Litvaks

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.

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.

Fun Celebration of European Day of Jewish Culture for 2020

Fun Celebration of European Day of Jewish Culture for 2020

On Sunday, September 6, 2020, the Lithuanian Jewish Community held a fun celebration of the European Day of Jewish Culture. Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and Community members, the Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Yosi Levy, Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department director Vidmantas Bezaras and guests had a good time and attended the Hebrew language lesson provided by Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymansium principal Ruth Reches. The public, invited by the LJC, came to celebrate the first Sunday in September by sampling Jewish treats made at the Bagel Shop Café, located on the first floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community building in Vilnius, a center of Litvak bagel culture.

The Bagel Shop Café presented paintings from Mark Kaplan’s collection during the event.

Participants also attended the lecture “Deification and Demonization of Jews: Anti-Semitic Superstitions in Society.”

You Are Invited to the European Days of Jewish Culture in Vilnius

You Are Invited to the European Days of Jewish Culture in Vilnius

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is continuing the tradition of marking the annual event European Days of Jewish Culture, this time for the fifth year, with a program of events in Vilnius scheduled for Sunday, September 6, 2020.

All parts of the event program are free and open to the public. The number of participants has been limited this year due to health concerns so please register as soon as possible.

For cooking lessons, register by sending an email to kavine@lzb.lt
For the Jerulita tour, register by sending an email to travel@jerulita.lt

To register by internet, click here.

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.

The Metamorphoses of Adas Jakubauskas

The Metamorphoses of Adas Jakubauskas

by professor Pinchos Fridberg, Vilnius

Is ethnicity important in Lithuania today? Here’s why I ask.

In Place of a Foreword

I follow almost all material in the Lithuanian media on the topic of the Holocaust in Lithuania. I make copies of the most interesting, and to avoid misquotes I save it. I have over ten thousand such items saved.

Below I present some “unique” screen captures which would have remained in my archive alone if the Lithuanian Jewish Community hadn’t published the following article:

Lithuanian Jewish Community Concerned by Vidmantas Valiušaitis’s Appointment as Senior Advisor of Genocide Center

Lithuanian Jewish Community Concerned by Vidmantas Valiušaitis’s Appointment as Senior Advisor of Genocide Center

Lithuanian Jewish Community Concerned by Vidmantas Valiušaitis’s Appointment as Senior Advisor of Genocide Center

According to the official website of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuanian (Genocide Center), the person occupying the post of senior advisor to the general director of the Genocide Center performs the following functions:

“…provides consultation on the physical and spiritual genocide of residents of Lithuania carried out by the occupational regimes between 1939 and 1990 as well as resistance to these regimes, and issues surrounding the processes of resistance to and the policies carried out by the occupational regime in the Vilnius district between 1920 and 1938, and consults on issues involving the direction of the Genocide Center’s research and programs regarding the genocide of residents of Lithuania and their resistance to the occupational regimes from 1939 to 1990” (source: http://genocid.lt/UserFiles/File/Pareiginiai/Direkcija/Vidmantas_Valiusaitis.pdf).

We would like to point out that in several recent publications Vidmantas Valiušaitis intentionally distorted the facts and publicized these falsehoods concerning the anti-Semitic activities of the Lithuanian Activist Front and the Lithuanian Provisional Government of 1941. Moreover, Vidmantas Valiušaitis basically denied the conclusions arrived at by the International Commission for Assessing the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Regimes in Lithuania regarding the clearly anti-Semitic views and actions of these organizations and their leadership directed against the Jews of Lithuania.

Congratulations to Kaunas Jewish Community Chairman Gercas Žakas on Unanimous Re-Election

Congratulations to Kaunas Jewish Community Chairman Gercas Žakas on Unanimous Re-Election

On July 29 the Kaunas Jewish Community held their reporting and elections conference. Despite summer vacations and renewed fears of the corona virus, a large contingent of members of the Kaunas Jewish Community turned out to express their will. Many who weren’t able to come authorized family members or friends to vote for them. Gercas Žakas gave a positive assessment of his activity to date in the post of chairman and was re-elected unanimously with just under 200 votes.

Tomas Venclova: Conscience is Greater Than Independence

Tomas Venclova: Conscience is Greater Than Independence

by Gabija Strumylaitė, 15min.lt

After spending forty years in exile, the professor returned to Vilnius in 2018; here he actively participates in Lithuanian cultural life and courageously expresses his opinion on topics important to the country and the world. The website 15min.lt spoke with Tomas Venclova about the meaning of independence, principles of liberalism, historical memory, ethnic minorities and other issues.

This year has also been named the Year of the Vilna Gaon and of Litvak History. What do you think, do Lithuanians understand and appreciate sufficiently the Jewish legacy? What should we be doing to honor these people? Do we need, for example, to rebuild the Great Synagogue, or establish a modern museum of Jewish history?

In this regard I think we are doing better compared to the situation over ten years ago, never mind earlier periods. I’m not just thinking about Jewish affairs, but those of other ethnic minorities as well: Poles, Russians, Belarussians, Karaïtes, Tartars.

There is a large amount of latent distrust of minorities in Lithuania overall. I will mention another minority about which there has been a lot of concern lately: the Roma. The great majority of the Lithuanian public are prejudiced against them, and this is senseless and unnecessary, and needs to be corrected.

Evening of Poetry and Music with Sergei Kanovich and Boris Kizner

Evening of Poetry and Music with Sergei Kanovich and Boris Kizner

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invite you to a attend an evening of poetry and music with writer Sergei Kanovich and violinist Boris Kizner at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. Sergei Kanovich will read passages from his poems and prose and Boris Kizner will perform works from his repertoire on violin. It begins at 6:00 P.M. on Tuesday, August 11, at the Choral Synagogue located at Pylimo street no. 39 in Vilnius. Entry is free to the public and no RSVP is required. Visitors will be required to wear face masks and the event will be filmed.

LJC Member Leonidas Melnikas Interviewed

LJC Member Leonidas Melnikas Interviewed

The Catholic newspaper and website Bernardinai has published an interview with long-time Lithuanian Jewish Community member and pinaist professor Leonidas Melnikas as part of a series of articles and interview about ethnic minorities in Lithuania partially financed by Lithuania’s Department of Ethnic Minorities.

“In childhood when we used to visit homes as guests and we didn’t find a piano in a home, that was strange to me, how people could live without a musical instrument. In general at the time the profession of musician was highly esteemed, and musicians were a bit freer than people in other professions. If you’re playing Bach, Mozart and Beethoven all the time, no one can complain about your politics, only about your music.

“From the very first grade I attended the Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis School of Art in Vilnius. It was my parents’ joy I did music, and their encouragement helped me overcome the initial barriers, but later some inertia came up, it came up in the 8th grade which was competitive, and they had to chose who stayed and who would pursue something else. I stayed. There weren’t many people in my class, we graduated, it seems, eleven of us, so the relationship between student and teacher was very familiar and friendly, there was a lot of attention. We studied a somewhat different curriculum than they did at other schools, we studied musical things from the first grade and they kept increasing, and in the 10th grade we completed general education disciplines–chemistry, physics, mathematics–and in the 11th grade we only had social and humanitarian topics left, and music of course.”

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Indian-Lithuanian Friendship Celebrated in Rusnė

Indian-Lithuanian Friendship Celebrated in Rusnė

An awards ceremony to present the award “For Contributions to Friendship between India and Lithuania” was held in Rusnė, Lithuania, recently. The recipient this year was Vytautas Toleikis who researched and published the story of the friendship between the father of modern India Mohandas Gandhi and Rusnė-resident Litvak Hermann Kallenbach.

Gandhi and Kallenbach’s friendship was commemorated in a sculpture by the late Romas Kvintas which was placed on the bank of the Atmata River in Rusnė in 2015. The Lithuanian embassy to India contributed to erecting the statue.

On July 25 Toleikis was presented a miniature of this statue at the awards ceremony attended by Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Indian ambassador Tsewang Namgyal, Israeli ambassador Yossi Levy, US ambassador Robert Gilchrist, German ambassador Matthias P. Sonn, Lithuanian ambassador to India Julius Pranevičius, Indian honorary consul Rajinder Chaudhary, Šilutė regional mayor Vytautas Laurinaitis and Rusnė alderwoman Dalia Drobnienė. Chairwoman Kukliansky congratulated Toleikis on winning the award.

Šolom, Akmenė! Project a Big Success

Šolom, Akmenė! Project a Big Success

Four-and-a-half-days and the results was, according to the local Akmenė newspaper Vienybė, “a great success.”

Participants and guests from Šiauliai and Vilnius said the same thing about the “Šolom, Akmenė” activities and events last week. There was the same positive reaction towards the Friday evening conference dedicated the remembering the shtetl, lessons on Sabbath traditions with treats and the concert.

There was a creative workshop for youth held before, with visiting and cleaning-up Jewish cemeteries in Vegeriai, Klykoliai, Viekšniai and Tryškiai, in a grand plan to digitize the grave epitaphs there.

Vilna Gaon Statue Vandalized Again

Vilna Gaon Statue Vandalized Again

For the second time in two months, the stone statue commemorating the Vilna Gaon located at what is thought to have been his residence in Vilnius was vandalized by application of an unknown liquid.

Police reported they received a report of the newest act of vandalism at 5:20 P.M. local time on Sunday. Vilnius district police department representative Julija Samorokovskaja told Baltic News Service a tourist guide reported an unknown liquid, possibly some acid, had been poured over the monument.

“A report was received that sometime during a two-day time period acid possibly had been poured on the Vilna Gaon statue. A tourist guide made the report,” she said. She also said an criminal investigation had been launched for incitement to hatred, and that the physical damage done would be calculated more accurately later.

Faina Kukliansky: We Need to Take a Chill-Pill When Discussing Lithuanian Partisans

Faina Kukliansky: We Need to Take a Chill-Pill When Discussing Lithuanian Partisans

Elections are a time when made-up pseudo-patriotic stories eclipse important social problems. By distorting, for example, my joint letter with American Jewish Committee representative Rabbi Andrew Baker on the Lithuanian parliament’s decision to name next year after the partisan Juozas Lukša-Daumantas. In order to avoid any “indirect” doubts, on July 18 I emphasized on LNK television that “We have no complaints on Juozas Lukša-Daumantas’s past.”

What does worry us is that the fascist anti-Semitic Lithuanian Activist Front might be honored along with him. The LAF formed the Tautos darbo apsaugos batalionas, or TDA, which was responsible for the mass murder of thousands of Jews at the Seventh Fort in Kaunas and elsewhere. The website of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania states: “during the first Soviet occupation in 1940 and 1941, Juozas Lukša-Daumantas belonged to the Lithuanian Activist Front. For this he was arrested and imprisoned at the Kaunas hard labor prison. On June 22, 1941, when the war between the USSR and Germany began, he escaped.”

I am being accused of “indirectly” belittling Juozas Lukša-Daumantas. I remember the time when people were sent to mental hospitals and prison for indirectly criticizing the Communist regime. Maybe someone would like to lock me up now and give me some re-education on what can and cannot be said. But that’s not the main thing. The main thing is that my words about the LAF have been applied to the entire partisan movement and equated with it, even though that’s like accusing all of Lithuania of anti-Semitism because of the statements of one or another irresponsible radical.

Year of Vilna Gaon and Litvak History Becomes City-Wide Celebration in Kaunas

Year of Vilna Gaon and Litvak History Becomes City-Wide Celebration in Kaunas

The year 2020 has provided the Kaunas Jewish Community with new friends and partners. The Lithuanian parliament passed a resolution last year naming 2020 the Year of the Vilna Gaon and the Year of Litvak History. Until now this has largely been a celebration on paper, but the city of Kaunas turned it into a real celebration with projects and events.

One such was called the Kaunas Musical Guide to Jewish History by the Kauno Santaika group. Most people in the large group of Kaunas residents who took an interest were probably participating in these kinds of unconventional tours for the first time, accompanied by a live orchestra throughout their excursion. The first tour route was accompanied by a guest from Vilnius, the Trimitas national woodwind orchestra. The second was accompanied by Ąžuolynas from Kaunas. The highly knowledgeable Dr. Marija Oniščik told the story of the many former Jewish buildings and sites visited. The tenor Edgaras Davidovičius joined the second tour at the renovated fountain on Freedom Alley in Kaunas and performed the legendary songs of the crooner Daniel Dolski.

Others included the wonderful young team Kaunas Piano Fest who held a competition of works by Litvak composers withing the frame of the festival, and the final concert of the festival, with a very limited audience because of indoor restrictions on gatherings, dedicated not just to the celebratory year of 2020 declared by the Lithuanian parliament, but also to the anniversary of the liquidation of the Kovna [Kaunas] ghetto.

Robertas Lozinskis and Anna Szałucka performed this concert live, while Nathan Cheung performed as if live from a recording. It was very pleasing the organizers invited members of the Kaunas Jewish Community to this concert. Those interested can listen to the performances on the youtube channel of the Kaunas Piano Fest group.

It is our sincere hope these new friends and partners will continue their cooperation with the Kaunas Jewish Community next year as well.

More photos below.

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community Invites You to “Sholom, Akmenė” Events July 24

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community Invites You to “Sholom, Akmenė” Events July 24

The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community invites everyone to participate in “Sholom, Akmenė” events at the Akmenė Cultural Center (Sodo street no. 1, Akmenė, Lithuania) on July 24.

12:00 Conference “Memories of the Shtetl in Our Hearts”

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community members Frida Šteinienė and Josifas Buršteinas will share their childhood memories, young participants at a creative workshop will speak about digitization efforts to record and preserve the Jewish cemeteries in the Akmenė region and Daumantas Todesas will share the secrets of making Sabbath treats. Also, Rita Ringienė will read excerpts from Indrė Daščioraitė’s work in 2001 recording the memories of Augustina Rušinaitė (1922-2007).

2:00 Jewish market (outside the Cultural Center)

The conference will be followed by a Jewish market set up by the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community showcasing traditional Litvak treats on offer, with haggling required. The organizers are promising a lot of fun at the market.

6:00 Sabbath concert

The Jewish music concert, already a tradition at the Akmenė Days celebrations, will be performed by students from the music schools in the Akmenė region and from the Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium in Vilnius. The concert will teach traditions of the Sabbath evening in artistic form.

All events are free and open to the public. Organizers are asking participants to adhere to the authorities’ current recommendations for preventing corona virus infection. The events will be filmed and photographed.

Public Still Knows Little about 2021 as Year of  Lukša-Daumantas

Public Still Knows Little about 2021 as Year of Lukša-Daumantas

The Lithuanian parliament’s draft resolution naming 2021 the Year of Juozas Lukša-Daumantas is largely unknown to the public, as is the man Juozas Lukša-Daumantas. The Lithuanian parliament has made a tradition out of naming years after people and events, but this time it isn’t clear what is being celebrated, and perhaps only Lithuanian MPs know the answer.

So far we only have official explanations on the Lithuanian Activist Front and Juozas Lukša-Daumantas’s membership in this organization, including on the official website of Lithuania’s Orwellian Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, where Juozas Lukša-Daumantas is listed as an LAF member.

We are presenting additional information from Chaim Bargman, amateur historian and tourist guide from Kaunas, to try to elucidate the nature of the historical figure. We would very much welcome additional information from scholars and academic works.

Down the Memory Hole: Orwellian Genocide Center Contradicts Itself Again

Down the Memory Hole: Orwellian Genocide Center Contradicts Itself Again

A week ago the Lithuanian news channel Info TV aired a program featuring a discussion between Mission to Siberia television program participant and Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania historian Mingailė Jurgaitė, and Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. They discussed the decision by the Lithuanian parliament to declare 2021 the year of Juozas Lukša-Daumantas, who was a member of the Lithuanian Activist Front in 1940 and 1941. The LAF was a pro-Nazi underground militia responsible for most of the atrocities against Lithuanian Jews in the early months of the German occupation in the summer of 1941, when the LAF declared an independent national government with Kaunas as its capital, the so-called Provisional Government.

LAF propaganda took aim mainly at Jews. In Kaunas in 1941 the LAF kidnapped several thousand Lithuanian Jews and their Provisional Government issued orders they be held at a concentration camp to be located at the Seventh Fort in Kaunas.