Berlin Press Release on German President’s Award of Order of Merit to Rachel Kostanian



The following press release was received today from the office of Lukas Welz, chairman of the board of AMCHA Germany, who nominated Rachel Kostanian for the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Contacts: Email: info@amcha.de. Twitter: @amchade. Facebook: www.facebook.com/amcha.deutschland.

See also: Defending History’s report on the eventtributes and good wishes published on Ms. Kostanian’s 91st birthday; and DH’s Rachel Kostanian section.

Rachel Kostanian Awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany

From left: Rachel Kostanian; Andreas Görgen, head of the Directorate-General for Culture and Communication of Germany’s Federal Foreign Office; Lukas Welz, chairman of AMCHA Germany. Below: The Order of Merit. Photos: Florian Krauss for AMCHA Germany.

BERLIN—Rachel Kostanian was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany on February 9, 2021 in Berlin for her lifelong work in researching and remembering the Holocaust in Lithuania. For a quarter century she was director of a small but world-renowned and unique Holocaust museum in Vilnius, Lithuania, known as The Green House that she co-founded as Soviet rule was crumbling in the late 1980s.

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Happy  Independence Day, Lithuania!



We all join in celebrating February 16th 1918, just 103 years ago, that ushered in the successful interwar republic. Classic image of the Jews of the shtetl Dorbyán (Darbėnai, northwestern Lithuania) in 1928 celebrating the tenth anniversary of the happy day so cherished by all the peoples in the land. . .


 

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Defending History Monitors Annual Far-Right Vilnius March on 16 Feb. 2021



VILNIUS MARCHES  |  KAUNAS MARCHES  |  FAR-RIGHT MARCHES  |  COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED

by Julius Norwilla

VILNIUS—This year the ultranationalist gathering on today’s February 16th national independence day took place in the Old Town, at the newly erected statute of Lithuanian author, scholar and patriot, Jonas Basanavičius, one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence of 1918. Beside the national tricolors, I saw two more types of flags for “Pro Patria” and “Nacionalinis susivienijimas” (National Unity). Pro Patria is known as an ultranationalist movement targeting youth and an outlet of homophobic, Holocaust revisionist and xenophobic materials and initiatives. The National Unity seems to be mostly the same group of people, aspiring perhaps somewhat more to national politics.

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Commemorating the Holocaust and Healing Wounds in our Molėtai (Malát) District



MEMORIALS FOR JEWISH COMMUNITIES  |  MOLĖTAI (MALAT)  |  MUSEUMS

by Viktorija Kazlienė

Viktorija Kazlienė

Almost five years ago, an exceptional March of Jewish Remembrance took place in Molėtai, on 29 August 2016. On that occasion, an impressive monument was erected at the site of the mass murder of the Jewish citizens of Molėtai (known in Yiddish as Malát). For that, we are grateful to Tzvi Kritzer, a descendant of Molėtai Jews now living in Israel. Leonas Kaplanas, another son of survivors from the town, now living in Vilnius, also contributed significantly to organizing the March.

The Molėtai (Malát) March of Jewish Remembrance, 29 August 2016. Photo: Alvydas Balanda

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Professor Josifas Parasonis (Joseph Parason) Turns 80 in Vilnius



HAPPY 80th BIRTHDAY TO

Professor Joseph Parason

(Josifas Parasonis)

Key Figure in Vilnius’s Jewish Community

Major professor of the sciences of buildings and architecture at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU); major national expert on the science of structures

Courageous champion of Jewish causes, ethics and democracy in the community,  and the quest for historic truth and justice

Former deputy chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and beloved mentor to young people of all backgrounds

Stalwart member of many years’ standing in the weekly Vilnius Yiddish Literary Circle

Contributor to numerous publications, including Defending History

[Historical note: Prof. Parasonis’s 80th is also the 80th anniversary of the events in Lithuania of 1941. His dramatic escape from his native Kaunas as 4½ month old toddler with his mother, and the fate of the rest of the family, are summarized here]

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Saving the Vilna Jewish Cemetery (and Removing the Noreika Plaques): Time for a Strong Cup of Coffee



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

by Julius Norwilla

The author’s silent and peaceful Protest of Snow of Feb. 2021. View from across the river reminds Vilna that this is the Lithuanian capital’s Old Jewish Cemetery. Photo: Bartosz Frątczak.

The Lithuanian state budget for 2021 is torn between the need to increase spending on vital areas during a time of significantly less income. For the pandemic year of 2021, the postponement of some half a million euros toward initial stages of the (shameful) convention center project in the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery has not, in fact, been a big issue. Nor is it the great “victory” for our movement to save the cemetery that it has been trumped up to be. Half a million euros is about one percent of the total real budget. First, the convention center (Sports Palace restoration) project has been classified as of national significance. Second, there has been no decision of any kind to move the convention center to a new morally clean venue, away from the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, as per the call of some 54,000 people in Ruta Bloshtein’s petition.

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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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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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