Is It Possible to Forget?

It’s truly impossible to forget the crimes of Nazi Germany committed during World War II. Moreover, to take the stance this doesn’t affect you is a double crime. With these words Panevėžys deputy mayor Petras Lomanas began his speech at an event to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Sad Jewish Mother monument and the Jewish cemetery in Panevėžys on January 26.

Today even the rotten weather and the endless rain reminds us of the Holocaust in which 6 million European Jews were brutally murdered. There should be no place for anti-Semitism in the world, nor for terrorism, war and intolerance, he said.

Lithuanian Jewish Community executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas said at the event they were there to remember the Jews tortured and shot throughout Lithuania, more than 200,000 people. Only a few survived the ghettos, prisons and concentration camps, he said. More than 600,000 Jews fought against Nazi Germany in World War II. Many died, or returned from the battlefield with disabilities. Vaisbrodas said it was important to preserve the memory of the Holocaust for his generation.

LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky’s Speech at Lithuanian Foreign Ministry January 26

Honorable foreign minister,

Dear Holocaust survivors,

Dear rescuer friends,

Members of the Jewish Community,

Honored ambassadors,

This day is dedicated to remembering, thinking and looking towards the future.

We have gathered here to honor the victims of the Holocaust. Today we mourn together.

Let us honor the victims of the Holocaust with a minute of silence.

We mourn our countrymen, our friends, patriots, and in the case of members of my community, every time we experience the loss again of our family members.

We appreciate that the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, in other words, the Lithuanian state, initiated this shared honoring of the victims.

Lithuanian State Commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Užsienio reikalų ministerijoje surengtasTarptautinės Holokausto aukų atminimo dienos minėjimas

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry in conjunction with the Lithuanian Jewish Community commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the ministry Friday, January 26.

The event was humble, tasteful and without much fanfare, but was attended over 100 people, including survivors, children of survivors, grandchildren, foreign ambassadors, staff and members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the foreign minister and the father of Lithuanian independence, professor Vytautas Landsbergis, along with many ministry employees.

Foreign minister Linas Linkevičius spoke briefly and fully “owned” the Holocaust for Lithuania, saying while it was sad to begin the year celebrating the 100th birthday of the modern state with the Holocaust, it was necessary so that people would never forget. He called the Holocaust a scar across the face of the nation and the darkest page in Lithuania’s and humanity’s history, but also pointed out Lithuania now boasts 891 Righteous Gentiles.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky spoke and said the fact the Foreign Ministry was hosting the event meant the Lithuanian state was recognizing the importance of remembering what happened. She also announced the upcoming release of Yitzhak Rudashevski’s ghetto diary in Lithuanian.

A representative from the Israeli embassy praised Lithuania for adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

Rafailas Karpis performed songs in Hebrew and Yiddish.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky’s Appeal Regarding Legal Disputes within the Jewish Community

I would like to address our Community again:

• As you know, a group of people calling themselves “the Vilnius Jewish Community” initiated legal proceedings.

• We received no reply to our proposals, made directly and in written form, to give up these legal disputes. A decision was handed down in the Vilnius Jewish Community’s petition which will be appealed in the usual appeals process and we have complete confidence the decision will be annulled.

• In other legal proceedings, the court found the rules and regulations of the LJC were not legal, and the point allowing the formation of a representational quorum during elections was voided. The court again emphasized the rules and regulations must conform to the law: one member, one vote. This affects the regional communities, but moreover all of the associated members, and means that the LJC elections in 2017 were held in keeping with the law. This decision by the court is final and is not subject to appeal.

Again, every Lithuanian Jew may decide for him or herself what sort of community they want, but first, everyone must know the truth. Leaders and community members who await the end of the disputes so they can decide which side to support must wait a little longer. I feel this decision is a matter of conscience for each person to make on their own.

I ask those who are sowing division between Jews, engaging in provocations, filing complaints and spreading rumors and gossip to stop it, without regard to whatever posts they occupy. You are doing harm to the entire Lithuanian Jewish Community.

I invite all members of the community to come together and join forces for things that are important rather than engage in fruitless internal struggles. Our priority tasks are celebrating and passing on the distinct Litvak culture and historical memory of the history of Jews in Lithuania, and making life better for Jews here and now. We can only accomplish this by coming together.

Knesset Speaker Addresses Belgian Parliament on Holocaust Remembrance Day

For the first time ever, the speaker of the Israeli parliament the Knesset has addressed the Belgian parliament. On Tuesday, January 23, Knesset speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein spoke at a special session of the Belgian parliament held to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Also speaking were Belgian Federal Parliament speaker Zigfrid Brakke and Holocaust survivor Paul Sobol.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky attended and met with Edelstein.

Knesset speaker Edelstein both praised and criticized the Belgian government, and reminded the audience a Belgian citizen had entered and won a monetary prize in an anti-Semitic cartoon contest sponsored by the government of Iran.

“I will mention with a sad smile that recently the Antwerp municipality attempted to move the city’s Holocaust memorial to a quieter place where it would have less of an impact on traffic. In another case, which I will mention without any smile at all, praise was lavished on a Belgian teacher who won a cash prize in Iran for a cartoon demeaning the Holocaust and the state of Israel. Last year after he won the award his hometown here in Belgium named him a cultural ambassador par excellence. To judge from his cartoon, however, I am not certain what culture he represents. We must not forget the heinous attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels in which four people, including two Israelis, were murdered. The list of tragic events can be continued,” Edelstein said.

“After the Holocaust, it dawned on the world that the Jewish people would never be safe without a country to call their own,” Edelstein continued. “Today the state of Israel insures that no Jew can ever lack for a home or suffer the neglect of indifference, but while this is the national mission of the state of Israel, the scourge of anti-Semitism demands a global response. Ladies and gentlemen, Holocaust remembrance cannot belong to only a single day, one day in a year. It must pervade our lives everyday and inspire us constantly. As Elie Wiesel once warned, if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices. In the words of the author of the Psalms, it is not enough to turn from evil, we must also do good. Let us put an end to the complacency. When we hear anti-Semitic slurs, we must stand up. When we see Jewish victims of hate crimes, we must come to their aid. When we read anti-Jewish canards thinly veiled as criticism of Israel, we must not make excuses. We must raise our voices in collective protest. This effort is not easy or pleasant,” the speaker of the Knesset told the Belgian Federal Parliament.

Press Release

Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius and the Lithuanian Jewish Community invite you to come observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry at 1:30 P.M. on January 26. Participants to include survivors, rescuers, members of the Jewish community, members of parliament and foreign ambassadors.

A photography exhibition by Mečys Brazaitis called “The Jewish Quarter of Vilnius” will open during the event and opera singer Rafailas Karpis will perform.

Please bring identification to be shown at the entrance.

Mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day with the Kaunas Jewish Community

A commemoration including a composition called “Rescued Worlds” will take place for International Holocaust Remembrance Day at 1:00 P.M. on January 29 at Laisvės alley No. 57. Vilna Gaon Museum Rescuers and Righteous Gentiles Department director Danutė Selčinskaja will attend. Excerpts from the film “Sketches of Hope” will be screened as well. The event is being organized by the Kaunas Art Gymnasium in cooperation with the Kaunas Jewish Community, the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, the Mikas Petrauskas Music School and the Vincas Kudirka Public Library in Kaunas.

Al Jaffee Cartoon Exhibit “Childhood Adventures in Zarasai”

The exhibit at the Zarasai Regional History Museum contains illustrations by Al Jaffee included in Mary-Lou Weisman’s book “Al Jaffee’s Mad Life: A Biography.” In an interview with his biographer Al Jaffee called himself a reverse immigrant: when most people were leaving Lithuania for the USA, he went in the opposite direction. Savannah in the 1920s had electricity, inside toilets, asphalt streets, movie theaters and newspapers with daily comic strips. Zarasai, however, hadn’t changed much since the end of the 19th century. Al was the odd man out among the local children in Zarasai, where multilingualism was the rule and people spoke Lithuanian, Russian, Polish and Yiddish. He did manage to adapt to live there, though. The children invented games as children do and the entire town was their playground. The small town became the petri dish where Al and his brother Harry developed their creative talents. Even now Al says the years of his childhood he spent in Zarasai are some of the happiest years of his life.

Al’s popularity has grown continuously. In 1955 he began drawing for Mad magazine in New York City. He’s still drawing now. He lives with his wife Joyce in Manhattan.

You’re invited to visit the exhibit weekdays from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. (other times are available as well if prior notice is given).

We Remember 2018: Once Upon a Time There Lived Aizik Kanovich

Rokha (Rocha-Samuraj) and Dovid Kanovich, Solomon’s brothers Moshe-Yankel,
Aizik and Motl, sister Khava (from collections of Sergejus Kanovičius and Lisa

by Sergejus Kanovičius

The sky was light blue. “So clear, almost like the water in the yard of the house in Jonava,” Aizik Kanovich thought, and closed his eyes again. A few flakes of snow fell from the blue of the sky. In a way you could almost count. Like members of the family: the snowflake Sara, snowflake Rosette, snowflake Yosif and snowflake Bernard, one, two, three, four, Aizikas counted with his eyes shut.

“Faster, move, move, go on, the train won’t wait,” the bossy voices echoed.

“Aizik, Aizik, get up, we don’t have much time, just a little, and we’ll be on the train. And a little longer and we’ll be home in Paris,” Moris-Moshe Zuskind whispered, bent down towards his friend, his hands tucked into his armpits away from the cold.

Aizik’s thoughts travelled back to his first home, where he was born, on Fishermen’s Street in Jonava. Back to December, 1920, when he crossed the threshold and proudly said:

“Look here, I have a passport. With the signature of burgermeister Ramoška. Now I can go.”

“When?” the quiet Shlome asked.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Kaunas 2022 Program to Revive Lost Memory

The first event in the Kaunas 2022 program has been held at the M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum and was dedicated to commemoration of the Kaunas Jewish community before the Holocaust.

Kaunas residents often boast their city is the most Lithuanian city, but that’s not the whole truth. In the early 20th century Kaunas was very multicultural and this was an important part of the city’s identity. The “Office of Memory” part of the Kaunas 2022 program is aimed at reviving the history of the city and encouraging residents to remember that which has been forgotten.

Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon said there must be realization the Jews of Kaunas were Lithuanian citizens who had lived in the country for aeons, loved their country and worked to improve it. The ambassador spoke of a modern Jewish museum, one which would be attractive and interactive, “telling the story of the entire nation through the stories of different individuals.”

Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas said the old Hassidic synagogue in Kaunas would be an ideal site for such a museum. He also said the heroes of the brutal period of the Holocaust cannot be forgotten and that a monument to Lithuanians who rescued Jews should be erected outside the museum.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Documentary about Kovner’s Planned Revenge for Genocide to Air on British TV

Abba Kovner stands at the center of the Vilna ghetto fighters, some of whom later joined the group Nakam. (CC BY-SA Wikimedia Commons)

Film to show new details of Jewish post-war revenge plot to poison German cities

UK’s Channel 4 to air documentary featuring long-lost tapes describing how a Jewish group sought to exact revenge for the murder of 6 million

A new documentary promises to release never-before-seen evidence on the plot by a group of Holocaust survivors to poison hundreds of thousands of Germans in an act of revenge after World War II.

The film “Holocaust: The Revenge Plot” revolves around tapes of resistance fighter and later-poet Abba Kovner detailing his recollections of the plan, according to Britain’s Channel 4, which commissioned the documentary.

The tapes were recorded in 1985 as Kovner was dying from cancer and explore the 1946 plans to poison the water supplies in several German cities and a second plot to kill thousands of SS officers being held in an American prisoner camp.

Kovner is said to reveal how his secret organization, code-named Nakam (Hebrew for vengeance), infiltrated the waterworks of Hamburg, Nuremberg, Frankfurt and Munich in order to poison the water supply with arsenic.

Full story here.

We Remember

The World Jewish Congress has launched this initiative for the second year in a row, with active participation by the Lithuanian Jewish Community. The campaign runs from January 8 to January 27, 2018. To be part of it, take a photo of yourself holding the inscription “We Remember” or “I remember” and post it on social media with the hashtag #WeRemember.

The campaign will run through International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the end of January, culminating with a live projection of all participant photos, interviews with Holocaust survivors, and messages from influencers from varied backgrounds, professions, ages and religions on the grounds of Auschwitz-Birkenau January 24 to January 27.

Last year the initiative had 25 million participants around the world.

Full story here.

On Kaunas, Sugihara and Lithuanian-Japanese Relations Past and Present

by Simonas Jazavita

Lithuania came under the Japanese media spotlight January 14. The small Sugihara museum on Vaižganto street became known to Japanese, but also to readers of major papers in Israel, the USA, France and other countries. Prime minister of Japan Shinzo Abe found the time on his tour of Eastern and Central Europe to visit this museum which showcases Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara who worked here, in the provisional capital of Lithuania, in 1939 and 1949 and saved the lives of over 6,000 Jews.

Just because of Sugihara’s story, Kaunas and Lithuania are becoming a nice place dear to Japanese people. It’s not a coincidence that Abe’s portraits in the global media are often taken in Kaunas, even though he visited Latvia and Estonia first. If we make use of that historical tie, we could bring more of Japan’s attention to bear upon us rather than towards our neighbors, and make the tie stronger.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Learn to Embrace the Simple Past Tense: A Concert to Commemorate the Holocaust

You are invited an event to commemorate victims of the Holocaust with a presentation by tenor Rafailas Karpis, pianist Darius Mažintas and Sergejus Kanovičius called “Embrace the Simple Past Tense.”

Is it possible for the Yiddish and the Lithuanian language to meet under one roof?
Is it possible to feel a lullaby even if you can’t understand the words?
Is dialogue possible between sung Yiddish and Lithuanian work read out loud?
Can love, longing and remorse meet in memory?

Come, feel it and find out the answers on the last Sunday in January:

PLACE: Third floor, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius
TIME: 5:00 P.M., January 28.

Discussion on Maintaining Žaliakalnis Jewish Cemetery in Kaunas

Work has begun on restoring a monument to Holocaust victims at the mass grave at the Žaliakalnis Jewish cemetery in Kaunas. Members of the Kaunas Jewish Community, representatives of the Kaunas municipality, Lithuanian Jewish Community executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas, LJC heritage specialist Martynas Užpelkis and architect, designer and museum specialist Victoria Sideraitė-Alon met to discuss the issue, after which they visited Sugihara House and its new exhibit “Casablanca North: Kaunas 1939-1940” on the newly renovated second floor of the museum with a guided tour by Sugihara House director Simonas Dovidavičius.

Sugihara House is also exhibiting a show and film about Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved about 20,0000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.

One Century out of Seven Exhibit a Hit with Jews in Chicago

The cultural center of the Lithuanian consulate in Chicago is hosting an exceptional exhibition starting at the end of November called “One Century out of Seven: Lithuania, Lite, Lita.” The exhibit covers the history of Litvaks from the first arrivals and settlement of Jews in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the present day. The exhibit is now circulating in Chicago and suburbs. On January 12 it was presented to the Jewish community of Highland Park.

Exhibit author Pranas Morkus was able to present remarkable details of the relationships between Jews and locals and included a number of notable Litvaks, the most notable and best known being the Vilna Gaon, who is credited with making Vilnius the Jerusalem of Lithuania.

On January 15 the exhibit opened at the North Suburban Beth El Synagogue. Visitors sent photos to facebook and they may be viewed on the LJC webpage.

A large number of Jews with roots in Lithuania live in America and are proud to call themselves Litvaks.

The exhibit was the result of work by Pranas Morkus, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the designers Victoria Sideraitė-Alon and Jūratė Juozėnienė from the JUDVI design studio.

Lithuanian consul in Chicago Mantvydas Bekešius said the exhibit demonstrates Jews were, are and will always be an important part of the story of Lithuania.

When Will Kaunas Have a Monument to Holocaust Rescuers?

More than a decade ago Jewish community representative and Rotary Club member Michailas Duškesas proposed erecting a monument to Righteous Gentiles in Kaunas.

At that time some world-famous architects said they were interested in the memorial project. Michailas Duškesas said at the time erecting the statue would have cost less than 1 million litas, and the Rotary Club and Jewish organizations in Lithuania, Europe and Israel would have paid the total sum, according to him.

“Everything was headed in the right direction. Kaunas Regional Judaic Religious Community chairman Josifas Kacas was getting ready to fly to meet Daniel Libeskind to discuss all the details when, unfortunately, just a few days before the flight, he died, and everything seemed to fall apart,” Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas recalled. Now he and Rotary Club member Ignas Miniotas are reviving the project to commemorate Righteous Gentiles.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Visits Sugihara House in Kaunas

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visited Sugihara House in Kaunas Sunday accompanied by Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius.

The Sugihara House museum is located at the site of the Japanese consulate where Chiune Sugihara rescued Jews by issuing transit visas in 1939 and 1940.

Kaunas mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis, other city officials and several dozen children greeted the prime minister outside. Mr. Abe viewed the office where Sugihara worked and signed the guest book before touring the rest of the museum.

Suihara House director Simonas Dovidavičius told BNS said the visit was a very important one as the museum struggles to develop. “This site has virtually no permanent financing because we are an NGO,” Dovidavičius said.

Full text in Lithuanian and more photos here.

Japanese PM Abe to Visit Sugihara House in Kaunas

Photo of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara and an old Japanese flag on display at the Sugihara House Museum in Kaunas which housed the Japanese Consulate from 1939 to 1940. Photo: AFP-JIJI

KAUNAS, LITHUANIA–A Japanese diplomat who saved 6,000 European Jews from the Holocaust by issuing visas so they could escape war-torn Lithuania will be hailed by Japan’s prime minister decades after defying Tokyo to help the refugees.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe will pay tribute to Chiune Sugihara on Sunday when he visits the two-story building that housed the consulate where he worked in the Baltic state’s second city Kaunas.

Sugihara is thought to be among around 15 diplomats who issued visas to European Jews during World War II and is often called “Japan’s Schindler”–a reference to German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust.