anti-Semitism

Review of BBC Documentary How the Holocaust Began

Review of BBC Documentary How the Holocaust Began

Photo: Historian James Bulgin at the Majdanek concentration camp, near Lublin, Poland Credit: Benjamin Holgate/BBC

James Bulgin’s BBC Two documentary contains horrifying footage, showing how ordinary people facilitated the Nazis in murdering Jews

What springs to mind when you hear the word “Holocaust?” This was the question which opened James Bulgin’s film “How the Holocaust Began” (BBC). Most likely you will think of somewhere like Auschwitz, and the Nazis presiding over processed mass murder. But Bulgin, an historian from the Imperial War Museum, wanted to show us something different.

Large-scale executions of Jews began in 1941 as the Germans made their way across Eastern Europe. Hitler’s Einsatzgruppen death squads carried out many of these murders. But the chilling truth presented here was that they did not, in fact, could not, act alone. They needed not just the tacit support of the civilian population, but their active participation. Ordinary people facilitated and sometimes carried out the mass killings of men, women and children.

The documentary contained horrific footage, a “home movie” shot by a German soldier of people being marched into trenches and shot in the head. Spectators gather round, smoking and talking, to watch. It was a terrible thing to see. But equally unforgettable were the words of Faina Kukliansky, whose grandmother had been rounded up in Alytus, Lithuania, and taken to a forest along with 2,500 others to be murdered. Kukliansky had discovered that this was done by local townsfolk and even school children: “That confirms what my uncle used to tell me… That probably his classmates killed his mother.”

Full review here.

LJC Asks Conservative Party to Look Into Member’s Anti-Semitic Remark

LJC Asks Conservative Party to Look Into Member’s Anti-Semitic Remark

Photo: Old cemetery in Nemakščiai

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has asked Gabrielius Landsbergis, the leader of the conservative Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democrats Party, to look into remarks made by fellow party member Remigijus Laugalis.

“If you don’t vote for me, then you can bury yourself in the Jewish cemetery,” Laugalis allegedly remarked.

Remigijus Laugalis is currently the alderman of the town of Nemakščiai and is seeking to be elected to the town council of Raseiniai, Lithuania.

The LJC has asked Landsbergis to undertake actions to educate residents of the Raseiniai district about the consequences of uncontrolled anti-Semitism and racism. The LJC has offered to help hold educational meetings with historians, cultural experts and writers in a spirit of cooperation based on mutual respect.

Ona Šimaitė Bio Better Known in US, Israel, France than Lithuania

Ona Šimaitė Bio Better Known in US, Israel, France than Lithuania

Rimantas Stankevičius utilized Holocaust Remembrance Day to present again his biography of Lithuania’s first recognized Righteous Gentile Ona Šimaitė on Holocaust Remembrance Day. The book was published back in 2021 by the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania. He gave an interview about his book to the news website delfi.lt.

“… at the intersection of Stiklių and Didžiosios street [in Vilnius] there was a false-flag operation intended to show Jews had attempted to kill a German officer. … Men, women, children and the infirm were sent en masse [from the nieghborhood] to the prison. One elderly woman was carried. Women marched cradling babies and with small children who clung to their mothers’ skirts. Many children from the orphanage were marched there along with their teachers. I saw a cobbler with a limp from Stiklių street whom I knew well. He wasn’t able to walk without a walking stick. They took his cane at the entrance to the prison and began beating him with it. Then they threw the stick through the prison gate whistling, guffawing and cursing the prisoners. On the other side of the prison I saw a Jewish woman in a white hospital gown. She appeared to have become completely lost. I looked for my 11-year-old daughter who was taken from home to no one knows where when she was supposed to be on duty at the hospital. I advised the woman to go home quickly so she wouldn’t end up in the prison. I wrote down her name and address and promised to do everything I could. The well-known Lithuanian public figure Marcelė Kubiliūtė and I went to the home of Buragas, the director of Jewish affairs. I went to Lithuanian security. I looked over lists there but didn’t find the girl’s name. I shrugged my shoulders and asked, ‘Is it worth getting all worked up about a Jewish girl?’ When I inquired where the girl might be, they suggested I go to the Lithuanian Special Squad which was shooting Jews. There was no sense going there at all,” Ona Šimaitė, librarian at Vilnius University from 1940 to 1944, stated.

First Plaque Commemorating Jews of Palanga

First Plaque Commemorating Jews of Palanga

International Holocaust Remembrance Day reminds residents of Lithuania’s sea-side city of Palanga of June 27 and October 12, 941, the days on which more than 400 fellow residents, the Jews of Palanga who were hard-working, innovative lovers of life and the sea, became victims of the Holocaust. One out of eight residents of Palanga was murdered during those two days. And that’s not a definite tally, it might be higher.

Friday Palanga mayor Šarūnas Vaitkus, deputy mayor Rimantas Antanas Mikalkėnas, director of the city’s Culture Department Robertas Trautmanas, Palanga Jewish Community chairman Vilius Gutmanas and other members of the Palanga Jewish Community observed a moment of silence at a memorial in the Palanga cemetery to remember the 106 Jews and Lithuanians murdered in the southern part of Birutė Park on June 27, 1941, the majority of whom lived in Palanga.

Candles were lit and the traditional stones were left to honor and remember the city residents who became the first victims of the Holocaust in Lithuania. Friday also saw a new page of history open with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque to mark the site of the former synagogue complex at what is now a supermarket on Vytauto street.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

EJC Warns Holocaust Being Forgotten

EJC Warns Holocaust Being Forgotten

Brussels, Wednesday, January 25, 2023–On the 78th anniversary of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, European Jewish Congress president Ariel Muzicant expressed his deep concern the critical lessons of the Holocaust are being forgotten.

“In today’s dangerous political climate where uncertainty and despair cloud our horizon, we need to continue fighting against those that threaten democracy and human rights,” Muzicant said. “We must not lose our determination to fight these forces, because if we refuse to fight, hatred and intolerance will prevail.”

“This year, as we also mark the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, those heroes and their ultimate sacrifice must be an inspiration to us all. Their legacy directs us to continue the fight against those who once again are challenging our societies with their discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism.”

Full text here.

Marc Chagall: World in Turmoil

Marc Chagall: World in Turmoil

“The whole history is packing bundles and getting away. Nobody else can be as tender and delicate with bundles. That’s a Jewish man tying a bundle.”

Those lines from Arthur Miller’s Monte Saint Angelo aptly characterizes an unusual exhibit of paintings by Marc Chagall during his period of exile from the 1930s and 1940s which opened in Frankfurt and will run till February 19, 2023. The exhibit is called World in Turmoil.

“A few kilometers from there is a place, more precisely a town, which I haven’t visited for a long time, but I always remember it. So I took advantage of your invitation to go and wander around there a little,” Marc Chagall said at the World YIVO Conference held in Vilnius (Wilno) on August 14, 1935.

This conference is mentioned in the artist’s biography and the catalog for the exhibit at that time. His journey back to Poland (now Lithuania) gave rise to works which appear unusual and dark for Chagall. His oeuvre is usually arranged chronologically, from his native Vitebsk, striving to reattain this magical homeland. In Vilnius Chagall comes as close as possible to actually returning.

International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

To mark the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust instituted by the United Nations in 2005, the Lithuanian Jewish Community will host a presentation of Vytautas Magnus University teacher Linas Venclauskas’s monograph about Lithuanian anti-Semitism and of Vytautas Toleikis’s book about the portrayal of Jews in Lithuanian literature.

The two presentations in Lithuanian begin at 6:00 P.M. on Thursday, January 26 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius. Note the United Nations’ International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. more commonly called International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is officially on Friday, January 27, to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex by the Soviet Red Army in 1945.

LJC Chairwoman Attending Conference of European Jewish Leaders in Israel

LJC Chairwoman Attending Conference of European Jewish Leaders in Israel

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky is attending a conference of European Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. The conference agenda includes meetings and discussions on relations between Israel and the Jewish communities abroad, current events and rising anti-Semitism.

Israeli president Isaac Herzog met with the chairwoman at his office and spoke about his Litvak roots, saying his great-grandfather Shmuel Yitzhak Hilman was born in Šeduva in 1868 and studied under his uncles in Pašvitinys outside Šiauliai and in Pasvalys. In 1897 he became rabbi for Berezino in the Minsk region. In 1908 he became rabbi for Glasgow in Scotland. Thousands attended his funeral in Jerusalem in 1953. His great-grandson Isaac was born in Tel Aviv in 1960.

South African Jewish Report Invites You  to Private Internet Screening of J’Accuse!

South African Jewish Report Invites You to Private Internet Screening of J’Accuse!

J’ACCUSE! Lithuanian complicity in the Holocaust and its coverup

Date: 8:00 P.M. South African Standard Time (UTC +2, same time zone as Lithuania), Thursday, January 19, 2023

Register here:
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_t4pEdH4LR3ano0wwyzfEnA

What would you do if you discovered that your grandfather, a national hero in Lithuania, was also a genocidal killer of Jews? Would you keep quiet or expose the truth?

This controversial documentary exposes Lithuania’s policy of Holocaust denial and its celebration of the perpetrators of the genocide of its Jewish citizens.

This is a unique opportunity to view the documentary in full and meet the filmmakers and heroes of this ground-breaking story.

Please note that this is a private screening by invitation only. The recording of this internationally award-winning documentary will NOT be available on YouTube after the event.

Call to Teachers, Youth Workers: Two-Day Introduction to Roma, Jewish Communities

Call to Teachers, Youth Workers: Two-Day Introduction to Roma, Jewish Communities

The two days of activities are intended to teach the traditions and customs of the Roma and Jewish communities in Lithuania and to counter stereotypes and fight anti-Semitism and Romophobia at home and abroad in various contexts. This is the first time educators from Lithuania are being invited to meeting with representatives and lecturers from both communities. We believe these teachings will be helpful for teachers working with young people as well as for cultural workers in the towns and cities where Jewish heritage is undergoing restoration. Those who work with young people and representatives from NGOs are invited to attend. The two-day workshop begins in January at the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius with the participation of experts from the Lithuanian Human Rights Center and the Padėk Pritapti organization, and of course the Lithuanian Jewish Community as well. We invite you to share this invitation with your colleagues. For more information, click https://bit.ly/3PXEoTz. To register, click https://bit.ly/3jDbJa5. A program in Lithuanian is available here.

For more information, contact Dovilė Rūkaitė at projects@lzb.lt.

Hanukkah Greetings from Joe Biden and Wife

Hanukkah Greetings from Joe Biden and Wife

Joe Biden: Well, folks, Happy Hanukkah, everyone. On behalf of Jill, Doug and Kamala, thank you. And Rabbi Bronia, thank you for hanging out with me la- –a couple weeks ago. And Michèle and Abigale. To all of you here, including so many friends, thank you being–for being part of this moment.

Just over two months ago, Jill and I her- –hosted the first-ever High Holiday reception at the White House.

It was deeply meaningful. It was something that we’ve alwa- –we’ll remember. And I felt–it felt what–what the Jewish proverb teaches: “What comes from the heart goes to the heart.” And it went to our heart, for real. It’s never happened before in the White House.

Full press release here.

Pope Francis Calls for Return to Judaeo-Catholic Dialogue

Pope Francis Calls for Return to Judaeo-Catholic Dialogue

Addressing members of the Jewish-Christian Friendship Association of France on December 12, Pope Francis called for a return to dialogue between Catholics and Jews in what he called hostile times with a rise in anti-Semitism and violence against Christians.

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO MEMBERS OF AMITIÉ JUDÉO-CHRÉTIENNE DE FRANCE

Consistory Hall
Monday, December 12, 2022

_____________________________________

Dear friends,

I welcome you, members of Amitié Judeo-Chrétienne de France, celebrating the 75th anniversary of its founding.

US Calls on Lithuania to Recognize Holocaust Crimes Committed by National Heroes

US Calls on Lithuania to Recognize Holocaust Crimes Committed by National Heroes

The Lithuanian telegraph agency ELTA reports US State Department special envoy for Holocaust issues Ellen Germain said Lithuanian authorities must recognize the involvement of so-called Lithuanian heroes in Holocaust crimes.

She said some Lithuanians who fought the Soviet regime are lionized and commemorated even though they were Nazi collaborators and committed war crimes and genocide. She called on Lithuanian politicians and society to admit the facts. As an example she pointed to Jonas Noreika, a Lithuanian Activist Front commander directly responsible for the ghettoization and mass murder of Jews in the Šiauliai (Shavl) district. She also pointed to Juozas Krikštaponis, part of a punitive unit who murdered Jews in Belarus. Noreika was awarded the Lithuanian Cross of Vytis posthumously and has a commemorative plaque hanging on the Lithuanian Academy of Science. There is a monument to Krikštaponis at the city park in Ukmergė (Vilkomir).

Germain said the United States is asking Lithuania to recognize the involvement of a number of alleged national heroes in Holocaust crimes.

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.

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.

܀

 

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.

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.

Lithuanian Attitudes on Ethnicity and Religion

Lithuanian Attitudes on Ethnicity and Religion

The NGO Diversity Development Group, the Ethnic Studies Department of the Lithuanian social sciences center Sociology Institute and Media4Change invite you to a virtual event on International Tolerance Day to present the results of a study and media monitoring on the topic of Lithuanians’ views of ethnic and religious groups.

When: 10:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M., November 16.
Where: MS Teams via login link https://bit.ly/3EhuyI1

Speakers:

Giedrė Blažytė, migration sociologist, Diversity Development Group, the Ethnic Studies Department of the Lithuanian social sciences center Sociology Institute

Neringa Jurčiukonytė, founder and director, Media4Change

Invitation and program here.

World of Trakai Executed in Varnikai Forest: A Fancy Menorah, a Mad Mob and a Leather Briefcase

World of Trakai Executed in Varnikai Forest: A Fancy Menorah, a Mad Mob and a Leather Briefcase

Photo: Trakai in 1952. From the personal collection of Algimantas Dočkus courtesy LRT.

by Rasa Kalinauskaitė

“Sir, I report that while inventorying the Jewish property taken to the synagogue I discovered seven fur coats suitable for police service. Three of them are of a yellow and unlined falling to below the knees, four are lined with cloth material, coming down to the knees. I request an order these fur coats be seized for police officers to wear as they perform their duties.”–from report by chief of Trakai police department to chief of district police, October 17, 1941.

I and a contingent of Trakai residents as well as two people who came from further off went on a tour of the Trakai Old Town, visiting sites recalling the Jews who lived here before World War II, stopping at former Jewish homes which are still standing. We became fellow travellers, in that those who toured Trakai in earlier times have shared their memories from many decades ago in the photographs they took, which show a town which has now completely changed. I wanted to share this with those who were not able to come, so I will attempt to describe this trip.

This is a journey through memory, because that same day, September 30, was the day in 1941 when the Jews of Trakai, Aukštadvaris, Lentvaris, Rūdiškės, Onuškis and Žydkaimis, 1,446 people of whom 597 were children, were murdered in Varnikai Forest.

Full article in Lithuanian here.

Romany Language Day

Romany Language Day

November 5 is celebrated as International Romani Language Day by UNESCO, Croatia and by Roma and friends around the world. One’s mother tongue is an important element of identity maintaining community cohesion and the sense of belonging. The Lithuanian Jewish Community and partner organizations including Padėk Pritapti will hold a celebration of the international day at 5:30 P.M. on November 8 this year at the Bagel Shop Café at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius. There will be readings from the Lithuanian Roma oral history archive and traditional song and dance. Participants will also receive postcards created by children containing a short Romany-Lithuanian vocabulary. The event is free and open to the public.

More information available here.

Grant Gochin Delivers Speech in Cape Town, October 27, 2022

Grant Gochin Delivers Speech in Cape Town, October 27, 2022

Grant Gochin delivered the following remarks to an audience of about 200 people at the Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre of the Green and Sea Point Hebrew Congregation in Cape Town in the early evening of October 27.

Hello, chaverim, friends, I am honored and delighted to be on my home soil, speaking to my own people. My Mishpocha. Thank you for coming. My sincere thanks to the organizers and attendees, and those who have kept me going in this cause.

Every Jewish person in this room has ancestry from Lithuania. Most of us here now, are alive because our families got out before Lithuanians were able to murder us. We are all who are left, to remember and speak the truth. Our families’ voices cannot be stilled through apathy or forgetfulness. Our families’ voices must be heard.

I became eager to find out about the “Old Country” from the stories and lessons of my paternal grandfather. More and more, I knew I had to walk those streets and see those forests.

I was the very first Jew to apply to Lithuania for citizenship. Three times, they rejected me for reasons even the Lithuanian Supreme Court ruled to be “absurd.” There were two sets of rules, one for real “ethnic” Lithuanians, and a separate queue for Litvaks. This simplified their process–automatic denial for Jews. I fought back.