Lithuanian Political Illusions: The “Policy” of the Lithuanian Provisional Government and the Beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania in 1941

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is publishing a series of articles by the historian Algimantas Kasparavičius, a senior researcher at the Lithuanian History Institute.

kasparavicius

Part 3

As shown by rather abundant surviving archival sources, memoirs and historiography, the pro-German (more accurately pro-Nazi, since in principle there existed no other Germany at that time operating in the international arena as real geopolitical power) concept and strategy of liberation from Soviet occupation and annexation and restoration of the Lithuanian state [1] began to form during the first days of the Soviet occupation, i.e., the end of June, 1940, mainly at the initiative of Lithuanian diplomat in Berlin colonel Kazys Škirpa, who, for several years, had maintained good and even friendly relations with high Nazi Party figures [2]. The process accelerated immediately upon the annexation of Lithuania. As Stalinist repression growing into state terror and radical socio-political reforms took hold in Lithuania [sic]. An organized anti-Soviet resistance quickly began to coalesce by early October of 1940 in Kaunas. The main author of this strategy and its main ideologue, however, was none other than Lithuania’s long-time military attaché in Berlin, colonel Kazys Škirpa. [3] It was at his initiative and due to his efforts that the Lithuanian Activist Front was established in Berlin on November 17, 1940. The LAF established headquarters in Lithuania in Kaunas and Vilnius. Besides Škirpa, the main LAF figures in Berlin and Lithuania were E. Galvanauskas, Klemensas Brunius, Antanas Maceina and Karolis Žalkauskas, Leonas Prapuolenis, Vytautas Bulvičius, Juozas Kilius, Adolfas Damušis, Jonas Pajaujis, K. Antanavičius, J. Vėbra and others. [4]

In cooperation and consultation with German/Nazi political, military and diplomatic figures–field marshals Wilhelm Keitel and Walter von Brauchitsh, chief of the Abwehr admiral Wilhelm Canaris and Abwehr agent in charge of contact with Baltic anti-Soviet resistance organizations lieutenant colonel Herman Gräbe–a program began to be drafted for liberation from Soviet occupation and annexation. Methods, tactics and political strategy for Lithuanian partisan warfare and insurgency against the Soviets were developed. [5]

Holocaust Remembrance Day with Dr. Antony Polonsky

You’re invited to a public meeting and discussion with Dr. Antony Polonsky (the Albert Abramson professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis and the chief historian of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw) called The History of the Jews in Lithuania, Poland and Russia at 6:00 P.M. on Thursday, January 26, in the Jascha Heifetz Hall on the third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community (Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius).

Moderator: professor Šarūnas Liekis.

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Condolences

In profound sorrow we report the loss of Vilnius Jewish Community member Vladimir Doskal, who passed away on January 17. He was born November 12, 1985.

Vladimir worked at the Community for a time and was a long-time volunteer in the LJC Social Department. We will always remember him as a very sincere, warm and caring person whose smile and laughter infected everyone in his proximity.

Our sincere condolences to his loving wife and his mother on the loss of husband and only son.

A wake for the departed began at 1:00 P.M. on January 19 at the St. Jurgis Matulaitis Church. The funeral is to be held at 12 noon on January 21 at the Karveliškės cemetery in the village of Karveliškės in the aldermanship of Zujūnai in the Vilnius region.

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Statement in the December 2016 Newsletter of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe

We feel it is important in this context to emphasize the major transformation that we have recently experienced in our work after so many years of campaigning and taking action to protect Jewish graves in Europe. This fundamental change is reflected in our experiences in Lithuania over the past month (as described at length in this issue). It is impossible to describe within the limits of this publication the range of difficulties, obstructions, obstinacy and deception which was faced by our representatives in earlier years when attempting to protect Jewish graves in Lithuania. Not only was there no sympathy and understanding for our efforts to save Jewish cemeteries and graves, but our representations were often faced with ridicule. Even after being convinced of our genuine concern for these matters, our appeals were not taken seriously and all kinds of ploys and untruths were used to avoid taking meaningful action. But fortunately, times have changed. Not only does the current Lithuanian Government central leadership treat the CPJCE and its requests with seriousness and respect, but even the government departments dealing with economy, transport, interior affairs etc, all show deep consideration for Jewish cemetery protection. During the past month, the CPJCE office received an appeal for assistance from the Lithuanian authorities regarding a proposed widening of a railway track, which may possibly have encroached on the area of a Jewish mass-grave. They assured the CPJCE that they did not want to disturb the burial site and requested the CPJCE to come and establish the exact location of the grave in order to ensure that it is not affected in any way.

Lithuanian National Radio and Television Hosts Exhibit on Righteous Gentiles

LRT atidaroma paroda, skirta Pasaulio Teisuoliams

An exhibit of photographs of upstanding and courageous Lithuanian Righteous Gentiles who rescued Jews from the Nazis, performing the highest service to their nation, will open at the Lithuanian National Radio and Television Gallery at Konarskio street no. 49 in Vilnius at 3:00 P.M. on Thursday, January 19. The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial authority and museum in Israel bestows the title Righteous among the Nations, or Righteous Gentile, on citizens of other countries who rescued Holocaust victims. This exhibition was shown earlier at the Lithuanian parliament. As readers will recall, the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s annual calendar features Lithuanian Righteous Gentiles this year as well, with a photograph of Lithuanian president Kazys Grinius and wife Kristina on the cover.

Writer Icchokas Meras, the winner of the Lithuanian National Prize for Art and Culture who was saved from the Holocaust by Lithuanians, wrote about the rescuers: “They were the blooms of the morality of the nation, the spiritual giants of the nation, no matter whether they were educated or simple people, whether they were illiterate, clergy who carried with them the true love of one’s neighbor or simple peasants broadcasting seed to the ground by hand. They, intentionally or unintentionally, opposed the destroying power of the Nazis and its tool: those who murdered. We should remember and honor their heroism based on conscience, goodness, love of one’s neighbor and simply human pity.”

Panevėžys Jewish Community to Mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day

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January 27 marks the day in 1945 when the victims of the Auschwitz death camp were liberated. Auschwitz was the largest concentration camp set up by Nazi Germany where about 1.5 million people were murdered, including children, and approximately 1 million of the victims were Jews, according to the best estimates.

The Panevėžys Jewish Community will observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 26 at the “Sad Jewish Mother” statue on Memory Square at Vasario 16 street next to the Vyturis Pre-Gymnasium.

Program:

2:00 P.M. Assembly, wreath-laying ceremony, speeches;

2:45 P.M. Wreath-laying ceremony at the statue “Ghetto Gate” (at the intersection of Klaipėdos and Krekenavos streets);

3:00 P.M. Forum dedicated to International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Panevėžys Jewish Community (Ramygalos street no. 18). Documentary film about the Holocaust.

Let’s remember the heroic rescuers.

Event supporters:

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Lithuanian Jewish Community Position on Reconstruction of the Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports and Its Use as a Conference Center

In light of the recent intensification of statements in the media on the alleged danger now threatening the conservation of the Šnipiškės Jewish graveyard in Vilnius (hereinafter Cemetery), the Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community (hereinafter LJC) feel it our duty yet again to present the main facts in the case and the LJC’s well-founded position based on those facts regarding the issue of the reconstruction of the Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports (hereinafter Sports Palace) and its adaptation as a conference center.

1. To date no work for the reconstruction of the Sports Palace has been carried out, and therefore no possibly negative impact on the graveyard which was destroyed in the 1950s is being effected at the current time. The remains of the Vilna Gaon were removed to the Vilnius Jewish cemetery located on Sudervės street long ago and his headstone is located there.
False statements and rumors have been circulating for some time, so again it is necessary to explain the headstones in the Cemetery were destroyed long ago and the Sports Palace was constructed there back in the Soviet era. At the current time only pre-planning proposals have been drawn up, which could serve later as the basis for a detailed technical project for the renovation and adaptation of the Sports Palace which will be carefully examined and assessed by competent institutions.

2. The Cemetery is entered on the Registry of Cultural Treasures and has been a declared a state-protected site, meaning any construction or reconstruction work in the area of the graves or in the buffer zone around it, and any plans for this sort of work, are carefully assessed and strictly controlled under the provisions of the law of the Republic of Lithuania on protection of real estate heritage and the specific requirements of a special protection plan for this Cemetery.

3. This special protection plan for the Cemetery was prepared under the requirements and principles contained in a protocol agreement signed on August 26, 2009, by the leaders of the LJC, the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe and the Cultural Heritage Department under the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture. All these institutions share responsibility for keeping the agreement and ensuring sufficient authority for doing so.

4. The protocol agreement of August 26, 2009, resolves that:

4.1. Earth-moving work is forbidden in the Cemetery;

4.2. Three additional possible buffer-function zones are defined; the Sports Palace falls into zone A where earth-moving work is proscribed except in cases involving engineering construction (utility pipeline, transportation and communication infrastructure) and/or work to maintain the Vilnius Sports Palace. Jobs involving the movement of earth require consent by the LJC and must be accomplished in the smallest scope possible. All work involving the movement of ground must be done under the supervision of an archaeologist and an authorized LJC delegate. To insure adherence to this requirement, the LJC makes all decisions regarding the conservation of the Cemetery and plans for the reconstruction of Sports Palace only with the knowledge and consent of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe.

5. The Vilnius Sports Palace was constructed in 1973. The building and the Cemetery upon which it was built have been listed on the Registry and are protected as a cultural treasure since 2006.

6. According to the original construction documents presented to the LJC, the foundation of the Sports Palace extends 7.37 meters underground, so most likely all burials there were destroyed during building construction. Therefore pre-planning proposals for reconstruction of the Sports Palace are based on the assumption burials do not remain under the building. Despite the low likelihood there are still graves under the building, in the event of actual reconstruction of the Sports Palace the LJC will demand earth-moving work be of minimal scope and conducted under the supervision of representatives of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe.

Therefore, bearing in mind that:

1) existing burials were destroyed during construction of the Vilnius Sports Palace;

2) currently not a single headstone remains at the Cemetery (the last monuments were torn down back in 1955), the Cemetery territory is in disrepair, and there are no signs in the huge territory of the Cemetery testifying to its history except for a symbolic statue and an information plaque set up a few years ago;

3) the Sports Palace building along with the Cemetery surrounding it are listed on the Registry of Cultural Treasures and it cannot be torn down, but in its current state cannot either be used and requires renovation;

4) the abandoned Vilnius Sports Palace is in a state of ruin and is unbefitting the city center and the Cemetery, and stands as a horrid symbol recalling the Soviet era when the headstones of the Cemetery were destroyed and the human remains there disturbed;

The Government of the Republic of Lithuania have the right to do as they please with the property in their possession, and certainly the right to merely consider the reconstruction of the Vilnius Sports Palace, adapting it for one or another use, and the LJC has no legal foundation or rational arguments for quelling these activities. Instead of engaging in unconstructive criticism, the LJC is undertaking all measures to insure these plans and their possible realization do not violate Jewish law and tradition, and believes the Government of Lithuania, as a responsible institution with a vested interest in maintaining its reputation, will also exhaust all efforts so that the project is carried out to the highest standards of transparency, quality and respect for heritage. If the project is carried out appropriately, the LJC would achieve our goal of preserving the Cemetery:

1) establishing in city planning and physically demarcating the limits of the Cemetery;

2) renovating the territory of the Cemetery and setting up walking paths there in line with Jewish law and tradition;

3) erecting a commemorative composition including the names of the people buried in the Cemetery;

4) installing necessary educational and information material on site.

Israeli Supreme Court Ruling Favors Women’s Prayer at Western Wall

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January 11, 2017, JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of women being allowed to read from the Torah in the women’s section at the Western Wall and declared that an egalitarian prayer area set aside at nearby Robinson’s Arch does not constitute access to the holy site.

In an interim injunction announced Wednesday, the court gave the wall’s Orthodox administrators and state agencies 30 days to show cause why women cannot pray “in accordance with their custom” or allow them to pray as they choose.

It also declared that women should not be subjected to body searches before entering the plaza. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the Orthodox-run body that oversees activity at the site, has authorized such searches to prevent worshipers from entering the women’s side with Torah scrolls, prayer shawls, tefillin and menorahs.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Stays Away from Paris Peace Talks in Support of Israel

BNS reports Lithuania sent a deputy foreign minister to a Middle East peace conference in Paris while other countries sent foreign ministers.

Lithuania’s move was a gesture of symbolic support for Israel whose government criticized the conference as an attempt to impose unacceptable conditions on the Jewish state.

Lithuanian deputy foreign minister Neris Germanas attended. Diplomatic sources confirmed the level of representation was intentional in support of Israel.

Participants at the Paris conference Sunday called on Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks on peace and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the conference declaration as an attempt to impose on Israel conditions incompatible with its national interests. Neither Israel nor Palestine participated at the conference.

Defending a Murderer

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by Grant Arthur Gochin

On December 16, 2016, I posted this about the efforts to remove the honors for the man responsible for the murder of my family in Lithuania – Noreika:

https://ggochin.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/noreika-monument/

The Cultural Heritage Department has responded; their response is attached to this post.

The Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department will not do anything to remove the honors. They offer no explanations for how they come up with their decisions or why our facts were incorrect.

They say the plaque was installed in 1997 and belongs to the city, not the library. How do they know this when the city does not? Again they offer no backup.

Why Don’t Lithuanian Politicians Condemn Colleague Baukutė’s Behavior?

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As Hitler’s Mein Kampf again becomes a bestseller in Europe, Russian-American journalist Mikhail Klikushin writing in the New York Observer, owned by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner who is scheduled to leave publishing in order to devote all his time as president Trump’s senior advisor, wonders why Lithuanian politicians haven’t come forward to condemn former MP Asta Baukutė’s strange behavior on Lithuanian state television.

Lithuanian Official Gives Nazi Salute on Live TV Show

by Mikhail Klikushin

Ex-MP grins, yells “Jew! Jew! Jew!” while saluting the führer as tensions mount to Russia’s west

This year, Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography, in which he laid the groundwork for a policy of extermination against the Jews, became a bestseller in Europe.

Having taken a look at what has been going on within recent additions to the European community—including former Soviet republics that broke loose from Russian dominance—one begins to see why the brutal dictator is experiencing a renewed wave of popularity.

Last Saturday, for example, it became known that the Lithuanian Radio and Television broadcasting corporation (LRT), funded by the Lithuanian government, temporarily took off the air the popular TV show Guess the Melody after a scandalous video surfaced causing public outrage, Delfi reported.

According to LRT assistant director Rimvydas Paleckis, on Friday night during a live broadcast of the show one of the participants—popular Lithuanian movie and theater actress Asta Baukutė—having recognized the melody, became so excited that she victoriously shouted “Yeah! Yeah!” and jumped up from her seat.

She was about to win the contest.

Standing to her full height in her leather coat and dancing out of excitement, she put both the index and middle finger of her left hand to her upper lip—to indicate Hitler’s mustache—and raised her right hand in a Nazi salute high into the air.

She could not contain herself.

“Žydas! Žydas! Žydas!” (Jew! Jew! Jew!) she yelled in Lithuanian—letting it be known to the cheering studio audience and the show host that the melody in question belonged to Lithuanian composer Simonas Donskovas.

Donskovas, as readers already might have figured out, is a Jew.

“I am in shock,” LRT assistant director Rimvydas Paleckis said the next day.

Call for Information about Jews Murdered near Švenčionėliai, Lithuania, in 1941

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Please contact Moshe Shapiro at moisa50@mail.ru if you have any information.

No one who witnessed or lost relatives to the tragic events in the Švenčionys region in October of 1941 will ever forget.

All Jews living in the Švenčionys region, including doctors, bankers, rabbis and any number of other professionals, were locked up in a ghetto and then shot that fall after the Nazis occupied New Švenčionys (that’s what it was officially called in the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic) in October, 1941.

A site for the mass murder of Jews in the Švenčionys region was selected in a pine forest in the village of Platumai near the town of Švenčionėliai across the Žeimena River. The remains of military barracks still stood there. Local police received secret orders in August of 1941 for sending all Jews to Švenčionėliai and stealing their property. Jews held in the barracks for a week suffered hunger and cold besides the looming uncertainty over their future. The barracks were surrounded by a fence and the area around that had land mines.

In October the local district police chief delivered the order by the German regime to shoot all the Jews of Švenčionys and the 22 surrounding towns and villages. About 8,000 Jews were murdered in cold blood at the execution site in October. Locals were shocked.

A memorial first erected in 1961 to the murdered Jews hasn’t been repaired in more than a decade. After standing there for two decades it needed repairs in 1984 and was reconstructed by the architect Astutė Bučinskaitė then. It was again reconstructed in 1993. The centerpiece is a granite slab with the names of the shtetls. The last major refurbishment was in 2002 when benches were installed and gravel brought in.

The Švenčionys Regional Jewish Community wants to fix up the memorial and better commemorate the victims.

The project will cost about 6,200 euros. The Ethnic Minorities Department under the Lithuanian Government will provide partial funding, and the Švenčionys regional administration will also make a financial contribution, totaling 20 percent of total costs or 1,200 euros.

The project will learn the names of victims and compile a comprehensive list, and the new memorial will include an information board. Although some names are known from the Lithuanian archives and from the book in Hebrew and Yiddish called the Book of Memory of the Twenty-Three Jewish Communities of Švenčionys Region published in Tel Aviv in 1965, there are still real difficulties in learning the specific identities of those who were murdered and buried across the river from Švenčionėliai.

Švenčionys Regional Jewish Community chairman Moshe Shapiro is highly cognizant and appreciative of the grave responsibility posed by this important project, and is asking those who survived the Holocaust from the smaller towns in the Švenčionys region, their children, grand-children and relatives, wherever they might live now, to share any information they might have, including stories and the names and surnames of the victims.

Please contact Moshe Shapiro at moisa50@mail.ru if you have any information.

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Lithuanian National Radio and Television Names Marius Ivaškevičius Man of the Year

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Marius Ivaškevičius, the writer and organizer of a Holocaust commemoration march in Molėtai, Lithuania, has been named Man of the Year for 2016 by Lithuanian National Radio and Television.

Last May Ivaškevičius published an internet appeal for the public to attend a march in his hometown along the route Jews were taken to their deaths in 1941. He followed this appeal with an essay called “I’m Not Jewish,” a translation of which attracted the most visitors to any single item on the Lithuanian Jewish Community web site ever.

Ivaškevičius’s march in Molėtai attracted international attention and dominated the Lithuanian media on August 29, 2016. About 3,000 people from Lithuania and abroad marched from the town square to the mass grave site, the same route about 2,000 Jews marched to their deaths 75 years earlier.

Hebrew Classes Begin in January

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Dear Community members and friends,

The long-awaited Hebrew classes are coming back to the Community! Classes will be held Sundays and the first class is at 9:30 A.M. for beginners and 10:15 for more advanced students on January 8, 2017.Senior Hebrew language teacher of the Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium Ruth Reches will teach the classes. The course costs 2 euros per 2 academic hours. Workbooks will be made available to all students. Don’t miss out on a wonderful opportunity and please register quickly, before January 4, via email to hebrewlietuva@gmail.com

An Unusual Story of Jewish Rescue

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The Vilnius-based publishing house Kitos Knygos is planning to publish in Lithuanian a book by Yochanan Fein called Berniukas su smuiku [Boy with a Violin]. Kitos Knygos has posted the following about the book on their website:

Yochanan Fein: Boy with a Violin
History, memoirs; 2017
translated by Ina Preiskel (Finkelšteinaitė) and Arvydas Sabonis

In the distant Kaunas neighborhood of Panemunė on the high banks of the Nemunas there once there stood a large wooden house with a stairwell inside. It was built by Lithuanian military volunteer and Šančiai railroad carpenter Jonas Paulavičius, who was called behind his back “father of the Jews” during World War II, having rescued 16 people from the clutches of death. He and his wife Antanina were recognized as Righteous Gentiles because of their heroic acts.

Among the fortunate was 14-year-old Yochanan Fein, who knew how to play violin, hiding in a pit dug in the garden together with a Russian POW and an Orthodox Jew. In his dotage he wrote a book of memoirs called “Boy with Violin” in which he explained the tragic stories of the lives of those rescued and presented an authentic painting of wartime and post-war Kaunas in many colorful details. The book was first published in Amsterdam in 2006 and two years later in Tel Aviv.

The author manages to avoid tired clichés about the confrontation of good and evil usually found in such books. Here the rescuers are not lionized, neither are the murderers demonized. Even the picture of Jonas Paulavičius is complicated, but his Communist views didn’t stop him from rescuing Jews from the Stalinist regime, either.

The book is valuable from the historical perspective as well. Fain doesn’t limit his story to the weary life in the Kaunas ghetto from 1941 to 1944; he also writes about the ruined city after the war from 1944 to 1947, and the third section is unique: there are  no authentic stories in the Lithuanian language about Jewish immigration out of Lithuania after 1944.

Yochanan Fein’s book Berniukas su smuiku will be published by the Kitos Knygos publishing house in the near future.

Full announcement in Lithuanian here.

More information about the Hebrew edition here.

A Mekhaye Winter Children’s Camp 2016

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The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Joint Distribution Committee traditionally hold the A Mekhaye winter camp for Children and did so late last year in 2016 as well. The camp is held in Dubingiai, Lithuania. It usually includes about 90 children who spend the holiday period together. This year as in earlier years we assembled a great team, people who know their work and who have been part of camp staff for several years now.

This year the theme was “Hanukkah in the shtetl,” since the camp coincided with the holiday. Each day camp counselors introduced a new topic and taught the children about it. Besides just being fun, the camp is very educational, even if information comes through games, as it often does. The children and staff say they feel right at home in Dubingiai now, as if it were their second home.

Ping-Pong Training

The Lithuanian Jewish Community
and the Naujų Žvaidždžių Club
invite you to play ping-pong

Everyone is invited to attend the ping-pong practice sessions,
to improve their skills and to compete.

This is for people of all ages and all or no skill level,
with professional tables and equipment (no need to bring anything),
freestyle games among friends and family for fun

The practice sessions will be held

in the ping-pong room at at the S. Daukantas Pre-Gymnasium, Naugarduko street no. 7, Vilnius
from 5:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. on weekdays and from 12 noon to 2:00 P.M. on Saturday

Cost:

for adults: 3 euros for 2 hours
for students: first session free (with discounts for those who wish to continue)

Everyone is welcome to attend the first introductory practice session free of charge.

For more information, call +370 613 75124 or email stalotenisoklubas@gmail.com

Hen Alon, director
Naujų Žvaidždžių Club
Lithuanian youth team coach

Sholem Aleichem Reunion

Šolomo Aleichemo g-ja kviečia abiturientus į susitikimą

The Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium invites former students to its annual reunion to be held at 6:30 P.M. on February 3.

See you there!

Former President Adamkus Visits Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium

Former Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus visited the Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium on Defenders of Freedom Day, the official day to commemorate victims of the January 13, 1991, pro-Soviet attacks on and murder of Lithuanians protesting for independence at the Vilnius television tower, the Publishing Palace and Lithuanian National Radio and Television headquarters.

Adamkus visited the school, toured classrooms, met with primary school pupils and took a special interest in the natural sciences offices. He then posed for photographs with students and teachers.

Happy Birthday to Ninela Efros

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Warm birthday greetings to Ninela Efros, long-standing volunteer doctor for the Lithuanian Jewish Community, who celebrated her 80th on January 15. May you always enjoy wonderful health and be surrounded by loved ones. Happy birthday! Mazel tov!

Condolences

Liubovė Pranskūnienė of Pasvalys passed away January 15. She was born on May 27, 1951. Our deepest condolences to chairman Moshe Shapiro on the loss of his beloved cousin.

Lithuanian Political Illusions: The “Policy” of the Lithuanian Provisional Government and the Beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania in 1941

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is publishing a series of articles by the historian Algimantas Kasparavičius, a senior researcher at the Lithuanian History Institute.

kasparavicius

Part 2

In the 20th century Lithuania without intermission lived through two bloody world wars and the psychological Cold War tensely lasting more than 40 years. The realities and outcomes of World War I corresponded with the political aspirations of the Lithuanians and set the groundwork for restoration of Lithuanian statehood. The confused ideology and daily horrors of World War II resulted in the loss of the Lithuanians’ nation-state, the de facto destruction of the first Republic of Lithuania. Hundreds of thousands of Red Army troops occupied Lithuania on June 15, 1940, And less than two months later, using the policy of total state terror and the services of local collaborators, the Stalinist Soviet Union annexed Lithuania along with her two northern neighbors.

Without going into all the factual trivia or fine details, or worse the political circumstances of alternate plans, looking at events in Lithuania generally and in the context of the entire political-ideological and geopolitical of Europe, we can say the Soviet occupation of the Republic of Lithuania and the forced, actual destruction of Lithuanian statehood in the summer of 1940 had two essential features.

Zygmunt Bauman is Dead

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Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman passed away at the age of 91 surrounded by family at his home in Leeds Monday following illness. Bauman was born in 1925 in Poznan (Posen) and in 1939 fled Nazi-occupied Poland for Soviet-occupied Poland. In the Communist Polish military Bauman did political education, took part in the battles for Kolberg (Kołobrzeg) and Berlin and worked in Communist security and espionage institutions.

Bauman took up sociology at the Warsaw Social Sciences Academy after the war and then transferred to philosophy at Warsaw University. He published his first book in 1960. Born to a non-observant Jewish family, Bauman left Poland during the anti-Semitic wave of 1968 and moved to Israel, teaching at Tel Aviv University. He soon moved from there to Leeds where he taught at Leeds University. Since the move to Leeds he wrote in English.

Bauman authored about 50 books and more than 100 articles on the topics of globalization, modernity, post-modernism, consumerism, morality and the Holocaust. His views concerning the Holocaust were extremely nuanced and included at times denouncements of Western Holocaust commemoration as a culture of death and a new religion with its own list of martyrs, “the Names,” intended to act as a sort of surrogate Judaism for the non-observant and Gentiles, or as a completely new religion but offering nothing of value to the human soul. Bauman’s most famous book, Modernity and the Holocaust (1989), draws upon Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno’s books on totalitarianism and the Enlightenment. Bauman argues he Holocaust should not be considered exclusively an event in Jewish history nor a regression to pre-modern barbarism. Instead, the Holocaust is deeply connected to modernity and its attempts to impose order. Procedural rationality, the division of labor into smaller and ever more specialized tasks, ever more refined taxa for species and seeing obedience as morally good all played a role in making the Holocaust possible. He said for this reason modern societies have not fully grasped the lessons of the Holocaust. It is viewed, according to Bauman’s metaphor, like a picture hanging on a wall, static, without utterance or meaning.

The late Lithuanian philosopher Leonidas Donskis counted Zygmunt Bauman among his friends and greatly respected his work. In 2007 Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas conferred an honorary doctoral degree upon Bauman.

Our condolences to his many friends and surviving family members.

Ponar Oratorio to Premiere at National Philharmonic

The premiere of Ponar Oratorio is to open at 6:00 P.M. on January 25, 2017, at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic in Vilnius. The new musical work was composed by Max Fedorov. The author of the libretto is Edward Trusewicz. Different parts of the oratorio are to be performed by Maciej Nerkowski, the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic Choir and the Kaunas Symphony Orchestra. Martynas Staškus is to conduct.

“The motif of the oratorio is about the confession of a man who took the lives of many people at the Ponar forest. The executioner has kept silent for many years but has finally decided to show his blood-stained hands,” premiere producer Edward Trusewicz said.

The oratorio is to be performed in Polish with a running text translation in Lithuanian and English during the performance.

Reservations and tickets available here.

Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem Extinguishes Four Young Lives

The terrorist attacks in Jerusalem just won’t stop. On January 8 in the Armon Hanatziv pedestrian way heavily walked by tourists in Jerusalem, four young Israeli soldiers were murdered and 16 wounded. The Palestinian attacker used a truck to attack, driving onto the pedestrian area and targeting young Israeli soldiers being led on a walking tour there. He killed four, mainly girls, before other soldiers fired into the cab of the truck, killing him.

Two elderly women were attacked at the same place, beloved of locals and tourists, in May of last year. Israeli law enforcement is calling both events an act of terrorism.

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We mourn with the families of the victims.

More on the story here.