It Pays to Defend History: Success Over the Years…

A Simple Victory for Decency and European Values in Zedelgem, Belgium: Waffen SS Monument is Coming Down



ZEDELGEM  |  BELGIUM  |  EU  |  LATVIA  |  GLORIFICATION OF COLLABORATORS

by Roland Binet (De Panne, Belgium)

The city council of Zedelgem, Belgium decided on December 3rd that the pro-Nazi Latvian “Beehive” monument, commemorating Latvia’s Hitlerist Waffen SS, will be removed. Three years ago, in a somewhat insidious and perverse manner, PR savvy reps of Riga’s “Occupation Museum” convinced the municipal council of Zedelgem in West-Flanders, Belgium, to allow them to unveil a monument honoring their wish for de facto whitewashing and heroizing of the 12,000 Latvian Waffen SS Legionnaires who had been detained in in a British detention camp in that town in 1945/1946. Indeed, the president of the board of directors of the Occupation Museum of Riga – a well-known Holocaust revisionist institution – and members of Dagavas Vanagi (an organization of former Latvian Waffen SS) were present for the monument’s festive launch. That event was primarily covered by the Flemish speaking press without any mention of possible issues, without in fact anybody asking any question of how it might have been possible that a Flemish town had allowed the construction of a monument in honor of former members of the Waffen SS, a Nazist organization whose members swore loyalty to Adolf Hitler, and who fought against the freedom of Belgium, and, in effect, all of Europe.

 

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Congratulations Pour in to Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė on 16 Aug. Cancellation of Vilnius Convention Center in the Cemetery (“CCC”)



Agudath Israel of America leads the way (18 Aug. statement; 25 Aug.  Jewish Tribune)

Deans of three top Lithuanian yeshivas, all named for cities in Lithuania, congratulate PM

Lithuania’s prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė “just did the right thing” (Getty Images)

During mid-August lull, many were caught unaware (reports in DHDH UpdatesAlgemeiner JournalJTA)

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, It Pays to Defend History: Success Over the Years..., Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Politics of Memory | Comments Off on Congratulations Pour in to Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė on 16 Aug. Cancellation of Vilnius Convention Center in the Cemetery (“CCC”)

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.

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Bravo! Lithuania Abandons “Convention Center in the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery”



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 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.ltKauno 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.

Ben Cohen in The Algemeiner

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President of Germany Honors Major East European ‘History Dissident’ Rachel Kostanian, Longtime Head of Vilnius’s Only Holocaust Museum



RACHEL KOSTANIAN  |  TRIBUTES ON HER 91ST BIRTHDAY  |  MUSEUMS  |  GERMANY

Andreas Görgen, head of the Directorate-General for Culture and Communication of Germany’s Federal Foreign Office  presents  Rachel Kostanian the Presidential Order of Merit signed by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Lukas Welz, chairman of AMCHA Germany was there and issued today’s press release. Photos: Florian Krauss for AMCHA Germany.

Rachel Kostanian in 2010

VILNIUS—Rachel Kostanian, doyenne of Holocaust history dissidents in Lithuania and beyond led, for over a quarter century, a tiny little museum in a wooden green house — it came to be known internationally as The Green House — high up a driveway invisible from the street, that insisted on telling the bitter truth about the Holocaust. Though part of the state’s Jewish museum complex officially, she personally raised support for its own major projects and publications and kept the editorial control independent. Her museum told the truth about the Lithuanian Holocaust, starting with the mass campaign of murder, plunder, humiliation and violence unleashed by the “Lithuanian Activist Front” (LAF), and other local “White-Armbanders” before the first German soldiers even arrived in June 1941. The huge “Genocide Museum” on the city’s main boulevard, by contrast, some seven minutes’ walk away, has a large hall dedicated to glorification of these same collaborators as supposedly heroic leaders of an anti-Soviet “rebellion” (a strange term here, as the Soviets were fleeing Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa, the largest invasion in human history, not the local white-armbanded fascists). As it turns out, the issue comes to the fore in 2021, with the 80th anniversary of the events looming, and the nation’s parliament having named the year in honor of an LAF member accused of atrocities.

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Berlin Press Release on German President’s Award of Order of Merit to Rachel Kostanian



The following press release was received today from the office of Lukas Welz, chairman of the board of AMCHA Germany, who nominated Rachel Kostanian for the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Contacts: Email: info@amcha.de. Twitter: @amchade. Facebook: www.facebook.com/amcha.deutschland.

See also: Defending History’s report on the eventtributes and good wishes published on Ms. Kostanian’s 91st birthday; and DH’s Rachel Kostanian section.

Rachel Kostanian Awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany

From left: Rachel Kostanian; Andreas Görgen, head of the Directorate-General for Culture and Communication of Germany’s Federal Foreign Office; Lukas Welz, chairman of AMCHA Germany. Below: The Order of Merit. Photos: Florian Krauss for AMCHA Germany.

BERLIN—Rachel Kostanian was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany on February 9, 2021 in Berlin for her lifelong work in researching and remembering the Holocaust in Lithuania. For a quarter century she was director of a small but world-renowned and unique Holocaust museum in Vilnius, Lithuania, known as The Green House that she co-founded as Soviet rule was crumbling in the late 1980s.

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Linas Vildžiūnas Wins Donskis Award for Tolerance



Linas Vildžiūnas, Lithuania’s Leading Humanist, For Decades Key Educator (and Truth Teller) about the Holocaust, Wins Donskis Award for Tolerance

The Defending History community extends hearty congratulations. His acceptance speech. Jewish community’s coverage of his founding of the House of Memory in 2000. Yiddish report in 2001. Our Donskis section.


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Antanas Zubrys and his Wife Dr. Matilda Zubrienė: Defending History’s Persons of the Year (2020)



OPINIONHISTORY

by Danutė Selčinskaja

 

Who were the people who managed to disregard the ubiquitous government warnings and the abundant anti-Semitic propaganda and refused to remain passive onlookers? Those who went on to rescue their Jewish neighbors from the fate of persecution and murder during the Second World War? Jews were rescued by people of various educational background, beliefs, ages, and professions. Each of them had to make this not-at-all easy decision by themselves, led by no one but their conscience. Upon seeing such direct and overt brutality, these courageous people were simply unable to act in any other way.

Antanas Zubrys and Dr. Matilda Zubrienė

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Bravo to Hizzoner Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius



“It Pays to Defend History”

Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius Orders Removal of Memorial Plaque for Holocaust Collaborator J. Noreika

ONE WEEK AFTER HIS CITY COUNCIL VOTED TO RENAME ŠKIRPA STREET

Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius

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Posted in Collaborators Glorified, Events, History, It Pays to Defend History: Success Over the Years..., Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Politics of Memory, State Glorification of Holocaust Collaborator J. Noreika, Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius | Comments Off on Bravo to Hizzoner Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius

Vilnius City Council Finally Decides to Change Name of Škirpa Street



Vilnius City Council Finally Decides to Change Name of Škirpa Street

Vote is  20 to 16

Defending History brought the issue to the international community in 2010

See Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas’s classic 2015 Defending History paper on Škirpa; Vilnius City Council efforts by Mark Harold

Report by JTA

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Jewish Gravestone Steps of Reformed Evangelical Church in Central Vilnius Finally Removed



CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS  |  ANTISEMITISM  |  CEMETERIES  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

One of the stones with visible Jewish lettering stepped on for decades during its stint as a step at the front entrance of the Reformed Evangelical Church on central Vilnius’s Pylimo Street. Photo: DefendingHistory.com.

VILNIUS—More than five years after Defending History’s September 2013 article (“Where You Have to Step on Old Jewish Gravestones to go to Church”), almost four years after Julius Norwilla’s May 2015 impassioned plea (“A Protestant Pastor in Vilnius Speaks Out About Church Steps Still Made of Pilfered Jewish Gravestones”), and almost five since Genrich Agranovski’s 2014 survey (“The Stones Tell Me. After All, They Lived Here”) of Jewish gravestones pilfered for public space in Vilnius, the steps were finally removed last week in the face of mounting international pressure.

See Defending History reports over the years on the Jewish gravestones at the Reformed Evangelical Church in Vilnius 

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Jonas Paulavičius (1898–1952) is Defending History’s 2019 Person of the Year



OPINION

VILNIUS—Even as various government bodies in Eastern Europe name years (and for that matter streets and lecture halls and squares) for Holocaust collaborators or, on occasion, “just” leaders of fascist militias during the Holocaust (sometimes also for export to America), Defending History continues, in the spirit of our 2018 decision, to continue to honor East European patriots who fought for their country’s independence and then went on, over two decades later, during the Holocaust, to just do the right thing and save Jewish neighbors threatened with certain murder by reason of their birth, and with the support of the then “nationalist forces” in partnership with the Nazis. For all of 2018, Malvina Šokelytė Valeikienė  (1898-1981) was our Person of the Year.

Read  Danutė Selčinskaja’s article on the life and works of Jonas Paulavičius

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Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Lion, Speaks Out with Bold Integrity on Plans to Honor a Holocaust Collaborator



Ukraine: Where the Israeli Ambassador Stands Up with Integrity for What is Right

Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine, HE Joel Lion

See reports on HE Ambassador Joel Lion’s public stance in:  The Times of Israel  &  Kyiv Post. A “day and night contrast” with embassy in Lithuania?  Just different ambassadors, or a different Foreign Ministry policy?


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Three U.S. Senators Appeal to Pres. Grybauskaitė to Spare Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery



CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS  |  HUMAN RIGHTS  |  CEMETERIES  |  OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  PETITION

WASHINGTON DC—Three United States senators, Benjamin L. Cardin (Maryland, D.), Pat Roberts (Kansas, R.), and  James E. Risch (Idaho, R.) today wrote to Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaitė, appealing to her to move the planned national convention center away from the old Vilna Jewish Cemetery to another venue. It follows a similar appeal by twelve members of the American Congress last summer, a wide range of religious, community and religious figures and institutions internationally, and a recent statement to The New York Times by the elected head of the Vilnius Jewish Community, representing the vast majority of Lithuania’s surviving Jewish citizens. Vilnius native and resident Ruta Bloshtein, a prominent figure in Lithuania’s small Orthodox Jewish community, initiated a petition signed by close to 44,000 people internationally.

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, It Pays to Defend History: Success Over the Years..., Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Politics of Memory, United States | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Three U.S. Senators Appeal to Pres. Grybauskaitė to Spare Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery

City Council of New Britain, Connecticut Confirms Cancellation of Monument that would Honor Alleged Collaborator in the Lithuanian Holocaust



 NEW BRITAIN TIMELINE  |  NEW BRITAIN’S PROPOSED MONUMENT (SECTION) |  GLORIFYING COLLABORATORS  |  USA  |  LITHUANIA  |  CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS  | ANTISEMITISM & BIAS  |  HUMAN RIGHTS  |  DOCUMENTS

NEW BRITAIN—The City Council, known here as the Common Council, of this central Connecticut city, to the south of Hartford, today passed the following resolution, introduced by Alderman Professor Aram Ayalon, by a vote of 9 to 5. The vote split along party lines, with the Republicans in the minority. A spokesperson was quick to point out, however that “None of them supported this awful monument idea either. They were, however, supporting the mayor’s position that the monument was in fact never agreed to by the mayor’s office or town council, obviating the need for any resolution.” Mayor Erin E. Stewart is currently one of the candidates for the Republican nomination for governor, with the decision due at the party’s convention this weekend.

The text of the resolution follows:

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Posted in Collaborators Glorified, Debates on Adolfas Ramanauskas (Vanagas), It Pays to Defend History: Success Over the Years..., Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, New Britain, Connecticut: Plans to Glorify Alleged Nazi Collaborator?, News & Views, Politics of Memory, United States | Comments Off on City Council of New Britain, Connecticut Confirms Cancellation of Monument that would Honor Alleged Collaborator in the Lithuanian Holocaust

New Britain, Connecticut Says No to Monument Honoring Alleged Holocaust Collaborator



Monument to Adolfas Ramanauskas is Rejected for Public Space of New Britain

“MAJOR SUCCESS” IN EFFORTS TO HALT THE EXPORT OF “DOUBLE GENOCIDE” HISTORY REVISIONISM TO THE WEST

Hero of the saga is City Council alderman Professor Aram Ayalon. His petition and active contacts with colleagues internationally brought rapid results

Professor Aram Ayalon, alderman on the city council of New Britain, Connecticut

New Britain Progressive report cites DH role.

Defending History broke the news first, on 14 January 2018.

Chronicle of a saga: DH’s section on New Britain.

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Posted in Christian-Jewish Issues, Collaborators Glorified, Debates on Adolfas Ramanauskas (Vanagas), Foreign Ministries: Holocaust Politics Abuse?, It Pays to Defend History: Success Over the Years..., Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, New Britain, Connecticut: Plans to Glorify Alleged Nazi Collaborator?, News & Views, Politics of Memory, United States | Comments Off on New Britain, Connecticut Says No to Monument Honoring Alleged Holocaust Collaborator

Malvina Šokelytė Valeikienė is Defending History’s 2018 Person of the Year



OPINION  |  BALTIC HEROES  |  HUMAN RIGHTS  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

Malvina Šokelytė Valeikienė (1898-1981)

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US Government Commission’s Herbert Block Visits Defending History Team in Vilnius, Now Pledging Support for Moving Convention Center Project Away from Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery



THE PETITION  |  THE OLD VILNA CEMETERY  |  INTERNATIONAL OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER ON THE CEMETERY  |  IN LITHUANIAN  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—Herbert Block, a veteran member of the American government’s Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, and chair of its committee on the old Vilnius Jewish cemetery, visited yesterday and today for two sessions with staff of the Defending History team here in the Lithuanian capital. Mr. Block is a well-known and beloved figure for the Lithuanian Jewish community, with whom he worked closely for many years (1999 to 2015), during his tenure as Assistant Executive Vice President of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC or “Joint”), where his work included coordinating successful efforts to achieve restitution that could enable the Jewish community’s survival for generations to come. At present, he is executive director of the American Zionist Movement (AZM). Previously Mr. Block served as Assistant Director for Intergovernmental and Public Affairs for the New York City Independent Budget Office (1996-1999) and was Deputy Director for Intergovernmental Relations at the federal Corporation for National and Community Service in  1994-1995.  He was Assistant to the Mayor of the City of New York from 1990 to 1993 and Special Assistant to the Manhattan Borough President from 1986 to 1989. For years he has been a member of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) with specialization in the Baltic region and Poland.

Herb Block explained how hard he has been working behind the scenes to ensure the cemetery’s preservation, and pledged his firm personal commitment to work resolutely for the convention center project to be moved to another venue in town — away from Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery. 

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Herbert Block and Issues of Lithuanian Jewish Cemetery Preservation, It Pays to Defend History: Success Over the Years..., Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), US Commission for Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on US Government Commission’s Herbert Block Visits Defending History Team in Vilnius, Now Pledging Support for Moving Convention Center Project Away from Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery

PEN America Protests Ban and Proposed Pulping of Ruta Vanagaite’s Books in Lithuania, Including Book on the Holocaust



FREE SPEECH  |  HUMAN RIGHTS  |  POLITICS OF MEMORY  |  COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED

PEN America released this statement on its website today:

NEW YORK—The decision by the Alma Littera publishing house to cut all ties with their author Ruta Vanagaite, and to remove remaining copies of all of her five books from circulation and pulp them, is a troubling overreaction and should be reconsidered, said PEN America today.

The publisher’s decision to remove and destroy all of Vanagaite’s books was a response to her recent criticism of Adolfas Ramanauskas, a Lithuanian nationalist widely perceived as a hero. Vanagaite previously touched on sensitive historical issues in her most recent book, Mūsiškiai (Our People), published in Lithuania in 2016, which discusses the role of Lithuanian nationalists and freedom fighters in the persecution of Jewish Lithuanians and the Holocaust during World War II. Lithuania still denies their role in WWII and the Lithuanian authorities claimed that the book jeopardized national security. The destruction and removal of Vanagaite’s books demonstrates the tight borders of what is acceptable criticism of a national hero in Lithuania. Since the publication of the book, Vanagaite has received threats, which have escalated in recent weeks; a suit against her for slander and denigration of a deceased person has also been filed with the prosecutor by a patriotic group (the prosecutor has declined to take up the case, finding no evidence of malicious intent).

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Brand New Yiddish Signs Come to Malát (Molėtai), Town in Northeast Lithuania



MALÁT  |  SHTETL COMMEMORATIONS  |  YIDDISH AFFAIRS

MALÁT (MOLĖTAI)—At the initiative of Viktorija Kazlienė, founder and director of the Museum of the Molėtai Region (Molėtų krašto muziejus) in northeastern Lithuania, a series of Jewish historical signs were unveiled this week. The project came to fruition thanks to the material support of the Department of Cultural Heritage, that is under the aegis of Lithuania’s Ministry of Culture.

In the event, these signs mark the one-year anniversary of the internationally acclaimed march of memory held in August 2016 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the massacre of the town’s Jews in 1941 by local collaborators, under the aegis of the Nazis, and during the period of rapid annihilation of Lithuania’s provincial Jewry. In addition to playing a pivotal role in enabling the 2016 march and commemorative events, Ms. Kazlienė organized an extensive exhibition on the centuries-old Jewish life in the erstwhile shtetl, known in Yiddish as Malát. With Leonas Kaplanas, she coauthored a book based on the exhibition. It was featured in this year’s Vilnius Book Fair.

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