Faina Kukliansky Says Jews and Lithuanians Need to Resolve Disagreements

Photos: BNS
by Birutė Vyšniauskaitė, www.lrt.lt

Although the scandal caused by writer Rūta Vanagaitė’s statements on the partisan Adolfas Ramanauskas has subsided, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky believes the tranquility is only temporary. Vanagaitė’s book Mūsiškiai about the mass murder of Jews in Lithuania is soon to appear in English translation. She also enjoys the support of the European Jewish Congress and has many proponents in Israel. In an interview with LRT [Lithuanian Public Radio and Television], Kukliansky said we shouldn’t fear coming scandals.

“I really liked historian Saulius Sužiedėlis’s idea that it’s possible to read a given document or set of documents a number of times and come to different conclusions. It takes special training and understanding to study documents. An elderly grandmother could read the same documents, and while they might be interesting to her, she won’t be able to make sense of them. So, what if a book is written for public relations, seeking profit and to sensationalize readers and listeners?” Kukliansky told LRT regarding the aftermath of the Vanagaitė scandal.

Screening of “Aš turiu papasakoti”

The film “Aš turiu papasakoti” (“Ya Dolzhna Rasskazat”) will be screened at the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius at 6:00 P.M. on November 23. The movie is based on the book by Marija Rolnikaitė about surviving the Holocaust.

The film is open to the public and admission is free. Director Feliks Dektor and producer Eugenijus Bunka will be there.

Tens of Thousands of Jewish Documents Lost during Holocaust Discovered in Vilnius

YIVO announces the discovery of 170,000 Jewish documents thought to have been destroyed by the Nazis. Photo: Thos Robinson/Getty Images for YIVO

NEW YORK (JTA)–A trove of 170,000 Jewish documents thought to have been destroyed by the Nazis during World War II has been found.

On Tuesday the New York-based YIVO Institute for Jewish Research announced the find which contains unpublished manuscripts by famous Yiddish writers as well as religious and community documents. Among the finds are letters written by Sholem Aleichem, a postcard by Marc Chagall and poems and manuscripts by Chaim Grade.

YIVO, founded in Vilnius in what is now Lithuania, hid the documents, but the organization moved its headquarters to New York during World War II. The documents were later preserved by Lithuanian librarian Antanas Ulpis who kept them in the basement of the church where he worked.

Most of the documents are currently in Lithuania but 10 items are being displayed through January at YIVO, which is working with Lithuania to archive and digitize the collection.

“These newly discovered documents will allow that memory of Eastern European Jews to live on, while enabling us to have a true accounting of the past that breaks through stereotypes and clichéd ways of thinking,” YIVO executive director Jonathan Brent said Tuesday in a statement.

United States Senate minority leader Charles Schumer, democrat from New York state, praised the discovery.

“Displaying this collection will teach our children what happened to the Jews of the Holocaust so that we are never witnesses to such darkness in the world again,” Schumer, who is Jewish, said in a statement.

Israeli consul general in New York Dani Dayan compared the documents to “priceless family heirlooms.”

“The most valuable treasures of the Jewish people are the traditions, experiences and culture that have shaped our history. So to us, the documents uncovered in this discovery are nothing less than priceless family heirlooms, concealed like precious gems from Nazi storm troopers and Soviet grave robbers,” he said.

Full story here.

Samuel Bak Museum Opens

Painter and Vilnius native Samuel Bak attended a press conference in Vilnius Wednesday to announce the opening of a Samuel Bak museum in Vilnius.

Bak, now based in the US, donated over 50 of his artworks for the museum. Born in 1933, the Jewish painter is a Holocaust survivor. He began drawing and painting in the Vilnius ghetto. After the war he lived in Israel and Western Europe. He and members of his family plan to spend just over a week in Vilnius on their current visit.

Bak is scheduled to be awarded honorary citizen of Vilnius at a ceremony to be held at the Vilnius Old Town Hall. The museum is to open November 17. 2017.

LRT TV Program Author Vitalijus Karakorskis Wins Prize for Intercultural Communication

November 16 is UNESCO’s International Day of Tolerance. Under the UNESCO definition in its Declaration of the Principles of Tolerance, tolerance doesn’t mean a tolerant attitude towards social injustice, nor the renunciation of one’s principles and their replacement with someone else’s. It means everyone is free to hold their own convictions and recognizes the right of others to do the same. It means recognizing people are born with different appearances into different social conditions, learn different languages, behavior and values, and have the right to live in peace and preserve their individuality.

The Ethnic Minorities Department under the Government of Lithuania named winners of its prize for intercultural communication November 13. There were 37 separate works in the running this year, including television programs, articles and interviews.

The judges’ panel awarded the prize to journalist, editor and filmmaker Vitalijus Karakorskis for originality and for discovering incredible connections between the ethnic communities resident in Lithuania in his making of an episode of the Lithuanian public television (LRT) program Menora on the topic of Dr. Jonas Basanavičius and Lithuanian Jews, on the 90th anniversary of the death of the patriarch of the Lithuanian state. They also awarded the prize to Siarhey Haurylenka for exceptional treatment of the cultures of Lithuanian ethnic minorities and the Belarusian language in the LRT television series about culture and history called “Cultural Crossroads: The Vilnius Notebook.”

New Fall Issue of the Bagel Shop Newsletter

After skipping a beat this summer, the newest Bagel Shop newsletter has hit the stands. The fall issue includes a complete news round-up from spring to the present, the usual sections and articles about the history of the Bund, efforts to restore Jewish headstones removed from Soviet-era public works projects around Vilnius to their rightful locations and the history of the Jews of Skuodas. The Jewish Book Corner this issue features a book about the tractate Nazir from the Babylonian Talmud and the Telšiai Yeshiva.

Look for the newest issue at the Bagel Shop Café, available for free, or download the electronic version below:

Bagel Shop Newsletter No. 2, 2017

The Jewish Contribution to Interwar Kaunas

Žydų indėlis tarpukario Kaunui

In the previous century Kaunas had a Jewish population of over 30,000, but now that number barely tops 300. How did people of this ethnicity contribute to Kaunas’s prosperity in the years between the wars? Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas and Jewish document collector Michailas Duškesas spoke to us about Jewish history.

Žakas said Kaunas became one of the centers of concentration for Litvaks. “Kaunas was the cradle of Litvaks, the capital. Before the deportations and mass murders more than 30,000 Jews lived in Kaunas accounting for about 20 percent of the total population. After World War II some came back, for example, my father and his brother returned from the Dachau concentration camp to Lithuania to look for family members. Ten thousand left for Israel, America and many went to Germany after World War II. I had the chance as well to go to America, but I stayed in Kaunas because it is my hometown,” Žakas said.

Document collector Michailas Duškesas stressed Lithuanian Jews, or Litvaks, are respected people in the world. “Litvaks in the world, this is a kind of super-brand, if you say you are a Jew from Lithuania you are considered exceptional, noble and honorable,” he said.

Full text in Lithuanian here.

Kaunas Jewish Community Invites You to a Conference

The Kaunas Jewish Community and chairman of the organizational committee Valentinas Aleksa, also chairman of the Sūduva Regional Scientific, Historical and Cultural Association, invite you to attend the conference “Diplomatic Document of Lithuanian National Self-Respect and Civic Courage in Nazi-Occupied Lithuania in World War Two” on November 14, 2017.

The conference is to be held at the Raudondvaris manor at Pilies takas no. 1 in Raudondvaris in the Kaunas region. Registration from 12:20 P.M. to 12:50 P.M., conference to start at 1:00 P.M.

The conference is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the restoration of the Lithuanian state and to 75th anniversary of the signing of a memorandum by the three heroic Lithuanians third Lithuanian president Dr. Kazys Grinius and former Government members and MPs professor Jonas Aleksa and professor Mykolas Krupavičiaus.

Kaunas regional administration head Valerijus Makūnas is the patron of the conference.

Anti-Semitism Will Remain, But It’s Not Always a Threat, US Professor Says

by Rūta Kupetytė, LRT radio program Ryto garsai, www.lrt.lt

Just as anti-Semitism, xenophobia and Romophobia have long existed in the subconscious, so they will remain, but don’t pose an extreme threat. So said US professor of history Saulius Sužiedėlis in an interview aired on Lithuanian national radio.

He said history has shown these kinds of sentiments only became dangerous in certain situations, but in others a nationalist attitude can even be a healthy thing.

Professor Sužiedėlis was in Vilnius to give a presentation at the international conference “Remembrance, Responsibility, Future.”

Several years ago you said there is almost no such Holocaust denial in Lithuania as it exists in the West, because everyone knows the Jews were murdered here, but that there are certain problems of suppression and diminishing of significance, and attempts to down-play Lithuanian involvement in the process. You said that seven years ago. Has the situation now changed?

Sužiedėlis: Let’s remember one thing: there was no greater mass murder in Lithuania than the genocide of Jews in 1941. These are the very worst mass murders in Lithuanian history.

Full interview in Lithuanian here.

International Conference Remembrance, Responsibility, Future Held in Vilnius

Vilniuje vyko svarbi tarptautinė konferencija #AtmintisAtsakomybeAteitis

To mark the international day against fascism and anti-Semitism, the Lithuanian Jewish Community held a large international conference November 9 called “Remembrance, Responsibility, Future” which attracted well-known scholars and media attention. Speakers discussed whether commemoration of painful historical events can serve as a bridge to understanding contemporary politics and prevent such events in the future.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, US ambassador Anne Hall, German ambassador Angelika Viets and deputy chief of mission for the Israeli embassy Efrat Hochtetler welcomed conference participants.

Unique Jewish Archive Emerges in Vilnius

Vilnius, November 3, BNS–As Judaica studies intensify in Vilnius, scholars have identified thousands of important Jewish manuscripts this year which had laid forgotten in a church basement during the Soviet years and were scattered to separate archives for two decades following Lithuanian independence.

Some of the newly identified documents are currently on display in New York City and there are plans to exhibit some of the collection in Lithuania in the near future as well.

Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library director Renaldas Gudauskas said the identification of ever more documents makes him confident the library currently conserves one of the most significant collections of Judaica in the world.

Hidden at a Church

Vilnius had hundreds of Jewish communal, religious, cultural and education organizations before World War II. YIVO, the Jewish research institute founded in 1925, was an important member of that group. YIVO did work on Jewish life throughout Eastern Europe, from Germany to Russia and from the Baltic to the Balkans, collecting Jewish folklore, memoirs, books, publications and local Jewish community documents, and published dictionaries, brochures and monographs.

Conference on Anti-Semitism and Romophobia in Lithuania

Press release

Marking November 9, the international day against fascism and anti-Semitism, the Lithuanian Jewish Community is holding an international conference called “Remembrance Responsibility Future” for notable scholars and specialists to seek solutions to pressing problems, including whether the commemoration of painful historical events can serve to educate in contemporary policy and help to insure the Holocaust never happens again.

The main goal of the conference is to come up with effective recommendations for fighting anti-Semitism and Romophobia in Lithuania. The conference is intended to demonstrate the intersection of historical memory and contemporary forms of hate in Lithuania. It is part of a project called “Drafting and Publication of Recommendations for Fighting Anti-Semitism and Romophobia in Lithuania” with support from the EVZ foundation in Germany. This foundation supports systematic and long-term studies of discrimination against and marginalization of Roma and Jews in Europe. The Goodwill Foundation is also supporting the Lithuanian project.

Professor Saulius Sužiedėlis is to deliver the main presentation November 9 called “Warning of History: Origins and Development of Anti-Semitism in Lithuania.”

Šarūnas Liekis, Vygantas Vareikis, Linas Venclauskas, Violeta Davoliūtė and Charles Perrin are also scheduled to give presentations.

The agenda includes a discussion of contemporary anti-Semitism.

Partners include the Roma Social Center, the Lithuanian Human Rights Center and the Women’s Information Center.

The conference begins 9:30 A.M., November 9, in the conference center of the Novotel Hotel at Gedimino prospect no. 16, Vilnius.

New Calls for Jewish Restitution

by Vytautas Bruveris, www.lrytas.lt

After adopting a law on compensating Jewish religious communities, Lithuania should go further and compensate Holocaust survivors for their private property. Both US officials and the Lithuanian Jewish Community are calling for this.

The Lithuanian prime minister’s advisor on foreign policy Deividas Matulionis said: “The issue of returning Jewish private property was raised earlier, but it’s being discussed more frequently now. I wouldn’t say there’s pressure, but the Americans have let us know return of Jewish property remains on the agenda.”

Matulionis was government chancellor in the earlier Government led by Andrius Kubilius when the law creating the Goodwill Foundation was adopted. Under that law the state pays out compensation for Jewish religious community property lost during the war, financing Jewish cultural, religious, educational and other socially useful activities.

The Lithuanian Government is obligated to pay 37 million euros in total to the foundation.

US Diplomat Visits

Matulionis recently spoke with Thomas Yazdgerdi, the US State Department’s special envoy for Holocaust issues, in Vilnius.

The American diplomat also met MPs and leaders of the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

One of the Yazdgerdi’s main topics of discussion was the continuing return of Jewish property.

He said Lithuania following the examples of other Central and Eastern European countries should keep moving forward by returning private property to Holocaust survivors and their descendants or by paying out compensation.

US Officials Urge Lithuania to Return Jewish Property

Vilnius, November 8, BNS–US officials and the Lithuanian Jewish Community are calling upon the Lithuanian Government to return private property to Holocaust survivors and their descendants, the daily Lietuvos Rytas reported Wednesday.

“The issue of restitution of private Jewish property has been raised in the past, but it is being increasingly discussed lately,” Deividas Matulionis, foreign policy adviser to prime minister Saulius Skvernelis, told the paper.

Matulionis recently discussed the issue with US State Department special envoy for Holocaust issues Thomas Yazdgerdi in Vilnius. The Lithuanian prime minister’s advisor told Lietuvos Rytas they hadn’t discussed any specific measures for restitution or numbers.

Matulionis said they talked about possibly compensating Jews for a portion of the value of their property and said that would be more of a symbolic gesture.

Six years ago Lithuania committed to paying 37 million euros compensation for Jewish religious communal property by 2023.

Invitation to International Conference #RememberanceResponsibilityFuture

Invitation to International Conference #RememberanceResponsibilityFuture


Dovilė Budrytė, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science                                 
Georgia Gwinnett College, Georgia, USA

Writing about memory in Eastern Europe, Alexander Etkind observed in his book Warped Mourning that various groups are likely to cultivate different versions of the past, define their friends and foes, thus creating separate memory communities that are likely to engage in memory wars.  Etkind’s observation raises several fundamental questions about historical memory in Eastern Europe:  Can a major historical trauma start uniting various groups to combat current expressions of prejudice and violence?  How should major historical traumas be commemorated so that memory wars are avoided?  Are there proper ways to remember horrendous events to make sure that history does not repeat itself?

Public Relations Horoscope

by Sergejus Kanovičius

The weighing ritual from the Soviet era has impressed itself deeply in memory: a plump woman standing behind the counter in a store with a white apron, the apron is somewhat wrinkled and with grease stains, the scales have larger and smaller weights, and she stands and watches, if she has something to way. One weight, and another, then another is needed to reach complete balance, placed on the right-hand plate of the scales, always a deficit, whose weight is measured by this very important woman. The woman is all-powerful. Usually she set some fifty or more grams aside, she also had to supplement her salary. Why do I remember this? I see how today the PR masters and the politicians who have taken up their ideas are joyfully weighing and trying to place a weight or two on a much emptier plate of the scales of historical truth. But one gets the impression that they, just as the woman in the Soviet store did, are setting a bit aside. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Usually more, unfortunately.

You leave their store and unwrap the purchase and hey, either it’s just paper, or else they’ve taken a bit for themselves again. And then you wait again until they decide the time has come to mete out some sort of historical deficit.

As I understand it, the quota for naming the year of the coming 100th anniversary of the state has been used up. Other years are being suggested, maybe the year of the bear on the Chinese calendar, or perhaps the year of the dragon or the cat on the Japanese, one year under the Jewish calendar and a different one according to Christ. Well anyway, we like to baptize, to be baptized and to attend baptisms, it’s fun. Even if there is no baby, we’ll make one up.

Rūta Vanagaitė’s Stories Cause Ears to Perk Up Abroad

Photo: BNS

by Joana Lapėnienė, LRT teleivison program Savaitė, www.LRT.lt

Rūta Vanagaitė accuses Adolfas Ramanauskas while her defenders accuse Lithuania.

The voice of the European Jewish Congress resounds the loudest in this matter, whose leader is an oligarch sympathetic to the Kremlin, the Russian businessman who likes to show off photos of himself with Vladimir Putin and who often praises the latter, but the fact remains the case has resonated beyond Lithuania’s borders. And deliberations on whether the rights of people who hold an alternative view are abused in Lithuania, whether books are burned in Lithuania because of the point of view they express, books about the Holocaust among them, and whether we are trying again to avoid responsibility in the mass murder of Jews, are not beneficial to Lithuania.

Was this scenario planned? It turns out the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community attempted to talk the head of the European Jewish Congress, Putin’s beloved oligarch, out of making these accusations against Lithuania. When we tried to find out what the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry and its special ambassador for contacts with Jewish organizations had done, we only received a general sort of letter saying they are constantly working. People we interviewed, however, said the opposite. But replies must have been drafted, because Vanagaitė’s letter purely for local consumption was a public one. She has not taken back any of what she said outside of Lithuania and has not recognized any wrong-doing. She did, however, thank an embassy for supporting her in telling her truth, meaning the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Position on Public Discussion of Writer Rūta Vanagaitė’s Statements Regarding Lithuanian Partisan Leader Ramanauskas “Vanagas”

The Lithuanian Jewish Community, or LJC, expresses concern over public discussion of writer Rūta Vanagaitė’s statements regarding the actions of Lithuanian partisan movement leader Adolfas Ramanauskas “Vanagas.” At this time the LJC knows of no reliable information based on extant historical documents confirming the accusations made against Ramanauskas implicating him in the Holocaust or the murder of Jews of Lithuania.

We call upon all sides to refrain from making rash statements leading to public discord and emphasize that discussion of complex questions of Lithuanian-Jewish history should be based on the principles of mutual respect, openness and honesty.

The LJC respects the right of the private publisher Alma Littera to carry out its own business plan as it sees fit. Nonetheless, the LJC considers the publishing house’s decision on how to utilize the works of Vanagaitė, recalling from stores all of her works, inappropriate, and that it could lead to conflict within society.

Adhering to the belief that historical justice and its restoration should be based on reasoned studies by professional historians using authentic documents, the LJC invites the public, professional historians and national leaders to take measures to halt the further division of society and the spread of hate.

PM Says Lithuania Doesn’t Need to Review Position on Holocaust Collaboration

Vilnius, November 2, BNS–Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis says Lithuania doesn’t need to review its position on the role played by Lithuanians in the Holocaust.

“There’s nothing for us to review, as a state we have performed all actions and further have excellent dialogue with the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the world Jewish community. We aren’t saying that the painful issues which exist shouldn’t be discussed, and those discussions are taking place within the Government, their representatives and community representatives are visiting. So there’s nothing really to reconsider,” the head of the Government said on the Žinių radijas radio station Thursday.

He was commenting on the call by the European Jewish Congress for Lithuania to review fundamentally the role of Lithuanians during the Nazi occupation and to stop honoring those who collaborated with the Nazis and actively took part in the mass murder of Jews in Lithuania.

“If someone wants to reconsider something or go deeper, this is the work of historians, and historians must base their findings on very clear, systematic historical information and facts, not on the interpretation of facts, but on the totality of facts. Then one can discuss and speak,” the Lithuanian prime minister said. He also said Lithuania as a state has done everything to insure good relations between the state and the Jewish community.