History of the Jews in Lithuania

Happy Birthday to Fania Brantsovskaya

Happy Birthday to Fania Brantsovskaya

We wish a very happy milestone birthday next week to Vilnius ghetto survivor and Jewish partisan Fania Brantsovskaya.

You were about to begin university when the Germans invaded on June 22, 1941. When they ordered your family into the Vilnius ghetto, you crossed the street, Pylimo, to the Jewish Hospital section of the ghetto between Pylimo and Ligoninės streets. You joined the FPO, carried out sabotage missions against the Lithuanian Nazis, fought in the forests and marched into Vilnius with the Red Army when the Soviets liberated the Lithuanian capital. Although the fascists murdered your entire family, you stayed in the country and continued fight for a better future. After your husband passed away, you devoted yourself to telling the truth to the younger generations about the Holocaust and how Jews didn’t go like lambs to the slaughter, but fought tooth and nail, and prevailed against their oppressors.

We salute your bravery, your decision to fight and the life you devoted to telling the truth and serving humanity in your native land.

Mazl tov. Bis 120!

Saul Kagan: Litvak, Conscience of the Claims Conference and Warrior on the Invisible Front

Saul Kagan: Litvak, Conscience of the Claims Conference and Warrior on the Invisible Front

Saul Kagan, who fled Lithuania, spent decades leading the Jewish welfare organization which was primarily responsible for restitution worth more than $70 billion to Holocaust survivors and their descendants.

Saul Kagan came the to the USA in 1940 after losing his mother and brother to the barbarity of the Nazis. In 1951 he became the director of World Jewish Congress responsible for material claims by Jews against Germany. B’nai B’rith and other Jewish organizations brought an unprecedented claim, demanding reparations from “the heirs of the state of the Third Reich,” meaning West Germany, for the Nazi genocide against the Jews of Europe.

Kagan’s agreements signed over the following fifty years demanded the governments of West Germany and Austria and a falange of fascist corporations compensate people who survived the Holocaust for the houses, homes, buildings, furniture, art and other property seized from them during the Nazi era. They also demanded the payment of pensions, stipends and aid to the elderly they otherwise would have had if they hadn’t been persecuted instead, as well as compensation for hundreds of thousands of Nazi prisoners, Jews and non-Jews, used as slave labor by Germany’s industrial giants, corporations such as IG Farben and Krupp.

Plaque Commemorating Dr. Isaac Levitan to Be Unveiled in Kaunas May 19

Plaque Commemorating Dr. Isaac Levitan to Be Unveiled in Kaunas May 19

The Kaunas Jewish Community invites you to the unveiling of a plaque commemorating Dr. Isaac Levitan, the “angel in a white lab coat,” at 3:00 P.M. on May 19 at the doctor’s former address, Miško street no. 27 in Kaunas.

This is where Levitan set up his first private clinic in 1926. It quickly became known as Dr. Levitan’s Women’s Clinic. Amazingly, the building has stood unchanged since that time. It now houses the Christian Healing House which has delivered a large number of babies over several generations in Kaunas.

The doctor’s family didn’t fare as well during World War II. His son (also a doctor and gynecologist) and daughter-in-law were murdered in the Kaunas ghetto. Levitan, Sr., and his wife were deported by the Soviets twice. He died in exile in Krasnoyarsk oblast in 1956. His grandson Uri after many journeys finally ended up in Israel, thanks to fearless people.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community Invites You to the 5th World Litvak Congress

The Lithuanian Jewish Community Invites You to the 5th World Litvak Congress

The Fifth World Litvak Congress will be held on May 23-26, organized by the Lithuanian Jewish Community. We invite you to join the events and enjoy Litvak culture, heritage, history and music. Share the news with your relatives, friends and colleagues.

Pre-registration is required by filling out the following form:

https://forms.gle/VJa9nMHaHjH4t5Lf6

The program may be found here:

BUKLETAS_EN_1 (1)

>>PROGRAM in Lithuanian

Victory Day

Victory Day

Members of our Community met on sunny May 8 to mark the end of World War II, an end without which none of us would likely be alive.

Vandal Attacks Holocaust Monument near Darbėnai in Kretinga District

Vandal Attacks Holocaust Monument near Darbėnai in Kretinga District

A monument commemorating the mass murder of Jews has been vandalized near the town of Darbėnai in Lithuania’s Kretinga District.

A town resident noticed the vandalism while walking the in White Mountain Forest on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. The man reported the vandalism to the aldermanship after which the police were contacted about the incident.

The monument marked the site where about 320 Jewish women and children were shot to death in 1941. The site was recognized as a protected cultural heritage site with historical and commemorative values. Now the site contains a single stone marker, a broken stone plaque, vodka bottle shards and a swastika scratched on the commemorative stone.

Events Program for the Fifth World Litvak Congress in Vilnius

Events Program for the Fifth World Litvak Congress in Vilnius

The following is the program of events for the Fifth World Litvak Congress to be held in Vilnius from May 23 to May 26, 2022.

A PDF file of the program can be downloaded here.

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Events Program for the Fifth World Litvak Congress in Vilnius

May 23

Opening ceremony for the Fifth World Litvak Congress

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites Litvaks living around the world to return to Vilnius May 23 to May 26, to visit the land of our ancestors and to attend the Fifth World Litvak Congress.

A Remarkable Event: Litvaks from around the World to Gather in Vilnius

A Remarkable Event: Litvaks from around the World to Gather in Vilnius

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is inviting Litvaks from around the world to come to Vilnius from May 23 to May 26, to visit the land of their ancestors and to take part in the Fifth World Litvak Congress. The four-day congress has a program which includes discussions, tours of historical sites and different cultural activities dedicated to Jewish heritage in Lithuania and achievements by Litvaks on the world stage.

Events include the opening at the Lithuanian parliament and a concert by American cantor and professor Joseph Malovany at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius in an evening of concerts called “A Date with Vilne” which will include Lithuanian musicians and actors paying homage to the memory of the Jews who lived and worked in Lithuania.

Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen is the official patron of the Fifth World Litvak Congress. She said: “This Litvak Congress is happening while aggression is running wild in the Ukraine, when war fever has infected the entire region, which is significant to Lithuania historically and today, and to the entire world of Yiddish culture. In the face of blind brutality and violence it is always important to emphasize humanitarianism, empathy, the highest spiritual values from which the long Litvak tradition has always taken strength. This is especially urgent today when in the east of Europe an aggressive and imperialistic anti-Semitism has again raised its head, distorting historical facts and manipulating peoples’ emotions. We must oppose this.”

Film Getas Shown after Yom haShoah Ceremony

Film Getas Shown after Yom haShoah Ceremony

Following the commemoration of Holocaust victims at the Ponar Memorial Complex outside Vilnius on Yom haShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, on April 28, a screening of Julius Dautartas’s film Getas [Ghetto] took place at the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

This feature film is based on true events. The location is the Vilnius ghetto set up by the Nazis. It tells the story of the ill-fated, illegal and completely unequal love between Austrian SS officer, amateur musician and true psychopath Bruno Kittel who was placed in charge of the Vilnius ghetto and later the Kaunas concentration camp, and Jewish songstress Khaya. It is claimed that the theater which was established in the Vilnius ghetto was the result of Kittel’s love for Khaya.

Hermann Kruk in his Vilnius ghetto chronicle records some of the consternation ghetto inmates felt about the creation of the new cultural institution in their place of torment. Kruk records the phrase “whistling in the graveyard,” meaning while mass murder was taking place, the people were distracted with the spectacle of plays and drama.

The idea overcame resistance, however, and the cultural life of the Vilnius ghetto became a force for resistance and ultimately survival.

Full interview with the director in Lithuanian here.

New Lithuanian Play Introduces Holocaust to Children

New Lithuanian Play Introduces Holocaust to Children

A new play called Jokūbo dienoraštis [Jacob’s Diary] intended to introduce young audiences to the topic of the Holocaust premiered at the Kaunas State Puppet Theater Sunday evening, May 8, 2022.

What Remains When, after the War, Nothing Remains
lrytas.lt

“This is the story of the fate of a small town during World War II,” director Milda Mičiulytė said.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Mother of Basketball Statue Unveiled in Alytus

Mother of Basketball Statue Unveiled in Alytus

The public organization Cultural and Historical Memory Foundation in concert with the Alytus district administration and the Butrimonys aldermanship invited the public to attend the unveiling of a new monument to commemorate Senda Berenson Abbot-Valvroyensky, the Mother of Basketball.

Basketball legend Senda was born on March 19, 1868, in Butrimonys, Lithuania, and later immigrated to the USA, where she became the Mother of Basketball and the founder of the modern rules for the game, according to the International Museum of Jewish Athletes and the Women’s Basketball Museum.

As Lithuanian celebrates the 100th anniversary of basketball, this basketball legend born here, the Mother of Basketball Senda Berenson Abbott-Valvroyensky, is also immortalized here.

Lithuanian Parliament Bans Symbol Commemorating Soviet Liberation from Nazis

Lithuanian Parliament Bans Symbol Commemorating Soviet Liberation from Nazis

In late April the Lithuanian parliament adopted and the Lithuanian president signed into law legislation banning the public display of the ribbon of St. George, usually worn on Victory Day in Lithuania to mark the liberation of the country by the Red Army from Nazi Germany in 1944.

According to Lithuanian parliamentarians it symbolizes Russian aggression in the Ukraine and is now banned along with hammers, sickles and swastikas.

The draft legislation had included bans on the public display of the letter Z, but this was apparently removed from the final draft with the parliament’s Cultural Committee pointing out Z is a common company logo and that Russian troops in the Ukraine are also using the letters V, O, X and A. The Cultural Committee also said use of letters by Russian troops appeared to be arbitrary and subject to change as the campaign continues.

Lithuanians at March of the Living in Poland

Lithuanians at March of the Living in Poland

Members of the Lithuanian public took part April 28 in a March of the Living procession at Auschwitz. People from 25 countries including non-Jews attended.

The event was timed to commemorate the Warsaw Uprising on April 28. Marchers walked about 3.5 kilometers from the Auschwitz museum to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. A group of about 50 people from Lithuania attended. A ceremony to honor the victims took place at the former concentration camp. This began with a word of welcome in 25 languages, including “sveiki,” meaning hello, in Lithuanian. Polish president Andrzej Duda spoke there and used the occasion to compare the war in the Ukraine to the Holocaust.

Survivors spoke of the horror of the camp. Edward Mosberg recalled the murder of his family and spoke about his life history. Torches were lit during the ceremony to symbolize the loss of 6 million murdered Jews. A female university student from Lithuania lit one torch in concert with young people from Germany, Austria, Poland and Israel.

Those who came from Lithuania for the march included Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community chairman Sania Karbelis and other members of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community, and others.

Following the event participants had the chance to meet Righteous Gentile Chiune Sugihara’s son Nobuki.

Abi Men Zet Zich Club Celebrates 24th Birthday

Abi Men Zet Zich Club Celebrates 24th Birthday

The club for senior citizens was set up by Lithuanian Jewish Community chairman Simonas Alperavičius and deputy chairwoman Maša Grodnikienė on April 26, 1998, and was later named Abi Men Zet Zich, Yiddish for “just to see you again.” The name was the idea of the late Milan Cheronski. We wish club coordinator and social services director Žana Skudovičienė and all our seniors a very happy anniversary.

Panevėžys Jewish Community Holds Classes to Teach Holocaust, Jewish History

Panevėžys Jewish Community Holds Classes to Teach Holocaust, Jewish History

On May 3 students and teachers from the Mykolas Karka primary school in Panevėžys learned about the Holocaust and Jewish history at the Panevėžys Jewish Community. The students didn’t know much about Jewish history so Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman began with the Old Testament and Torah, and Jewish history facts recorded there. The students asked many questions. Kofman talked about the Holocaust as well, pointing out it took place in Panevėžys as well. Some of the students heard the word “Holocaust” for the first time. Many questions and discussions also followed that topic.

For more than 20 years now the Panevėžys Jewish Community has been doing educational outreach in the community with students from the city and district. Gennady Kofman said this was one of the Panevėžys Jewish Community’s main goals.

These events are informal at the table over tea. Students received the Jewish calendar for 5782 published by the Lithuanian Jewish Community and packages of matzo as gifts.

Yom haShoah Commemoration at the Ponar Memorial Complex

Yom haShoah Commemoration at the Ponar Memorial Complex

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky spoke at the gathering at the Ponar Memorial Complex near Vilnius April 28 marking Yom haShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“The scars left by the tragedy of the Holocaust go deep not just in the memory of the Jewish people. These are also unhealing scars for Lithuania which the passing years serve in no way to diminish. This nightmare took place on the streets and squares of Lithuania’s cities, in the suburbs and at the margins of forests,” she said.

“Today we must look at the tragedy of the Holocaust with open eyes and combat arising expressions of anti-Semitism through specific actions,” she continued.

She said attacks on the Ponar Memorial Complex would not be tolerated and that they dishonor the memory of the Lithuanian Jews who were murdered. In April vandals painted the letters V and Z on several signs and monuments at the memorial complex, letters associated with the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

“”We will not stand silent and we will not tolerate these sorts of actions. History has taught us that silence and bowed heads only encourages the criminals to go further. That will not happen,” Kukliansky said.

Historian Ruth Leiserowitz to Present New Publication on Jews from Klaipėda

Historian Ruth Leiserowitz to Present New Publication on Jews from Klaipėda

Ruth Leiserowitz, an historian from Germany, has researched the dramatic forced migration out of Klaipėda, also known as Memel, before World War II. She will present her newest book on the subject called “Žydai Klaipėdoje (Mėmelyje)” [Jews in Klaipėda (Memel)] at the Ieva Simonaitytė Public Library in Klaipėda at 5:00 P.M. on April 29.

The publication is intended to coincide with the 770th birthday of the port city.

Leiserowitz’s father came from Memel and she worked at Klaipėda University after Lithuanian independence, and helped organize the Thomas Mann festival in Nida, Lithuania. She got interested in her research topic because of her Jewish father-in-law who was born in Šilutė, then known as Heydekrug. In 1923 his family left Memelland when it was annexed by Lithuania. She decided to look into the fate of Jewish families forced to leave the region. She says her research is often something like a detective novel.

Commemorate Yom haShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, on April 28

Commemorate Yom haShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, on April 28

The world will commemorate Yom haShoah–Holocaust Remembrance Day–on April 28 this year.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to mark the day with us and to remember the victims of the Holocaust together. You are invited to attend a commemorative ceremony at the Ponar Memorial Complex outside Vilnius at 12 noon. Those needing transportation will be able to catch a bus there and back from the LJC at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius. Passengers must register by sending an email to office@lzb.lt or by calling 868506900. The bus leaves the LJC at 11:00 A.M. sharp on Thursday, April 28.