The Sabbath begins at 4:42 P.M. on Friday, February 3, and concludes at 6:00 P.M. on Saturday in the Vilnius region.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
The Sabbath begins at 4:28 P.M. on Friday, January 27, and concludes at 5:47 P.M. on Saturday in the Vilnius region.
On January 27, 1945, Red Army troops liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex. Sixty years later in 2005 the United Nations General Assembly turned the anniversary into a commemorative date, the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, more commonly known as Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest concentration camp complex and became the symbol of the Holocaust. From 1940 to 1945 a million or millions of people were murdered there, according to different estimates.
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.
Brussels, Wednesday, January 25, 2023–On the 78th anniversary of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, European Jewish Congress president Ariel Muzicant expressed his deep concern the critical lessons of the Holocaust are being forgotten.
“In today’s dangerous political climate where uncertainty and despair cloud our horizon, we need to continue fighting against those that threaten democracy and human rights,” Muzicant said. “We must not lose our determination to fight these forces, because if we refuse to fight, hatred and intolerance will prevail.”
“This year, as we also mark the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, those heroes and their ultimate sacrifice must be an inspiration to us all. Their legacy directs us to continue the fight against those who once again are challenging our societies with their discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism.”
Full text here.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
The Sabbath begins at 4:15 P.M. on Friday, January 20, and concludes at 5:35 P.M. on Saturday in the Vilnius region.
“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.
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.