Learning, History, Culture

Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Commemorates Holocaust Victims

Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Commemorates Holocaust Victims

On January 28 the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry and the Lithuanian Jewish Community held a commemoration of International Holocaust Day at the ministry.

“The Holocaust is a horrid scar on humanity, on the face of Lithuania. It is a wound which likely will never heal. Let’s hope and try so that humanity never experiences this again. We are endlessly grateful to all the survivors of the Holocaust who are with us here today. In celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Vilna Gaon, we hope Vilnius will again become a center of gravity for the Jews of the entire world, as the Jerusalem of Lithuania once was,” foreign minister Linas Linkevičius said after presenting red roses to Holocaust survivors attending the event.

A student choir from the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium performed three songs in Yiddish and Lithuanian.

Lithuanian President Commemorates Holocaust Victims in Poland

Lithuanian President Commemorates Holocaust Victims in Poland

Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda and his wife Diana Nausėdienė attended a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland on the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. Fifty heads of state, royal family members, government representatives and ambassadors attended the ceremony.

“I came to Oświęcim, to Poland, to express sincere respect for the millions of Jews who lost their lives during the Holocaust in World War II. I bow down in memory as well of more than two hundred thousand victims of our nation. This is a tragedy for Lithuania and the entire world. We cannot bring the innocent victims back to life, nor can we minimize the pain their families experienced. All we can is to preserve the memory of these people and to seek for historical justice,” the Lithuanian president said.

Lithuanian Parliamentary Speaker Says Participation at World Holocaust Forum Was Appropriate

Lithuanian Parliamentary Speaker Says Participation at World Holocaust Forum Was Appropriate

Lithuanian public radio and television radio program Ryto garsai, January 27, 2020

Speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Viktoras Pranckietis en route to a Holocaust commemoration at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp told LRT.lt this was a day for commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. He said Lithuania’s participation both at Auschwitz and the World Holocaust Forum in Israel were steps which strengthened bilateral ties with the Jewish community.

The United Nations declared January 27 the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust in 2005 in a resolution condemning all forms of Holocaust denial.

The Lithuanian speaker of parliament said the day is important to other peoples besides Jews.

Israeli Litvaks Protest Lithuanian MP Gumuliauskas in Tel Aviv

Israeli Litvaks Protest Lithuanian MP Gumuliauskas in Tel Aviv

Photos: Dr. Andrejus Aron from Vilnius, resident in Israel

Litvaks held a protest January 24 at the Lithuanian embassy to Israel in Ramat Gan, a neighborhood of Tel Aviv.

The Association of Lithuanian Jews Living in Israel under the leadership of former Vilnius resident Arie Ben-Ari Grodzenskis sponsored the protest, which was mainly attended by elderly Litvaks, most of whom were born after the war, their grandparents having been murdered in Lithuania in the Holocaust.

Despite cold weather and rain, they gathered to remember the 220,000 Jews who lived in Lithuania before the Holocaust and built the Jerusalem of Lithuania.

The picket was aimed specifically against Lithuanian MP Arūnas Gumuliauskas, the chairman of the Lithuanian parliament’s Battles for Freedom and State Historical Memory Commission who announced in mid-December he was drafting a parliamentary resolution proclaiming the Lithuanian state and nation innocent of participating in the Holocaust, because the state and the people were under occupation, first by the Soviets and then by the Nazis.

One of the signs at the protest read: “Gumuliauskas: no law can wash away Jewish blood.”

Lithuania’s Holocaust Memory: “Reliable” or “Unreliable?”

Lithuania’s Holocaust Memory: “Reliable” or “Unreliable?”

by Grant Gochin

Many South African Jews are descended from an immigration wave from Lithuania in the 1920s. Our grandparents seldom explained the context; here it is.

During World War 1 when the current territory of Lithuania was part of Russia, the Tsarist army conducted a mass ethnic cleansing of Jews. During that period, especially in the spring of 1915, a number of Lithuanians took an active part in murdering old Jewish men, women, and even children, and plundering Jewish assets. Lithuania claims the Russians were entirely responsible for the actions of ethnic Lithuanians. Lithuanians retained the stolen Jewish property.

Betrayal after betrayal followed and Jews began to leave for greener pastures. It was the lesser-educated and unemployed Jews who left Lithuania, while the intelligentsia stayed on, hoping life would improve. Instead, they were slaughtered.

The world knows of the genocide perpetrated in Lithuania in 1941 in which Jonas Noreika was responsible for the murder of about 14,500 out of the 200,000 murder victims (including my own family). The sharing of Jewish property was widespread and once again Lithuanians were enriched by Jewish property.

Condolences

Isaakas Demantas passed away in late January. We have lost an amazingly sensitive and sincere friend. Orphaned by the Holocaust, he made his own way in life from the age of 13. An active member of the Jewish community and the Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp inmates, he passed away at the age of 91.

Our deepest condolences to his soulmate Mina Frišman and sons Arkadijus and Vladimiras, to his grandchildren and to his friends Ieva and Monia who came to his aid when misfortune struck and Isaakas was hospitalized.

Who Are You, Dr. Gumuliauskas? Fat Strokes for a Portrait of the Chairman of the Parliament’s Freedom Battles and State Historical Memory Commission

Who Are You, Dr. Gumuliauskas? Fat Strokes for a Portrait of the Chairman of the Parliament’s Freedom Battles and State Historical Memory Commission

by Pinchos Fridberg, Holocaust “historian”

My slogan my whole life:
lakhn iz gezunt.
Laughter is health.

Who Are You, Dr. Gumuliauskas? Fat Strokes for a Portrait of the Chairman of the Parliament’s Freedom Battles and State Historical Memory Commission

Introduction

I’m forced to repeat that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty called me an Holocaust historian (in an article in Russian). I won’t pretend the appellation isn’t soothing to the ear, but it is not true, unfortunately. That’s why I put the word “historian” in quotation marks after my name.

Unlike me, professor Arūnas Gumuliauskas is a “professional historian.” I’ll explain the use of quotation marks below.

His lucky star rose at exactly 12:59 P.M. on December 28, 2019. That’s the moment when his sensational article appeared on the website 15min.lt, whose daily audience is almost one half of a million readers:

Speech by Markas Petuchauskas at Commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Speech by Markas Petuchauskas at Commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry and the Lithuanian Jewish Community held a commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 28. Markas Petuchauskas, the noted theater expert, art historian and professor as well as Holocaust survivor, spoke. Here is a translation of the speech he delivered to the overflow audience of Foreign Ministry staff, diplomats and members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community at the hall at the Foreign Ministry.

Perhaps the smallest of all is small group of former Vilnius ghetto inmates who survived. As a member of that group, I thought it would be best here today to share with those gather how I feel today and how I sense things. I feel good now. Because here prevails the solid principles of foreign minister Linas Linkevičius and his great spirit of courage. Linkevičius has never bent with the changing “line”…

Five years ago the Foreign Ministry, not the Culture Ministry, hosted the presentation my book in English, “Price of Concord.” From here it spread to the largest public and prestigious university libraries across Europe and all the continents. Beginning in North and South America and ending in the Republic of South Africa and Japan… Last spring the German translation was launched at the Leipzig International Book Fair and then it was presented in Berlin, again, at our embassy there. I’m not saying this to brag. The book preserves for the future the heroic spiritual resistance of many famous Litvak artists who ended up in the Vilnius ghetto. They opposed Hitler in their artistic work and his desire to tread upon the human dignity of the ghetto inmates.

International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to remember the victims on the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust with a special ceremony at 1:00 P.M. on Monday, January 27, 2020, on the third floor of the LJC in Vilnius. The program includes lighting candles, the opening of Lev Saksonov’s Holocaust exhibit and an opportunity to speak with living witnesses of the Holocaust and relatives of rescuers.

Yad Vashem Publishes What Would Have Been Lithuanian President’s Speech

Yad Vashem Publishes What Would Have Been Lithuanian President’s Speech


Lithuanian public radio and television posted an article on their news website containing what appears to be the speech Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda would have delivered at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum commemoration at Yad Vashem in Israel Thursday. The Lithuanian president canceled his trip there at the last minute apparently in solidarity with Polish president Andrzej Duda, who declined the initial invitation to the event saying it was strange he wouldn’t be allowed to speak there while Vladimir Putin would. Lithuanian public radio and television or LRT quoted the Lithuanian president from “a book published by Yad Vashem.”

“I want to express the deepest respect for the millions of Jews murdered in the Shoa. I bow my head in honor and memory of the two hundred thousand who were my countrymen. The tragedy of the Jews of Lithuania is Lithuania’s tragedy.

“We don’t have the power to raise from the dead the innocent victims, the men, women and children. We probably cannot ease the pain of those who lost their family members and loved ones. Even 75 years after the suffering is still felt, it is alive. There is only one thing which we can and must do. That is honoring the memory of the victims of the Shoa. Each of us can do that in his own way, by lighting a candle and saying a prayer. We can pledge to discover the historical truth. The only way to come to terms with history is to find the truth and to proclaim it loudly.”

Miša Jakobas Retires

Miša Jakobas Retires

Miša Jakobas has retired as principal of the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius. Lithuanian public radio and television conducted the following in-depth interview with him about education, life and his thoughts about the future.

Miša Jakobas Talks about Problems in Lithuanian Education after Leaving Jewish Gymnasium

by Aida Murauskaitė, LRT.lt

At the beginning of January the former Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium principal and mathematics teacher took on a new job having nothing in common with the school, except that it does have something in common with Jews and math. He is now the executive director of the Lithuanian-Israeli Chamber of Commerce.

After half of a century you have left your job as teacher and the gymnasium which you yourself established three decades ago. How did you come to this decision?

With Holocaust Summit in Jerusalem, Israel Gets Dragged into Europe’s Memory Wars

With Holocaust Summit in Jerusalem, Israel Gets Dragged into Europe’s Memory Wars

Photo: Yad Vashem, courtesy Moshe Shai/Flash90

JERUSALEM (JTA)–A major gathering of world leaders in Jerusalem meant to highlight the world’s determination to learn the lessons of the Holocaust has become mired in controversy even before it started, dragging Israel into a battle over history debates still raging in Europe three-quarters of a century after the end of World War II.

Some 46 presidents, princes and prime ministers are due to converge on the Israeli capital on Thursday for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, an event organized by president Reuven Rivlin, Yad Vashem and the Israeli Foreign Ministry to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The brainchild of European Jewish Congress head Moshe Kantor, the event will feature addresses by the leaders of Germany and Allied nations, including Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Kantor asserted the event’s purpose was “to discuss moral status of the world, to examine the situation of civil societies and work together to address threats and dangers.” That message, however, is proving to be at odds with divisions the event has generated.

Full story here.

Lithuania and Russia: Two Peas in a Pod?

President Nausėda of Lithuania has announced that he will NOT attend the World Holocaust Forum on January 23. He objects to Russia being a speaker at the forum while he wasn’t invited to speak. Lithuania accuses Russia of distorting history, so let us examine Lithuania.

Christmas of 2019 presented bountiful gifts for Lithuanian fascists and Holocaust deniers. The Lithuanian Government presented a false report that Jonas Noreika had not murdered Jews; rather, he was a rescuer. It published this fairy tale through Baltic News Service. The story is as credible as Santa coming down the chimney with gifts.

Father Jonas Borevičius was a friend of the Noreika family in Lithuania while Jonas Noreika was perpetrating his war crimes. When the Soviets entered Lithuania and put a stop to the murders of Jews, Noreika’s wife, sister and daughter fled. The USA declined them visas, so instead they went to Argentina because Noreika’s older brother Stasys was living there on a farm. (Argentina was also openly accepting other Holocaust perpetrators and their families at the close of WWII). The Noreikas remained in Argentina for seven years until Father Borevičius was able to assist them in obtaining visas to enter the USA, possibly even as their immigration sponsor. He was a devoted friend to Mrs. Noreika and accompanied her to Lithuanian social events in Chicago.

Full text here.

Lithuanian President Skips Holocaust Conference in Israel, Going to Auschwitz Instead

Lithuanian President Skips Holocaust Conference in Israel, Going to Auschwitz Instead

Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda has decided not attend a Holocaust commemoration at Yad Vashem outside Jerusalem, but will commemorate Holocaust victims at a ceremony next Monday at Auschwitz on the anniversary of the concentration camp’s liberation by the Red Army, the President’s Office announced Tuesday. The announcement caused surprise because as of Monday the president’s trip to Israel was still on.

Nausėda apparently made the decision in following Poland’s example. Polish president Andzrej Duda declined an invitation to the event scheduled for January 23, saying Russian president Vladimir Putin was being allowed to speak and he wasn’t. Auschwitz is in Poland.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Lithuanian President Talks about What He Thinks about the Holocaust

Lithuanian President Talks about What He Thinks about the Holocaust

Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda visited the Litvak Memorial Garden in the Žemaitija National Park last Thursday and said we can only wonder how many generations the country lost because of the Holocaust.

“Today there might not be many people still alive who experienced the Holocaust and we can only wonder how much we have lost, how many generations we have lost who didn’t live after that, because all of them could have contributed to Lithuanian and world development,” he said at the park, adding the Litvak garden is a unique idea brilliantly executed and commemorates the Jewish communities who lived in Lithuania. “It is a unique idea, brilliantly implemented, commemorating the Jewish communities who lived in Lithuania, and it also demonstrates how much they gave us. Of those people who came from Lithuanian, I look to the left now, I see David Wolfson, who gave the name to Israel’s currency, because, as the caretaker of the garden explained to me, the membership dues of the Zionist organization was called the shekel, and when the state of Israel was founded it took over this name,” the Lithuanian president said.

“Hermann Kallenbach was Gandhi’s friend from Rusnė. Again, a person who had great influence over Gandhi,” president Nausėda said, continuing: “Truly an extraordinary community to whom I bow my head, and with whom I feel sorry, although there is probably no right word, I just feel saddened and suffer this tragedy with happened many years ago, but which perhaps today is also still like an open, bleeding wound.”

He also said Litvaks should be given greater opportunity to engage in Lithuanian life.

Full text in Lithuanian here.

The Vilna Gaon: The Central Figure Who Made Vilnius the Jerusalem of the North

The Vilna Gaon: The Central Figure Who Made Vilnius the Jerusalem of the North

by Mindaugas Klusas, LRT.lt

The Vilna Gaon, the 18th-century sage from the Jerusalem of the North, has left behind a significant legacy of Jewish scholarship as well as many legends about his erudition and idiosyncratic devotion to the study of religious texts.

Lithuania designated 2020 the Year of the History of Jews of Lithuania, and 2020 is also the 300th anniversary of the Vilna Gaon. Lara Lempertienė, an historian and the head of the Judaica Department at the Lithuanian National Library, spoke with LRT.lt about the 18th-century sage from Vilnius.

While other nations are proud of battles and glorious buildings, Jewish history is about writing and books, Lempertienė quoted a modern rabbi. The Vilna Gaon and his town Vilnius, often dubbed the Jerusalem of the North, played a crucial role in this history.

Full text here.

Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel Protests Lithuanian Attempt to Whitewash Holocaust

In two months the Lithuanian parliament will recess. Prior to that MP Arūnas Gumuliauskas, chair of the parliament’s Commission on the Fight for Freedom and Historical Memory, will propose a parliamentary resolution declaring Lithuania has no responsibility for the murders and extermination of Lithuanian Jews during World War II because it was occupied by the Soviets and then by Nazi Germany. His resolution is to absolve Lithuania from the horrors of the Holocaust because it was occupied by Russia and Germany!

Member of parliament Gumuliauskas is not clearly anti-Semitic (compared to those living in Lithuania), he is a professor of history. His primary research during the Soviet era showed positive impact of the Communist Party on the Lithuanian theater. Apparently in 1987 he didn’t think that three years hence everything would be turned upside down. Instead of praising Communism a change had to be made: to stand out and to pave his way to the parliament, Jews can always be accused of something. Anti-Semitism has always been popular in Lithuania at all times. In 2016 the learned professor was elected to parliament. At the end of this year there will be another parliamentary election and an opportunity for him to stand out by proposing a parliamentary resolution which releases Lithuania and Lithuanians of involvement in the Holocaust, for the murder of 95% of Jewish citizens of Lithuania who had lived as good neighbors with Lithuanians for over 400 years.

Kosher Lithuanian Wheat Arrives in Israel, 13 Rabbis Supervised Shipment

Kosher Lithuanian Wheat Arrives in Israel, 13 Rabbis Supervised Shipment

Karolis Šimas, director of the Agrokoncerno grūdai company, says they have been preparing the sale of wheat to Israel from early in the summer of 2019. Certain procedures had to be follow to insure the wheat was certified kosher. Winter wheat can be found kosher but according to the requirements it cannot have contact with other kinds of grain. Israel’s special Office of Rabbi Landa service has to and did certify this. Even before the start of the winter wheat harvest, the grain elevators for the winter wheat were sealed under the supervision of a rabbi and a representative from Agrokoncerno grūdai. Several months later, before being loaded on a ship, the rabbi opened the storehouses and supervised the transport of the grain by automobile and railroad to the port.

At the port as the grain was being loaded onto the ship it was again checked thoroughly. Thirteen rabbis supervised and a total of 11 grain elevators and the storage facility at the port were sealed and unsealed, as was every train car and automobile carrying the grain. The elevators and the storehouse at the port had to be made extremely clean and so did the machinery for loading it, in order to receive the kosher seal.

Kosher grain cannot have contact with other grains, so all the storage spaces were cleaned to make sure not a single grain from earlier remained.

Full article in Lithuanian here.

Condolences

In great sadness we report the death on January 15 of the long-time, active member of our community Vladimir Vakhman at the age of 77. He was born September 24, 1943, in Nazi-occupied Kiev. He only survived by being hidden until the Soviet army liberated the Ukrainian capital. Actually he didn’t see the light of day until then. Vakhman was well known to collectors and book lovers in Vilnius. Readers of Obzor know his translations from Lithuanian to Russian. Vladimir Vakhman will stay in our hearts forever as a conscientious fellow traveller who was always ready to help others. Our deepest condolences to his widow and children.

Lithuanian MP Wants It Known Lithuania and the Lithuanian People Didn’t Participate in Holocaust

Lithuanian MP Wants It Known Lithuania and the Lithuanian People Didn’t Participate in Holocaust

Photo: Jewish mass murder near Šiauliai, 1941, courtesy Yad Vashem

15min.lt
December 28, 2019

Arūnas Gumuliauskas, Lithuanian MP and chairman of the parliament’s Battles for Freedom and State Historical Memory Commission, is preparing a draft resolution stating the Lithuanian state under occupation and the Lithuanian people didn’t participate in the mass murder of Jews during World War II. The politician said separate individuals contributed to the Holocaust but that this was a matter for the courts to decide.

Gumuliauskas announced the draft resolution at the conference “2020: Global Trends and National Security: Insights, Challenges” on December 13, 2019, at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library.

In response to a question, the Lithuanian MP said the European Parliament had adopted a resolution on historical memory in 2009.