The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to remember the victims on the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust with a special ceremony at 1:00 P.M. on Monday, January 27, 2020, on the third floor of the LJC in Vilnius. The program includes lighting candles, the opening of Lev Saksonov’s Holocaust exhibit and an opportunity to speak with living witnesses of the Holocaust and relatives of rescuers.
Lithuanian public radio and television posted an article on their news website containing what appears to be the speech Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda would have delivered at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum commemoration at Yad Vashem in Israel Thursday. The Lithuanian president canceled his trip there at the last minute apparently in solidarity with Polish president Andrzej Duda, who declined the initial invitation to the event saying it was strange he wouldn’t be allowed to speak there while Vladimir Putin would. Lithuanian public radio and television or LRT quoted the Lithuanian president from “a book published by Yad Vashem.”
“I want to express the deepest respect for the millions of Jews murdered in the Shoa. I bow my head in honor and memory of the two hundred thousand who were my countrymen. The tragedy of the Jews of Lithuania is Lithuania’s tragedy.
“We don’t have the power to raise from the dead the innocent victims, the men, women and children. We probably cannot ease the pain of those who lost their family members and loved ones. Even 75 years after the suffering is still felt, it is alive. There is only one thing which we can and must do. That is honoring the memory of the victims of the Shoa. Each of us can do that in his own way, by lighting a candle and saying a prayer. We can pledge to discover the historical truth. The only way to come to terms with history is to find the truth and to proclaim it loudly.”
Miša Jakobas has retired as principal of the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius. Lithuanian public radio and television conducted the following in-depth interview with him about education, life and his thoughts about the future.
Miša Jakobas Talks about Problems in Lithuanian Education after Leaving Jewish Gymnasium
by Aida Murauskaitė, LRT.lt
At the beginning of January the former Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium principal and mathematics teacher took on a new job having nothing in common with the school, except that it does have something in common with Jews and math. He is now the executive director of the Lithuanian-Israeli Chamber of Commerce.
After half of a century you have left your job as teacher and the gymnasium which you yourself established three decades ago. How did you come to this decision?
Photo: Yad Vashem, courtesy Moshe Shai/Flash90
JERUSALEM (JTA)–A major gathering of world leaders in Jerusalem meant to highlight the world’s determination to learn the lessons of the Holocaust has become mired in controversy even before it started, dragging Israel into a battle over history debates still raging in Europe three-quarters of a century after the end of World War II.
Some 46 presidents, princes and prime ministers are due to converge on the Israeli capital on Thursday for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, an event organized by president Reuven Rivlin, Yad Vashem and the Israeli Foreign Ministry to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The brainchild of European Jewish Congress head Moshe Kantor, the event will feature addresses by the leaders of Germany and Allied nations, including Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Kantor asserted the event’s purpose was “to discuss moral status of the world, to examine the situation of civil societies and work together to address threats and dangers.” That message, however, is proving to be at odds with divisions the event has generated.
Full story here.
President Nausėda of Lithuania has announced that he will NOT attend the World Holocaust Forum on January 23. He objects to Russia being a speaker at the forum while he wasn’t invited to speak. Lithuania accuses Russia of distorting history, so let us examine Lithuania.
Christmas of 2019 presented bountiful gifts for Lithuanian fascists and Holocaust deniers. The Lithuanian Government presented a false report that Jonas Noreika had not murdered Jews; rather, he was a rescuer. It published this fairy tale through Baltic News Service. The story is as credible as Santa coming down the chimney with gifts.
Father Jonas Borevičius was a friend of the Noreika family in Lithuania while Jonas Noreika was perpetrating his war crimes. When the Soviets entered Lithuania and put a stop to the murders of Jews, Noreika’s wife, sister and daughter fled. The USA declined them visas, so instead they went to Argentina because Noreika’s older brother Stasys was living there on a farm. (Argentina was also openly accepting other Holocaust perpetrators and their families at the close of WWII). The Noreikas remained in Argentina for seven years until Father Borevičius was able to assist them in obtaining visas to enter the USA, possibly even as their immigration sponsor. He was a devoted friend to Mrs. Noreika and accompanied her to Lithuanian social events in Chicago.
Full text here.
Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda has decided not attend a Holocaust commemoration at Yad Vashem outside Jerusalem, but will commemorate Holocaust victims at a ceremony next Monday at Auschwitz on the anniversary of the concentration camp’s liberation by the Red Army, the President’s Office announced Tuesday. The announcement caused surprise because as of Monday the president’s trip to Israel was still on.
Nausėda apparently made the decision in following Poland’s example. Polish president Andzrej Duda declined an invitation to the event scheduled for January 23, saying Russian president Vladimir Putin was being allowed to speak and he wasn’t. Auschwitz is in Poland.
Full story in Lithuanian here.
Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda visited the Litvak Memorial Garden in the Žemaitija National Park last Thursday and said we can only wonder how many generations the country lost because of the Holocaust.
“Today there might not be many people still alive who experienced the Holocaust and we can only wonder how much we have lost, how many generations we have lost who didn’t live after that, because all of them could have contributed to Lithuanian and world development,” he said at the park, adding the Litvak garden is a unique idea brilliantly executed and commemorates the Jewish communities who lived in Lithuania. “It is a unique idea, brilliantly implemented, commemorating the Jewish communities who lived in Lithuania, and it also demonstrates how much they gave us. Of those people who came from Lithuanian, I look to the left now, I see David Wolfson, who gave the name to Israel’s currency, because, as the caretaker of the garden explained to me, the membership dues of the Zionist organization was called the shekel, and when the state of Israel was founded it took over this name,” the Lithuanian president said.
“Hermann Kallenbach was Gandhi’s friend from Rusnė. Again, a person who had great influence over Gandhi,” president Nausėda said, continuing: “Truly an extraordinary community to whom I bow my head, and with whom I feel sorry, although there is probably no right word, I just feel saddened and suffer this tragedy with happened many years ago, but which perhaps today is also still like an open, bleeding wound.”
He also said Litvaks should be given greater opportunity to engage in Lithuanian life.
Full text in Lithuanian here.
by Mindaugas Klusas, LRT.lt
The Vilna Gaon, the 18th-century sage from the Jerusalem of the North, has left behind a significant legacy of Jewish scholarship as well as many legends about his erudition and idiosyncratic devotion to the study of religious texts.
Lithuania designated 2020 the Year of the History of Jews of Lithuania, and 2020 is also the 300th anniversary of the Vilna Gaon. Lara Lempertienė, an historian and the head of the Judaica Department at the Lithuanian National Library, spoke with LRT.lt about the 18th-century sage from Vilnius.
While other nations are proud of battles and glorious buildings, Jewish history is about writing and books, Lempertienė quoted a modern rabbi. The Vilna Gaon and his town Vilnius, often dubbed the Jerusalem of the North, played a crucial role in this history.
Full text here.
In two months the Lithuanian parliament will recess. Prior to that MP Arūnas Gumuliauskas, chair of the parliament’s Commission on the Fight for Freedom and Historical Memory, will propose a parliamentary resolution declaring Lithuania has no responsibility for the murders and extermination of Lithuanian Jews during World War II because it was occupied by the Soviets and then by Nazi Germany. His resolution is to absolve Lithuania from the horrors of the Holocaust because it was occupied by Russia and Germany!
Member of parliament Gumuliauskas is not clearly anti-Semitic (compared to those living in Lithuania), he is a professor of history. His primary research during the Soviet era showed positive impact of the Communist Party on the Lithuanian theater. Apparently in 1987 he didn’t think that three years hence everything would be turned upside down. Instead of praising Communism a change had to be made: to stand out and to pave his way to the parliament, Jews can always be accused of something. Anti-Semitism has always been popular in Lithuania at all times. In 2016 the learned professor was elected to parliament. At the end of this year there will be another parliamentary election and an opportunity for him to stand out by proposing a parliamentary resolution which releases Lithuania and Lithuanians of involvement in the Holocaust, for the murder of 95% of Jewish citizens of Lithuania who had lived as good neighbors with Lithuanians for over 400 years.
Karolis Šimas, director of the Agrokoncerno grūdai company, says they have been preparing the sale of wheat to Israel from early in the summer of 2019. Certain procedures had to be follow to insure the wheat was certified kosher. Winter wheat can be found kosher but according to the requirements it cannot have contact with other kinds of grain. Israel’s special Office of Rabbi Landa service has to and did certify this. Even before the start of the winter wheat harvest, the grain elevators for the winter wheat were sealed under the supervision of a rabbi and a representative from Agrokoncerno grūdai. Several months later, before being loaded on a ship, the rabbi opened the storehouses and supervised the transport of the grain by automobile and railroad to the port.
At the port as the grain was being loaded onto the ship it was again checked thoroughly. Thirteen rabbis supervised and a total of 11 grain elevators and the storage facility at the port were sealed and unsealed, as was every train car and automobile carrying the grain. The elevators and the storehouse at the port had to be made extremely clean and so did the machinery for loading it, in order to receive the kosher seal.
Kosher grain cannot have contact with other grains, so all the storage spaces were cleaned to make sure not a single grain from earlier remained.
Full article in Lithuanian here.
Elina Malomuž passed away January 12. She was born in 1962. We extend our deepest condolences to her mother Natalija and her daughter Olga. May you find comfort and strength of spirit in this difficult time of loss.
In great sadness we report the death on January 15 of the long-time, active member of our community Vladimir Vakhman at the age of 77. He was born September 24, 1943, in Nazi-occupied Kiev. He only survived by being hidden until the Soviet army liberated the Ukrainian capital. Actually he didn’t see the light of day until then. Vakhman was well known to collectors and book lovers in Vilnius. Readers of Obzor know his translations from Lithuanian to Russian. Vladimir Vakhman will stay in our hearts forever as a conscientious fellow traveller who was always ready to help others. Our deepest condolences to his widow and children.
Photo: Jewish mass murder near Šiauliai, 1941, courtesy Yad Vashem
December 28, 2019
Arūnas Gumuliauskas, Lithuanian MP and chairman of the parliament’s Battles for Freedom and State Historical Memory Commission, is preparing a draft resolution stating the Lithuanian state under occupation and the Lithuanian people didn’t participate in the mass murder of Jews during World War II. The politician said separate individuals contributed to the Holocaust but that this was a matter for the courts to decide.
Gumuliauskas announced the draft resolution at the conference “2020: Global Trends and National Security: Insights, Challenges” on December 13, 2019, at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library.
In response to a question, the Lithuanian MP said the European Parliament had adopted a resolution on historical memory in 2009.
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Lithuanian MP and chairman of the parliament’s Commission on the Fight for Freedom and Historical Memory Arūnas Gumuliauskas announced earlier he is drafting a parliamentary resolution saying the Lithuanian state and the Lithuanian people are guiltless in the mass murder of Jews during WWII. The announcement made in mid-December provoked public discussion and it seems the author, who said earlier Lithuania’s position on the Holocaust cannot be the same as the West’s, has changed his mind and is now citing resolutions adopted by the European Parliament in 2009 and 2019 as the foundation for his resolution.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky refrained from any categorical comment on the planned resolution because of the lack of information surrounding it.
“We only know about this draft from the press, so it’s very difficult to judge it, because we just don’t what it really says,” Kukliansky told alfa.lt
Photo: Adam Jones/Wikimedia
Lithuanian Government “shares concerns” of Jewish community over proposed Holocaust law
Lithuania’s Jewish community and members of the expatriate Lithuanian Jewish community in Israel have expressed serious concern about possible legislation in the parliament in Vilnius which would declare the Lithuanian state and people didn’t collaborate in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.
Member of Lithuanian parliament Arūnas Gumuliauskas and chairman of its State Historical Memory Committee said last month he would propose legislation declaring the Lithuanian state didn’t participate in the murder of Jews because it was an occupied nation, first by the Soviet Union and then by Nazi Germany.
The parliamentary draft resolution has not yet been submitted to the parliament. The parliament goes into recess this Wednesday.
Gumuliauskas’s resolution, which he said was being prepared by the committee, would also claim the Lithuanian people could not have participated in the murder of Jews since Lithuanians were “an enslaved people” during World War II.
Full article here.
Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda declined commenting on a parliamentary resolution promised by Arūnas Gumuliauskas which would say the Lithuanian state and the Lithuanian nation didn’t take part in the Holocaust because they were occupied at that time. The president said the draft resolution hadn’t even been registered at the parliament yet.
“Who is making the accusation that Lithuania as a state and as a nation carried out the Holocaust? Are there such accusations? Really, I have nothing further to say on this, especially since I haven’t seen any such draft resolution for the parliament’s consideration. I don’t know, maybe such a resolution will be presented some day. If it is presented, then we can talk about it, but right now there is no such draft legislation and I’m going to Israel to participate in a Holocaust commemoration. … We have to see the resolution, what the content is, what the subtext is, then we can give a reaction,” president Nausėda told Lithuanian public radio and television.
The Lithuanian Telegraphic News Agency ELTA reminded its readers MP Gumuliauskas is preparing a parliamentary resolution which will say the Lithuanian state and the Lithuanian people didn’t participate in the mass murder of Jews during World War II. The MP has said separate individuals did contribute to the Holocaust and that that was a matter for the courts to decide.
The Lithuanian president is scheduled to travel to Israel on January 22 and 23 to attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum.
Some Lithuanians didn’t spend New Year’s Day recovering from the previous evening’s festivities and took to the streets to vandalize a street sign and the National Museum in an attempt to rehabilitate Lithuania’s leading World War II-era Nazi ideologue and activist Kazys Škirpa.
On January 1, 2020, vandals placed an adhesive sticker over the street sign for Vilnius’s small central Trispalvė (Tricolor) Alley proclaiming it K. Škirpa Alley, the name it had for a decade until the Vilnius city council changed it early last year in response to repeated requests over many years. The reason the street caused controversy was that Škirpa was the leading Lithuanian Nazi ideologue based in Berlin who created the Lithuanian Activist Front, notorious in the Holocaust in Lithuania, and its governing organ, the Lithuanian Provisional Government, with Škirpa appointing himself tin-pot dictator or “prime minister” of the pro-Nazi government in exile, the pro-Nazi underground in what was now Soviet Lithuania and the “prime minister” of a future semi-independent pro-Nazi Lithuania liberated by Nazi Germany and a belligerent fighting on the side of the Axis in World War II.
Škirpa’s proponents prefer to ignore all that messy stuff about World War II and the Holocaust and point instead to his one non-controversial action: on January 1, 1919, he and a group of Lithuanian volunteer soldiers hauled the newly-created Lithuanian flag, the tricolor, up Gediminas Hill, at the base of which the alley in question lies. It would be the moral equivalent of modern Germany erecting a sign proclaiming Alexanderplatz is now Adolf-Hitler-Platz to honor Adolf’s status as a German World War I veteran, never mind what came later. In fact the Vilnius city council in an act of very precedented obsequiousness did allow Škirpa’s apologists and would-be rehabilitators to post a plaque under the new street sign, Tricolor Alley, whitewashing Škirpa’s real biography in favor of his imaginary status as Lithuanian hero. A small group of picketers also held signs on January 1, 2020, reading: “Tauta savo didvyrius žino!” or, “The nation knows who its heroes are!”
Vilnius city administration director Povilas Poderskis told Baltic News Service the sticker was removed Thursday, January 2, and said the incident would be reported to police as an act of vandalism.
Press release, lrytas.lt
Representatives and technical coordinators from Lithuania’s Turto Bankas, which administers and maintains real estate belonging to the state, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe have arrived at joint solutions for renovating Vilnius’s Palace of Sports as a conference and cultural venue and preserving the territory of the old Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery which surrounds the building.
The reached basic agreement on solutions for reconstruction and maintaining the cemetery territory.
The decisions made regarding the technical project are based on a protocol signed by Lithuanian Government and the Lithuanian Jewish Community in 2009 on heritage protection for the site and a buffer zone and on reconstructing the former sports arena for conferences and other cultural events. The Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe approved the protocol in 2016.
by Arkadijus Vinokuras, translated by Geoff Vasil
Lithuania’s Genocide Center has published another finding of alleged historic dimensions, transforming Nazi collaborator Jonas Noreika into a Righteous Gentile who rescued Jews from the Holocaust. The story goes, he organized a network for rescuing Jews from the Šiauliai ghetto. How many professional historians did it take, after long discussion and examination of the facts, witnesses and circumstance, to come to this stunning conclusion exactly on Christmas Eve? One. And he’s not an historian, he’s a geologist working as a public relations expert.
What do the professional historians say about this finding (it was written based on testimony by the Catholic priest Jonas Borevičius to a court in the United States)? Director and senior academic of the Lithuanian History Institute, doctor habil. of the liberal arts Alvydas Nikžentaitis and Vilnius University History Faculty professor Dr. Nerijus Šepetys appear to hold the same opinion: if this were a student’s work, it wouldn’t weather critique and would receive a very poor grade indeed. It’s appalling the director of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania signed off on the finding.
Before I go further, I’d like to remind my detractors as well as proponents I have never, neither in writing or orally, demeaned Jonas Noreika’s nor Kazys Škirpa’s devotion to Lithuania from 1941 to 1944. If real, reliable documentary evidence were discovered demonstrating I have made a mistake, for example, regarding Jonas Noreika, I would change my mind. My criticism was and is directed against the criteria for heroization by which the Genocide Center facilely lionizes those who are tainted with the persecution of their Jewish fellow citizens.