Lithuania

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.

For years, Kostanian was harassed and demoted, never losing her dignity or cool in educating thousands of Lithuanian school children (whose teachers certainly did appreciate her work), and tens of thousands of foreign visitors. She also insisted on a major room dedicated to prewar living Yiddish culture, All texts had to be in Lithuanian, English and Yiddish.

PRESS RELEASE ON THE AWARD

Ms. Kostanian was one of the major inspirers of the rise of the Defending History movement in 2008, and this journal the following year. A 2012 documentary film, Rewriting History, by Danny Ben-Moshe, featured her role prominently, and the late Sir Martin Gilbert stepped in as white knight more than once to save her from being fired. In her late eighties, she retired to Berlin to be near her son and grandchildren. Her recent 91st birthday attracted tributes from the former British, Irish, and Norwegian ambassadors to Lithuania, the state museum’s former director, Markas Zingeris, and a number of foreign scholars whose work she enabled.

“Cinderella is finally invited to the ball.”

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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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A Year Later: Lithuanian Defense Ministry’s Homage to Nazi Collaborator K. Škirpa Still on Website


[UPDATED / ORIGINAL REPORT 3 MARCH 2020]

COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED  |   KAUNAS MARCHES EU  |  OPINION 

Believe it or not, the Defense Ministry still flaunts its magazine cover glorifying Lithuania’s major  1941 “Holocaust advocate” on its website with no editorial comment or disclaimer from the defense minister (as PDF). Who was K. Škirpa?

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Happy  Independence Day, Lithuania!



We all join in celebrating February 16th 1918, just 103 years ago, that ushered in the successful interwar republic. Classic image of the Jews of the shtetl Dorbyán (Darbėnai, northwestern Lithuania) in 1928 celebrating the tenth anniversary of the happy day so cherished by all the peoples in the land. . .


 

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Defending History Monitors Annual Far-Right Vilnius March on 16 Feb. 2021



VILNIUS MARCHES  |  KAUNAS MARCHES  |  FAR-RIGHT MARCHES  |  COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED

by Julius Norwilla

VILNIUS—This year the ultranationalist gathering on today’s February 16th national independence day took place in the Old Town, at the newly erected statute of Lithuanian author, scholar and patriot, Jonas Basanavičius, one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence of 1918. Beside the national tricolors, I saw two more types of flags for “Pro Patria” and “Nacionalinis susivienijimas” (National Unity). Pro Patria is known as an ultranationalist movement targeting youth and an outlet of homophobic, Holocaust revisionist and xenophobic materials and initiatives. The National Unity seems to be mostly the same group of people, aspiring perhaps somewhat more to national politics.

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Commemorating the Holocaust and Healing Wounds in our Molėtai (Malát) District



MEMORIALS FOR JEWISH COMMUNITIES  |  MOLĖTAI (MALAT)  |  MUSEUMS

by Viktorija Kazlienė

Viktorija Kazlienė

Almost five years ago, an exceptional March of Jewish Remembrance took place in Molėtai, on 29 August 2016. On that occasion, an impressive monument was erected at the site of the mass murder of the Jewish citizens of Molėtai (known in Yiddish as Malát). For that, we are grateful to Tzvi Kritzer, a descendant of Molėtai Jews now living in Israel. Leonas Kaplanas, another son of survivors from the town, now living in Vilnius, also contributed significantly to organizing the March.

The Molėtai (Malát) March of Jewish Remembrance, 29 August 2016. Photo: Alvydas Balanda

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Dramatic Developments in the Life of Lithuania’s Liveliest Cemetery


[last update]


JUMP TO INTERNATIONAL OPPOSITION; TO DH SECTION ON HISTORY OF THE SAGA; TO SECTIONS ON CPJCE; USCPAHA


February 2021:

Defending History’s views on plunder and humiliation of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery are cited in Aliide Naylor’s essay “Soviet Modernism’s Enduring Baltic Legacy” in Jacobin.

Meanwhile, Mr. Paul Packer, chair of the US taxpayer supported “Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad” (USCPAHA), who has failed throughout his tenure to publicly ask, even once, howsoever mildly and politely, for the Lithuanian government to relocate its convention center project away from the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery (ignoring pleas from every part of the world and the international petition), released a self-heroizing press release condemning an obscure Lithuanian parliamentarian who blamed the Jews for the Holocaust (after the American ambassador and many others had condemned the parliamentarian). It is high time for the full record of Washington’s most corrupt federal agency (whose members are honored by the cemetery-selling sub-branch of Satmars when coming to bow before “the rebba”) to be investigated. (For the record: the opposing branch of Satmar Hasidism’s grand rabbi has joined the civilized world in condemning the humiliation of tens of thousands of graves of Jewish citizens of Vilna.)  Defending History is proud to have documented the most recent years of this lamentable history. Various capers of the scandal-ridden agency have been reported over the years in the New York Times (e.g. here, here, and here).  In November 2020, the USCPAHA reached a new low when a newly appointed member was reported in a Times article by White House correspondent Maggie Haberman to have a white-supremacist antisemitic background, adding weirdly to the recent history of (ostensibly) ultraorthodox Jews in hock to the corrupt Satmar affiliated London-based CPJCE. Hopefully, President Biden will abolish this agency soon; it has only ever existed to repay “religious” supporters of political campaigns (of either party) and is inherently a recipe for high corruption resulting in moral sale for money, under “US gov. cover” of the very cemeteries in Holocaust-area Europe that are meant to be the prime object of its protection. Surely, religious donors can be repaid with “harmless honors”…

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Chronology of Debate on Seimas Decision to Name 2021 for Juozas Lukša (Daumantas), Alleged Participant in June 1941 Kaunas Atrocities


[LAST UPDATE]

JUMP TO  MOST RECENT; TO YAKOV FAITELSON; TO LAURENCE WEINBAUM; TO FAINA KUKLIANSKY & ANDREW BAKER; TO DOVID KATZ; TO 2011 BRITISH PARLIAMENT MOTION

23 June 2020: “Setting the stage”: After the longtime ultranationalist head of the “Genocide Center” is replaced by a meek looking “member of the Tatar community” in attempt to repair the disastrous image of an EU/NATO democracy financing a Nazi-whitewash ethnic-purity-inclined institute paid for by the state, the chief historian of the Center (a longtime member of the state’s “red-brown commission”) delivers a fiery June 23rd speech proudly flanked by huge images of two proven Holocaust collaborators, J. Noreika and K. Škirpa.  Defending History was on the scene and reports.

29 June: 2020  In response to media reports, Dovid Katz presents a case against the official state naming of the  upcoming year 2021 for June 1941 LAF activist Juozas Lukša, invoking the publications of Alex FaitelsonJoseph Melamed and a British parliamentary motion. Cnaan Liphshiz reports in JTA (also in Jerusalem PostTimes of IsraelEuropean Jewish Congress).

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Professor Josifas Parasonis (Joseph Parason) Turns 80 in Vilnius



HAPPY 80th BIRTHDAY TO

Professor Joseph Parason

(Josifas Parasonis)

Key Figure in Vilnius’s Jewish Community

Major professor of the sciences of buildings and architecture at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU); major national expert on the science of structures

Courageous champion of Jewish causes, ethics and democracy in the community,  and the quest for historic truth and justice

Former deputy chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and beloved mentor to young people of all backgrounds

Stalwart member of many years’ standing in the weekly Vilnius Yiddish Literary Circle

Contributor to numerous publications, including Defending History

[Historical note: Prof. Parasonis’s 80th is also the 80th anniversary of the events in Lithuania of 1941. His dramatic escape from his native Kaunas as 4½ month old toddler with his mother, and the fate of the rest of the family, are summarized here]

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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

by Julius Norwilla

The author’s silent and peaceful Protest of Snow of Feb. 2021. View from across the river reminds Vilna that this is the Lithuanian capital’s Old Jewish Cemetery. Photo: Bartosz Frątczak.

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.

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Suddenly, Strong Statements from the Long-Silent: Holocaust Posturing or Sincere Outrage?



OPINION  |  POLITICS OF MEMORY  |  LITHUANIA

by Dovid Katz

The decision announced by leaders of the three major universities in Lithuania, and of its History Institute, to belatedly break off ties with the antisemitic, ultranationalist, far-right, history-revisionist “Genocide Center,” a state-sponsored institution, is both “better than nothing” and “better late than never.” For over a dozen years now, Defending History has documented the Center’s role in spewing antisemitism, while underpinning ultraright Nazi-sympathetic nationalism and Holocaust obfuscation and denial wrapped up in pseudo-historical research; a similar record has been kept of its obedient showcase of fake history to the outside world, the “Genocide Museum”). The shocking wall of skittish silence on the part of professors, diplomats, and political leaders has been apparent not only within Lithuania, but also from some Holocaust, history and international (particularly American-based) Jewish organizations whose leaders covet the local medals, honors, photo-ops and junkets that give them that certain godlike ego-boost that is only to be had, it seems, east of the former Iron Curtain.

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Local and International Opposition to Plans for Convention Center at Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery


[updated]


INTERNATIONAL PETITION APPROACHES 54,000 SIGNATURES

SUMMARY OF RECENT NEWS

DEFENDING HISTORY’S SECTION; ROLE OF THE US TAXPAYER FUNDED USCPAHA; OF LONDON’S CPJCE ‘GRAVE-SELLING RABBIS’ 


(I) Groups of leading Litvak (and other) rabbis

(II) Institutions

(III) Individuals

(IV) Lithuania’s Jewish community

(V) US Congress & Israel’s Knesset

(VI) Background

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Battles over History Unleashed on Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021



On 27 January, Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021:

Silvia Foti in the New York Times on her Grandfather Jonas Noreika

Lev Golinkin in the Forward on the Proliferation of Statues and Monuments Glorifying Nazi Collaborators and — their Export to the US, Canada and Other Western Nations

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Good Wishes Pour In for Rachel Kostanian’s 91st Birthday on 31 Jan. 2021


[last update]

A selection from tributes received. More on Facebook

See also: Defending History’s Rachel Kostanian section

Sepp Brudermann (Austrian film maker, former  volunteer at the Green House):

“Dear Rachel, 20 years have passed, but believe it or not, I often think of you and the Green House, I tell people about you, and all the wonderful people I met – and I hope to be able to see you again my dear Rachel. Today, celebrate your birthday, celebrate LIFE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY my dear! Rachel! Lots of love and a big hug Sepp.”  See also Sepp Brudermann’s video tribute.

Ambassador Simon Butt (Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Lithuania,  2008-2011):

“Dear Rachel: on your 91st birthday I would like to congratulate you on a life well lived and for the huge contribution you have made to the cause of maintaining the history of Lithuanian Jewry. The Green House, in its intimacy, scope and historical erudition celebrates a vibrant pre-war culture as well as commemorating its tragic eradication. Its modest appearance disguises the riches it contains — a portrait of an entire civilisation. Through your dedication and scholarship, you have shared those riches with many visitors, including the descendants of the community immortalised in the museum’s displays. That their memory lives on is thanks in no small part to the work you have done; and all who have enjoyed your company honour you for it. With all good wishes, Simon Butt, UK Ambassador, 2008-11.”

Ambassador Dónal Denham (Ambassador of Ireland to Lithuania, 2006-2010):

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Several Brushstrokes of our Rachel’s Portrait



by Markas Zingeris

Rachel Kostanian-Danzig, one of the founders of the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History, is celebrating her venerable ninety-first birthday. She belongs to the generation that survived the horrific years of the Second World War as well the times of the Soviet regime, and saw the fall of the Iron Curtain: the geopolitical “earthquake” that allowed Lithuania to take back control of its own history.

During her youth in Soviet times, Rachel completed a law degree at Vilnius University and qualified as an English teacher at the city’s Pedagogical University. Her field was not history, until the breakup of the Soviet Union and the rise of Lithuanian liberty gave her the freedom to immerse herself in the history and culture of her Jewish people. But no historian’s diplomas could match her relentless, painstaking and passionate desire to meaningfully fill the gaps in Lithuanian collective memory. Today’s young professionals could envy her enthusiasm and “engagement.”

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Monuments to Nazi Collaborators in Eastern Europe and — Recent ‘Exports’ to the West


[UPDATED]

ArmeniaEstoniaLatviaLithuaniaMacedonia.  Slovakia.  Ukraine

Our take? The export of East European Holocaust revisionism is best exposed and countered now, before it becomes the pillar of the twenty-first century’s incarnations of Holocaust denial: Double Genocide, Holocaust Obfuscation, and glorification of the perpetrators as being (simultaneously) “heroes”…

This page was developed with the generous help of Lev Golinkin whose 26 January 2021 project in the Forward supersedes this page (see particularly his Lithuania section).

JUMP TO:

Latvia → Belgium

Lithuania → USA

Ukraine → Canada

Ukraine → USA

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Tale of Two Lands: Ukraine’s and Lithuania’s State Policies of Glorifying Holocaust Collaborators Treated Very Differently by Israel’s Foreign Ministry?



Israel’s Ambassador Joel Lion in Ukraine Boldly Condemns Annual Parade Glorifying Holocaust Collaborator Stepan Bandera; JTA’s Cnaan Liphshiz Reports

But at same time, Israeli Foreign Ministry colludes  to silence dialogue on glorification of Holocaust collaborators in Lithuania (including the “naming of 2021“); Wiesenthal Center’s Dr. Zuroff protests in Jerusalem Post

Lithuanian Parliament’s dedication of 2021 to memory of J. Lukša, alleged Kaunas 1941 killer is little mentioned after powerful protests by two Israeli citizens — WJC’s Dr. Laurence Weinbaum, and Yakov Faitelson, son of legendary anti-Nazi partisan hero and escaper from Kainas IX Fort Alex Faitelson.

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Israel Chronicle


[most recent update]


Israeli Foreign Policy and the Holocaust in Eastern Europe (1990 — 2021)

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Great Expectations for Kaunas, as City (where Lithuanian Holocaust Started on 23 June 1941) is Named 2022 “Capital of European Culture”


[latest update]

OPINION  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  COLLABORATORS FLORIFIED

Congratulations to the city of Kaunas, Lithuania, once known also as Kovno (in Yiddish Kóvne) on its selection as Europe’s “Capital of European Culture” in 2022, sharing the title with Esch-sur-Alzette in Luxembourg.

See our evolving Interactive Map on monuments glorifying Holocaust perpetrators in Kaunas (Kovno), where the Lithuanian Holocaust was initiated on 23 June 1941

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Women’s Issues in Today’s Lithuania



OPINION  |  WOMEN’S RIGHTS   |  HUMAN RIGHTS

by Vilma Fiokla Kiurė

Women’s Day March in Vilnius, March 8, 2019. Vilma Fiokla Kiurė in the center, with a banner that reads “No to Fluffy Law Enforcement!!!” Banner on the right reads “We Love Men, but Politics Needs Some Competence”: a reversal of (then) Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis’ comment on why there were no women in the previous Cabinet.

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.

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