World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer has written a letter to Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis regarding a document issued by the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania on the Holocaust in Lithuania.Skvernelis LT 190401
The court’s decision on March 27 in Vilnius to leave intact the “national hero” status of Noreika, the murderer of Jews in World War II, is not just a miserable decision but also negates all Lithuanian government efforts over the last 25 years to fight anti-Semitism and to build better relations with Israel, and represents the desire to rewrite the truth of history. There is no doubt the court judges knew perfectly well Noreika shot and murdered infants, children, women and elderly Jews, those unable to protect themselves, surrounded by his supporters. The murderers, many of the same type as Noreika, can now proclaim themselves “heroes.”
Any murderer of Jews who wants to receive the title “national hero of Lithuania” need only apply at a Lithuanian court.
This is not the way to build new bridges with Israel, world Jewry and the world at large.
Arie Ben-Ari, chairman
Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel
A group of Lithuanian parliamentarians initiated draft amendments to the Lithuanian constitution on September 20, 2018, under which a natural-born citizen of the Republic of Lithuania who acquires citizenship of another country which meets the criteria of European and trans-Atlantic integration to be defined in law does not lose Lithuanian citizenship.
Adoption of the amendments would take place in May during the upcoming referendum if voters approve of the measure for dual citizenship, with the constitutional amendments coming into effect in 2020, which the Lithuanian parliament has named the Year of the Vilna Gaon and the Year of Litvak History.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community is concerned the privilege of acquiring dual citizenship according to geographical location reflected in the draft legislation contains indirect discrimination against citizens of countries which might not be included in the criteria for European and trans-Atlantic integrations, countries such as South Africa, Australia, Israel, Argentina and others.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community was shocked by an unsigned “explanation” published by the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania (hereinafter Center) on March 27, the day before the anniversary of the horrific Children’s Aktion (mass murder operation) in the Kaunas ghetto, a text which, apparently seeking to avoid responsibility, not only seeks to justify actions by Jonas Noreika during World War II but also contains features which are crimes under the Lithuanian criminal code, namely, denial or gross belittlement of the Holocaust. Note that article 170(2) of the Lithuanian criminal code (public approval of crimes against humanity and crimes by committed by the USSR and Nazi Germany against Lithuania or her residents, their denial or grossly diminishing their scope) also applies to corporate entities.
It is unacceptable to the LJC that there might be a collective condemnation of ethnic Lithuanians or any other ethnic group for perpetrating the Holocaust, and therefore it is equally incomprehensible to us on what basis the Center tried to convince Lithuanians, writing in the name of all Lithuanians, of Holocaust revisionist ideas.
This “explanation” is full of factual and logical errors, for example, one sentence claims “the Lithuanians worked operated against the will of the Germans” while another says “Germany was seen as an ally.” Also, based on a single source, the claim is made that the number of Lithuanians who shot Jews was “lower than in other nations.” The text fails to explain why the greatest percentage of Jews were murdered in Lithuania when compared to the other states of Europe, including Germany, and thus clearly seeks to diminish the fact of Lithuanians’ contribution to the murder of the Jews. The Center text claims “the residents of occupied Lithuania in 1941 didn’t understand ghettos as part of the Holocaust,” not just heaping scorn on the pain of ghetto inmates but also belittling those Lithuanian heroes who rescued Jews at the risk of their own lives and those of their families. The Center’s Noreika apologetica is based on the testimony of his fellow Lithuanian Activists Front members. Note the LAF call to free Lithuania by ridding the country of “the yoke of Jewry” in 1941.
It is the LJC’s opinion that the Center as a state institution founded in law by distorting historical facts, grossly diminishing the scope of the Holocaust and creating a fictional narrative of history is incompetent to fulfill its main task as defined in Lithuanian law, namely, the restoration of historical truth and justice.
Therefore, the LJC asks:
-representatives of the Lithuanian executive and legislative branches to respond appropriately and in a timely manner by condemning this incident of institutional anti-Semitism;
-that the Center take responsibility and retract publicly the above-discussed text, apologize to the LJC for the gross belittlement of the scope of the Holocaust and apologize to the Lithuanian public for misinforming the public.
If within a reasonable time an amicable solution is not found, the LJC, in defense of its interest protected by law but now violated, reserves the right to make sue of the defensive measures and remedies provided in Lithuanian law.
Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community
Rabbi Borukh Gorin from Russia gave a presentation of the life and work of Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer at the 2019 Lithuanian Jewish Community Limmud held in Druskininkai this month.
Gorin is editor-in-chief of the Lekhaim magazine and the Knizhniki publishing house. The magazine is published on paper (about 7,000 copies per issue) and the internet, and is read by about 80,000 internet subscribers. The hard-copy magazine is sent out to readers in Israel, Europe and America, as well as 75 other countries. Gorin says Lekhaim is a window on the contemporary Jewish world and contains articles on history, religion and modern Jewish life. It is published in Russian. It often contains information about Lithuanian Jews. Some time ago the magazine featured Chaim Grade, one of the most important writers in Yiddish who was born in Vilnius on April 4, 1910. He passed away in New York on April 26, 1982. Following the death of his widow, unpublished manuscripts by Chaim Grade were discovered and should be published within a few years. Grade wrote about Vilnius.
In Druskininkai Gorin spoke about Bashevis Singer, calling him one of two well-known Yiddish writers, along with Sholem Aleichem. Singer wrote about Polish Jewish life before the Holocaust. Gorin pointed out Singer came from a family of talented writers, with his brother Israel and sister Ester respected writers in their own right. His father was a rabbi and a good storyteller and his mother was a rationalist and aristocrat. Bashevis Singer moved to the USA before World War II and wrote for the Forward, where he published a cycle about a Polish Jewish family. Singer describes Polish Jewish life and he wrote after the war as if the Holocaust had never happened.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and Japanese ambassador to Lithuania Shiro Yamasaki attended the unveiling of a plaque to honor Jewish rescuer Chiune Sugihara at the Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium in Vilnius. The Jewish school in Vilnius has maintained a sister-school relationship for several years with the Japanese school Sugihara attended. Visiting teachers from the Japanese school were presented a small gift by the LJC, copies of the recently-published Rudashevski ghetto diary in Lithuanian and Yiddish.
A new mobile exhibit from the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum has begun its rounds with an opening in Kaunas on March 5. “When You Save a Life, You Save a World” debuted at Vytautas Magnus University to a large audience, including Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas and members of the Community, relatives of rescuers and those rescued, city residents and guests from other locations.
Vytautas Magnus professor Juozas Augutis gave a word of welcome and said he was proud of the exhibit opening and the light shed by the Righteous Gentiles. He said the children lost to the Holocaust were a great loss to everyone: “Kaunas’s pain is the pain of all of Lithuania.”
Dr. Kamilė Rupeikaitė–then deputy director of the museum but last week becoming its new director, replacing longtime director Markas Zingeris–emphasized the museum’s long-term commitment to and work on researching the stories of rescuers of Jews. Danutė Selčinskaja, the curator of the exhibit and of the accompanying catalog and the director of the museum’s department for commemorating rescuers of Jews, presented the overall concept of the exhibition with an emphasis on stories from Kaunas. Fruma Vitkinaitė-Kučinskienė, a Holocaust survivor rescued by gentiles, said the Righteous Gentiles were the gift of fate to whom she is still grateful, and she said she was so happy today to be able to talk to members of the families who rescued her. “I think there are many who will agree that those days when Jewish children were rescued were the most beautiful days in the Lithuania of that time,” Juozas Vocelka said. He is the son of Righteous Gentile Pranas Vocelka who dedicated his life to saving Jews.
On March 28, 2019, the Kaunas Jewish Community will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Children’s Aktion in the Kaunas ghetto during which, over one day, about 1,700 children and elderly were rounded up and murdered.
The commemoration begins at 4:00 P.M. at the “Children’s Torah” statue at E. Ožeškienės street no. 13 in Kaunas. The commemoration continues at 5:00 P.M. in the concert hall of the J. Gruodžio conservatory at J. Gruodžio street no. 6, Kaunas. The program includes a performance of “The Jewish Girl and Her Three Mothers” by the drama theater of the Aušra Gymnasium (directed by N. Žilinskienė) and a concert by the J. Gruodžio conservatory’s string orchestra (conducted by K. Domarkienė). Aleksandras Rubinovas will serve as MC.
Markas Petuchauskas’s book Price of Concord has been translated to German and will be presented at the Leipzig Book Fair taking place from March 21 to 24. The Leipzig Book Fair is the second largest book fair in Germany after the Frankfurt Book Fair.
The new translation has been published by the LIT Verlag publishing operation in Berlin. The translation was financed by the Lithuanian Culture Institute. The German version of the book, Der Preis der Eintracht, is to be presented at 1:00 P.M. on March 23 during the OstSüdOst forum at booth E501 in Hall 4 with translator Markus Roduner, author Markas Petuchauskas and moderator Joachim Tauber. The book presentation is scheduled to run until 1:30 P.M. Another presentation will take place at 6:00 P.M. the same day with the same participants at the Jewish Culture Center at Ariowitsch-Haus located at Hinrichsenstraße no. 14, Leipzig. The main LIT Verlag booth is booth G208 in Hall 3 at the book fair.
The United States embassy in Tallinn condemned an incident in the Estonian capital during which a man hurled insults at Rabbi Efraim Shmuel Kot.
A 27-year-old was being detained by traffic police Saturday for riding the tramway without a ticket when Rabbi Kot and family walked past on their way to shul. The man reportedly yelled “Heil Hitler,” “Sieg heil” and “What are you staring at, Jew? You’re going into the oven” in Estonian.
The US embassy issued a statement condemning the verbal assault, calling it hate speech, and saying it had no place in modern society. The embassy warned words matter and can turn into action if ignored.
by Efraim Zuroff
The situation regarding Holocaust commemoration and education in Lithuania is likewise extremely problematic.
It was only slightly more than a year ago that Holocaust distortion, which has been going on undisturbed for the past almost 30 years, and is currently rampant throughout post-Communist Eastern Europe, suddenly became an issue in Israel. The reason was the uproar over the by now infamous Polish Holocaust bill, which made use of the term “Polish death camps” or the attribution of any Holocaust crimes to the Polish state, a criminal offense punishable by two years in prison. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded that “Israel would not tolerate Holocaust distortion,” the first public denunciation by an Israeli leader of the systematic efforts being made for decades by many of the new democracies of Eastern Europe to whitewash the crimes of their nationals during the Shoah.
A statue was unveiled to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the death of Icchokas Meras. The ceremony and monument were the work of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Lithuanian Jerusalem Vilnius Jewish Community, the Jakovas Bunka support fund and the Kelmė regional administration. It took place on March 13 at Icchokas Meras Square in Kelmė. Students and teachers from the neighboring Jonas Graičiūnas Gymnasium, Kelmė municipal representatives, fans of Meras’s work and visitors from Vilnius, Kaunas, Šiauliai and Panevėžys and members of those Jewish communities attended.
Feliks Dektor arrived from Israel for the ceremony. He translated to Russian Meras’s novels “Ant ko laikosi pasaulis” and “Lygiosios trunka akimirką” as well as a collection of short stories called “Geltonas lopas,” some of the first literary works about the Holocaust to be published in the Soviet Union.
MP Emanuelis ZIngeris was unable to attend but sent a message which was read out loud:
“Icchokas Meras his entire life spoke for the silenced ghettos of Kelmė, Vilnius, Kaunas and Šiauliai. In his work he didn’t stand for the isolation of the ghetto, rather he scaled to the heights and plumbed the extraordinary depths of humanity. In Soviet times everyone looked forward to the appearance of his novels and stories in the magazines Pergalė and Nemunas. This was a protest hurled against the Soviet reality. Because Icchokas Meras was and remained a Lithuanian writer who modernized the language of Lithuanian prose and invented new ways to express himself.
by Arkadijus Vinokuras
In reply to the Genocide Center
I read the reply from the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania to my article “Why Is Genocide Center Defending a Lie?” The Genocide Center’s reply was unpleasantly surprising. The position of the person quoted was confused with my own personal position. Instead of polite discussion it turned quickly to ad hominem. Therefore to the honorable director of this institution I say: do not allow scribblers to reply to articles by professional journalists and writers.
Because this [reply], fallen into Communist hysteria, as if it weren’t 2019 at the present time but gloomy Stalinism instead, written in the KGB style with anti-Semitic glee, places all critics and opponents of the Genocide Center into one “anti-Geno-Centro-underground organization.” This does shame to the institution itself. Take a pill, calm down and remember that the Genocide Center is not some private headquarters of extremist nationalists but an institution of a democratic state. The parliament has tasked this institution with discovering the truth, not engaging in politics.
Full text in Lithuanian here.
Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė visited YIVO in New York City March 13.
The YIVO institute was founded in Vilnius in 1925, collecting a large library of books and documents, Yiddish literature and material on Jews in Central and Eastern Europe. It moved to New York in 1939 when founder Max Weinreich was caught in Denmark as Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1 of that year. The New York branch became the headquarters as the Nazis looted YIVO archives in Vilnius.
YIVO director Jonathan Brent met the Lithuanian leader and spoke to her about the Strashun collection and important documents YIVO conserves.
The Lithuanian president said she was impressed by the collections demonstrating the priceless Litvak heritage and also by the courage and nobility of the people–Lithuanians and Jews–who saved the important documents.
Full press release in Lithuanian here.
Work to restore the synagogue in Žemaičių Naumiestis, Lithuania, began in 2018 and on March 6, 2019, the work to date was surveyed.
The Šilutė regional administration allocated almost 100,000 euros for the renovation work.
Photos from before work began
The town had a large Jewish population before the Holocaust who built this brick synagogue in 1816. In the Soviet era the synagogue was used as a Palace of Culture.
The Vilnius District Administrative Court began deliberation of a case Grant Gochin filed against the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania Tuesday, March 5. Gochin, a Lithuanian citizen and member of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, is seeking remedy for the Genocide Center’s “historical finding” exonerating Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrator Jonas Noreika. Gochin wants the Center to reconsider its exoneration in light of newly discovered documents which he says the Center has ignored.
Active LJC member Geršonas Taicas attended the trial and shared his impressions, translated below.
“The plaintiff’s attorney read quickly a 25-page document presented which lists new historical facts about Noreika’s crimes. …
The Lithuanian Prosecutor’s Office announced Wednesday it had opened a case on the possible harassment of the playwright Marius Ivaškevičius.
It also announced law enforcement will investigate the illicit collection of private information about Ivaškevičius and the illicit sharing of such information.
The state prosecutor demanded an investigation be conducted after law enforcement agencies received information about an article on a webpage entitled “Death to Marius Ivaškevičius!”
The article indicated a database of “enemies of the homeland” was being prepared and asked readers to supply as much information as possible regarding the private life of the Lithuanian writer.
The internet posting said the information was needed to kill Ivaškevičius, the prosecutor reported.
The report said these facts amount to the “terrorizing” of the writer “because of his literary works which annoyed a portion of the public and for his public position, and thus constitute an illegal attempt to limit his creative and self-expression.”
by Arkadijus Vinokuras
At 10:00 A.M. on Tuesday, March 5, at Žygimantų street no. 2 in Vilnius, the Vilnius District Administrative Court undertook a special case. Lithuanian citizen Grant Gochin petitioned the Vilnius District Administrative Court to render a decision on whether the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania is, in the plaintiff’s words, “blindly defending Jonas Noreika who has the blood of his fellow Lithuanian citizens, Jews, on his hands.”
The Genocide Center stands accused of lying, falsifications and down-playing obvious facts in its refusal to review newly-discovered documents showing Noreika participated in crimes of genocide against Lithuanian citizens.
How does Genocide Center director Teresė Birutė Burauskaitė respond to these accusations made againt her institution? On November 16, 2015, she posted a statement on the Genocide Center’s facebook page: “Neighbors from the East are organizing the desecration of Lithuania’s patriots. They are being aided not just by certain Jews, but a sufficiently large number of Lithuanians as well; their surnames are signed under requests to revoke medals and take down plaques and are the by-lines in libelous articles in the press… Some of them do this intentionally, others out of foolishness…”
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky told BNS Tobijas Jafetas was “a highly respected, active and refined person of the community” who had met her father when World War II began. “As I recall his father had a business in England and came to Kaunas just before the war started. It so happened that Jafetas and my father were at a [children’s summer] camp in Palanga when the war broke out. Neither was able to flee and they were taken to an orphanage in Kaunas,” Kukliansky said.
Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon expressed condolences over Jafetas’s loss on facebook.
Jafetas and his mother were imprisoned in the Slobodka ghetto in Kaunas in World War II. He told the story of how he escaped the ghetto in 1944 after hiding in an attic. The Katinskai family in Vilnius rescued him.
LJC chairwoman Kukliansky said Jafetas spoke German and English and maintained close contacts with survivors of ghettos in Europe.