Holocaust

Large Jewish Community Lived in Švenčionys Region Before Holocaust

Large Jewish Community Lived in Švenčionys Region Before Holocaust

The Švenčionys region of Lithuania is a multicultural place where Lithuanians live alongside Poles, Russians, Belarussians, Jews and people of other ethnicities.

The Švenčionys Jewish Community was reconstituted in 2013. It is now headed by the energetic Švenčionys native Moshe Shapiro (aka Moisiejus Šapiro).

There was a large Jewish community living in the Švenčionys region in the period between the two world wars. In fact there were five synagogues operating there.

Jews there set up an herbal pharmaceuticals factory and different workshops in the center of the town of Švenčionys. Jewish effort, initiative and expertise were involved in all fields of production and business.

WJC Welcomes IHRA Members’ Strong Condemnation of Rehabilitation of Nazi Collaborators

WJC Welcomes IHRA Members’ Strong Condemnation of Rehabilitation of Nazi Collaborators

July 7, 2020, NEW YORK–Today the 35 member and liaison countries of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) issued a statement condemning “all attempts to rehabilitate the reputations of persons who were complicit in the crimes of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma.” The statement conveys the IHRA’s resolve to address the phenomenon within IHRA members.

World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder welcomed the move, adopted at the 2020 IHRA Berlin Plenary, as a clear sign of a commitment to oppose and isolate such efforts. He said, “Historical truth and accuracy need to be safeguarded for the sake of future generations. Any efforts to distort or deny the true facts of the Holocaust, including the rehabilitation or even glorification of Nazi collaborators, are extremely dangerous as they open the way to all kinds of racist and xenophobic movements.”

Lauder warned that “all societies need to remain vigilant, educate the population about the true facts of history and strongly condemn any efforts to challenge the historical record.”

The World Jewish Congress has long focused on advocating against the phenomenon of rehabilitation and glorification of Nazi collaborators, a widespread issue, particularly in post-Communist countries.

Lauder added, “Efforts to create false national narratives lead to a whitewash of countries’ histories during the Second World War. This rewriting of history, where the people of respective countries are represented as victims and heroes and never villains, can become fertile ground for blind nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, neo-Naziism and xenophobia.”

Kaunas Jewish Community Honors Our True National Heroes, Rescuers of Jews

Kaunas Jewish Community Honors Our True National Heroes, Rescuers of Jews

On June 25 the Kaunas Jewish Community paid honor to those who risked their own lives and those of their families to give the gift of life to those condemned to death. The people who rescued Jews were mainly quiet, everyday heroes, the Righteous Gentiles who are the real and unquestioned heroes of our country, heroes and heroines. On Thursday, June 25, the Kaunas Jewish Community was finally able to hold its annual evening to pay tribute to our Righteous Gentiles. Usually the event is held in spring just after Passover.

Kaunas Jewish Community members always look forward to the event, a meeting of friends. Time is merciless, however, and the ranks of rescuers and rescued grow thinner each year. Fortunately we have their children and grandchildren standing in for them, who are just as dear to us.

Lietūkis Garage Massacre Commemorated June 26

Lietūkis Garage Massacre Commemorated June 26

The Kaunas Jewish Community and members of the public gathered in Kaunas June 26 at the site of the infamous Lietūkis garage massacre of Jews by Lithuanians in the early days of the Holocaust in the last days of June of 1941. Relatives of victims attended as well. The ceremony was followed by kaddish for the Jews buried at the Slobodka (Vilijampolė) and Žaliakalnis Jewish cemeteries in Kaunas.

Brazilian Jewish Press Discusses LJC Response to Putin

Brazilian Jewish Press Discusses LJC Response to Putin

Lithuanian consul general in Sao Paulo Laura Tupe has sent notification to the two authors that their piece “Don’t Speak in Our Name, Mr. President of the Russian Federation” written especially for publication on the www.lzb.lt website, a response to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s article on World War II, was discussed in Kadimah, the Brazilian Jewish community magazine:

Judíos lituanos critican a Putin por “falsificar” la historia soviética

Los líderes de la comunidad lituana apuntaron contra el intento del presidente ruso de minimizar los crímenes soviéticos en el Báltico, afirmando que la población judía se convirtió en el grupo étnico más perseguido por la URSS durante la “esclavización” de Lituania después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial…

https://www.ynetespanol.com/actualidad/mundo-judio/article/r1Y0tAdAI

Renowned German Historian Christoph Dieckmann Says Lithuanian Heroes Noreika, Škirpa Were Both Fascists

Renowned German Historian Christoph Dieckmann Says Lithuanian Heroes Noreika, Škirpa Were Both Fascists

by prof. Pinchos Fridberg

Vilnius

At 5:30 A.M. yesterday, July 2, 2020, the Lithuanian Public Radio and Television (LRT) web page posted an interview with noted German historian Christoph Dieckmann:

Vokiečių istorikas apie Holokaustą Lietuvoje: žydus priversdavo šokti, dainuoti, o tada sušaudydavo” [German Historian on Holocaust in Lithuania: Jews Were Forced to Sing, Dance, Then Were Shot]

The point of my text here is to point the reader’s attention to the phrase “Both of them were fascists.” To avoid mistakes, here is that portion of the interview which I captured:

Translation:

In the book you wrote the majority collaborated with the Nazis seeking to serve their country and led by a certain vision of the future of their country, usually a fascist one, to create an ethnically pure, militarily strong nation state. So didn’t Kazys Škirpa and Jonas Noreika also believe they were serving their country?

Both of them were fascists. Noreika became one while very young, Škirpa at a bit later age. Škirpa had a fascist vision of Lithuania, a Lithuania without Jews. He spoke out in favor of driving the Jews out rather than murdering them. Noreika held similar views, he saw a Lithuania without Jews because he believed they were powerful and hindered the creation of statehood. …]

P.S. The same day at 9:57 A.M. the LRT internet site posted an abbreviated translation of the interview in Russian.

It’s interesting to note that this passage was omitted in the Russian version.

Co-Chairs of Goodwill Foundation Send Letter to Parliamentary Speaker on Naming 2021 Year of Lukša-Daumantas

Co-Chairs of Goodwill Foundation Send Letter to Parliamentary Speaker on Naming 2021 Year of Lukša-Daumantas

July 2, 2020

His Excellency Viktoras Pranckietis
Speaker of the Seimas
Vilnius, Lithuania

Dear Speaker Pranckietis,

We are deeply troubled to learn that the Seimas will entertain a resolution which would dedicate 2021 the Year of Juozas Lukša-Daumantas, a leader of the World War II-era Lithuanian Activist Front.

The Lithuanian Activist Front was founded in Berlin and was an early ally of the Nazis in the occupation of Lithuania. It was proudly anti-Semitic, and many of its members were directly involved in the persecution and murder of Lithuanian Jews. Despite its anti-Soviet focus and later conflict with the Nazi powers, its vision of an independent Lithuania was of an ethnically “pure” homeland with no place for Jewish citizens.

Some may question if there is sufficient documentary evidence to show that Lukša-Daumantas was guilty of war crimes. That is not relevant to the decision before the Seimas. There is today a worldwide reckoning with history and growing recognition in all Western democracies that even past leaders of great accomplishment must forfeit any honor if they were also racists, bigots, or anti-Semites. Surely Lithuania should do no less.

With that in mind we implore you to take no action which might give honor to any leader of the Lithuanian Activist Front. Instead you should defer such matters to the International Commission for Evaluating the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes appointed by the Lithuanian president for a clear and critical understanding of this tragic period in the country’s history.

As co-chairpersons of the Lithuanian Goodwill Foundation, we have valued the warm cooperative relationship we have had with you since your first days as Speaker. We know we share a common commitment to maintain the legacy and history of Jewish life in Lithuania and to build an inclusive and tolerant future. It is in this spirit that we write to you.

With sincere regards,

Faina Kukliansky, Chairwoman, Lithuanian Jewish Community; Co-Chairperson, Goodwill Foundation

Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs; Co-Chairperson, Goodwill Foundation

Tsemakh Shabad Statue Vandalized

Tsemakh Shabad Statue Vandalized

The statue made by Lithuanian sculptor Romualdas Kvintas ensemble featuring Vilna Jewish doctor Tsemakh Shabad–the prototype for the Dr. Aybolit character in children’s poems and stories by the Russian writer Korney Chukovsky–and a child was vandalized with acid or paint.

The attack was the second over the weekend on Jewish monuments in the Vilnius Old Town. On June 26, the day before, the monument to the Vilna Gaon was also vandalized, also using acid or paint.

The Tsemakh Shabad was vandalized before soon after its unveiling in 2007 using acid. Some in the Lithuanian media are speculating the attacks are intended to mirror the wanton destruction of statues in the USA and UK by mobs. Meanwhile Lithuanian Nazi leader and Holocaust perpetrator Jonas Noreika’s shrine at the very center of Vilnius remains unharmed and under 24-hour surveillance by video cameras. Recently news media have reported on a repeat-offender intent on making her mark on statues around Vilnius even before the Black Lives Matter mass hysteria swept the United States. The elderly primary school teacher was arrested last year after police reviewed video surveillance showing her throwing red paint on an installation at Vilnius’s Lūkiškės Square intended to commemorate Lithuanian anti-Soviet partisans.

Don’t Speak in Our Name, Mr. President of the Russian Federation

Don’t Speak in Our Name, Mr. President of the Russian Federation

We read the article “The Real Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of World War II” by Russian president Vladimir Putin in the American conservative magazine National Interest and reprinted by media representing the Russian opposition and pro-government position.

We feel the need to share our thoughts with readers on the fate of Jews, citizens of Lithuania, as red totalitarianism was replaced by brown totalitarianism in our country.

Many of my relatives, those of the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and those of many citizens of Litvak origin were imprisoned in the Stutthof (liberated by the USSR) and Dachau (liberated by American forces) concentration camps. My mother and Faina Kukliansky’s mother miraculously survived Stutthof.

New Genocide Center Director

New Genocide Center Director

The Lithuanian news site 15min.lt reports Teresė Birutė Burauskaitė has been replaced as director of Lithuania’s Orwellian Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania by Adas Jakubauskas, the 55-year-old chairman of the Union of Lithuanian Tatar Communities. Last week parliamentary speaker Viktoras Pranckietis called for replacing Burauskaitė. The director is appointed by vote of parliament to a 5-year term. Jakubauskas’s candidacy was put forth by the Lithuanian parliament’s Battles for Freedom and State Historical Memory Commission, whose member Arūnas Gumuliauskas recently promised to present a resolution to parliament claiming the Lithuanian state and people were guiltless in the Holocaust because they were both occupied at the time. The new director of the Genocide Center faced stern questioning by MPs during his confirmation process, with former Genocide Center historian and now conservative MP Arvydas Anušauskas digging into the Lithuanian Tartar community’s financial ties with Tartar communities in Russia.

Anušauskas once hosted a history program on state television and once spent more than an hour exploring the idea the Nazis and the Soviets staged the Lietūkis garage massacre in order to defame Lithuanians.

Tartars are an ethnic minority in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and elsewhere who mainly adhere to Sunni Islam. There are major communities of Tartars in Tartarstan and in the Crimea.

The Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania has consistently defended Lithuanian Nazis including Kazys Škirpa and Jonas Noreika.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Kaunas Jewish Community Invites You to Remember Victims of Lietūkis Garage Massacre

Kaunas Jewish Community Invites You to Remember Victims of Lietūkis Garage Massacre

The Kaunas Jewish Community will hold a commemoration of the victims of the Lietūkis garage massacre at Miško street no. 3 at 4:00 P.M. on June 26. Joris Rubinovas will perform Maurice Ravel’s Kaddish and Gabrielė Jocaitė will perform a song in member of the victims. The public is invited and encouraged to attend. Following the ceremony we will move to the Slobodka (Vilijampolė) Jewish cemetery on Kalnų street and then the Žaliakalnis Jewish cemetery on the Radvilėnų highway.

How It Happened

How It Happened

Lithuanian writer Rūta Vanagaitė and German historian Christoph Dieckmann presented their new book called “How Did It Happen?” at a launch ceremony held at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius on June 25.

Dieckmann delivered what amounted to a lecture on the topic of the Holocaust in Lithuania lasting about one hour, and proposed rejecting some accepted Holocaust terminology as judicial rather than historical. He said looking through the lens of ethnicity creates a false picture, even though the actors at the time did so. He also said the idea of perpetrators, victims, collaborationists and so on should be revisited and the true picture is more complex, with people collaborating with the Nazis at one point and the same people resisting them at another. He said the grey cover of the Lithuanian-language edition of the book reflects this ambiguity.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky served as moderator and challenged Dr. Dieckmann’s seeming rejection of the legal aspects in favor of the historical truth. Dieckmann responded saying so much of the narrative is dominated by legal defense and prosecutorial arguments that it’s difficult to see what really happened.

Four Historical Shames Which Afflict Us Lithuanians

Four Historical Shames Which Afflict Us Lithuanians

by Arkadijus Vinokuras DELFI.lt

History forms the collective experience and mentality of the generations of today and tomorrow. Running away from the unpleasant facts of history which are perceived as shameful, the aspiration of denying or justifying them, leads to a psychological, cultural and political dead end. Today Lithuanians are afflicted by four historical shames. These are the impotency of the debased pre-war government of Smetona, the first Soviet occupation, the Holocaust and the second Soviet occupation.

The first historical shame for Lithuanians. The rule of Antanas Smetona, the period from 1939 to 1940. The fissure in the Lithuanian state began in 1926 when the Tautininkai carried out a coup. Civic society along with democracy which is characterized by a political opposition in parliament were buried almost as soon as they were born.

You can go as deep as you want into the negative and positive side of each and every political figure from the time, into his assumptions concerning political decisions, or look at the global geopolitical processes of the time. You also can, in the name of justification, use the argument “we cannot decide about the events of that time from the tower of our present knowledge” to justify any stupidity or crime against peoples and humanity. But the handover of Klaipėda to the Nazis without any fight on March 23, 1939 and that same year the consent to allow 20,000 Soviet soldiers into Lithuania, and finally the handover of Lithuania without any resistance to the Soviets on June 15, 1940–these things are unanimously considered shameful by the Lithuanian public today. Even the public back then understood non-resistance to the Soviets was shameful, as was president Smetona’s flight, the public sees these as negative. (It should be noted here that under international law consent received under duress or by force is not binding, it is null and void, and doesn’t change the fact of aggression and the occupation of Lithuania).

Stop European Holocaust Denial, Focus on Lithuania

Stop European Holocaust Denial, Focus on Lithuania

Please join us for a special online town hall event Stop European Holocaust Denial Focus: Lithuania co-hosted by ICAN and the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (AAJLJ).

Tuesday, June 23, at 8 PM EDT | 5 pm PDT

Watch live!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ICANAction/videos/285276522660390/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v6KNnjikfs

Please join us for a special live event, a virtual town hall featuring Grant Gochin and Silvia Foti speaking about state-sponsored Holocaust denial in Lithuania. Grant Gochin asked the question: “Who actually murdered my family during the Holocaust?” and discovered the fact that the murderer is a current national hero of Lithuania. Silvia Foti was asked by her mother to write the biography of her national hero grandfather, only to discover that he was one of the worst genocidal murderers of Jews during the Holocaust. Silvia Foti’s grandfather murdered Grant Gochin’s family. They have come together to tell the awful truth of how their families have been connected for the past 100 years, and how the Lithuanian government has engaged in a massive cover-up to implement the tenth stage of genocide: denial. In this town hall meeting, we will discuss with Gochin and Foti their paths to discovery of this cover-up, and how it impacts the real world today.

Lithuanian Newspaper Reports on Music of the Holocaust

Lithuanian Newspaper Reports on Music of the Holocaust

Lithuania’s Lietuvos Rytas newspaper has published on its website an article about music from the ghettos and camps called “Incredible Weapon Defended People Suffering the Flames of the Hell of Naziism” by Julius Palaima.

§ § §

Six million Jews were horribly murdered in the Holocaust, but the music they created in the concentration camps has survived to today and is now being recreated. It became an exotic refreshment from the murderous reality.

The inscription above the steel gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp says: “Work Sets You Free.” Obviously this was a disgusting lie to hide the blood-curdling truth. One measure, however, helped people escape if only briefly from the horrors of the concentration camp.

It was music. Inmates managed to create even under the most complicated and horrific living conditions. A composer from Italy, Francesco Lotoro, stands at the wheel of the ship conserving this impressive creative work. The man for more than three decades now has been trying to recreate, perform and complete the works of music written under unenviable circumstances. His work is really unique. Lotoro says all of this might never have reached listeners’ ears. “All of this might have disappeared and become lost, but a miracle happened…”

Full text in Lithuanian here.

Parliament’s Ethics Commission Begins Probe into Sieg Heil Salute, Prosecutor Declines

Parliament’s Ethics Commission Begins Probe into Sieg Heil Salute, Prosecutor Declines

The Lithuanian parliament’s Ethics and Procedures Commission has announced they will investigate what appeared to be two Lithuanian MPs giving one another a Nazi salute during a vote in the National Security and Defense Committee on the Government’s annual report.

Ethics Commission document here.

At the same time police investigators tasked with looking into the same incident by the Vilnius District Prosecutor’s Office announced there was insufficient evidence to begin a criminal investigation. The letter sent by police investigators to the Lithuanian Jewish Community claimed they needed special help from Google, Inc., which was unlikely to cooperate in the matter, that MP Audrys Šimas didn’t know he was being filmed and thus didn’t give a Nazi salute in public, that MP Audrys Šimas denies his gesture was intended to represent the Nazi sieg heil salute, and cites some “right to name” and “right to appearance” in the Lithuanian criminal code as having been violated possibly by whomever decided to place a video recording of the committee meeting on youtube. The letter concludes by suggesting this is a case for the civil courts.

Prosecutor and police investigator’s letter here.

LJC, Roma Social Center, Lithuanian Human Rights Center Coalition to Strengthen Human Rights in Lithuania in 2020

LJC, Roma Social Center, Lithuanian Human Rights Center Coalition to Strengthen Human Rights in Lithuania in 2020

The Lithuanian Jewish Center, the Roma Social Center and Lithuanian Human Rights Center held a workshop in advocacy on June 11 under the “Coalition to Strengthen Human Rights in Lithuania in 2020” project. Advocacy means publicly defending the rights and interests of the public and ethnic communities in this case. LJC and regional Jewish Community members and representatives of the Roma Social Center and Lithuanian Human Rights Center shared strategies and methods for discovering and addressing existing problems and provided real-world examples of successes.

Girvydas Duoblys, the advocacy director for the Galiu gyventi coalition, and Jurgita Poškevičiūtė, a member of the same coalition and the manoteises.lt group, addressed over 40 participants from cities and towns throughout Lithuania. Besides practical and theoretical material, participants also had the opportunity to meet each other and share ideas.

Participants discussed the lack of government reaction to public anti-Semitism and against Roma, extant ethnic stereotypes, the most recent destruction of the Roma camp outside Vilnius causing an increase in homelessness in the Lithuanian capital, illegal actions and discrimination based on ethnicity, commemorating Jewish mass murder sites and ethnic discrimination vis-à-vis Lithuanian citizenship, among other things.

#SkirtingiNeatskirti #CoalitionBuilding

Jewish Culture Week in Krakės: Let’s Learn about the Krakės Jewish Community

Jewish Culture Week in Krakės: Let’s Learn about the Krakės Jewish Community

Photo: Krakės Jewish cemetery

The Jewish Culture Week in Krakės: Let’s Learn about the Krakės Jewish Community project will take place from June 16 to 18 in Krakės in the Kėdainiai district of Lithuania. More information is available here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/2751960485049357

Robertas Dubinka, director
Krakės Cultural Center

Laisvės alley no. 1, LT – 58242, Krakės, Kėdainiai region
tel. 8 347 38274, mob. 8 615 85084
email: krakiukc@gmail.com

Culture Historian Violeta Davoliūtė’s Population Displacement in Lithuania in the 20th Century

Culture Historian Violeta Davoliūtė’s Population Displacement in Lithuania in the 20th Century

by Jūratė Juškaitė

Historians calculate about 17,000 people were deported from Lithuania during the first Soviet occupation. They were sent into Russia on cattle cars from June 14 to 18, 1941, and many didn’t survive their first winter. Most people who live here know these facts, but the tragedy turns out not to be uniquely Lithuanian.

Violeta Davoliūtė’s book “Population Displacement in Lithuania in the Twentieth Century” was recently completed and will appear soon [it appeared in 2016], in which the culture historian recalls the tragedy and attempts to put the deportation of Jews at the same time within the general Lithuanian context again. She says the story which appeared during the Lithuanian independence movement was ethnocentric and often way too “Catholicized.” Although official commemoration policies appear complex to say the least, and more complicated by the prevailing stereotype of the “Judaeo-Bolshevik,” Davoliūtė says these and similar stereotypes don’t divide deportees, who formed a close-knit community of shared experience.

Full text in Lithuanian here.