic” Role of CPJCE and AJC in Lithuania
VILNIUS—Readers are familiar with an English summary of the Vilnius District Court’s 10 May decision paving the way for a massive national convention center and annex to rise in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (Shnípishok, in today’s Šnipiškės district), surrounded by thousands of extant graves on all four sides. Moreover, the entire text of the Lithuanian original is posted for inspection.
Jump to verdict’s excerpts referencing the CPJCE (and AJC)
What may be lost from the summary, and to those unable to read Lithuanian or to access a translation, is the “insidious and tragic” — and in any case central — role played by London’s “CPJCE” (the Orwellian name is “Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe), whose “Aaronite-Satmar” rabbis have been caught on Wikileaks demanding large sums for their “supervisions” (and in effect, permissions) for effectively selling rights to old Jewish cemeteries on ground zero of the Holocaust. The effects of the genocide include the dearth of viable communities of descendants of the buried who would in the course of things guard the dignity of their ancestors’ burial places (see: 2009 Wikileaks cable confirming secret payments; 2015 reports by JTA and the Jerusalem Post; the “Serious Incident Report” to UK’s Charities Commission. See also last December’s “Day of Shame”). Incidentally, the opposing (“Zalmanite”) branch of Satmar hasidism has boldly condemned the desecration of the old Vilna cemetery in a statement signed by the grandrabbi himself.
From the infamous 2015 video to the present court decision, Defending History has been providing a detailed record of at least the publicly knowable aspects of the group’s shameful role in the Vilna scandal, scoffing and belittling the voices of virtually all Litvak (Lithuanian tradition) rabbis internationally (see DH’s section on the CPJCE (plus the classic video) on the broader Vilna cemetery dispute, and summary pages of the international opposition and more recent developments).
JUMP TO INTERNATIONAL OPPOSITION; TO DH SECTION ON HISTORY OF THE SAGA; TO SECTIONS ON CPJCE; USCPAHA
The plaintiffs in the court case, descendants of people buried in the old Vilna Jewish cemetery, employ a new law firm in Vilnius which files the appeal in June 2021 in accordance with the thirty-day deadline imposed by the court that handed down the May 2021 decision. Meanwhile, on 16 June, officials of the US taxpayer funded “USCPAHA” revel in tweets of lavish photo-ops with high officials in Vilnius, without even meeting Ruta Bloshtein, author of the petition whose number of signatories on this date was 53,486. DH reports.
Vilnius Court issues a ruling on May 10 supporting Turto Bankas and the builders in their project to cite a new national convention center in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish cemetery. Text of the decision, which rejects the legal action brought by descendants of the people buried in the cemetery. English summary.
Yitzhak Arad, World War II Partisan Hero, Veteran of Israel’s War of Independence, Former Leader of Yad Vashem, Dies at 94
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.
VILNIUS—Shortly after Defending History published the news yesterday that Dr. Arūnas Bubnys, longtime chief historian at Lithuania’s state sponsored far-right Genocide Center had been nominated by the speaker of parliament as the center’s new director, news published also by New York’s Algemeiner Journal, a social media campaign began to try to spread a rumor that the DH photo of Dr. Bubnys proudly speaking less than a year ago under banner images of Holocaust collaborators Jonas Noreika and Kazys Škirpa was “photoshopped.” Two of DH’s Vilnius-based team, Julius Norwilla and Dovid Katz, monitored the event from start to finish. Their report appeared the same day, 23 June 2020, the 79th anniversary of the outbreak of the Lithuanian Holocaust. Instead of honoring the victims — defenseless Jewish citizens, often older rabbis and younger women brutalized and murdered by the “White Armbander” fascists — the event, like many legitimized by Lithuanian government institutions, glorified the killers, who are invariably described as “heroic anti-Soviet rebels.” This is of course a patent historic nonsense. The USSR’s forces were fleeing Hitler’s invasion, Operation Barbarossa, the largest invasion in human history, not the local white-armbanded Jew-killers. While the Soviets were in power, the Hitler-backers and murderers of civilian neighbors now adulated as “anti-Soviet rebels” did not fire a single shot. Not even at a local rabbit.
Saving the Vilna Jewish Cemetery (and Removing the Noreika Plaques): Time for a Strong Cup of Coffee
OPINION | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS
The Lithuanian state budget for 2021 is torn between the need to increase spending on vital areas during a time of significantly less income. For the pandemic year of 2021, the postponement of some half a million euros toward initial stages of the (shameful) convention center project in the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery has not, in fact, been a big issue. Nor is it the great “victory” for our movement to save the cemetery that it has been trumped up to be. Half a million euros is about one percent of the total real budget. First, the convention center (Sports Palace restoration) project has been classified as of national significance. Second, there has been no decision of any kind to move the convention center to a new morally clean venue, away from the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, as per the call of some 54,000 people in Ruta Bloshtein’s petition.
In many respects women in Lithuania are in a far better situation than in our neighboring countries, Poland to the west , and Belarus to the east. In Poland, major efforts are underway to criminalize women for their personal reproductive choices. In Belarus, women stand in the front ranks of the struggle against Lukashenko’s regime. The imagery of Belarusian women and their stalwart protest that reaches us here, in Lithuania, is a powerful one.
We, on the other hand, live in relative peace and quiet. We are, moreover, rightfully congratulating ourselves on the new Cabinet that has replaced the previous all-male one. Now, the percentage of women in our Government is similar to that in other European states, where gender balance is a norm.
But while we count our blessings, we must continue to fight where there is still major discrimination. Women in Lithuania still earn 14% less, on average, than men in the same positions; women continue to suffer from domestic violence; the pandemic, according to statistics, harmed them the most, too. Women and — children.