Holocaust

Concert at Choral Synagogue September 24

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is holding a concert at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius featuring world-famous violinist and orchestra leader Gidon Kremer and the talented young pianist Georgiy Osokin on September 24 as part of commemorations of Lithuania’s Day of Remembrance of Jewish Victims of Genocide. The classical music concert is scheduled to begin at 6:00 P.M. on Thursday and will include works by Polish Jewish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg, and an exhibit of photographs of Holocaust survivors by Lithuanian photographer Antanas Sutkus.

Registration is required and space is limited. Please send an e-mail to info@lzb.lt to register.

Lithuanian President Awards Rescuers of Jews

Lithuanian President Awards Rescuers of Jews

Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda awarded Lithuania’s Life-Saver’s Cross to remember those who saved Jews during the Holocaust at a ceremony at the presidential palace Monday. Most of the 44 recipients are no longer alive and the awards were received by relatives.

The president said most of us are too young to have rescued Jews during the Holocaust, but we are involved in creating the world after Auschwitz and fortunately, he said, we have a road sign, the people who back then opposed hate through their quiet great deeds.

“Following the example of rescuers of Jews, let’s create the sort of society where community would spread and thrive, where humanitarianism would rise above any ideological, political, religious or economic interests. Let’s teach altruism, transcending our private interests as the fulfillment of humanitarianism,” he said.

The annual ceremony is held to coincide with the Lithuanian Day of Remembrance of Jewish Victims of Genocide on September 23, the day 77 years ago marking the final liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto.

Lithuanian Day of Jewish Genocide

Lithuanian Day of Jewish Genocide

10:00-11:00 A.M., September 22

A reading of the names of Holocaust victims will be held at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius to mark the Lithuanian Day of Remembrance of the Jewish Victims of Genocide. Participants will have the opportunity to light a candle in memory of their lost family members.

Conference and Righteous Gentiles Ceremony at Vytautas Magnus University

Conference and Righteous Gentiles Ceremony at Vytautas Magnus University

Vyautas Magnus University in Kaunas and the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry will host a conference dedicated to Japanese wartime diplomat and Righteous Gentile Chiune Sugihara in the Great Hall of the University located at Simono Daukanto street no. 28 in Kaunas from 9:00 A.M. till 2:00 P.M. on Thursday, September 24. The conference will include a ceremony to award Righteous Gentiles in Lithuania. The conference will have synchronous translation available via mobile telephone requiring the installation of a special app for that purpose.

This year, 2020, marks the 80th anniversary of Sugihara’s work rescuing Jews in Kaunas from the Holocaust in 1939 and 1940. The Lithuanian parliament in 2019 declared 2020 the Year of Chiune Sugihara.

Please indicate your intention to attend by sending an email to sugihara-year@urm.lt

Ceremony to Commemorate Victims of Genocide at Ponar

Ceremony to Commemorate Victims of Genocide at Ponar

You are invited to attend a commemoration of the Day of Remembrance of the Lithuanian Jewish Victims of Genocide at the Ponar Memorial Complex

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

10:50 A.M. Procession from memorial complex parking lot to monument

11:00 A.M. Commemoration ceremony begins

Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda is scheduled to attend the ceremony.

Remembering the Victims in Žagarė

Remembering the Victims in Žagarė

On Sunday, September 13, foreign ambassadors, Lithuanian Jews and local residents gathered in Žagarė in northeast Lithuania to remember the once-thriving Jewish community who were murdered in the Holocaust.

Israeli ambassador Yossi Avni-Levy, German ambassador Matthias Sonn, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and Sania Kerbelis of Šiauliai, among others, gathered at the small Dmitrijus Naryškinas park in the center of the rural Lithuanian town. Kerbelis’s grandmother, cousins and other relatives were shot in this park in 1941. They were killed in a mass murder operation where German, Lithuanian and Latvian police mowed down starving Jewish men, women and children with machine guns.

Around 800 victims were murdered in there in the town square. Smaller children were murdered by smashing their heads against trees and walls. Those who weren’t killed on the town square were marched into the nearby forest to pits where another 3,000 victims were cast.

One 15-year-old Jewish girl survived the massacre on the town square, taken and hidden by a Lithuanian family. That girl’s granddaughter is Kornelija Tiesnesytė, Lithuanian deputy minister of education, who was at the ceremony Sunday.

Conference for Historians Researching Jewish Heritage in NE Lithuania

Conference for Historians Researching Jewish Heritage in NE Lithuania

The Rokiškis Regional Museum hosted a conference called “The Jewish Community’s Contribution to the Cultural, Political and Economic Development of the North-Eastern Region of Lithuania during the Period of the First Republic of Lithuania” to mark the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Litvak History on Friday, September 4, 2020.

Kupiškis Ethnographic Museum specialist and historian Aušra Jonušytė in her presentation “The Jewish Community of Kupiškis” spoke about the former Jewish community in Kupiškis and their contribution to economic, social and political life in the Lithuanian town. She presented examples of friendship and fellowship between Jewish and Lithuanian families is safeguarding the town from fires.

Two books were presented at the conference: “Kupiškio žydų bendruomenė. Praeities ir dabarties sąsajos” [The Kupiškis Jewish Community: Connections between Past and Present] (2016) and “Kupiškio krašto žydų bendruomenės pastatai ir paminklai” [Buildings and Monuments of the Jewish Community of the Kupiškis Region] (2017). The audience appeared very interested in these books. Former Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon wrote the forewords to both books. Museum specialist and historian Aušra Jonušytė compiled these publications. She also talked about a new publication planned provisionally called “Žydų virtuvės valgiai, gaminti Kupiškyje” [Jewish Cuisine Made in Kupiškis] which will include input from LJC projects coordinator and Litvak cook Dovilė Rūkaitė, Natalja Cheifec and members of the Kaunas Jewish Community. Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman has also offered his help with the new book project, as has philanthropist Philip Shapiro.

Book Presentation

A presentation of Rūta Vanagaitė’s book “Kaip tai įvyko? Christoph DIeckmann atsako Rūtai Vanagaitei” [How Did It Happen? Rūta Vanagaitė Interviews Christoph Dieckmann] and a panel discussion will be held at 6:00 P.M. on August 15 at the Adomas Mickevičius Public Library at Trakų street no. 10 in Vilnius. Speakers and panelists will include Rūta Vanagaitė, Lithuanian History Institute director Alvydas Nikžentaits, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, professors Irena Veisaitė and Tomas Venclova, and by video Christoph Dieckmann and Saulius Sužiedelis, moderated by Aurimas Švedas. The event is being held by the Adomas Mickevičius Public Library and the Vilnius Jewish Public Library in cooperation with the LJC.

Registration is required, spaces are limited and visitors will be required to wear surgical masks. To register, send an email to info@vilnius-jewish-public-library.com or call (8-5) 219 77 48 work days between 11:00 A.M. and 6:00 P.M.

Twelve Thousand Holocaust Victims Commemorated Near Ukmergė

Twelve Thousand Holocaust Victims Commemorated Near Ukmergė

The annual commemoration in fall of about twelve thousand Holocaust victims killed in the Pivonija forest near Ukmergė (Vilkomir) were commemorated at their mass murder site Sunday. The annual commemoration takes place at noon on the first Sunday in the month of September.

Members of the Ukmergė Regional Jewish Community and a significant group of Jews from Vilnius, Šiauliai and the Kaunas Jewish Community attended the commemoration of the third largest mass murder site in Lithuania. So did representatives of the Ukmergė Regional Administration and the US embassy.

Ukmergė Regional Jewish Community chairman Artūras Taicas spoke, recalling the sea of people who moved from Ukmergė to the Pivonija woods 79 years ago, including thousands of children.

Let’s Remove the “Nazi Chain” around Lithuania’s Neck

Let’s Remove the “Nazi Chain” around Lithuania’s Neck

by Arūnas Gumuliauskas, chairman, Lithuanian parliamentary Commission on the Battles for Freedom and State Historical Memory

Every year there are echoes throughout Lithuania on disputes regarding judgments of partisans and other freedom fighters. Different organizations, circles of intellectuals and ethnic minority representatives file complaints and express dismay over the fact Lithuania honors her heroes who laid down their lives for the ideal of independence. Sometimes more loudly, sometimes more quietly.

So this summer as well a wave of discontent and slander went out regarding the announcement of a year to commemorate the noble partisan Juozas Lukša-Daumantas. It’s frequently difficult to understand why this is happening. Many of us also fail to understand, it seems, because it’s not the most important issue with that story.

But, like it or not, a person can’t just be satiated. He must respect himself and be respected by others. That applies even more so to the state. That’s why our history is rewritten and always in a way intending to desecrate those who contributed to history, and you must begin to listen. Very rarely does something happen coincidentally in politics. So after a decade of the constant attempt to convince Lithuania she is a country of fighters stained with blood and of Jew-shooters, one has to understand the reasons for this and oppose it appropriately.

Who Is That Gaon?

Who Is That Gaon?

by Sergejus Kanovičius. Photo by Evgenia Levin/Bernardinai.lt

Soon the Year of the Vilna Gaon will end: the news websites will stop carrying out the internet education plans dedicated to Jewish history and the school curricula will remain as they always were: impoverished, and with the suppression of history. Everything will depend on the teacher’s initiative, again. The statues to the Gaon and Tsemakh Shabad will stare out, with acid poured over them. Plaques will hang commemorating the “desk murderer” in Vilnius and the statue to a murderer of Jews will continue to stand in the center of Ukmergė, and schools will continue to be named in their honor. The center tasked with researching genocide will offer jobs to people who think the “Lithuanian Activist Front would have found it easy to agree with Zionists.” Only suppressing the fact the LAF helped those Zionists travel into the bosom of Abraham.

Virtual internet reality will never coincide with true reality, and the proposition of living in two worlds will continue to be proposed. The official one will soon mourn at Paneriai and on Rūdninkai square because that’s what’s required. Actually, the pandemic in the true sense of the word helped save a pile of money which would have been used for those pompous but failed events. I would ask, couldn’t the money saved be used to change the school curricula so that a student who reads a headline or title “The Vilna Gaon…” doesn’t have to search the internet to find out who he was and why he’s important?

The best surrogate education–sampling Jewish foods–takes place via the stomach, and via internet. In both cases the effect of learning is equal to the time spent by the learner chewing a bagel or reading about some shtetl lost to oblivion, sipping coffee while reading the screen. There’s no need to even raise the question of enduring value or the long-term effect…

Kaunas Jewish Community Greets Fall with Renewed Pledge to Remember

Kaunas Jewish Community Greets Fall with Renewed Pledge to Remember

The Kaunas Jewish Community ushered out the waning summer and greeted the fall by remembering those who have gone before and the tragic loss of life in the Holocaust. In the last week of August Community members visited Prienai and remembered the victims there and in surrounding areas. The Kaunas Jewish Community would like to thank Prienai District Administration staff, representatives of the Balbieriškis (Balbirishok) Tolerance Center and students for caring that the Holocaust tragedy is their tragedy, too, with all its agony and loss, and for coming together without being told to hold a commemoration of those who once lived in the area as neighbors and perhaps even as friends of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

As the summer days fade into fall and under a dreary and drizzling sky Community members also visited and remember the victims of the mass murder of the Jews of Petrašiūnai and the victims from the Kaunas ghetto of the intellectuals’ aktion also murdered there. The Kaunas Jewish Community would like to thank violinist Jonė Barbora Laukaitytė for braving the weather and performing her melody to which resonated so clearly with out own heartstrings.

The end of summer also saw the premiere of Aleksandras Rubinovas’s one-man-play “My Father” which was supposed to happen back on March 13, and the Kaunas Picture Gallery is still featuring a show of Samuel Bak’s paintings until September 13.

LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky Meets with Klaipėda Regional Administration mayor Bronius Markauskas

LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky Meets with Klaipėda Regional Administration mayor Bronius Markauskas

Klaipėda Regional Administration mayor Bronius Markauskas visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community and spoke with LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky about continuing cooperation. The two spoke during the meeting about plans to construct a bus station at Gargždai (Gorzhd), a town located about 15 kilometers east of the city of Klaipėda within the Klaipėda district, near the site where around 500 resident Jews were murdered during at least three mass murder operations on June 24 and September 14 and 16, 1941.

Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium Principal Ruth Reches Greets Teachers, Students and Parents for New School Year

Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium Principal Ruth Reches Greets Teachers, Students and Parents for New School Year

This school year is a challenge for all of us. I have been asking myself why I as the new principal am always facing unexpected obstacles which have to be overcome. But this is more of a rhetorical question, because I feel new challenges are interesting. They aren’t frightening because I see I have not been left on my own to overcome them. ALL school staff are working to insure the school year begins smoothly.

The members of our collective stay at school into the late evening, come to work on Saturday and solve work questions by telephone and on vacation, and late into the night without being asked. Just because they care. I feel very strong support with this team in place and I know we will all lead the school forward together no matter how the situation changes.

Thinking about the public tension the corona virus has caused, the lack of clarity on how the education process will take place if there is a second wave of the virus which might cost lives, I remember the book by the renowned thinker, humanitarian and psychotherapist Viktor Frankl describing his experiences during the Holocaust. Frankl was a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna in Austria as well as a practitioner and world-class thinker. In describing his experiences, he also pointed to significant things which helped him survive.

AJC Tells Lithuanian Government: This Hypocrisy Must End

AJC Tells Lithuanian Government: This Hypocrisy Must End

by Vytautas Bruveris

Back to the drawing board: Lithuania again has become the target of a wave of international criticism because of the country’s relationship with the Holocaust. This time, because of the appointment of publicist and public activist Vidmantas Valiušaitis to the leadership of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania [Genocide Center].

The country’s Jewish community as well as an influential international organization, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), reacted sharply to this announcement. Leaders at the AJC even called the Lithuanian Government’s actions in the area of Litvak history and Holocaust commemoration hypocritical.

At the same time the Genocide Center is getting an ever darker reputation in the international area, that of an ideological right-wing nationalist bunker rather than an authoritative and academically objective institution.

Valiušaitis’s Appointment Worries Historians and Jewish Community

Valiušaitis’s Appointment Worries Historians and Jewish Community

Photo: honoring victims of Soviet-era occupation, genocide and repression. Photo courtesy J. Stacevičius/LRT.

by Modesta Gaučaitė, LRT.lt

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and historians are raising questions about Vidmantas Valiušaitis’s new appointment as an advisor at the Center for the Study of the Resistance and Genocide of Residents of Lithuania [Genocide Center]. Valiušaitis says he won’t try to vindicate himself because he says his work speaks for itself.

New Genocide Center director Adas Jakubauskas took over two months ago and began assembling his team. Besides a deputy director, Jakubauskas also appointed two advisors, one them being Vidmantas Valiušaitis, a long-time journalist, publicist, author of books, for several years the director of the Laisvoji Banga radio station and who in 2017 began working as a methodologist and researcher at the Documentary Heritage Research Department of the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library.

His new appointment has caused dissatisfaction on the part of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and has raised questions for historians.

Simnas Celebrates Title of Tiny Capital of Lithuanian Culture for 2020

Simnas Celebrates Title of Tiny Capital of Lithuanian Culture for 2020

On August 23 the largest event so far this year took place in Simnas, Lithuania: the Simnas church celebrated its 500th anniversary and the town of Simnas celebrated its recognition as the Tiny Capital of Lithuanian Culture for 2020.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and Catholic cardinal Sigitas Tamkevičiusattended events there, which included a book launch, consecration of a new cross at the church, Catholic Mass, a performance by opera singer Rasa Juzukonytė and a performance by the Lithuanian Ground Forces orchestra. A procession left the church for the town square where the formal opening ceremony of the event took place only then. There followed vocal and instrumental concerts and a fair featuring religious items, folk art and crafts.

A synagogue in Simnas has been restored and renovated. It was built in 1905. There was a school on the second floor and the prayer hall was arranged so worshipers prayed facing in the direction of Jerusalem. A Soviet palace of culture operated there after World War II, followed by an athletics hall. Consideration is on-going on how to utilize the synagogue space.

Bid for Righteous Gentile Monument Announced

Bid for Righteous Gentile Monument Announced

A public tender has been announced for a conceptual sculptural and architectural project to erect a monument to Lithuanian residents who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.

The Vilnius city municipality and the Lithuanian Culture Ministry said the project is to be guided by principles of historical justice for honoring, commemorating and recalling at a national and international level Lithuanian residents who saved Jews during the Nazi occupation, for creating a respectful and socially effective solution in continuance of traditions of respecting the Jewish people, for representing appropriately the content and foundation of the site commemorating Righteous Gentiles, and for contributing to the education of the general public regarding history and the world.

Criteria for judging projects submitted include context, social efficacy, aesthetics, the quality of the space created, cost and financial soundness. The site selected for the monument is on Ona Šimaitė street near Maironis street in Vilnius where a commemorative stele stands announcing this as the location for a future monument to Righteous Gentiles, those who rescued Jewish lives during the Holocaust.