The exhibit Reflections in a Broken Mirror detailing Litvak life in the period between the two world wars opened at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library November 12. Judaica Research Center director Dr. Lara Lempert presented the exhibit, talking about Jewish social life, modern art, literature, books, reading culture, publishing and medicine in the interwar period. The rich collection of multimedia exhibits presents Lithuanian and Vilnius Jewish life including the social welfare and medical system, education, art, learning and literature. It also demonstrates the importance of the Lithuanian and Vilnius Jewish communities in the context of world Jewry.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community will host an evening to remember the pianist and teacher Nadežda Dukstulskaitė at 6:00 P.M. on Thursday, November 15. The evening will feature memories and performances by Rafailas Karpis, Robertas Bekionis, Dmitri Bulybanko and the Ąžuolai men’s choir. Dr. Leonidas Melnikas will moderate.
Nadežda Dukstulskaitė (1912-1978) was born into the family of a musician. In 1918 the family moved to Kaunas where from the age of 7 Nadežda attended private lessons in piano under Herbeck-Hansen. She was graduated from the Stern Conservatory in Berlin in 1926 and from 1926 to 1929 studied at the High Musical School in Berlin.
She was a concert master and soloist on Kaunas and Vilnius radio from 1929 to 1953. She toured Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Sweden in 1934, 1937 and 1938 and performed works by M. K. Čiurlionis, Juozas Naujalis, Stasys Šimkus, Juozas Tallat-Kelpša, Juozas Gruodis and Juozas Karosas.
She escaped the Kaunas ghetto towards the end of World War II with help from the writer Kazys Binkis and his wife Sofija. She hid in different locations around Kaunas for several days and then walked to Vilnius. From 1953 to 1959 she was the concert master of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic’s philharmonic, and from 1959 to 1978 concert master and piano teacher for the Ąžuoliukas choir.
Her students included the opera singer Vladimiras Prudnikovas and the pianists Robertas Bekionis, Dmitri Bulybenko and Leonidas Melnikas.
The Kaunas district administration and Litvaks living in the USA have unveiled a Holocaust memorial at the old Jewish cemetery in Vandžiogala, Lithuania, to remember the Jews murdered there in 1941. The unveiling ceremony was scheduled for November 8 with the US and Israeli ambassadors in attendance as well as representatives of the financial supporter Alex Lyon and Sons, the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department and members of the local community. The work by the Kaunas district administration, Vandžiogala alderman Vytautas Šniauka and the local community included clearing the Litvak cemetery of bushes, restoring upturned headstones, making a path to the cemetery and constructing a small parking lot in the forest.
Full story in Lithuanian here.
Valiušaitis’s article “Melo voratinklyje – antinacistinė ir antisovietinė rezistencija” [“In the Web of Lies: The Anti-Nazi and Anti-Soviet Resistance”] examines the art of Soviet disinformation. A truly necessary topic. But again, “including” captain Jonas Noreika, and again arguing as if there are no documents demonstrating Noreika’s Nazi collaboration, his violation of his oath as a military officer and his close cooperation with the murderers of Jews.
Unfortunately such proof exists, whether Valiušaitis likes it or not. So, in denying the established facts, trampling upon the principles of morality and ethics and human values, he seeks to push the worship of a tainted hero onto democratic society. Whether this is intentional or not, he is demanding the justification of fascist and Nazi ideology. But glorification and justification of these ideologies is forbidden by Lithuanian law.
A half-lie isn’t the truth. Using one historian as a source is not an indication of objectivity. Besides the Soviet sources, there are a plethora of others, just as there are many works by historians unaffected by Soviet disinformation. The rejection of the International Criminal Court’s definition of genocide doesn’t vindicate the crime. Proponents of Nazi ideology cannot claim to be anti-Nazis. During World War II, the “anti-Nazi underground” of the fascist Lithuanian nationalist parties, the LAF and LNP, was so unremarkable in Lithuania that they failed to rescue even a single Jew and failed to kill even a single Nazi. And attempting to whiten the mantle of an officer by presenting, for example, Pope Pius XII’s “silent” policy of rescuing Jews, does a disservice to the Pope. Not only did Noreika fail to rescue a single Lithuanian Jew, but he was responsible for one and a half years for the looting of the property of the Jews murdered and shook hands daily with the murderers of the Jews.
You are invited to attend the opening of the exhibit Reflections in a Broken Mirror detailing Litvak life in the period between the two world wars, in the atrium on the fifth floor at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library at 3:00 P.M. on November 12. Judaica Research Center director Dr. Lara Lempert will present the exhibit. After presenting the exhibit she will also talk about the work of this center and new discoveries in Jewish heritage.
Vilnius Regional Jewish Community
The current city government talks about the density of population in the city center, but they should look back into history when, before World War II, there were from between 200 and 500 residents living in every building on Jewish Street. The most highly-populated buildings in Vilnius. Although it’s difficult today for us to imagine a building with ten people living in every apartment, that’s how it was in the Jewish Street neighborhood. In the 19th century and the period between the two world wars, Jewish Street was the Jewish center and axis, known not just for the number of its inhabitants but also for its abundance of houses of prayer. The buildings were filled to overflowing with shops and different venues for study and entertainment.
Full article in Lithuanian here.
by Evaldas Balčiūnas, bernardinai lt
The history of the Žagarė ghetto is brief, terrific and painful. The ghetto didn’t have any internal Jewish council, so its history is marked by even more brutal slave labor, “restrictions” and murder of the Jews. It concludes with orders for exhumations performed by the Soviets. The Holocaust wiped out the Jewish community of Žagarė. It wasn’t just Jews from Žagarė who were imprisoned in the ghetto in 1941, but also Jews from surrounding communities such as Linkuva, Pašvitinys, Žeimelis and others. About 3,000 people were murdered at Naryškinas Park in Žagarė and another 500 Jews in Vilkiaušis Forest.
The white armbanders began the mass murder of the Jews of Žagarė before the ghetto was established. The best-known event was on a Sunday in July of 1941, when the white armbanders shot eight people at the Latvian cemetery. The Soviets sought to stress the Soviet-ness of the victims and so listed their jobs in a written finding issued after the war in 1958.
Full text in Lithuanian here.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community held a discussion October 24 about Jewish heritage protection from the present till 2020, about the priority tasks and goals in the context of 2020 being named the Year of the Vilna Gaon and the Year of Litvak History. The discussion mainly focused on the former Great Synagogue in Vilnius and how to protect what remains of it.
LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, members of the Community, US embassy adviser on political and economic matters Shai Moore and foreign members of the LJC’s own heritage group, including Lyudmila Sholokhova (YIVO), Assumpcio Hosta (AEPJ) and Sergey Kravtsov (Hebrew University), took part in the discussion.
Chairwoman Kukliansky reminded participants Jewish heritage is important to the Lithuanian state and everyone concerned with heritage conservation, as well as to Jews. Discussions have been going on for years about how to protect the Great Synagogue site, the LJC’s role in that process and what to do with the school there, under which archaeologists last summer unearthed a portion of the synagogue’s central bimah. The situation is complex concerning the site: the school was scheduled for demolition but this year it was leased for two years to several organizations. There is clearly a commercial interest in this special location, Kukliansky noted.
It’s difficult to find experts in Vilnius who could be asked how best to commemorate the Great Synagogue, so the arrival of the international group of heritage specialists, their participation in LJC meetings, their perspectives and discussion of these perspectives is an important event.
Neringa Latvytė-Gustaitienė, the head of the history department at the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, said the Great Synagogue of Vilnius is not just a symbol belonging to Lithuania, but to all Jews of Eastern Europe. It is a priority heritage site but sadly there hasn’t been any break through in the cultural community on this issue, she added.
A new exhibit will be unveiled at the Ponar Memorial Complex on October 31. Ponar was a place where residents of Vilnius, including Jews, liked to go in the summer, but which became infamous as the site of the mass murder of Jews in Lithuania. The exhibit features the history of Ponar and the mass murder of Jews there. It was made by the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum and financed by the Chancellery of the Government of Lithuania.
Although Ponar is now synonymous with the mass murder site where Nazis and Lithuanians murdered the Jews of Vilnius and surrounding areas, before World War II the forest near Vilnius was a frequent destination for those seeking a proximate location. In 1939 the town was even named an official vacation destination. When the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania, they began to exhume more than a dozen pits for aviation fuel tanks and munitions stores there. Between 1941 and 1944 from 50,000 to 70,000 Jews were murdered there. Most were Jews from Vilnius and the surrounding region, but also included Polish resistance fighters, some Lithuanians, Soviet POWs, Roma and others.
The first monument to the victims at Ponar was erected in 1948, but was swiftly removed by Soviet authorities, and until the restoration of Lithuanian independence in 1990 the site was officially commemorated as a site where Soviet citizens were murdered by fascists. In 1991 the Ponar site was given over to the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. In early 2014 a project for maintaining and updating the Ponar Memorial Complex began along with comprehensive studies of the killing field which wholly changed ideas about the site. Different new sites were located there: mass murder sites, a tunnel for prisoners, guard posts, the location of former buildings and gates. It also became clear that the mass murder territory was significantly larger than it had been thought before: it probably spanned a territory of 70 hectares.
The Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library is to host a conference called “Together towards the Modern State: Litvaks in the History of Lithuanian and Israeli Statehood” on November 13 to mark the 100th anniversary of Lithuanian and 70th anniversary of Israeli statehood.
Speakers are to include Lithuanian and Israeli academics who will present the contribution Lithuanian Jews made in the creation of the Lithuanian state in 1918 and the contribution Litvaks also made to foundation of the state of Israel. Lithuanian students will also present their research on the life of local Jewish communities.
Please register before November 12 by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The conference will begin at 10:00 A.M. on November 13 at the national library.
The library’s Judaica Research Center will also present an exhibit during the conference called “Reflections in a Broken Mirror” presenting the life of the Lithuanian and Vilnius Jewish communities in the period between the two world wars.
Information available in Lithuanian here.
The tailor Mendel Katz lived with his prolific family in a small village together with other tailors, cobblers, poor musicians and strange and wise rabbis… They lived in poverty and as head of the house Mendel worked from early in the morning to late at night, sewing shirts, vests and trousers. The work had to be done very carefully and peace and quiet was required to concentrate, otherwise all sorts of things happened: a sleeve was sewn to trousers, or a pant-leg to a shirt. Mendel often made such mistakes. Why? For several reasons. His wife Sonya was a great village gossip. The children–five girls and even worse, ten bone-headed boys. And wife Sonya also had a spinster sister, a mother dissatisfied with everything and a father who was going deaf. This was reason enough for someone to be driven out of their mind.
The entire family lived in a tiny house. Mendel’s sewing machine stood next to a dark window. How can one possibly work when the scandals never end from the morning onwards? But, as the local wise man Josef said, an end comes to every person’s patience, even that of a Jewish tailor. And one morning Mendel’s patience ended.
This is how it happened. Mendel began sewing in the morning, the entire famished family sat around the table, the children banged their spoons waiting for the porridge to be ready. Sonya put a pot of porridge on the table and stood there in silence, but not for long. The eldest daughter, blue-eyed Riva, a real boss, pointed her finger towards, she told the youngest daughter, a fly which had alighted on the ceiling, and this young fool of a girl turned her head upwards and began searching for the fly. You understand that this was exactly what Riva had wanted. As soon as the youngest understood she had been tricked and her porridge eaten, she began to howl so that even the deaf father-in-law was awakened from his slumber, the mother-in-law in fright and the unexpectedness of the thing sat on the cat. And so it began… Mendel’s wife grabbed the broom and began chasing the eldest daughter through the small house with it. The brush flew off the handle and hit the wedding dress which Sonya’s quiet spinster sister had been sewing.
The Kaunas Jewish Community celebrated the 30th anniversary of its restoration with the concert “From Mendelssohn to Latėnas” October 22. Members of the Kaunas Jewish Community, city society and cultural figures attended the elegant event reminiscent of Kaunas in the period between the two world wars.
Speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Viktoras Pranckietis greeted the audience and the Community.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community is proud of the achievements by the Kaunas Jewish Community and thanks chairman Gercas Žakas for his efforts in rallying and uniting the Jews of Lithuania’s provisional capital, for his sincere and ceaseless concern for the needs of members and Righteous Gentiles, for popularizing athletics and reviving Yiddish culture.
We are so proud of you and wish you many more such anniversaries! Mazl tov!
You are invited to attend and speak at a meeting and discussion called “Prospects for Jewish Heritage in 2020: Major Tasks and Goals during the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Lithuanian Jewish History” at 5:30 P.M. on October 24 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius.
Members of the LJC’s heritage protection group will attend, including Lyudmila Sholokhova from YIVO, Assumpcio Hosta from the AEPJ in Spain and Sergey Kravtsov from Hebrew University.
To register, contact email@example.com
The Juozas Naujalis Music Gymnasium in Kaunas has unveiled a plaque commemorating Righteous Gentile, teacher and famous violinist Vladas Varčikas, and has also created his portrait based on the memories of colleagues and those he rescued.
The Juozas Naujalis Music Gymnasium and the Kaunas Jewish Community commemorated Varčikas at the gymnasium where he worked as a teacher of violin from 1946 to 2008.
Varčikas isn’t just well known to the musical community, he’s also venerated in the Jewish community, as stated in the inscription on the plaque by the sculptor Gediminas Pašvenskas placed on the wall of the Chamber Hall of the gymnasium. The white marble plaque says he is a violinist, pedagogue and Righteous Gentile.
Full story in Lithuanian here.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community has learned of a protest organized by the Vilnius Forum to stop the alleged tarnishing of Jonas Noreika’s name. They invited protesters to assemble at the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry just before noon on October 16.
The LJC reminds readers there is a plaque commemorating Jonas Noreika, aka General Vėtra, the organizer of the Šiauliai ghetto and the person in charge of isolating Jews there, right in central Vilnius erected apparently illegally in 1997, while only this year was a site announced for a future statue to Righteous Gentiles. We believe this lack of moral priorities is not in keeping with the spirit of a free, democratic and lawful state.
It is a great shame that 28 years after the restoration of Lithuanian independence, some still refuse to accept and admit the historical facts and to seek reconciliation.
The LJC appreciates the Lithuanian foreign minister’s position regarding the removal of the plaque commemorating Noreika and we encourage international Jewish organizations to express their opinion as well.
We also invite all sensible Lithuanian citizens to go to the Foreign Ministry and take part in an alternative meeting by the LJC, to become a voice for the 200,000 murdered Lithuanian Jews, and to again read out the names of the Lithuanian Jewish citizens imprisoned and murdered in the Šiauliai ghetto. Let’s not allow the lionization of people who contributed to the destruction of the Jews and the various excuses to overshadow the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and of those who saved Lithuania’s honor, the rescuers of Jews.
Those unable to come are invited to sign a petition for the immediate removal of the illegal plaque commemorating Jonas Noreika from the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community and residents of Švenčionys remember the victims of the Holocaust from this Lithuanian city at the Menorah statue in the city park October 7. Those who turned out for the event then went to the Švenčionėliai polygon [military reservation] mass murder site in the forest between Platumai village and Šalnaitis lake where about 8,000 Jews from around the Vilnius region were murdered.
The commemoration is always held on the first Wednesday in October by the Menorah statue in what was formerly the Jewish ghetto.
Švenčionys Jewish Community chairman Moshe Šapiro personally thanked all who arrived, especially those who travelled long distances. LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas, Beit Vilna [Association of Jews from Vilna and Vicinity in Israel] president Mickey Kantor and Polish ambassador to Lithuania Urszula Doroszewska attended the event, among others. Choral Synagogue cantor Shmuel Yatom performed the prayer.
The third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community is now hosting an exhibit of documents to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the final destruction of the Vilnius ghetto. All of the documents relate to Vilnius and the people of the city, including Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, Dr. Tsemakh Shabad, banker Israel Bunimovich, the businessman Isak Shuman and others. The documents are from around the world with the majority from Germany, the USA and Israel.
One interesting document appears in the first display case at the new exhibit. It carries the inscription in Russia “Proyekt ustava dukhovnogo obschestva Vilniuskoy sinagogi” and the date 1888. It was acquired in Israel and comes from the collection of Leizer Ran, a well-known collector of Judaica.
There are many photographs from various angles of the Great Synagogue and the Choral Synagogue.
Document collector Michailis Duškesas says he began collecting pre-Holocaust Lithuanian Jewish documents about 15 years ago, and began collecting stamps since about 1980. He has an extensive stamp collection from around the world featuring the game of ping pong. He says he’s constantly enlarging his Judaica collection and now has a great number of documents concerning Lithuanian cities and towns where Jews lived. His documents have been exhibited before at the Lithuanian parliament, the National M. K. Čiurlionis Art Museum and the Lithuanian Historical Presidential Palace in Kaunas. He says they have also been used in documentary films about Jewish life in Lithuania before the Holocaust.
Jakob, Dora and Haim Frenkel ca. 1893, Šiauliai. From the collection of the Aušra Museum.
The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community learned October 4 the Šiauliai city municipality had decided to rename Elnio street after a famous local Jewish family, the Frenkels.
Haim Frenkel was a Jewish industrialist in Šiauliai.
The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community would like to thank the city council for adopting their proposal so quickly, and singles out Zina Žuklijienė, Gintaras Karalevičius and Domas Griškevičius for special mention, as well as MP Stasys Tumėnas and his team of advisors, the politician Vytautas Juškas, the Aušra Museum, Laiptai Gallery director Janina Ališauskienė, Šiauliai Tourist Information Center director Rūta Stankuvienė and others.
The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community believes this is a lesson in civics which will help restore historical justice to some extent.