Holocaust

Evening to Remember Pianist Nadežda Dukstulskaitė

Evening to Remember Pianist Nadežda Dukstulskaitė

The Lithuanian Jewish Community will host an evening to remember the pianist and teacher Nadežda Dukstulskaitė at 6:00 P.M. on Thursday, November 15. The evening will feature memories and performances by Rafailas Karpis, Robertas Bekionis, Dmitri Bulybanko and the Ąžuolai men’s choir. Dr. Leonidas Melnikas will moderate.

Nadežda Dukstulskaitė (1912-1978) was born into the family of a musician. In 1918 the family moved to Kaunas where from the age of 7 Nadežda attended private lessons in piano under Herbeck-Hansen. She was graduated from the Stern Conservatory in Berlin in 1926 and from 1926 to 1929 studied at the High Musical School in Berlin.

She was a concert master and soloist on Kaunas and Vilnius radio from 1929 to 1953. She toured Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Sweden in 1934, 1937 and 1938 and performed works by M. K. Čiurlionis, Juozas Naujalis, Stasys Šimkus, Juozas Tallat-Kelpša, Juozas Gruodis and Juozas Karosas.

She escaped the Kaunas ghetto towards the end of World War II with help from the writer Kazys Binkis and his wife Sofija. She hid in different locations around Kaunas for several days and then walked to Vilnius. From 1953 to 1959 she was the concert master of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic’s philharmonic, and from 1959 to 1978 concert master and piano teacher for the Ąžuoliukas choir.

Her students included the opera singer Vladimiras Prudnikovas and the pianists Robertas Bekionis, Dmitri Bulybenko and Leonidas Melnikas.

Holocaust Memorial Unveiled in Vandžiogala

Holocaust Memorial Unveiled in Vandžiogala

The Kaunas district administration and Litvaks living in the USA have unveiled a Holocaust memorial at the old Jewish cemetery in Vandžiogala, Lithuania, to remember the Jews murdered there in 1941. The unveiling ceremony was scheduled for November 8 with the US and Israeli ambassadors in attendance as well as representatives of the financial supporter Alex Lyon and Sons, the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department and members of the local community. The work by the Kaunas district administration, Vandžiogala alderman Vytautas Šniauka and the local community included clearing the Litvak cemetery of bushes, restoring upturned headstones, making a path to the cemetery and constructing a small parking lot in the forest.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Demagog Tango with the Conscience

Demagog Tango with the Conscience

Valiušaitis’s article “Melo voratinklyje – antinacistinė ir antisovietinė rezistencija” [“In the Web of Lies: The Anti-Nazi and Anti-Soviet Resistance”] examines the art of Soviet disinformation. A truly necessary topic. But again, “including” captain Jonas Noreika, and again arguing as if there are no documents demonstrating Noreika’s Nazi collaboration, his violation of his oath as a military officer and his close cooperation with the murderers of Jews.

Unfortunately such proof exists, whether Valiušaitis likes it or not. So, in denying the established facts, trampling upon the principles of morality and ethics and human values, he seeks to push the worship of a tainted hero onto democratic society. Whether this is intentional or not, he is demanding the justification of fascist and Nazi ideology. But glorification and justification of these ideologies is forbidden by Lithuanian law.

A half-lie isn’t the truth. Using one historian as a source is not an indication of objectivity. Besides the Soviet sources, there are a plethora of others, just as there are many works by historians unaffected by Soviet disinformation. The rejection of the International Criminal Court’s definition of genocide doesn’t vindicate the crime. Proponents of Nazi ideology cannot claim to be anti-Nazis. During World War II, the “anti-Nazi underground” of the fascist Lithuanian nationalist parties, the LAF and LNP, was so unremarkable in Lithuania that they failed to rescue even a single Jew and failed to kill even a single Nazi. And attempting to whiten the mantle of an officer by presenting, for example, Pope Pius XII’s “silent” policy of rescuing Jews, does a disservice to the Pope. Not only did Noreika fail to rescue a single Lithuanian Jew, but he was responsible for one and a half years for the looting of the property of the Jews murdered and shook hands daily with the murderers of the Jews.

Eightieth Anniversary of Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938

Eightieth Anniversary of Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938

Today marks 80 years since Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass when Nazis in Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland went on an organized rampage murdering Jews and looting, burning and destroying Jewish businesses and synagogues. The pogrom of unprecedented scale was supposed to leave shattered glass in streets around the Third Reich, like crystals, and the staged event even had an official name, Reichskristallnacht. For many Jews and Germans it marked the beginning of the Holocaust, with hundreds murdered, thousands wounded and many women raped by the brownshirts. In leadership circles the Nazis actually called it the Week of Broken Glass. Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels issued an order on the evening of November 9, 1938, calling for “spontaneous demonstrations” to be “organized and executed” that night. Reinhard Heydrich, second in command in the SS after Himmler, was in charge of operations at the street level. The Nazis overplayed their hand and forced themselves into a corner: following Kristallnacht, insurance claims threatened to bankrupt a large number of German insurers, leading the Nazis to seek desperately for an early, financial Final Solution.

Nazi Germany’s “break-the-glass moment” led to the seizure of Jewish property and Jews who were sent to concentration camps. In just over two years the Holocaust began in Lithuania as well, where between 140,000 and 150,000 people were murdered in just three months.

Celebrating Vidmantė Jasukaitytė’s 70th Birthday

Celebrating Vidmantė Jasukaitytė’s 70th Birthday

The Lithuanian Writers Union is holding a birthday party for the late writer Vidmantė Jasukaitytė from 5:30 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. on Thursday, November 8, 2018. The event will be held at the Writers Club located at K. Sirvydo street no. 6 in Vilnius and is open and free to the public. The program includes a reading of Jasukaitytė’s “The Sixth Commandmant: Thou Shalt Not Kill. Subačiaus Street. The Ghetto” based on her experience living at the former HKP Nazi labor camp in Vilnius, set to music and performed by Arkadijus Gotesmanas on percussion and Dimitrijus Golovanovas on piano. Jasukaitytė’s daughter Kunigunda, an artist in her own right, and a number of notable Lithuanian writers and poets are to attend and speak.

Exhibit: Reflections in a Broken Mirror

Exhibit: Reflections in a Broken Mirror

You are invited to attend the opening of the exhibit Reflections in a Broken Mirror detailing Litvak life in the period between the two world wars, in the atrium on the fifth floor at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library at 3:00 P.M. on November 12. Judaica Research Center director Dr. Lara Lempert will present the exhibit. After presenting the exhibit she will also talk about the work of this center and new discoveries in Jewish heritage.

Vilnius Regional Jewish Community

Inside the Swarm on Jewish Street: Poverty and Prayer

Inside the Swarm on Jewish Street: Poverty and Prayer

The current city government talks about the density of population in the city center, but they should look back into history when, before World War II, there were from between 200 and 500 residents living in every building on Jewish Street. The most highly-populated buildings in Vilnius. Although it’s difficult today for us to imagine a building with ten people living in every apartment, that’s how it was in the Jewish Street neighborhood. In the 19th century and the period between the two world wars, Jewish Street was the Jewish center and axis, known not just for the number of its inhabitants but also for its abundance of houses of prayer. The buildings were filled to overflowing with shops and different venues for study and entertainment.

Full article in Lithuanian here.

Mysteries of the Žagarė Ghetto

Mysteries of the Žagarė Ghetto

by Evaldas Balčiūnas, bernardinai lt

The history of the Žagarė ghetto is brief, terrific and painful. The ghetto didn’t have any internal Jewish council, so its history is marked by even more brutal slave labor, “restrictions” and murder of the Jews. It concludes with orders for exhumations performed by the Soviets. The Holocaust wiped out the Jewish community of Žagarė. It wasn’t just Jews from Žagarė who were imprisoned in the ghetto in 1941, but also Jews from surrounding communities such as Linkuva, Pašvitinys, Žeimelis and others. About 3,000 people were murdered at Naryškinas Park in Žagarė and another 500 Jews in Vilkiaušis Forest.

The white armbanders began the mass murder of the Jews of Žagarė before the ghetto was established. The best-known event was on a Sunday in July of 1941, when the white armbanders shot eight people at the Latvian cemetery. The Soviets sought to stress the Soviet-ness of the victims and so listed their jobs in a written finding issued after the war in 1958.

Full text in Lithuanian here.

Holocaust Victims Remembered at Seventh Fort in Kaunas

Holocaust Victims Remembered at Seventh Fort in Kaunas

Lithuanians and Jews remembered the victims of the Holocaust at the Seventh Fort in Kaunas October 31. Kaunas Seventh Fort director Vladimiras Orlovas told the Kauno Diena newspaper said this was the only time Jewish community representatives, in this case the Kaunas Jewish Community, participate in the traditional Lithuanian holiday Vėlinės, or All Hallows’ Day, during which Lithuanian traditionally go to family cemetery plots and honor dead family members.

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community is an Active Community

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community is an Active Community

September 23 is marked as the Day of Remembrance of the Lithuanian Jewish Victims of Genocide. On that day members of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community gathered in the Luponiai Forest near the village of Kužiai in the Šiauliai region where over 8,000 Jews were murdered. A moment of silence was observed in memory of the victims, flowers were placed on the monument and candles lit. Speakers recalled the events of history. From there members travelled to the Šiauliai ghetto to honor the victims there as well.

Community members also honored the victims at the Bubiai and Žagarė mass murder sites. Historical sources say two ghettos were established after the Germans entered Šiauliai. The prisoners there were murdered, some in the Luponiai Forest while others were sent to the Žagarė ghetto. Aleksandras Rabinovičius located the mass murder site in Luponiai Forest with the help of locals. The people of Šiauliai erected a commemorative obelisk and signs and built footpaths there.

On October 21 members of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community met Roma Mačienë, a pioneer in ecological bee-keeping. She related much new information to members about bees, bee species, that bees have five eyes and they also have a keen sense of smell. In the world of bees it’s important to have a good, strong family which is able to reproduce to insure the continuity of the line, the basis of all life. The bee-keeper called bee products a miracle of miracles. Members learned about honey but also pollen and other products produced by bees.

Discussion on Prospects for Jewish Heritage Conservation

Discussion on Prospects for Jewish Heritage Conservation

The Lithuanian Jewish Community held a discussion October 24 about Jewish heritage protection from the present till 2020, about the priority tasks and goals in the context of 2020 being named the Year of the Vilna Gaon and the Year of Litvak History. The discussion mainly focused on the former Great Synagogue in Vilnius and how to protect what remains of it.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, members of the Community, US embassy adviser on political and economic matters Shai Moore and foreign members of the LJC’s own heritage group, including Lyudmila Sholokhova (YIVO), Assumpcio Hosta (AEPJ) and Sergey Kravtsov (Hebrew University), took part in the discussion.

Chairwoman Kukliansky reminded participants Jewish heritage is important to the Lithuanian state and everyone concerned with heritage conservation, as well as to Jews. Discussions have been going on for years about how to protect the Great Synagogue site, the LJC’s role in that process and what to do with the school there, under which archaeologists last summer unearthed a portion of the synagogue’s central bimah. The situation is complex concerning the site: the school was scheduled for demolition but this year it was leased for two years to several organizations. There is clearly a commercial interest in this special location, Kukliansky noted.

It’s difficult to find experts in Vilnius who could be asked how best to commemorate the Great Synagogue, so the arrival of the international group of heritage specialists, their participation in LJC meetings, their perspectives and discussion of these perspectives is an important event.

Neringa Latvytė-Gustaitienė, the head of the history department at the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, said the Great Synagogue of Vilnius is not just a symbol belonging to Lithuania, but to all Jews of Eastern Europe. It is a priority heritage site but sadly there hasn’t been any break through in the cultural community on this issue, she added.

New Exhibit at Ponar Memorial Complex

New Exhibit at Ponar Memorial Complex

A new exhibit will be unveiled at the Ponar Memorial Complex on October 31. Ponar was a place where residents of Vilnius, including Jews, liked to go in the summer, but which became infamous as the site of the mass murder of Jews in Lithuania. The exhibit features the history of Ponar and the mass murder of Jews there. It was made by the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum and financed by the Chancellery of the Government of Lithuania.

Although Ponar is now synonymous with the mass murder site where Nazis and Lithuanians murdered the Jews of Vilnius and surrounding areas, before World War II the forest near Vilnius was a frequent destination for those seeking a proximate location. In 1939 the town was even named an official vacation destination. When the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania, they began to exhume more than a dozen pits for aviation fuel tanks and munitions stores there. Between 1941 and 1944 from 50,000 to 70,000 Jews were murdered there. Most were Jews from Vilnius and the surrounding region, but also included Polish resistance fighters, some Lithuanians, Soviet POWs, Roma and others.

The first monument to the victims at Ponar was erected in 1948, but was swiftly removed by Soviet authorities, and until the restoration of Lithuanian independence in 1990 the site was officially commemorated as a site where Soviet citizens were murdered by fascists. In 1991 the Ponar site was given over to the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. In early 2014 a project for maintaining and updating the Ponar Memorial Complex began along with comprehensive studies of the killing field which wholly changed ideas about the site. Different new sites were located there: mass murder sites, a tunnel for prisoners, guard posts, the location of former buildings and gates. It also became clear that the mass murder territory was significantly larger than it had been thought before: it probably spanned a territory of 70 hectares.

Litvaks in the Creation of Modern Lithuania and Israel

The Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library is to host a conference called “Together towards the Modern State: Litvaks in the History of Lithuanian and Israeli Statehood” on November 13 to mark the 100th anniversary of Lithuanian and 70th anniversary of Israeli statehood.

Speakers are to include Lithuanian and Israeli academics who will present the contribution Lithuanian Jews made in the creation of the Lithuanian state in 1918 and the contribution Litvaks also made to foundation of the state of Israel. Lithuanian students will also present their research on the life of local Jewish communities.

Please register before November 12 by sending an email to gustas.siauciulis@praktika.urm.lt

The conference will begin at 10:00 A.M. on November 13 at the national library.

The library’s Judaica Research Center will also present an exhibit during the conference called “Reflections in a Broken Mirror” presenting the life of the Lithuanian and Vilnius Jewish communities in the period between the two world wars.

Information available in Lithuanian here.

Remembering Victims of the Great Aktion in Kaunas

The Kaunas Jewish Community will remember the victims of the Great Aktion in the Kaunas ghetto with a candle-lighting ceremony and honor Holocaust victims with a prayer at the Ninth Fort in Kaunas at 12 noon on October 28. The largest mass murder of Jews in the Kaunas ghetto on any day took place on October 28 into October 29, 1941, when about 10,000 people were killed. Over 4,200 children were murdered during the Great Aktion.

Kaunas Jewish Community Celebrates 30th Birthday

The Kaunas Jewish Community celebrated the 30th anniversary of its restoration with the concert “From Mendelssohn to Latėnas” October 22. Members of the Kaunas Jewish Community, city society and cultural figures attended the elegant event reminiscent of Kaunas in the period between the two world wars.

Speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Viktoras Pranckietis greeted the audience and the Community.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is proud of the achievements by the Kaunas Jewish Community and thanks chairman Gercas Žakas for his efforts in rallying and uniting the Jews of Lithuania’s provisional capital, for his sincere and ceaseless concern for the needs of members and Righteous Gentiles, for popularizing athletics and reviving Yiddish culture.

We are so proud of you and wish you many more such anniversaries! Mazl tov!

Meeting/Discussion “Prospects for Jewish Heritage in 2020”

You are invited to attend and speak at a meeting and discussion called “Prospects for Jewish Heritage in 2020: Major Tasks and Goals during the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Lithuanian Jewish History” at 5:30 P.M. on October 24 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius.

Members of the LJC’s heritage protection group will attend, including Lyudmila Sholokhova from YIVO, Assumpcio Hosta from the AEPJ in Spain and Sergey Kravtsov from Hebrew University.

To register, contact renginiai@lzb.lt

Condolences

Accomplished Lithuanian sculptor Romualdas Kvintas has died following a long battle with illness. He passed away October 20, 2018. He was born June 16, 1953, in Žagarė, Lithuania. Many of his works started dealing with Jewish figures and the Holocaust in the late 1990s. He created portraits in sculpture of Romain Gary, Daniel Dolski, Tsemakh Shabad, Jascha Heifetz, Hermanas Perelšteinas, Nehru, Mohandis Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach together, and many others. He also created several memorials to the Jews of Šeduva.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community feels we have lost a friend and great artist. Our deepest condolences to his family, friends and many admirers.

Juvenishki Memorial, an Exhibit of Works by Simon Karczmar

The Dieveniškės School of Business and Technologies is inviting the public to attend a special event for the region and the nation, the opening of an exhibit of works by Simon Karczmar called “Juvenishki Memorial” at the school located at Geranionų street no. 42 in Dieveniškės, Lithuania, from 2:00 to 4:00 P.M. on October 23, 2018.

Simon Karczmar visited his grandfather in Dieveniškės, aka Juvenishki and aka Divenishok ca. 1908 where he discovered the life of the shtetl for the first time. He went on to pursue a career in art which he paid for by trading furs and lived in Warsaw and Paris. He joined the French resistance during World War II, found his surviving wife who had been sent to Auschwitz and they moved to Israel together, moving eventually to Montreal and then back to Israel. While in Canada and then later in Safed, Israel, Karczmar produced a series of works connected with his grandfather’s shtetl.

The exhibit will travel on from Dieveniškės to the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum in Vilnius later.

For more information, see the school’s facebook page here.