Holocaust

New Book about Jewish Street in Vilnius

New Book about Jewish Street in Vilnius

A new book about Jewish Street in Vilnius by Aelita Ambrulevičiūtė, Gintė Konstantinavičiūtė and Giedrė Polkaitė-Petkevičienė was launched at the Paviljonas Book Weekend in Vilnius. “Prabilę namai. Žydų gatvės kasdienybė XIX-XX a. (iki 1940 m.)” [with the English subtitle/translation “Houses That Talk: Everyday Life in Žydų Street in the 19th-20th Century (up to 1940)” provided below the Lithuanian title on the cover] was published by the Aukso žuvys publishing house and comprises a kind of guide to the street, detailing the Great Synagogue, the Strashun Library, the house of the Vilna Gaon and the market and restaurants which operated there.

Lithuanian historian Aureljus Gieda presented the book and said it contains 166 illustrations of life in 14 buildings, 5 of which survive. He said the book has an index of names and extensive footnotes.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Looking Back at 30 Years of Hanukkah Celebrations

Looking Back at 30 Years of Hanukkah Celebrations

Maša Grodnikienė recalled for us the first Hanukkah celebration by the constituent Lithuanian Jewish Community back in 1988.

Lithuanian Jews who survived World War II celebrated Hanukkah quietly at home. In 1987 the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Association formed and Emanuelis Zingeris became chairman.

On December 4, 1988, Lithuanian Jews came together and collected funds for a shared Hanukkah celebration. This was a memorable holiday in Vilnius, a big event with a beautiful group of people at the Dainava restaurant. Yiddish was spoken and sung. The cultural events group of the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Association drafted the program and organized the event. The Fayerlakh Jewish ensemble with directors Griša Kravecas and Ana Kravec performed, as did the ethnographic ensemble conducted by Amos Traub and the Kaunas Jewish stage ensemble. Chaimas Gurvičius directed the concert. About 370 people attended. Chairman of the board of the Lithuanian Cultural Fund Česlovas Kudaba greeted the audience, and deputy chairman Tarvydas also took part. This was a grand Hanukkah evening celebration with a concert and speeches.

Remember what that time was like in Lithuania–the independence movement Sąjūdis had formed and Lithuanian Jews from different cities and towns came together and were part of Sąjūdis. Everyone was exhilarated, excited, happy that finally with the national rebirth of Lithuania the Jews of Lithuania could celebrate together that great holiday of the triumph of the spirit, Hanukkah. The majority sought to attend, there weren’t enough places and it was impossible to get in. At that time there were 17,000 Jews living in Lithuania.

So Close to the Holocaust…but So Innocent

So Close to the Holocaust…but So Innocent

by Grant Arthur Gochin

On November 24, 2018 the German Government announced they will charge a 95 year old man with 36,000 counts of accessory to murder during his “service” as a guard at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. Guards at concentration camps participated in murders of Jews, that was part of their job.

German courts convicted Oskar Groening, an accountant at Auschwitz, and Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard at the same camp, for complicity in mass murder. This month, November 2018, a former Nazi concentration camp guard, Johann Rehbogen, has been placed on trial in Muenster, Germany, accused of complicity in mass murder at the Stutthof concentration camp. Germany is working to punish the last remaining Holocaust perpetrators for their crimes against humanity.

The genocide of Lithuanian Jews had already been largely completed by January 1942, when Germany formally followed the same path as Lithuania at the Wannsee Conference; to now also commit genocide of Jews throughout Europe. Both Lithuania and Germany were intent on murdering Jews.

Full editorial here.

Opening of Exhibit “Mission: Lithuanian Citizens. Siberia”

Opening of Exhibit “Mission: Lithuanian Citizens. Siberia”

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to come to a meeting/lecture/discussion/exhibit opening at 6:00 P.M. on December 4. The LJC is located at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius. The “Mission: Lithuanian Citizens. Siberia” event is dedicated to discussing the deportations from Lithuania in June of 1941. The official telling of the story of the deportations often seems to exclude the multi-ethnic nature of the deportees and their diversity of views and beliefs. They were only united in the fact the occupational regime which swept into power didn’t approve of them.

Dr. Violeta Davoliūtė will give a presentation based on her research. LJC board member Daumantas Todesas, Vilnius Jewish Public Library director Žilvinas Beliauskas and Lithuanian Department of Ethnic Minorities director Dr. Vida Montvydaitė will also speak on the topic of the event.

An exhibit of photographs will officially open at the same time.

Conference “Remarkable Women of the Panevėžys Region”

Conference “Remarkable Women of the Panevėžys Region”

Acting Panevėžys mayor Petras Luomanas welcomed speakers and audience to the conference, saying: “It is very significant that we are now for the second time holding a conference in which we remember the remarkable women of our region whose contributions to culture, education, health-care, industry and other areas of endeavor in Panevėžys and throughout Lithuania have been gigantic.” Library director Loreta Breskienė spoke her library’s activities and “Lithuania’s Greats,” an exhibit of hand-sewn flags there. The author of the exhibit is Sofija Kanaverskytė, an artist and former resident of Panevėžys who did scenography at the J. Miltinis Drama Theater there.

The main topic of Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman’s presentation was historical information about the activities of notable Jewish women of Panevėžys till 1940. He said many of the Jewish women are little-known, including sculptress Marija Dilon, the businesswomen Ana Kisina and Lėja Chazanienė, social activist and doctor Ana Merienė, Panevėžys Jewish Hospital doctors Mirijam Todesaitė-Blatienė and Zinaida Kukliansky and the dentists Vera Dembienė, Golda Izraelienė, Liuba Gurevičienė and Chasjė Feigelienė. Much more widely known was the Jewish women’s Esperanto organization in the city of Panevėžys, whose members included Ana Grinberg, daughter of Rabbi Abraham Grinberg.

Kofman said the topic of notable Jewish women has been neglected in Panevėžys as it has throughout Lithuania. Many write about men and their contributions, while women remain on the margins. He said this conference was a very good idea and should serve to foster a more tolerant attitude towards life and history.

Conference participants included deputy director of the Panevėžys city administration for educational affairs Sandra Jakštienė, Panevėžys Regional History Museum director Arūnas Astramskis, principals and teachers of the gymnasia in Panevėžys and other professionals working in education in the city. Nine presentations were given, including by Panevėžys College library director Vilija Raubienė, Panevėžys District G. Petkevičaitė-Bitė Public Library librarian Albina Saladūnaitė, regional history expert from Šiauliai Irena Dambrauskaitė-Rudzinskienė, director of the Kalba Knyga Kūryba Communications Center Lionė Lapinskienė, museum specialist Donatas Juzėnas, Paįstrys resident and local history expert Stasė Mikeliūnienė and puppeteer Antanas Markuckis.

A Shadow over Europe: CNN Poll Reveals Depth of Anti-Semitism in Europe

A Shadow over Europe: CNN Poll Reveals Depth of Anti-Semitism in Europe

European Jewish Congress

Dear Presidents,
Dear Friends,

We would like to draw your attention on the findings of the CNN Poll on Antisemitism in Europe.

Please find below some of the most appalling results:

–According to the poll, more than a quarter of Europeans surveyed believe Jews have too much influence in business and finance. Nearly one in four said Jews have too much influence in conflict and wars across the world.

–One in five said they have too much influence in the media and the same number believe they have too much influence in politics.

–A third of Europeans polled said they knew just a little or nothing at all about the Holocaust.

Nun Who Helped Abba Kovner Dies at 110

Nun Who Helped Abba Kovner Dies at 110

Sister Cecylia Maria Roszak passed away at a convent in Cracow on November 16 at the age of 110, the archdiocese of Cracow reported. She was probably the oldest Catholic nun in the world at the time of her death. She was also a Righteous Gentile who harbored Jews in Nazi-occupied Vilnius, including writer and partisan leader Abba Kovner.

Maria Roszak was born March 25, 1908, in Kiełczewo and joined the Dominican order at the Gródek monastery (named after an old fortification and now neighborhood, adjacent to the Church of Our Lady of the Snows) in Cracow at the age of 21. In 1938 she and several fellow nuns were sent to Vilnius, then Wilno under Polish control, or more precisely to Naujoji Vilna outside the city, where the order had a wooden house and chapel on five hectares of land and intended to set up a monastery under Anna Borkowska, aka Mother Bertranda. World War II cut short these plans.

Vilnius came under Soviet occupation and then Nazi occupation. During the Nazi occupation Roszak and fellow nuns under Mother Bertranda hid 17 members of the Jewish resistance at their convent, including future ghetto underground leader, partisan and writer Abba Kovner.

Kaunas Jewish Community Meets Students

Kaunas Jewish Community Meets Students

Kaunas as the cultural capital of Europe for 2022 is preparing an educational program for high school students aged 15 to 18 called “The Challenge of Kaunas.”

The Bureau of Memory program is striving to interest high school students in the multi-ethnic and multicultural history of Kaunas. The students have an assignment: to draft a project for the younger and older generation, including KJC senior citizens, to work together. The students are being encouraged to learn about the city’s history from living eye-witnesses and to come up with proposals for what they themselves have to offer the elder generation; what manner of cooperation might work is left up to them.

The students had the opportunity at the meeting at the KJC to communicate directly with members of the Community and to learn about their biographies. The young participants reported that they were very interested and moved by the warmth of Community members.

The KJC said this meeting was the start of a new and beautiful friendship.

Visit the Lost Shtetlakh, the Jewish Towns in Lithuania

Visit the Lost Shtetlakh, the Jewish Towns in Lithuania

The popular Lithuanian travel page www.lietuvon.lt has been updated and now includes a new group of sites, the shtetlakh, towns which had a large Jewish population before the Holocaust.

The Lithuanian-language internet site is promising to continuously update local and regional Jewish heritage tourist routes (at https://www.lietuvon.lt/stetlai) which are being developed and advertised by local municipalities. tourism information centers, museums, libraries and individual travel enthusiasts.

This project is the fruit of a joint-venture between the Lithuanian Jewish Community and www.lietuvon.lt author Karolis Žukauskas.

The project receives support from the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department and the Goodwill Foundation.

Parliamentary Cultural Committee Considers Jewish Heritage Issues

Parliamentary Cultural Committee Considers Jewish Heritage Issues

A sitting of the Lithuanian parliament’s Cultural Committee November 14 addressed Litvak heritage. The meeting was held at the Tolerance Center of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Musum in Vilnius with committee chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis attending.

Three main issues were discussed:

1. Further expansion and financing of the Vilna Gaon Museum
2. Jewish heritage issues
3. Restoration of the Great Synagogue in Vilnius

MP Emanuelis Zingeris proposed a resolution for the restoration of the Great Synagogue at the meeting. The Lithuanian Jewish Community expressed a different position. LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said Lithuanian Jews are not asking and never had asked for the rebuilding of the Great Synagogue using state funds. She further noted that currently the LJC is engaged in studying other methods and problems in commemoration and preservation, having been tasked with drafting a study on Jewish heritage by the Lithuanian Government.

Special Focus on Ethnic Communities at Tolerance Day Celebration

Special Focus on Ethnic Communities at Tolerance Day Celebration

The celebration of Tolerance Day supported by the Lithuanian prime minister demonstrated sincere and exceptional attention to representatives of the ethnic communities in Lithuania.

International Tolerance Day was marked for the fifth time in Lithuanian November 16 with an event at the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences supported by the Lithuanian prime minister and organized by the Department of Ethnic Minorities under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania. During the event prime minister Saulius Skvernelis and department director Vida Montvydaitė honored and awarded those who had contributed most to the establishment of civil society, celebration of ethnic cultures and the fostering of intercultural dialogue in Lithuania.

From the Vilnius Ghetto: Sutzkever’s Memoirs in Lithuanian

From the Vilnius Ghetto: Sutzkever’s Memoirs in Lithuanian

by Danielė Ūselytė

Abraham Sutzkever (1913-2010) was one of the most remarkable Yiddish poets in the 20th century, a Holocaust survivor, one of the leaders of the cultural resistance and in his memoirs “From the Vilnius Ghetto” provides a testimony of his authentic experience.

These texts were written immediately following the tragic events of World War II and were published in Moscow in 1946. These memoirs contain the living memories in the author’s mind and thus are a testimony of history. Feelings and states of mind are presented, indirectly, through specific situations, sometimes with irony, feelings of hopelessness, fear, debasement, but always the infinite desire to survive, to fight to the last breath. Resistance is supported by intense creativity in an extreme situation, in the belief its power will fortify human existence, and the historical narrative is based on this, demonstrating the possibility to write poetry in the tragic moment.

Full text in Lithuanian here.

Kaunas Jewish Community News for October

Kaunas Jewish Community News for October

In October the Kaunas Jewish Community experienced moments of celebration and painful losses, and commemorated the past.

The most momentous event in October was the celebration of the Community’s 30th birthday with a concert. The Kaunas State Philharmonic hosted the Klaipėda Chamber Orchestra accompanied by harpist Gabrielė Ašmontaitė, baritone Stein Skjervold and VilhelmasČepinskis on violin. Orchestra art director Mindaugas Bačkus presented a rich program of well-known and lesser-known works by Jewish and Litvak composers of different times and in different genres. He both played cello and presented the event.

The historian Linas Venclauskas told the audience about the history of the Jewish community and current events. He spoke about the Litvak contribution to Lithuania and together with KJC chairman Gercas Žakas presented thank-you letters from the Kaunas mayor and municipal culture department to long-standing and outstanding members of the Community, including Fruma Kučinskienė, Judita Mackevičienė, Motelius Rozenbergas, Basia Šragiene, Julijana Zarchi, Simonas Dovidavičius and Gercas Žakas himself.

Reflections in a Broken Mirror Exhibit Opens

Reflections in a Broken Mirror Exhibit Opens

The exhibit Reflections in a Broken Mirror detailing Litvak life in the period between the two world wars opened at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library November 12. Judaica Research Center director Dr. Lara Lempert presented the exhibit, talking about Jewish social life, modern art, literature, books, reading culture, publishing and medicine in the interwar period. The rich collection of multimedia exhibits presents Lithuanian and Vilnius Jewish life including the social welfare and medical system, education, art, learning and literature. It also demonstrates the importance of the Lithuanian and Vilnius Jewish communities in the context of world Jewry.

Commission for Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad Chairman Visits Lithuania

Commission for Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad Chairman Visits Lithuania

United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad chairman Paul Packer has visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community during his trip to Lithuania from November 6 to 8 to discuss Jewish heritage issues in Lithuania and participated in a prayer service at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius where he discussed the need for a mikvah with members of the Community. Chairman Packer also visited the Zavl shul on Gėlių street in Vilnius, currently undergoing renovation.

It was due to Packer’s initiative and concern that an information stand was erected to mark the old Jewish cemetery in the Šnipiškės neighborhood of Vilnius. He and members of the Vilnius municipality discussed future commemoration of the Jewish cemetery during his most recent trip to Lithuania. Packer visited the Jewish cemetery on Olandų street in Vilnius and said it, too, needs more information for visitors. He also visited the only working Jewish cemetery in Vilnius on Sudervės road.

In Kaunas Packer visited the Hassidic synagogue building which, if restored, could serve the needs of Lithuania’s second largest Jewish community and Israeli exchange students living in Kaunas. The chairman expressed unpleasant surprise at the state of the old Jewish cemetery in the Žaliakalnis neighborhood of Kaunas where a number of notable Jewish religious and cultural figures are buried. Many of the headstones are broken and overturned in the cemetery near the city’s center, and Packer said this didn’t serve to demonstrate the city’s pride in its rich Jewish history. LJC representatives also contacted the appropriate institutions regarding technical problems with video surveillance at the cemetery.

Condolences


Photo: Antanas Sutkus

With deep sadness we report the death of Dmitrijus Kopelmanas at the age of 90. He was born in 1928. The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Prisoners send deepest condolences to his friends and loved ones.

Retrospective of Photography by Antanas Sutkus

Retrospective of Photography by Antanas Sutkus

The National Art Gallery Friday opened a retrospective called Cosmos on the work of photographer Antanas Sutkus. It is a comprehensive presentation of the 79-year-old artist’s work and the first exhibit of his work to appear in over a decade. It includes more than 300 items.

Photographer Gintaras Česonis, one of the curators of the Cosmos exhibit, said Sutkus is an exceptional figure in Lithuanian photography.

“Sutkus is extraordinarily important for all time. More than one generation has grown up with his work. It’s not a simple matter to take a fresh look at it. When people delve into Sutkus’s archives many come to the conclusion his creative work cannot be comprehended, it is the entire universe. And this is probably where the name Cosmos came from for the exhibit, the totality of unbounded things and time,” Česonis commented.

Curator Thomas Schirmböck said Sutkus is one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century.

An album of Sutkus’s photos of Vilnius and Kaunas ghetto inmates called In Memoriam with the text in English was published two years ago.

The exhibit will run till January 13.

Evening to Remember Pianist Nadežda Dukstulskaitė

Evening to Remember Pianist Nadežda Dukstulskaitė

The Lithuanian Jewish Community will host an evening to remember the pianist and teacher Nadežda Dukstulskaitė at 6:00 P.M. on Thursday, November 15. The evening will feature memories and performances by Rafailas Karpis, Robertas Bekionis, Dmitri Bulybanko and the Ąžuolai men’s choir. Dr. Leonidas Melnikas will moderate.

Nadežda Dukstulskaitė (1912-1978) was born into the family of a musician. In 1918 the family moved to Kaunas where from the age of 7 Nadežda attended private lessons in piano under Herbeck-Hansen. She was graduated from the Stern Conservatory in Berlin in 1926 and from 1926 to 1929 studied at the High Musical School in Berlin.

She was a concert master and soloist on Kaunas and Vilnius radio from 1929 to 1953. She toured Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Sweden in 1934, 1937 and 1938 and performed works by M. K. Čiurlionis, Juozas Naujalis, Stasys Šimkus, Juozas Tallat-Kelpša, Juozas Gruodis and Juozas Karosas.

She escaped the Kaunas ghetto towards the end of World War II with help from the writer Kazys Binkis and his wife Sofija. She hid in different locations around Kaunas for several days and then walked to Vilnius. From 1953 to 1959 she was the concert master of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic’s philharmonic, and from 1959 to 1978 concert master and piano teacher for the Ąžuoliukas choir.

Her students included the opera singer Vladimiras Prudnikovas and the pianists Robertas Bekionis, Dmitri Bulybenko and Leonidas Melnikas.

Holocaust Memorial Unveiled in Vandžiogala

Holocaust Memorial Unveiled in Vandžiogala

The Kaunas district administration and Litvaks living in the USA have unveiled a Holocaust memorial at the old Jewish cemetery in Vandžiogala, Lithuania, to remember the Jews murdered there in 1941. The unveiling ceremony was scheduled for November 8 with the US and Israeli ambassadors in attendance as well as representatives of the financial supporter Alex Lyon and Sons, the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department and members of the local community. The work by the Kaunas district administration, Vandžiogala alderman Vytautas Šniauka and the local community included clearing the Litvak cemetery of bushes, restoring upturned headstones, making a path to the cemetery and constructing a small parking lot in the forest.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Demagog Tango with the Conscience

Demagog Tango with the Conscience

Valiušaitis’s article “Melo voratinklyje – antinacistinė ir antisovietinė rezistencija” [“In the Web of Lies: The Anti-Nazi and Anti-Soviet Resistance”] examines the art of Soviet disinformation. A truly necessary topic. But again, “including” captain Jonas Noreika, and again arguing as if there are no documents demonstrating Noreika’s Nazi collaboration, his violation of his oath as a military officer and his close cooperation with the murderers of Jews.

Unfortunately such proof exists, whether Valiušaitis likes it or not. So, in denying the established facts, trampling upon the principles of morality and ethics and human values, he seeks to push the worship of a tainted hero onto democratic society. Whether this is intentional or not, he is demanding the justification of fascist and Nazi ideology. But glorification and justification of these ideologies is forbidden by Lithuanian law.

A half-lie isn’t the truth. Using one historian as a source is not an indication of objectivity. Besides the Soviet sources, there are a plethora of others, just as there are many works by historians unaffected by Soviet disinformation. The rejection of the International Criminal Court’s definition of genocide doesn’t vindicate the crime. Proponents of Nazi ideology cannot claim to be anti-Nazis. During World War II, the “anti-Nazi underground” of the fascist Lithuanian nationalist parties, the LAF and LNP, was so unremarkable in Lithuania that they failed to rescue even a single Jew and failed to kill even a single Nazi. And attempting to whiten the mantle of an officer by presenting, for example, Pope Pius XII’s “silent” policy of rescuing Jews, does a disservice to the Pope. Not only did Noreika fail to rescue a single Lithuanian Jew, but he was responsible for one and a half years for the looting of the property of the Jews murdered and shook hands daily with the murderers of the Jews.