anti-Semitism

Israel Cohen’s Vilna Translated to Lithuanian

Israel Cohen’s Vilna Translated to Lithuanian

by Olga Ugriumova, Lithuanian Radio and Television Russian service

Vilnius publishing house Hubris has published a Lithuanian translation of British writer and early proponent of Zionism Israel Cohen’s book “Vilna.” The author was born in London to a family of Jewish immigrants from Poland. He worked as a correspondent for the Times and the Manchester Guardian in Berlin, and also collaborated with Manchester Evening Chronicle and Jewish World, among many other publications. The book “Vilna” was first published in 1943 by the Jewish Publication Society of America as part of their Jewish Community Series showcasing Jewish communities in various countries for English speakers.

Full article in Russian here.

Publisher’s page here.

Litvak Cultural Forum to Bring Together Culture and History Lovers in Kaunas

Litvak Cultural Forum to Bring Together Culture and History Lovers in Kaunas

Culture enthusiasts are invited to the first Litvak Cultural Forum on September 29 and 30 at the Great Hall at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. The “Office of Memory” event within the Kaunas Capital of European Culture 2022 program includes a diverse events program at locations around the city.

Academics, historians, museum and education specialists, people from the world of art and members of different communities–the forum will bring them all together. Many of the visitors will be travelling to the land of their parents, grandparents and ancestors for the first time in their lives to attend the forum asking the vital question of what it means to be a Litvak. The forum’s other axis addresses culture and art as the key to history and commemoration as a path to a better future fostering openness and dialogue.

Office of Memory curator Daiva Price says the forum summarizes efforts and projects under the Kaunas 2022 program which have been going on since 2017.

New Documentary Examines Murder of Jews by Latvians and Lithuanians in the Holocaust

New Documentary Examines Murder of Jews by Latvians and Lithuanians in the Holocaust

Photo: Arūnas Bubnys, director Lithuania’s Orwellian-named Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, speaks at a right-wing rally on June 23, 2020, against a backdrop of Lithuanian Nazis Jonas Noreika and Kazys Škirpa. Photo courtesy Dovid Katz.

by Alan Zeitlin

In one scene from the powerful and horrific documentary Baltic Truth, Riga ghetto survivor Marger Vesterman plays the piano to the tune of a song created in the ghetto. He then recalls what the words were: “If you survive, no one has to remind you that you have responsibilities.”

The chilling documentary reminds us that it was not only Nazis who massacred Jews. In this case, Latvians and Lithuanians were all too eager to quench their thirst for Jewish blood, even if it meant shooting neighbors with whom they’d previously celebrated birthdays.

The searing documentary is narrated and hosted by Israeli singer Dudu Fisher. Fisher explains that his mother Miriam was born in Riga in 1932, and that if much of his family hadn’t moved to Mandatory Palestine, he would have been “among the millions of unborn Jewish children.”

Reworking Trauma: Roma and Jewish History Research in the Baltic States and the USA

Reworking Trauma: Roma and Jewish History Research in the Baltic States and the USA

An international conference called “Reworking Trauma: Roma and Jewish History Research in the Baltic States and the USA” will be held at the Martynas Mažvydas National Library in Vilnius from 10:00 A.M. to around 5:00 P.M. on Tuesday, September 13. The goal of the conference is to take a closer look at the social, cultural and political mechanisms used by the Jewish and Roma communities to work through trauma experienced during the Holocaust and what significance these mechanisms hold now in the Baltic states and the United States. The national history narrative often lacks space for “small histories,” the memories and stories of marginalized and voiceless minority communities who suffered so gravely from the tragic events of the 20th century. The main goals are to educate the public on the history of the Roma and Jewish communities in our region, to support academic research in this field and to stimulate international academic cooperation in minority, memory and Holocaust studies.

Anthropologist and US Holocaust Museum researcher Krista Hegburg is one of the main speakers and honored guest. She will also speak at panel discussion at the Vilnius Museum at 6:30 P.M. on September 15.

Other speakers include Volha Bartash from Regensburg University, Dovilė Budrytė from Georgia Gwinnett College, Neringa Latvytė from the Vilna Gaon Jewish History Museum and Vilnius Univeristy, Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium principal and psychologist Ruth Reches, Agnieška Avin from Vyautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Anna Pilarczyk-Palaitis from Vytautas Magnus and Eva-Liisa Roht-Yilmaz from Tartu University.

Program:

German President Asks Forgiveness from Black September Victims’ Families

German President Asks Forgiveness from Black September Victims’ Families

Germany officially asked forgiveness Monday from the families of the victims killed during the 1972 hostage raid at the Munich Olympics.

“We can’t compensate for what happened, nor for what you experienced and suffered. I am ashamed of this,” German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a ceremony at the NATO airbase in Fürstenfeldbruck held to commemorate the tragic death of Israeli athletes 50 years ago. Israel’s president Isaac Herzog and the Israeli Olympic team attended the ceremony.

Sunday he announced agreement had been reached for paying compensation to the families of the victims, but said it was shameful it took 50 years to come to this agreement.

On September 5, 1972, eight Palestinians from the terrorist group Black September broke into two apartments used by the Israeli team at the Olympic village in Munich. They shot two and took nine Israelis hostage. West German police made the decision to attack the terrorists and free the hostages, but all the hostages were killed during the raid in and around the airbase, along with five of the eight terrorists and a police officer. West Germany was condemned around the world for lax security at the Olympic village and for the failed rescue attempt.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

A Cry to Heaven

A Cry to Heaven

Photo: Jewish nursery school in Plungė, Lithuania. Almost no Jewish children survived in Lithuania. Photo source: Screenshot from the documentary J’Accuse

Renowned cantors unite to give their voices to Baltic Truth premiere

There were very few survivors from Lithuania. In the villages, there were almost none. We know what happened in some locations because we have testimonies from some survivors.

Yakov Zak testified about the Lithuanian Holocaust: “The rabbi of Kelmė, Kalmen Benushevits, who had escaped to Vaiguva at the outbreak of the war, had been brought together with the Jews from Vaiguva. He had been forced to kneel next to the pit the entire day. He had quietly whispered a prayer, watching while the Jews were shot. After all the Jews were shot, he was shot as well.”

And:

“The mystic religious melodies of the yeshiva students, their rabbis and leaders were eternally silenced. The town was ruined down to the foundations; the Jewish community of Kelmė was ruined forever. Peasants also related that while the yeshiva students were being taken to be shot, they did not weep. Like stone statues, they moved slowly, with their eyes raised to the sky, murmuring prayers.”

Memory Wars

Memory Wars

Lithuanian Archive reference LCVA R683, aprašas 2, byla2 lapas 80

“Memory Wars” are fought worldwide. The United Nations and Jew-haters everywhere appear to have reasonable certitude that Jews do not have much of any historical link to Israel, and should not “occupy” Israel. History is a tool of propagandists, able to be rewritten to fight any current conflict and to re-frame a national identity. Soviets did it, North Korea does it, Putin does it, Lukashenko in Belarus does it. But no government in the world has developed historical revisionism into the art form that Lithuania has. They have created an entire government agency to rewrite history, called “The Genocide Center.”

Lithuanian Government

The following is an excerpt from a text by the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania (the Genocide Center) titled “On Accusations against Jonas Noreika (General Storm), March 27, 2019, Vilnius”:

Five EU Countries Who Shouldn’t Be Throwing Stones

Five EU Countries Who Shouldn’t Be Throwing Stones

Efraim Zuroff

Accusing Russia of rewriting the Holocaust for its current propaganda is fair, but not when you’ve always whitewashed the Holocaust for your own purposes

Several days ago I was shocked to learn that five heads of state from Lithuania, Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Poland, all post-Communist Eastern European countries, had recently beseeched the leaders of the European Union to step up efforts to “preserve historical memory.” It was addressed to the European Council president, European Commission president and the Czech prime minister, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

For the past three decades since their transition to democracy, these countries have excelled in grossly distorting their own respective histories of the Holocaust. Yet the quintet of leaders now maintains that the Kremlin “is seeking to rewrite history and use it to justify its aggression against sovereign states.” Thus they urge the bodies of the EU to take a leadership role in “preserving historical memory and preventing the Russian regime from manipulating historical facts.” They contend that this concern “is particularly relevant in light of Russia’s intensive use of history for propaganda purposes in the context of the war in Ukraine.”

Full editorial here.

Tisha b’Av on Saturday

Tisha b’Av on Saturday

Tisha b’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av on the Hebrew calendar, falls on Saturday, July 6 this year.

Tisha b’Av commemorates the destruction of the First Temple of Solomon ca. 587 BCE and the Second Temple in 70 CE in Jerusalem and is traditionally a day of fasting and mourning. Observance includes five prohibitions, the main one being a 25-hour fast. The Book of Lamentations is read in the synagogue followed by the recitation of kinnos, liturgical dirges for the Temple and Jerusalem. Since the day has become associated with other major Jewish tragedies, some kinnos recall other events, including the murder of the Ten Martyrs in ancient Rome, pogroms against medieval Jewish communities and the Holocaust.

According to tradition, the sin of the Ten Spies is the real origin of Tisha B’Av. In the Book of Numbers, 13:1-33 when the Israelites accepted their false report of the Promised Land, they wept, thinking God could no help them. The night the people wept and wailed was the ninth day of Av, which then became a day of weeping and misfortune for all time, according to tradition, following which the Jews were made to wander the desert for 40 years.

Litvak Descendant Jenny Kagan Comes Back to Kaunas: How Can You Live Here When You Know Any Passerby Might Have Beaten Your Father to Death?

Litvak Descendant Jenny Kagan Comes Back to Kaunas: How Can You Live Here When You Know Any Passerby Might Have Beaten Your Father to Death?

Lithuanian state radio and television has published an interview with Jenny Kagan:

As Margarita Štromaitė, born in Kaunas, wrote in her memoirs, her future husband she met in the ghetto, Juozas Kagan and his mother Mira were rescued by Vytautas Rinkevičius’s family: “Regardless of the deadly danger, which threatened his entire family, he set up a hiding place for us in the attic of the forge. It was where the straw was, separated by an imaginary wall.” Twenty years after the Holocaust Margarita met her only surviving relative, her brother Aleksandras Štromas. In 1965 she and Joseph had a daughter, Eugenia. Or Jenny.

Jenny Kagan will be in Kaunas beginning August 4 for the exhibit “From Darkness” which is part of the Kaunas Capital of European Culture 2022 program, which will present her family history in subtle artistic techniques including text and audio, revealing previously unknown pages from the story of Kaunas.

This is also the story of the humanness and light we require to survive as a civilization. The exhibit will be held at Gimnazijos street no. 4 in Kaunas as part of the Histories Festival of the Kaunas Capital of European Culture 2022 program.

Full interview in Lithuanian here.

Who Are the Degenerates Now?

Who Are the Degenerates Now?

Grant Gochin

In a study by the UN titled ”History under Attack,” António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, stated: “Understanding the history of the Holocaust is crucial to safeguarding our future. This is particularly crucial as we see some seeking to rewrite history or to whitewash and rehabilitate those who committed crimes against humanity. If we fail to identify and confront the lies and inhumanity that fueled past atrocities, we are ill-prepared to prevent them in the future.” This article borrows heavily from this UN study.

UN Findings

The UN finds that Holocaust distortion is just as pernicious as Holocaust denial. Holocaust distortion depends upon and spreads antisemitism. It threatens the ability to remember and learn from the past by misrepresenting the historical record. It is an attack on truth and knowledge. It feeds on and spreads antisemitic tropes and prejudices, and threatens our understanding of one of the most tragic and violent histories–the genocide of six million Jews.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Netflix Hit Stranger Things Slammed for Nazi Prison

Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Netflix Hit Stranger Things Slammed for Nazi Prison

by Emma Myers

Netflix has come under fire for using the sites of past atrocities as locations or inspiration for its nostalgic hit show Stranger Things, including a plan to let fans book a themed cell in a former Holocaust prison on AirBnB.

Two of the locations in its fourth season–the final episodes of which were released last week–have dark roots in the real world.

Russian prison scenes were filmed in a former Lithuanian prison used by Nazis during the Holocaust while the show’s fictitious mental hospital was inspired by an infamous U.S. asylum with a similar name.

Mental health and Jewish advocates have criticized the streaming giant for what they see as exploitation of a brutal history. Both locations are also now tourist attractions.

New Condo Ad in Kaunas: “Lietūkis: A Building with History”

New Condo Ad in Kaunas: “Lietūkis: A Building with History”

A building built between the two world wars on Vytautas prospect in Kaunas is now undergoing renovation. The architect was Karolis Reisneris, the same architect who designed the Church of the Assumption in Kaunas. Advertisements to purchase apartments have caused controversy because of the phrase “Lietūkis: A Building with History,” recalling the Lietūkis garage massacre in Kaunas in late June of 1941.

Artist Paulina Eglė Pukytė spotted the advertisement on facebook and was surprised by it.

“If the ad campaign is mentioning history, then how can it ignore completely some of the blackest pages of 20th century history connected with the word Lietūkis? The advertisement suggests ‘touching history.’ How should we touch it, and which history?” she said to 15min.lt.

Between the two world wars the compound word “Lietūkis,” made up of Lietuva or Lithuania, shortened to Liet-, followed by ūkis, meaning economy, farm or household, was the name adopted by the Union of Lithuanian Agricultural Cooperatives, which operated in Kaunas from 1923 to 1940. Their headquarters were located at no. 43 on Vytautas prospect. The daylight pogrom and mass murder of Jews was perpetrated at the garage, actually an automobile service and repair station, located on Miško street in Kaunas and still known as the Lietūkis garage, despite abolition of the Lietūkis organization, the Union of Lithuanian Agricultural Cooperatives, prior to that.

Painted in Sound: An Interview with Samuel Bak

Painted in Sound: An Interview with Samuel Bak

by Karolis Vyšniauskas, photographs by Ieva Lygnugarytė, sound engineer Adomas Zubė

Samuel Bak is a miraculous survivor of Vilnius Ghetto. Now 88 at his studio in Massachusetts, the prolific painter recalls lost Jewish life in Vilnius for a NARA podcast.

For many decades Samuel Bak didn’t want to come back to Vilnius. It is the city where his father, grandparents and even his best friend, a child at the time, were killed.

But eventually through an initiative by local Lithuanians he returned to the place which formed his childhood memories. Now Vilnius hosts the Samuel Bak Museum, to which the painter has donated more than 50 of his works.

Full text and audio file of interview here.

One Hundred and Seven Years Late for Dinner

One Hundred and Seven Years Late for Dinner

by Grant Gochin

When your grandmother’s last words make it clear that she’s not who you thought she was, you are willing to move all the mountains in Europe to get to the truth

Dinner between cousins was scheduled for Shabbat on Friday, May 14, 1915. How was I to know that the Shabbos meal never took place? Without warning, Russian forces launched a genocidal mass deportation of Baltic Jews deep into Russia. Families were torn apart, lives were destroyed and communities of Jews devastated.

The first inkling I had was on my grandmother’s deathbed. Her final lucid words to me were: “I wish I knew my name. I wish I knew who my family was.” We thought we knew her name–Bertha Lee Arenson. We were wrong.

Kaunas Jewish Community to Commemorate Lietūkis Garage Victims

Kaunas Jewish Community to Commemorate Lietūkis Garage Victims

The Kaunas Jewish Community will commemorate the victims of the Lietūkis garage massacre at 4:30 P.M. on Monday, June 27, at the monument to the victims located at Miško street no. 3 in Kaunas. Following that commemoration participants will go on to the Vilijampolė (Slobodka) Jewish cemetery on Kalnų street and the Žaliakalnis Jewish cemetery on the Radvilėnų highway to commemorate Holocaust victims.

On June 27, 1941, around 50 Jewish men were tortured to death in front of crowd of on-lookers at the Lietūkis garage. The men were simply grabbed at random off the street for the public execution and included people from all walks of life. They were derided and brutally tortured with crow bars and high-pressure water from hoses. The names of most of the victims and executioners remain unknown, although one of the victims was Jurgis Štromas, who had been the director of the Industry and Trade Department at the Lithuanian Finance Ministry.

Vytautas Bruveris’s Presentation at Fifth World Litvak Congress

Vytautas Bruveris’s Presentation at Fifth World Litvak Congress

Lithuanian journalist Vytautas Bruveris gave a presentation at the Fifth World Litvak Congress held in Vilnius last month called “Jews in Lithuania: A Still-Undiscovered or an Already-Lost Shared History?”:

Many here have spoken about the war in the Ukraine. That’s natural, because it is continuation and horrific metastasis of the same story we are all talking about. I would like to talk about a different aspect, however, about empathy. Lithuanian society is showing they are very capable of human empathy and solidarity. We see that especially clearly in the huge and praise-worthy movement to receive war refugees from the Ukraine.

A question arises in this context, however, for me: is it not true that Lithuanian society are most able to feel empathy for those whom they understand as their own people, as participants of the same history?

Lithuanian Roots of Holocaust Denial and Distortion

Lithuanian Roots of Holocaust Denial and Distortion

by Evaldas Balčiūnas

Reading through the writings of various Lithuanian historians engaged in “historical memory policy” (an interesting term recalling totalitarian order in and of itself), texts which distort and even deny the Holocaust, I often wonder when it began. It began before the mass murder of Jews in Lithuania.

For instance, the Lithuanian Activist Front’s call to action “Dear enslaved brothers” appeared March 19, 1941, and was published in several versions. At least, two different versions have survived.