Monthly Archives: December 2020

Defending History’s Year (2020) Honoring Antanas Zubrys and Dr. Matilda Zubrienė Comes to Close



Antanas Zubrys and Dr. Matilda Zubrienė

VILNIUS—As 2020 draws to its close in the Lithuanian capital, the Defending History community pays renewed respect to the inspiring Antanas Zubrys and Dr. Matilda Zubrienė whose epic of heroism in just doing the right thing in the face of Nazi rule was recounted on these pages one year ago tonight by Danutė Selčinskaja, chief of the department for Righteous of the Nations at the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum of Lithuania. Let us never forget the true heroes of Holocaust-era Eastern Europe, whose bravery had to be “even greater” when genocide of a local minority was being confounded with loyalty to the nation’s purported “nationalist leaders.”

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Lithuania Hears Pleas and (For Now?) Cancels Funding for Convention Center Project in Old Jewish Cemetery



OPINION  | HUMAN RIGHTS | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH ISSUES  |  CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES  |  OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO ‘CONVENTION CENTER  IN THE CEMETERY’ PROJECT |INTERNATIONAL PETITION

by Andrius Kulikauskas

A Victory for Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s

On December 16, 2020, the sixth day of Hanukkah, defenders of the oldest Jewish cemetery in Vilnius (at Piramont-Šnipiškės) won a major, decisive, surprising, timeless victory. Lithuania’s government, acting on our campaign’s and Seimas member Kęstutis Masiulis’s proposals to the Seimas (parliament) Budget and Finance Committee, struck from the 2021 budget all funding for the reconstruction of the Vilnius Sports Palace into a Vilnius Congress Center. This building, which the Soviets had erected in the middle of the Cemetery, had fallen into disuse. The Lithuanian government acquired the building in 2015 with plans to remake it as a center for international conferences, further desecrating the Cemetery for untold years to come. Thankfully, the newly elected Government has eliminated funding.

The Government’s website includes a page for that afternoon’s meeting. The third item of the meeting is Finance Minister Gintarė Skaistė’s report on the revised budget. She spoke for twenty minutes and made no mention of the Congress Center. However, if you look through the documents (here and here), you will see that the allocation of 515,000 euros (around $631,000) as installment toward the multi-million euro reconstruction of the Sports Palace has been expressly eliminated.

The highlighted sentence in the parliament’s revised budget explicitly eliminates the 515,000 euro allocation for phase 1 of the “convention center in the cemetery” project…

Seimas Budget and Finance Committee Bureau Chief Alina Brazdilienė sent me an email so that I would be sure to notice. She had been responsive to my concerns that the 54 letters and many more received by the Committee from us in November were not visible to the Government. On December 15th she had told me that the day before she had emailed the Ministry to ask if they would like to see our emails. The Ministry had replied that they would not because they had not yet come to their own position. Understandably, I was not happy that the Ministry was not interested to see all of our arguments. I did not expect us to win. I was wrong!

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Posted in Andrius Kulikauskas, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Politics of Memory | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Lithuania Hears Pleas and (For Now?) Cancels Funding for Convention Center Project in Old Jewish Cemetery

New York’s Mirrer Yeshiva Appeals to Lithuania’s Leaders on Fate of Old Vilna Cemetery



HUMAN RIGHTS |  CHRISTIAN-JEWISH ISSUES  |  CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES  |  OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT  |  OPPOSITION TO ‘CONVENTION CENTER  IN THE CEMETERY’ PROJECT  |  INTERNATIONAL PETITION

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK—Rabbi Pinchos Hecht, director of New York’s famed Mirrer Yeshiva, issued a two-page letter today expressing an impassioned appeal to Lithuania’s president, prime minister, finance minister, and the Seimas (parliament) budget review team, imploring them to halt the misguided project to erect the nation’s central convention center in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, where thousands still lie buried on all four sides of a Soviet eyesore slated for reconstruction. Protests have been lodged by virtually all the leading Lithuanian tradition (Litvak) rabbis internationally, as well as over 53,000 people who have signed a petition. The saga has been dragging on for years.

“Human rights and dignity do not end with one’s death. The individuals buried in the Snipisek cemetery are the most helpless type of individuals, as they are unable to speak for themselves. The Holocaust wiped out the very community in whose care the preservation of the cemetery would have been entrusted.”

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, CPJCE (London), Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New York’s Mirrer Yeshiva Appeals to Lithuania’s Leaders on Fate of Old Vilna Cemetery

Is USAID Still Using American Tax Payer Dollars to Support Glorification of Holocaust Collaborators in Ukraine?



OPINION  |  GLORIFICATION OF COLLABORATORS  |  UKRAINE   |  UNITED STATES

by Moss Robeson

USAID-sponsored 2017 Shadow Report: “Memory Policy Reform: Interim Results of Enforcement of the Decommunization Laws”

“It sounds like something straight out of the wackiest conspiracy sites on the internet — but it may be true,” began an overlooked article published by Defending History over two years ago which incredulously reported that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had allegedly played a role in the rehabilitation of Ukrainian Nazi collaborator war criminals.

Not only can that report now be confirmed — we’ll come back to that — but it can be said that the issue of USAID lending support to Ukrainian nationalist memory politics goes beyond what was already hard to believe. For starters, look no further than the recent Ukraine Reform Conference held in Kyiv on November 17-19 and 23-27, which concluded with a “national memory policy” panel. The eight day long forum was sponsored by the USAID, among other institutions.

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Please Email by December 17 to Urge Lithuania’s Finance Ministry to Respect the Old Jewish Cemetery in Vilnius



OPINION  | HUMAN RIGHTS | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH ISSUES  |  CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES  |  OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO ‘CONVENTION CENTER  IN THE CEMETERY’ PROJECT |INTERNATIONAL PETITION

by Andrius Kulikauskas

Thank you once again to all who wrote emails to Lithuania’s Parliament (Seimas) to oppose the financing of the reconstruction of the Vilnius Concert and Sports Building Complex which the Soviets built in the heart of the oldest Jewish Cemetery in Vilnius at Piramont-Šnipiškės. As things stand, the budget for 2021 includes 515,000 euros to organize the contests to select the operator and the contractor for the complex, and further foresees 16,685,000 euros in 2022 and 10,173,000 euros in 2023 for the building works involved.

We now need to write letters to Lithuania’s Finance Ministry and even the President of Lithuania. Today, December 11, 2020, the new Government has been sworn in, including the Finance Minister. This new Government will have just a few days to revise the budget for 2021 before it returns it to Seimas on December 17 for the second review.

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Posted in Andrius Kulikauskas, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Politics of Memory | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Please Email by December 17 to Urge Lithuania’s Finance Ministry to Respect the Old Jewish Cemetery in Vilnius

Lipke’s List: Story of an Inspiring Latvian Rescuer Who Risked All to Do the Right Thing



LATVIA  |  BOOKS  |  HISTORY  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS

by Roland Binet (De Panne, Belgium)

Under the Nazis the Jews had not the right to live. Under the Soviets they had not the right to publicly commemorate the victims of the Holocaust as Jews. In the Baltic States the fate of the Jews during World War II had not only been harsh, it had led to over 95% of their population being killed in front of open pits, in the ghettos, in work details, in camps, by bullets, beatings, hunger, exhaustion through work, or by mere sadistic arbitrary acts of killing.

In the sixties, some Jewish activists living in Latvia, mostly in Riga, became interested in recording the history of the Holocaust in their native country by interviewing survivors and preserving the memory of what happened during these terrible times. They had to act secretly because the Soviet authorities and the KGB frowned upon Soviet citizens who considered themselves Jews as well as Soviet citizens.

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