World Jewish Restitution Organization Welcomes Lithuanian PM’s Proposal for Holocaust-Era Property Restitution

World Jewish Restitution Organization Welcomes Lithuanian PM’s Proposal for Holocaust-Era Property Restitution

The proposed legislation provides €37 million as symbolic compensation for private property expropriated during the Holocaust and addresses heirless Jewish property.

New York, NY, November 20, 2022–The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) welcomes legislation introduced by Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė addressing restitution claims of Holocaust victims. The new legislation being proposed by the government would provide €37 million as symbolic compensation to private claimants and to the Lithuanian Goodwill Foundation with respect to heirless Jewish property.

Prime minister Šimonytė’s proposal is an important step to providing a measure of justice to Lithuanian Holocaust survivors and their families for the horrors they suffered during World War II and its aftermath. We look forward to the opportunity to review this new legislation which would continue the process of property restitution and support Jewish life in Lithuania.

Over a decade ago following intensive negotiations with the Lithuanian Jewish Community and WJRO, the Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, passed legislation to pay €37 million in compensation for former Jewish communal property. This payment represented only a partial value of the properties, but it provided much needed funds to support Jewish communal life in Lithuania, restored several Jewish heritage sites and offered modest payments to needy survivors.

Jewish Scout Jamboree

Jewish Scout Jamboree

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites all students to attend a Jewish scouting jamboree under the guidance of scout leader Adomas Kofman at 2:00 P.M. on December 4 at the Ilan Club at the Lithuanian Jewish Community located at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius. Contact skautai@lzb.lt for more information.„“

NATO 2023 in Lithuania: Rife with Political Pitfalls

NATO 2023 in Lithuania: Rife with Political Pitfalls

Photo: Outer wall of so-called Genocide Museum on Vilnius’s main street near parliament. Personal collection.

by Grant Gochin

One of the greatest public relations catastrophes of president Reagan’s tenure was his May, 1985, visit to a cemetery in Bitburg, Germany, which contained numerous members of the SS. Today, nearly four decades later, the visit is still remembered with anger, amazement and mostly, for America, embarrassment.

NATO has announced that the next meeting of NATO heads of state and government will be held in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11-12, 2023. There are, unfortunately, obvious parallels to Reagan’s “goodwill” visit to Bitburg.

In World War II, and primarily in the second half of 1941, about 200,000 Lithuanian Jews–about 96%–were systematically expelled from their homes, robbed, starved, tortured, and brutally murdered primarily by ethnic Lithuanian death squads euphemistically referred to as “auxiliary police” units. Lithuania does not acknowledge the fact that most of the mass murderers were ethnic Lithuanians. To the contrary, Lithuania in many cases has elevated the stature of many of those who led the Lithuanian Holocaust, arguing that they were anti-Soviet. This itself is an echo of the Nazis’ canard conflating Jews with Communism.

Vilnius Jewish Public Library Showing Israeli Film Testament

Vilnius Jewish Public Library Showing Israeli Film Testament

The Vilnius Jewish Public Library will screen the Israeli film Testament (2017) at 6:00 P.M. on Thursday, December 1. The library is located at Gedimino prospect no. 24 in Vilnius. The film is in Hebrew with Lithuanian subtitles.

The film won a special prize in the Horizons program at the Venice film festival in 2017, and was awarded first prize for best film at the Haifa film festival.

The screening is free and open to the public, but prior registration is requested by sending an e-mail to vzvbvjpl@gmail.com or by calling 8 604 15 765.

According to imdb:

“Yoel, a meticulous historian leading a significant debate against Holocaust deniers, discovers that his mother carries a false identity. A mystery about a man who is willing to risk everything to discover the truth.”

The screenplay is loosely based on a true story about the mass murder of Jews at a specific location near the end of World War II. It becomes personal for Holocaust researcher Yoel when he discovers his mother’s testimony among the others. Encompassed by the silence of his mother regarding her life on the one hand and the silence of Holocaust deniers on the other, Yoel decides to press on with his duty to find and reveal the truth, no matter at what cost to his professional and personal life.

Alejandra Czarny Yiddish Music Concert in Kaunas Great Success

Alejandra Czarny Yiddish Music Concert in Kaunas Great Success

Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas reports the concert of Yiddish music by vocalist Alejandra Czarny and Michel Gonzalez on guitar in Kaunas was a great successe with the audience.

The concert was part of a series the Kaunas Jewish Community has been putting on called “Yiddish Hear Again in Kaunas.” This concert was called “Inspired by Grandmother’s Songs.” Czarny’s grandmother and that side of the family all came from Kaunas. She’s a transplant to south Florida from Argentina and charmed the audience with tango melodies along with Yiddish favorites, which became sing-alongs with the audience, and Alejandra Czarny’s own creations which at times evoked Venezuelan music, according to Gercas Žakas.

Alejandra Czarny and Michel Gonzalez were also scheduled to perform at the restored synagogue in Alytus on November 30.

Celebrate Hanukkah with Fayerlakh

Celebrate Hanukkah with Fayerlakh

Celebrate Hanukkah with a Fayerlakh concert and a holiday meal at the Natali restaurant at 5:00 P.M. on December 18. The restaurant is located at Žalgirio street no. 92 in Vilnius. Tickets cost 35 euros for adults and 20 euros for children aged 4 to 12. To register contact Ilya by telephone at +37065127777 or write Larisa an email at larisa.vysniauskiene@gmail.com.

Split Identity: Jewish Scholarship in the Vilna Ghetto

Split Identity: Jewish Scholarship in the Vilna Ghetto

Photo: Exterior of YIVO building in Vilnius, ca. 1933. Courtesy YIVO.

by David E. Fishman

ABSTRACT
In this essay David Fishman draws a comparison between yidishe visnshaft, or Jewish studies scholarship, and Judenforschung, the Nazi field of anti-Semitic Jewish studies used to justify the persecution and extermination of Jews in scientific terms. He examines the work of Zelig Kalmanovitch, who had been a well-known scholar and co-director of YIVO before World War II, during the time when he was forced to produce scholarship as a member of the Jewish slave labor brigade assigned to the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) in Vilna. Fishman notes the remarkable scholarly accomplishments Kalmanovitch was able to achieve in a time of enormous adversity. He also demonstrates several junctures in which Kalmanovitch, a meticulous scholar, omitted facts or altered scholarship in order to save lives. These dual impulses of preserving historical truths about Jewish communities and a willingness to obscure facts over which people could be killed contribute to Fishman’s assessment that Kalmanovitch’s scholarship emerged from erudition, love and dedication to the Jewish people about whom he wrote, the very opposite of the purposes for which his scholarship was obtained by his Nazi slave masters.

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On June 16, 1942, Herbert Gotthardt, a staff member of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) in Vilna, instructed Zelig Kalmanovitch to prepare an essay and bibliography on the Karaïtes. Kalmanovitch, a well-known scholar and co-director of YIVO before the war, was a member of the Jewish slave labor brigade assigned to the ERR which segregated Jewish and other books, manuscripts and documents into two categories: valuable items to be sent to Germany, and valueless items to be destroyed. The former YIVO co-director was an expert bibliographer in this work brigade, nicknamed the paper brigade, based in the YIVO building at 18 Wiwulskiego Street. The brigade was headed by librarian Herman Kruk and consisted of twenty physical laborers and twenty intellectuals, including the Yung-Vilne poets Abraham Sutzkever and Szmerke Kaczerginski.

Holocaust and Home: The Poetry of David Fram from Lithuania to South Africa

Holocaust and Home: The Poetry of David Fram from Lithuania to South Africa

Cover: Hazel Frankel, “Holo­caust and Home: The Poetry of David Fram from Lithuania to South Africa.” Legenda, 2021. 230 pp.

My mother started learning Yiddish late in life. I felt as if she was reaching out to her dead parents, trying to connect with them. Both her mother and her father were immigrants to South Africa from Lithuania, one from the town of Shadova, the other from Pokroy. My grandfather, Abe, who came from a long line of yeshiva bochers, attended the famed Telz yeshiva. Intellectually curious, he read War and Peace in the original Russian. Later, at the Claremont shul in Cape Town, he gave many of the Saturday afternoon shiurim, written in Yiddish but delivered in English.

His wife, Anne, for who I am named, was nine years his junior. They owned a dress shop in Cape Town and, before the war, Abe went on business trips to Europe to buy the latest fashions, often with specific customers’ needs in mind. Both Abe and Anne died in their fifties, several years before I was born. I know them only from photographs. Their sepia-toned wedding photo hung in our breakfast room, where we ate all our meals. Abe was short, wore glasses, and gazed solemnly at the camera. Anne seemed softer, gentler, and had a twenties-style headdress that looked like a shower cap. There were odd flecks of white on the image that I always imagined was confetti but must have been blemishes on the photographic paper or the camera lens.

Warsaw Book Fair Features Anti-Semitic Titles

Warsaw Book Fair Features Anti-Semitic Titles

Crudely anti-Semitic books promoting Holocaust denial and depicting Jews as usurers have been showcased at a prestigious book fair in Poland which enjoys the backing of the Polish president.

Titles published by the far-right Polish imprint 3DOM–a play on the word freedom–were on display at the Historical Book Fair in Warsaw, an event officially supported by the office of Polish president Andzrej Duda.

Describing itself as a patriotic, Catholic and “the most politically incorrect” publishing house in Poland, 3DOM advertises more than 80 blatantly anti-Semitic works on its website, according to research carried out by the Never Again Association, a Polish NGO.

Leonard Cohen Yom Kippur War Tour: The TV Mini-Series

Leonard Cohen Yom Kippur War Tour: The TV Mini-Series

Leonard Cohen’s tour of Israel at the height of the 1973 Yom Kippur War is to be made into a TV mini-series by Shtisel creator Yehonatan Indursky, Keshet International and Jill Offman’s Sixty-Six Media.

Israeli network Keshet 12’s “Who By Fire” is based on Matti Friedman’s bestseller “Who By Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai” and will shoot in Israel in 2024 with Indursky writing and former Viacom International Studios UK chief Offman executive-producing along with Keshet’s Atar Dekel and Yuval Horowitz.

Keshet 12 is the local broadcaster and distributor. Keshet International is now seeking to bring international broadcast partners on board.

The show will follow the singer’s trip to the Sinai 50 years ago at the height of the Yom Kippur War. There the late singer picked up a team of local musicians and dived headlong into the global crisis, meeting fighting men and women along the way and performing for people who thought this could be their last concert.

Full text at Microsoft News here.

Lecture on Jewish Press

Lecture on Jewish Press

Eyal Miller, a specialist in the historical press and digital archives for the National Library of Israel, will deliver a lecture on the Jewish press at the Lithuanian National Library at 6:00 P.M. on Tuesday, November 29. Miller is part of the JPress team at the National Library of Israel which collects, conserves and digitizes archives of Jewish newspapers. More information about this evening’s event is available in Lithuanian here.

Condolences

Condolences

Righteous Gentile Janina Vansovičiūtė-Grigaliūnienė has died. We extend our deepest condolences to her friends and family members.

Janina Vansovičiūtė-Grigaliūnienė, then Janina Vansovičiūtė, lived in an apartment in Kuršėnai which her parents had rented with Sofia Vashkevitch, who was using forged documents showing she was Janina’s sister. After the war both girls returned to the Vansovičius home in Raseiniai. Janina and her parents Jonas and Natalija were recognized as Righteous among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Holocaust authority in 2011.

Lithuanian PM Says Plans for Litvak Museum at Sports Palace Bogged Down

Lithuanian PM Says Plans for Litvak Museum at Sports Palace Bogged Down

Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė told Baltic News Service the idea to establish either a museum or a memorial dedicated to the history of the Litvaks at the Vilnius Palace of Sports complex could turn out to be a long and difficult process.

“It’s on-going, but in order to create a truly meaningful and thus memorable site about the Jews of Lithuania, we’ll have to work hard. The commission will select ideas to be adopted by consensus,” she said.

She cautioned decision-making on the concept could become bogged down and generally difficult. She said this commission will include academics, rabbis, historians and others from Lithuania and other countries and is scheduled for formation by the end of 2022. The idea since 2015 when the Lithuanian state privatization bank Turto bankas acquired the property has been to turn the Palace of Sports built in 1971 and now falling into ruin into a conference center. Different Jewish groups have opposed that plan because the Palace of Sports was built inside the old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius.

Happy Birthday to Daumantas Levas Todesas

Happy Birthday to Daumantas Levas Todesas

We wish you with all our hearts the very best, the greatest health, success in your varied endeavors and the joy and warmth of friends and family. You have served us so long in so many capacities it would take a book-length post to list them all here, not least being your work as the chairman of the Vilnius, Jerusalem of Lithuania Jewish Community, as a member of the board of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and as chairman of the Ethnic Communities Council at the Lithuanian Department of Ethnic Minorities. Mazl tov. Bis 120!

Happy Birthday to Boris Gelpern

Happy Birthday to Boris Gelpern

The Lithuanian Jewish Community wish Boris Gelpern a very happy birthday. We wish you fantastic health and happiness. May our wishes for your longevity echo out and repeat forever. Mazl tov. Bis 120!

Israel’s Gift to Vilnius: Colorful Street Art

Israel’s Gift to Vilnius: Colorful Street Art

The Israeli embassy in Vilnius has presented a gift to the city of Vilnius as the Lithuanian capital’s nominal 700th birthday approaches, along with the 30th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

City residents can view the gift at Bazilijonų street no. 6B in the Vilnius Old Town. It’s a work by the Open Gallery, an international urban galley, born as the joint endeavor of Israeli and Lithuanian artists which transports the viewer to the sunny land of Israel. The mural contains allusions to three of Israel’s major cities, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. The artist is Zoe Sever, born in the Ukraine and living in Israel, executed on the façade of an apartment building by Lithuanian artists Martynas Ivinskas and Viktorija Starygina.

Zoe Sever says her work of art symbolizes the famous phrase uttered by Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, as he travelled to the future Jewish state: “If you will it, it is no dream.”

Full story in Lithuanian with photographs available here.