Holocaust

We Remember

The World Jewish Congress has launched this initiative for the second year in a row, with active participation by the Lithuanian Jewish Community. The campaign runs from January 8 to January 27, 2018. To be part of it, take a photo of yourself holding the inscription “We Remember” or “I remember” and post it on social media with the hashtag #WeRemember.

The campaign will run through International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the end of January, culminating with a live projection of all participant photos, interviews with Holocaust survivors, and messages from influencers from varied backgrounds, professions, ages and religions on the grounds of Auschwitz-Birkenau January 24 to January 27.

Last year the initiative had 25 million participants around the world.

Full story here.

When Will Kaunas Have a Monument to Holocaust Rescuers?

More than a decade ago Jewish community representative and Rotary Club member Michailas Duškesas proposed erecting a monument to Righteous Gentiles in Kaunas.

At that time some world-famous architects said they were interested in the memorial project. Michailas Duškesas said at the time erecting the statue would have cost less than 1 million litas, and the Rotary Club and Jewish organizations in Lithuania, Europe and Israel would have paid the total sum, according to him.

“Everything was headed in the right direction. Kaunas Regional Judaic Religious Community chairman Josifas Kacas was getting ready to fly to meet Daniel Libeskind to discuss all the details when, unfortunately, just a few days before the flight, he died, and everything seemed to fall apart,” Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas recalled. Now he and Rotary Club member Ignas Miniotas are reviving the project to commemorate Righteous Gentiles.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Visits Sugihara House in Kaunas

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visited Sugihara House in Kaunas Sunday accompanied by Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius.

The Sugihara House museum is located at the site of the Japanese consulate where Chiune Sugihara rescued Jews by issuing transit visas in 1939 and 1940.

Kaunas mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis, other city officials and several dozen children greeted the prime minister outside. Mr. Abe viewed the office where Sugihara worked and signed the guest book before touring the rest of the museum.

Suihara House director Simonas Dovidavičius told BNS said the visit was a very important one as the museum struggles to develop. “This site has virtually no permanent financing because we are an NGO,” Dovidavičius said.

Full text in Lithuanian and more photos here.

Japanese PM Abe to Visit Sugihara House in Kaunas


Photo of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara and an old Japanese flag on display at the Sugihara House Museum in Kaunas which housed the Japanese Consulate from 1939 to 1940. Photo: AFP-JIJI

KAUNAS, LITHUANIA–A Japanese diplomat who saved 6,000 European Jews from the Holocaust by issuing visas so they could escape war-torn Lithuania will be hailed by Japan’s prime minister decades after defying Tokyo to help the refugees.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe will pay tribute to Chiune Sugihara on Sunday when he visits the two-story building that housed the consulate where he worked in the Baltic state’s second city Kaunas.

Sugihara is thought to be among around 15 diplomats who issued visas to European Jews during World War II and is often called “Japan’s Schindler”–a reference to German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust.

Happy Birthday to Irena Veisaitė

Lithuanian Jewish teacher, scholar and theater expert Irena Veisaitė is not just a legend among students. Elegant, with an inherent sense of communicability, a woman of broad erudition, at home in any number of languages and filled with an inner inspiration, Irena is able to engage in warm conversation in any circle.

Her biography is full of the experience of tragedy, which she survived unbroken. The entire Jewish community remembers her words as a kind of mantra: “While even one anti-Semite still lives, I will be a Jew.” As a child during World War II imprisoned in the Kaunas ghetto, she lost her mother. Stefanija Ladigienė became her adoptive mother, rescuing Irena and raising her in her own home as her own daughter. Irena still calls all rescuers holy people, to whom Lithuania has still not erected a single monument.

Dear Irena, the Lithuanian Jewish Community wishes you a very happy birthday. May you always enjoy strong health, much joy and days of happiness! May your heart never age. Mazl tov! May you live to 120!

Positive Factors in Holocaust Survival

by Izabelė Švaraitė
manoteisės.lt


Ruth Reches, photo: Jonas Kliučius

An understanding of the Holocaust is incomplete without the psychological point of view. So says Ruth Reches, doctoral candidate at Mykolas Romeris University, who is researching the experience of Jewish genocide by survivors. While most researchers stress the negative consequences of this historical trauma, Reches is also researching positive aspects, those which allowed survivors to carry on.

The Holocaust Isn’t One Person’s Trauma

In Lithuania psychologists do investigate historical trauma such as deportation, Soviet oppression and war, but Reches is one of the first in the country to research the experience and survival of the Holocaust. She has interviewed Jews in Israel and Lithuania who managed to survive. The long-term study of trauma has led to a basic assessment of the consequences of the Holocaust, and Reches’s interviews with some of the subjects have had a therapeutic effect on the latter, who have opened up and talked about their childhoods during the war for the first time ever.

Grief Support for Families of Holocaust Survivors

Miami, January 7, 2018–While all grieving is individual, there are grief issues surrounding the loss of Holocaust survivors that are unique to the families of survivors. Until now, however, there has not been a dedicated approach to grief support for this population. Metropolitan Jewish Health System (MJHS) Hospice and Palliative Care based in New York is working to develop a grief support group to support families impacted by Holocaust trauma, and Targum Shlishi is supporting this much-needed initiative.

The Need

“We have found that the children of Holocaust survivors ask for grief support that is specific to their experience as members of the second generation. There are aspects of the grieving process that are uniquely different among family members of Holocaust survivors due to lifelong patterns of communication and behaviors in families of survivors,” explains Toby Weiss, MJHS’s director of cultural diversity and Jewish programming.

MJHS cares for a large number of Holocaust survivors at the end of life, and, by extension, it cares for the family members. As a hospice with a focus on family-centered and holistic care, MJHS also provides pre- and post-bereavement support for thirteen months. Although MJHS has long offered support groups, before now none have been tailored specifically to families of survivors. But as more people began asking for this service, MJHS researched the topic and found a marked lack of grief support groups dedicated to this population.

“This is a very real and unfortunately unmet need until now,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “We applaud MJHS for recognizing this problem and for taking the initiative to address it. These are the types of projects that, as a foundation, we are honored to support. People need this service and MJHS has the wherewithal not only to provide it to its constituents, but to create a model that it will share with others.”

Condolences

Užuojauta, netekus Pasaulio Teisuolės Lilijanos Binkytės

Righteous gentile Lilijana Binkytė has passed away. Our sincere condolences to her entire family and to daughter Sofija Ligija “Iga” Makutėnienė. The Binka family name will be forever associated with bravery and the triumph human decency.

Delegation Visits Alanta Wooden Synagogue

A delegation including Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon, US ambassador Anne Hall, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, deputy Lithuanian foreign minister Darius Skusevičius, Cultural Heritage Department heritage expert Alfredas Jomantas and Molėtai regional administration head Stasys Žvinys visited the Alanta wooden synagogue near Molėtai, Lithuania, on December 3. The synagogue is listed on the Lithuanian registry of cultural treasures and is in dire need of restoration, according to members of the delegation. The Molėtai regional administration webpage carried details of that discussion:

Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon said: “It is important to all of us that history is remembered and all sites important and significant for history are restored. We’re talking today about Lithuanian heritage, not Jewish heritage. This is your history, this is my history.”

US ambassador to Lithuania Anne Hall said: “In recent times the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department has done great work in initiating the restoration of synagogues, churches and other important historical buildings. It is really impressive. This is one of the buildings whose restoration we look forward to, and I know many Americans are looking for a way back to Lithuania, Lithuanian and Jewish émigrés.”

Molėtai regional administration head Stasys Žvinys said the administration lacks funding for the synagogue’s restoration, although it is the only synagogue still standing in the entire region. He asked the Israeli ambassador to take the lead in solving the problem. “Although this is our shared responsibility, unfortunately the administration cannot at this time allocate from its budget the resources appropriate for restoring this synagogue. The synagogue is maintained to the extent the community is able to maintain it,” he said.

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, said: “Even if monies were found for putting the synagogue in order, there has to be content for this synagogue. Logically, if the building is restored but not used, not heated, not used for some purpose, then the money is wasted,” she commented.

The LJC has approached the Cultural Heritage Department about the wooden synagogue and applied for financing for restoration, but cultural heritage conservation specialists say there are many abandoned historical buildings in Lithuania and priority is given sites which have a foreseen use and function.

US Ambassador Anne Hall Continues Tour of Lithuania Visiting Sites of Jewish Life and Death

US ambassador to Lithuania Anne Hall continued her tour of Lithuania in late December with a stop at Šeduva where she met with people from the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Foundation and learned about their Lost Shtetl project, which has invested more than 3 million euros so far in restoring the old Jewish cemetery on Žvejų street there. Project director Sergejus Kanovičius recalled how they cleared the 1.3-hectare territory of weeds and bushes before cataloging and restoring headstones.

Lithuanian sculptor Romualdas Kvintas’s work commemorates the lost Jewish community and mass murder sites. There are three Holocaust mass murder sites around the town.

The cemetery restoration was just the first phase of the project and was completed in 2014. The project received honorable mention in European Union heritage preservation awards. A museum celebrating Lithuanian Jewish life is planned for 2018.

US Ambassador Anne Hall Visits Oldest Wooden Synagogue in Pakruojis

Seniausią Lietuvoje medinę Pakruojo sinagogą aplankė JAV ambasadorė Anne Hall

US ambassador Anne Hall with Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and the chairmen of the Panevžys and Šiauliai Jewish Communities toured the renovated Pakruojis wooden synagogue in late December. The oldest wooden synagogue in Lithuania was restored using period photography. The synagogue features unique paintings on the ceiling and wall paper. The interior and primitive paintings have been the subject of much interest. The restored synagogue has become a draw for Jews, Lithuanians and tourists from different countries.

The small synagogue on the banks of the Kruoja River was built in 1801 and operated as a synagogue until the Holocaust when the Pakruojis Jewish community was murdered. After the war it was used a recreation center and then as a movie theater. At some point it was used a gym. It caught fire several times, doing great damage. The Pakruojis regional administration and the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department went to great efforts to save the building.

The Pakruojis regional administration and the Lithuanian Jewish Community signed a 99-year use agreement on January 21, 2011, on the synagogue’s administration and adaptation for cultural use.

The Pakruojis Jewish community formed in the early 18th century. Most of the resident Jews were merchants who contributed to the economic development of the town. The growing Jewish population also influenced the overall development of the town and its public life.

There are no Jews living in Pakruojis now.

Joint Statement by European Jewish Congress and Lithuanian Jewish Community


The European Jewish Congress and the Lithuanian Jewish Community acknowledge the important contribution of Lithuania in creating a positive climate for Jewish life and Jewish tradition to flourish.

We also commend Lithuania for pursuing friendly relations with the State of Israel. This is undoubtedly a positive example for many European countries.

We encourage further respectful discussion on the topic of the tragedy of Lithuanian Jews during the Holocaust in order to allow for the restoration of historical justice. Those who try to reopen the dark pages of the history of Lithuanian collaboration, such as the renowned author Rūta Vanagaitė, should not be victimized or persecuted; instead, their efforts should be acknowledged.

We praise Lithuanian historians such as prof. Saulius Sužiedėlis, Dr. Valentinas Brandišauskas and Dr. Algimantas Kasparavičius who have spoken out on many occasions and written extensively on the topic of the Lithuanian Activist Front’s role in perpetrating the Holocaust in Lithuania. There is a lack of such content, however, to this day in Lithuanian textbooks. Neither is there sufficient mention of the vast Jewish contribution to Lithuanian society over the centuries. In a pluralist society those who speak out on the largest tragedy in European history should not be rendered incapacitated by inappropriate measures taken against them.

Having just concluded the celebrations of Hanukkah which signifies the victory of the mind and the soul against coercion, and just a few days after International Human Rights Day, we wish a happy and peaceful festive season to all the people of Lithuania and call for continued respectful discussion to enable the Lithuanian people to come to terms with their past.
https://eurojewcong.org/ejc-in-action/statements/joint-statement-european-jewish-congress-lithuanian-jewish-community/

Relations between Israel and Lithuania Important to Jewish Community and Foreign Ministry

Lithuanian public television’s Sunday news program featured successful efforts by Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius to get EU foreign ministers at the same table with Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The overture for the first informal meeting with an Israeli PM in 22 years came before US president Donald Trump’s controversial decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Linkevičius said he was motivated by the need for face-to-face contact between the parties, even if they do not agree on all the issues. President Trump’s decision made the meeting more urgent in the search for ways to control increased tensions. After the meeting Linkevičius presented Netanyahu a replica of the statue of a small girl the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Foundation commissioned from sculptor Romas Kvintas and erected in central Šeduva to commemorate the former Jewish shtetl there.

The television program also featured an interview with Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. An excerpt translated to English follows.

“We are very glad our foreign minister invited Mr. Netanyahu. We are very glad a Lithuanian representative has become the leading mediator between the Israeli prime minister and the European Union. Relations between Lithuania and Israel are very important to us. This is quite natural. Lithuania is our homeland but Israel is our historical homeland. It should be said that since Lithuanian independence relations between Lithuania and Israel have never been better than they are now. …”

Greetings, Thank-You Note and Mittens from Righteous Gentiles Elvyra and Regina in Biržai

The Lithuanian Jewish Community received the following wonderful holiday greetings, thank-you note and accompanying mittens:

We sincerely congratulate you on the upcoming holidays. May the purity of snow fill your days. Let success and strength follow you all of your days. We wish you strength and determination. Our sincerest thanks for your sympathy and understanding.

Elvyra Čyžauskienė and Regina Kežienė

Professor Dr. Adolf Bolotin on Quantum Physics, Restitution and the Lithuanian Jewish Community


lzb.lt

Professor Dr. Adolf Bolotin is an honored member of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the former chairman of the Vilnius Jewish Community. He also holds a doctorate in physics and mathematics, is the recipient of the Republic Prize, has received awards as a Lithuanian teacher and is a member of the Israeli and New York Academy of Sciences. He is now 92 years old. Most of his life has been centered around Vilnius University. Aspirantura, doctorantura followed by successful defense of his work, earning him a doctorate in quantum physics. He has published more than 250 and “raised” more than 20 doctors of the sciences. He has two children he raised together with his wife. He is highly respected by his friends, colleagues and the Lithuanian scientific community in general.

We spoke with Dr. Bolotin about the Jewish community and Jewish life.

“Very soon my book translated to English should appear in America. I have written a textbook for students on how to solve problems in quantum mechanics, not just about theory, but how to do this practically, with examples. I imposed upon one of my former students who now lives in the USA to translate it. The translation was sent to a publisher I was not familiar with and we received the immediate reply: ‘Great, we will publish it within one year, if you want to change anything.’ The book ‘Solution of Certain Problems in Quantum Mechanics’ by Adolf Bolotin should hit the shelves very soon.

“The publisher paid me, I didn’t pay them to publish it. They came up with the agreement and paid me under very good conditions.

“My wife and I lived together 71 years until her death. I am a widower; my daughter lives with me. I don’t lack anything, I am well taken care of, I get a good pension and I can’t complain about anything. Now I feel it has become difficult to fix the car, even though I have good hands, and I like to work on things because I graduated from university as an experimental physicist and then transferred to theoretical physics later.”

Hanukkah at the Rožynas Pre-Gymnasium in Panevėžys

For more than 10 years now the Panevėžys Jewish Community has been doing educational work and participating at events held by the Rožynas Pre-Gymnasium’s Tolerance Center under director Genutė Žilytė.

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman together with Žilytė, who is also an historian, told pupils the story of the Jewish struggle against the Greeks of Syria and the main points in that history. Steady work in education has borne good fruit in pupils’ understanding of Jewish history. The students asked many questions of all sorts, including for an explanation of the Lithuanian Jewish athletics club Makabi, and wondering what other Jewish organizations which existed before the war used the same name.

Students in the upper grades and their teachers made latkes for everyone. At the close of the event Rožynas Pre-Gymnasium principal Aida Adiklienė thanked everyone who participated, students, teachers and others, for their tolerance towards Jews.

Hanukkah Greetings from LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky

As I celebrate Hanukkah every year with my grandchildren, I remember the Hanukkah of my childhood with my grandmother. The holiday wasn’t as fun then as it is now and we didn’t get treats. My grandmother, hiding in the kitchen where there were no windows, lit the candles and prayed. We didn’t have a menorah, it was lost with all the family heirlooms during the Holocaust. She prayed, but her prayer wasn’t happy or celebratory, because she was always thinking about her son, and she always thought someone was coming, and she used to warn me: “hide, the children’s aktion is coming.” There weren’t fun times after the war. My grandmother was probably not the only one who remembered not just the Temple in Jerusalem, but also her murdered children.

Now we have better celebrations, we live better, so let’s learn to be happy and as we celebrate, let’s remember what miracle Hanukkah signifies for us all. I wish every member of the Jewish community more light, more understanding and warm and happy feelings. May the Hanukkah flame spread goodness in your home and provide the children waiting for their Hanukkah gelt happy moments, and the adults and everyone who sits at the family table to try the tasty Jewish latkes.

Happy Hanukkah, dear members of the Jewish community!

Raoul Wallenberg Exhibit in Kaunas

Sugihara House in Kaunas is hosting an exhibit by the Swedish Institute called “I Didn’t Have Another Choice” dedicated to architect, businessman, Swedish diplomat and rescuer of Jews Raoul Wallenberg. Wallenberg distributed Swedish passports to Jews in Budapest in 1944. He is credited with saving more Jews from the Holocaust than anyone else, approximately 20,000 Hungarian Jews out of the 120,000 Hungarian Jews who survived. Wallenberg was arrested and disappeared without a trace in the Soviet Union on January 17, 1945.

Photos by Raimundas Kaminskas.

Historian Vygantas Vareikis: Lithuanian Anti-Semitism Is Not an Ideology

by Izabelė Švaraitė
manoteisės.lt

We should start by saying the headline doesn’t mean at all that there aren’t people in Lithuania who dislike Jews. There are abundant examples of hate in the past and the present, but as Klaipėda University historian professor Vygantas Vareikis says, anti-Semitic sentiments in the country formed under the influence of religion and neighboring states, ignorance or simply economic considerations. Unlike German, Austria or Poland, they were never consciously constructed into a political doctrine.

Professor Vareikis, who studies Jewish-Lithuanian relations, said religious animosity, or anti-Judaism, began to spread in Lithuania with the intensification of the ideology of the Catholic Church among the nobility. Vilnius University’s first rector Jesuit Petras Skarga wrote about Jews in terms of the theses used by St. Paul. that they were allegedly a nation which did not recognize the Christ and had murdered their prophets. But according to the way of thinking back then, Jews could return to the true faith by accepting Christianity. They weren’t the main target of the Catholics. “Conversion was always acceptable, and at one time, under the law of the Polish-Lithuanian state, a Jew who converted to Christianity could even acquire the status of nobleman,” the professor said. The public held a different view, there were widespread beliefs the Jews were trying to con Christians.

Full story in Lithuanian here.