Holocaust

Survey of Anti-Semitism in the European Union

Dear friends and colleagues,

Tomorrow, 81 years ago, the Nazi regime ordered a concentrated pogrom against Jewish communities. At least 91 Jews were murdered, hundreds of synagogues were burnt down and thousands of Jewish-owned businesses and houses were looted. Krytasllnacht or the Night of Broken Glass would be remembered as the beginning of the Holocaust and the extermination of six million Jews. More than 75 years after the Holocaust some prefer to think anti-Semitism has been banished from our societies, yet as we witness again and again violence and murder inspired by a hatred of Jews, we can see that anti-Semitism remains deeply ingrained in Europe. The anti-Semitic attack last month on the synagogue in Halle, Germany, once again reminded us anti-Semitism remains a threat to our European values and that we must remember we have responsibilities arising from our shared history.

Remembering the Great Aktion in Kaunas

Remembering the Great Aktion in Kaunas

The Kaunas Jewish Community conducted the sad annual commemoration of the Great Aktion in Kaunas at the end of October. The largest single mass-murder episode in the Holocaust in Lithuania, the Great Aktion was the murder of around 10,000 people in a 24-hour period at the Ninth Fort on October 28 and 29, 1941. “Aktion” is the word the Nazis applied to their mass murder operations.

Members of the Kaunas Jewish Community unveiled a stele or stone marker this year dedicated to preserving the memory of the Kaunas ghetto ältestenrat, or council of elders. The stele was commissioned by the city of Kaunas.

A survivor, Fruma Kučinskienė, spoke about the council, its head Elchanan Elkes and her memory of undergoing the selection of victims for the Great Aktion by the war criminal Helmut Rauca on Democrat Square in the ghetto. Rauca was discovered living in Canada after the war where he ran a resort.

It is believed the 10,000 or so victims included around 4,300 children.

Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis Was Neither Exonerated Nor Rehabilitated

Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis Was Neither Exonerated Nor Rehabilitated

by Arkadijus Vinokuras

That was what U.S. congressman Brad Sherman told Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis in his letter. He asked the prime minister to provide evidence demonstrating Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis, the head of the Lithuanian Provisional Government in 1941, was rehabilitated and acquitted by the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1974. Because this is something the Lithuanian Genocide Center has been claiming for about 10 years now. The congressman said this belief is baseless and contradicts U.S. law.

Sherman in the letter says without any doubt the Genocide Center’s findings on the exoneration and rehabilitation of the former LPG leader has no legal foundation at all. He says an investigation in 1974 was dropped because the man died and there was a lack of documents on Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis’s activities in Holocaust crimes. He said the U.S. Justice Department created a new section in 1979 which with the appearance of new information went on to investigate 60 Nazi criminals who had immigrated to the United States.

Why weren’t documents found? First, in 1944 Juozas Ambrazevičius changed his name to Juozas Brazaitis. In other words, he hid the fact of his change of surname from the U.S. immigration service. Second, the U.S. had a policy after the war of granting immunity to alleged war criminals who had information of use to the Central Intelligence Agency. Third, the section created by the Justice Department in 1979 had a staff of just three people who had no training or experience in investigating Holocaust crimes. Fourth, the Lithuanian archives only opened their doors after the fall of the Soviet empire.

Rule of Law? Not Funny

Rule of Law? Not Funny

by Arkadijus Vinokuras

Today’s Lithuania has utterly failed to give birth to political visionaries prepared to replace society’s erroneous tolerance of legal nihilism. What other explanation could there be for president Gitanas Nausėda’s reluctance to criticize the wanton behavior of the nationalists? It seems the state has been encompassed by legal paralysis again, just as in the “good old days” of the violet criminals [apparently a reference to a pedophilia scandal in Lithuania–translator].

It requires exceptional courage to change society’s flawed tenets. Especially when a portion of citizens consumed by fear still seek strength from Lithuania’s authoritarian past.

Looking back over 30 years of Lithuanian society’s process of becoming freer, one cannot fail to see this process has become stuck. Over these years no Lithuanian political party has been able to look directly without fear at Lithuanian history in the bloody years from 1941 to 1944. No political party has been able to offer an alternative to the pre-war authoritarian nationalism which holds no respect for the principles of the legal state and the rule of law.

AJC Hosts Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius in Washington

AJC Hosts Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius in Washington

At an American Jewish Committee (AJC) reception, Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius was praised for his efforts to correct the narrative around Lithuanian complicity in the Holocaust.

Earlier this summer, Šimašius oversaw two important decisions regarding Holocaust memory in Lithuania. The first was changing the name of a street honoring Kazys Skirpa, founder of the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) resistance organization, and the second was removing a plaque honoring Jonas Noreika, an anti-Soviet fighter who was responsible for the imprisonment of Šiauliai Jews and seizure of their property during the Holocaust.

Faina Kukliansky Proposes Special Attention Be Paid to Anti-Semitic Crimes

Faina Kukliansky Proposes Special Attention Be Paid to Anti-Semitic Crimes

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky says in light of increasing anti-Semitic graffiti recently the Lithuanian criminal code could be expanded to include acts of vandalism against Jews.

“Anti-Semitism is assigned a special article in the criminal code in Britain. I don’t know whether anyone in Lithuania is making graffiti against Tatars. But the swastika is a thing which recalls the Holocaust during which the community was exterminated. So it’s clear these crimes need to be taken care of. If we are given such exceptional treatment from the anti-Semite camp, then perhaps we should be given special treatment by the state as well,” she said.

Justice minister Elvinas Jankevičius says the criminal code currently allows for bringing to criminal account the sowing of ethnic or religious discord, and that such law would be excessive. Kukliansky told BNS there were five such incidents over the past month in Vilnius, Šiauliai and the Kaunas region, with swastikas, crossed-out stars of David and the vandalization of a statue in Šiauliai honoring 20th century industrialist Chaim Frenkel.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Vilnius, Jerusalem of Lithuania Jewish Community Gives New Book to Holocaust Survivors

Vilnius, Jerusalem of Lithuania Jewish Community Gives New Book to Holocaust Survivors

The Vilnius, Jerusalem of Lithuania Jewish Community has provided every member of the Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Inmates a copy of the Russian edition of the book “Irena Veisaitė: Life SHould Be Transpartent” by A. Švedas and translated by Anna Gerasimova, published by the Lithuanian Jewish Community. The Social Programs Department will help us distribute the book to senior citizens living outside Vilnius. Thank you!

Lithuanian General Prosecutor Says Vilnius Mayor Exceeded Authority in Noreika Take-Down

Lithuanian General Prosecutor Says Vilnius Mayor Exceeded Authority in Noreika Take-Down

Lithuania’s Office of General Prosecutor says Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius exceeded his authority in unilaterally ordering the removal of a plaque commemorating Jonas Noreika.

In a statement released Thursday the lead prosecutor in the defense of the public interest department at the Office of General Prosecutor said he had considered complaints filed by public organizations on a lower prosecutor’s decision and said the mayor had exceeded his authority.

“Public administrative actions performed by a public administration entity which exceed the authority provided that entity, and also the issuance of administrative acts [rules, regulations, orders] which exceed the authority granted are illegal,” the prosecutor said in his finding. He also considered complaints from public organizations on the city council’s renaming of Kazys Škirpa Alley and rejected them, letting stand a lower prosecutor’s opinion regarding the matter.

Full text in Lithuanian here.

Note: Noreika and Škirpa were Holocaust perpetrators.

Story of a Man of God

Story of a Man of God

Arkadijus Gotesmanas working together with director Adolfas Večerskis and artist Linas Liandzbergis created the Story of a Man of God almost a decade ago. Author of the music and text, he was also the performer of this drama. One week ago it was presented to an audience in Uzhgorod, Ukraine. In the one-man play Gotesmanas recalled horrible, funny, sad and happy events from his own life accompanied by creative percussion, the life of one man, one family, one people marked by the tragedies of the 20th century but nonetheless filled with unconditional love for faltering humanity.

The audience in Uzhgorod listened and watched in rapt attention. Arkadijus was born there 60 years ago. The “hometown boy” appears to have impressed the audience with his high degree of creativity, talent and musical ability. Arkadijus said he only really knew about “our Uzhgorod” from his parents before this. In infancy he and his parents left the city. So the next performance of Story of a Man of God might include this trip as well.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Launch of Book about Vilkija Ghetto in Kaunas

Launch of Book about Vilkija Ghetto in Kaunas

The rare books department of the Kaunas Public Library hosted the launch of the book “Vilkijos getas. 1941 metai” by Aleksandras Vitkus and Chaim Bargman. Vilkija deputy alderman Algimantas Smolenskas led the event.

Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas spoke about Lithuanian Jewish community activities before 1940 and the active participation of Jews in the country’s cultural, economic and social life.

Participants discussed current commemoration policies, Lithuanian and Jewish relations, what goes into determining Nazi collaboration, education and other topics.

The Jewish community formed in the village of Vilkija, just 30 kilometers from Kaunas, in the late 18th century. According to the censuses, there were 652 Jews in Vilkija in 1766, 789 in 1847 and 1,431 out of a total population of 2,012 in 1897.

U.S. Rep Sends Letter to Lithuanian PM: We Never Exonerated Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis

U.S. Rep Sends Letter to Lithuanian PM: We Never Exonerated Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis

by Vilius Petkauskas, 15min.lt

Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis has received a letter from the Congress of the United States requesting Lithuania stop claiming U.S. institutions had found Lithuanian Provisional Government prime minister Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis hadn’t been party to the genocide of Lithuanian Jews [was not a Holocaust perpetrator] in 1941.

According to information available to 15min.lt, the chairman of the [subcommittee on Asia of the] Foreign Affairs Committee [representative Brad Sherman of California] sent a letter to Skvernelis which asks the Lithuanian PM to require the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania to stop claiming erroneously Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis had been exonerated. Prime ministerial press representative Tomas Beržinskas confirmed such a letter had been received.

“Yes, the prime minister has received such a letter. A reply has not been drafted yet,” he told 15min.lt

Full article in Lithuanian here.

Holocaust Commemoration in Švenčionys on October 6

Holocaust Commemoration in Švenčionys on October 6

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Švenčionys Jewish Community remembered the victims of the Holocaust from the Švenčionys region at their mass murder site, the Švenčionėliai military base, on October 6, 2019. The mass murder site is the final resting place of about 8,000 Jews from the surrounding area.

Švenčionys Jewish Community chairman Moisej Šapiro said: “Memory is alive and no one is forgotten. Together we must recall from generation to generation the painful fate of the Jewish people, so that the memory of the innocent people who died under such extremely brutal and inhumane circumstances is honored. So that respect and history are maintained for as long as a single citizen of this country lives.”

Participants from Lithuania, Belarus, Sweden, Israel and elsewhere attended. Švenčionys regional administration head Rimantas Klipčius spoke and laid a wreath at the memorial. Pawel Tadeusz Purski, third secretary at the Polish embassy in Vilnius, also participated. Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky spoke at the ceremony.

Walls That Remember Art Installation Vandalized

Walls That Remember Art Installation Vandalized

The main feature of the Walls That Remember project has been vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti in central Vilnius.

The project aimed to remind passer-by of Vilnius’s rich Jewish past by portraying scenes from Jewish life in what was mainly the Jewish quarter of the Vilnius Old Town before World War.

Over the weekend someone added a star of David crossed out with the void symbol to the wall next to the painting. Project staff issued the following statement:

Special Guests from America and Israel at Kaunas Ghetto Concert

Special Guests from America and Israel at Kaunas Ghetto Concert

DELFI.lt

Many Lithuanians know something about the ghetto in Kaunas where tens of thousands of Jews were imprisoned from 1941 to 1944. Nonetheless, even if it’s not a secret, what life was like there behind the walls is a page of history which hasn’t been considered yet. One event in the Kaunas 2022 history festival will spotlight one of the ghetto’s leading lights, the Kaunas ghetto orchestra. On October 20 the music of the “Final Concert” at the Kaunas cultural center will mirror history: performed in the same building where the Gestapo was headquartered during World War II.

Full Lithuanian text here.

European Commission Wants Better Security for Jewish Institutions

European Commission Wants Better Security for Jewish Institutions

European Commission coordinator for fighting anti-Semitism Katharina von Schnurbein reports many EU states need to increase security for Jewish institutions.

Following Wednesday’s attack in Halle in eastern Germany, the EC is calling on all member-states to insure protection for Jewish institutions and communities. In an interview with the Funke media group published on October 11, von Shnurbein said many countries need to pay more attention and improve their methods and attitudes regarding security. She said each country is responsible for providing security for its Jewish communities.

The Commission’s coordinator for anti-Semitism said this is a problem throughout Europe which needs solving and that EU member-states must also help finance security for synagogues.

Cooperation or Collaboration: Who Deserves a Statue in Vilnius?

Cooperation or Collaboration: Who Deserves a Statue in Vilnius?

by Vytautas Plečkaitis, formerly Lithuania’s ambassador to the Ukraine and Switzerland

Seventy years having passed since World War II, disputes over collaboration with the Nazi regime in Germany continue in Lithuania, in neighboring Poland and in other Central and Eastern European countries.

The generation who grew up in the period of freedom and independence want to know the whole truth about the crimes of the Communist regime and the crimes of the German Nazis and those who collaborated with them and took part in the Holocaust. This is demanded of us by basic human nature, and historical memory of the Jewish community who lived in our land [sic] since the time of Vytautas the Great and who were annihilated hasn’t been fully taken into account.

Full text in Lithuanian here.

Holocaust “Historian” Pinchos Fridberg Asks the Holocaust Historians of the Genocide Center: Can We Trust Archival Document LCVA f. R-1436, ap. 1, b. 29, l. 13-13 a. p.?

Holocaust “Historian” Pinchos Fridberg Asks the Holocaust Historians of the Genocide Center: Can We Trust Archival Document LCVA f. R-1436, ap. 1, b. 29, l. 13-13 a. p.?


professor Pinchos Fridberg

Comments on the Title of the Article

1. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty called me an Holocaust historian. I won’t deny such words please the ear. They aren’t true, though. I’m actually a pedant: I read very carefully without missing a letter. And at the same time I also think a little bit.

2. The real (infallible) Holocaust Historians work at the Genocide Center. For that reason in the second instance I write Historian capitalized and without quotation marks. The findings of the research of these historians are even carved in granite.

3. To my very odd question “can we rely upon the archival document?” I can give a not less odd reply: who can deny that this document wasn’t created by NKVD agents seeking to discredit collaborators who worked closely with the Nazis?

Yom Kippur, the Day of Spiritual Cleansing and Hope

Yom Kippur, the Day of Spiritual Cleansing and Hope

The tenth day of the Jewish New Year is the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. It is the only day of the year when the Torah calls upon the person to do nothing at all except reflect upon his actions and thoughts. Contrition over one’s sins.

The prayer Kol Nidrei rings out, a symbol of the entire holiday. It is sung loudly three times. Its motif is wonderful, originating in mediaeval Spain, and is beloved by world-renowned symphony orchestras.

Prayers of remembrance for dead parents are also read during Yom Kuppur. Today we add two more parts: for Holocaust victims and for the soldiers who have fallen defending the State of Israel.

Special significance attaches to the final prayer, which is read at evening twilight. This is the time when forgiveness is sought from the Most High. The plea is either accepted or rejected.

The blowing of the shofar horn concludes the Yom Kippur rituals. The traditional Jewish wish is heard: “Next year in Jerusalem.” Everyone wishes every other “gmar khatima tova,” Hebrew for wishing someone a conclusive entry in the Book of Life.

Simas Levinas, chairman
Vilnius Jewish Religious Community

Yad Vashem Says Lithuanian President’s Visit Important to Lithuanian Public

Yad Vashem Says Lithuanian President’s Visit Important to Lithuanian Public

Yad Vashem director Avner Shalev says Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda’s attendance at the World Holocaust Forum would be “important to the Lithuanian public.”

At a seminar dedicated to Lithuanian reporters in Jerusalem, director Shalev said he felt Nausėda would bring back an opinion from Jerusalem which would resonate with Lithuanians. “This is very important to us as well that the Lithuanian president express the importance of remembering the Holocaust and combating anti-Semitism.”

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Serge Cwajgenbaum Has Died

1946-2019 z”l

The World Jewish Congress joins the European Jewish Congress and our Jewish communities throughout Europe in mourning the passing of long-time EJC secretary-general and friend Serge Cwajgenbaum z”l.

Serge was a pivotal figure for European Jewry who began his communal engagement with the French Jewish students union, joined the WJC in 1974, headed the French section of the World Jewish Congress and then served as director of World Jewish Congress Europe for many years before the founding of the European Jewish Congress in 1986.