JOHANNESBURG—The Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein, today added his voice to the international Litvak and wider opposition to state-sponsored desecration of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt in the form of a national convention center surrounded by Jewish graves going back half a millennium in Vilna, the city once known as Jerusalem of Lithuania. The office of the chief rabbinate made public his letter to Lithuania’s president, Gitanas Nausėda and prime minister Saulius Skvernelis.
A PDF of his letter is available here, and follows below. Please use handles in the upper left-hand corner to turn pages.
Chief Rabbi of South Africa on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
by Denis Daneman
This is part of a “reflection” that has been more than 65 years in the making. My earliest memories are of being surrounded by a warm and caring rather secular Jewish family in Johannesburg, South Africa, that all seemed to have hailed from a tiny place called Plungyán, in Lithuania, which made us all “Litvaks”. Only more recently did I learn that this pertained not only to my mother’s side of the family. My father’s side came from Riga in Latvia, also Litvaks, fortunately. Both families left The Pale of Settlement in the time-frame 1890-1906, eventually finding their way to Heilbron in the Orange Free State in the case of my Mom’s family, and Ceres in the Cape of Good Hope for my Dad’s. Both of these were to become part of the Union of South Africa in 1910.
I grew up believing that the most important people in my world came from The Pale, most specifically this tiny dot on the map called Plungyán, that they migrated to South Africa where they settled, proliferated, bickered, were educated and prospered. Then, after two or three generations, many, if not most left South Africa, perhaps the biggest group to Israel in the 1950’s and 60’s, some to Australia, the UK and USA, and the Daneman clan to Canada.
NEW YORK—Tomorrow’s daytime event featuring Nida Degutiene’s new book, A Taste of Israel: From Classic Litvak to Modern Israel (Penguin Random House South Africa 2016) is a joint production of the Consulate General of Lithuania in New York City and the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research. It will be held at the Consulate General’s offices at 420 Fifth Avenue at 12:30 PM on Monday 16 January 2017. Defending History recommends the event to our readers in the New York City area and we recommend Ms. Degutiene’s excellent book (available from many outlets including Amazon).
Posted in "Jewish" Events as Cover?, Events, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Politics of Memory, South Africa, Yivo Manipulated?
Tagged Lithuanian Consulate in NY, Lithuanian-Jewish affairs, Litvak Cookbook, Nida Degutiene, Yivo, Yivo Lithuania
by Daniel Lutrin
The following opinion piece by Daniel Lutrin appeared in the South African Jewish Report on 1 June 2016 under the headline “Lithuanian Citizenship: Only Successful Applicant is a Dead Jew.” Comments or discussion may be directed to the South African Jewish Report. Defending History is always prepared to consider actual articles in reaction to published articles.
It was gratifying to see a recent article regarding the plight that Jews of Lithuanian origin (Litvaks) are facing when applying to have their Lithuanian citizenship restored. The article, however, does not hone in on the critical matter at hand, namely the extent to which Lithuanian bureaucrats have gone to deny Jews of their ancestral right to citizenship.
TEL AVIV— Daniel Galay, director of Leyvik House in central Tel Aviv, one of Israel’s major Yiddish culture institutions, issued the following statement today on the Leyvik House website (copy), and on its Facebook page (see also Efraim Zuroff’s Facebook comment). For background see our earlier report.
Appeal to the World Jewish Congress
Tel Aviv, 12 June 2014
Like all lovers of Yiddish language and culture, we at Leyvik House in Tel Aviv, home to the Union of Yiddish Writers and Journalists in Israel, were happy to see the recent announcement that the World Jewish Congress would be facilitating a new Yiddish center in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Posted in "Jewish" Events as Cover?, Double Genocide, Human Rights, Israel, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, South Africa, Vilnius Yiddish Institute, World Jewish Congress (WJC) and ORT, Yiddish Affairs
Tagged Daniel Galay, Dovid Katz, Leyvik House, Michael Schneider (World Jewish Congress), Rachel Margolis, World Jewish Congress + Vilnius, World Jewish Congress + Yiddish, Yiddish in Vilnius
O P I N I O N
A recent report, also available as PDF, suggests sudden and deep involvement of the World Jewish Congress in the Lithuanian government’s repeatedly documented use of Yiddish, Judaic studies and even Holocaust studies as means to advance — or cover for — state-sponsored Double Genocide revisionism with respect to the essential narrative of the Holocaust. The report has proven to be disturbing for the wider Holocaust survivor community and its supporters.
Posted in "Jewish" Events as Cover?, "Red-Brown Commission", Double Games, Double Genocide, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, South Africa, Vilnius Yiddish Institute, World Jewish Congress (WJC) and ORT, Yiddish Affairs
Tagged Michael Schneider (World Jewish Congress), Ronald S. Lauder, Vilnius Yiddish Institute, World Jewish Congress + Lithuania, World Jewish Congress + Yiddish, Yiddish in Vilnius & Lithuania
O P I N I O N
by Olga Zabludoff
Editor’s note: This and other responses were first offered to the Jerusalem Post for publication.
The Lithuanian government is pouring ever more resources and doing an ever better job with its PR campaign to turn Litvaks (Jews of Lithuanian origin) into virtual PR agents who now go further than they do themselves: painting a picture of the New Jewish Paradise in Lithuania without even mentioning the existence of painful current issues. Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Steve Linde no doubt meant only the best with his Chapter-of-Psalms, and will, I feel confident, now be happy to give the issues some rounded airing.
Posted in Collaborators Glorified, Double Games, Identity Theft of Litvak Heritage, Israel, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Media Watch, News & Views, Olga Zabludoff, Opinion, Politics of Memory, South Africa
Tagged Brothers Zingeris (Lithuania), Holocaust in Lihuania, Jerusalem Post + Lithuania, Olga Zabludoff, South Africans + Lithuania, Steve Linde
M e d i a W a t c h / O p i n i o n
Readers on several continents again report to Defending History that the Jerusalem Post has failed to post perfectly polite comments to yet another ecstatic ode to issueless Lithuanian-Jewish love. This time it’s the story “Growing Lithuanian Business Ties Beget Political Support” which reported on the recent visit to Israel of the Lithuanian Minister for the Economy Evaldas Gustas.
The rejected comments pointed out that a senior specialist employed at his ministry was exposed last spring as Lithuania’s most hateful internet blogger, responsible for a series of images disparaging to Jews, Blacks, Gays, and to the history of the Holocaust in Lithuania (sampling of images here). Our Open Letter to the minister essentially asks why the hateful top official is still in office. Is such a question taboo for a major English language daily in Israel?
O P I N I O N
by Olga Zabludoff
NOTE: This article was submitted to the South African Jewish Report last spring. It never appeared and is therefore posted here for information and in the spirit of the ongoing discussion. It is again poignantly relevant in view of the South African contingent to be courted by government officials at the Fourth International Litvak Congress to be held in Vilnius later this month.
The Ball Is Now in Your Court
I have just returned from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The newly launched special exhibition, “Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust,” left me feeling drained. It’s not that I learned anything I didn’t already know. It’s just that the message, delivered in marquee-style displays, old photographs, video footage from the period, and recent oral testimonies, juxtaposed to create the sensation that I had been there — a victim.
“But what do we learn that resembles what we have seen? We have barely begun to understand the killing fields of Lithuania. . . .” writes Edward Rothstein in his review of the new exhibition (“Bystanders, Not So Innocent,” April 25, 2013, New York Times).
O N – S I T E R E P O R T / O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
ZHAGER, northern Lithuania. Over a hundred people gathered here today on the historic town square to unveil a trilingual plaque memorializing the erstwhile Jewish population of thousands in the town, today Žagarė. The event was incorporated into the annual Cherry Festival and suitably entitled “You can’t fudge the history.”
THE QUESTION: IS IT THE ONLY TOWN-CENTER IN ALL THE LAND WITH CLEAR AND TRUE WORDS ON THE TRUE FATE OF THE JEWISH POPULATION?
The text — in English, Lithuanian and Yiddish — summarizes the unvarnished history, with prominent reference to local Lithuanian collaboration (though historians will quibble with the use of “some” in place of “many” among other points). It is placed right in the center of town, rather than at a mass grave site deep in the forest; that might well be a first in modern Lithuanian history.
Posted in "Vilnius Jewish Public Library", Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Dovid Katz, Events, Exotic Jewish Tourism, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, South Africa, The Great SLS About-Face, Zháger (Žagarė)
Tagged Azubalis, Cliff Marks, Holocaust in Lithuania, Jewish + Lithuania, Lithuanian shtetl, Litvak, Roger Cohen, Valdas Balciunas, Zagare, Zhager, Zhager (Zagare)
1: Lithuania – a Past Not Forgotten
by Steve Felder
Given the Lithuanian heritage of the overwhelming majority of South African Jews, it is somewhat surprising that seemingly few have visited modern-day Lithuania. Bucking the trend, I visited during March with a small yet prominent delegation of Jewish business executives, on a “mission” arranged by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the largest Jewish humanitarian and welfare organization in the world.
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
Thought experiment: Imagine an African American in the city of Columbia, South Carolina, being called an extremist or fanatic for peacefully expressing the opinion that it is offensive for the Confederate flag to be hoisted on the grounds of the state capitol building. Imagine him or her being called extremist or fanatic for failing to be grateful that the flag was, after much protest, moved from atop the dome to the mere grounds of the capitol and its design slightly changed to conform to the Confederate Battle Flag (as a “concession”).
Imagine if a snow-white editor of a web journal singled out for David Duke style praise “Moderate African Americans” who just say “Thank you” when a pathetic morsel of PR is offered up by local authorities in the face of mounting international opprobrium.
There would be public outrage at the racism.
Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Dovid Katz, Free Speech & Democracy, Human Rights, Litvak Affairs, Media Watch, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Racism, South Africa, VilNews.com
Tagged Aage Myhre, Holocaust in Lithuania, Norwegian property magnates in Vilnius, VilNews.com
Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of Glencore: Celebrated Litvak scion is feted by government operatives in Vilnius
According to a BNS news report released today (full text below), the Lithuanian prime minister’s advisor Mykolas Majauskas reported that discussions were held with Glencore’s CEO Ivan Glasenberg concerning plans to inspire more Litvaks to invest in the country. Mr. Majauskas also claimed that “some Litvaks are considering buying farms in Lithuania in order to take active part in communal activities.”
DefendingHistory.com takes the view that Litvak investment should progress in tandem with genuine progress on Lithuanian-Jewish issues, and not as long as the present “dual-track” (“double game”) policies continue to be applied. Ruses attempted have on occasion entailed usurpation of the Litvak identity by government agencies.
O P I N I O N
by Danny-Ben Moshe
This comment appeared today in the Jerusalem Post and is republished here with the author’s permission.
The Israel-South Africa Chamber of Commerce is hosting as guest of honor Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis at a gala dinner. Given the current Lithuanian government’s policies towards the Holocaust, it is a bizarre choice.
More than twenty years into their post-Soviet eras, Lithuania and other East European nations are understandably and appropriately seeking international acknowledgment for the suffering inflicted on them by the Soviet regime.
However, rather than commemorating this in its own right, Lithuania has led the campaign to tie this recognition in with the Holocaust, in a policy known as Double Genocide. By so doing, the recognition they seek for their own suffering under the Soviets ipso facto becomes a policy that distorts and downgrades the Holocaust, and undermines and threatens its memory.
Kovno Ghetto Survivor and Resistance Hero Joe Melamed, 87, Leads March 5th 2012 Picket Line Against “Sellout Gala” at the Tel Aviv Dan Panorama
Lithuanian Foreign Minister and Brothers Zingeris are Greeted by Protesting Holocaust Survivors
A FIRST-TIME PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN LEYVIK HOUSE YIDDISH CULTURE CENTER, THE SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER ISRAEL OFFICE AND THE ASSOCIATION OF LITHUANIAN JEWS IN ISRAEL
Developments have started moving quickly in the ill-starred project to host the current foreign minister of Lithuania as “guest of honor” at a Tel Aviv “gala” at the Dan Panorama Hotel on March 5th.
Posted in "Jewish" Events as Cover?, A 21st Century Campaign Against Lithuanian Holocaust Survivors?, Israel, Joseph Melamed, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, South Africa
Tagged Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, Audronius Azubalis, Double Genocide, Holocaust in Lithuania, Joseph Melamed, Litvaks, Prague Declaration, Telfed
C O M M E N T
[updated 17 Feb] The following “SAVE THE DATE GALA DINNER” announcement was recently posted on the Telfed Online website [update: page taken down; similar text is at the ILCCI site of the organizing “Israel-Lithuania”]:
Posted in "Jewish" Events as Cover?, Citizenship, Double Games, Foreign Ministries: Holocaust Politics Abuse?, Israel, Joseph Melamed, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Politics of Memory, South Africa
Tagged Audronius Azubalis, Holocaust in Lithuania, Israel-Africa Chamber of Commerce, Israel-Lithuania Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Lithuania South Africa Israel, Lithuanian Embassy in Tel Aviv, Telfed Online
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.
Posted in "Jewish" Events as Cover?, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Dovid Katz, Events, Exotic Jewish Tourism, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Plungyán (Plungė), Politics of Memory, South Africa
Tagged Antisemitism Lithuania, Asta Skaisgirytė Liaukšienė, Desecration of monuments Lithuania, Emanuelis Zingeris, Holocaust Commemoration, Holocaust Commemoration in Lithuania, Holocaust commemoration Lithuania, Holocaust Memory, Jacob Bunka, Kausenai Memorial, Kazys Vitkevečius, Lithuania Tolerance Studies, Plunge, Plunge Holocaust, Plungian, Plungian Holocaust, Plungyan, Plungyan Holocaust, Ronaldas Racinskas, Tolerance studies center Lithuania
An opposition party member of the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament) has leaked this memo (English translation here), dated 20 July 2010, which purports to be a circular letter from the deputy foreign minister, Sarunas Adomavicius, to the working group (names blocked out) of the ‘Fake Litvak’ Forum (the official name is the ‘Litvak Heritage Forum’). The Forum is viewed as a ploy to hijack Litvak identity and put it to use for government PR purposes.
The day it was announced, 15 July 2010, the prime minister’s chancellor boasted of ‘rich Litvaks’ having been found to finance it. Protests followed immediately from Holocaust Survivors of the ALJ, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Litvak Studies Institute and this website (see here). There is particular fear that it is to serve as cover to deflect attention from the ongoing Continue reading