Use and Abuse of Sugihara

Sugihara Abused? Red-Brown Commission Ropes In Japanese Embassy for 11 Feb. Event



OPINION  |  EVENTS  |  JAPAN  |  RED-BROWN COMMISSION  |  POLITICS OF MEMORY

VILNIUS—Over the past decade, few foreign embassies in Lithuania have done as much as Japan’s to help ensure that the Holocaust in Lithuania is never forgotten and indeed, that remembrance events and educational programs feed into both national and international efforts to raise awareness and sensitivities in the cause of averting future massacres of innocent civilians.

Japan’s Holocaust remembrance achievements in Lithuania are manifold. From 2008, when state prosecutors connected to the Genocide Center began defaming local Holocaust survivors, Japan’s embassy joined with others in giving honor to the wrongly accused, including the 2009 “Walk in the Rain” organized by then Norwegian ambassador Steinar Gil. More well known are the embassy’s activities in commemoration of Chiune (Sempo) Sugihara, the inspirational Japanese humanist who saved thousands of lives by issuing visas in Kaunas in 1940 (enabling those people to flee Soviet rule directly, and indirectly from what was to come a year later, in 1941, with Hitler’s invasion and the massive local collaboration in genocide). One of the most important goes back to the turn of our century when the embassy participated actively, and generously, in setting up Sugihara House in Kaunas.

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Lithuanian Post Office Honors Sugihara and Zwartendijk on 75th Anniversary of “Visas for Life”



KAUNAS—The Postal Service of Lithuania today launched two handsome commemorative envelopes in memory of two celebrated European consuls in Kaunas who helped thousands of Jews obtain visas that enabled them to leave Lithuania during the final year before the Nazi invasion and the Holocaust came to the country. The two, Chiune Sugihara (1900−1986) of Japan and Jan Zwartendijk (1896−1976) of the Netherlands risked their careers, and more,  to disobey instructions and the letter of the law to save those who came to them for help. These were primarily citizens of prewar Poland who found themselves in Lithuania in the summer of 1940, when the country was being absorbed into the USSR, and the consulates and embassies in Kaunas were under pressure to close down altogether.

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Rabinowitz-Dorf PR Campaign for Lithuanian Embassy and “Fake Litvaks” Backfires Bigtime



[Updated 3 May 2012] The following is a reprint, including comments up to today, of the 13 April 2012 VilNews.com article “First-time event in Chicago this Sunday, April 15, to address lingering issues affecting Lithuanian-Jewish relations.” This page, as posted today [3 May 2012], is also preserved in webpage format here.

Rabinowitz-Dorf: Did the PR firm sell out Lithuanian Jewry to help the current right-wing government “change” the history of the Holocaust with American Jewish cover, while enabling “Fake Litvaks” to  misrepresent themselves as representing the Jewish community in Lithuania?

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Thinking About Those Anniversaries of 2011. . .



O P I N I O N

by Milan Chersonski

On 21 September 2010, that year’s annual commemorative event was held in the forest of Ponár (Paneriai) at the monument to the seventy thousand Jews who were murdered there and whose remains were then burned at the site.  Shortly before the ceremony’s conclusion it was announced that the Seimas (Lithuanian parliament) had decided to declare the year 2011 the “Year of Commemorating Lithuanian Residents who Became Victims of Holocaust.” The parliament’s move came as a complete surprise to the Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC). The country’s Jewish community had appealed neither to the president of Lithuania nor to the parliament with any such request.

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Masked Men Throw Smoke Bombs in Small Vilnius Theater, Disrupt Film on Anti-Fascists


On Monday evening 2 May (Yom Hashoah), at about 7 PM, five or six masked perpetrators forced their way into a small theater in Vilnius showing a film about the formation of the anti-fascist movement in France and hurled military-type smoke bombs at the screen. Viewers, including a child, fled in panic and unable to breathe. Some witnesses claimed they saw members of the Lithuanian military participating.

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Andrius Navickas wins ‘Person of Tolerance’ Award in Lithuania


Journalist, editor and human rights champion Andrius Navickas was awarded this year’s Person of Tolerance award in a ceremony in Kaunas today. The annual award, founded by Open Society Lithuania’s founding director Dr Irena Veisaitė, goes to a personality who actively and courageously fought for tolerance in Lithuanian society.

Andrius Navickas (left), editor of Bernardinai, accepts the Person of Tolerance award from MEP Professor Leonidas Donskis at a ceremony in Kaunas on 5 February 2011. Image: N. Povilaitis / Lrytas.lt

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Sparse Turnout at Ninth Fort Holocaust Commemoration; Christian Leader Stirs the Assembled


According to historians, the largest slaughter of people in a single day in the history of the Baltic states occurred on the 29th of October 1941, when between nine and ten thousand Jews were gruesomely killed at the ‘Ninth Fort’ near Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania, under Nazi German command. Highly motivated local forces carried out most of the killing and the associated humiliation and degradation of the victims. To mark the occasion there is a commemoration ceremony at the site held each year at midday on the last Sunday in October. This year it was held today, under a bright sun that warmed the clear chill of late fall in Lithuania.

Organized by the Jewish Community of Kaunas, and addressed by its leader, Gercas (Hershl) Žakas, this year’s event drew just over a hundred people, filling less than half the paved plaza near the memorial dais. Survivors present expressed concern for the future status  of Ninth Fort remembrance here, and Holocaust commemoration more generally. The concern echoes various factors, including the gradual disappearance of survivors and witnesses, the shrinking of the vestigial Jewish community, and the shifting political trends.

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