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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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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Meet the Nationalist Custodian of Ukraine’s New “Virtual Necropolis”



OPINION  |  GLORIFICATION OF COLLABORATORS  |  UKRAINE   |  UNITED STATES

by Moss Robeson

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day this year, The Forward published a shocking collection of articles by Lev Golinkin, a friend of Defending History, called the “Nazi Collaborator Monument Project.” As the most comprehensive survey of such monuments around the world it should be a catalyst for an international reckoning with the continued glorification of Holocaust perpetrators in the 21st century. 

Less than a week earlier, Jerusalem Post reporter Jeremy Sharon shed light on a very different sort of project after exploring a digital cemetery being constructed by the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory (UINP). Launched in November 2020 for Ukrainians buried abroad, the “Virtual necropolis of the Ukrainian emigration” is far from complete, but is already stacked with Nazi collaborators, including “senior auxiliary police unit officials” who massacred Jews.

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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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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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Books in the Debate 2021


[updated]


Christoph Dieckmann & Ruta Vanagaite: How Did It Happen? (Our People. Part II. Understanding the Holocaust in Lithuania)Available for online order.

Book launch in Vilnius on 25 June 2020 (LJC video). DH opinion piece on background. Reviews by Silvia Foti (Times of Israel), Aušra Maldeikienė (Literaturairmenas.lt); Linas Vildžiūnas (Lrt.lt; 7md.lt).

English edition in press

 

Silvia Foti: Tears of Discovery. How I Learned My Grandfather was a Nazi War Criminal (in press)

2021 Spanish edition now available

Background on author’s website. In her latest blog, the author again fails to credit Evaldas Balčiūnas for revealing, in 2012, the Noreika history (and  thereafter that of  other glorified perpetrators)  to the English speaking world, for which he was persecuted by police and prosecutors for years (see his section, scroll down to  May 2014). References to the recent glorification of Noreika and Skirpa by a prominent scholar the Genocide Center and “Red-Brown Commission” on 23 June 2020 don’t cite Defending History’s eyewitness report in Vilnius. 

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The Seven Simple Solutions to Irksome Lithuanian-Jewish Issues



Some Simple and Constructive Solutions to the Irksome “Jewish Issues” that Continue to Haunt the Lithuanian Government and Its Agencies

NOTE: The original (2009) version of this document was constructed in close cooperation with the late Dr. Shimon Alperovich (1928-2014), elected head of the Jewish Community of Lithuania for many years. Revisions were discussed with him in detail until several days before his death in 2014.  Naturally, he does not bear responsibility for the document’s annual updates since that time but his intellectual imprint on its spirit should not go uncredited.

1

Abandonment of the state’s financing of the campaign to obfuscate the Holocaust by means of its Double Genocide campaign, including “cooked” international events, conferences, film screenings and panel discussions; withdrawal of formal state support for the Prague Declaration and similar projects, closing down of the “red-brown commission” and the inauguration of an atmosphere of full freedom for citizens and organizations to support alternatives including the Seventy Years Declaration. Holocaust history to be included in historically accurate proportionality in the Genocide Museum and all relevant tourist locations that deal with genocide. Abandonment of the extensive  state sponsored program to glorify the local Holocaust perpetrators of 1941, including the “Lithuanian Activist Front” (LAF), whose leaflets indicated desire to murder the country’s Jewish citizens even before arrival of Nazi forces. Rapid correction of the mischaracterization of the early local perpetrators as supposedly heroic rebels in the new basement room on the Holocaust in the Genocide Museum.

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Why The First Week of the Lithuanian Holocaust is Historically Unique. Whom to Honor on the 80th Anniversary?



by Dovid Katz

For years now, Defending History has, on the first of January each year, named the newborn year in honor of Lithuanian Holocaust-era Rescuers, or Righteous of the Nations as they are also known (tsadíkey úmes ho-óylem in Yiddish). In 2020 — Antanas Zubrys and Dr. Matilda Zubrienė; in 2019 — Jonas Paulavičius; in 2018 — Malvina Šokelytė Valeikienė. That is a tradition we hope to resume next year. But 2021, the eightieth anniversary of 1941, calls for something more focused, not least when some governmental bodies have chosen, shockingly, to use the anniversary to glorify the perpetrators rather than commemorate the victims and honor those who helped a neighbor to escape the rapidly closing death vise in the last week of June 1941.

By and large, the 916 Rescuers recognized by Yad Vashem (and a somewhat larger number if those recognized by Lithuanian institutions and assorted survivor families are added) are people who risked their own and their families’ lives to hide (and feed, sustain, care for and guard) a Jew or Jews for an extended period, risking it all for weeks, months or years, until the fall of the Nazi regime at the hands of the USSR — then in alliance with the United States, Great Britain and the other Allies — in July of 1944 (there were no American or British forces in Eastern Europe…). As an old adage, variously attributed, goes: One fascist with an automatic weapon could murder hundreds of trapped innocent civilians in some moments, but to save one person took years of heart-wrenching, inspirationally courageous effort by entire families and networks of incredibly good people. In the Baltics, the courage had to be greater than most other places, because they were regarded as traitors to their own nationalist leaders, not only to the occupying Nazi forces. And frankly, because things are different when much or most of the actual killing is done by willing locals idolized by the nationalists of the day.

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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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Story of a Little Roma Boy in Modern Vilnius



OPINION  |  ROMA RIGHTS   |  HUMAN RIGHTS

 

by Vilma Fiokla Kiurė

Vitia, a little Roma boy, looks out the window of his poor red house in Kirtimai, on the outskirts of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital

 

Vilma Fiokla Kiurė

I thought for a long time about what to report about the situation of the Lithuanian Roma — about their lives today. And I decided to yell you about the little Roma boy called Vitia. Because, by telling his story I will also tell about the painful part of many Roma here in Lithuania in the final months of 2020.

But first a little background.

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When Symbol Adored by Neo-Nazis is Plonked on a “Gaon of Vilna Coin”: Selling at $1500 a Pop on Ebay



SYMBOLOGY  |  THE TEN-EURO “GAON COIN”  |  ABUSE OF JEWISH PROJECTS  |  THE “FAKE LITVAK” INDUSTRY  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

Would Folks Outside Lithuania Suspect that New “Gaon of Vilna” Coin Seeks to Kosherize an Ultranationalist Symbol Beloved of Antisemitic Far Right?

Holocaust Survivors and their families in Lithuania are shocked. Rabbis and others protest.

See DH’S section on the new “far-right icon held up by the hollowed-out menorah”

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Who in Lithuania’s Seimas (Parliament) Represents Your Shtetl?



OPINION  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS  |  OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  LATEST NEWS ON CEMETERY   |  PETITION

by Andrius Kulikauskas

Here is a list of 259 shtetls, large and small Lithuanian Jewish communities, which were located within what are now the boundaries of modern day Lithuania (many Litvaks hail from classical Lithuanian lands now in neighboring states, see map). Each row provides the Lithuanian name of the city or town, the Yiddish name in Latin letters and Hebrew letters, possibly with variant spellings, following Dovid Katz’s provisional online list (linked to a map),  and also the name of the current representative in Seimas, Lithuania’s parliament, a link to their web page, and finally, their official email address.

Seimas is the Lithuanian parliament. Its members serve four year terms. Half of them are elected through nationwide party slates and the other half represent electoral districts. The district boundaries can change with each election. The list below shows the representatives elected in the October 2020 election. See Seimas’s own English language page for photos of each, and each member’s political affiliation.

Lithuanians and Litvaks from around the world have many good reasons to write to the members in Seimas representing their ancestral homelands. These members can act on issues of local heritage and also speak out on matters of national policy. Indeed, many national issues are well pursued by building relationships with members of Seimas in districts throughout Lithuania. This is certainly the case with defending the old Vilnius Jewish Cemetery in Piramónt-Šnipiškės.

Members of Seimas or their assistants can also be helpful in making contacts with local authorities such as mayors and aldermen.

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