Holocaust

Lithuanian Educator Defends Lithuanian Nazis

Lithuanian Educator Defends Lithuanian Nazis

The Lithuanian biweekly newspaper Karštas Komentaras, which describes itself as a sort of insider’s view of Lithuanian politics, published as its main article in the current issue for April 16 to 30 an editorial titled on the cover “Let’s Not Be Afraid to Be Ourselves” by professor Gediminas Merkys, PhD habil. The subheading is “Will We Celebrate and How Will We Celebrate the Anniversary of the June, 1941 Uprising?” The cover image is a combined portrait of Lithuanian Nazi collaborators Jonas Noreika and Kazys Škirpa.

The newspaper singled out the following lines in the article for special attention as a separate text box:

The current colonial Lithuanian administration, it is to be believed, received an informal request from the supreme international master class to insure this important date not be marked officially in any way, i.e., in the name of the Lithuanian state. It was namely the competent patriotic director of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania [former director Adas Jakubauskas] and the Center itself which would have posed an obstacle to fulfilling this aforementioned order of political servility. For that reason the leadership of the Center had to be changed quickly and the institution itself immediately reformed.

Battle for the Soul of Lithuania on BBC HARDtalk

Battle for the Soul of Lithuania on BBC HARDtalk

The BBC television interview program HARDtalk interviewed granddaughter of Lithuanian Nazi Jonas Noreika on April 16, 2021, and has been airing the episode this week.

The description for the episode called “Silvia Foti: When truth trumps family loyalty. Silvia Foti on grappling with family responsible for the Holocaust” reads:

“Silvia Foti’s grandfather was a Lithuanian man hailed as heroic patriot who paid with his life resisting the Soviets. But according to her, Jonas Noreika was no hero–he had the blood of thousands of Jews on his hands. She’s chosen to speak out, angering many in Lithuania. What happens when truth trumps family loyalty?”

Interviewer Stephen Sackur pressed Silvia Foti for documentary proof her grandfather was responsible for the murder of around 1,800 in Plungė–the entire Jewish population–in 1941. Foti went further and said she had reliable documents and sources showing Noreika was responsible for mass murders of Jews in Plungė, Telšiai and Šiauliai. Sackur was interested in Foti’s journey from that of a proud Lithuanian-American to the point where she had to confront Holocaust crimes within her immediate family. Foti countered the problem was much more widespread than her family, that the perpetrators and their descendants were still covering up the Holocaust in present-day Lithuania, and cited the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania as one party involved in the nation-wide cover-up. She said her and Grant Gochin’s legal battles to have the plaque commemorating Noreika on the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences building in Vilnius was really a battle for the soul of Lithuania. Sackur asked whether Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center was correct in calling Lithuania the locomotive in the train of Holocaust distortion in Eastern Europe. Foti admitted she didn’t know the situation in Eastern Europe in general, but that this was possible.

An audio recording of the interview is available here and here.

Shuffling Directors at Lithuania’s Genocide Center

Shuffling Directors at Lithuania’s Genocide Center

As was completely predicable from the start of the latest power struggle inside Lithuania’s Orwellian Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, the news website 15min.lt reports the Lithuanian parliament will consider historian Arūnas Bubnys as director following their dismissal of Adas Jakubauskas:

Arūnas Bubnys Nominated to Head Genocide

A new candidate for director of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania has been presented to the Lithuanian parliament: Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania Genocide and Resistance Research Department director Arūnas Bubnys. MPs fired former director Adas Jakubauskas April 1 after an inquiry panel set up by the leaders of the parties in parliament found he was unable to guarantee the smooth operation of the institution.

Parliamentary speaker Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen nominated Bubnys to serve as director, a term which is usually five years long. “I have nominate Bubnys following comprehensive consultations with Lithuania’s historians and my colleagues and members of parliament from different factions. This candidacy has firm support in the community of historians and inside the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania itself. Bubnys has earned confidence which, I hope, will allow him to insure smooth operation by introducing objectivity and transparency standards in the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, and to return the public’s trust to this institution,” the speaker of parliament said introducing her candidate.

Full story here.

Condolences

Condolences

Milan Cheronskis passed away April 14. He was born in 1937 and grew up on Sakhalin Island in the Soviet Far East. Our deepest condolences to his wife Svetlana, daughter Polina and many, many friends within the Jewish community.

Cheronskis was a director at the Yiddish People’s Theater and a journalist. He was graduated from the Leningrad State Theater, Music and Comedy Institute in 1964. He directed the Yiddish People’s Theater in Vilnius from 1979 to 1999.

Besides serving on the board of directors of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Milan was the force behind the Community’s long-time press organ, Jerusalem of Lithuania, which was at one time published in four languages simultaneously. The newspaper was published from 1989 to 2010. Following the newspaper’s cancellation and his retirement, Milan continued to fight against Holocaust distortion and the falsification of Lithuanian history in the press and on the internet.

IHRA Recommendations on How to Teach about the Holocaust in Schools

IHRA Recommendations on How to Teach about the Holocaust in Schools


The Recommendations aim to deepen the understanding of the Holocaust by asking crucial questions concerning the historical context of the Holocaust, its scope and scale and why and how it happened.

Download the full IHRA Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust here.

Educators should be confident that the Holocaust can be taught effectively and successfully with careful preparation and appropriate materials. The section “How to teach about the Holocaust” discusses possibilities and challenges for teaching and learning about the Holocaust by presenting practical approaches and methods to apply in both formal and informal educational settings.

Read more from the Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust

No single “correct” way of teaching, no ideal methodology appropriate for all educators and their learners exists for any subject. The recommendations offered here are, however, based on practical experiences and intended to be useful to schoolteachers and other educators in constructing their own schemes of work, taking into account the learning needs of individuals.

Vilnius Bridges Lit with Israeli Colors for Israeli Independence Day

Vilnius Bridges Lit with Israeli Colors for Israeli Independence Day

The Lithuanian Jewish Community in cooperation with the Vilnius city municipality will light up three bridges in the Lithuanian capital on the evening of April 14 to celebrate the 73rd Israeli independence day.

From Wednesday evening to sundown on Thursday blue and white lights will illuminate the White, Green and King Mindaugas Bridges. These colors were chosen for the flag of the state of Israel by Dovid Volfson who was born in the small town of Darbėnai in Lithuania in the mid-19th century.

“Around the world Vilnius is known as the Jerusalem of the North because of the important Jewish cultural and historical figures who were born, grew up and studied here. A number of them actively contributed to the creation of fortification of the independent state of Israel, forging extremely strong and deep ties between Vilnius and Israel and its people,” LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said.

Happy 10th Birthday to Maceva, the Litvak Cemetery Catalogue

Happy 10th Birthday to Maceva, the Litvak Cemetery Catalogue

Photo: Restored Jewish cemetery in Šeduva, Lithuania.

Mazl tov to Maceva, the Litvak Cemetery Catalogue, which is celebrating a milestone: ten years of activity documenting, cleaning, digitizing, and restoring Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania.

“Beit Olam, cemeteries are the house of living. It is the place were our memory comes to life,” the non-profit organization, established in 2011, said in an anniversary statement on its facebook page.

Jews Remember Philip as Son of Righteous Gentile

Jews Remember Philip as Son of Righteous Gentile

Over centuries of persecution and viewing history “from the bottom,” most Jews have a healthy sense of criticism when it comes to celebrity, which is regularly reinforced by anti-Semitic statements issuing from the most unlikely people. The recent death of the United Kingdom’s prince Philip is different.

While Philip might have been, as Buckingham Palace likes to put it in hindsight, “authentically himself,” making off-the-cuff ethnic and racial statements deemed universally offensive, Jews are more likely to look back with respect and sadness on the passing of the queen’s consort. Philip’s mother princess Alice, wife of the Greek prince, rescued a Jewish family–the widow of Greek member of parliament Khaimaki Cohen and two of their five children–and hid them in her basement in Athens during the Nazi occupation.

The good deed might never have to come to light if not for a request from a member of the Cohen family to the Jerusalem municipality to name a street after princess Alice. Yad Vashem got involved, checked the facts and awarded the title of Righteous Gentile to the late princess. Prince Philip and his sister Sophia attended the awards ceremony and planted a tree at Yad Vashem in honor of their mother.

Strangely enough, Alice was reburied at the Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in 1988, two years after her death but several years before being awarded the Yad Vashem title in 1993. This was reportedly done at her own request.

On the Jewish scale of values, one could say prince Philip came from a very good family, and deeds say so much more than words.

Vatican Says Anti-Semitism Intolerable

Vatican Says Anti-Semitism Intolerable

Photo: Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, courtesy Vatican.

Great strides forward have been in recent decades in Jewish-Catholic relations, with better recognition on both sides allowing for more mutual understanding at the theological but also the social and political levels, Holy See secretary for relations with states Paul Richard Gallher said as part of a campaign by the Israeli embassy to the Vatican called #StopAntiSemitism.

Archbishop Gallagher in a video message posted last Thursday reiterated the Holy See’s commitment against intolerance towards people of Jewish heritage. He said the “Nostra Aetate” [In Our Age] declaration defining relations between the Church and non-Christian religions adopted by the Vatican II Council 55 years ago has helped broaden dialogue between Jews and Christians.

Archbishop Gallagher highlighted two points in Nostra Aetate: its emphasis on the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and the condemnation of anti-Semitism in every form and species.

“In this regard, much progress has been made in recent years,” the archbishop affirmed. “Mutual knowledge has led to a better understanding on theological, social and political levels, including bilateral Agreements by which diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel have been established,” the Vatican reported on its official news website.

Op-Ed: My Grandfather’s Role in the Nazi Occupation Is Forcing a Reckoning in Lithuania

Op-Ed: My Grandfather’s Role in the Nazi Occupation Is Forcing a Reckoning in Lithuania

Photo: Silvia Foti holds a photograph of her grandfather Jonas Noreika at her home in Chicago in 2019. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune)

by Silvia Foti

A little bronze plaque hanging on a library wall in a city most Americans know nothing about is at the epicenter of a battle over the Holocaust.

In the last six years, this modest plaque in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, inspired 20 legal actions in five courts, vigilante action by a disgruntled citizen with a sledgehammer, a scandal for the city’s mayor and candlelit vigils by protesters seeking to resurrect it in a grander incarnation.

The power of this plaque comes from a question of whether its honoree is guilty of murdering thousands of Jews in Lithuania. Those who want the plaque up say its namesake is a brave patriot who fought against the Communists, took orders from Nazis and had no idea his signature would lead to murdered civilians. By extension, it’s about more than one person’s guilt or innocence–it’s about the guilt or innocence of Lithuania.

Full opinion piece here.

Remembering the Children’s Aktion of March 27, 1944

Remembering the Children’s Aktion of March 27, 1944

For three decades now the Kaunas Jewish Community has been commemorating in the last days of March the horrific operation for the mass murder of children in the Kaunas ghetto on March 27, 1944.

Over one day around 1,700 children and elderly were captured, taken out of the ghetto and murdered. The list of children murdered in the Kaunas ghetto is incomplete, it only contains a few names. The list was drawn up for the 70th anniversary of the Children’s Aktion with information from the Vilna Gaon Jewish History Museum and private individuals.

“We saw a bus. This noisy music was emanating from it which was supposed to mask the screams of the children, the mothers begging and pleading and the barking of the dogs. Drunk and angry Ukrainians (Ukrainian police of vlasovniki) waving axes and crow-bars hunted down the children and elderly people in their hiding places. All the atrocities ended with sundown.

“Returning from forced labor, the parents found the ghetto torn apart. The neighbor sister put a bag of clothes on a shelf and hid her three-year-old daughter inside. A German soldier looking for children jabbed the bag with a bayonet, but didn’t find anything. The cutting raised a cloud of dust and the soldier hurried out of the room. When the mother untied the bag she found her girl curled up with a deep wound in her back. The mother broke into tears but the little one, it seems her name was Gita, said: ‘Don’t cry, mommy, it doesn’t hurt.'” (testimony of J. Corefas’s father, from the book “Išgelbėti bulvių maišuose” [Saved in Potato Sacks].

We remember and we honor the victims of this terrific mass murder operation called the Children’s Aktion, and gathered to do so in a small group in line with quarantine rules in Kaunas.

International Roma Day

We marked International Roma Day April 8 and our partners the Roma Social Center invite readers to listen to the Roma anthem adopted by the World Romani Congress in 1971, “Gelem, Gelem,” an opportunity to love beyond pain. Our greetings to the entire Roma community.

On Yom HaShoah, Why We Must Remember the Holocaust…

On Yom HaShoah, Why We Must Remember the Holocaust…

Dear friend,

It is now 76 years since the death camp at Auschwitz was liberated. As we commemorate Yom HaShoah today, it is useful to take a look at how the Holocaust is affecting public morality all these years later — and how it is still being abused.

It is both helpful and not helpful to talk about the Holocaust when discussing the disturbing resurgence of antisemitism in the world today.

On the one hand, as reflected in ADL’s pyramid of hate, it is instructive to recognize, as the history of the Holocaust demonstrates, that things can escalate from stereotypes, to discrimination to anti-Jewish legislation to mass murder if hate is not addressed early on. The Holocaust continues to teach us that society cannot be complacent, so that so-called low levels of hate won’t mutate into much more serious and devastating manifestations, culminating in genocide.

100-Meter Dash Champion Mykolas Preis Dead at 104

100-Meter Dash Champion Mykolas Preis Dead at 104

Mykolas Preis died at the age of 104 in Israel March 31. He was twice the Lithuanian champion of the 100-meter dash in the interwar period. He was buried at the Har haMenukhot cemetery in Jerusalem next to his wife Olia. Preis’s family emigrated to Israel in 1973. The Lithuanian Jewish Community remembers Mykolas Preis as an outstanding doctor and athlete. Our deepest condolences to his family.

Preis was the last interwar Lithuanian track champion. He took first place two years in a row, in 1939 and 1940, running the 100-meter dash in 11.5 seconds both times.

Preis was the senior medical doctor at the Sports Medicine Center located on Rožių alley in Vilnius in 1948. His contemporaries spoke of him as a great organizer as well as athlete. According to the Makabi records he came to prominence as a runner in 1938. Preis shared his memories of childhood and adolescence in the book “Lietuvos sporto klubo ,Makabi 1916–2016” [Lithuanian Makabi Athletics Club, 1916-2016] and spoke about his many friends and the influence of his caring and warm teacher Rozalija Sondeckienė when he attended the Šiauliai Boys’ Gymnasium.

Symbolic Commemoration of Holocaust Victims at Ponar

Symbolic Commemoration of Holocaust Victims at Ponar


Press Release
April 7, 2021
Vilnius

Symbolic Commemoration of Holocaust Victims at Ponar

A symbolic ceremony to honor victims of the Holocaust will take place at 12 noon on April 8, Yom haShoa, the Israeli Day of Remembrance of Holocaust Victims and Heroes, at the Ponar Memorial Complex outside Vilnius. Adhering to all safety requirements, members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, diplomats and surviving Vilnius ghetto prisoners will place stones and flowers at monuments and the mass graves and the cantor will perform kaddish, a prayer for the dead.

“The March of the Living traditionally took place on this occasion, repeating the final march of those condemned to death from the railroad station to the Ponar Memorial Complex, but due to the pandemic situation, this year this won’t be a mass commemoration. Only a few of us are gathering, carrying out the responsibility to preserve and pass on to future generations the memory of the Holocaust. This year is the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania, after all. With us today is an eye-witness to those horrific events, Kaunas ghetto inmate Dovydas Leibzonas,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said.

This is How It Was Done in Vilne…

This is How It Was Done in Vilne…

Photo: Pinchos Fridberg, the only Jew left in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius who was born there before the Nazis invaded in 1941. By Brendan Hoffman for the New York Times.

by professor Pinchos Fridberg, an alter vilner id [an old Jew born and raised in Vilnius]

Rebe, will there ever come a time when the words Vilne and Yidish will be inseparable again?”
Saydn nor mit Meshiakh’n ineinem.” [Not unless it comes with the Messiah.]

Introduction

The article “Как это делалось ин Вилнэ…” [This Is How It Was Done in Vilne] became the main feature for issue no. 505 of the international magazine “Мы Здесь” [We Are Here] in 2015. More than 7,000 people read it, and I began receiving letters from people whom I didn’t know.

The largest Russian-language weekly newspaper in Lithuania “Обзор” [Review] reprinted this article on its website on March 8, 2021.

The article concerns the history of Jewish Vilnius.

I think it might be interesting to non-Russian-language readers as well. *

“This is How It Was Done in Vilne…”

As I was putting my archive in order, I came across a small program for a concert to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Jewish volunteer collectives. This program is more than half a calendrical century old. I think the reader might be interested to see “how it was done in Vilne.” The program contains over 30 photographs. I will present a few of them. I believe it has long been time for them to be revived on the wider internet.

Choral Synagogue in Vilnius Opens Virtual Doors

Choral Synagogue in Vilnius Opens Virtual Doors

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is inviting the public to take a virtual tour of the only synagogue operating in Vilnius according to all Jewish laws, the Choral Synagogue. The virtual guided tour will demonstrate the synagogue itself and also offers tourists the chance to learn about Jewish cultural and culinary traditions and the High Holy Days.

The virtual tour covers the synagogue’s interior, the mikva, the kosher kitchen and the only surviving matzo-making machine in Lithuania, as well as Jewish religion, philosophy, traditional holidays, lifestyles and Jewish sacred songs. Virtual lessons are available in the kosher kitchen for those wanting to learn about the Jewish culinary tradition. Over six millennia strict traditions have developed for religious and secular holidays for making certain foods for specific holidays, for example, only round loaves of challa are baked and fish heads prepared for the Rosh Hashanah table, doughnuts and potato pancakes are fried for Hanukkah and hamantaschen, pastries filled with poppy seeds, are made for Purim.

Around 10,000 tourists visit the Choral Synagogue annually, many of them the Litvak descendants of Holocaust survivors living in diaspora around the world, and also local residents, students, and social partners in the field of culture and tourism in Lithuania and abroad. Visiting the synagogue is being restricted because of the corona virus, so a virtual tour has been set up for Lithuanians and for Litvaks living abroad who are able to visit at least virtually the synagogue of their parents’ youth or adolescence.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said the virtual introduction to Jewish culture and tradition strengthens the multicultural expression of the city community and popularizes Jewish cultural heritage.

The Lithuanian Cultural Council is financing the project called “Choral Synagogue of Vilnius: Prayer, Kitchen, Mikva.”

Art Creates Tolerance Project Features Samuel Bak

Art Creates Tolerance Project Features Samuel Bak

www.DELFI.lt

The Vilnius Gaon Jewish History Museum and the EZCO creative agency are presenting an initiative called “Art Creates Tolerance” inspired by the life and work of Samuel Bak.

The project’s goal is to use Vilnius-born Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak’s art “to encourage public discussion using modern multimedia on the past and socially-sensitive issues of the present, to find historical signs and to discover the value of tolerance,” according to museum director Kamilė Rupeikaitė.

The project will use the museum’s existing physical and virtual exhibits about Bak and expand them with new exhibits.

Full story in Lithuanian here.