Monthly Archives: May 2022

Uh-Oh, Here We Go Again: Secret Memorandum on Future of Vilna Great Synagogue Courtyard



OPINION | VILNA GREAT SYNAGOGUE

by Dovid Katz

It has not been easy for our embattled team to keep Defending History going for over a dozen years now, based here in Vilnius. But as with other small but committed projects committed to speaking out for historic justice whomever it will please or displease, misconceptions can flourish. For example, this journal has indeed opposed the misuse of millions of Lithuanian citizens’ hard earned tax euros for campaigns to “equalize” for new generations (and today’s West) Nazi and Soviet crimes (the “Red-Brown” Commission); to target Holocaust survivors who joined the anti-Nazi resistance by smearing them as “war criminals” (state prosecutors); to establish as European heroes brutal participants in the Holocaust (the Genocide Center and Museum); efforts by government bodies (foreign ministry under some governments) to insist on European Union cave-in to the revised Baltic far-right historiography (note the Prague Declaration and DH’s response: the Seventy Years Declaration received personally a decade ago by the president of the European Parliament).

UPDATE OF 7 JUNE 2022:

A senior employee of the official ‘Lithuanian Jewish Community’ has asserted to DH that the secret memorandum contains the line: ‘After World War II, the Jewish community in Vilnius and Lithuania declined significantly and is now dying out altogether’ (thereby sentencing, over the signature of the mayor, the official community head, and a major figure from the American Jewish Committee) our small but creative, dynamic, variegated and life-loving Vilna community to imminent and utter demise)…

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Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), American Jewish Committee (AJC) in Lithuania, Human Rights, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Vilna's Great Synagogue & its Courtyard (Shúlheyf) | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Uh-Oh, Here We Go Again: Secret Memorandum on Future of Vilna Great Synagogue Courtyard

Happy 60th Birthday to our Staff Writer Evaldas Balčiūnas, Unique Lithuanian Ethicist



Happy Birthday, Evaldas!

A major unheralded ethicist of our times

Lithuania’s most intrepid pursuer of historic truth and its defense. A decade ago, his series “Why Does My Country Honor Murderers?” included his 2012 revelation to the English speaking world on the Holocaust collaboration of “national hero” Jonas Noreika. From 2014 onward he was for years dragged into court in a prosecutorial campaign of kangaroo hearings and harassment. Defending History stood with him with pride. Today his work (selection in English) is sometimes undercredited elsewhere. But not here. Happy Birthday Evaldas!

Evaldas Balčiūnas at the Vilnius court where he was repeatedly harassed for telling the truth about local Holocaust perpetrators and collaborators. Defending History came to each and every hearing to provide support. After years of harassment he was found ‘not guilty’…

RELATED: Dovid Katz’s personal birthday tribute to Evaldas Balčiūnas.


Posted in Evaldas Balčiūnas, News & Views | Comments Off on Happy 60th Birthday to our Staff Writer Evaldas Balčiūnas, Unique Lithuanian Ethicist

Another ‘Fake Litvak Congress’? Litvaks of Lithuania are Excluded on Orders of Election-coup ‘Pylimo 4 Bosses’; Photo-op Foreigners In Town for Gov. Hosted Event



OPINION  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  | WHAT DO FAKE LITVAK GAMES LOOK LIKE?  |  VILNIUS JEWISH COMMUNITY’S STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE  |  (AB)USE OF JEWISH EVENTS FOR HOLOCAUST REVISIONISM  | WHEN GOV. MINISTRIES MEDDLE IN FRAGILE MINORITY CULTURE (& HISTORY DEBATES)  |  LITHUANIA

by Dovid Katz

Most Lithuanian government officials in diverse branches of its democratic government, including so many in its Culture and Education ministries, its local museums and libraries, its schools and cultural centers, have a warm and healthy attitude toward both the historic weight and tragic fate of the nation’s Jewish minority. This is important to keep in mind as we come yet again to provide a voice for the voiceless: the manipulation of the fragile Litvak and Yiddish culture, of the last survivors and their families, and of Holocaust history by some small and lavishly financed “Jewish fix-it units” including the Genocide Center, Genocide Museum, Red-Brown Commission, and a scattering of “Jewish, Yiddish and Litvak” centers in central Vilnius, a good part of which exclude from all professional participation people — including top specialists in the relevant field — who dare disagree with state revisionism on the Holocaust. In some cases, this policy brings about the succeeding phase of “Jewish” addresses without a single Jewish member of staff (think African American Cultural Center in Alabama, staffed by pure lily-whites who won’t mess up and peradventure say something contrary to local “patriotic” history-book narratives demanded by nationalists).

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Posted in "Jewish" Events as Cover?, American Jewish Committee (AJC) in Lithuania, Dovid Katz, Events, Foreign Ministries: Holocaust Politics Abuse?, Identity Theft of Litvak Heritage, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, ministries, News & Views, Opinion, What Do Fake Litvak Games Look Like? | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Another ‘Fake Litvak Congress’? Litvaks of Lithuania are Excluded on Orders of Election-coup ‘Pylimo 4 Bosses’; Photo-op Foreigners In Town for Gov. Hosted Event

Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, State-Defamed Jewish World War II Partisan Hero, Turns 100



BLAMING THE VICTIMS  |  FANIA BRANTSOVSKY SECTION  |  HISTORY  |   EVENTS  |  YIDDISH CULTURE LITHUANIA  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS

 

The following is a paste-in of today’s Facebook post by Dovid Katz marking Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky’s 100th birthday in Vilnius, Lithuania. The original, along with its Comments section is on FB, accompanied by a modest selection of photographs of Fania, and of Fania with Dovid and others over the years.

Clockwise from upper left: Fania is at far left in family photo from 1932 or 1933 in front of her father’s shop on Vilna’s Zavalna St. (today Pylimo in Vilnius); Fania showing visitors the underground bunkers where she lived while fighting the Nazis in the Jewish partisan fort in the forest (now sinking into the ground, Fania’s last wish is that it be restored and preserved for posterity); Fania and fellow partisan veteran Chasia Langbord Shpanerflig sing the partisan hymn at a May 9th memorial; Fania bring honored at a banquet at the residence of the Irish ambassador to Lithuania, HE Dónal Denham in a pushback against state attempts to prosecute and defame her and other veterans of the Jewish partisans with ambassadors from Norway, Austria, France, the UK and other Western nations joining in; Fania in the Vilna Ghetto (1941-1943); with Dovid enjoying looking at some old Vilna Yiddish books together.

HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY TO DEAR FANIA YOCHELES BRANTSOVSKY (FANIA BRANCOVSKAJA)

Today, May 22nd 2022, is Fania’s 100th. It has been a privilege to know her and work closely with her for some thirty years. A graduate of Vilna’s remarkable secular Yiddish school built by the legendary Sofia Markovna Gurevitsh, she went on to suffer loss of her entire family in the Holocaust. Her own incarceration in the Vilna Ghetto lasted from the Ghetto’s first day to its last, when she escaped to join the Jewish partisans with whom she fought heroically in the forests of Lithuania against the Nazis, based in the wooden underground bunkers at the “Jewish fort” outside Vilnius, which Fania dreams to this day will be restored and preserved for future generations to remember the Holocaust and the Jewish resistance (it is at present literally sinking into the earth). To come together to make this happen would be Fania’s most cherished 100th birthday present. (Alas efforts to date have faded with various organizations’ timidity, but may that now rapidly change!).

For a summary of the story of the Last Jewish Fort, please see Defending History’s report.

Please try to imagine the mental cruelty Holocaust survivor Fania (who lost her entire family, herself survived by joining the anti-Nazi resistance, becoming a hero of the free world) has had to endure from a major state-sponsored commission in an EU member state. This has been covered in a major documentary film (alternate link). See also recent ultranationalists’ defamation of Fania

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Posted in A 21st Century Campaign Against Lithuanian Holocaust Survivors?, Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky (Fania Brancovskaja), History, Lithuania, News & Views, Yiddish Affairs | Comments Off on Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, State-Defamed Jewish World War II Partisan Hero, Turns 100

Is Walking Down a Street Named for a Murderer Now Considered ‘Holocaust Remembrance’?



Opinion  |  Collaborators Glorified  | Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas  |  Politics of Memory  | Lithuania  |  History

by Evaldas Balčiūnas

Just another street name in a pleasant part of Kaunas, this year’s Capital of European Culture? Author thinks that “Kaunas and its people deserve better”…

Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas (1915–1948) is remembered by the Republic of Lithuania for his anti-Soviet guerilla activities after the war but without regard for the three separate periods of his activity in service to Nazi activities to exterminate the Jewish people. He did indeed join the anti-Soviet partisan resistance movement in the spring of 1945. And, before his death, he did become the head of its Tauras County unit. Those who heroize this period of his activities emphasize his efforts in establishing military discipline and order in the county. His critics, in turn, are more likely to make reference to his order to the Žalgiris Detachment, subordinate to the Tauras County, to annihilate Russian (Soviet) civilian settlers (“colonists”) in Opšrūtai, who had been transferred to Lithuania according to the Soviet-Nazi repatriation agreement (often with little or no input from these folks themselves). Thirty-one persons perished in Opšrūtai, including fourteen children. In the partisans’ descriptions of the battle, it is easy to notice that their task was to eradicate all colonists, including children. Those who justify the atrocity against civilians, including children, say that it was necessary to thwart the russification of Lithuania.

Lithuania’s policy of historical memory was quite straightforward on this issue: it built a monument to the partisans of the Žalgiris Detachment in Opšrūtai. Ethnic cleansing of Jews, if done by “our own nationalist heroes” in Lithuania, is still seen, it seems, as acceptable.

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Posted in Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas, Antisemitism & Bias, Christian-Jewish Issues, Collaborators Glorified, Evaldas Balčiūnas, Genocide Center (Vilnius), Kaunas, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Is Walking Down a Street Named for a Murderer Now Considered ‘Holocaust Remembrance’?

Updates on Kaunas’s ‘Capital of European Culture 2022’ Year Without (So Far) Removing a Single Shrine to Local Holocaust Collaborators


[latest update]

OPINION  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED  | THE 2022 LEVINAS AFFAIR OF 2022

Congratulations to the city of Kaunas, Lithuania, once known also as Kovno (in Yiddish forever: Kóvne) on its selection as Europe’s “Capital of European Culture” in 2022, sharing the title with Esch-sur-Alzette in Luxembourg. But as  the midpoint of the city’s co-reign rapidly approaches, it is necessary, albeit sad, to have to note that not a single public-space glorification of local Holocaust collaborators had been removed. Zero. No city on the planet has as many monuments to local partners in the genocide of that city’s Jews. The 30,000 Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews) of Kaunas were brutally murdered, and the city played the primary role in the launch of the Lithuanian genocide on 23 June 1941, before the arrival of the first German forces. Thousands were murdered before the Germans arrived and/or set up their administration.

See Lev Golinkin’s updated 2022 catalogue in the Forward of public space shrines to Nazi collaborators worldwide

Lithuanian government authorities have  reportedly invested large sums to lure “Useful Jewish Idiots” from the UK, US, Israel, and further afield to participate in “cultural events” intended to obfuscate and deflect from the primary issue: Why are the enablers of the slaughter of Kovno Jewry still honored by street names, plaques and university lecture halls and statues in the city? Local Jewish leaders who have dared to speak up have rapidly been smeared as “Putinists” for daring to criticize the far right’s hold over national history policy (and indeed, the need for such a policy to start with).

But in the waning days of 2021, a “waterfall of truth” began to cascade from an unanticipated quarter. Michael Levinas, son of the celebrated Lithuanian-Jewish born French philosopher Emanuel Levinas, forbade authorities to name a fancy new institute after his father. This was kept under wraps until his 21 Dec.  Le Figaro opinion piece broke the story, and it was duly reported in Lithuania by LRT.lt. See Defending History’s media tracker page for background and updates.

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Posted in 'Levinas Center' in Kaunas, Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas, Collaborators Glorified, Human Rights, Jonas Žemaitis, Kaunas, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Neo-Nazi & Fascist Marches, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Updates on Kaunas’s ‘Capital of European Culture 2022’ Year Without (So Far) Removing a Single Shrine to Local Holocaust Collaborators

Subtle Art of State Antisemitism ― East European Style (with ubiquitous nod to glorification of Holocaust collaborators)



OPINION  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  (AB)USE OF JEWISH STUDIES FOR HISTORICAL REVISIONISM  |  YIDDISH AFFAIRS  | YIVO IN LITHUANIA  | MEDIA WATCH  | FOREIGN MINISTRIES AND JUDAIC STUDIES  |  COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED  | NOREIKA GLORIFIED

by Julius Norwilla (Vilnius)

On the 4th of April 2022, the website of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a news item titled (in Lithuanian, here translated) “Lithuania will expand cooperation with Yivo Jewish Research Institute, preserving and publicizing Lithuanian Jewish history” (as PDF). The site’s English language section uses the headline wording “Lithuania to expand cooperation with Yivo Institute for Jewish Research to protect and promote the history and heritage of Lithuanian Jews” (as PDF).

The news article contains information about the visit of the esteemed American scholar, Dr. Jonathan Brent, the executive director and CEO of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research in New York, also a famed educator and academic publisher, with his colleagues, and their meeting with the deputy foreign minister. The news item appears intent on communicating to the world how much our country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs cares about its Jewish and Yiddish legacy and how sensitive it is to the history of Lithuanian Jewry.

Both the Lithuanian and English versions are illustrated with a three-photo gallery portraying three scenes of the meeting: shaking hands at the welcome, a moment at the meeting table and the final with those at the meeting posing for the official photo-op.

Everything seems to be done according to the usual protocols of such meetings, at which the professional photographer takes numerous photos from start to finish, culminating with the final photo-op. Then the few dozen shots are whittled down to the most informative and appropriate handful for publication. The ones that make the point best. Elementary.

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Posted in "Jewish" Events as Cover?, Antisemitism & Bias, Bold Citizens Speak Out, Christian-Jewish Issues, Collaborators Glorified, Foreign Ministries: Holocaust Politics Abuse?, Julius Norwilla, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Media Watch, ministries, News & Views, State Glorification of Holocaust Collaborator J. Noreika, What Do Fake Litvak Games Look Like?, Yiddish Affairs, Yivo Manipulated? | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Subtle Art of State Antisemitism ― East European Style (with ubiquitous nod to glorification of Holocaust collaborators)

Books in the Debate 2022 — With Latest on Silvia Foti’s “Nazi’s Granddaughter”


[updated]

see also: BOOKS SECTION


Evaldas Balčiūnas reviews Vilnius Genocide Center chief’s new book on the Lithuanian Holocaust; in German translation


Silvia Foti: The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal

UPDATE OF MAY 2022:

Sylvia Foti’s major new book is widely available in English and Lithuanian, among other languages. QUESTION: Why is the center of Vilnius still blighted by an upgraded plaque & bas-relief  (right) and a central boulevard marble slab glorifying Hitler collaborator Jonas Noreika, who masterminded the death of thousands of Jews, and touted his unadulterated hate for Jewish fellow citizens in a prewar book? Why do  Western diplomats, and most visiting American, British and Israeli Jewish dignitaries feel obliged to avoid even the most polite critique of these prominent carbuncles on the face of the European Union? Surely, a true friend of Lithuania would want the best for Lithuania and its international stature, even if a small far-right “history rewriting elite” might feel offended.

Kitos Knygos Books published Lithuanian edition of Silvia Foti’s book; she appeared in Vilnius to launch it at the Feb. 2022 Vilnius Book Fair

See the author’s major op-eds in the New York Times (27 Jan. 2021 [as PDF]), Wall Street Journal (26 Aug. 2021 [as PDF] & Lou Gerber’s 7 Sept.WSJ letter [as PDF]; EU Today (2 Sept. 2021 [as PDF]); author’s BBC Hard Talk interview with Stephen Sackur (15 April 2021); 17 Sept. 2021 report in Spiegel;

Events include: Seminar at Harvard University’s Davis Center; Jewish Federation of Greater Houston (23 Jan. 2022); Palos Heights (Ill.) Public Library (10 May 2022)

Related reports in Algemeiner.com; Andrew Higgins in The New York Times; Gil Skorwid and Patrick Smith on NBC NewsGrant Arthur Gochin in Jewish JournalRichard S. Hirschhaut at American Jewish Committee

Reviews of Foti’s The Nazi’s Granddaughter: Bettina Berch in Jewish Book Council; Liz Mineo in the Harvard Gazette; in the National Book Review.

Background on author’s website.   Spanish edition

When you visit Vilnius, Kaunas and other Lithuanian citizens, be sure to ask the powers that be to remove city-center shrines to brutal Holocaust collaborators that mar this beautiful European country.

See also a selection of street names and public-space shrines across Lithuania and DH’s Collaborators Glorified section. Also: Noreika section.

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Posted in Books, History, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Rūta Vanagaitė | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Books in the Debate 2022 — With Latest on Silvia Foti’s “Nazi’s Granddaughter”