Some snapshots taken at the presentation of the book “Dešimties stebuklų liudytojai” held at the Lithuanian Jewish Community on October 19.
At 4:00 P.M. on October 15 the Lost Shtetl project and Vilnius University will continue the series of discussions called “Public Conversations about History.” During these discussions we will raise the issues of historical truth, memory wars and the motivations behind choosing to serve one ideology or another.
This time the topic is “The POLIN Museum and Poland’s Memory Wars.” We will engage historian and former POLIN director Dariusz Stola in conversation.
POLIN, the Polish museum of Jewish history, opened in 2014 and has had millions of visitors since then. The museum successfully addresses the complex past of Poles and Jews. But when POLIN demonstrated an exhibit about the anti-Zionist campaign of 1968 and expressed opposition to Poland’s new law on Holocaust complicity, right-wing nationalists and politicians in the ruling party attacked the museum.
Dariusz Stola will talk about the museum’s achievements and about how everything changed when the culture wars began dividing the country. In the discussion we’ll talk about how national commemoration policy rejects a critical judgment of the past as a “shaming methodology.” We will reflect on how these factors affect us.
Moderators: Sergejus Kanovičius and Paulius Gritėnas
The discussion will take place in English in the Theater Hall of Vilnius University. Certificate of vaccination or equivalent required for entry.
More information available here.
Statement by Lithuania at the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Anti-Semitism
Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Anti-Semitism
October, 12-13, 2021
Pledges by Lithuania for 2021-2025
The Lithuanian government is engaged in a number of initiatives on Holocaust remembrance and education, which are to be implemented within a 5-year perspective. The most significant of them include opening new museum spaces and updating existing school curricula incorporating modern teaching recommendations on the Holocaust. This is an important contribution to raising awareness and educating society not only about the Holocaust but also the ages rich history of Jews in Lithuania. It was extensively presented during the year 2020, which was officially dedicated to the Vilna Gaon and saw a significant increase of interest in Jewish life, history and heritage in Lithuania.
Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda at the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Battling Anti-Semitism Thursday called for educating young people and resisting hate-speech and attempts to falsify history.
He said the great tragedy of the Jews of Lithuania touched almost every city and town and left a void. He said while it’s not possible to fill that void, it is necessary to insure the lessons of the Holocaust are not forgotten.
“We have to make sure the future generations remember and think about what happened. There is no other way to guarantee the horrific events of the past never happen again. Our pledges today must become specific actions aimed at the young generation and all of society,” he said.
Presenting Lithuania’s pledges for Holocaust remembrance and fighting anti-Semitism, the president stressed the importance of educating society, strong academic research and the preservation of Lithuanian Jewish heritage. The Vilna Gaon Jewish History Museum being expanded for this purpose will help better reveal the rich history of the Jews of Lithuania, he said.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky is taking part in meetings in Malmö, Sweden, for commemorating the Holocaust and battling anti-Semitism. The forum is addressing issues of preservation of historical memory, Holocaust education and the crimes of anti-Semitism and other hate crimes.
“This forum draws attention to the sad truth that there remain very few people throughout the world who survived the Holocaust and are able to testify about it. Today we must find new ways to preserve and transmit memory, new methods of education. Another big challenge is that the history of the Holocaust is being distorted and used for disinformation and propaganda, and a rising tide of anti-Semitism, both in real life and especially on the internet. In order to fight this, we must rally the education system and museums, but also educate our governments and the public, and that’s what this forum is about,” Faina Kukliansky said.
The LJC chairwoman who was officially invited to the forum will meet with European Commission’s coordinator for fighting anti-Semitism Katharina von Schnuberin, World Jewish Congress executive vice-president Maram Stern and other officials responsible for preserving Holocaust memory and fighting anti-Semitism. Kukliansky said the international community is watching how Lithuania acts towards Holocaust victims with a special focus on historical memory and justice.
Following the forum in Malmö, chairwoman Kukliansky plans to return to Lithuania with Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of the international affairs department of the American Jewish Committee, who will discuss anti-Semitism, Holocaust commemoration and the future of the Jewish community with representatives of the Lithuanian government and public figures.
The forum taking place in Malmö on October 13 and 14 is graced by the presence of the King of Sweden and his consort, King Carl XVI Gustaf and HM Queen Silvia, and more than 80 heads of state, journalists and influencers. It is being held at the initiative of the Kingdom of Sweden and the motto for the forum is “Remember, React.” It is being held on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and on the 20th anniversary of the founding of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, with the date moved from 2020 to 2021 because of the public health panic.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky has travelled to Sweden to attend an international forum in Malmö dedicated to Holocaust commemoration and fighting anti-Semitism.
“Anti-Semitism is an attack on European values, and any racist actions or those fueled by hate are irreconcilable with human rights and the principles of democracy. Let’s try to overcome division in society by actively presenting Jewish culture and traditions to the broader public. The indirect or hidden anti-Semitism and the distortion and denial of Holocaust history we are still seeing continue to be a painful insult to people of Jewish ethnicity,” Kukliansky said.
During the discussions in Malmö Kukliansky will meet with heads of delegations and special envoys and officials responsible for preserving Holocaust memory and fighting anti-Semitism, including the EU’s Katharina von Schnuberin and others.
In Sweden she will also meet with Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of international affairs for the American Jewish Committee.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community will host the launch of the Lithuanian book “Dešimties stebuklų liudytojai” [Witnesses to 10 Miracles] by Rimantas Stankevičius at 6:00 P.M. on Tuesday, October 19, 2021, at the Community located at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius.
The book’s title comes from a quote by Litvak Holocaust survivor Sameul Bak, who said at least ten miracles had to occur for him to have survived. It tells the story of rescuers at the Benedictine Monastery in Vilnius, Juozapas Stakauskas, Vladas Žemaitis and Marija Mikulska, who hid twelve Jews from September of 1943 to July of 1944.
The book launch will feature a panel of speakers including Ginas Dabašinskas, Libertas Klimka, Indrė Valantinaitė, Benediktas Stakauskas and author Rimantas Stankevičius. The discussion will take place in Lithuanian.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community is hosting a round-table discussion on human rights and specifically the rights of Jews in Lithuania at 6:00 P.M. on October 20 at the Bagel Shop Café at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius. The discussion will be broadcast via internet as well.
As a member of the Lithuanian Coalition of Human Rights Organizations, the LJC has contributed this year to a “shadow report” to the United Nations initiated and presented by the Law and Justice and the Educational and Scientific and Human Rights Committees of the Lithuanian parliament, intended to improve the human rights situation for ethnic minorities in Lithuania, including Jews.
Those recommendations are available in Lithuanian here.
Participants will include LJC chairwoman and attorney Faina Kukliansky, Sholem Aleichem principal Ruth Reches, human rights expert Jūratė Juškaitė, diplomat Marius Janukonis, equal opportunities ombudsman Birutė Sabatauskaitė, MP and chairwoman of the parliament’s Commission on Battles for Freedom and State Historical Memory Paulė Kuzmickienė, MP and Lithuanian Supreme Court judge Stasys Šedbaras, General Prosecutor’s Office prosecutor Justas Laucius, former Constitutional Court judge and dean of the International and EU Law Faculty at Mykolas Romeris Justinas Žilinskas and others.
More information about registering and attending virtually available on facebook here.
Brussels, October 1, 2021–The European Jewish Congress expresses its profound regret at the decision of Belgium’s Constitutional Court to uphold a ban on the Jewish method of slaughter of animals for meat, known as shechita.
The Court upheld two decrees adopted in 2017 which banned shechita in the Flemish and Walloon regions of Belgium in 2017, ruling that these did not violate religious freedoms according to the Belgian constitution.
This follows a 2020 decision by the European Court of Justice that ruled that Belgium was allowed to impose stricter rules on the slaughter of animals than those prescribed by the EU.
Vilnius University and the Lost Shtetl Museum are launching jointly a series of lectures and discussions called “Open Conversations on History” which will raise topical questions of historical truth, memory wars and society’s ability to resist the pressure to serve one or another ideology.
We invited Christoph Dieckmann, a prominent historian and author of books on German occupation policy and the Holocaust in Lithuania, to the first discussion at 6:00 P.M. on October 1. He will give a lecture called “Looking back on our past. Lithuanians, Germans, and Jews.”
Dieckmann will share his insights on the relationship between history and memory, talk about personal searches trying to find the best way to study the Holocaust in Lithuania and the method used to help incorporate the different perspectives of Holocaust participants.
I stand before you in order to deliver a speech, but this place and this sad occasion calls for concentrating and remaining silent. The reflection, respect and humble silence which meets every thinking and feeling person in this place cannot be confused with the silence of apathy, ignorance and fear. All of us have kept silent too long. Too long. We have kept quiet about what happened, where it happened and why. It was kept quiet for most of those eight decades we count since the beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania. Out of fear? Ignorance? Apathy?
Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda held the annual ceremony at the President’s Office September 14 to award rescuers of Jews from the Holocaust and their descendants the Lithuanian Order of the Life-Saver’s Cross.
“Every September as we mark the Day of Remembrance of Lithuanian Jewish Victims of Genocide, we pay respect to memory of Lithuania’s Jewish citizens murdered during World War II. We also honor the rescuers of Jews, those people who dared oppose the occupational regime without regard to the mortal danger this posed to them and their families,” he said at the ceremony.
The Lithuanian president recalled the historical context in which these rescuers operated, with anti-Semitism dripping from the pages of the press, the mass murder of Jews underway. Despite this, they dared hide the condemned Jews and resist the occupational regime.
Photo: The Pope’s visit to Slovakia and meeting with members of the Jewish community was called historic.
“Here, in this place, the name of God was dishonored,” Pope Francis said at a Holocaust memorial in Bratislava. During World War II Slovakia was governed by a Nazi puppet regime headed by Catholic priest Jozef Tiso.
Pope Francis paid tribute on Monday to the thousands of Slovak Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.
The comments came during the pontiff’s official visit to Slovakia against the backdrop of accusations around the Catholic Church’s role in Holocaust atrocities in Slovakia.
What did the pope say?
Speaking at a former Jewish neighborhood in the capital Bratislava, Pope Francis sharply criticized “the frenzy of hatred” in World War II and continuing anti-Semitism.
Full story here.
Wednesday the city of Alytus south of Vilnius marked the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust with a procession before noon from the Old Town to a mass murder site in the Vidzgirdas Forest.
A commemoration ceremony was held at the memorial at the Holocaust site.
Jewish community members from Kaunas and Vilnius, Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, MPs, local government officials, foreign ambassadors, students from schools in the area and local residents participated.
Following the ceremony the renovated synagogue building on Kauno street was opened as the new home of the Alytus Audio-Visual Arts Center with a concert by Rakija Klezmer Orkestar.
September 9, 2021
Unknown criminals desecrated the old Jewish cemetery on the Radvilėnai highway in Kaunas, exhuming at least three graves in what might have been an attempt steal valuables from the dead.
The Kaunas municipal agency charged with maintaining cemeteries noticed the disturbed graves Thursday morning while clearing tree branches at the site.
The three graves well all adjacent to one another in the southern section of the cemetery near the fence. Maintenance personnel found several pits which seemed to be dug towards the upper body section of the corpses. The pits were about a half meter deep and were partially filled in.
While Lithuanians and Litvaks spent much of June, July, August and now September of this year marking the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust in locations around the country, vandals attacked a Holocaust memorial in the Kretinga region for the second time in two years.
The memorial marks the spot where about 700 local Jews were murdered in 1941. Kretinga alderwoman Sigita Riepšaitė said the monument was first attacked two years ago just four months after it was erected, and that the cost of repairs was roughly half the total cost for the monument to begin with, which was around 900 euros.
Lithuania’s LNK News reported the alderwoman had made a police report regarding the metal plaque attached to a large stone at Kviečiai village in the Girėlė Forest. Riepšaitė said the police were taking the report seriously at least partially because this is a repeat crime.
Photo: Courtesy Silvia Foti
A family memoir gets surprising reactions from Lithuanians, Russians and Jews.
by Silvia Foti, Aug. 25, 2021 6:14 P.M. ET, wsj.com
I grew up the proud granddaughter of a Lithuanian war hero who fought against Communists. My grandfather Jonas Noreika has a school and streets named after him. When my mother on her deathbed in 2000 asked me to write a story about her heroic father, I enthusiastically agreed.
Unfortunately, as I dug deeper I discovered to my horror that my grandfather was also a Holocaust perpetrator involved in murdering at least 8,000 Jews. On my story’s release, Russians wanted to use me, Lithuanians vilified me and Jews embraced me.
My grandfather wrote an order on August 22, 1941, to send thousands of Jews to a ghetto in Žagerė where they were slaughtered. My family story has brought this to the forefront, toppling Lithuania’s image as an innocent bystander in the Holocaust.
Five years ago Marius Ivaškevičius wrote of the need to remember the exterminated Jewish community of Molėtai, a town about 60 miles north of Vilnius. His call to mobilize with a march through the town became the second-most popular item ever on this website (the most popular being a reprint of an article about the South African Jewish community which continues to attract hits years later). The march itself was a watershed moment in Lithuanian Holocaust consciousness, drawing ethnic Lithuanians from around the country and the world together with Lithuanian Jews and Jews from South Africa, Uruguay, Great Britain, the USA and other countries. Several thousand people turned up on the town square and listened to the different speeches before marching to the mass murder site across town there.
The march was covered by the New York Times, Washington Post, Frankfurter Allgemeine, Jerusalem Post and other publications.
The march is to be repeated this year. August 29 is the date all Jews from Molėtai were murdered. On that “Day of Wrath” they were marched under armed guard two kilometers from one of the synagogues to the killing ground.
Saturday, August 14, 2021–European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor slammed the ratification of a bill passed by the Polish parliament which will make it far harder for Jews to claim restitution on properties appropriated and stolen during the Holocaust era.
“This law is undemocratic, unjust and immoral,” Kantor said. “This is not bringing order to chaos as president Duda claims, it is making legal what should be illegal and is merely legalizing theft. The president had an opportunity to right the wrong created by the parliament. He could have shown moral clarity and leadership, but he chose not to.
“Moreover, this law will also further highlight Poland’s unique position as the only country in the region which makes Holocaust restitution impossible and runs counter to its international commitments. It is outrageous that someone who survived the Holocaust, who will be in their later years, will still be deprived justice by this cruel, illegitimate and discriminatory law.”