Learning, History, Culture

Maria Krupoves Performs Holocaust Commemoration Concert at LJC

Maria Krupoves performed Vilnius ghetto songs in Yiddish accompanied on piano by Artūras Anusauskas at the Jascha Heifetz Hall at the Lithuanian Jewish Community September 27. Krupoves holds a PhD and is a scholar and folklorist as well as an outstanding musician. A polyglot, her repertoire include songs from across Central and Eastern Europe sung in Yiddish, Polish, Lithuanian, Belarusian, Romani, Karaïte, Tartar and a number of other languages. Her performance this time included the songs Es is geven a sumer-tog; Vilne, Vilne, undzer heymshtot; Unter dayne vayse shtern; Zog nit keynmol and others.

Information Stands Recall Tragedy of Zapyškis

The Kaunas administration and the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania have placed information stands at two sites in the village of Zapyškis.

Zapyškis in 1923 had a population of 589, over half of them Jewish. The center of the community’s cultural life was the Zapyškis synagogue and there was the Bal-Makhshov cultural association, a library, pharmacy, several shops and a Jewish primary school.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Come Learn Hebrew and English

Everyone is invited to come learn some Hebrew or improve the Hebrew skills they already have. On Sundays the long-awaited lessons for children will be held as well. To register contact teacher Ruth Reches by email at ruthreches@gmail.com

Sunday

9:30-11:00 A.M. Hebrew for adults, level 2 (continued, conference hall at the LJC)
1:00-2:30 P.M. Hebrew for adult beginners (conference hall)
2:45-4:15 P.M. Hebrew for adults, level 1 (continued, conference hall)

Sunday school for kids

10:00-11:00 A.M. English lessons by English teacher Viačeslav Mlynkovskij (Ilan Club)
11:15-12:00 noon Hebrew (conference hall)
12:00-12:45 P.M. Traditions (conference hall)

Memory Stones Placed in Ukmergė Old Town

On September 24 two memory stones commemorating Holocaust victims were placed on the ground in Ukmergė (Vilkomir). The idea of memory stones is to remember victims of fascism where they lived and worked. One stone was set in the ground on Vasario 16 street near an athletics school where the Great Synagogue of Vilkomir once stood and is dedicated to Rabbi Josif Zusmanovitch. The second is at Kauno street no. 17, dedicated to the photographer Moshe Levi whose studio was located there.

Artūras Taicas, chairman of the Ukmergė Jewish Association, thanked the project organizers in the name of the entire Jewish community for remember the lost world of the Litvaks.

Vepriai primary school teachers Aldona Medonienė and Vitas Medonas, Lithuanian Human Rights Center reps Simona Gaidytė and Jūratė Juškaitė and Ukmergė Regional History Museum representative Jolanta Petraitytė also spoke at the ceremony to unveil the stones.

Remembering and Teaching the Holocaust in Panevėžys

The Panevėžys Jewish Community held an event to commemorate Holocaust victims with long-term community partners the Saulėtekis gymnasium, the J. Balčikonis school, the V. Žemkalnis school, the J. Miltinis gymnasium and the M. Rimkevičaitė school of business and services.

In the first part of the event teachers and students from the schools participated in a quiz about history, Jewish culture and the Holocaust. Many displayed a deep knowledge while others heard for the first time about the ghettos in Vilnius, Kaunas, Šiauliai, Panevėžys and other towns.

Next, participants presented posters they had made on the theme of “never again.” Teachers who head tolerance centers at their schools judged the pictures full of pain and suffering.

Every school was awarded prizes, trophies, thank-you letters and souvenirs for the knowledge, initiative, creativity, tolerance, bravery and artistry they displayed. Students from the Balčikonis school won the quiz.

Nechama Lifshitz Ensemble Commemorate Holocaust Victims in Vilnius

The Nechama Lifshitz Ensemble from Israel presents a creative evening to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust called “Heroism in the Face of Destruction. Testimonies,” directed by Regina Driker. The evening is dedicated to the heroes of the Vilnius ghetto. Passages from books, photographic documentation and songs of the ghetto in Yiddish (with Lithuanian translations). Performers: Gintaras Mikalauskas (actor, Lithuania), Gali Ben-Ari (vocalist, Israel), Roza Klein-Gofanovich (vocalist, Israel), Maksim Levinski (vocalist, Israel), Ada Pashaev (vocalist, Israel), Jana Yankovski (vocalist, Israel), Gregoriy Stolovich (multi-media), Regina Driker (pianist, director, playwright).

Time: 6:30 P.M., October 4, 2018
Location: Theater Hall, Vilnius University, Universiteto street no. 3, Vilnius.
Duration: ~one hour and thirty minutes

Vilnius City Council Member Wants Holocaust Perp Name Removed from Street

Mark Adam Harold, a member of the Vilnius city council, has sent a request and published it as an open letter to Povilas Poderskis, the director of administration for the municipality, calling for drafting and presenting to the council a measure to change the name of a controversial street in the Lithuanian capital.

Harold is calling for “Škirpos alėja,” or “Škirpa’s alley,” to be renamed “Vėliavos alėja,” or “Flag Alley.”

Kazys Škirpa, Lithuania’s military attaché to Nazi Germany, founded and led the Lithuanian Activists Front in Berlin in November, 1940. LAF cells inside Lithuania were formed and were later called upon by LAF leaders to ease the invasion of the Wehrmacht of what was then considered the western Soviet Union. LAF leaflets and missives also called for the murder of Lithuanian Jews.

On January 1, 1919, Škirpa and other Lithuanian volunteer soldiers raised the Lithuanian tricolor, the flag of the Republic of Lithuania, on top of the Tower of Gediminas on Gediminas Hill overlooking the center of Vilnius, the capital of the newly proclaimed state. Škirpa’s alley is located at the base of the same hill.

New Book Remembers Litvaks of Greater Kaunas Area

The Kaunas Regional Public Library Monday presented a new book written by multiple authors called “Žydai Pakaunėje” [Jews in the Area around Kaunas]. The collected writings were compiled by Dr. Inga Stepukonienė, a teacher at the Garliavos Jonučiai Gymnasium and associate professor at the Kaunas branch of Vilnius University.

Book authors, historians and members of the Jewish community attended the book launch.

Historical documents show Jews settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 14th century and numbered over a quarter million people by the 18th century.

Litvaks were considered hard-working, talented and creative. Many fought in Lithuania’s volunteer army and participated actively in national life. Interwar Lithuanian and Jewish politicians, scholars and writers forged a common vision for the new nation.

The book features many recollections. Most of the authors tackling the subject of Jewish life in the villages around Kaunas are local residents. Regional historian Antanas Vaičius is from Čekiškė, Algirdas Marazas of Kulautuva writes about Jewish life there and Garliava residents Inga Stepukonienė, Robertas Keturakis and Ovidijus Jurkša pay tribute to the history of the Jews of Garliava.

Some Litvaks from the area around Kaunas even achieved world renown: Leiba and Estera Tile moved to America and became the adoptive parents of Louis Armstrong, aka the jazzman Satchmo.

Who Are Lithuania’s Heroes Today? Škirpa, Noreika or the Righteous Gentiles?

Former ghetto prisoners, members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, members of international Jewish organizations, ambassadors from Israel and other countries, Government ministers, parliamentary speaker Viktoras Pranckietis and Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius were among those attending a commemorative ceremony at Ponar September 23, 2018, the 75th anniversary of the final destruction of the Vilnius ghetto.

“Nine hundred Righteous Gentiles testify that 75 years ago people had the choice not to commit murder. The only ones without a choice were those selected for death. Even after 25 years of independence, Lithuania continues to bear the burden of that choice. I would like to ask one question: who is a Lithuanian hero today? Is it Škirpa, Noreika or the citizens who rescued Jews in Lithuania, who fought for their independence, worked for the benefit of their country, who risked their lives and saved their fellow citizens from death?” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky asked the audience.

Arie Ben-Ari Grodzensky, chairman of the Association of Jews from Lithuania in Israel, said: “It’s impossible to forget the tragedy of the Holocaust, and we must exert all efforts to make sure the Shoah never happens again. I want to add that our organization, made up of more than 1,500 Litvaks around the world, has officially joined the Lithuanian Jewish Community this year. We are very happy and very supportive of LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky.”

Mickey Kantor, president of the Beit Vilna Association of Vilnius and Vilnius Region Jews in Israel, remembered her relatives murdered at Ponar with great emotion, and told the story of her mother who was rescued.

Condolences

With sadness we report the death of professor Adolfas Bolotinas, an honored member of the Lithuanian Jewish Community who served two terms as chairman of the Vilnius Jewish Community. He was a doctor of physics and mathematics, a professor, recipient of the Republic Prize and an accomplished Lithuanian teacher and a member of the Israeli and New York Academies of Sciences. He was 93. Most of his life was centered around Vilnius University. He wrote his dissertation on theoretical and quantum physics. He was the author of more 250 academic articles and “raised” more than 20 other PhDs as professor. He is survived by his two children and wife.

Our sincere condolences go to his family and friends in this painful time. Your loss is all our loss as well.

The Murdered Don’t Vote

Nužudytieji nebalsuoja

by Sergejus Kanovičius

They no longer have a voice. Although, as my father says, they speak to us without stop. From the pits on the forest’s edge. Marked and unmarked. From both those somewhat maintained and those littered with trash. They speak to us and our conscience. The handful who possess a conscience respond, some with respectful silence, some, as in the forests of Šeduva and a few other places, quietly carrying and lighting a candle at that dismal site, some uttering something not very popular about the state of our memory which has become oblivion.

Those who are offended by this constant remembrance of two hundred thousand lives laid down in the pits also respond: after all, how much can you continue to appeal to our conscience, how much can you blame us for being apathetic about what happened, how much can you remind us that you still lie and will lie eternally there where the garbage of our memory swirls? Then there will appear those who express their annoyance with intellectual cynicism, who will remind us of the Jewish ghetto police, of Jacob Gens, who will argue that so many of you died because you didn’t know how to run away (yes, there are those, too). These people, calling themselves journalists or some sort of PhDs or even attorneys will speak cynically about the victims’ responsibility in their becoming victims. They’re the guilty ones. Do you hear that, you who lie under layers of garbage and moss? You’re the guilty ones.

LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky on Commemorating Rescuers of Jews

On September 23, the Day of Remembrance of Lithuanian Jewish Victims of Genocide, we will again walk the path of the condemned in Ponar. Everyone we lost has a name, each one of them is important, those whose lives were extinguished during the mass murder of the Jews. Seventy-five years having passed since the destruction of the Vilnius ghetto, which has become the symbol of the Holocaust in Lithuania, we have come to the conclusion that now everyone who can witness to the story of the Holocaust is just as important.

Even now, under democratic conditions, it still takes courage, wisdom, will and fundamental human understanding to witness to historical truth. We can only imagine and wonder at what set of values was held by those people who found in themselves the courage and resolution to rescue those condemned to death, Jewish men, women and the children who were completely helpless in the face of war.

We, the Jewish people, are marked by the agony of the Shoah, and are obligated by it as well: we would trample upon the memory of our forefathers if we forgave those who intentionally became the executors of Nazi policies who are now still often presented as Lithuanian heroes. But we have inherited the experience of the Holocaust, and the fundamental understanding of what a priceless gift life is. While we are not able to forget those who deprived us of this gift, we also will always remember those who, like second parents, granted it to us anew.

About 900 Lithuanians made the fateful decision during World War II to oppose officially sanctioned hate. Their only weapon was their conscience, whose decision to remain human led them, non-Jews, to become an eternal, spiritual part of our people. Our gratitude cannot be expressed in words, it cannot be measured, it is impossible to comprehend and immeasurable and it is as if it has become the light of God’s being in the corrupt grey of the ghetto or the daily life in a forest hideout. These are people thanks to whom we were reborn to new life, thanks to whom our energies were restored for the old faith.

These brave Lithuanians built eternal bridges between nations and generations, they became true goodwill ambassadors representing hope, humanity and faith. The time has come for Lithuania to remember the names of the nation’s heroes, their names and stories should be recorded in textbooks, their names should adorn streets and schools and statues should be erected in their honor.

Today, twenty-eight years after independence, celebrating the centennial of statehood, a commemorative marker to the Righteous Gentiles will adorn the courtyard of the Church of the Missionaries in Vilnius, reminding the state of its duty to remember its heroes. I bow my head to all the known and unknown people who rescued Jews, to all those here today and to all those whom time has taken. Thank you, all of you. You were there for us, the Jewish people, you are there and you will always will be.

Stele Unveiled for Jewish Rescuers at Monastery of the Missionaries in Vilnius

A stele was unveiled to commemorate those who rescued Jews from the Holocaust in the Tymas neighborhood of Vilnius September 21. The stone marks the future site of a larger monument to rescuers.

This milestone event was achieved only after many years of requests by the Lithuanian Jewish Community to the city of Vilnius for a site for such a statue, without response. Discussions on a monument commemorating Righteous Gentiles continued for several years with the institutions responsible criticizing one another.

The LJC asked for a commemoration site near Ona Šimaitė street, named after the Righteous Gentile Ona Šimaitė, at the intersection of Misionierių and Maironio streets in Vilnius. The courtyard of the Missionaries Monastery was the site of the final selection on the last day of the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto, September 23, 1943. Thousands of Jews from Vilnius were forced to undergo the selection and several members of the ghetto resistance were hung in the courtyard.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, who initiated the idea for a statue to the rescuers, spoke at the ceremony and personally thanked the Žukauskas, Matukevičius, Daugevičius and Lukaševičius families for rescuing her relatives from death.

Sukkot

You and your family are invited to celebrate Sukkot together in the tent beginning at 6:30 P.M. on September 23 at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. The prayer service will be followed by a holiday dinner at Bokšto street no. 19 in Vilnius at 7:30 P.M. Additionally, holiday lunch will be served in the sukka at 12:30 P.M. on both September 24 and 25.

WJC and Lithuanian Jewish Community Mark 75 Years Since Liquidation of Vilnius Ghetto

WJC and Lithuanian Jewish community mark 75 years since liquidation of Vilnius Ghetto: “We must continue to strengthen Jewish life in Lithuania”

WJC President Lauder praises Pope’s participation in commemoration: “Pope Francis is a true friend of the Jewish people”

NEW YORK–The World Jewish Congress and its affiliated community in Lithuania marked the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilnius Ghetto, alongside Pope Francis and other notable personalities.

“Seventy-five years ago, the Germans and local Lithuanian accessories nearly obliterated one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in Europe, a hub of cultural and intellectual Jewish life for thousands of years,” WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said. “But they did not succeed entirely. From the ashes of the Holocaust, the broken community is slowly rebuilding itself and working to ensure the future of Jewish life in Lithuania.”

Pope Francis Commemorates Holocaust Victims in Vilnius Ghetto

Popiežiaus Pranciškaus tyli malda prie paminklo Vilniaus geto aukoms
Photos: Robertas Dačkus

Pope Francis has returned from Kaunas to Vilnius and prayed silently at a monument to victims of the Vilnius ghetto in the Lithuania capital’s Old Town.

According to representatives, the silent prayer meant it was impossible to say anything of significance in the face of the Shoah. The Pontiff stood before a small monument at the edge of Rūdininkų square in the former ghetto, knelt and prayed. Vatican watchers note the Pope always pays his respects to the Jewish communities in countries he visits.

The Vilnius ghetto was established originally in two parts in the Vilnius Old Town on September 6, 1941. The small ghetto was liquidated almost immediately.

Star of David Composed of Stones in Former Vilnius Ghetto


Photo: Saulius Žiūra

by Vytautas Budzinauskas, BNS

A star of David was composed of stones on Rūdninkų square in Vilnius Sunday to mark the 75th anniversary of the final destruction of the Vilnius ghetto. Pope Francis is expected to say a prayer in memory of Holocaust victims at the square on Sunday as well, the final day of his visit to Lithuania. More than 50 people turned to wait for the Pope and slowly filled a metal frame with stones in line with the Jewish tradition of placing stones on grave markers. The crowd included entire families and visitors from around Lithuania and from abroad.


Photo: Vytautas Budzinauskas

The Victor Speaks


by Grant Arthur Gohcin

Adolf Hitler was the greatest hero who ever lived. He restored Germany to greatness and corrected the German economy, or so the messaging would have been had Nazis won WWII. After all, history is written by the victors.

Jews were the greatest losers of the war. Our people were decimated, our future burned in the crematoria of the European death camps, usually with the maximum of personal humiliation and torture before their deaths. We would have been a forgotten footnote in history had not America entered and ultimately ended the war. Every Jewish child murdered was our future stolen. Today the 6,000,000 murdered would have been many times that number, we would have been a large and strong people. The adversity Israel and Jews currently face is partly because our population numbers are so small. We are revisited with the consequences of the slaughter every day.

Rescuers of Jews: The Great Lesson for Humanity

Press Service of the Office of the President of the Republic of Lithuania

September 21, Vilnius–Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė decorated Lithuanian citizens who risked their lives and those of their families to save Jews during the Holocaust with the Order of the Life Saver’s Cross Friday.

This year is the 77th anniversary of the Holocaust and on September 23 it will have been exactly 75 years since the final destruction of the Vilnius ghetto. On the occasion of the Day of Remembrance of Lithuanian Jewish Victims of Genocide, 39 Jewish rescuers were recognized. Most of them are no longer among the living, so their descendants and other relatives attended the ceremony and received the awards.

The Lithuanian head of state said every time we remember the victims of the Holocaust we also remember those who rescued Jews, and that this is a great lesson in sacrifice and courage for humanity. She said those attending the ceremony were a living bridge between today and those times of brutality and extraordinary altruism.

Full text here.