News

The Victor Speaks


by Grant Arthur Gohcin

Adolf Hitler was the greatest hero who ever lived. He restored Germany to greatness and corrected the German economy, or so the messaging would have been had Nazis won WWII. After all, history is written by the victors.

Jews were the greatest losers of the war. Our people were decimated, our future burned in the crematoria of the European death camps, usually with the maximum of personal humiliation and torture before their deaths. We would have been a forgotten footnote in history had not America entered and ultimately ended the war. Every Jewish child murdered was our future stolen. Today the 6,000,000 murdered would have been many times that number, we would have been a large and strong people. The adversity Israel and Jews currently face is partly because our population numbers are so small. We are revisited with the consequences of the slaughter every day.

Rescuers of Jews: The Great Lesson for Humanity

Press Service of the Office of the President of the Republic of Lithuania

September 21, Vilnius–Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė decorated Lithuanian citizens who risked their lives and those of their families to save Jews during the Holocaust with the Order of the Life Saver’s Cross Friday.

This year is the 77th anniversary of the Holocaust and on September 23 it will have been exactly 75 years since the final destruction of the Vilnius ghetto. On the occasion of the Day of Remembrance of Lithuanian Jewish Victims of Genocide, 39 Jewish rescuers were recognized. Most of them are no longer among the living, so their descendants and other relatives attended the ceremony and received the awards.

The Lithuanian head of state said every time we remember the victims of the Holocaust we also remember those who rescued Jews, and that this is a great lesson in sacrifice and courage for humanity. She said those attending the ceremony were a living bridge between today and those times of brutality and extraordinary altruism.

Full text here.

Internet Petition for Immediate Removal of Noreika Plaque

A Lithuanian internet petition is circulating for the immediate removal of a plaque commemorating Jonas Noreika from the side of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences building in central Vilnius.

The petitioners on the webpage say:

“After new facts have surfaced regarding Jonas Noreika’s, aka General Vėtra’s role in establishing the Šiauliai ghetto, organizing the ‘isolation’ of Jewish Lithuanian citizens, the appropriation of their property, their imprisonment and other collaboration with Holocaust perpetrators during World War II, we call for the immediate removal of the plaque commemorating Jonas Noreika from the building of the Vrublevskiai Libary of the Lithuanian Academy of Science.”

Lauded earlier as a freedom fighter during the Nazi and Soviet occupations and even awarded posthumously and by presidential decree one of the highest distinctions of the Lithuanian state, Noreika’s role in the commission of Holocaust crimes has come under increasing scrutiny recently and has even attracted international media attention.

According to the website, the petition was initiated by B. Ušinskaitė on September 20, 2018, and is addressed to the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, the mayor of Vilnius, the Vilnius municipality, the Government of the Republic of Lithuania and the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry.

Petition website here.

Rescuers of Jews: The Great Lesson for Humanity

Friday, 21 September, Vilnius–President Dalia Grybauskaitė awarded the Life Saving Cross to Lithuanian citizens who risked their lives and the lives of their families to rescue Jews from death and persecution during World War II.

This year marks the 77th anniversary of the Holocaust in Lithuania, and on September 23 we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Vilnius Ghetto. State decorations were awarded to 39 rescuers of Jews on the occasion of the National Memorial Day for the Genocide of Lithuanian Jews. Most of them have already passed away, so the ceremony was attended by their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other family members.

According to the president, each time that we honor the memory of the Holocaust victims, we remember their rescuers and the great lesson of humanity, sacrifice and courage. Those attending the ceremony are the living bond between the present and the past marked by both brutality and compassion.

The president underlined that we were proud of every Lithuanian who dared to stand up in the whirlwind of a brutal war and fight evil with the goodness of their heart. It was action over words: the decision to open the door and share life. And fate. They did not know how it would end, but they took the risk.

The president extended her gratitude to all the rescuers and called upon all to cherish the memory of the Righteous Among the Nations and the light they had left behind.

Press Service of the President

Full text here.

Events to Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Destruction of the Vilnius Ghetto

September 21

10:00 A.M. Ceremony at the President’s Office to award rescuers of Jews the Order of the Life Saver’s Cross (by invitation only)

3:00 P.M. Ceremony for the erection of a stele marking the future site of a monument to Righteous Gentiles in the green space behind the Church of the Assumption and the Missionaries’ Monastery located at Subačiaus street no 28 in Vilnius and accessible from Maironio street (near the former Rosa Square)

September 22

6:00 P.M. Premiere of the play Ghetto, National Drama Theater, Laisvės prospect no. 71, Kaunas

September 23

10:00 A.M. Reading of the names at the Choral Synagogue, Pylimo street no. 39, Vilnius

12:00 noon Reading of passages from Yitzhak Rudashevski’s ghetto diary, Rūdininkų square, Rūdininkų street, Vilnius

2:30 P.M. Commemoration at the Ponar mass murder site, Ponar Memorial Complex, Agrastų street, Vilnius. Bus departs LJC at 1:00 P.M.

Exact time to be announced: Pope Francis commemorates Holocaust victims in the former ghetto in Vilnius Old Town

6:00 P.M. World premiere of “Under the Star of David” by the Giedrius Kuprevičius chamber symphony, Vaidila Theater, Jakšto street no. 9, Vilnius

Vilnius Mayor Not Ready to Remove Noreika Plaque, Jewish Community and Intellectuals Ignored

A roundtable discussion led by Edmundas Jakilaitis on Delfi TV’s Center of Attention program on September 19, 2018.

In a few days the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Vilnius ghetto will be observed. What should Lithuania do with monuments to Nazi collaborators who fought for Lithuania’s freedom? Recently Lithuania has come to the center of attention of the most important global media because of these statues. Should calls by the country’s major thinkers and the requests by the Jewish community be taken to heart and memorial plaques removed and statues taken down? Should the president rescind state awards granted them?

On Delfi Center of Attention we have Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, journalist and publicist Rimvydas Valatka and historian and politician Arvydas Anušauskas. Also on the program: commentary by world-famous Lithuanian writer, poet and professor Tomas Venclova and Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius.

Mrs. Kukliansky, yesterday you held an event at the Jonas Noreika memorial plaque, you read the names of Jews murdered in the Šiauliai ghetto. Why?

Kukliansky: Because we didn’t see any other way to bring the public’s attention to the fact the plaque is located there, on the side of the Academy of Sciences building, honoring, in our understanding, a person who collaborated with the Nazis. We’re not just saying this, but in possession of a finding by the Center for the Study of the Resistance and Genocide of Residents of Lithuania. Perhaps the center or other leaders upon whom the erection and removal of the plaque depend do not consider isolation of Jews collaboration with the Nazis, but we think that if only this had taken place, that Mr. Noreika isolated Jews, that would be sufficient to say this person should not be honored in public spaces.

Pope’s Prayer in Ghetto Important to Holocaust Survivors and Rescuers

Vilnius, September 19, BNS–Pope Francis plans to say a silent prayer in the former Jewish ghetto in Vilnius on the 75th anniversary of its final destruction.

Lithuanian Jews say this gesture is important to both Holocaust victims and Christians who rescued Jews.

“We are overjoyed the Pope is sending a message to the world by honoring the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the ghetto. I hope he includes in his thoughts the Christians who rescued Jews as well,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky told BNS.

“It is a great honor the Pope is visiting us, without regard that we belong to a different faith. We are citizens of this country and we are so glad this visit is taking place on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the restoration of the state. This is an extraordinary pope. He is very democratic and is fighting valiantly against violence,” she said.

Pope Francis is scheduled to honor the victims of the ghetto at Rūdninkų square in Vilnius on September 23. The final destruction of the Vilnius ghetto including what is now the square took place on September 23, 1943.

Full text in Lithuanian available here.

Lithuanian ForMin Linkevičius Calls for Immediate Removal of Noreika Plaque


BNS, September 19, Vilnius–Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius has called upon Lithuanian institutions to remove a plaque honoring Jonas Noreika from the city center in Vilnius after assessing his collaboration with the Nazis.

The foreign minister said an honest assessment of history will aid in countering propaganda against the small Baltic country and attempts to blacken the reputation of Lithuanian freedom fighters.

“We shouldn’t be helping the propagandists. We should respond in principle when undisputed facts are raised about immoral behavior and Nazi collaboration by separate individuals,” Linkevičius told BNS Wednesday.

“The case of Jonas Noreika is just such an example. His life was varied and it is true he was imprisoned in a concentration camp and fought for Lithuania. At the same time, I have copies of documents right here in front of me which testify to [his] clear collaboration with the Nazis, establishing Jewish ghettos and seizing Jewish property,” the Lithuanian foreign minister said.

“The municipality, the [Lithuanian] Academy of Sciences and the Vrublevskai Library [Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences] shouldn’t keep pushing responsibility from one to the other and should take measures to get rid of this plaque. We shouldn’t be waffling on this,” he continued.

Yom Kippur at the Choral Synagogue

Program of events for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius

Sunday, September 16

2:30-4:30 P.M. Preparations for Yom Kippur: lessons, kapparot (kappores) ritual

Tuesday, September 18

6:00 P.M. meal before fast
7:00 Kol Nidre
7:10 P.M. beginning of fast

Wednesday, September 19

9:30 A.M. Shacharit morning prayer
12:30 P.M. Izkor prayer
6:15 P.M. Mincha prayer
7:15 P.M. Niila prayer
8:19 P.M. end of fast, meal

Picking at an Old Wound: General Vėtra Becomes Test for Lithuania

by Mindaugas Jackevičius, www.lrt.lt

Lithuania’s Jews have asked for a memorial plaque commemorating the officer Jonas Noreika to be removed from a library located in the center of Vilnius by September 23. The influential newspaper the New York Times put Lithuania and Noreika on the front page last week and called the issue of the officer a test for Lithuania.

The Lithuanian side isn’t sure how to react to all this attention. Historians claim they have investigated all of it: Noreika, aka General Vėtra, didn’t murder Jews but did collaborate with the Nazis. Arūnas Gumuliauskas, the chairman of the parliament’s State Commission for Historical Memory, called the articles amateur but wouldn’t say whether the Noreika plaque should be taken down.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Condolences

With deep sadness we report the death of Nikolai Vainer on September 18 of this year. He was born in 1924. Our deepest condolences to his family on their loss.

Rosh Hashanah at the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community

The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year 5779. Cilė Gleizer reminded the audience of the meaning and traditions of the holiday. Frida Šteinienė lit the candles and said a prayer to kick off the celebration. Community chairman Naum Gleizer greeted members and wished everyone a good, healthy and sweet new year. He delivered greetings from the Panevėžys Jewish Community and from former residents of Šiauliai now resident in Israel.

The holiday table contained the tradition dishes–challa, apples and honey, pomegranates and gefilte fish, the latter prepared by Maja Burštein. The traditional treats of teiglakh, imberlakh, apple pie and other sweets were made by Frida Šteinienė, Irina Pres and Cilė Gleizer.

Vadim Kamrazer and his daughter Sofija performed live Jewish music and song. The celebration was much enjoyed by young and old alike. Everyone received the new calendar for 5779.

Polish Exile Government’s Council to Aid Jews Featured in New Exhibit


Polish foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz and Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Viktoras Pranckietis hold LJC calendars for the new year 5779 dedicated to the children of the Holocaust

To mark the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Vilnius ghetto and to celebrate the Year of Irena Senderlowa, the embassy of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Institute in Vilnius in cooperation with the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Lithuanian parliament presented the exhibit “Żegota: The Council to Aid Jews” at the Lithuanian parliament. The exhibit was made by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance. It was first shown at the Ninth Fort in Kaunas earlier this year.

The Council to Aid Jews was a Polish underground humanitarian organization operating during World War II as an institution of the Polish Government in Exile and provided aid to Jews inside and outside the ghettos. The organization went by the code name Żegota. The exhibit details the founding and activities of Żegota and commemorates its major heroes and some of those whom it rescued. Risking their lives, the civilian conspirators rescued at least several thousand people from death. Poles risked their lives to save their compatriots and opposed the Nazis’ doctrine of hate. In Poland, unlike Western Europe, people were executed for helping Jews. Of the more than 26,500 people recognized by Israel as Righteous Gentiles, more than 6,700 are Poles. The true number in Poland, as in Lithuania, is probably higher and many Righteous Gentiles remain unrecognized.

The exhibit opened with a ceremony in Building III of the Lithuanian parliament at 4:00 P.M. on September 13, 2018, and was attended by Polish foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz, Lithuanian MP Arūnas Gelūnas and Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, among others. The exhibit was organized in Lithuania by Polish ambassador to Lithuania Urszula Doroszewska, ambassadorial advisor Marcin Łapczyński, the Polish Institute in Vilnius, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the parliament of the Republic of Lithuania.

Sixth Annual Klezmer Music Festival 2018 Presents Two Legends of the Century

A concert by various performers dedicated to the composers Anatolijus Šenderovas and Vyacheslav Ganelin. Anatolijus Šenderovas and Vyacheslav Ganelin meet as chamber music composers and speak with the audience.

Where: Tolerance Center, Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, Naugarduko street 10 /2, Vilnius
When: 6:30 P.M., September 17, 2018

For more information contact Arkadijus Gotesmanas by email at gotesmanas@yahoo.com or call 863466675.

Under the Star of David

6:00 P.M., September 23, 2018
Vaidila Theater, Jakšto street no 9, Vilnius

World premier of Giedrius Kuprevičius’s chamber symphony, a twelve-part chamber symphony for tenor, clarinet in B, two violins, 2 cellos and piano.

The new season of Vaidila Classics will open September 23 with a modern classical concert called Under the Star of David to commemorate the Holocaust. This is an impressive and moving 12-part chamber symphony composed by maestro Giedrius Kuprevičius. Adding charm to the piece is the inclusion of an ancient Hebrew melody deciphered by Haik Vantoura and poetry written especially for this piece by the poet Violeta Palčinskaitė. The maestro and the performers–Lietuvos Jeruzalė, the American Virtuosi and the tenor Rafailas Karpis–want to commemorate every Holocaust victim with their music.

American Virtuosi Perform in Panevėžys

For the third time the American Virtuosi led by Charles Borowsky have toured Lithuania with concerts in Vilnius, Kaunas, Panevėžys and Alytus. The event was organized by violinist Boris Traub from Vilnius and Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman as a gift to local residents in celebration of Panevėžys’s birthday, the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Lithuanian statehood, the Jewish new year and in the run-up to September 23, the Day of Remembrance of Lithuanian Jewish Victims of Genocide. The family band began their visit to Panevėžys with a visit to the mass murder site in Kurganova, then toured the Panevėžys Art Galley and historic sites in Panevėžys.

Deputy administrator of the Panevėžys municipality Sandra Jakštienė spoke: “Music is the best bridge uniting the people of the whole world. That has been the attitude of this ensemble from the very beginning of their activities. The American Virtuosi have toured in China, Cuba, Viet Nam, Germany and other countries of the world, they have visited more than 80 countries of the world and have received acclaim everywhere. Professor Cecilia Borowsky on cello, as with her husband professor Charles, have created a music group to show the world the family has great potential, raising their children with a positive attitude towards life, their son Dr. Emmanuel on violin and daughter Elizabeth on piano. The family has consistently demonstrated that music can stimulate thought and creativity, and can become the catalyst for human relations. The concerts and courses in excellence by the Borowsky family are noted for their solo and chamber music and the expression of the personality of each member of the family.”

Rosh Hashanah at the Panevėžys Jewish Community

Members of the Panevėžys Jewish Community celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, on September 9 at the Parko street restaurant. The event began with the lighting of candles, the blessing was read and good wishes were made to friends and relatives. Michailas Grafmanas blew the shofar horn to usher in the new year 5779. Community chairman Gennady Kofman read the prayer of repentance and hope and Community members greeted one another with the wish God would author them a good coming year.

Guests included city council member A. Petrauskas and the history teacher V. Jakonis from Biržai, Lithuania.

The holiday table included challa, pomegranates, apples and honey. Fish was also served along with other traditional Jewish dishes. The celebration included songs and poetry by children who were rewarded for their work. There was also dancing and different games.

Embrace the Past Tense

A concert to commemorate Holocaust victims will be performed on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto. Tenor Rafail Karpis, pianist Darius Mažintas and poet Sergejus Kanovičius present Embrace the Past Tense.

Can Yiddish and Lithuanian meet under one roof?
Do you know it’s a lullaby if it’s in a language you don’t understand?
Is dialogue possible between spoken Lithuanian and sung Yiddish?
Can love, longing and regret meet in memory?

6:00 P.M., September 26
Applied Art and Design Hall,
Arsenalo street no. 3A, Vilnius
Admission free

For more information write info@lzb.lt or call +370 672 40942

Event sponsors: Lithuanian Jewish Community, Government of the Republic of Lithuania