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Lithuanian Jewish Community Statement Regarding Recent Public Debates on Known Holocaust Perpetrators

Lithuanian Jewish Community Statement Regarding Recent Public Debates on Known Holocaust Perpetrators

On Political Responsibility in Judging Collaboration with Occupational Regimes

The Lithuanian Jewish Community expresses concern certain Lithuanian political forces and political figures, not possessing any legal or historical foundation to do so, are publicly and actively defending people, people whose tragic fates do not exonerate them from actions which are documented and have been assessed by authoritative and competent commissions constituted of historians including the International Commission to Assess the Crimes of the Soviet and Nazis Occupational Regimes in Lithuania, formed by presidential decree in 1998.

We call upon the political elite of the country to abstain from defending those whose reputations have been tarnished by their collaboration with the Nazis as well as the Soviets. We would remind them that this sort of public defense legally transgresses the internationally accepted definition of the crime of genocide adopted by the United Nations as well as the international definition of anti-Semitism which Lithuania has adopted. We would like to point out that these kinds of irresponsible statements in fact border upon Holocaust denial and should cease immediately. We hope for more understanding and support from the highest leaders of state in solving these and similar problems at the national level.

Jonas Noreika, or, Why Have We Been Collaborating with the Nazis for 30 Years?

Jonas Noreika, or, Why Have We Been Collaborating with the Nazis for 30 Years?

Photo: Jewish mass murder site and mass grave, Utena, Lithuania, 1944

by Liutauras Ulevičius

Is Lithuania ready today, almost 30 years after the restoration of independence, to investigate and try the people who murdered 4,609 Lithuanian citizens over three days in 1941? No. We will soon mark the 78th anniversary of that mass murder, but the independent democratic republic is unable to find the resources or the will to begin investigating, naming and prosecuting its own citizens, its own murderers.

Aren’t we all continuing and contributing to the commission of the crimes of the Holocaust of that time through our inaction?

Full text in Lithuanian here.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linkevičius: Jonas Noreika Complicit in Establishing Ghetto

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linkevičius: Jonas Noreika Complicit in Establishing Ghetto

Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius recommended the findings of experts be heeded in public discussions on the commemoration of historical figures.

Commenting on controversy surrounding the removal of a plaque commemorating Jonas Noreika, the Lithuanian foreign minister pointed to findings by Lithuania’s International Commission for the Assessment of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania regarding Noreika.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

LJC Chairwoman Debates Ultra-Nationalist MP on Lithuanian TV

LJC Chairwoman Debates Ultra-Nationalist MP on Lithuanian TV

Lietuvos rytas, a television station, newspaper and website, broadcasted Tuesday an interview/discussion with Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and Conservative Party/Christian Democratic Union MP Laurynas Kasčiūnas on Saturday’s removal of a plaque commemorating Nazi collaborator Jonas Noreika from central Vilnius Saturday.

Kasčiūnas said he and people of like mind have asked the Lithuanian Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the removal of the plaque by Vilnius major Remigijus Šimašius for possibly violating the public interest and the principles of the rule of law. He quoted a finding by the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania–a state-funded, state-administered historical research agency–claiming the Center found Noreika had not collaborated with the Nazis.

Kasčiūnas dominated the interview and spoke rapid-fire according to Conservative Party talking points, repeating claims made by other ultra-nationalists in recent days. When the hostess asked chairwoman Kukliansky to respond to Kasčiūnas’s initial barrage of falsifications, disinformation and half-truths, she asked whether anyone had finally determined who commissioned the Noreika plaque in the first place. Kasčiūnas claimed Šimašius had produced documentation showing the Vilnius city municipality commissioned and paid for the plaque in 1997 or 1998. This appears to be a key point in the entire story and could be of vital importance in legal challenges to Šimašius’s move in the future.

Lithuanian President Calls for Discussion on National Commemoration Policies

Lithuanian President Calls for Discussion on National Commemoration Policies

Note: The Vilnius municipality held widely-announced public discussions with a panel of historians and political figures on the subject of renaming and removing streets and monuments honoring Holocaust perpetrators at least twice in the last four years as well as engaging the public and concerned communities in Lithuania and abroad in numerous other ways regarding this issue.

Press release from the President’s Communications Group

Tuesday, July 30, Vilnius. Recently decisions made by the Vilnius city municipality have caused public discussion and have shown again historical memory shouldn’t be question for just one city or municipality to decide.

Wishing to solve this problem comprehensively rather than exacerbating the opposition between social groups holding a different view, Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda invites institutions and experts to come together in discussions which would serve as the basis for the formulation of the principles and regulation of a national commemorative policy which responsible parties who make decisions about the determination of commemoration of historical events should follow.

LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky: My Family Was Imprisoned in the Ghetto Jonas Noreika Established

LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky: My Family Was Imprisoned in the Ghetto Jonas Noreika Established

Two important events of significance to the cause of historical justice took place in Lithuania last week: the alley named after Nazi ideologue Kazys Škirpa was renamed Tricolor Alley and a plaque commemorating Jonas Noreika was taken down.

The Vilnius city council voted to rename Škirpa Alley Tricolor Alley July 24. The Lithuanian Jewish Community has been calling for this change for many years.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky personally thanked Vilnius mayor Remigijui Šimašius and members of the city council for supporting the measure to change the name of Škirpa Alley to Tricolor Alley. The mayor delivered a compelling and inspiring speech before the vote which led to the favorable outcome. The Lithuanian Jewish Community also thanks all the many politicians and historians who showed leadership and adopted the reasonable position which doesn’t offend Jews domestically and abroad.

Dyed-in-the-wool nationalists opposed the decision, picketed city hall and tried to disrupt the proceedings.

Vilnius Mayor Removes Controversial Jonas Noreika Plaque

Vilnius Mayor Removes Controversial Jonas Noreika Plaque

A controversial plaque commemorating Lithuanian Nazi collaborator Jonas Noreika came down from the walls of the central Vilnius Academy of Sciences in the early hours of Saturday, July 27.

The take-down was ordered by Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius, according to Lithuanian media reports. In April Šimašius baffled the public and political observers by waffling on the presence of the granite plaque following an incident where Lithuanian human rights advocate and attorney Stanislovas Tomas seemingly destroyed it with a sledgehammer. The next day mayor Šimašius said the sign would not be replaced, but the day after that promised it would be put back immediately. The smashed plaque was repaired and put back on the outer wall of the Academy of Sciences building.

Vilnius City Council Renames Škirpa Alley to Tricolor Alley

Vilnius City Council Renames Škirpa Alley to Tricolor Alley

The alley named after interwar Lithuanian diplomat Kazys Škirpa has a new name: the city council today approved the proposal to rename the street in the Vilnius old town next to Gediminas Hill Tricolor Alley.

The city council also approved a proposal by the Labor Party faction in the council to erect an information board on Tricolor Alley to showcase how Škirpa and compatriots resisted the Soviets.

Škirpa is a controversial historical figure. According to the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, the organization he commanded raised anti-Semitism to the political level and that could have incited some Lithuanians to commit Holocaust crimes. The Center says despite that Škirpa’s organization sought to solve “the Jewish problem” by deporting Jews out of Lithuania, not through genocide, and that members of that organization were not allowed to know beforehand the Nazis planned the total extermination of all Jews.

Memorial to Jewish Community Unveiled in Jurbarkas by Ilanit Chernic

Memorial to Jewish Community Unveiled in Jurbarkas by Ilanit Chernic

Diaspora by Ilnit Chernic

A memorial commemorating the extinct Jewish community of Jurbarkas in western Lithuania was dedicated this weekend.
World-renowned Israeli designer and sculptor David Zundelovich said his Synagogue Square Memorial “is dedicated to [the] many generations of the Jewish people [who lived] in this town, and the tragic end of this community.
Jews settled in Jurbarkas during the 17th century. By 1790, the town was home to over 2,500 Jews and boasted a wooden shul and a cemetery, both believed to be among the oldest in the region.

By the late 19th and early 20th Century, the community was thriving with schools, synagogues and businesses, with Jews making up between 32% and 43% of the town’s population over the decades.

Jurbarkas’s Jewish community came to a tragic end, along with hundreds of years of Jewish history, when the Nazis invaded Lithuania in June 1941.

Walking Tour to Remember Lost Shtetl of Jonava

Walking Tour to Remember Lost Shtetl of Jonava

The Jonava Regional History Museum invites the public to attend a walking tour of Jewish sites in the now-lost shtetl at 6:00 P.M. on July 19, starting in the courtyard of the museum. Participants will walk through the former Jewish section of the town and learn about the Jewish history of Jonava. The tour will follow the motifs in Grigory Kanovich’s novel Shtetl Love Story. For more information, visit the Jonava Tourism Information Center or call +37061421906

Vilnius City Council to Decide Again on Renaming Škirpa Alley July 24

Vilnius City Council to Decide Again on Renaming Škirpa Alley July 24

The Lithuanian Jewish Community presents the opinion of the historian Dr. Norbertas Černiauskas concerning the issue of renaming a central Vilnius street now named after Lithuanian Nazi ideologue Kazys Škirpa. On July 10 the city council postponed making a decision until July 24 on renaming the street Tricolor Alley in remembrance of Škirpa’s act at the dawn of interwar Lithuanian independence, placing the Lithuanian tricolor flag atop the tower of Gediminas overlooking central Vilnius.

Dr. Norbertas Černiauskas:

The issue of the name of the alley which runs along the Vilnelė creek long ago became no longer an issue of history or a matter connected with the discovery of some additional documents. This is a matter of political culture and communal empathy now.

Both the International Commission for the Assessment of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania and the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania along with other major researchers on the Holocaust in Lithuania have stated in their works the Lithuanian Activist Front commanded by Škirpa, despite all the patriotic, anti-Soviet and “the creation of a New Lithuania” rhetoric, promoted political (not personal) anti-Semitism which was transmitted via various channels to Soviet-occupied Lithuania as well.

Great Synagogue Complex in Vilnius Most Significant Synagogue Site in Europe

Great Synagogue Complex in Vilnius Most Significant Synagogue Site in Europe

Honored guests and media representatives viewed the unique finds from this summer’s dig at the Great Synagogue complex in Vilnius July 18.

Lithuanian Government vice-chancellor Deividas Matulionis spoke at the press conference, stressing the special significance of the Great Synagogue complex, or Shulhoyf.

Deputy Lithuanian foreign minister Darius Skusevičius welcomed guests and reminded journalists 2020 has been named the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Litvak History. He expressed hopes for appropriate decision-making to preserve the site damaged during the war and razed by the Soviets for posterity.

Lithuanian Jewish Community and Goodwill Foundation chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said: “Probably Vilnius Jews are the happiest about what has been discovered during excavation of this Vilnius Acropolis. Some of the inscriptions which have now been uncovered on the bima of the Great Synagogue are truly sensational and we must thank this entire group of archaeologists who have worked so conscientiously throughout the digging and have found such incredible things. We don’t have the financial resources to allocate additional funds for continuing the excavation, but everything which has been discovered so far are finds of global significance.”

Ninth Fort in Kaunas Holds Ghetto Commemoration

Ninth Fort in Kaunas Holds Ghetto Commemoration

On July 11 the Ninth Fort Museum in Kaunas held an evening to remember the Kaunas ghetto. The audience gathered to mark the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the ghetto in Kaunas and were offered a chance to take a guided tour.

After the tour the film Devil’s Arithmetic (made-for-TV movie, 1999, directed by Donna Deitch, filmed in Canada and Lithuania) was screened at the museum. According to imdb.com:

“A 16-year-old American girl with an apathetic view towards her Jewish family history finds herself pulled through time into 1941 to a small Polish village where the Nazis have just began their genocidal propaganda.”

Museum staff and the audience engaged in a discussion following the film.

Information from the Ninth Fort Museum

Holocaust Survivors Meet German President Steinmeier

Holocaust Survivors Meet German President Steinmeier

Members of Lithuania’s Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Victims visited Berlin from June 10 to 21 and visited German federal president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to whom they gave a gift, the German translation of Markas Petuchauskas’s book Price of Concord. Union members also saw the sights in Berlin. The Maximilian-Kolbe-Werk humanitarian foundation organized the visit.

Thank You From Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel

Dear Faina Kukliansky

Thank you.

As chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, and in the name of all of our members I wish to express our sincere gratitude for your support and participation in the events memorializing the liquidation of the Kovno Ghetto and the Siauliai Ghetto.

We appreciate your good will and hospitality, and hope you will share our appreciation with your members, families and colleagues.

This was an outstanding demonstration of co-operation between Lithuanian and Israeli authorities, national and municipal, and between the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel and the Lietuvos Žydų Bendruomenė (Lithuanian Jewish Community), and the Jewish Communities of Kaunas and Siauliai.

Respectfully,

Arie Ben-Ari Grodzensky, chairman
Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel

Holocaust Archaeology: A Race against Time as Eye-Witnesses Pass Away

Holocaust Archaeology: A Race against Time as Eye-Witnesses Pass Away

by Geoff Vasil

What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a presentation of Dr. Richard Freund’s book “The Archeology of the Holocaust. Vilna, Rhodes and Escape Tunnels” Tuesday evening with slide-show presentations by Harry Jol, Philip Reeder, Paul Bauman and Alastair Clymont as well as Freund. This group of archaeologists has been working on the Great Synagogue site in Vilnius for several years now, as well as Holocaust sites in Lithuania including their discovery of the escape tunnel of the burners’ brigade at Ponar, which became the main topic of a documentary aired by the Nova program on the PBS network in the United States.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky greeted the audience and introduced the topic and speakers, thanking the archaeologists for their important work on Lithuanian Jewish heritage.

Marcus Micheli, deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Vilnius, spoke next. The US diplomat also called the archaeologists’ work crucial and said it had given rise to new conservations about the painful past.

Unique Finds as Work Ends for Summer at Great Synagogue Site in Vilnius

Unique Finds as Work Ends for Summer at Great Synagogue Site in Vilnius

Press release

As archaeological work concludes for the summer season of 2019, archaeologists are reporting a number of unique discoveries.

The press is invited to the unveiling of the discoveries at 11:00 A.M. on Thursday, July 18, features hitherto not found in historical sources and blue prints. This includes a basement chamber under the central bimah which likely collapsed before World War II when the synagogue was still in use. This probable collapse preserved gold-plated memorial plates with inscriptions in Hebrew characters. Also among the new discoveries is a silver coin from the late 18th century bearing the likeness of Catherine the Great. Lithuanian archaeologist Justinas Račas called the finds “of global significance, a unique discovery, and there have been no other basements discovered under bimahs in Lithuania.”

The Goodwill Foundation contributes financially to the archaeological research at the former Great Synagogue in Vilnius. Other project partners include the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Israeli Antiquities Authority and the City of Vilnius.

Lithuanian Jewish Community and Goodwill Foundation chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Israeli Antiquities Authority archaeologist Jon Seligman and Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Protection Department archaeologist Justinas Račas will reveal these historic discoveries to media representatives and officials at 11:00 A.M. on Thursday, July 18, at Vokiečių street no. 3a in Vilnius.