Monthly Archives: October 2020

Lithuania’s 2021 National Budget has Over Ten Million Euros Earmarked for ‘Convention Center in the Jewish Cemetery’. November 10th is Last Day for Public Comments on Budget



OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  INTERNATIONAL PETITION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

by Julius Norwilla

VILNIUS—Lithuania’s parliament (the Seimas) has published the provisional state budget for 2021, along with a timetable specifying that the final date for protests, submissions, and comments from outside organizations (non-governmental and presumably including religious and human rights groups) is the 10th of November.

The budget links to the Ministry of Finance page where the project to erect the new national convention center (not mentioned: in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery), is explicitly cited in a list of other projects that do in fact enhance our nation’s economy:

Continue reading

Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Julius Norwilla, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Politics of Memory | Comments Off on Lithuania’s 2021 National Budget has Over Ten Million Euros Earmarked for ‘Convention Center in the Jewish Cemetery’. November 10th is Last Day for Public Comments on Budget

Yakov Faitelson Calls on Lithuania’s Parliament to Reconsider Naming 2021 to Glorify Alleged Participant in 1941 Kaunas Atrocities



OPINION  |  CHRONOLOGY OF THE 2020-2021 LUKŠA DEBATE  |  GLORIFICATION OF COLLABORATORS  | LITVAK AFFAIRS

by Yakov Faitelson

Editor’s note: Following the Lithuanian parliament’s decision last June to name the year 2021 for an alleged participant in the Kaunas (Kovno) atrocities of June 1941, rapid protest ensued from Defending History, and in rapid succession, the official Jewish Community of Lithuania in partnership with the American Jewish Committee, and Dr. Laurence Weinbaum, executive director of the World Jewish Congress Israel and director of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations. See Evaldas Balčiūnas’s summary, and DH’s chronology of the debate, which also provides additional sources on the alleged activities of the honoree, Juozas Lukša, including the UK parliamentary statement on his alleged participation in the 1941 Kaunas beheading of Rabbi Zalmen Osovsky. Note that the Lithuanian parliament named 2020 for the Gaon of Vilna, and minted a controversial coin to mark that. Before that, the year 2019 had been named for a leader of a murderous Hitlerist militia of 1941.

I respectfully call on members of the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas), to read pp. 33-34 in my father’s book, The Truth and Nothing But the Truth (Gefen Publishing, Jerusalem & New York 2006), and to reconsider the tragically misguided proposal to name 2021 for Juozas Lukša (Luksha), a participant in atrocities committed against the peaceful Jewish citizens of Kaunas (Kovno) in the last week of June 1941, when massive local violence broke out before the invading German army had set up its authority.

I would like to emphasize that in his books, my father Alex (Alter-Henoch) Faitelson (1923–2010) provided a meticulously researched description of those tragic events of the Lithuanian Holocaust. As a professional auditor who worked for a major Israeli bank for over twenty-five years, he adhered to very strict rules also in his studies of the Holocaust. He repeatedly encountered and tested — corroborating or rejecting — details of testimonies of his former comrades in the anti-fascist struggle and Holocaust survivors more generally. In the same book, he included chapters “Forgery, Communist Style” (chapter 20), “The Tricks of Memory” (21), and “Everyone’s a Hero” (22), titles that speak for themselves to anyone in the field. In fact, these are part of a larger five-chapter section called Legends and Fables.

Continue reading

Posted in Collaborators Glorified, Foreign Ministries: Holocaust Politics Abuse?, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Yakov Faitelson Calls on Lithuania’s Parliament to Reconsider Naming 2021 to Glorify Alleged Participant in 1941 Kaunas Atrocities

Rewriting of History in Brussels at a Strange New Museum: “House of European History”



OPINION  |    MUSEUMS  |  PRAGUE PLATFORM  |  EU  |  BELGIUM

by Tord Björk

 

The Nazis wanted to exterminate a race and Karl Marx wanted to exterminate a social class. Our  guide at the House of European History museum (HEH) in Brussels is twisting her tongue as she tries to solve the task of simultaneously explaining that Communism and Nazism are the same thing, and yet, somehow not. Visually, the impression of the museum’s exhibition is overwhelmingly slanted toward the notion that they are fully, inexorably and inherently equivalent.

Towering above us in the ideologically most intense part of the museum are huge video screens tilted towards the visitor. These screens, on four islands in the room, are so large that in spite of the hall being generously spacious, they fill up the room. The spectator can feel small in their shadow. On the screens the masses march in honor of the dictator, people are violently oppressed and the imagery makes this museum’s point very clearly: the interwar period was marked by the very same conflict as that after the war until the Soviet Union collapsed and the Berlin wall fell. That single conflict that is posited as God’s-honest-truth-fact is between Western democracy and (any kind of) totalitarianism. The technically impressive format is meticulously balanced: two huge screens each for the horrific methods of Communism and Nazism. The similarity is indeed visually striking. Stalin and Hitler—in that order— are omnipresent in the midst of terror. As a climax, the hammer and the sickle are projected at the same time as the swastika in meticulously equal format.

Continue reading

Posted in Belgium, EU, Museums, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Prague "Platform" | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Rewriting of History in Brussels at a Strange New Museum: “House of European History”

Is Latvia Really Trying to Shut Down Riga’s Famous Outdoor Holocaust Museum?



LATVIA  |  MUSEUMS 

RIGA—According to various media reports, including JTA and the Algemeiner, plans are afoot to force the closure of the Museum of the Riga Ghetto and the Latvian Holocaust, whose opening Defending History covered a decade ago. The beloved outdoor museum is one of the very few museums in Latvia to provide an accurate historic view of the Holocaust and large scale individualized commemoration of its victims in Latvia. The role of local collaborators and the antisemitic nationalist establishment in Latvia in 1941 is amply documented by facsimiles of newspapers and documents of the times, all with full translation. On the commemoration front, there is a permanent outdoor exhibit with virtually all c. 70,000 names of the Riga Ghetto’s victims inscribed. It is a unique institution, for the Baltics and far beyond.

Continue reading

Posted in Christian-Jewish Issues, Litvak Affairs, Museums, News & Views, Politics of Memory | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Is Latvia Really Trying to Shut Down Riga’s Famous Outdoor Holocaust Museum?

Eyewitness Report of 6 Oct. 2020 Vilnius District Court Hearing on Old Jewish Cemetery



OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  INTERNATIONAL PETITION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—There were three observers present at this morning’s Vilnius County Court hearing in the case over the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in the Shnípeshok / Šnipiškės district): Ruta Bloshtein (author of the international petition that has garnered 52,000 signatures), Edmundas Kulikauskas who has appeared at a number of “Gerbkime kapines” (Respect Cemeteries) events supporting the cemetery’s preservation, and Arkady Kurliandchik, elected board member of the Vilnius Jewish Community.

“Defending History was there”

The attorneys for Turto Bankas expressed their impatience and dissatisfaction with the case’s continuation, which they pointed out further postpones the onset of building works on site. The judge, for her part, was concerned about the apostillary status of the affidavits received as well as an original of the classic prewar map of the cemetery appended by scholar Joseph Klausner to his 1935 book on the subject. At last week’s hearing, reported on in DH and the Algemeiner Journal, star witness Prof. Josif Parasonis, one of Lithuania’s major specialists in building sciences and a cofounder of the current Vilnius Jewish Community, pointed out that the Historical Institute in Vilnius had, in its report, carelessly superimposed the Klausner map on modern maps, falsely leaving the Sports Palace building outside the cemetery, and, Prof. Parasonis pointed out to the judge, serving to place many of the historic graves, ridiculously, right in the middle of the nearby river (the Neris, known also as the Viliya).

The judge, who also called for the plaintiffs to present proof of their descendance from persons buried in the cemetery, adjourned the hearing to 24 November.

Continue reading

Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Events, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Politics of Memory | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Eyewitness Report of 6 Oct. 2020 Vilnius District Court Hearing on Old Jewish Cemetery

Vilnius’s Future Monument to the Righteous Holocaust Rescuers belongs on Gedimino Prospect



OPINION

Seven years ago, this journal’s opinion section cheered the decision to finally, for the first time, honor one of the real Lithuanian heroes of the Holocaust era, the Rescuers, also known as Righteous of the Nations, in Vilnius. While praising the decision to so honor the inspirational Ona Šimaitė (1894–1970), Defending History lamented the decision to do so out in a suburb just north of the city. The name of our editorial in 2013 was “Vilnius Street Name Proposed for Rescuer Out in Boondocks; But Please Remove Nazi Collaborators from City Center!”

As ever, the Defending History community was pleased to play the role of catalyst while much more powerful and wealthy forces eventually came around to taking up the cause. In the end a streetlet was named for Šimaitė at the technical “edge” of the city center, not very traversed, but progress nonetheless.

Naturally, Defending History was there to report on the street name’s unveiling in 2015.

Continue reading

Posted in News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Vilnius’s Future Monument to the Righteous Holocaust Rescuers belongs on Gedimino Prospect

Eyewitness Report of 1 Oct. 2020 Vilnius District Court Hearing on Fate of Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery



OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  INTERNATIONAL PETITION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

by Julius Norwilla

The author is chairperson of the Vilnius Committee for Preservation of Piramónt (Šnipiškės) Cemetery. A selection of his English articles is available here.

Coronavirus-era court hearings are necessarily small in attendance, but that doesn’t take away from their potential historic import. Our small Defending History team, as usual, monitored today’s hearing at Vilnius District Court in the case brought by over a hundred descendants of people buried in the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (Shnípeshok, today’s Šnipiškės district in modern Vilnius, capital of Lithuania). They are asking for their family’s burial grounds, purchased in freehold perpetuity, to be defiled and humiliated by erection of a new national convention center based in the current Soviet ruin of Sporto Rumai (“The Sports Palace”) with construction of a large annex from the start. The case if part of a wider movement, local and international, calling on the Lithuanian government to move the convention center project away from the Old Jewish Cemetery to a new and morally clean venue. Issues of human and equal eights have arisen. This would never be the fate of a Lithuanian or Christian cemetery, as pointed out by the European Foundation for Human Rights which has taken an on-the-record interest in the case.

Turning to today’s hearing, the legal question under consideration was the request by the plaintiffs (the 100+ descendants) for the court to stop the planned imminent construction work on the site, or, in legal terminology, “termination of activities which creates a real threat of damage in the future” (Lith. “dėl uždraudimo atlikti veiksmus, sukeliančius realią grėsmę žalos padarymo ateityje galimybę”). It is case no. e2-625-918/2020.

Continue reading

Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Events, Human Rights, Julius Norwilla, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Eyewitness Report of 1 Oct. 2020 Vilnius District Court Hearing on Fate of Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery