anti-Semitism

Lithuanian Educator Defends Lithuanian Nazis

Lithuanian Educator Defends Lithuanian Nazis

The Lithuanian biweekly newspaper Karštas Komentaras, which describes itself as a sort of insider’s view of Lithuanian politics, published as its main article in the current issue for April 16 to 30 an editorial titled on the cover “Let’s Not Be Afraid to Be Ourselves” by professor Gediminas Merkys, PhD habil. The subheading is “Will We Celebrate and How Will We Celebrate the Anniversary of the June, 1941 Uprising?” The cover image is a combined portrait of Lithuanian Nazi collaborators Jonas Noreika and Kazys Škirpa.

The newspaper singled out the following lines in the article for special attention as a separate text box:

The current colonial Lithuanian administration, it is to be believed, received an informal request from the supreme international master class to insure this important date not be marked officially in any way, i.e., in the name of the Lithuanian state. It was namely the competent patriotic director of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania [former director Adas Jakubauskas] and the Center itself which would have posed an obstacle to fulfilling this aforementioned order of political servility. For that reason the leadership of the Center had to be changed quickly and the institution itself immediately reformed.

Battle for the Soul of Lithuania on BBC HARDtalk

Battle for the Soul of Lithuania on BBC HARDtalk

The BBC television interview program HARDtalk interviewed granddaughter of Lithuanian Nazi Jonas Noreika on April 16, 2021, and has been airing the episode this week.

The description for the episode called “Silvia Foti: When truth trumps family loyalty. Silvia Foti on grappling with family responsible for the Holocaust” reads:

“Silvia Foti’s grandfather was a Lithuanian man hailed as heroic patriot who paid with his life resisting the Soviets. But according to her, Jonas Noreika was no hero–he had the blood of thousands of Jews on his hands. She’s chosen to speak out, angering many in Lithuania. What happens when truth trumps family loyalty?”

Interviewer Stephen Sackur pressed Silvia Foti for documentary proof her grandfather was responsible for the murder of around 1,800 in Plungė–the entire Jewish population–in 1941. Foti went further and said she had reliable documents and sources showing Noreika was responsible for mass murders of Jews in Plungė, Telšiai and Šiauliai. Sackur was interested in Foti’s journey from that of a proud Lithuanian-American to the point where she had to confront Holocaust crimes within her immediate family. Foti countered the problem was much more widespread than her family, that the perpetrators and their descendants were still covering up the Holocaust in present-day Lithuania, and cited the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania as one party involved in the nation-wide cover-up. She said her and Grant Gochin’s legal battles to have the plaque commemorating Noreika on the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences building in Vilnius was really a battle for the soul of Lithuania. Sackur asked whether Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center was correct in calling Lithuania the locomotive in the train of Holocaust distortion in Eastern Europe. Foti admitted she didn’t know the situation in Eastern Europe in general, but that this was possible.

An audio recording of the interview is available here and here.

Shuffling Directors at Lithuania’s Genocide Center

Shuffling Directors at Lithuania’s Genocide Center

As was completely predicable from the start of the latest power struggle inside Lithuania’s Orwellian Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, the news website 15min.lt reports the Lithuanian parliament will consider historian Arūnas Bubnys as director following their dismissal of Adas Jakubauskas:

Arūnas Bubnys Nominated to Head Genocide

A new candidate for director of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania has been presented to the Lithuanian parliament: Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania Genocide and Resistance Research Department director Arūnas Bubnys. MPs fired former director Adas Jakubauskas April 1 after an inquiry panel set up by the leaders of the parties in parliament found he was unable to guarantee the smooth operation of the institution.

Parliamentary speaker Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen nominated Bubnys to serve as director, a term which is usually five years long. “I have nominate Bubnys following comprehensive consultations with Lithuania’s historians and my colleagues and members of parliament from different factions. This candidacy has firm support in the community of historians and inside the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania itself. Bubnys has earned confidence which, I hope, will allow him to insure smooth operation by introducing objectivity and transparency standards in the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, and to return the public’s trust to this institution,” the speaker of parliament said introducing her candidate.

Full story here.

IHRA Recommendations on How to Teach about the Holocaust in Schools

IHRA Recommendations on How to Teach about the Holocaust in Schools


The Recommendations aim to deepen the understanding of the Holocaust by asking crucial questions concerning the historical context of the Holocaust, its scope and scale and why and how it happened.

Download the full IHRA Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust here.

Educators should be confident that the Holocaust can be taught effectively and successfully with careful preparation and appropriate materials. The section “How to teach about the Holocaust” discusses possibilities and challenges for teaching and learning about the Holocaust by presenting practical approaches and methods to apply in both formal and informal educational settings.

Read more from the Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust

No single “correct” way of teaching, no ideal methodology appropriate for all educators and their learners exists for any subject. The recommendations offered here are, however, based on practical experiences and intended to be useful to schoolteachers and other educators in constructing their own schemes of work, taking into account the learning needs of individuals.

Jews Remember Philip as Son of Righteous Gentile

Jews Remember Philip as Son of Righteous Gentile

Over centuries of persecution and viewing history “from the bottom,” most Jews have a healthy sense of criticism when it comes to celebrity, which is regularly reinforced by anti-Semitic statements issuing from the most unlikely people. The recent death of the United Kingdom’s prince Philip is different.

While Philip might have been, as Buckingham Palace likes to put it in hindsight, “authentically himself,” making off-the-cuff ethnic and racial statements deemed universally offensive, Jews are more likely to look back with respect and sadness on the passing of the queen’s consort. Philip’s mother princess Alice, wife of the Greek prince, rescued a Jewish family–the widow of Greek member of parliament Khaimaki Cohen and two of their five children–and hid them in her basement in Athens during the Nazi occupation.

The good deed might never have to come to light if not for a request from a member of the Cohen family to the Jerusalem municipality to name a street after princess Alice. Yad Vashem got involved, checked the facts and awarded the title of Righteous Gentile to the late princess. Prince Philip and his sister Sophia attended the awards ceremony and planted a tree at Yad Vashem in honor of their mother.

Strangely enough, Alice was reburied at the Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in 1988, two years after her death but several years before being awarded the Yad Vashem title in 1993. This was reportedly done at her own request.

On the Jewish scale of values, one could say prince Philip came from a very good family, and deeds say so much more than words.

Vatican Says Anti-Semitism Intolerable

Vatican Says Anti-Semitism Intolerable

Photo: Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, courtesy Vatican.

Great strides forward have been in recent decades in Jewish-Catholic relations, with better recognition on both sides allowing for more mutual understanding at the theological but also the social and political levels, Holy See secretary for relations with states Paul Richard Gallher said as part of a campaign by the Israeli embassy to the Vatican called #StopAntiSemitism.

Archbishop Gallagher in a video message posted last Thursday reiterated the Holy See’s commitment against intolerance towards people of Jewish heritage. He said the “Nostra Aetate” [In Our Age] declaration defining relations between the Church and non-Christian religions adopted by the Vatican II Council 55 years ago has helped broaden dialogue between Jews and Christians.

Archbishop Gallagher highlighted two points in Nostra Aetate: its emphasis on the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and the condemnation of anti-Semitism in every form and species.

“In this regard, much progress has been made in recent years,” the archbishop affirmed. “Mutual knowledge has led to a better understanding on theological, social and political levels, including bilateral Agreements by which diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel have been established,” the Vatican reported on its official news website.

Op-Ed: My Grandfather’s Role in the Nazi Occupation Is Forcing a Reckoning in Lithuania

Op-Ed: My Grandfather’s Role in the Nazi Occupation Is Forcing a Reckoning in Lithuania

Photo: Silvia Foti holds a photograph of her grandfather Jonas Noreika at her home in Chicago in 2019. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune)

by Silvia Foti

A little bronze plaque hanging on a library wall in a city most Americans know nothing about is at the epicenter of a battle over the Holocaust.

In the last six years, this modest plaque in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, inspired 20 legal actions in five courts, vigilante action by a disgruntled citizen with a sledgehammer, a scandal for the city’s mayor and candlelit vigils by protesters seeking to resurrect it in a grander incarnation.

The power of this plaque comes from a question of whether its honoree is guilty of murdering thousands of Jews in Lithuania. Those who want the plaque up say its namesake is a brave patriot who fought against the Communists, took orders from Nazis and had no idea his signature would lead to murdered civilians. By extension, it’s about more than one person’s guilt or innocence–it’s about the guilt or innocence of Lithuania.

Full opinion piece here.

On Yom HaShoah, Why We Must Remember the Holocaust…

On Yom HaShoah, Why We Must Remember the Holocaust…

Dear friend,

It is now 76 years since the death camp at Auschwitz was liberated. As we commemorate Yom HaShoah today, it is useful to take a look at how the Holocaust is affecting public morality all these years later — and how it is still being abused.

It is both helpful and not helpful to talk about the Holocaust when discussing the disturbing resurgence of antisemitism in the world today.

On the one hand, as reflected in ADL’s pyramid of hate, it is instructive to recognize, as the history of the Holocaust demonstrates, that things can escalate from stereotypes, to discrimination to anti-Jewish legislation to mass murder if hate is not addressed early on. The Holocaust continues to teach us that society cannot be complacent, so that so-called low levels of hate won’t mutate into much more serious and devastating manifestations, culminating in genocide.

This is How It Was Done in Vilne…

This is How It Was Done in Vilne…

Photo: Pinchos Fridberg, the only Jew left in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius who was born there before the Nazis invaded in 1941. By Brendan Hoffman for the New York Times.

by professor Pinchos Fridberg, an alter vilner id [an old Jew born and raised in Vilnius]

Rebe, will there ever come a time when the words Vilne and Yidish will be inseparable again?”
Saydn nor mit Meshiakh’n ineinem.” [Not unless it comes with the Messiah.]

Introduction

The article “Как это делалось ин Вилнэ…” [This Is How It Was Done in Vilne] became the main feature for issue no. 505 of the international magazine “Мы Здесь” [We Are Here] in 2015. More than 7,000 people read it, and I began receiving letters from people whom I didn’t know.

The largest Russian-language weekly newspaper in Lithuania “Обзор” [Review] reprinted this article on its website on March 8, 2021.

The article concerns the history of Jewish Vilnius.

I think it might be interesting to non-Russian-language readers as well. *

“This is How It Was Done in Vilne…”

As I was putting my archive in order, I came across a small program for a concert to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Jewish volunteer collectives. This program is more than half a calendrical century old. I think the reader might be interested to see “how it was done in Vilne.” The program contains over 30 photographs. I will present a few of them. I believe it has long been time for them to be revived on the wider internet.

Art Creates Tolerance Project Features Samuel Bak

Art Creates Tolerance Project Features Samuel Bak

www.DELFI.lt

The Vilnius Gaon Jewish History Museum and the EZCO creative agency are presenting an initiative called “Art Creates Tolerance” inspired by the life and work of Samuel Bak.

The project’s goal is to use Vilnius-born Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak’s art “to encourage public discussion using modern multimedia on the past and socially-sensitive issues of the present, to find historical signs and to discover the value of tolerance,” according to museum director Kamilė Rupeikaitė.

The project will use the museum’s existing physical and virtual exhibits about Bak and expand them with new exhibits.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

EJC: EU Grant for Jewish Communities Confirmed

EJC: EU Grant for Jewish Communities Confirmed

Dear Presidents,
Dear Friends,

For the last few years, one of SACC to the EJC’s objectives has been to increase its cooperation with the European institutions to enhance security, support and preparedness for our communities.

The European Council Declaration of 6 December 2018 on the fight against anti-Semitism underlined that the security of Jewish people is an immediate necessity and requires timely action.

Our engagement with the European Commission, in particular at the Working Group for the Protection of Public Spaces, has strengthened our belief in the importance of working together with other communities and finding synergies in the fight against hatred and terror.

Helping other communities with the security challenges that they face is of course in line with Jewish core values and with our mission.

WJC Video Guide to Passover

WJC Video Guide to Passover

A time to reflect, learn and continue to fight for justice, freedom and rule of law

Katharina von Schnurbein, coordinator on combating anti-Semitism and fostering Jewish life, endorsing the tradition of asking questions in a video guide to Passover produced by the World Jewish Congress (WJC), reflects on the following:

“It’s been thousands of years since Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, yet Jews still read the story of this miracle each year. What can the world learn from the story of Passover in 2021?”

Maša Rolnikaitė, Girgoriy Shur Holocaust Books to be Given to All Lithuanian Schools, Libraries

Maša Rolnikaitė, Girgoriy Shur Holocaust Books to be Given to All Lithuanian Schools, Libraries

by Eugenijus Bunka

When you speak with those who aren’t there, it’s called Memory. Therefore Maša Rolnikaitė’s book “I Must Tell” [Turiu papasakoti] and Grigoriy Shur’s “Entries: Chronicle of the Vilnius Ghetto, 1941-1944” [Užrašai: Vilniaus geto kronika 1941-1944 m.] are books of Memory. And in memory of those whose lives were cut short, as they began or half-way through, who were consumed in the flames of the Holocaust.

Not one of the people mentioned in these books died a natural death. That inherent human right was taken from them.

They died without notice in World War II, but Maša and Grigoriy who had stood with them spoke loudly.

If a Red Army soldier hadn’t found Maša frozen, lying in a snow drift on the final death march from the Stutthof concentration camp, this book would not exist. The diary she kept hidden on her person would have been buried with her. But she survived and now in eighteen languages her story tells the world what humanity may never allow to happen again.

Historians Protest Genocide Center

Historians Protest Genocide Center

Lrytas.lt

“On Friday the working group adopted a conclusion proposing the parliamentary leadership ask the parliament to consider whether Adas Jakubauskas is the appropriate person to hold the post of general director of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania,” working group director MP Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė told BNS.

Six members voted in favor and one against this conclusion. Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė said everyone was interested in seeing a strong Genocide Center which would operate smoothly and represent the interests of the Lithuanian state.

“… It has become clear A. Jakubauskas has not been successful in insuring the smooth operation of the institution,” she said. “The director of the Center has not been successful in solving arising problems in a constructive manner. The method of operation selected has only increased stress and conflict within the center he directs. Also, the constant public reports about the situation in the Center diminishes the exemplary reputation of this institution.”

Peasants Party MP Jonas Jarutis voted against the finding, saying he was disappointed other members of the working group had taken the easy way out.

Over a dozen historians and academics staged a protest Friday outside the Genocide Center in Vilnius. They said they wanted to show support for historian Mingailė Jurkutė who was terminated. She also took part in the protest. Protestors also said they wanted to bring attention to Center director Jakubauskas’s attempts to restrict freedom of speech and inquiry.

The leadership of parliament, that institution’s nominal board of directors composed of the heads of major factions there, could initiate Jakubauskas’s removal from the post of general director, as could a parliamentary committee, or a call by MPs with one-fifth voting for this.

Full story in Lithuanian here.
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Conservative Paulė Kuzmickienė to Head Lithuanian Parliamentary Commission on Historical Memory

Conservative Paulė Kuzmickienė to Head Lithuanian Parliamentary Commission on Historical Memory

Member of parliament Paulė Kuzmickienė has been chosen to succeed Valdas Rakutis as chairwoman of the Lithuanian parliament’s Commission on Battles for Freedom and State Historical Memory. Paulė Kuzmickienė is a member of the Conservative Party/Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party faction in parliament. Fourteen members of the Commission voted in favor of her, one against and one abstained Wednesday. The move must still be approved by the parliament.

Outgoing chairman Valdas Rakutis resigned the post in late January after causing scandal with his remarks on the Holocaust. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day he published an article saying Jews had collaborated with the Nazis and Soviets. His statements were criticized by the Lithuanian Jewish Community, foreign diplomats and leaders in the Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party.

Lithuanian Parliamentary Working Group to Present Conclusion on Genocide Center Friday

Lithuanian Parliamentary Working Group to Present Conclusion on Genocide Center Friday

Lrytas.lt

Radvilės Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė, head of the Lithuanian parliamentary working group convened to inquire into problems at the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, says while MPs hold different opinions regarding the state history institution, they were unanimous in the finding dialogue won’t bridge the divide between the Genocide Center’s leadership and some of its staff.

The working group plans to release their findings Friday.

“We decided to make a final decision Friday morning. The views of commission members are somewhat at odds, but basically everyone who spoke said the Center is experiencing problems and it doesn’t appear there is a desire to come to terms,” Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė told ELTA Wednesday.

She pointed to the Center’s leadership as the main culprits, saying that became clear when general director Adas Jakubauskas fired historian Mingailė Jurkutė.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

MP Responsible for Recent Holocaust Scandal Dogged by Earlier Remarks about Humane Gas Chambers

MP Responsible for Recent Holocaust Scandal Dogged by Earlier Remarks about Humane Gas Chambers

Photo: Valdas Rakutis

Lrytas.lt

The gas chamber was a “very humane” method for exterminating Jews in the Holocaust. Conservative member of the Lithuanian parliament Valdas Rakutis issued this and similar statements in writing in academic discussions two decades ago, the Lithuanian newspaper Lietuvos rytas reports.

Does the MP, who just recently resigned his chairmanship of a parliamentary commission because of controversial and scandalous statements about the Holocaust, think differently now? Even though he resigned, he said he hadn’t said anything wrong and hadn’t wanted to, and was forced to remove himself by the party leadership.

Rakutis, a qualified historian who actually still is at least formally the chairman of the parliament’s Commission on Battles for Freedom and State Historical Memory, hasn’t renounced these opinions expressed earlier. He said Jews were murdered in the gas chambers with less physical suffering than when they were tortured and shot to death, so his statement was correct. He qualifies this by saying this is true if you could compare things “in whole.”

Special Lesson for Soldiers

Rakutis made this shocking statement in his own writing when he was a teacher at the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy teaching young Lithuanian soldiers. That was back in 2000 and 2001 when the academy and society beyond was involved in heated and impassioned discussions on whether to include a lesson about the Holocaust in its educational curriculum for soldiers.

WJC President Applauds Pope Francis’s Unprecedented Visit with Holocaust Survivor

WJC President Applauds Pope Francis’s Unprecedented Visit with Holocaust Survivor

NEW YORK–Today Pope Francis made a Shabbat visit to Edith Bruck, an 89-year-old Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor, at her home in Rome.

“I have come here to thank you for your testimony and to pay homage to the people martyred by the insanity of Nazi populism,” the Pope told her, according to the Vatican.

World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder applauded the Pope:

“I am deeply appreciative of Pope Francis’s tremendous compassion in visiting Edith Bruck who survived the horror of several Nazi concentration camps, lost her family who were murdered in the Holocaust and has bravely shared her story. The Pope has demonstrated a sincere commitment to both personal kindness for the experiences of others and to the urgency of continuing to draw attention to the inhuman atrocities of genocides including the Holocaust. At a time when neo-Naziism, anti-Semitism and other bigotries are resurgent in many parts of the world, Pope Francis’s moral integrity and sense of history set the standard for other faith, political and community leaders to follow.

“My gratitude goes as well to Mrs. Bruck for her courage in telling the world about her trauma and in dedicating her life to educating people about the horrible truths of the Holocaust. As survivors age, their testimonies become increasingly priceless, and we owe our understanding of the very worst of humankind to the individuals who have taken it upon themselves to bear witness to all they have endured. Through such comprehension, we pray that such evil shall never happen again.”

Prosecutor Declines Investigation of Statements by Lithuanian MP

Prosecutor Declines Investigation of Statements by Lithuanian MP

The prosecutor at the Vilnius District Office of Prosecutor has decided not to begin a pre-trial investigation of statements made by member of parliament Valdas Rakutis in his article “International Holocaust Day and Historical Memory.” The prosecutor said the decision was made based on the lack of an act of a criminal nature, a press release said.

The decision not to initiate a pre-trial investigation was made following a statement from the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community which indicated historian and MP Rakutis published the article on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on an internet site which allegedly incited hatred against Jews and their people, and possibly engaged in Holocaust denial.

The informant asked the prosecutor to consider whether or not the statements made in the article constituted the criminal act defined in article 170, part 2 of the Lithuanian criminal code, “incitement against any national, racial, ethnic, religious or other kind of group of people,” and article 170-2, part 1, “public approval for international crimes, crimes committed by the USSR and Nazi Germany against the Republic of Lithuania or residents thereof, and their denial or gross trivialization.”

The decision to decline beginning a pre-trial investigation stated the criminal acts defined in article 170, part 2, and article 170-2, part 1, can only be committed by direct intention.