anti-Semitism

Sergejus Kanovičius: Why the LAF Didn’t Invite My Grandfather to the June Uprising

Sergejus Kanovičius: Why the LAF Didn’t Invite My Grandfather to the June Uprising

by Sergejus Kanovičius, poet and essayist

I always find it difficult to talk about the subject of the Holocaust in Lithuania. And not just talk about it – it is difficult for me to think about it, too. It is the biggest crime ever committed on the Lithuanian soil. We all play our part in history, we all–from historians to history fans, political figures, the general public–have our own interpretation of it. I am a writer, a descendent of Lithuanian Jews and Holocaust survivors, a child of Lithuania.

And I am honestly confused. And I don’t think I am the only one. The cautious statements that the Holocaust in Lithuania was a tragic page in our history, the popular expression of pseudo-empathy when fallen Lithuanian Jews are referred to as fellow citizens; but at the same time, no one is ever mentioning–even at the parliament–who their executioners were, and the list of people who have been identified as collaborators in that crime, remains hidden.

Šiauliai Regional and Klaipėda Jewish Communities Commemorate Holocaust Victims in Ylakiai

Šiauliai Regional and Klaipėda Jewish Communities Commemorate Holocaust Victims in Ylakiai

Members of the Šiauliai Regional and Klaipėda Jewish Communities attended an event to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Holocaust in Ylakiai, Lithuania, on July 6. The town center hosted an exhibit called “The Homes They Lived In” about Jewish families, businesses and activities. During the commemoration opera soloist Olga Šardt-Žarova sang “Our Father” and other works in Hebrew. After a minute of silence, a procession set off for the mass murder site and the old Jewish cemetery. Candles were lit and flowers placed at the site of the former synagogue, as were stones as well at the mass murder site, where kaddish was also performed.

According to the census at the end of the 19th century, 57% of the town’s population were Jews. Before World War I there were 150 Jewish families there. The town was heavily damaged during that war and many buildings include the synagogue burned to the ground. The town was rebuilt with large contributions made by Jews and in 1923 Jews constituted 41% of the population then. Many Jewish residents engaged in trade, light production and even agriculture before World War I. There were two mills with Jewish owners. Commerce took place at the weekly market and the large fair held once every five years. According to a government survey in 1931, there were 20 shops there, of which 17 belonged to Jews.

Utyan Jews Speak about Holocaust and Post-War Years in Lithuanian Translation of Zakhor Book

Utyan Jews Speak about Holocaust and Post-War Years in Lithuanian Translation of Zakhor Book

The A. and M. Miškiniai Public Library in Utena (Utyan in Yiddish), Lithuania, hosted a presentation of the only Lithuanian translation of a zakhor or memorial book in Yiddish about the city and region of Utena (the region includes Molėtai, Anykščiai, Vyžuonos and other locations. Incredibly, it took the book 42 years to reach the Lithuanian reading public: it was published in Tel Aviv by Nay Leben in 1979 under the title “Yishker-bukh Utyan un umgegnt.”

The translation and publication was the initiative of cultural historian Sandra Dastikienė as part of her project “Old Neighbors” to educate the public about the Jewish community, Jewish culture and the Litvak legacy in the Utena region.

“The old neighbors return to their towns in different ways–as works of art on the streets, through live appearances–but we are really missing the authentic history. This book fills that gap. It’s not an academic work, not an historical study, but the real memories of Jews who survived the Holocaust or left Lithuania before it. It raises more questions and presents a lot of answers,” Sandra Dastikienė said.

The recollections were collected into a single zakhor book from 1945 to 1979 in Israel. Roma Jančauskienė has long been interested in the history of the Utyan Jews and when she learned of the existence of this book tried over an extended period to buy a copy on the internet, unsuccessfully. About four years ago she finally did buy a copy on eBay, in Yiddish of course.

Photos from the Road of Memory Procession in Jurbarkas

Photos from the Road of Memory Procession in Jurbarkas

The Road of Memory procession to mark the 80th anniversary of the extermination of the local Jewish community took place in Jurbarkas, Lithuania, on July 4. The event is one in a series of “Road of Memory 1941-2021” events by Lithuania’s International Commission to Assess the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania and the Tolerance Training Centers founded by this commission, and other partners.

Photographs by Ignas Skridla here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/ignas2/sets/72157719493108108/with/51289725584/

Faina Kukliansky Re-Elected Head of Lithuanian Jewish Community

Faina Kukliansky Re-Elected Head of Lithuanian Jewish Community

ELTA, July 8, 2021

A general meeting of the members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community held Wednesday voted for a third time to elect Faina Kukliansky the chairwoman of the organization. Twenty-six members of the LJC’s executive board were elected at the same time.

The chairperson of the Community is elected for a four-year term by a majority of the regional Jewish communities and associate members constituting the LJC. Of the 32 organizations under the LJC umbrella, 31 representatives took part in Wednesday’s ballot. Kukliansky received 30 votes out of the possible 31, according to a press release from the LJC.

Kukliansky said her most important task as chairwoman is to inspire unity among the different Jewish communities in Lithuania. She said the LJC’s other priorities haven’t changed, but life is changing: the generation which experienced the horrors of World War II is growing old and dying, and so caring for them is becoming even more crucial.

“We are continuing to strengthen the activity of our social center, taking care of those requiring support, employing people with disabilities and engaging them in Community activities. Another important priority is preservation and putting to use the surviving Jewish cultural heritage: we have wonderful examples of restored synagogues being used as cultural activity centers,” Faina Kukliansky said.

WJC President Ronald Lauder: Jewish Community Should Reevaluate Relationship with Polish Government

WJC President Ronald Lauder: Jewish Community Should Reevaluate Relationship with Polish Government

WJC president Ronald Lauder calls Polish legislation a “slap in the face” to what remains of Polish Jewry

World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder called on the Jewish community worldwide to rethink its relationship with the Polish government over the weekend after the country’s lower house of parliament passed a draft law which would severely limit any ability by Polish Jewish Holocaust victims to recover their stolen property.

“This law is a slap in the face to what remains of Polish Jewry and survivors of Nazi brutality everywhere. It also sets a terrible precedent throughout Europe as survivors and descendants continue to seek justice,” said Lauder, who’s WJC represents Jewish communities in 100 countries. “It pains me to say this, but I think that the time has come for the international Jewish community to reevaluate our relationship with a government that is behaving with unimaginable callousness and is emulating the worst traditions in Polish history rather than the best and most uplifting ones.”

While most post-Communist countries have sought to right historical wrongs and address the issue of stolen Holocaust-era Jewish property, Poland has lagged behind. The Sejm’s new legislation will make it impossible for Jewish claimants or their descendants to recover or be compensated for what was taken from them in Poland.

Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel Letter on 80th Anniversary of the Beginning of the Extermination of Lithuanian Jewry

Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel Letter on 80th Anniversary of the Beginning of the Extermination of Lithuanian Jewry

Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel

 

Letter to friends on the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the extermination of Lithuanian Jewry

Eighty years ago, on June 22, 1941, the Germans invaded Lithuania. The Lithuanians immediately declared independence and formed a “temporary government” consisting of members of the “Lithuanian Activists Front”–an underground group headquartered in Germany and composed of nationalist elements who prepared plans for the extermination of Jews and waited for an opportunity to act. The opportunity came on June 22, 1941, with the start of Operation Barbarossa. Before the Nazi army entered the cities and towns of Lithuania, the extermination of Lithuanian Jews began–a 600 year history of coexistence ended in the great tragedy that has no precedent in human history.

Within the first 10 days of the invasion thousands of Lithuanian Jews were murdered. During the Nazi occupation 95% of Lithuanian Jewry were brutally murdered.

Lithuanian Jews were the first victims in Europe against whom the German policy of mass extermination was applied. The suddenness of the German invasion, the frightened retreat of the Red Army, the outburst of Lithuanian animal hatred towards Jews and the beginning of mass killings by thousands of Lithuanian murderers who were organized ahead of time and the lack of Jewish leadership (eliminated during the Soviet era) led to the eradication of most of this great community.

We must remember and remind all about the great tragedy of Judaism during World War II, a memory is more durable than time. Many of our fathers fought bravely, heroes against the Nazis, to the bitter end. They fought on the hardest fronts, and some sacrificed their lives, but they knew there was no different way – they chose the way to victory!

The state of Israel today receives unprecedented admiration, especially from those countries whose lands are soaked in the blood of our brethren.

We, the generation born after the war, have a duty to build a new world based on dialogue, understanding, cooperation and other recognitions, and all this is subject to the strict preservation of the historical truth.

We commemorate this day with the memory of the six million, remember them, and their memory motivates us to be strong and determined in the face of all haters of Israel.

Arie Ben-Ari, chairman
Associaton of Lithuanian Jews in Israel

Jerusalem
June 22, 2021

Lietūkis Garage Massacre 80 Years Ago Commemorated in Kaunas Schoolyard

Lietūkis Garage Massacre 80 Years Ago Commemorated in Kaunas Schoolyard

Kauno diena

The 80th anniversary of the Lietūkis Garage massacre, one of the most brutal mass murders in Lithuanian Holocaust history, was marked in what is now an athletics pitch in the courtyard of two schools in Kaunas. The court in the yard shared by the Startas athletics school and the Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas Gymnasium was locked Monday symbolically. Athletes including basketball players and swimmers neither warmed up nor played. Instead Lithuanian actress Kristina Kazakevičiūtė recited a poem by Aleksandras Bosas about the site of the mass murder.

Warsaw Summons Israeli Ambassador Following Statement on Restitution

Warsaw Summons Israeli Ambassador Following Statement on Restitution

Warsaw Sunday reported they had summoned the Israeli ambassador for discussion following Tel Aviv’s statement a law adopted by the Polish parliament on restitution to Holocaust victims was “immoral.” Experts say the new law would basically halt the restitution of property to Jews and others.

Polish foreign minister Pawel Jablonski said Warsaw sought to clarify the situation regarding the new law. Israeli embassy chargé d’affaires Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon “was summoned and we explained to her clearly and based on facts about all of this,” Jablonski told Polish broadcaster TV Polonia about the meeting on Monday. “We believe, unfortunately, they we have come upon a situation where some Israeli politicians seek to exploit this for domestic political gain,” he said.

Lithuanian Nazi Leader Re-Appears as Street Name

Lithuanian Nazi Leader Re-Appears as Street Name

On Wednesday [June 23, 2021] the old name of Tricolor Alley–Škirpa Alley–was pasted over the street sign there.

A video recording made around noon Wednesday appears to show a man creasing the wrinkles out of a sticker and then seems to give a thumbs-up to friends standing below him.

This has happened before and the city of Vilnius has removed the sticker. They say they will again.

“We’ll do as we’ve done the previous times, we’ll take it off,” advisor to the mayor of Vilnius Karolis Vaitkevičius told 15min.lt. In early January of last year the same thing happened and the municipality said then they had written two complaints to the prosecutor’s office.

The street sign hangs from a corner of the Museum of Applied Art at the intersection of Tricolor Alley and Arsenalo street in central Vilnius. The city of Vilnius resolved to change the name from the controversial [Lithuanian Nazi leader] Kazys Škirpa to Tricolor Alley in late July, 2019, citing Škirpa’s “anti-Semitic statements” as the reason behind the move.

Holocaust Anniversary Commemoration in Gargždai

Holocaust Anniversary Commemoration in Gargždai

The first procession in this year’s series of “Path of Memory” commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust was held in Gargždai, Lithuania, on June 23. The Lithuanian prime minister, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman and the chairmen of the Klaipėda and Palanga Jewish Communities attended and spoke at the event.

“We lost many of our fellow Jewish citizens during the Holocaust and we can only imagine what Lithuania’s academic, cultural and economic life might have been if not for the Holocaust,” Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė told reporters the day before the event.

The commemoration took the form of a march from the site of a former synagogue to the Jewish mass murder site where a ceremony was held and speakers spoke. Some attendees carried stones with the names of murdered Jews on them, in keeping with the Jewish tradition of placing stones at a grave.

Here are some photos from the first “Path of Memory 1941-2021” commemoration held in Gargždai.

Photographs by Laima Penek, the Chancellery of the Government of Lithuania and others.

An Assessment of the Holocaust and Our Moral State: A Virtual Discussion

An Assessment of the Holocaust and Our Moral State: A Virtual Discussion

One of the most painful periods in Lithuania’s history began 80 years ago in the summer of 1941, the beginning of the Holocaust in this country. We lost hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens constituting a significant portion of the population of Lithuania’s cities and towns. The Lithuanian Jewish Community is holding a virtual discussion in Lithuanian on June 28 to mark this painful anniversary.

Participants:

• LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, attorney;
• Arūnas Bubnys, director of Lithuania’s Genocide Center;
• Saulius Sužiedėlis, professor emeritus, Millersville University;
• Justinas Žilinskas, writer, publicist and professor of the European Union Law Institute at Mykolas Romeris University;
• Vytautas Bruveris, writer and analyst, Lietuvos rytas newspaper;
• Paulius Gritėnas, philosopher, observer and member of the executive board of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute;
• Donatas Puslys, director of the media and democracy program, Vilnius Policy Analysis Institute.

Writer and director of the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Foundation Sergejus Kanovičius will moderate.

The discussion is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. on Monday, June 28. You can watch it live on the LJC facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/777981389558688/

Lietūkis Garage Commemoration

Lietūkis Garage Commemoration

Around 50 Jewish men were tortured and murdered at the Lietūkis autoservice lot in Kaunas on June 27, 1941. Randomly grabbed off the streets, they were beaten with crowbars and water hoses were used to burst their stomachs. The victims included day workers, students, merchants, a musician, former director of the Industry and Trade Department of the Lithuanian Finance Ministry Jurgis Štromas and others. Many of the victims and perpetrators remain nameless to this day.

We will commemorate the victims of the Lietūkis Garage massacre and the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania at 5:00 P.M. on June 28, 2021, at the monument to the victims located at Miško street no. 3 in Kaunas.

At 6:30 P.M. the same day we will unveil a new sign in remembrance of the victims at the Žaliakalnis Jewish cemetery, where it is believed they were buried.

The Kaunas Jewish Community and the city of Kaunas invite you to join us in remembering the innocent Jewish citizens of Lithuania who were murdered.

We would be grateful if you could announce your intention to attend by sending an email to ieva0102@yahoo.com

Gercas Žakas, chairman
Kaunas Jewish Community

Choral Synagogue Prayer Service for Holocaust Victims

Choral Synagogue Prayer Service for Holocaust Victims

June 22, 1941, was the date the Nazis invaded Lithuania, Belarus and neighboring countries and the Holocaust began. Today the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius will hold a prayer service to remember the beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania. Unlike in the West, Jewish victims in the East were mainly executed near their homes. Over just a few months in the summer and fall of 1941 the vast majority of the once-populous Jewish community of Lithuania were exterminated.

Commemorations of the 80th Anniversary of the Holocaust around Lithuania

Commemorations of the 80th Anniversary of the Holocaust around Lithuania

Palanga

The Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Palanga municipality and the Klaipėda and Palanga Jewish Communities commemorated the beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania with a ceremony at the stone commemorating victims in the Palanga Botanical Garden on June 22.

Gargždai

A procession called “Path of Memory 1941-2021” to mark the 80th anniversary of the onset of the Holocaust in Lithuania is to be held starting at noon on June 23. Participants are invited to assemble at the former synagogue located at Kvietinių street no. 3, next to the Minija movie theater, whence the procession will move to the Jewish mass murder site on Klaipėdos street next to the bus station, culminating in a commemorative ceremony there.

Commemorating the 80th Anniversary of the Holocaust in Panevėžys

Commemorating the 80th Anniversary of the Holocaust in Panevėžys

The Holocaust began in Panevėžys and Lithuania on June 22, 1941. We must not forget how Litvaks lived before the tragedy and how their history ended in 1941.

There are still eye-witnesses to the mass murder of the Jews who lived in the Panevėžys district before World War II. The first mass shootings began in July in the Panevėžys district when ghettos were set up in every town and city, in Panevėžys, Biržai, Kupiškis, Pasvalys, Rokiškis and elsewhere.

The Panevėžys Jewish Community and the scouts of Panevėžys have undertaken a project conceived by Michailas Adomas and Elena Adelina to maintain the mass murder sites in the district.

This time the clean-up began June 9 in the Kurganova Forest in the Panevėžys region. Volunteers including Panevėžys scouts and the chairman of the Panevėžys Jewish Community participated. The scouts learned about the Holocaust in Panevėžys, the Panevėžys district and Lithuania.

In total around 200,000 Jews were murdered in Lithuania with about 13,500 Jews murdered almost immediately in the Panevėžys region.

Premiere of Film about Aleksandras Štromas

Premiere of Film about Aleksandras Štromas

The Vilnius Jewish Public Library will premiere a film about Aleksandras Štromas called Laisvės Horizontai at 5:30 P.M. on Monday, June 21. The filmmakers Ona Bivenienė, Ilja Bereznickas and Saulius Sondeckis will be present. Seating is limited and prior registration is required. Send an email to info@vilnius-jewish-public-library.com or call (8-5) 219 77 48 before 5:00 P.M. to register. The library is located at Gedinimo prospect no. 24 in Vilnius, through the alley to the parking lot and find the first door on the right.

Faina Kukliansky: Eight Decades Seeking for the Truth

Faina Kukliansky: Eight Decades Seeking for the Truth

On June 15 the Lithuanian parliament adopted a resolution entitled “On Commemorating the 80th Anniversary of Great Losses and Resistance to the Occupations by Totalitarian Regimes” which says that “after Nazi Germany occupied Lithuania, the Nazis began to carry out the genocide of the Jews of Lithuania, opening the way for mass murders and violence, leading to the loss of the larger part of the Jewish Community.”

Full editorial in Lithuanian here.

Lithuanian Parliament Adopts Resolution on Great Losses and Resistance to Totalitarian Occupational Regimes

Lithuanian Parliament Adopts Resolution on Great Losses and Resistance to Totalitarian Occupational Regimes

Photo: Children in Kaunas ghetto, courtesy Yad Vashem.

Today [June 15] the Lithuanian parliament adopted a resolution on commemorating the 80th anniversary of great losses and resistance to the occupations of Lithuanian by totalitarian regimes which says “After Nazi Germany occupied Lithuania, the Nazis began to carry out the genocide of the Jews of Lithuania, opening the way to mass murders and violence, leading to the loss of the larger part of the Jewish community.”

The language of the resolution is missing an essential element, a reminder that the mass murders were carried out with the aid of local collaborators. Would you like to put it more simply and clearly? There were people in the Lithuanian cities and towns who murdered their Jewish neighbors. Should we put it yet another way? There weren’t Nazi tanks and units standing by the side of the gravel pits on the forest margin, there were armed local men who fatally shot Jews lined up there, men, women and children [in Lithuania Jewish children were often murdered by smashing their heads against trees and rocks or with rifle butts in order to save ammunition–translator]. Another formulation which frightens us so much is also missing: there were Lithuanians among those who organized and physically carried out the genocide.

Does that sound horrible? But it’s the truth. The truth which is so hard to admit yet again. Perhaps the Lithuanian parliament is following the Lithuanian saying, “one teaspoon of tar ruins the barrel of honey?”

If so, it’s being misapplied, because the Lithuanian people aren’t a barrel of honey, and the Lithuanians who murdered Jews aren’t a teaspoon of tar. They are criminals who have committed crimes against humanity. A nation who can admit such people existed in its ranks is a brave and honorable nation. It’s not that their sins pass down to us, just that today’s generation is still afraid of the truth.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community had hoped the voice of the only Jewish member of the Lithuanian parliament, Emanuelis Zingeris, would be heard. He proposed amending the text of the resolution to read “the Nazis and their local collaborators.” He was not heard. Neither were the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the thousands of victims who stood before their armed neighbors, and millions of Jews and other people of goodwill around the world who are only asking for one thing, to face the truth.

Before writing this commentary, many people said: “It’s not worth raising the issue, it’s better to keep quiet, remain silent, not irritate, not sow discord.” But as Tomas Venclova said, “We should avoid descending into these scandals, but they will be inevitable as long as there are defenders of the Nazi collaborators.”

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community