News

Large Jewish Community Lived in Švenčionys Region Before Holocaust

Large Jewish Community Lived in Švenčionys Region Before Holocaust

The Švenčionys region of Lithuania is a multicultural place where Lithuanians live alongside Poles, Russians, Belarussians, Jews and people of other ethnicities.

The Švenčionys Jewish Community was reconstituted in 2013. It is now headed by the energetic Švenčionys native Moshe Shapiro (aka Moisiejus Šapiro).

There was a large Jewish community living in the Švenčionys region in the period between the two world wars. In fact there were five synagogues operating there.

Jews there set up an herbal pharmaceuticals factory and different workshops in the center of the town of Švenčionys. Jewish effort, initiative and expertise were involved in all fields of production and business.

Raimondas Savickas Outdoor Painting Workshop July 27-31

Raimondas Savickas Outdoor Painting Workshop July 27-31

Dear Community members,

Those with a penchant for painting and a love of art, the great outdoors and good company will surely not be disappointed by this year’s sixth annual plein air outdoor painting workshop. This year’s workshop will consist of 5 days and 4 nights at a scenic natural location with the noted painters Raimondas Savickas and Ramunė Savickaitė.

Participants will spend 4 nights at the Karvio Dvaras farm next to Lake Karvys in Paežeriai village in the Maišagala aldermanship in the Vilnius region (http://www.karviodvaras.lt/kontaktai) with three daily meals provided, and will attend practical activities with personal consultation with teachers, along with an educational and recreational program.

The fee is 190 euros per person. To register by July 15 and for further information, please write zanas@sc.lzb.lt or call +370 678 81 514 during working hours. Places are limited.

WJC Welcomes IHRA Members’ Strong Condemnation of Rehabilitation of Nazi Collaborators

WJC Welcomes IHRA Members’ Strong Condemnation of Rehabilitation of Nazi Collaborators

July 7, 2020, NEW YORK–Today the 35 member and liaison countries of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) issued a statement condemning “all attempts to rehabilitate the reputations of persons who were complicit in the crimes of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma.” The statement conveys the IHRA’s resolve to address the phenomenon within IHRA members.

World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder welcomed the move, adopted at the 2020 IHRA Berlin Plenary, as a clear sign of a commitment to oppose and isolate such efforts. He said, “Historical truth and accuracy need to be safeguarded for the sake of future generations. Any efforts to distort or deny the true facts of the Holocaust, including the rehabilitation or even glorification of Nazi collaborators, are extremely dangerous as they open the way to all kinds of racist and xenophobic movements.”

Lauder warned that “all societies need to remain vigilant, educate the population about the true facts of history and strongly condemn any efforts to challenge the historical record.”

The World Jewish Congress has long focused on advocating against the phenomenon of rehabilitation and glorification of Nazi collaborators, a widespread issue, particularly in post-Communist countries.

Lauder added, “Efforts to create false national narratives lead to a whitewash of countries’ histories during the Second World War. This rewriting of history, where the people of respective countries are represented as victims and heroes and never villains, can become fertile ground for blind nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, neo-Naziism and xenophobia.”

Addio, Maestro. In Memoriam: Ennio Morricone

Addio, Maestro. In Memoriam: Ennio Morricone

by Dr. Inna Rogatchi

Windy Morning

On July 6th, 2020, morning, I woke up at 5:21 A.M., almost three hours before my usual awakening. There was no reason for that, I thought at the moment. We still have white nights at this time in Finland so the sun was up for an hour or so. The air was completely clear but without that special morning serenity. I heard the noisy and persistent rustling of branches all around our house, non-stop rustling. The wind was mighty, the weather was stormy. Strange morning, I thought, not quite July-like. I felt like the wind was as if saying something. Not trying to say, but saying in an articulated way. I could not go back to sleep at all.

Full text here.

Litvak Heritage in Lithuania: Where to Find the Most Interesting Stories and Sites

Litvak Heritage in Lithuania: Where to Find the Most Interesting Stories and Sites

by Raimonda Mikalčiūtė-Urbonė, 15min.lt

The year 2020 has been named the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Litvak History, so this year is a good opportunity to discover the interesting and unique Jewish heritage sites we have right here in our own country.

So far this is niche tourism. Although there is an abundance of Jewish heritage sites in Vilnius, Kaunas and the regions, many tourists still don’t know, for example, when they’re vacationing in Palanga or Druskininkai, the Jewish histories of these resort towns. How can we get ethnic Lithuanians interested in the long and interesting history of the Litvaks and the sites which stand witness to this history? We discussed this with interlocutors in this article.

Faina Kukliansky: There Needs to Be a Common Litvak Heritage Policy

Kaunas Jewish Community Honors Our True National Heroes, Rescuers of Jews

Kaunas Jewish Community Honors Our True National Heroes, Rescuers of Jews

On June 25 the Kaunas Jewish Community paid honor to those who risked their own lives and those of their families to give the gift of life to those condemned to death. The people who rescued Jews were mainly quiet, everyday heroes, the Righteous Gentiles who are the real and unquestioned heroes of our country, heroes and heroines. On Thursday, June 25, the Kaunas Jewish Community was finally able to hold its annual evening to pay tribute to our Righteous Gentiles. Usually the event is held in spring just after Passover.

Kaunas Jewish Community members always look forward to the event, a meeting of friends. Time is merciless, however, and the ranks of rescuers and rescued grow thinner each year. Fortunately we have their children and grandchildren standing in for them, who are just as dear to us.

European Jewish Congress President Calls on Portuguese Parliament Not to Harm Sephardi Citizenship law

European Jewish Congress President Calls on Portuguese Parliament Not to Harm Sephardi Citizenship law

Thursday, July 2, 2020–European Jewish Congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor has written to Portugal’s president of the Assembly of the Republic Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues calling on him to insure that a law passed in 2013 which provides Sephardi Jews with the possibility to apply for Portuguese citizenship is not harmed by recent attempts to pass amendments which would damage the applicability, intention and spirit of the original law.

“I urge you to amend the administrative flaws in the implementation of this historic law without losing sight of, or endangering, what is essential: the opening of a real, achievable path to citizenship of the Portuguese Republic to the descendants of persecuted Portuguese Sephardic Jews,” Dr. Kantor wrote. “This act of tolerance and reconciliation is as relevant, symbolic and inspiring to other nations as it was when it was approved five years ago.”

In recent years there has been a discernible increase in the number of applications by Sephardi Jews for Portuguese citizenship, and some parliament members have sought ways to stem the numbers, including proposing that applicants must reside in Portugal or have a “effective connection” to the Iberian nation.

Lietūkis Garage Massacre Commemorated June 26

Lietūkis Garage Massacre Commemorated June 26

The Kaunas Jewish Community and members of the public gathered in Kaunas June 26 at the site of the infamous Lietūkis garage massacre of Jews by Lithuanians in the early days of the Holocaust in the last days of June of 1941. Relatives of victims attended as well. The ceremony was followed by kaddish for the Jews buried at the Slobodka (Vilijampolė) and Žaliakalnis Jewish cemeteries in Kaunas.

Brazilian Jewish Press Discusses LJC Response to Putin

Brazilian Jewish Press Discusses LJC Response to Putin

Lithuanian consul general in Sao Paulo Laura Tupe has sent notification to the two authors that their piece “Don’t Speak in Our Name, Mr. President of the Russian Federation” written especially for publication on the www.lzb.lt website, a response to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s article on World War II, was discussed in Kadimah, the Brazilian Jewish community magazine:

Judíos lituanos critican a Putin por “falsificar” la historia soviética

Los líderes de la comunidad lituana apuntaron contra el intento del presidente ruso de minimizar los crímenes soviéticos en el Báltico, afirmando que la población judía se convirtió en el grupo étnico más perseguido por la URSS durante la “esclavización” de Lituania después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial…

https://www.ynetespanol.com/actualidad/mundo-judio/article/r1Y0tAdAI

Congratulations to Ruth Reches on Becoming Principal of the Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium

Congratulations to Ruth Reches on Becoming Principal of the Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium

The Lithuanian Jewish Community, school students, parents and staff congratulate Ruth Reches on her selection to become the next principal of the Sholem Aleichem school in Vilnius. She had acted as temporary principal following the retirement of Miša Jokubas last year.

The world ORT organization has also sent congratulations to the new principal of their affiliate school.

Ruth has been doing an outstanding job as acting principal and we wish her continued success at the multicultural school which has consistently placed in the top ten best schools in Vilnius and Lithuania.

Ruth Reches recently earned a PhD in clinical psychology at an Israeli university following her master’s work at Vilnius University in the same subject. She has long worked at the Sholem Aleichem school as a Hebrew teacher and psychologist. She earned her teaching certificate in Vilnius as well at the Vilnius Pedagogical University.

Renowned German Historian Christoph Dieckmann Says Lithuanian Heroes Noreika, Škirpa Were Both Fascists

Renowned German Historian Christoph Dieckmann Says Lithuanian Heroes Noreika, Škirpa Were Both Fascists

by prof. Pinchos Fridberg

Vilnius

At 5:30 A.M. yesterday, July 2, 2020, the Lithuanian Public Radio and Television (LRT) web page posted an interview with noted German historian Christoph Dieckmann:

Vokiečių istorikas apie Holokaustą Lietuvoje: žydus priversdavo šokti, dainuoti, o tada sušaudydavo” [German Historian on Holocaust in Lithuania: Jews Were Forced to Sing, Dance, Then Were Shot]

The point of my text here is to point the reader’s attention to the phrase “Both of them were fascists.” To avoid mistakes, here is that portion of the interview which I captured:

Translation:

In the book you wrote the majority collaborated with the Nazis seeking to serve their country and led by a certain vision of the future of their country, usually a fascist one, to create an ethnically pure, militarily strong nation state. So didn’t Kazys Škirpa and Jonas Noreika also believe they were serving their country?

Both of them were fascists. Noreika became one while very young, Škirpa at a bit later age. Škirpa had a fascist vision of Lithuania, a Lithuania without Jews. He spoke out in favor of driving the Jews out rather than murdering them. Noreika held similar views, he saw a Lithuania without Jews because he believed they were powerful and hindered the creation of statehood. …]

P.S. The same day at 9:57 A.M. the LRT internet site posted an abbreviated translation of the interview in Russian.

It’s interesting to note that this passage was omitted in the Russian version.

Co-Chairs of Goodwill Foundation Send Letter to Parliamentary Speaker on Naming 2021 Year of Lukša-Daumantas

Co-Chairs of Goodwill Foundation Send Letter to Parliamentary Speaker on Naming 2021 Year of Lukša-Daumantas

July 2, 2020

His Excellency Viktoras Pranckietis
Speaker of the Seimas
Vilnius, Lithuania

Dear Speaker Pranckietis,

We are deeply troubled to learn that the Seimas will entertain a resolution which would dedicate 2021 the Year of Juozas Lukša-Daumantas, a leader of the World War II-era Lithuanian Activist Front.

The Lithuanian Activist Front was founded in Berlin and was an early ally of the Nazis in the occupation of Lithuania. It was proudly anti-Semitic, and many of its members were directly involved in the persecution and murder of Lithuanian Jews. Despite its anti-Soviet focus and later conflict with the Nazi powers, its vision of an independent Lithuania was of an ethnically “pure” homeland with no place for Jewish citizens.

Some may question if there is sufficient documentary evidence to show that Lukša-Daumantas was guilty of war crimes. That is not relevant to the decision before the Seimas. There is today a worldwide reckoning with history and growing recognition in all Western democracies that even past leaders of great accomplishment must forfeit any honor if they were also racists, bigots, or anti-Semites. Surely Lithuania should do no less.

With that in mind we implore you to take no action which might give honor to any leader of the Lithuanian Activist Front. Instead you should defer such matters to the International Commission for Evaluating the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes appointed by the Lithuanian president for a clear and critical understanding of this tragic period in the country’s history.

As co-chairpersons of the Lithuanian Goodwill Foundation, we have valued the warm cooperative relationship we have had with you since your first days as Speaker. We know we share a common commitment to maintain the legacy and history of Jewish life in Lithuania and to build an inclusive and tolerant future. It is in this spirit that we write to you.

With sincere regards,

Faina Kukliansky, Chairwoman, Lithuanian Jewish Community; Co-Chairperson, Goodwill Foundation

Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs; Co-Chairperson, Goodwill Foundation

Lithuanian Jewish Community Requests Information on Neo-Nazi Terrorist Act in Vilnius

Lithuanian Jewish Community Requests Information on Neo-Nazi Terrorist Act in Vilnius

June 29, 2020

To:
Israeli embassy to Lithuania
info@vilnius.mfa.gov.il

US embassy to Lithuania
WebEmailVilnius@state.gov

Lithuanian Foreign Ministry
urm@urm.lt

Last week Lithuania media reported an act of terrorism planned in Lithuania in 2019 and the arrest of a suspect in this case who allegedly belongs to the ultra-right extremist organization Feuerkrieg Division. The male suspect, born in 1999, left a homemade bomb at a building on Balčikonio street in Vilnius next to the Technopolis building and spray-painted the name of his organization and a swastika at the same location.

According to the news website 15min.lt, this extremist group targets Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, religious leaders and police.

The incident was only reported last week in mid-June of 2020 although the crime was allegedly committed in October of 2019.

For that reason the Lithuanian Jewish Community is requesting information from you on whether your institutions were informed last year about the attempted terrorist act and/or about the arrest of this person who belonged to a radical group.

The LJC is concerned the Community received no information about this, no one contacted us, and the police took no measures to insure security. While many Jewish communities in a number of European countries enjoy protection provided for by the state, the LJC in Lithuania has for many years now provided and paid for our own security at headquarters and the synagogue in Vilnius. In situations such as this one, the LJC believes the police and Lithuania’s State Security Department should contact LJC leaders and inform them of such events, all the more so since this ultra-right group targets Jews specifically.

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community

Neo-Nazi Terrorist Case Announced 8 Months Later

Neo-Nazi Terrorist Case Announced 8 Months Later

Photo montage courtesy LRT

Lithuania media are reporting a case against alleged neo-Nazi terrorist Gediminas Beržinskas went to court June 17. The case concerns his placing a homemade bomb outside a Western Union office in Vilnius and leaving neo-Nazi graffiti on the wall next to the bomb back on October 6, 2019. The bomb was quickly diffused by Lithuanian law enforcement bomb experts and the suspect was traced and arrested on October 15, 2019, despite trying to disguise himself from video cameras during the attempted bombing. Police and prosecutors are refusing to say why they hid the crime so long and are claiming at the same time there are no other suspects in the case and the accused acted alone.

Beržinskas allegedly used spray paint to write “FK Division,” “Siege” and to paint a swastika at the crime scene. Police and prosecutors say FK means “Feuerkrieg Division,” a now mostly-defunct group of right-wing neo-Nazi extremists who targeted Jews and others they considered non-white. Lithuanian police say their ideology was based on the book “Siege” by American neo-Nazi James Mason. According to police, Beržinskas’s bomb was functional and would have exploded with a force equivalent to 2.5 kilograms of TNT.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community believes police should have given some indication earlier of imminent terrorist activities against Jews in Vilnius in order to take better security precautions, security which the Community pays for out of its own pocket. We also wonder why other incidents of neo-Nazi activity including vandalism and graffiti aren’t investigated with even a fraction of the same enthusiasm shown when a foreign financial institution is involved.

Tsemakh Shabad Statue Vandalized

Tsemakh Shabad Statue Vandalized

The statue made by Lithuanian sculptor Romualdas Kvintas ensemble featuring Vilna Jewish doctor Tsemakh Shabad–the prototype for the Dr. Aybolit character in children’s poems and stories by the Russian writer Korney Chukovsky–and a child was vandalized with acid or paint.

The attack was the second over the weekend on Jewish monuments in the Vilnius Old Town. On June 26, the day before, the monument to the Vilna Gaon was also vandalized, also using acid or paint.

The Tsemakh Shabad was vandalized before soon after its unveiling in 2007 using acid. Some in the Lithuanian media are speculating the attacks are intended to mirror the wanton destruction of statues in the USA and UK by mobs. Meanwhile Lithuanian Nazi leader and Holocaust perpetrator Jonas Noreika’s shrine at the very center of Vilnius remains unharmed and under 24-hour surveillance by video cameras. Recently news media have reported on a repeat-offender intent on making her mark on statues around Vilnius even before the Black Lives Matter mass hysteria swept the United States. The elderly primary school teacher was arrested last year after police reviewed video surveillance showing her throwing red paint on an installation at Vilnius’s Lūkiškės Square intended to commemorate Lithuanian anti-Soviet partisans.

Vilna Gaon Monument Vandalized June 26

Vilna Gaon Monument Vandalized June 26

That statue commemorating the notional residence of the Vilna Gaon and the shulhoyf where the Great Synagogue and a number of other shuls once stood, built around the Gaon’s residence, was vandalized on June 26 using acid.

Don’t Speak in Our Name, Mr. President of the Russian Federation

Don’t Speak in Our Name, Mr. President of the Russian Federation

We read the article “The Real Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of World War II” by Russian president Vladimir Putin in the American conservative magazine National Interest and reprinted by media representing the Russian opposition and pro-government position.

We feel the need to share our thoughts with readers on the fate of Jews, citizens of Lithuania, as red totalitarianism was replaced by brown totalitarianism in our country.

Many of my relatives, those of the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and those of many citizens of Litvak origin were imprisoned in the Stutthof (liberated by the USSR) and Dachau (liberated by American forces) concentration camps. My mother and Faina Kukliansky’s mother miraculously survived Stutthof.