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Review of BBC Documentary How the Holocaust Began

Review of BBC Documentary How the Holocaust Began

Photo: Historian James Bulgin at the Majdanek concentration camp, near Lublin, Poland Credit: Benjamin Holgate/BBC

James Bulgin’s BBC Two documentary contains horrifying footage, showing how ordinary people facilitated the Nazis in murdering Jews

What springs to mind when you hear the word “Holocaust?” This was the question which opened James Bulgin’s film “How the Holocaust Began” (BBC). Most likely you will think of somewhere like Auschwitz, and the Nazis presiding over processed mass murder. But Bulgin, an historian from the Imperial War Museum, wanted to show us something different.

Large-scale executions of Jews began in 1941 as the Germans made their way across Eastern Europe. Hitler’s Einsatzgruppen death squads carried out many of these murders. But the chilling truth presented here was that they did not, in fact, could not, act alone. They needed not just the tacit support of the civilian population, but their active participation. Ordinary people facilitated and sometimes carried out the mass killings of men, women and children.

The documentary contained horrific footage, a “home movie” shot by a German soldier of people being marched into trenches and shot in the head. Spectators gather round, smoking and talking, to watch. It was a terrible thing to see. But equally unforgettable were the words of Faina Kukliansky, whose grandmother had been rounded up in Alytus, Lithuania, and taken to a forest along with 2,500 others to be murdered. Kukliansky had discovered that this was done by local townsfolk and even school children: “That confirms what my uncle used to tell me… That probably his classmates killed his mother.”

Full review here.

LJC Asks Conservative Party to Look Into Member’s Anti-Semitic Remark

LJC Asks Conservative Party to Look Into Member’s Anti-Semitic Remark

Photo: Old cemetery in Nemakščiai

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has asked Gabrielius Landsbergis, the leader of the conservative Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democrats Party, to look into remarks made by fellow party member Remigijus Laugalis.

“If you don’t vote for me, then you can bury yourself in the Jewish cemetery,” Laugalis allegedly remarked.

Remigijus Laugalis is currently the alderman of the town of Nemakščiai and is seeking to be elected to the town council of Raseiniai, Lithuania.

The LJC has asked Landsbergis to undertake actions to educate residents of the Raseiniai district about the consequences of uncontrolled anti-Semitism and racism. The LJC has offered to help hold educational meetings with historians, cultural experts and writers in a spirit of cooperation based on mutual respect.

Ona Šimaitė Bio Better Known in US, Israel, France than Lithuania

Ona Šimaitė Bio Better Known in US, Israel, France than Lithuania

Rimantas Stankevičius utilized Holocaust Remembrance Day to present again his biography of Lithuania’s first recognized Righteous Gentile Ona Šimaitė on Holocaust Remembrance Day. The book was published back in 2021 by the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania. He gave an interview about his book to the news website delfi.lt.

“… at the intersection of Stiklių and Didžiosios street [in Vilnius] there was a false-flag operation intended to show Jews had attempted to kill a German officer. … Men, women, children and the infirm were sent en masse [from the nieghborhood] to the prison. One elderly woman was carried. Women marched cradling babies and with small children who clung to their mothers’ skirts. Many children from the orphanage were marched there along with their teachers. I saw a cobbler with a limp from Stiklių street whom I knew well. He wasn’t able to walk without a walking stick. They took his cane at the entrance to the prison and began beating him with it. Then they threw the stick through the prison gate whistling, guffawing and cursing the prisoners. On the other side of the prison I saw a Jewish woman in a white hospital gown. She appeared to have become completely lost. I looked for my 11-year-old daughter who was taken from home to no one knows where when she was supposed to be on duty at the hospital. I advised the woman to go home quickly so she wouldn’t end up in the prison. I wrote down her name and address and promised to do everything I could. The well-known Lithuanian public figure Marcelė Kubiliūtė and I went to the home of Buragas, the director of Jewish affairs. I went to Lithuanian security. I looked over lists there but didn’t find the girl’s name. I shrugged my shoulders and asked, ‘Is it worth getting all worked up about a Jewish girl?’ When I inquired where the girl might be, they suggested I go to the Lithuanian Special Squad which was shooting Jews. There was no sense going there at all,” Ona Šimaitė, librarian at Vilnius University from 1940 to 1944, stated.

First Plaque Commemorating Jews of Palanga

First Plaque Commemorating Jews of Palanga

International Holocaust Remembrance Day reminds residents of Lithuania’s sea-side city of Palanga of June 27 and October 12, 941, the days on which more than 400 fellow residents, the Jews of Palanga who were hard-working, innovative lovers of life and the sea, became victims of the Holocaust. One out of eight residents of Palanga was murdered during those two days. And that’s not a definite tally, it might be higher.

Friday Palanga mayor Šarūnas Vaitkus, deputy mayor Rimantas Antanas Mikalkėnas, director of the city’s Culture Department Robertas Trautmanas, Palanga Jewish Community chairman Vilius Gutmanas and other members of the Palanga Jewish Community observed a moment of silence at a memorial in the Palanga cemetery to remember the 106 Jews and Lithuanians murdered in the southern part of Birutė Park on June 27, 1941, the majority of whom lived in Palanga.

Candles were lit and the traditional stones were left to honor and remember the city residents who became the first victims of the Holocaust in Lithuania. Friday also saw a new page of history open with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque to mark the site of the former synagogue complex at what is now a supermarket on Vytauto street.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Condolences

Roza Bieliauskienė has died. She was born in 1956 in Vilnius to Holocaust survivors from a shtetl just outside the city. She grew up speaking Yiddish at home and hearing it on the street. Trained as an engineer, she eventually immersed herself in research, writing and teaching about the Holocaust, Yiddish and Jewish topics. She worked at the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Community from its inception for 20 years and taught at the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius. She worked on the translation of the Grigori Shur Holocaust diary, numerous other books published by the Vilna Gaon Museum, translated a number of children’s books, translated genealogies in Yiddish and was working on a book about the Jewish history of Lithuania at the time of her death. Our deepest condolences to her many friends, colleagues and family members.

Šiauliai Marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Šiauliai Marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day

“We remembered one of the most horrific and violent crimes in the history of humanity January 27 with thousands of other people around the world.

“Marking the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on January 27, 1945, we remembered the more than six million men, women and children brutally murdered by the Nazis only because they were Jews. It is difficult to conceive this shocking number, but it contains millions of lives destroyed, of dreams shattered, unutterable pain, hopelessness and horror.

“We are very grateful to have with us today as the Šiauliai Jewish Community remembers the victims of the Holocaust this January 27 students and teachers who have joined us from the Gegužės Gymansium and the Romuva Gymnasium in Šiauliai. We are also grateful for the presence of Šiauliai deputy mayor Egidijus Elijošius,” the Šiauliai Jewish Community reports.

Memory Is Our Shared Duty

Memory Is Our Shared Duty

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and six foreign embassies to Lithuania held an event called “Seventy-Eight Years Later: Honoring, Learning and Seeking Justice” Friday to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This took the form of a panel discussion. The group who held the event included Japanese ambassador Tetsu Ozaki, Israeli ambassador Had Wittenberg Silverstein, US ambassador Robert Gilchrist, German ambassador Matthias Sonn, Dutch ambassador Tim van Gulijk, the European Commission representative in Lithuania and LJC chairwoman Faina Kuliansky.

Chairwoman Kukliansky said it is our shared responsibility to remember the past.

“Statues to specific people are treated respectfully in Lithuania, people visit them, they are maintained and aren’t forgotten. The situation is completely different with monuments to the victims of mass murder,” she noted.

Holocaust Remembrance Day in Palanga

Holocaust Remembrance Day in Palanga

Residents of Palanga are invited to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day this Friday, January 27, with a candle-lighting ceremony at the Old Cemetery in Palanga at 11:00 A.M. followed by the unveiling of a new plaque commemorating the town’s synagogues destroyed during World War II at Vytauto street no. 98 at 11:30 A.M.

Our Home Town Vilne Is 700

Our Home Town Vilne Is 700

Today Vilnius begins celebrating its 700th birthday with a series of events over the coming year. Over its entire 700 years of history the Jewish people have lived, built, created, started families, studied and achieved major milestones in culture, medicine, business, the arts and many other fields of human endeavor.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky remarked: “Today there remains only a very small Vilna Jewish community, but the contributions made by many generations of Jews to the success and thriving of this city called the Jerusalem of the North won’t allow us to forget.”

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has published a calendar to mark Vilnius’s 700th anniversary with a special Vilnius 700 logo and collages from old Jewish Vilne. The designers of the calendar were Victoria Sideraitė Alon and Albinas Šimanauskas from the creative group JUDVI & AŠ.

“The 700th anniversary of the founding of the city of Vilnius is a wonderful and significant day for all residents of the city and beyond. Sadly, in the excitement in preparing for this holiday, few remember who built the capital of Lithuania, who contributed so significantly to giving birth to this pearl of UNESCO,” chairwoman Kukliansky commented.

Lithuanian Prime Minister on the Death of Grigoriy Kanovich

Lithuanian Prime Minister on the Death of Grigoriy Kanovich

Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė expressed her condolences on the death of the writer, dramaturg and translator Grigoriy Kanovich.

“Grigoriy Kanovich’s work gave a voice to entire generations of Litvaks who died and raised the curtain for the painful 20th century for a view into the profound, rich culture fostered for centuries in Lithuania, and at the same time, by presenting the agonies society experienced from the Holocaust, he formed the modern reader’s understanding and sympathy. Grigoriy Kanovich will remain in our memories as a person who carried the light through his works and through his always penetrating, respectful and hope-filled way of seeing. We have lost one of the great writers who was just as concerned with the present as with the past, with being able to live in harmony, in the emergent commonality, in what is shared rather than the categorical. I extend my sincere condolences to Grigoriy Kanovich’s loved ones during this difficult time of loss,” the Lithuanian prime minister wrote in her letter of condolence.

Full statement in Lithuanian here.

Israeli Duet to Perform Again

Israeli Duet to Perform Again

The family duet of Vera Vaidman on violin and Vera Emanuel Krasovsky on piano will perform works by Beethoven and Schubert at the Organum Concert Hall in Vilnius at 7:00 P.M. on Friday, February 3. Tickets are available here and if you enter the code LZB you’ll get a 10% discount. Krasovsky was born in Vilnius and attended Vilnius University among other institutions of higher learning. The couple live in Tel Aviv currently

Condolences

Silvija Sondeckienė passed away Saturday morning at the age of 80. She was a cellist, a professor and a friend of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Her father-in-law was the Righteous Gentile Jackus Sondeckis and her late husband the renowned conductor Saulius Sondeckis was also a great friend of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. We extend our deepest condolences to her sons and their families.

Condolences

The writer Grigoriy Kanovich has passed away at the age of 93. Our deepest condolences to his sons Sergejus and Dmitrijus, wife Olga and his many friends and fans around the world. He served as chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community from 1989 to 1993, when he moved to Israel.

Marc Chagall: World in Turmoil

Marc Chagall: World in Turmoil

“The whole history is packing bundles and getting away. Nobody else can be as tender and delicate with bundles. That’s a Jewish man tying a bundle.”

Those lines from Arthur Miller’s Monte Saint Angelo aptly characterizes an unusual exhibit of paintings by Marc Chagall during his period of exile from the 1930s and 1940s which opened in Frankfurt and will run till February 19, 2023. The exhibit is called World in Turmoil.

“A few kilometers from there is a place, more precisely a town, which I haven’t visited for a long time, but I always remember it. So I took advantage of your invitation to go and wander around there a little,” Marc Chagall said at the World YIVO Conference held in Vilnius (Wilno) on August 14, 1935.

This conference is mentioned in the artist’s biography and the catalog for the exhibit at that time. His journey back to Poland (now Lithuania) gave rise to works which appear unusual and dark for Chagall. His oeuvre is usually arranged chronologically, from his native Vitebsk, striving to reattain this magical homeland. In Vilnius Chagall comes as close as possible to actually returning.

Paideia Offering Unique Studies Program

Paideia Offering Unique Studies Program

The Paideia European Institute For Jewish Studies In Sweden located in Stockholm is offering a one-year program of study of the source texts for Jewish civilization and interdisciplinary exegesis.

The Paideia institute offers students Hebrew language at all levels and different disciplines within Jewish studies taught by academics from Israel, Europe and the USA.

Tuition is free and living stipends are available. Prior knowledge of Hebrew isn’t required and classes are taught in English. There are no upper-limit age restrictions for becoming a student.

The institute will hold an open-door day on January 24 over zoom. Register here shorturl.at/rwXY6. The deadline for submitting applications is January 31.

More information available here.

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

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

To mark the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust instituted by the United Nations in 2005, the Lithuanian Jewish Community will host a presentation of Vytautas Magnus University teacher Linas Venclauskas’s monograph about Lithuanian anti-Semitism and of Vytautas Toleikis’s book about the portrayal of Jews in Lithuanian literature.

The two presentations in Lithuanian begin at 6:00 P.M. on Thursday, January 26 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius. Note the United Nations’ International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. more commonly called International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is officially on Friday, January 27, to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex by the Soviet Red Army in 1945.

LJC Chairwoman Attending Conference of European Jewish Leaders in Israel

LJC Chairwoman Attending Conference of European Jewish Leaders in Israel

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky is attending a conference of European Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. The conference agenda includes meetings and discussions on relations between Israel and the Jewish communities abroad, current events and rising anti-Semitism.

Israeli president Isaac Herzog met with the chairwoman at his office and spoke about his Litvak roots, saying his great-grandfather Shmuel Yitzhak Hilman was born in Šeduva in 1868 and studied under his uncles in Pašvitinys outside Šiauliai and in Pasvalys. In 1897 he became rabbi for Berezino in the Minsk region. In 1908 he became rabbi for Glasgow in Scotland. Thousands attended his funeral in Jerusalem in 1953. His great-grandson Isaac was born in Tel Aviv in 1960.

Moabite Stone Does Reference King David

Moabite Stone Does Reference King David

Researchers have discovered additional evidence for written historical records referencing the biblical King David.

The Moabite Stone, also known as the Mesha stele, was discovered in 1868 at Dhibān (Dibon) about 15 miles east of the Dead Sea. The basalt stone slab was damaged by locals in 1869, but not before a papier-mâché cast was made. Pieces and fragments were collected and sent to Paris where they were reconstructed. It is still the major monument of the Moabite language.

The text on the stone is written in the first person of Moabite king Mesha (ca. 850-800 BC) who claimed to have led his warrior to victory against Israel, including recapturing cities and slaying their inhabitants. The text breaks off with about five lines missing at the end.

South African Jewish Report Invites You  to Private Internet Screening of J’Accuse!

South African Jewish Report Invites You to Private Internet Screening of J’Accuse!

J’ACCUSE! Lithuanian complicity in the Holocaust and its coverup

Date: 8:00 P.M. South African Standard Time (UTC +2, same time zone as Lithuania), Thursday, January 19, 2023

Register here:
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_t4pEdH4LR3ano0wwyzfEnA

What would you do if you discovered that your grandfather, a national hero in Lithuania, was also a genocidal killer of Jews? Would you keep quiet or expose the truth?

This controversial documentary exposes Lithuania’s policy of Holocaust denial and its celebration of the perpetrators of the genocide of its Jewish citizens.

This is a unique opportunity to view the documentary in full and meet the filmmakers and heroes of this ground-breaking story.

Please note that this is a private screening by invitation only. The recording of this internationally award-winning documentary will NOT be available on YouTube after the event.

Call to Teachers, Youth Workers: Two-Day Introduction to Roma, Jewish Communities

Call to Teachers, Youth Workers: Two-Day Introduction to Roma, Jewish Communities

The two days of activities are intended to teach the traditions and customs of the Roma and Jewish communities in Lithuania and to counter stereotypes and fight anti-Semitism and Romophobia at home and abroad in various contexts. This is the first time educators from Lithuania are being invited to meeting with representatives and lecturers from both communities. We believe these teachings will be helpful for teachers working with young people as well as for cultural workers in the towns and cities where Jewish heritage is undergoing restoration. Those who work with young people and representatives from NGOs are invited to attend. The two-day workshop begins in January at the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius with the participation of experts from the Lithuanian Human Rights Center and the Padėk Pritapti organization, and of course the Lithuanian Jewish Community as well. We invite you to share this invitation with your colleagues. For more information, click https://bit.ly/3PXEoTz. To register, click https://bit.ly/3jDbJa5. A program in Lithuanian is available here.

For more information, contact Dovilė Rūkaitė at projects@lzb.lt.