Come meet writer, yoga teacher and Community member Eva Tombak at 6:00 P.M. on Tuesday, December 17, at the LJC in Vilnius.
by Laura Kešytė
When did filmmakers start working on the topic of the Holocaust? How did they choose to portray it? Is it possible to present the horror of the Holocaust on camera? Cultural historian Violeta Davoliūtė-Opgenorth talks about this.
Violeta Davoliūtė-Opgenorth is a senior academic at the Lithuanian Cultural Research Center and is a visiting professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales. In 2015 and 2016 she worked as an academic at Yale’s Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. She defended her dissertation “Testimony: From the Poetics of Place to the Politics of Memory” at University of Toronto.
The development of the topic of the Holocaust in cinema in Western Europe, especially in the 1960s and 70s, is closely connected with the trial of Adolf Eichmann and with Hanna Arendt’s articles about the trial compiled in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem and published in 1963, and with Raul Hilberg’s research, whose book published in 1961 distinguished clearly for the first time the categories of perpetrator, observer, judge and victim.
These sparked politically painful discussions in European countries about who the collaborators, victims and observers were in World War II and what their roles were, their prototypes and how to present them properly. This was directly connected with the cinema because the cinema exerted great influence on these discussions and historical research in general: it offered new perspectives for telling the story of WWII to its audiences. In other words, the cinema didn’t just reflect but actively encouraged a shift in the narratives of history.
Full text in Lithuanian here.
by Grant Arthur Gochin
The first mass murders of Jews in the Holocaust began in Lithuania. Germany had not yet decided to annihilate the Jews of Europe; they had put forth the idea to relocate Jews to Madagascar or Uganda, but the war made this plan impossible. Lithuania proved to the Nazis that there was indeed an alternative.
Between occupations by Russia and Germany in 1941, Lithuania was governed by an interim Provisional Government, led by Prime Minister Juozas Ambrazevičius Brazaitis. The Lithuanian Provisional Government displayed to Nazis how easily a population could be enticed into perpetrating genocide.
Upon Nazi arrival, Einsatzkommando 2 of the German Security Police asserted charge of murders of Jews. Einsatzkommando 2 reported the murder of 114,856 Lithuanian Jews as early as December 1, 1941. One hundred and thirty-nine Nazi personnel, of whom forty-four were secretaries and drivers, and ninety-five were murderers, directed this slaughter. Local Lithuanians enthusiastically and voluntarily conducted the looting, raping, torture, enslavement and murders of their Jewish neighbors. Thereafter, Germany introduce the Final Solution of the Jewish problem in January 1942.
Full text here.
Wednesday, December 4, 2019–European Jewish Congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor praised the French National Assembly’s decision adopting the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism and recognizing explicitly that this includes hatred against the state of Israel as a Jewish state.
“We applaud this decision because it is logical and important,” Dr. Kantor said. “Anti-Zionism is almost always just a mask for hatred of Jews and Jewish collectivity and is just the most modern manifestation of the oldest hatred.”
“In the past, anti-Semites used religious, racial and ethnic slurs, and now they use national. Anti-Zionists co-opt all the worst antisemitic libels and motifs throughout history against Jews and merely reapply them to the Jewish state.”
The motion passed with 154 in favor and 72 opposed in the parliament’s lower house. It was proposed by lawmaker Sylvain Maillard of La Republique en Marche, president Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party.
Marking the 10th anniversary of the Terezin declaration, the Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a regional conference on Holocaust restitution issues Monday.
The conference covered experience of communities in other European countries in the return of Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust. Renowned Holocaust historians and others gave presentations and spoke on the past and goals and tasks for the future.
Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of international Jewish affairs at the American Jewish Committee, knows the issues in Lithuania well. He was a participant in Lithuania’s road towards restitution and the small country’s historic decision in 2011 to pay compensation worth 37 million euros to be used to support Jewish community life. The Goodwill Foundation was formed then to manage these monies. Baker spoke about class-actions suits brought by attorneys representing Jews in America. He noted Austria and France have solved the problem of property restitution. Austria has paid out compensation for pre-war property and France has done the same.
In deep sadness we report long-time member of the Šiauliai Jewish community Giršas Bikas died November 28. He was born in 1939. We send our deepest condolences to his loved ones.
Press Release (updated)
Regional Consultation about Restitution of Holocaust Era Assets
Next week regional consultation regarding restitution of Holocaust era assets will be held in Vilnius. The experiences of returning assets of European countries will be reviewed and well-known historians will present their research about what happened in Lithuanian during WWII.
The conference is dedicated to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Terezin declaration. In 2009 47 countries, Lithuania among them, has signed the document in Prague and announced a program of activities directed at securing assistance, compensation and commemoration of Nazi victims’ memory. It is noteworthy the countries stressed the importance of ensuring communal and private property restitution.
“Noting the importance of restituting communal and individual immovable property that belonged to the victims of the Holocaust (Shoah) and other victims of Nazi persecution, the Participating States urge that every effort be made to rectify the consequences of wrongful property seizures, such as confiscations, forced sales and sales under duress of property, which were part of the persecution of these innocent people and groups, the vast majority of whom died heirless,” the Terezin declaration says.
by Dr. Raimundas Kaminskas
A ceremony to honor Jewish volunteer soldiers was held at the Žaliakalnis Jewish cemetery in the Gričiupis aldermanship in the Kaunas region on November 23. Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas recalled for the audience historic Jewish-Lithuanian relations and the contribution Jewish Lithuanian soldiers made in the battles for Lithuanian independence in 1919 and 1920 and later in the national Lithuanian military.
Director of the Kovo 11-osios Street Community Dr. Raimundas Kaminskas shared his thoughts on the civic-minded and patriotic Jewish soldiers in the period of Lithuanian independence from 1918 to 1940 and presented the chairman of the Kaunas Jewish Community a medal commemorating the Union of Jewish Volunteer Soldiers Who Served in the Liberation of Lithuania.
After the commemoration the audience moved to the St. Antthony of Padua Church where the mortal remains of church builder, rescuer of Jews and Lithuanian military volunteer father Juozas Želvys (1899-1985) are interred. The Žaliakalnis Jewish cemetery was established in 1861 and operated until 1952. The Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department reports among the burials of many noted public, cultural, political and religious figures there, 14 of the graves are those of Lithuanian Jewish soldiers who perished in the battles for Lithuanian independence.
Teenagers are suspected of vandalizing a mosque and a synagogue in Lithuania’s second-largest city Kaunas.
The windows of a mosque in the city center were smashed November 17 and a “Heil Hitler” inscription was discovered on the synagogue sign on November 23. Police in Kaunas believe the two crimes were committed by the same people.
Working with the Jewish and Muslim religious communities, three people including two males aged 17 and 18 and a female aged 15 were identified. They are now being questioned and officers are taking other actions as part of an ongoing pre-trial investigation.
The 17-year-old boy is suspected only of taking part in damage to the mosque while the other two are suspected of that criminal act committed on November 17 and the synagogue attack on November 23. The Kaunas Mosque is a protected heritage site and is Lithuania’s only brick-and-mortar mosque; the others are made of wood. The Kaunas Mosque has been the target of vandals repeatedly with the last previous major act of vandalism on September 21, according to 15min.lt and other sources. The Kaunas Muslim community asked for the public’s help in identifying security-camera footage of the three assailants in the latest attack. Both attacks on the mosque damaged stained-glass windows and in the earlier one a collection box with money, office equipment and a laptop computer were stolen.
The 18-year-old is in custody and the 15-year-old girl has been handed over to her parents.
by Pinchos Fridberg and Polina Pailis
Slogan “Lithuania for Lithuanians”
[Photo: banner: “Lithuania for Lithuanians,” inscription: “The Pavasarininkai [literally “spring workers”] carried these kinds of banners and the coat of arms of Lithuanian businessmen through the streets of Kaunas during their Anniversary Congress.”]
This slogan didn’t just appear yesterday or the day before. We see it in the photograph over 80 years ago. And it wasn’t just in some small rural newspaper, but on the first page of the well-known weekly Verslas (“Business”) on July 7, 1938, published by the Union of Lithuanian Merchants, Industrialists and Tradesmen, 1932-1940, Kaunas.
We would like to point out the banners featuring hatred of other ethnic groups were carried by religious youth. The Pavasarininkai were members of the Federation of Lithuanian Catholic Youth, of whom there were about 100,000 in 1940.
Ruth “Rivke” Feldman Katz has passed away at the age of 98 at her home in Florida. She was the wife of the Litvak Yiddish writer, poet and teacher Menke Katz and is survived by her son Dovid Katz and Menke’s daughter from a previous marriage, Mrs. Troim Katz Handler. Both children went on to teach Yiddish as adults.
Historians Arūnas Bubnys and Ilja Lempertas will launch Bubnys’s new Lithuanian book on the mass murder of Jews at Ponar at the Vilnius Jewish Public Library located at Gedimino prospect no. 24 in Vilnius at 6:00 P.M. on November 28. The event will be in Lithuanian.