Tag Archives: Vilnius Jewish cemetery
Open Letter to (1) Archimenai; (2) Institute of Design & Restoration; (3) Sigitas Kuncevičius; (4) Vilnius Architecture Studio
16 AUG 2021—Defending History reports on the Lithuanian government’s cancellation of the “convention center in the cemetery” citing Alfa.lt and BNS and derivitate media reports. Congratulations are offered on the historic turnabout.
Leading Lithuanian (Litvak) Yeshivas Applaud Prime Minister’s Decision to Suspend Vilnius ‘Convention Center in the Cemetery’ (CCC)
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS
VILNIUS—Deans (rosh-yeshivas, Heb. roshei-yeshiva) of three of the world’s greatest Lithuanian tradition (Litvak) yeshivas, located in the United States and Israel, all proud to bear the Yiddish names of the Lithuanian cities from which they hail, today released a letter to Ingrida Šimonytė, prime minister of Lithuania, expressing admiration and gratitude for her recent suspension of the project to situate a national convention center in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in the Shnípishok/Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius), where thousands would cheer, sing and revel surrounded by multitudes of graves going back over half a millennium.
The project has, in some eyes, tarnished Lithuania’s image over the last seven years, eliciting considerable local and international opposition. Today’s public congratulations from three of the top Lithuanian yeshiva deans, who carry on the traditions of the Gaon of Vilna and numerous other Lithuanian rabbinic luminaries, is widely seen, in the broader context, to help Lithuania rapidly surmount recent setbacks and embark on a new era of Lithuanian-Jewish (and more generally, crosscultural) harmony in the run-up to international celebration of the 700th birthday of the founding of Vilnius (Vilna, Vílne, Wilno) coming up in 2023.
The following English text is a translation from the Hebrew original.
Translation of Vilnius City Council’s 25 Aug. 2021 ‘Shameful Resolution’ on Old Vilnius Jewish Cemetery
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS
VILNIUS—The following is Defending History’s translation of the text of today’s Vilnius City Council resolution posted on its website. See our report, and the earlier news of the prime minister’s widely heralded cancellation of CCC (“convention center in the cemetery”) to which this resolution is a direct response. See esp. the paragraph colored red below for rapid reference, where the resolution condemns the government’s “abandonment” of the CCC.
VILNIUS CITY COUNCIL
ON VILNIUS PALACE OF CONCERTS AND SPORTS
August 25, 2021, No. 41
DEFENDING HISTORY’S SECTION; ROLE OF THE US TAXPAYER FUNDED USCPAHA; OF LONDON’S CPJCE ‘GRAVE-SELLING RABBIS’
Alan Dershowitz Calls Plans for Convention Center in Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery a Violation of Lithuania’s Constitution
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS
VILNIUS—Alan Dershowitz, often deemed to be America’s leading constitutional lawyer, confirmed to Defending History this morning that the following statement, that has been circulating in emails and social media, is wholly accurate. The Harvard professor’s statement on the fate of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery at Piramont (in the Shnípishok/Šnipiškės section of Vilnius) reads:
“The 2015 Seimas resolution green-lighting the conference center on the Shnipishok cemetery in Vilna, Lithuania, undermines the provisions of the Lithuanian Constitution, Articles 22 and 26. These respective provisions in the Constitution protect religious freedom and religious institutions.
“Beyond raising a compelling constitutional issue, this resolution is wrong as a matter of justice, historical preservation, basic decency and the dignity of the dead.”
Vilnius Court’s May 10th Verdict Illustrates “Insidious and Tragic” Destruction of East European Cemeteries via London’s CPJCE
VILNIUS—Readers are familiar with an English summary of the Vilnius District Court’s 10 May decision paving the way for a massive national convention center and annex to rise in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (Shnípishok, in today’s Šnipiškės district), surrounded by thousands of extant graves on all four sides. Moreover, the entire text of the Lithuanian original is posted for inspection.
Jump to verdict’s excerpts referencing the CPJCE (and AJC)
What may be lost from the summary, and to those unable to read Lithuanian or to access a translation, is the “insidious and tragic” — and in any case central — role played by London’s “CPJCE” (the Orwellian name is “Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe), whose “Aaronite-Satmar” rabbis have been caught on Wikileaks demanding large sums for their “supervisions” (and in effect, permissions) for effectively selling rights to old Jewish cemeteries on ground zero of the Holocaust. The effects of the genocide include the dearth of viable communities of descendants of the buried who would in the course of things guard the dignity of their ancestors’ burial places (see: 2009 Wikileaks cable confirming secret payments; 2015 reports by JTA and the Jerusalem Post; the “Serious Incident Report” to UK’s Charities Commission. See also last December’s “Day of Shame”). Incidentally, the opposing (“Zalmanite”) branch of Satmar hasidism has boldly condemned the desecration of the old Vilna cemetery in a statement signed by the grandrabbi himself.
From the infamous 2015 video to the present court decision, Defending History has been providing a detailed record of at least the publicly knowable aspects of the group’s shameful role in the Vilna scandal, scoffing and belittling the voices of virtually all Litvak (Lithuanian tradition) rabbis internationally (see DH’s section on the CPJCE (plus the classic video) on the broader Vilna cemetery dispute, and summary pages of the international opposition and more recent developments).
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
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.
Will city’s leaders finally remove state-sponsored public-space shrines, sculptures & street names glorifying local Hitlerists who helped annihilate city’s 30,000 Jews in the Holocaust?
JUST IN: Composer and pianist Michael Levinas, son of French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, publicly protests Lithuania’s naming an institute in Kaunas for his father. Op-ed in Le Figaro. Interview in Actualité Juive.
“The question on everybody’s mind” is: Will the Levinas Center leaders, staff, sponsors and visitors politely ask that the city of Kaunas now, in its year as “Capital of European Culture” rapidly remove state-sponsored shrines to the local murderers of Levinas’s family and the other 30,000 Jewish citizens of Kaunas? Or will the Levinas Center become one of the “Useful Jewish Idiot Addresses” that are used to cover for current policies of glorification of Nazi perpetrators and defamation of local dissidents?
Takes on Kaunas 2022 in the wake of Nazi shrines abounding in town (and the university): Arndt Beck; Thomas Pfanne; Dovid Katz
The plaque with bas-relief glorifying the prime minister of Adolf Hitler’s puppet government in Kaunas. That “provisional government” collaborated in the sudden and total dehumanization of the city’s 30,000 Jewish citizens. It still adorns a lecture hall in his name at the city’s Vytautas Magnus University. There is also a matrix of street names and public-space exhibits glorifying the Holocaust’s perpetrators. Will the EU politely call for their removal as Kaunas becomes “Capital of European Culture” or are these the EU’s lax new standards for elementary European values? See the reactions when the Nazi puppet PM was reburied with full honors nearly a decade ago.
City Council opens brand new square named for alleged 1941 Holocaust murderer Juozas Lukša (“Daumantas”) in spite of pleas and testimony from the (late) last Holocaust Survivors who provided evidence. Council members tell DH off the record: “What do you want, this was a grand compromise with the Jews, not to make the square in the old town or city center!” (citing far-right demands for the square to be opposite the Jewish Community building).
See Defending History’s chronology of the 2021 debate, including links to Alex Faitelson’s book, British Parliament members’ 2012 early day motion, and 2021 calls from World Jewish Congress’s Dr. Laurence Weinbaum, the Jewish Community of Lithuania, and (very unusually) the American Jewish Committee. See essays by Defending History’s Dovid Katz and Evaldas Balčiūnas.
Testimony identified Mr. Lukša as one of the participants in the beheading of Rabbi Zalmen Osovsky of Slabodka (before the arrival of German forces) and as a participant in the Kaunas Lietukis Garage Massacre.
Town Council of Zedelgem, Belgium, Decides to Dismantle Offensive ‘Beehive’ Monument to Latvia’s Waffen SS
Online for the first time: 30 years of Holocaust Survivor testimonies from Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine
Survivor testimonies and linguistic and cultural interviews, all in Yiddish, videographed mostly in situ from 1990 to 2020
Excerpts of testimonies on the launch of the Lithuanian Holocaust in the week of 23 June 1941; in Latvia
Roland Binet on the Road Sign Welcoming Visitors to Zedelgem, Belgium’s Town with the Nazist Waffen SS Monument
26 Sept. 2021
Defending History Turns 12
Founded on 6 Sept. 2009. Emailed circulars and reports from May 2008 were then uploaded making for a record starting in 2008, A dozen years of posts provide a unique record.
ON OUR PAGES
Contributions in the United States are now fully tax-deductible via the new nonprofit Preserving Yiddish and Defending History.
Congratulations Start to Pour in to Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė on 16 Aug. Cancellation of Vilnius Convention Center in the Cemetery (“CCC”)
Agudath Israel of America leads the way (18 Aug. statement; 25 Aug. Jewish Tribune)
During mid-August lull, many were caught unaware (reports in DH, DH Updates, Algemeiner Journal, JTA)
Vested interests (commercial and ultranationalist/antisemitic) quickly ensnared Vilnius mayor and city council to demand reversal
Rumors (still uncorroborated) spread of plans by usual “gov. Jewish unit” for another “quisling and UJI [‘useful Jewish idiot’] conference” to cloud the issues and cover for “slow-motion rollback” of PM’s bold decision. That trick had (Sadly) worked back in 2007-2008 when leading American Jewish scholars were lavishly brought to a “committee” to cover for building “just the second green building” on top of the cemetery (still known locally as the “D.E. Fishman Building”), on the “understanding” that no more would ever be desecrated with commercial projects…
26 Aug. 2021
SEE MORE IN BOOKS
25 August 2021
In Shock to Admirers, Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius Calls for Reversing Gov’s Cancellation of ‘Convention Center in the Jewish Cemetery’
Question: Is this how he wants to o down in the 700 year and counting history of Vilna (Vilnius/Vílne/Vilna/Wilno)?
18 August 2021
16 August 2021
Bravo to Lithuania’s Gov on Decision to Move Convention Center Project away from Old Jewish Cemetery
DH’s coverage of the Vilnius cemetery saga: Look at it chronologically, or work back from the most recent…
RUTA BLOSHTEIN’S HISTORIC PETITION
THE INDEFATIGABLE CAMPAIGN OF DOV-BER AND CHAYA FRIED OF NEW YORK CITY. MR FRIED’S EARLY ARTICLES IN DH.
MAJOR LITVAK RABBINIC LEADER HORAV ELCHONON BARON SPEAKS OUT TO LITHUANIAN AMBASSADOR IN TEL AVIV. HIS VIDEO AT WESTERN WALL.
Other Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe must be saved from mercenary corrupt clutches of London’s CPJCE and complicit cowardice of US gov’s USCPAHA
MAKE A TAX-EXEMPT CONTRIBUTION TO DH’S WORK
“Nearly a decade later it’s more relevant than ever”
As a matter of Interest…
Which American Jewish leaders and Western academics would “adjust” their views of the Holocaust after getting medals, trinkets, photo-ops & assorted glories from East European governments hooked on Holocaust revisionism (governments that crave Western/Jewish silence — abject silence — on state glorification of local Nazi collaborators)?
Photographic selection. Lev Golinkin’s international survey.
Playwright Marius Ivaškevičius’s in-depth videotaped interview with DH editor Dovid Katz:
“Beyond raising a compelling constitutional issue, this resolution is wrong as a matter of justice, historical preservation, basic decency and the dignity of the dead.”
Roland Binet’s New Musical Composition on the 80th Anniversary of the Outbreak of the Baltic Holocaust
Photo-Op Starved Officials of US Taxpayer Funded “USCPAHA” (with State Dept. “Special Holocaust Envoy”) on Vilnius Visit; Triumphant Images are Tweeted
But did they even bother to meet with Ruta Bloshtein, author of the international petition calling on the Lithuanian government to move the national convention center project away from the sacred old Vilnius Jewish Cemetery? Her office, in the Judaica section of the national library, is a short walk from their gov. meetings. Petition has 53,500 signatures to date. History of the US taxpayer-funded commission’s role in the affair. Meanwhile international opposition to desecration of the old Jewish cemetery grows apace. And on the Holocaust? Not a word of critique of state projects to glorify the local perpetrators on the eve of the 80th anniversary of 23 June 1941, when the Lithuanian Holocaust broke out. Land of “tweeted photo-ops fix all”. . .
23 June 2021
When “white-armbanders” and LAF followers began to injure, plunder, humiliate and (in 40 locations) murder thousands of Jews across Lithuania (before arrival or taking-of-control by the first German forces). And who will honor the real Lithuanian heroes of 1941 — the amazing, inspirational folks who saved a neighbor from the LAF and the Hitlerist hordes?
Will the state and its “history” units finally honor the victims or again perpetuate the far-right pro-fascist false history that this was some minor crossfire in a “great revolt against the Soviets”? The Soviets were fleeing Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa, the largest invasion in human history — not the local white-armbanded Jew killers.
Another “conference to paper it all over” adorned by “useful Jewish academics” from far and wide?
6 May 2021
Yitzhak Arad, Hero of Jewish Partisans in Forests of Lithuania, and in Israel’s War of Independence, a Major Holocaust Scholar, Dies in Tel Aviv at 94
Holocaust revisionist who started the campaign against Arad in 2006 (in interview in the antisemitic Respublika representing state’s “Genocide Center”) is today the nation’s Minister of Defense.
Arad was first Jewish partisan veteran to be libeled by kangaroo prosecutions of Lithuania’s “history fixing” units attempts to revise Holocaust history. Major effort was to paint victims as perpetrators and perpetrators as victims. Follow the ins-and-outs in Defending History.
In 2012, Dr. Arad reported that Yad Vashem (under Israeli Foreign Ministry pressure) had refused to publish his own paper on Holocaust revisionism in Lithuania and asked for it to appear on the pages of Defending History.
For decades he was the leader of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. But when, in retirement, the Lithuanian assault got underway, he felt betrayed and abandoned by Yad Vashem (and after some early support) by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Neither seriously demanded the needed letter of apology (still doable for posterity).
22 April 2021
In “Shameful” Decision Lithuanian Parliament Appoints Glorifier of Holocaust Collaborators as Director of State’s “Genocide Center”
Secret ballot: 76 for, 34 against,8 abstentions, 2 spoiled ballots
Earlier: On the Bubnys nomination. In the Algemeiner Journal. On Dr. Bubnys’s record. The state-sponsored Genocide Center. On glorifying collaborators.
Addressing a group of far-right and neo-Nazi devotees on 23 June 2020, Dr. Bubnys proudly speaks under a banner of two notorious Hitler collaborators, Jonas Noreika (see Silvia Foti’s new book) and Kazys Škirpa. The 23rd of June 1941 is the date remembered by Lithuanian Jewry as the outbreak of the Holocaust with onset of widespread murder, dehumanizing degradation and humiliation of civilian Jewish neighbors by the “white armbanders” and “LAF” forces (whose pamphlets declared explicitly their plans for their nation’s Jewish citizens). But instead of honoring the victims, the state’s far-right historians-in-tow glorify the perpetrators as “anti-Soviet rebels,” a well known historic nonsense: the Soviet army was fleeing Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s invasion of the USSR, the largest invasion of human history, not the local Jew-killers with their white armbands. More on the historic background.
Tension mounts: How will Lithuania’s government (and its state-sponsored historians and “foreign Jewish leaders in tow“) mark the eightieth anniversary two months from now, on 23 June 2021?
14 April 2021
1937 – 2021
From his dozen years as editor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s former quadrilingual newspaper, Jerusalem of Lithuania
15 April 2021
Historian Who Poses Proudly with Posters of Holocaust Collaborators is Nominated to be Head of Lithuania’s State-Sponsored Far-Right “Genocide Center”
“Why does Lithuania keep doing this to itself?”
OUR REPORT. SEE ALSO DH SECTION ON DR. BUBNYS AND STATE HOLOCAUST REVISIONISM IN LITHUANIA
Silvia Foti’s The Nazi’s Granddaughter Has Appeared
The Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrator’s Chicago-based granddaughter has told the whole truth about her grandfather, J. Noreika. But meanwhile, in central Vilnius, a flashy new plaque (erected less than two years ago) continues to glorify the collaborator, who helped organize the destruction of thousands of Jewish citizens. As the 80th anniversary of the onset of the Lithuanian Holocaust, 23 June 1941, rapidly approaches this June, the question arises: Will the government (and its sycophants) again be honoring the perpetrators on this day, or, at long last, the victims? Last year, the chief historian of the state-sponsored “Genocide Center” stood proudly before a neo-Nazi banner glorifying two major collaborators (including Mr. Noreika…).
Meanwhile, Kaunas’s Vytautas Magnus University continues to feature a lecture hall named for, and adorned by a bas relief of a second major collaborator, the Nazi puppet prime minister of 1941. Hopefully the city of Kaunas will remove all its shrines to Nazi collaborators before being named a “capital of European culture” in 2022. See Lev Golinkin’s sweeping expose, earlier this year, of the wider issue of glorification of Holocaust perpetrators internationally.
(that often progresses with the de facto underpinning of American Jewish organizations whose leaders are addicted to “Glories and Medals in the East”
Defending History is no fly-by-night. On our pages…
6 April 2021
All Welcome at Yom Hashoah Event Featuring DH Editor Dovid Katz
in international discussion of Danny Ben Moshe’s film Rewriting History
Tuesday 6 April 2021 at Midday US Eastern time (5 PM London, 7 PM Israel and Baltics)
Admission free but registration required
Roland Binet on
Joel Lion, Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Boldly Slams Latest Municipal Honor for Nazi Collaborators
Collection from the Lithuanian lands covers the period from Catherine the Great to the Holocaust. Report in the Jewish Chronicle.
Cinderella finally comes to the ball
President of Germany Awards the state’s Order of Merit to Rachel Kostanian, the “Mother of History Dissidents in Eastern Europe”
“A Powerful Statement”
See: DH’s report; press release from Berlin; recent tributes on Kostanian’s 91st birthday; DH’s Rachel Kostanian Section spanning over a dozen years
Welcome to Defending History!
A safe space that genuinely respects your privacy. No log-ins. No passwords. No offers of notifications or pop-ups. Just read what and when you like. Over a dozen years, we have covered under-the-radar issues that went from obscure to the forefront on the international arena.
The East European far right’s clever and lavishly financed campaign to rewrite, revise, and fix history (with the help of well-meaning naive westerners) is finally under serious challenge. Together we can defend history, and along with it, human rights and dignity (of the living and dead alike), equality, free speech, and the values of free society and liberal democracy.
16 February 2021
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. . .
12 February 2021
Viktorija Kazlienė, Internationally Admired Director of Molėtai (Malát) Regional Museum in Lithuania, on Developing Holocaust & Jewish Cultural Memorials in Region
See DH section on the unique role of Moletai (Malát) and its region in ongoing Holocaust and Jewish cultural commemoration in Lithuania and beyond over the past five years
February Flare-Up of Holocaust Polemics in Lithuanian Mass Media:
1: Defending History’s take on the sunshine boy “heroes” — perpetually silent until all are in any case slamming an obscure parliamentarian (or the far-right, antisemitic Genocide Center) for the usual Holocaust falsification.
2: The naming of 2021 for an alleged perpetrator of LAF atrocities against the Jews of Kovno (Kaunas) in June 1941.
1. Aliide Naylor’s “Soviet Modernism’s Enduring Baltic Legacy” in Jacobin.
2. Latest: US Commission’s P. Packer, silent on the cemetery his commission is responsible for, finds other things with which to make himself an American Jewish hero.
4. Christian News Journal claims State Dept. and US Embassy shift to clear new stance on the old Vilna cemetery’s preservation.
6 February 2021
27 January 2021
Public historical debate and coverage of East European state efforts to “fix the narrative” and export the revisionism to an unsuspecting West.
Lev Golinkin’s survey (and interactive map) in the Forward of monuments to Nazi perpetrators in Eastern Europe, and increasingly in the West, makes ample reference to Defending History’s role in bringing these issues to the world’s attention over the last dozen years.
Efraim Zuroff slams Israeli foreign minister’s betryal of Holocaust history. See DH’s Israel chronicle page.
Dovid Katz on the need to politely confront the major state actors, not just convenient small-fry outrages.
31 January 2021
For decades the spirit of life and leadership at Vilnius’s legendary Green House. See Defending History’s Rachel Kostanian section. Her best-known book is Spiritual Resistance in the Vilna Ghetto (with preface by Sir Martin Gilbert).
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 early protests by WJC’s Dr. Laurence Weinbaum, and Yakov Faitelson, son of legendary escaper from Ninth Fort. Defending History’s take, chronology of the debate, and alternative dedication of 2021. Even the usually hesitant official Jewish community, and its AJC partner, spoke out
SEE HISTORY OF ISRAELI GOV’S STANCE ON THE ISSUES; 2017 “LOWPOINT” IN ISRAELI DIPLOMATIC HISTORY
Dec. 2020 — Jan. 2021
See also: Dovid Katz’s webinar at the Jewish Holocaust Center in Melbourne, Australia on “Writing the Holocaust Out of History (without denying a single death)”
Andrius Kulikauskas Reports: Major Success in Campaign to Save Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery from Convention Center Desecration; Follows up with BNS Press Release
Julius Norwilla conceived this Star of David as a symbol of fellowship for November 1, 2020, the traditional day for visiting cemeteries throughout Lithuania. From left: Andrius Kulikauskas, Ruta Bloshtein, Povilas Birbilas, Vanda Birbilienė and Julius Norwilla stand in front with a bag of stones. Edmundas Kulikauskas and Arkadij Kurliandchik stand on the bank of the Neris with the Sports Palace behind them. Photo: William Adan Pahl.
14 Dec. 2020
25 Nov. 2020
Dovid Katz’s lecture on “Writing the Holocaust out of History?” at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne, Australia now on Youtube (PP presentation online)
Defending History’s editor is named to Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life in 2020 at @Algemeiner’s annual banquet (#J100) in New York City. DH’s campaign to save Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery is cited.
Yakov Faitelson Calls on the Lithuanian Parliament to Reconsider Decision to Name 2021 in Honor of Alleged Participant in Kaunas Atrocities of June 1941
Participation of honoree witnessed in both Kaunas Garage Massacre and the beheading of Rabbi Zalmen Osovsky. See chronology of the 2020 debate. Yakov Faitelson joins protests by Defending History, Dr. Laurence Weinbaum (World Jewish Congress), Rabbi Andrew Baker (American Jewish Committee) and Ms. Faina Kukliansky (head of official Jewish Community of Lithuania).
“Lithuania’s Liveliest Cemetery”
♦ Prof. Josifas Parasonis of Vilnius, professor of building sciences uses science, common sense and humanity to come to a simple conclusion
♦ Julius Norwilla, head of Committee for Piramónt, exposes huge budget hole being made to put convention center project on top of the cemetery
♦ Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas, editor of Respect Cemeteries, calls on readers to write to Lithuanian parliament’s budget masters by Nov. 10th deadline
Eyewitness reports on recent hearings:
Earlier report on stance of European Foundation for Human Rights. Reports in Algemeiner Journal and Jerusalem Post.
Trending in Defending…
Lithuanian Jewish Commmunity: ‘Concern’ over Appointment of Genocide Center Deputy Head who Specializes in Whitewashing Holocaust Crimes of 1941 Hitlerist LAF and Nazi Puppet Provisional Gov.
″The Power of the Ancient Hebrew Letters”
Arkady Kurliandchik and Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas lead a group in partnership with the Vilnius Jewish Community, in placing stones with Hebrew letters painted in the traditional gold paint (used to highlight lettering in old Lithuanian Jewish / Litvak gravestones) at the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (Šnipiškės / Shnípeshok), site of the abandoned Soviet sports palace and a planned national convention center. Thousands of graves are still there all around the building. The new gold-lettered Jewish stones were variously placed to mark out the approximate perimeter of the cemetery.
Vilnius Jewish Community’s Pre-Tíshebov Event at the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery on 29 July. More on the event: Andrius Kulikauskas
Vilnius City Council rushes through decision for convention center with annex in heart of Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery. Julius Norwilla reports from Vilnius. Rabbi Elchonon Baron reacts from Jerusalem (video).
Stinging Pain for Lithuanian Jews & Holocaust Survivor Families More Widely, as Seimas Names 2021 for Alleged Participant in June 1941 Kaunas Atrocities
Editor’s take. Chronology of events and publications. WJC’s Dr. Laurence Weinbaum in the Jewish Chronicle. Rare protest from AJC with LJC. But Wiesenthal Center strangely silent for first time…
6 July 2020
The Defending History community wishes all our readers in Lithuania
A HAPPY CROWNING OF MINDAUGAS DAY
celebrating the Lithuanian king’s crowning in 1253. A wonderful modern holiday for all the peoples of Lithuania, and the world, and especially those with roots in the Grand Duchy…
26 June 2020
European Jewish Congress Reports on Ruta Bloshtein’s Petition to Save Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery from Convention Center Project: 51,000 Have Signed to Date
Local, international opposition growing by the day
25 June 2020
THE BACKGROUND. RECENT BOOKS IN THE DEBATE
23 June 2020
Chief Historian of State Sponsored Genocide Center is Key Speaker at Events Glorifying June 23rd; Evening Event under Banner of Two Holocaust Collaborators
Defending History was there to monitor the events. Julius Norwilla’s photo gallery.
Dr. Arūnas Bubnys, chief historian at the state-sponsored Genocide Center in Vilnius and long-time member of the state-sponsored “International Historical Commission” proudly appears under the banner of two heinous Holocaust collaborators, J. Noreika and K. Škirpa, at an event glorifying the day, 23 June 1941, that murder and mayhem broke out against the country’s defenseless Jewish citizens.
23 June 2020
Remembering June 23rd 1941: Why Would Anyone in the EU Want to Celebrate the Outbreak of the Baltic Holocaust under Guise of “Rebellion”?
Outbreak of mass murder, injury, pillage and humiliation of defenseless Jewish neighbors by the LAF (Lithuanian Activist Front) and others before arrival of first Nazi forces. Soviet forces were fleeing Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa — not the local Hitler allies. The real heroes of the day are Lithuanians (and Latvians, Estonians, Ukrainians and others) who risked everything to just do the right thing and save a neighbor from these Hitlerist organizations…
Defending History’s section on June 23rd events & issues in previous years. Background on the history. New English edition of Leyb Koniuchowsky’s compendium of testimonies now available online.
Here in Vilnius: Lithuanian parliament (Seimas) schedules 10:30 AM (Vilnius time) press conference. Fears rising that this will be yet another effort to glorify June 23rd and the outbreak of the Lithuanian Holocaust at the hands of the LAF, provisional gov. and assorted other local Hitler allies. Speakers include members of Seimas, Genocide Center and Red-Brown Commission…
Far Right Will Honor Nazi Collaborators on 23rd at 6 PM in central Vilnius. Defending History will be there to monitor the event
Late Spring 2020
Who’s Gonna Welcome Folks to a Convention Center in the Middle of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery?
Dramatic Developments for Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, Still Slated to Become Vilnius Convention Center
Petition by Ruta Bloshtein, Vilnius native and resident, reaches 51,000 signatures. Defending History reports. Bloshtein’s articles.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo receives multifaith plea from Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim leaders and key human rights organizations.
Two new websites launched: Save Vilna (US and Israel) and Respect the Cemetery (Vilnius); Both efforts entail Christian-Jewish (& Lithuanian-Litvak) alliance. Vilnius project announces 14 June public event. Latest report by Andrius Kulikauskas.
Elected chairman of Vilnius Jewish Community, representing vast majority of Lithuania’s Jews, reaffirms VJC’s firm opposition to desecration of the cemetery.
UCSJ joins the endeavor from Washington DC.
Defending History has been on the case for “five long years” and helped inspire international opposition to a convention center that would never be sited in an old cemetery of the majority religion population. See the latest.
Will the Lithuanian Defense Ministry add a “health warning” to its page glorifying a Nazi collaborator?
Lithuania’s Defense Ministry magazine glorifies Nazi collaborator and Holocaust cheerleader Kazys Škirpa on its front cover and in a massive article. See reactions from the Lithuanian Jewish Community and G. Gochin’s Times of Israel blog, and Defending History. SEE OUR REPORT.
Incredibly, the Defense Ministry still flaunts the cover on its website (as PDF).
May Day in Vilnius: Three major tourism federations united to finance the covering of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery with empty chairs with symbolic 1000-euro notes pasted on (directly above extant graves), symbolizing the economic loss from not rushing ahead with a convention center in the middle of the cemetery. The 500 year old cemetery, where thousands of citizens of Vilnius lie buried is not mentioned.
Solidarity with Minorities in Time of Pandemic?
Some use period for further glorification of Holocaust collaborators; Some tout postcrisis economic renewal from “Convention Center in the Cemetery” Project in Vilnius
Former foreign minister calls on present FM to renounce views and support state glorification of brutal Holocaust collaborator J. Noreika (after supreme administrative court confirmed during national lockdown the “hero status” of the same collaborator).
Also: Defense Ministry still adds no disclaimer to its page glorifying Nazi collaborator.
“You can’t make this up”: Major economist headlines construction sector revival via Jewish cemetery’s desecration as panacea for Covid-19 doldrums. Then, major national tourism units unite to place a thousand chairs with symbolic euro-notes on top of Vilnius Jewish graves.
Judith Leister reports in Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Julius Norwilla in DH.
For news in Lithuanian, see VieningaLietuva.com
BALTIC FAR RIGHT’S “MARCHING SEASON” AGAIN GLORIFIES HITLER’S COLLABORATORS
VILNIUS + KAUNAS ON 16 FEB: DH eyewitness report on 16 February march in Vilnius. Organizers again targeted DH staff; 16 Feb in central Kaunas.
VILNIUS 11 MARCH: DH’s report on the run-up. DH’s eyewitness report of the event.
RIGA 16 MARCH: West silent as central Riga again gifted for worship of Latvia’s wrtime Waffen SS on Monday March 16th; Coronavirus ban on rallies results in individuals laying wreaths for Waffen SS at city center’s Liberty Monument
Linas Vildžiūnas, Lithuania’s Leading Humanist, For Decades Key Educator (and Truth Teller) about the Holocaust, Wins Donskis Award for Tolerance
16 February 2020
Defending History Alone Monitored Torchlit Vilnius Old Town Far-Right March that Glorified Nazi Collaborators J. Noreika and K. Škirpa
9 February 2020
Doyen of Litvak Rabbis Signs Impassioned Decree on Saving Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery from “Convention Center in the Cemetery” Project
BOOKS IN THE DISCUSSION
Leyb Koniuchowsky & Jonathan Boyarin: The Lithuanian Slaughter of its Jews: Testimonies of 121 Survivors of the Holocaust in Lithuania
Ruta Vanagaite & Christoph Dieckmann: How Did It Happen? (Our People, Part II. Understanding the Holocaust in Lithuania)
Scene from their 2018 march in the heart of Vilnius (featuring on front banner six Nazi collaborators)…
European Foundation for Human Rights: Progress in Case for Equal Minority Rights for Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
For the first time a member of the Lithuanian parliament challenges the wisdom of glorifying (and reconstructing) an ugly Soviet dump that was built on Jewish bones of the centuries. See Kęstutis Masiulis’s new piece in the Lithuanian media. Also, progress in the Vilnius court case is reported in the media, citing comments from Prof. Josif Parasonis. In the report, Turto Bankas (the state’s “property bank”) falsifies history, claiming the unsightly Soviet ruin is outside the cemetery. In fact, the American Embassy confirmed years ago (see point 5) that it “The Sports Palace property indisputably rests in the middle” of the historic cemetery.
Don’t the people of Lithuania (and Europe) deserve a sparkling new and morally clean Vilnius convention center rather than a Soviet-era structure surrounded by five centuries of Jewish graves?
Clemens Heni in Times of Israel on recent Yad Vashem furore
Matt Rubenstein in The Battleground EU: “Changing the Historical Record”
David Pugliese in the Ottawa Citizen on East European Glorification of Holocaust Collaborators
Julius Norwilla in Vilnius’s 7MD on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
Clemens Heni in Times of Israel on dissident thinkers in Germany
Anna Shternshis in Canadian Jews News on Yivo Librarian Debacle (see also DH’s take; list of items approved by “In geveb”)
23 January 2020
VIDEO: Major Litvak Rabbis in Israel and American Christian Evangelist Meet with Lithuania’s Ambassador to Israel to Plea for Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
Late Jan. 2020 meeting follows “day of shame” in Vilnius in Dec. 2019, and “hateful libel” against Orthodox Vilnius Jewish woman (Jan. 2020) who launched the international petition; Prof. Shnayer Leiman’s response.
23 January 2020
JTA on Scandal Emanating from Lithuanian Parliamentarian Gumuliauskas’s Proposed Bill to “Fix” Holocaust History
13 January 2020
Defending History Joins Lithuania in Mourning the Fourteen Unarmed Pro-Independence Protesters Murdered by Soviet Forces on 13 Jan. 1991
LRT’s “Panorama” runs report on the Soviet sports palace building (timecode: 21:25—25:20), envisaging “hundreds of millions of euros” and “a bag of gold”
2 January 2020
Israeli and Polish Ambassadors to Ukraine Issue Joint Letter Protesting New State Glorification of Holocaust Perpetrators (T.O.I. report by Sam Sokol)
1 January 2020
Antanas Zubrys and Dr. Matilda Zubrienė: Defending History’s Persons of the Year (2020)
A Lithuanian hero of the War of Independence in 1920, one hundred years ago, who went on in 1941, with his wife, to risk their lives and their families and just do the right thing and save innocent neighbors from the racial genocide underway and supported by their own nation’s “nationalist leaders”… “Someone has to honor Lithuania’s real World War II heroes.” See background on current practice by some East European governments to honor Nazi collaborators (e.g. Lithuanian parliament’s 2018 decision; DH section). See DH’s Person of the Year awards for 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2019.
Year of 300th Birthday of the Gaon of Vilna: novel critical approach of Andrius Kulikauskas’s brand new website on calendar of events. Our editor’s papers & articles.
“7 Kingdoms of the Litvaks” is free online
19 December 2019
The upshot? The state owned property bank claims “Jewish support” for “the convention center in the old Jewish cemetery” via the alleged collusion of some London rabbis from the “CPJCE” and the head of the government sponsored Jewish community… But what about the opinion of all the others?
Lithuania, a Genuine, Robust Democracy, Continues to Struggle with Free Speech when it Comes to the Holocaust
See Efraim Zuroff in the Jerusalem Post; Arkadijus Vinokuras in Times of Israel; Instances from the past decade monitored by DH; Section on free speech and democracy. Dovid Katz’s new paper on the (ab)use of law to “fix history” in the Baltics.
Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas founds major new initiative dedicated to Lithuanian-Jewish friendship and sense of common purpose for future of the Grand Duchy heritage by way of open, free and respectful dialogue and inspiring new projects
Program of 16 Dec. Bar Ilan Univeristy conference on Zuroff-Vanagaite book on the Lithuanian Holocaust; Conference report & photos
Litvak World Shocked by New “Year of Gaon” 10 Euro Coin that Plonks a Symbol Beloved of Far Right onto a Mutilated Jewish Menorah
Vilnius’s Jewish satirist Motke Chabad shares his own perspective
Ruta Bloshtein (2 Dec.) and Ben Cohen (28 Nov.) in the Algemeiner Journal
Dovid Katz (15 Nov. and 22 Nov.) and Ruta Bloshtein (26 Nov.) in DH
Grant Gochin in The Times of Israel on other painful issues evoked by “Year of Gaon” plans (also on LJC website); See DH’s Seven Simple Solutions on Lithuanian-Jewish issues
More coverage by Algemeiner Journal, Arutz Sheva, Enlace Judío, Haaretz, Israel National News, Jewish Chronicle, JTA, YNet, YNetEspanol, Times of Israel (ToI French edition)
Is it perhaps an opportune moment for the government to abandon plans for a convention center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery, where hundreds of the Gaon’s ancestors and descendants still lie buried? International petition continues to grow.
Andrius Kulikauskas in Bernardinai on Vilnius Jewish Cemetery Saga; Chief Rabbi of South Africa Weighs In; But NY Yivo stages PR event for government’s positions only
Aleksandr Kuzmin in DH on Latvian Defense Minister’s Glorification of Waffen-SS; Jewish Voice on History of Latvian Holocaust
George N. Tzogopoulos at Begin-Sadat Center on Israel’s Role; See DH’s Israel Page
23 Sept. 2019
International Coverage of Vilnius’s Day of Prayer, Plea & Protest for the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt
Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas’s keynote address; Report (+ photo gallery) in Lithuania’s 15min.lt; LRT evening news (from timecode 4:56). European Foundation for Human Rights
London CPJCE “Jewish grave traders” are called to face charges at the Jerusalem rabbinical court. In London, a “Serious Incident” report is filed with the United Kingdom’s Charity Commission. Background on CPJCE’s Vilnius outrage. The video.
Canadian Govt. Officials “Duped” into Participating in Honors for Ukraine’s OUN / UPA Hitler Collaborators
Reports in National Post and Ottawa Citizen
Defending History’s Take: “Canada, a bastion of enlightened liberalism in today’s world, has blundered into a moral mouse-trap. Hopefully its highest leaders will now rapidly correct the error and join all those around the world who condemn the Nazis and their collaborators’ rampages of ethnic-based mass murder and genocide in World War II era Eastern Europe.”
23 September 2019
Day of Prayer and Respectful Challenge to Spare Old Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (Šnipiškės) from Plans to Site a Convention Center in its Heart
A Decade of Defending History
Defending History marks its 10th anniversary in Sept. 2019
Come and browse old issues; first post; mission statement; Samples of coverage over the years by Ricky Ben-David in the Jerusalem Post; Arne Bengtsson in Baltic World; Daniel Brook in Slate; Bernard Dichek in Jerusalem Report; Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian; Avi Friedman in Mishpacha; Cindy Mindell in the Jewish Ledger; Rod Nordland in the New York Times; Wendy Robbins on BBC World Service.
Documentary films: Danny Ben-Moshe’s Rewriting History; Richard Bloom’s Defending Holocaust History
9 Sept. 2019
Vilnius is Shamed by Brand New Noreika Plaque Glorifying a Holocaust Collaborator
Calls for government to rapidly “do the right thing: take it down”
Vilnius mayor calls plaque “illegal”; Faina Kukliansky issues powerful statement of protest; BNS; Baltic Times reports that sciences library is quite happy with its new plaque; JTA report
So far, a wall of public silence from the “Yiddish-loving culture minister“, from Yivo, and from the Western and Israeli embassies in Lithuania
Defending History’s take: “A very sad day for Lithuania and its proud ages-old tradition of Grand Duchy tolerance and its current record as a successful democracy. Ten years after Defending History published images of the plaque honoring Noreika, seven years after Evaldas Balciunas brought the issue to the English speaking world, and one month after Vilnius’s bold mayor boldly had the plaque removed, a mob of antisemites who celebrate the Holocaust’s perpetrators have put up an even shinier plaque, rapidly declared to be illegal by the mayor. The text of the new plaque is rather worse from the viewpoint of historic honesty, by referring to Noreika’s imprisonment by the Nazis at one point (the phenomenon of “Holocaust envy”), as if that makes a hero of a brutal Holocaust collaborator. Lithuania’s great people deserve better! Hopefully, the nation’s highest powers will remove the plaque without further delay, in the name of the rule of law, the nation’s standing, and basic human decency. See DH’s sections on: J. Noreika; Collaborators Glorified; the 2019 midsummer events that presaged the latest events.
Lithuanian Jewish Community Reports on State Investigation of “Red-Brown Commission” Chief (background; video)
Vilna-born Holocaust survivor Prof. Pinchos Fridberg’s “enormous courage” in challenging “perpetrator whitewashing” by nationalist icon V. Landsbergis
See Pinchos Fridberg section; DH’s 2012 take on Landsbergis. Meanwhile, controversial official head of gov. sponsored Jewish community, eminent attorney Ms. Faina Kukliansky, wins acclaim for (finally) standing up to Landsbergis, after he used crude anti-Jewish ethnic slur on FB; Baltic Times features a rude reply with no pretense of evenhanded journalism. EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis speaks out (see DH’s Andriukaitis section, and his classic statements on the Seventy Years Declaration and the reburial of wartime Nazi puppet prime minister in 2012).
Prominent Vilnius historian publishes article in mainstream media complaining that too many “foreign Jews” have been included in the state-sponsored history commission
9 Aug. 2019
Ten years after Defending History published images of the plaques. Seven years after DH’s Evaldias Balčiūnas brought the case of J. Noreika to the English speaking world. Four years after Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas‘s classic DH essay on K. Škirpa:
Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius Leads City Council Decision to Rename “Škirpa Street” and Personally Orders Removal of Noreika Plaque in 4 AM Raid
Official Lithuanian Jewish Community Closes Premises and Synagogue on 6-8 Aug. in View of Threats, Citing Conservative Party’s Ongoing Campaign to Glorify Holocaust Collaborators
Statement issued by Vilnius Jewish Community; JTA reports of 6. Aug; 7 Aug; 8 Aug (+TOI); LJC’s circulated reply to VJC
Baltic Times gives big-time coverage to Landsbergis’s attack on official Jewish community leader Kukliansky. Will they provide equal space for the community’s response?
Aug. 7 rally demanded restoration of public space plaques and street names that glorify Holocaust collaborators held at Mindaugas Monument; Baltic Times’s “shamefully one-sided” report in far right spirit of trivializing glorification of Holocaust perpetrators
Poster advertising Aug. 7th rally blasts mayor who took action against glorification of collaborators, shows Jewish and gay pride symbols as the culprits
Photoshopped version of painting by F. Reshetnikov depicts several boys observing what seems like a Jewish-LGBT event from around the corner. Text at top reads “Škirpa and Vėtra [Noreika] are heroes of Lithuania”. The lower text depicts a rooster (“gaidys” in Lithuanian, used as a homophobic slur) and is labeled “Šimašius”, i.e., the current Mayor of Vilnius Remigijus Šimašius who recently led efforts to remove public glorification of two Holocaust collaborators. Text at bottom: “Let’s defend the heroes of Lithuania! Rally under the Mayor’s windows, by the monument of King Mindaugas. August 7 (Wed.), from 18:00 to 19:30.”
Question: Will the Roskies & Fishman “Yiddish PR conference” financed to deflect attention from the painful issues, publish a morally clear statement of protest (and support for the Jewish community)? Do conference participants appreciate concerns they are being used as “useful Jewish idiots” (UJIs) in the wider effort to rewrite Holocaust history and cover for blatant antisemitism?
Are they aware of the systematic exclusion from their conference of all the local Jewish scholars in this field who have expressed disagreement with the glorification of Holocaust collaborators (including Holocaust survivors who have written about Jewish Vilna)? Will they consider signing Ruta Bloshtein’s petition on the old Vilna Jewish cemetery?
BACKGROUND: See DH sections on collaborators glorified; Noreika saga; Ramanauskas saga; seven Lithuanian-Jewish issues that could be easily resolved; academic background. the Seventy Years Declaration (SYD). signed by 71 European parliamentarians including eight valiant Lithuanian MPs and MEPs.
1 August 2019
“It Pays to Defend History”
Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius Orders Removal of Memorial Plaque for Holocaust Collaborator J. Noreika
According to reports, city’s removal squad came 4 AM on 27 July; see now: the nationalist backlash (2); new president falls back on “more discussions needed” ignoring years of such discussions. JTA report. Vilnius prosecutors considering challenges to mayor’s action. Vilnius’s Prof. Pinchos Fridberg takes the battle over glorifying Hitler collaborators right to Vytautas Landsbergis. Meanwhile, Conservative Party’s Landsbergis Jr. hits back and official Jewish community exposes antisemitic slur on his FB page.
Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius
A seven year saga since Defending History’s Evaldas Balčiūnas brought the Noreika case to the English speaking world in 2012
For years Mr. Balčiūnas was hounded by police, prosecutors and kangaroo hearings (scroll down to May 2014)
Over the years, Defending History’s campaign won support from the Simon Wiesenthal Center; the Rambam Mesivta High School that staged a peaceful demonstration at Lithuania’s consulate in New York; Noreika’s granddaughter, American author Silvia Foti; and Californian Litvak scion Grant Gochin, who took Vilnius’s “Genocide Center” to court. The GC’s public statement revealed its true view on the Holocaust. Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas is curator of online Captain Noreika Museum.
Marble Noreika stone continues to mar capital’s central boulevard
The mayor will hopefully soon speak out on fate of Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, slated to become a convention center, that would damage Vilnius’s brand for generations to come. Vilnius native Ruta Bloshtein’s petition now has over 46,000 signatures from every part of the world.
24 July 2019
Vote is 20 to 16
See Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas’s classic 2015 Defending History paper on Škirpa; Vilnius City Council efforts by Mark Harold
Prof. Pinchos Fridberg and Ruta Kaplinskaya concerned by report that new street name will be accompanied by new plaque glorifying Škirpa yet again
Changing toxic street names that glorify Hitler collaborators is high on the list of the very easy things Lithuania needs to do to achieve justice on the irksome history issues that will just not go away. See DH’s seven solutions compiled with the help of the late Dr. Shimon Alperovich.
Radio Free Europe (Radio Liberty) report fails to inform readers of the Double Genocide issues and abuse of history to further far-right Holocaust revisionism that includes glorification of Holocaust collaborators
More Lithuanian Government Glories & Medals for “Useful Jewish Enablers” of Baltic Holocaust Revisionism
California Resident Grant Gochin Appeals Vilnius Court Ruling that Whitewashed Notorious Holocaust Collaborator Jonas Noreika
IHRA weighs in. More reaction. For first time (?), Lithuanian TV presents both sides.
The Question: Will an EU/NATO democracy continue to sink government funds into glorification of Holocaust collaborators? Don’t the Lithuanian people have higher values and causes into which to invest their hard-earned taxpayer money?
23 June 2019
Kaunas (Slated to be 2022 “Capital of European Culture”) Hosts Far-Right (/Neo-Nazi) City Center Jamboree Honoring June 23 “Uprising” that Unleashed the Destruction of Lithuanian Jewry in 1941
In Vilnius, the parliament (Seimas) hosts a one-sided conference on the LAF (Lithuanian Ativist Front) Hitlerist militias that unleashed violence on Jewish neighbors before German forces even arrived.
Meanwhile, a naive article in National Review accepts the distorted history of Vilnius’s “Genocide Museum” (see our critique of the museum), that calls the Hitlerist “Lithuanian Activist Front” (LAF)’s outbreak of violence against Jewish neighbors a rebellion against the Soviets. The brutal Soviet occupation forces were fleeing Hitler’s invasion (the largest in human history), not the LAF Jew-killers.
These killers didn’t fire a single shot against the Soviets when they were in power. You can’t “rebel” against someone who is in panic running away from someone else. . . The Holocaust is being rewritten by the East European far right (in part to make heroes out of the Eastern European collaborators) even as leaders of major Jewish organization in the US and elsewhere remain silent.
16 June 2019
The Good Old Pattern Continues in Biržai (Birzh), Northern Lithuania:
The official museum in the city center continues to honor Holocaust collaborators and perpetrators as “national heroes”, an issue not mentioned at any of the public events.
State Glorification for Chaplain of a Holocaust-era Mass Murder Unit; Simon Wiesenthal Center Speaks Out
Chone Leibovich of Vilnius Jewish Community appeals to National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry (scroll down for English)
UPDATE OF JUNE 1: Head of Jewish Agency calls for monument to Nazi collaborator to be removed “as soon as possible”
First monument on American soil glorifying a wartime Nazi collaborator who is also a prime icon for his country’s neo-Nazis today was inaugurated last month (May 4) in the presence of the visiting Lithuanian foreign minister
LATEST MEDIA: Algemeiner; BBC; Grayzone; Independent; Simon Wiesenthal Center; Telegraph. And—Defending History’s take.
On Ramanauskas’s Holocaust-era role see courageous, pioneering articles of Lithuanian ethicist Evaldas Balčiūnas in 2014, 2017 and his latest that has just appeared. For years after starting his series of articles “Why does the state commemorate murderers?” Balčiūnas was hounded by prosecutors and police (scroll to May 2014).
Beyond the debates over Ramanauskas’s role in the early days of the Lithuanian Holocaust, he is today a major icon for Neo-Nazi parades and events.
From left to right on the neo-Nazis’ “We know our national heroes” banner (torchlit neo-Nazi parade of Feb. 2018): Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, Jonas Noreika, Povilas Plechavičius, Kazys Škirpa, Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas, and Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis
Latest far-right death threats against DH editor appear on Facebook (as PDF; transl.). They were apparently instigated by the neo-Nazis’ top blogger in Lithuania, “Zeppelinus” (PDF; part transl.) who is said to work in the Ministry of the Economy. These threats came in response to DH’s opinion that Lithuania’s interests are not best served by a monument in Chicago to an alleged Holocaust collaborator who is also a prime icon for today’s neo-Nazi parades here. Samples of Zeppelinus’s racist, misogynistic, homophobic, antisemitic output of hate. Some of his earlier “artwork” on DH editor.
This monument, honoring Adolfas Ramanauskas (Vanagas), who boasted in his memoirs of leading an LAF unit of fascist Hiterlist militia during the first weeks of the Holocaust (June-July 1941) in southeastern Lithuania, was overwhelmingly rejected for placement on public land by New Britian, Connecticut one year ago. But on Saturday, 4 May it was inaugurated by Lithuania’s foreign minister on the private property of the Lithuanian World Center in Chicago, Illinois. The English news release casually omits the reference to the Holocaust issues cited in the original BNS Lithuanian report.
On the legacy of Ramanauskas, see Evaldas Balčiūnas (in 2014, 2017 and 2019); Efraim Zuroff and the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and Dovid Katz. Defending History documented the entire 2017-2018 New Britain, Conn. saga. Sampling of survivor testimony on “what it was that the LAF was doing” in the last week of June 1941. SEE DEFENDING HISTORY’S SECTION ON ADOLFAS RAMANAUSKAS.◊◊
Defending History’s take: “The people of Chicago, and its proud Lithuanian and Litvak communities, should not have foisted on them a monument glorifying an alleged Holocaust collaborator who led a Hitlerist militia in the early days of the Holocaust, a monument that was overwhelmingly rejected by the New Britain, Connecticut city council one year ago. And, most certainly not without a free, public and transparent process of dialogue and consultation including Holocaust survivors and their families, as well as scholars and institutions representing a diversity of opinions. A one-year moratorium is called for to enable such a process to proceed with dignity.”
3 May 2019
28 April 2019
EUROPEAN FOUNDATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS PROTESTS EU FUNDING FOR VILNIUS MUSIC JAMBOREE ON WEEKEND OF 27-28 APRIL IN THE HEART OF CITY’S OLD JEWISH CEMETERY
Recent coverage in the Algemeiner Journal; English Delfi.lt (Lithuania Tribune); Jerusalem Post;
Protest letter from Julius Norwilla, chairman of the Vilnius Committee for Preservation of Piramont (Snipiskes) Cemetery to the Director of the Čiurlionis House and Museum
DEFENDING HISTORY MONITORING TEAM WAS ON THE SCENE FROM 12 TO 3 PM ON 28 APRIL 2019
Thousands (in groups of 25) were misinformed by guides’ prepared text assurance that convention center is with permission of “European Jewish Community in 2016” (!). Soviet kitsch was praised effusively in latest ruse to turn hated Soviet dump into “a national treasure”. Rabbi S. J. Feffer confronts one of the groups with a heartfelt speech of protest informing visitors of the “wanton theft of our forefathers’ graves” and blessing those who will help stop the travesty from moving forward.
Meanwhile in London, a Serious Incident Report has been filed with the UK’s national Charity Commission requesting an investigation of the role of the CPJCE in the destruction of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery.
Unique study in body language: “blockbuster video” of London CPJCE staff allegedly morally selling other people’s graves against the rulings of all the rabbis of Vilnius and of the planet. In fact, when the then chief rabbi of Lithuania, Rabbi Chaim Burshtein, spoke up in 2015, he was fired for expressing his views. Views of Rabbi S.J. Feffer (leading Litvak religious authority in the country) and Rabbi S.B. Krinsky (official rabbi of the synagogue / Chabad Lithuania).
Overviews by Shnayer Leiman, Juris Kaža, Michael Maass, Dovid Katz, and Vilna-born Holocaust survivor Pinchos Fridberg; Statements by elected head of Vilnius Jewish Community Simon Gurevich
24 April 2019
Granddaughter of Holocaust perpetrator J. Noreika, the American author and educator Silvia Foti launches a bold international petition calling on Lithuania’s gov. to stop glorifying him.
LATEST CHAPTER IN A SAGA OF SEVEN YEARS
23 April 2019
“The rights of minority cemeteries are human rights”
Legal Action Underway on Attempts to Pilfer Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery for National Convention Center
REPORTS IN ENGLISH DELFI (LITHUANIA TRIBUNE); IN THE ALGEMEINER (NY); BNS/LRT; THE JERUSALEM POST
UPDATE OF 24 APRIL: EUROPEAN UNION FINANCES MUSIC FESTIVAL ON CEMETERY GROUNDS THIS WEEKEND
8 April 2019
Vilnius Plaque Glorifying Holocaust Collaborator J. Noreika is Smashed by Maverick Candidate for the European Parliament, Attorney Stanislavas Tomas
All on film, streamed live Monday morning 8 April 2019, from candidate’s bilingual statements through to his calling the police and their eventual arrival to make the arrest
Defending History’s comment:
“We unequivocally condemn violent acts against any property. Plaques can and will be replaced, and acts of property violence are totally illegal, inherently unethical, and utterly counterproductive to the noble cause of ridding Europe of glorification of Nazism. There needs to be dignified, peaceful and lawful civic and international pressure for the removal of all state-sponsored, public-space glorification of Holocaust collaborators, not least in Lithuania where some 96% of the Jewish population was massacred with massive local collaboration and participation. The real heroes are the amazing Lithuanians who risked everything in 1941 to just save a neighbor and we pray for the day when plaques and streets for them will abound across the land. See our own Person of the Year for 2018 and 2019.”
On Jonas Noreika’s Holocaust activities, see Evaldas Balčiūnas and Andrius Kulikauskas
Samples of other monuments and street names glorifying Holocaust collaborators. DH section on glorification of collaborators. The major Noreika monument in Vilnius is actually the engraved marble stone on the city’s central Gedimino Boulevard outside the Genocide Museum:
8 April 2019
Andrius Kulikauskas calls on Lithuanian Parliament to Stand Up to State-Sponsored Genocide Center’s Glorification of Holocaust Collaborators
World Jewish Congress Replies to Vilnius Genocide Center; Stops Short of Mentioning Government’s Financing of Street Names and Honors for Holocaust Perpetrators; Official Jewish Community Breaks Long Silence on GC’s Antisemitism
3 April 2019
Case was over the state’s glorification of a cruel Holocaust collaborator and purveyor of racial hate. First time a court in an EU/NATO country ruled in favor of the government glorifying Holocaust collaborators with street names and majestic public plaques, reducing the Holocaust to a detail not worthy of interfering with its perpetrators’ “heroism”…
Verdict came down on 27 March. Since then: utter silence from the US, UK and Israeli embassies in Vilnius, and from the “Red-Brown” Commission (which has affiliations with the Genocide Center) and its foreign members representing Yivo and the American Jewish Committee. But on April 3rd, the World Jewish Congress issued a major statement, to some extent avoiding the current issue of state glorification of Holocaust perpetrators via street names and plaques.
At 1 PM on Wed. March 27th, a Vilnius Administrative Court judge read out the court’s ruling dismissing the query of US resident Grant Gochin over Lithuania’s state glorification of Nazi collaborator Jonas Noreika, active during the Holocaust in the region where Gochin lost around 100 relatives. The court said Mr. Gochin had no material interest, ruled that the state-sponsored Genocide Center had answered his query completely, without bias, and without abuse of power, in effect further enshrining in law an EU/NATO state’s glorification of Holocaust collaborators and perpetrators via the financing of ultranationalist and far-right history centers and departments determined to preserve the national hero status of Holocaust collaborators. Whenever government or municipal officials are asked about the numerous street names and plaques honoring collaborators, the invariable answer is that it is all in fact a matter for the experts at the Genocide Center.
Mr. Gochin’s academic specialist, Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas was on hand along with attorney Rokas Rudzinskas. Of the Genocide Center’s staff, only historian Dr. Arūnas Bubnys turned up, sitting in the small gallery surrounded in part by first and second generation Holocaust survivors who turned out to hear the verdict that the Western embassies, human rights organization and official (state-sponsored) Jewish community thought not worth sending an official representative to hear. By contrast the local Vilnius Jewish Community had two observers on hand.
JTA report is picked up by some Israeli papers but not one major American media outlet, general or Jewish… Why is that?
26 March 2019
Public welcome at the reading of the verdict at 1 PM at Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, Žygimantų 2 in the city center
Will a court in an EU/NATO country uphold a far-right Holocaust-obfuscating institution’s decision to make a national hero of a documented Holocaust collaborator?
See: Background. Report on 15 Jan. Report on 5 March.
Meanwhile, Bizarre Decision from EU Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is in Spirit of Far Right’s “Double Genocide” Revisionism
“The New Holocaust Denial is based on a postmodernist mush that confounds victims and perpetrators and tries to write the Holocaust out of history (without denying a single death) via an array of ruses emanating from Eastern Europe’s ultranationalist New Far Right.”
DH’s take. Report on 15 Jan. hearing. Report on 5 March hearing. Evaldas Balčiūnas’s 2012 article that brought Noreika to the attention of the English speaking world. Balčiūnas’s DH section.
25 March 2019
Reports on pro-Nazi marches in Vilnius and Riga; Canada condemns Riga’s Waffen SS celebration
English original of part of Lithuanian TV’s interview with Dovid Katz
20 March 2019
Vilnius Jewish Community Invites People of All Backgrounds to Purim Celebration with Traditional Reading of the Book of Esther
Wednesday evening, 20 March, at 7 PM, at the Vilnius Jewish Community & Jewish Cultural and Information Center at Mesiniu 3 in Vilnius Old Town
VJC’s additional family event features the traditional costume party competition on Thursday evening 21st
AROUND 1000 TAKE PART IN 16 MARCH CENTRAL RIGA PARADE GLORIFYING LATVIA’S WARTIME NAZI WAFFEN SS
Background: Monica Lowenberg’s blog; DH coverage of previous years’ marches; Lowenberg’s articles in DH; Latvia section. Can people peacefully protest this march? A disturbing court ruling
13 March 2019
More Double Dealing by US Taxpayer Supported “Commission to Preserve America’s Heritage Abroad” (USCPAHA)?
Is it Washington DC’s most corrupt federal agency?
Are they really in cahoots with the allegedly corrupt bodies (CPJCE in London, “Admas Kodesh” or “AK” in NY) who gave “permission” for a convention center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish Cemetery against the views of all other rabbis and ethicists? The NY branch (AK) has published crude personal invective against scholars who hold other opinions, including Prof. Bernard Fryshman (who has now taken USCPAHA to the courts).
VIDEO: Herbert Block’s formal new presentation to a major rabbi cites only USCPAHA’s partnership with these two bodies. No mention of the international petition (which he himself signed…) or the vast international opposition.
Tale of two videos: The CPJCE with the prime minister of Lithuania, and USCPAHA’s Herbert Block explaining his commission’s work to the rabbi in Israel . . . See also earlier Admas Kodesh photo gallery of USCPAHA “reporting to Satmar Rebba in Monroe”… (Note: Leader of the opposing Satmar dynasty has himself condemned the convention center project in Vilnius).
The basic story (DH’s section). International opposition to date. The USCPAHA. The CPJCE.
8 March 2019
After ‘Hearing Both Sides’ at Trial of March 5th, Vilnius Court Sets Verdict for 27th
Defending History was there. Our take:
Andrius Kulikauskas will go down in history not only as the hero of the day but as the true patriot of Lithuania whose love for his country is not infected by Holocaust obfuscation and the glorification of Holocaust perpetrators but by a pursuit of simple historic truth. By contrast, the Genocide Center’s shameful performance illustrated, as ever, why the government should not be using taxpayer or EU funds for a far-right ultranationalist Holocaust-obfuscating entity that disparages the freedom of Lithuanian citizens to have diverse opinions (by dictating fake history as per the Soviet playbook) and continues to damage Lithuania’s name in the world (East European democracies need state glorification of Holocaust collaborators like a hole in the head).
Evaldas Balčiūnas, whose 2012 article brought the case to international attention, was in attendance. Icing on the cake was the Genocide Center’s demand that the videographer leave at the outset. So much for government sponsorship of an open and transparent operation. There were close to 20 observers, mostly Vilnius Jewish personalities there in an individual capacity, including Prof. Pinchos Fridberg, who figured in a New York Times article on the subject last September. Elected Vilnius Jewish Community head Simon Gurevich, committed elsewhere, nevertheless made two brief appearances to show moral support for those who stand up to glorification of collaborators and to the community members in attendance. The VJC hosted Dr. Kulikauskas on Jan 14th.
“It had the air of a 21st century Lithuanian version of America’s Scopes Monkey Trial.”
Eyewitness reports and opinions by Evaldas Balčiūnas and Gershon Taic (Geršonas Taicas)
Finally, reports began to appear in mainstream Lithuanian media: BNS/Diena.lt; LRT; Delfi; Alkas.lt; Arkadijus Vinokuras in Delfi.lt. Official information on the court’s website.
Background: Run-up to eve of the trial
California Financial Planner Takes Lithuania’s State-Sponsored “Genocide Center” to Court on March 5th for Enabling Gov. Glorification of Holocaust Collaborator J. Noreika
Proceedings are open to the public (Tuesday March 5th, 10 AM at Vilnius Regional Administrative Court at Žygimantų 2 in central Vilnius). Media to date includes the BBC World Service, Chicago Tribune, JTA. The plaintiff is California wealth advisor Grant Arthur Gochin whose family lost around 100 relatives in the Holocaust in the area where Noreika operated. He will be represented in Vilnius by attorney Rokas Rudzinskas and specialist Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas, author of the Query that launched the case. He has a compelling letter of support from Noreika’s granddaughter, American educator and author Silvia Foti. See Ms. Foti’s remarkable 2018 essay in Salon, and the recent takes by Grant Gochin, Dovid Katz, Andrius Kulikauskas, and Efraim Zuroff.
The case of J. Noreika was brought to the English speaking world in 2012 by journalist and ethicist Evaldas Balčiūnas of Šiauliai (Shavl), Lithuania, as part of a series of articles asking why his government honors alleged Holocaust collaborators. He was “rewarded” with years of prosecutorial and police harassment and kangaroo trials. Please scroll down to May 2014 in DH’s Balčiūnas section. In some opinions, Lithuania is a totally free-speech country with the marked exception of Holocaust history.
UTTER SILENCE FROM THE GOV. FUNDED “RED-BROWN COMMISSION” (ONE OF WHOSE MEMBERS IS ACTIVELY SOLICITING 10,000 EUROS IN CROWDFUNDING FOR NEW BOOK ON LITHUANIAN HOLOCAUST; CROWDFUNDING PAGE)
WILL THE AMERICAN, BRITISH, CANADIAN, FRENCH, GERMAN, IRISH, ISRAELI, NORWEGIAN & SWEDISH EMBASSIES (AMONG OTHERS) AND HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS BE SENDING OBSERVERS TO THE TRIAL ON TUESDAY?
BACKGROUND: Collaborators glorified; street names and university lecture halls; the Genocide Center in Vilnius; the Genocide Museum; academic background to the “Double Genocide” movement for Holocaust revisionism
Lev Golinkin in The Nation on Ukraine’s issues with adulation of fascism and Holocaust collaborators
Petition against Waffen SS March on March 16th in Riga; Background: Monica Lowenberg’s blog; DH coverage of previous years’ marches; Lowenberg’s articles in DH; Can people peacefully protest this march? A disturbing court ruling in 2017
Julius Norwilla attends meeting of Lithuania’s state property bank that plans convention center in heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
20 February 2019
VILNIUS ALERT WED. 20 FEB. 2019
Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, Legendary Jewish Partisan who Fought the Nazis in the Forests of Lithuania, Currently Major Yiddish Culture Educator, Will be Guest of Honor at Today’s Yiddish Reading Circle
Fania Brantsovsky (left) with the late Dr. Rokhl Margolis (1921-2015) in Vilnius in 2007
SPECIAL SESSION IN HONOR OF THE NEW BILINGUAL YIDDISH-LITHUANIAN EDITION OF THE LATE AARON GARON’S ESSAYS ON JEWISH VILNA EDITED BY LINAS VILDŽIŪNAS, WHO WILL BE ATTENDING THE EVENT, ALONG WITH THE AUTHOR’S CHILDREN, TAMARA AND EVGENY GARON.
6 to 7:30 PM AT THE VILNIUS JEWISH COMMUNITY, MESINIU 3 IN VILNIUS OLD TOWN. ALL ARE WELCOME!
16 February 2019
“IT PAYS TO DEFEND HISTORY”
“Once again, it becomes clear how Defending History is the true friend of Lithuania and other democratic states in the Eastern EU that need glorification of Holocaust collaborators like a hole in the head”
DH’s Vilnius monitors, observing the event for a decade, report on “significant progress”: For the first time in many years, the far-right February 16 march, though at times noxious (e.g. when a group reveled in a “Noreika plaque photo-op”), had no visible banners glorifying local Holocaust collaborators and no visible swastikas on flags, and no organized chants of “Lietuva Lietuviams” (Lithuania for Lithuanians). By contrast, a few Latvian visitors wore jackets emblazoned with “Waffen SS”. At its conclusion, two of the march’s organizers approached our team for a civil discussion which turned to the participation of “non-Catholic & non-ethnic Lithuanians” in the war of independence leading to the rise of the democratic interwar Lithuanian Republic on 16 Feb. 1918.
Vilnius Authorities Again Gifting Capital’s Storied Old Town for Far-Right March on Cherished Independence Day
Are they celebrating the Holocaust and the massacre of Lithuanian Jewry?
Last year’s neo-Nazi event featured front banner glorifying a series of local Holocaust collaborators; it was addressed by a high Catholic Church official and “honored guest” neo-Nazis from abroad
Come and join Defending History’s monitoring team. Event scheduled to start Saturday 16 February 6 PM at Aušros Vartų. Facebook details; website.
See Defending History’s decade-long eyewitness coverage of far-right marches in Vilnius, Kaunas, and Riga.
A Short History Lesson:
All of interwar Lithuania’s 239 Jewish communities (massacred in 1941) cherished and celebrated February 16th with heart and soul. They were proud Lithuanian citizens. It was also their Independence Day. See the 2013 letter from the late Joe Melamed, longtime elected leader of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, and any of countless records and pictures. Here, a photo (with bilingual Hebrew and Lithuanian handwritten captions) of the Jews of Dorbyán (Darbėnai) celebrating February 16th 1928, the tenth anniversary of independence:
30 January 2019
AP Report on Netanyahu Government’s Alleged “Sale of Holocaust History” in Eastern Europe is carried by New York Times, Washington Post, & Israel’s Haaretz & YNet
See Israel Chronicle summary page; Israel section; Sam Sokol’s new paper.
Related: Matti Friedman’s New York Times op-ed on the politicization of Yad Vashem. Cf. Danny Ben-Moshe’s earlier op-ed in Jerusalem Report. See Defending History’s Yad Vashem section.
Highpoints of Israeli diplomacy on the Holocaust in Eastern Europe: Ambassador Chen Ivri Apter in 2009; Ambassador Joel Lion in 2018.
Lowpoint: Ambassador Amir Maimon in 2017 (his performance made it into the academic literature before he was even transferred to his next posting).
27 January 2019
Holocaust Remembrance Week 2019
In recent times, the greatest threat to Holocaust Remembrance Day is the Double Genocide Holocaust revisionist movement whose “constitution” is the 2008 Prague Declaration. Defending History is proud to have taken part in the Europarliamentary response, the 2012 Seventy Years Declaration. The relevance of all this to Holocaust Remembrance Day was made crystal clear nine years ago by Yehuda Bauer on the pages of the Jerusalem Post. See also the essay by Holocaust survivor and scholar, and former director of Yad Vashem, Dr. Yitzhak Arad, in Defending History. Identity Films has just made available free online its 2012 documentary Rewriting History. Richard Bloom Productions has done the same for its 2013 film, Defending Holocaust History.
Coverage of the report in Politico.eu; Grant Arthur Gochin’s blog in The Times of Israel.
26 January 2019
24 January 2019
“The rights of minority cemeteries to be left in peace are human rights”
Two Visualizations of a Convention Center in the Middle of Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery
I: Lithuania’s State Bank (“Turto Bankas”) triumphantly issues its latest visualization for a national convention center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery, surrounded by thousands of Jewish graves. The huge new annex is “artfully” obscured (at the back).
2: Defending History issues its reply visualization. The people of Vilnius deserve a sparkling new convention center that will be a pride to all peoples everywhere, where they will be greeted by leaders of the arts, culture, music, politics, not by the tens of thousands of ghosts of the Jews of Vilna whose families purchased their burial plots in perpetuity. Join the 45,000 people who have signed Ruta Bloshtein’s international petition.
Websites Report that Lithuania’s Ambassador in Washington Assures Head of Senate Foreign Relations Committee: ‘There will be no conference center on the cemetery!’
HUMAN RIGHTS | MEDIA WATCH | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH ISSUES | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION
VILNIUS—According to a report by the website Save Vilna that also appeared in the Christian News Journal, the Lithuanian ambassador to the United States, HE Rolandas Kriščiūnas has personally assured the chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, Jim (James E.) Risch “that there will be no conference centre on the cemetery.” The meeting resulted from months-long diplomacy by Christian Evangelical journalist Dr. Matthew Anthony Harper of InterMountain Christian News, a prominent campaigner against the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. Over the past year, he has passionately represented the cause in Vilnius and Tel Aviv, in addition to his work as a White House correspondent representing Christian media. Together with a delegation of top Lithuanian tradition rabbis in Israel, he spoke eloquently at a videotaped meeting with the Lithuanian ambassador to Tel Aviv.
CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS
VILNIUS—The international petition launched by Ruta Bloshtein, a native and resident of Vilnius, has today reached the 50,000 signature mark. People of diverse background and many countries are among the signatories. Opponents of the disturbing idea to site a convention center in the heart of the old Jewish cemetery (with extant graves, albeit not stones, on all four sides), has been resolutely opposed by rabbis in Lithuania in recent years, including, in alphabetical order, chief rabbi of nine years’ standing Chaim Burshtein (who was fired in 2015 for speaking out); Rabbi S. J. Feffer (a Gaon of Vilna scholar who has been based in Vilnius for decades, and issued edicts in Hebrew and English); Rabbi Kalev Krelin, now based in Riga, who was one of the first to sign Ms. Bloshtein’s petition, along with Chabad rabbi Sholom-Ber Krinsky, who has lived in the city for over a quarter century with his family and is now official rabbi of the one functioning synagogue. Only partly in jest, Vilnius residents say this is the first time these rabbis have agreed on much of anything.
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS | DOCUMENTS
VILNIUS—A recent social media campaign has been spreading the message that there are no longer human remains at the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt, in today’s Šnipiškės section of modern Vilnius, the capital of democratic EU and NATO member Lithuania. Of course within the Jewish faith the sanctity of Jewish cemeteries remains in situ despite earth disruptions. “There is no such thing as a former Jewish cemetery,” Lithuania’s last chief rabbi, Chaim Burshtein, pointed out, before being fired in 2015 for expressing his opposition to “the convention center in the cemetery.”
The author is chairperson of the Vilnius Committee for Preservation of Piramont (Šnipiškės) Cemetery. A selection of his English articles is available here.
We return to the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramont (Šnipiškės). Back on December 19, 2019, the Lithuanian State Property Bank (Turto Bankas) announced an agreement with a tiny number of non-representative self-interested Jewish organizations for the development of the Vilnius Congress Center in the old Palace of Sports building surrounded by thousands of still extant Jewish graves going back to the 15th century (remember, graves and tombstones are two different things; the Soviets stole all the stones, and they keep turning up all around town). See Defending History’s report on the Dec. 2019 events here in Vilnius.
[last updated: 6 Feb. 2020]
EFHR’s Press Statement in English, Lithuanian, and Polish
Meanwhile, “CPJCE” London “cemetery specialists” fail to release “the secret agreement” they (with “Haifa geotechnocrat” in tow) signed on December “Day of Shame”. The agreement was signed many months after the matter was placed before the Lithuanian courts, and while it remains in litigation. Where is the rule of law?
Defending History calls for document to be made public at once. Catch up on coverage from recent months. See the scope of international opposition to “the convention center in the cemetery”…
A TALE OF TWO VIDEOS
(Satmar Aaronites and — Litvaks)…
VIDEO of London CPJCE (Satmar “Aaronites”) with prime minister of Lithuania (2015) [note: opposing Satmar “Zalmanites” have condemned the convention center in the Jewish cemetery]
VIDEO of top Lithuanian-origin (Litvak) rabbis explaining Jewish and Litvak views to ambassador to Israel (2020)
OPINION | MEDIA WATCH | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION
Note: This follows on from our report where links are to be found to the articles that elicited the present discussion.
Anyone who would claim that Ruta Bloshtein, a citizen of Lithuania, born and raised in Vilnius, is anything less than a staunch supporter of what is ultimately best for Lithuania, is sorely mistaken. She is a courageous leader of the Vilnius Jewish community and seeks only truth and fairness in Lithuania’s treatment of its minority communities. An abomination took place in Vilnius when it was under Soviet domination. A Sports Palace was constructed over a historical Jewish cemetery, where for some 400 years, every Jew – man, woman, and child – who died in Vilnius was buried. These include the graves of the Gaon of Vilna’s entire family (parents, wives, and children); R. Abraham Danzig, author of a famous Jewish code of law still in use and studied widely, and his family; and hundreds of other distinguished rabbis, scholars, poets, and scientists.
Chief Rabbi of South Africa Calls on Lithuania’s Leaders to Move Convention Center Project Away from Old Jewish Cemetery
OPINION | HUMAN RIGHTS | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | USCPAHA | CPJCE | ADMAS KODESH
JOHANNESBURG—The Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein, today added his voice to the international Litvak and wider opposition to state-sponsored desecration of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt in the form of a national convention center surrounded by Jewish graves going back half a millennium in Vilna, the city once known as Jerusalem of Lithuania. The office of the chief rabbinate made public his letter to Lithuania’s president, Gitanas Nausėda and prime minister Saulius Skvernelis.
A PDF of his letter is available here, and follows below. Please use handles in the upper left-hand corner to turn pages.
Chief Rabbi of South Africa on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
OPINION | HUMAN RIGHTS | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | USCPAHA | CPJCE | ADMAS KODESH
VILNIUS—The European Foundation for Human Rights has today filed a lawsuit with the District Court of Vilnius City. The following is the full text of a press release issued by the group this morning, which appears on its website:
Democratically Elected Leadership of Vilnius Jewish Community Shows Consistent Moral Clarity on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery’s Fate
OPINION | VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | HUMAN RIGHTS | CEMETERIES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION
VILNIUS—During the fiascos of recent formal visits to Lithuania by the chairperson of the US taxpayer-funded “Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad” (known for short as “USCPAHA”), a ubiquitous feature was the seemingly unending stream of photo-ops with leaders of the “official” state-sponsored Jewish community which has quite naturally supported government plans for a convention center and annex to be situated in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery. What many foreign visitors do not understand is that this enterprise does not have democratically legitimate leadership. In the middle of the last leadership election, in spring 2017, the chairperson changed the rules to disenfranchise the three thousand Jewish citizens of Lithuania in favor of a “new system” whereby “associations alone” would vote, these being the chairperson’s own board of associates. When the Vilnius Jewish Community held a very public and democratic vote, the state-sponsored official community echoed antisemitic tropes that the current Jews are some kind of Russians who say they are Jews. In November of 2018, the courts ruled her election illegal, a remarkable public demonstration followed last spring, but then, after an array of legal ruses, some quite amusing, the appeals court last month legalized her election. But not-illlegal is not moral, and being “not illegal” is a rather poor standard for Jewish and democratic legitimacy in the small and fragile post-Holocaust space. More and more people are calling for a simple solution: new and fair elections under the aegis of an outside ombudsman or polling organization, in which every Lithuanian Jewish citizen has one vote.
CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | HUMAN RIGHTS | CEMETERIES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION
The following is the text of the petition update posted by Ms. Bloshtein on 4 January 2019 at the Change.org site of her petition to save the old Vilna Jewish cemetery, which has exceeded the 45,000 signature mark.
My Dear Friends,
Thanks to all of you who signed our petition, there have been various delays in the onset of works to erect a national convention center and large new annex on the site of a Soviet ruin that is right in the middle of our sacred Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, where the B’er Hagola Reb Moshe Rivkes; the Chayei Adam Reb Avrom Dantsig; Reb Menachem-Manes Chayes; Reb Boruch Romm, Reb Avrom the son of the Gaon of Vilna; Reb Yitzchok the father of Chaim of Volozhin lie buried, alongside many other thousands of Jewish citizens of Vilna (today’s Vilnius, capital of Lithuania) whose families duly paid for their plots in perpetuity. This would never happen if it were a Christian or Lithuanian national cemetery where nationally beloved figures found what was meant to be their place of rest.
Now, unfortunately, imminent danger lurks again, as the government’s own bank has just announced that building is again soon scheduled to start.
We must therefore redouble our polite and civil protests to ensure that this does not happen, that the government finds ANOTHER place for its new national convention center (that will be a pride, not a “shande” for our country), and that the cemetery can be lovingly restored as has been done in other European cities. I am sorry to report that in recent times one of the main obstacles has been the (US taxpayer funded!) “United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad” (known as “USCPAHA” for short) that exists to preserve endangered cemeteries, not to collude with foreign governments and their agents to help with excuses and cover-ups to destroy them!
Chief Rabbi of Western Wall and and Holy Sites in Israel Calls on Lithuania’s President to Cancel Convention Center Project at Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
DOCUMENTS | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | CPJCE
JERUSALEM—The 1 February 2018 letter of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites in Israel to the president of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė, was released here today for publication. In it, the world-renowned rabbi who heads the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, pleads with the president of Lithuania to “cancel this plan to make this site a convention center.” He reminds her of the tens of thousands of Jews buried at the old Piramónt cemetery of Vilna, now in the Šnipiškės district of Vilnius, capital of Lithuania. His letter follows the 7 January 2018 letter from the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, and the pleas of virtually all the world’s leading rabbis of Litvak heritage (and many others) over recent years, in addition to many people of good faith of all backgrounds.