Litvak Affairs

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LITVAK STUDIES

Opening of the Museum of the Riga Ghetto


Elie Valk, chairman of the Association of Latvian and Estonian Jews in Israel, released a statement with links to news reports of the opening of the first part of the Museum of Riga Ghetto today.  The statement reports that ‘The idea of creating such a museum was circulating in the Jewish Community for three to four years. Finally Menachem Barkahan, head of the local religious congregation Shamir, picked it up and was successful in raising funds for it. He is the son of the late Rabbi Note Barkan, who served as the Chief Rabbi of Latvia’. The links provided to news of the event are:Continue reading

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Gathering in the Forest to Remember the 8000 Jews of the Svintsyan Region


Some eighty people gathered at midday today, in an eerie mix of wind and autumn sun, at the forest mass grave memorial site just outside the town once known in Yiddish as Svintsyánke (or Nay-Svintsyán; now Lithuania’s Švenčioneliai, interwar Poland’s Nowo-Święciany). Such is the custom every year on the first Sunday in October, to remember the eight thousand Jewish civilians murdered there after a gruesome ten days of imprisonment, deprivation of basic human needs, and torture, in makeshift barracks here at the site, in October 1941. The eight thousand Jews were marched (with the lame and the old transported on wagons) from their hometowns in the area to the site on September 27th. They were all shot over a two-day period on the 7th and 8th of October 1941.

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Esther Goldberg Gilbert Continues to Honor Courage of Rachel Kostanian, Critiques Lithuania’s Policy of ‘Holocaust Downgrade’ and Ongoing ‘Investigations’ of Kostanian



Esther Goldberg Gilbert, wife and partner to Sir Martin Gilbert and an accomplished Holocaust scholar in her own right, today published a second bold article in the Canadian Jewish News on Holocaust issues in Lithuania. The new piece, a follow-up to her first on the subject last month, became necessary, in the view of some observers, in light of a renewed campaign of harassment, degradation and attempted dismissals , against Ms. Kostanian, enabled and enacted out by the highest echelons of the parent museum’s government sponsored leadership, as well as the state’s “Double Genocide industry.” The new  article is available as PDF, and herein:

2010Oct7EstherGoldberg (1)

 

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U.K. Ambassador Simon Butt Visits tbe Vilna Yiddish Reading Circle, Offers Moral Support


The British ambassador to Lithuania, HE Simon Butt, today visited Professor Dovid Katz’s Vilna Yiddish Reading Circle, an advanced Yiddish- in-Yiddish institution that Prof. Katz initiated in September 1999. As guest of honor, Ambassador Butt, who listened to participants reading from the works of Yiddish authors with interest, was invited to say a few words. He told the assembled hat he deeply understands their concerns over resurgent antisemitism, ultranationalism, Holocaust revisionism and the attempted defamation of Jewish partisan heroes. He made it clear that “he is on the case” and gave reasons for hope and optimism.

Front row, from left: Prof. Dovid Katz (standing); Dr. Shimon Alperovich, chairman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania,, Ambassador Simon Butt, and Prof. Izaraelis Lempertas (Israel Lempert). Standing at right at the back if Carole Lemee, a university lecturer from France visiting in Lithuania.

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Revolving Posters at Ponár


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Revolving Posters at Ponar?


Ponár (Polish Ponary, Lithuanian Paneriai) is the mass murder site outside Vilnius where around a hundred thousand civilians were murdered by the Nazi regime. Some 70,000 of them were the Jews of Vilna and its region.

Before the war the site was known as a bucolic holiday and picnic spot set in the forest. During the year-long Soviet rule in 1940-1941, large pits were dug for an oil storage facility. After the Nazi invasion the site was converted to a mass murder operation with the ready-dug pits serving as mass graves.

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An Orwellian Description of the Drive to Revise History in the Direction of Double Genocide


Extract (from original posting by François Guesnet, Corob Reader in Jewish History, University College London) from the description of the (foregone?) conclusions of the “No Simples Stories” conference on 6-10 February 2011:

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Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) Prewar Proclamations on Plans for their Jewish Fellow-Citizens of Lithuania


What did the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) put in writing concerning its intentions for fellow citizens who were Jews in the days and weeks before the German invaders took actual control of various locations within Lithuania?

These excerpts are all from the translations from Lithuanian in the English edition of Joseph Levinson’s The Shoah (Holocaust) in Lithuania (Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum of Lithuania: Vilnius 2006).  The full texts (or much larger excerpts) appear in the chapter Documents Speak available here as PDF by permission of Joseph Levinson.

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A Shameful Shoah Whitewash



O P I N I O N

by Efraim Zuroff

This comment appeared in today’s Jewish Chronicle (London) and is reposted here by the author’s permission.


A financially-strapped small Eastern European country is spending tens of thousands of pounds to sponsor an extraordinarily large number of political and cultural events ― lectures, concerts, exhibitions and films ― in London next week. Why? That is the obvious question for the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, several Lithuanian cultural institutions, and local UK partners.

Under the heading No Simple Stories; Jewish-Lithuanian relationships: facing difficult questions, the events are projected as an honest attempt to address the ostensibly complex history of Lithuania’s once very large Jewish community, which was irreparably decimated during the Holocaust — 96.4% of the 220,000 Jews who lived in Lithuania under the Nazi occupation were slaughtered, with the help of a large number of local collaborators.

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“This Campaign Makes Me Really Angry”



O P I N I O N

by Shimon Alperovich

The following is Rachel Croucher’s authorized translation of the interview with Lithuanian Jewish Community chairperson Dr. Shimon Alperovich published in German by Frank Brendle in Taz.de.


YEAR OF REMEMBRANCE: In the Lithuanian year of remembrance the Holocaust is under threat of being forgotten while surviving Jewish partisans have been the subject of a campaign for some years. Conversation with Simonas Alperavičius, President of the Jewish Community of Lithuania. INTERVIEW BY FRANK BRENDLE, 04.02.2011

Mr Alperavičius, the 70th anniversary of the Nazi occupation of Lithuania falls this year, as well as twenty years of independence from the Soviet Union. What will take priority?

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Text of the Letter Delivered to the Lithuanian Ambassador in London on 7 February 2011



Text of the letter delivered to the Lithuanian ambassador in London Monday morning 7 February 2011 by the Right Honourable Denis MacShane MP. The letter was drafted by Danny Ben-Moshe and evolved with input from the other signatories. Signatories include Lord Janner of Braunstone, Rabbi Barry Marcus of Central Synagogue, and Professor Ada Rapoport-Albert, head of the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London which hosted the main conference. PDF here. Background and further links to press coverage here.


H.E. Dr Oskaras Jusys

Ambassador
Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania
84 Gloucester Place
London W1U 6AU

7 February 2011

Dear Ambassador

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Vilnius ‘Yiddish Studies Professor’ tells ‘Economist’ that Litvaks who Speak Out for Lithuanian Jewry are ‘Taliban’


Litvak Taliban?

Dispatched to London by the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, the state-approved director of the Vilnius Yiddish(-less) Institute bemoaned feeling himself ‘between two Talibans’, referring to the antisemitic establishment in Lithuania on the one hand, and to a polite letter of Litvak protest on the other. The comment was reported in today’s Economist, in an article by Edward Lucas, which also reports that the VYI director, Sarunas Liekis, described himself as ‘a Yiddish-studies professor from Vilnius’ [the article as PDF].

The ‘Taliban’ letter was signed among others, by Lord Janner; British MP Denis MacShane; head of the last active Litvak organization in the world, Joe Melamed; the master historian of the Lithuanian Holocaust Prof. Dov Levin; Rabbi Barry Marcus, leader of London’s Central Synagogue. Text of the ‘Taliban’ letter here. Signatories here.

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Litvaks and their Descendants Issue Public Letter Calling for Change in Lithuanian Government’s Holocaust Policies


 


Text of the public letter follows. Queries may be sent to Professor Danny Ben-Moshe at: Danny.Ben-Moshe@vu.edu.au.  UPDATES: Covered by JTA and the Jewish Chronicle.


We the undersigned Litvaks — Jews of Lithuanian origin and their direct and immediate descendants — hereby express:

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A Speech Never Spoken at Plungyán (Plungė)



O P I N I O N

by Dovid Katz

An imaginary speech, not delivered by any of the high government officials who addressed the commemoration at the mass murder site of the Jews of Plungyán (Plungė) on 17 July 2011.


My dear friends, it is precisely because I am a proud official of the government of independent, democratic, Lithuania, and I love my country, that I am able to speak here today openly, on the seventieth anniversary of the murder of the Jews of Plungė  — Plungyán, as they proudly called it in the Yiddish that rang through its streets for so many centuries.

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Wyman Brent Voices Fear his Vilnius Library Could Become Vehicle to “Whitewash and Obfuscate History and Cover for Rampant Antisemitism”



O P I N I O N

by Wyman Brent

I have a concern which I am sure that the readers of DefendingHistory.com share. I am talking about the possibility of the Vilnius Jewish Library becoming a vehicle for certain elements of the Lithuanian government to continue to whitewash and obfuscate history and to cover up for the antisemitism currently rampant here.

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Et tu, Yivo? Holocaust Survivors Jolted by Plan for Lithuanian Foreign Minister to be ‘Guest of Honor’ at Vilna Ghetto Commemoration



O P I N I O N

by Dovid Katz

When you have loved an institution all your life — and written over decades about its impact on the history of ideas — it becomes a responsibility, even when painful, to try to dissuade it from making a serious error that would put in jeopardy its integrity.

The Lithuanian foreign minister, who has to date not apologized publicly for his widely reported antisemitic outburst in October 2010, has been named by the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research as its ‘guest of honor’ at a concert on 22 September 2011. The remnant Jewish community of Lithuania is small and fragile. Nevertheless it responded robustly, less than a year ago, to the foreign minister’s comments and proceeded to publish its response in English, Lithuanian, Russian and Yiddish.

Yivo’s website enumerates the joint sponsorship for the 22 September 2011 event by ‘the Embassy Series in cooperation with the Lithuanian Consulate and the Lithuanian Delegation to the United Nations’. The event is being held to commemorate the anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto on 23 September 1943.

Perpetrators glorified

In 2011 — to mark the 70th anniversary of Hitler’s invasion, and  to the chagrin of Holocaust survivors internationally — the Lithuanian government has invested in a series of events honoring the local perpetrators who began to kill Jewish neighbors in dozens of towns before the Germans even arrived (a reading list on the history is available here). The ‘logic’ has been that they were actually rebelling against Soviet rule, though it is not disputed by historians that the Soviets were obviously fleeing the Nazi invasion.

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Dovid Katz Reviews Timothy Snyder’s ‘Bloodlands’ & Alexander Prusin’s ‘Lands Between’



O P I N I O N

by Dovid Katz (Vilnius)

Not for the first time, two fine historians have published in the same year their very different syntheses for the wider public, on the same topic, and based largely on known published sources, both having long proven their mettle as master researchers in previous publications rooted in archives and primary documents.

On this occasion the resulting contrast is unusually startling. One of these books, Alexander Prusin’s The Lands Between, is a meticulously balanced and historically authoritative, but conventional and somewhat lacklustre history that will appeal to lecturers looking for a solid textbook on twentieth-century East European history and, of course, history buffs ever fascinated by the Second World War.

Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, by contrast, is the work of a literary master who has what it takes to write a thriller. Deservedly, his book has captured the imagination of vast numbers of readers and pundits alike. It is also the work of a humanistic thinker who does not beat around the bush and has – very justifiably – made wilful state mass murder his topic, leading him to grapple with murder en masse, a forever captivating topic, all the more so within the Hitler–Stalin complex of issues that continue to fascinate, daunt and rebound potently in today’s geopolitics.

Yet Snyder’s Bloodlands suffers from some cardinal biases that are all the more regrettable in such a masterly and popular work. First, though, it is prudent to briefly cover the book’s scope and at least a few of its highly consequential virtues.

READ MORE IN EAST EUROPEAN JEWISH AFFAIRS

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Lithuanian Gov’s ‘Crack Jewish-Issue Team’ in Washington for New PR Drive


The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry’s Jewish PR campaign on Litvak culture and the Holocaust moves to Washington, DC this week, even as the government continues to invest in events glorifying the 1941 local Holocaust murderers, and to allow local antisemitism and neo-fascism to run rampant, often with the support of the state, or, one some occasions, open participation of officials of state-sponsored institutions.

What defies credulity this time around is that the series of events comes just as state prosecutors have used Interpol to harass yet another Holocaust survivor who joined the anti-Nazi resistance. This time the object of Lithuanian prosecutors’ interest is 86 year old Joe Melamed of Tel Aviv, elected chairman of one of the world’s last associations of Holocaust survivors from Lithuania (details in Haaretz and DefendingHistory.com; covered also in French, German and other  Israeli publications).

One of the targeted Holocaust survivors is Dr. Rachel Margolis, an eminent Holocaust historian, resident in Rechovot, who feels unable to return to Vilnius for fear of prosecutors’ harassment. She is just over a month away from her 90th birthday.

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Yad Vashem Withdraws Invitation to Lithuanian Minister over Campaign against Joe Melamed; British Parliamentarians Move an ‘Early Day Motion’; Melamed Speaks Eloquently at Yad Vashem, Blasts Efforts to Glorify Holocaust Perpetrators as ‘Heroes’


Yad Vashem  rescinded the invitations to the Lithuanian culture minister and ambassador to the 19 September event held in memory of the victims of the Lithuanian Holocaust. The cancelation of invitations came in response to the new investigation launched by Vilnius prosecutors  (via Interpol) against a Holocaust survivor. The 30 August visit to Mr. Melamed by Interpol liaison officers in Tel Aviv was reported in DefendingHistory.com and by Yossi Melman in Haaretz.

Joe Melamed in his Tel Aviv office

The report on the disinvitation, also by Yossi Melman in Haaretz was rapidly picked up by the Associated Press and carried widely (e.g. CBS News, Fox, MSNBC, Washington Post, YahooNews). Further reports have appeared in the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Chronicle (London), Mishpacha, and JTA (WJC, JJ, Juedische.at, etc).

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Holocaust Survivor Community in Shock as Yet Another Survivor Pursued by Lithuanian Prosecutors (and Interpol!), This Time for “Libel”



Vilnius Prosecutors Launch Campaign against Another Holocaust Survivor, 86, this time via — Interpol!

Joe Melamed

At Lithuanian prosecutors’ demand, Israeli Interpol liaison officers speak with Mr. Melamed about the ‘accusations’

Report in Haaretz by Yossi Melman;

DefendingHistory.com reports here and here;

Geoff Vasil in the Jewish Chronicle

 

Yad Vashem withdraws invitations to visiting minster and resident ambassador for Vilna Ghetto commemoration; Coverage inHaaretz by Yossi Melman; Associated Press (→ CBS News, Fox,MSNBC,Washington Post, YahooNews etc);JTA (→WJC, JJ, Juedische.at, etc);Mishpacha

Three British MPs file Early Day Motion 2161 to protest the Lithuanian government’s action

 ISRAEL’S GOVERNMENT MAINTAINS PUBLIC SILENCE

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