News

Lithuanian President’s Historic Apology 25 Years Ago

Lithuanian President’s Historic Apology 25 Years Ago

by Ugnius Antanavičius for 15min.lt

Exactly 25 years ago then-president of Lithuania Algirdas Brazauskas issued the biggest “I’m sorry” of his life. On a trip to Israel he apologized to the Jewish people for Lithuanians who robbed and murdered their Jewish fellow citizens during the Holocaust. Largely forgotten now, Brazauskas’s trip and apology caused many reactions in Israel and Lithuania then.

The apology came on March 1, 1995, when he addressed the Knesset, broadcast live on Israeli radio and television. The late Algirdas Brazauskas apologized in the name of the Lithuanian nation for the Lithuanians who robbed and murdered Jews during the Holocaust. His trip to Israel was surrounded by friction and controversy. Protesters greeted him in Israel, where Lithuania’s reputation was very bad at the time, protesting the rehabilitation of thousands of Holocaust perpetrators by the new independent Lithuanian state. Every word Brazauskas uttered and even his body language was closely scrutinized during that foreign visit.

At the time the prevailing unofficial opinion in Israel held that while the Germans were the most responsible for crimes against the Jewish people, the Lithuanians placed second, followed by Latvians, Romanians and Ukrainians.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Hunters and Žydšaudžiai


by Grant Gochin

Amazon Prime recently released a fictionalized series called “Hunters.” It is an account of Nazi hunters searching for Holocaust perpetrators living in the USA. Unfortunately, it is not as fictional as we would like. Thousands of Holocaust perpetrators escaped to the USA, and more went to South America. Holocaust denial, cover-ups and lies helped almost all of the escapees live to ripe old ages in peace and comfort, living in wealth on stolen Jewish plunder, and pontificating their Jew hate to the next generations.

Concurrently released on Amazon is a book containing 121 testimonies of Holocaust survivors from the Lithuanian villages titled: The Lithuanian Slaughter of its Jews. These testimonies are harrowing in their stark recounting of rape, torture, enslavement and wholesale murder of Lithuanian Jews by their hunter neighbors (žydšaudžiai), often without any presence of German Nazis (Lithuanian Nazis were plentiful). These testimonies leave no room for Holocaust revisionism which is so predominant in Lithuania today.

President Nausėda of Lithuania states he stands firmly against Holocaust denial. It would be impossible to deny the Holocaust in Lithuania. Hunting and murdering Jews was such a common pastime in Lithuania that they even have a word for it: žydšaudžiai (Jew-shooters). The Holocaust in Lithuania was publicly conducted with massive collaboration of the local population. Death pits cover the country. As such, denying the Holocaust would be preposterous, and Lithuanians are not stupid people.

Nausėda and his government do not stand against Holocaust revisionism, rather, it is their national policy. Lithuania openly acknowledges somehow Jews were murdered; that is, the Jews murdered by Nazis, and the ones they claim were also murdered by their nemesis, Russia. Lithuania lies blatantly about Jews murdered by žydšaudžiai Lithuanians–possibly even up to 80% of the victims.

Full article here.

Lithuanian Defense Ministry Undertakes New Defense of Lithuanian Nazi Kazys Škirpa

Lithuanian Defense Ministry Undertakes New Defense of Lithuanian Nazi Kazys Škirpa

Lithuanian military magazine “Karys” [Soldier] published by the Lithuanian National Defense Ministry in its second issue for 2020 has published a long opinion piece by Vidmantas Valiušaitis, a Lithuanian journalist who has made a career of defending Lithuanian Nazi collaborators.

Printed on sepia tone pages apparently intended to show either age or the magazine’s distance from the piece, Valiušaitis engages in a fervent defense of Kazys Škirpa, the military officer in pre-WWII independent Lithuania who took up residence in Berlin and under the direction of Hitler’s Abwehr formed the Lithuanian Activist Front as a clandestine anti-Soviet system of underground resistance cells, and founded the political organ of the LAF, the Lithuanian Provisional Government, with himself as prime minister. The PG was the pro-Nazi puppet regime intended to give the Nazi invasion the cover of legitimacy as a national liberation movement.

The author devotes the first two pages (three columns per page) to defending Pope Pius XII as some sort of background he thinks the reader needs to place Kazys Škirpa in context. He then presents as true historical facts Nazi allegations Jews in Lithuania had fired upon Wehrmacht soldiers, which was used as a pretext to set up ghettos. Valiušaitis then presents a conspiracy theory the Nazis and Soviets conspired against Lithuanian independence, a theory which he says needs further research. He goes on to say attempts to besmirch pro-Nazi Lithuanians were begun by Stalin and are being continued in spirit by Russian president Vladimir Putin, most recently in public statements he made casting doubt on Polish innocence in the Holocaust. He also provides his personal version of Finland’s Winter War, Adenauer’s realpolitik and assorted other matters in fine detail.

Vilnius Religious Jewish Community Chairman Inspects Electrical Work at Synagogue, Discovers Nobel Prize Winner by Accident

Vilnius Religious Jewish Community Chairman Inspects Electrical Work at Synagogue, Discovers Nobel Prize Winner by Accident

Around noon on Wednesday I went to take a look at the progress of the electrical wiring being installed in the prayer hall of the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. I noticed a man who was looking over the synagogue carefully. I greeted him in Hebrew and he immediately began asking me questions about synagogue operations, Lithuanian Jewish life and in general “how are you living in Lithuania?” A usual Jewish question.

As a Jew I of course responded to his questions with questions: where are you from, why are you interested in the synagogue, are you perhaps in need of tefillin? … Then the visitor humbly introduced himself, explaining he was attending an academic conference at Vilnius University and had given himself an extra day especially for going to the synagogue, hoping to meet a Jew and get a chance to talk, maybe even in Yiddish, and then walk around the Vilnius Old Town a bit.

His family came from Poland and Vilnius looks a lot like where they came from. Then he said almost in passing, “I was invited to Vilnius University because I’m a Nobel prize winner…” I thought it was quite a good joke! In Yiddish I asked him to tell me the story of his life and how he had come to be the recipient of this most prestigious prize in the world.

Grigoriy Kanovich’s Devilspel Candidate for EBRD Prize

Grigoriy Kanovich’s Devilspel Candidate for EBRD Prize

The new English edition of Litvak writer Grigoriy Kanovich’s novel Очарованье сатаны (Jerusalem, 2002) titled Devilspel is in the running for a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s literature prize created especially for translated literature and worth 20,000 euros, according to publisher Noir Press.

The prize was instituted two years ago to underline the importance of translations of literature. There are 10 contenders this year, including works by Boris Akunin.

According to the publisher’s website: “Devilspel evokes the lost world of Lithuanian Jews during the Second World War. From the lives of Grigory Kanovich’s vividly drawn characters emerges a panorama of world events that shook eastern Europe and the world. The subtle art of Kanovich is his ability to create characters in the town of Mishkine, like the feisty Danuta Hadassah, the idealistic Elisheva and the complex and empathetic Catholic Cheslavas, who live within us long after the chronicle of their lives has ended. The book is more than a novel. Its story touches the heart and questions human and divine justice in a world gone mad.”

Six finalists–three writers and three translators–will be announced at the awards ceremony to be held in London April 22. The €20,000 prize is to be divided equally between writer and translator. Two runners-up and their translators will also receive a prize of €1,000 each.

Happy Birthday, Riva!

Happy Birthday, Riva!

Happy birthday to our top Bagel Shop chef Riva Portnaja! Thank you for the delicious treats you make and for preserving the Litvak culinary heritage.

We will always think of you as you are, beloved, friendly, with your sweet and comforting smile, exuding youth from the depths of your soul.

LJC and Gesher Club Invite You to a Purim Celebration

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Gesher Club invite you to a special Sabbath just before the Purim holiday on Friday, March 6, where violin virtuoso Ana Agre will perform. The event starts at 7:00 P.M. in the Heifetz Hall of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius. For information and to reserve a table, call 867881514 or write zanas@sc.lzb.lt

Creative Children’s Workshop for Purim

Creative Children’s Workshop for Purim

The Ilan Club of the Lithuanian Jewish Community invites children to attend a creative workshop to celebrate the holiday of Purim. The children will listen to and themselves tell the miraculous Purim story and make colorful masks for the Purim carnival. The workshop will begin at 2:00 P.M. on Sunday, March 1, at the Ilan Club at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius. Please call 860246656 or write sofja@lzb.lt for more information.

Do You Want to Drive the Jews out of Lithuania? That’s Fine, Lithuanian Police Say

Do You Want to Drive the Jews out of Lithuania? That’s Fine, Lithuanian Police Say

by Vytautas Bruveris, www.lrytas.lt

“You little Jewess, there is no place for you here.” This sort of statement, even made publicly to a woman of Jewish ethnicity, is nothing more than the impolite, unethical implementation of the constitutional right to self expression and freedom of belief.

This phrase in no way means the person who uttered it is predisposed against people of Jewish ethnicity, wants to sow discord against them or wants to discriminate against them. This is the firm belief of no less than the Lithuanian police. It turns out the police in such cases see no basis not only for punishing the author of such statements, but not even for launching an investigation.

Insult Made at Parliamentary Ceremony

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said she was called “žydelka” [little Jew-girl] and told “there is no place” for Jews in Lithuania at the Lithuanian parliament on January 13 this year when she attended events there to mark the day when protestors were murdered at the Vilnius Television Town back in 1990, a national day of mourning. Kukliansky said an older man came up to her dressed in a uniform and made the statements. She didn’t recognize what sort of uniform it was, but thought it was most likely from the Lithuanian Union of Riflemen.

Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel Sends Open Letter to Lithuanian Ambassador

Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel Sends Open Letter to Lithuanian Ambassador

To the honorable Lithuanian Ambassador to Israel Mrs. Lina Antanavičienė
12 Aba Hillel Silver Street, 17th Floor
Ramat Gan 5250606

Re: Republic of Lithuania Independence celebration

Dear Ambassador Antanvicienė,

Thank you for the ”save the date” to the Lithuania Independence Day celebration to be held on March 16, 2020. Unfortunately, we shall not attend. The Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel made a decision within its board of directors meeting of February 20, 2020, not to participate in the festivities until we have a sound solution to the proposed resolution to the Seimas by Mr. Gumuliauskas to absolve Lithuania and Lithuanians of their active participation in the Holocaust and in the murder of Jews during the period of World War II.

We have cooperated fully with the restored Independent Republic of Lithuania regimes in combating anti-Semitism and promoting historical recognition of that dark period of World War II between the years 1941-1945.

New US Ambassador Visits LJC

New US Ambassador Visits LJC

Robert Gilchrist, a career diplomat appointed by president Trump to serve as the United States’ ambassador to Lithuania and confirmed by the Senate in late December, made an informal visit to the Lithuanian Jewish Community February 19.

During the visit he met chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, received a tour of the Community building from her, chatted with senior citizens and learned about their club and met Holocaust survivors, including Jewish partisan Fania Brancovskaja.

He also visited the Bagel Shop Café and met children engaged in LJC activities during their winter break from school.

Chairwoman Kukliansky also showed the new ambassador an exhibit on display at the Community on the Righteous Gentiles who rescued Jews from the Holocaust in Lithuania.

Appointed by US president Donald Trump in July, Gilchrist was only confirmed by the Senate in late December after heated questioning about his position on Russia. During his confirmation he called Lithuania one of America’s most loyal allies and said becoming the US ambassador to Lithuania was the honor of his life.

The Truth Heals: Grigoriy Kanovitch Interviewed by Son Sergejus

The Truth Heals: Grigoriy Kanovitch Interviewed by Son Sergejus

As the Vilnius Book Fair ramps up this year, Grigoriy Kanovitch’s “Miestelio romansas” (the Lithuanian translation of his “Shtetl Love Song”] is reappearing on bookshop shelves. The novel tells the stories of people in small-town Lithuania, including Jews, Lithuanians, Poles and Russians, in the period between 1920 and 1941. Kanovitch’s son Sergejus, also an accomplished author, interviewed him in a press release for the book fair.

How does Shtetl Love Song fit in the context of your entire corupus? How important is it that the Lithuanian edition has gone into its second printing?

Shtetl Love Song is my most personal book. It’s the most biographical. I wouldn’t say I’m spoiled by second editions. Of course there have been some. But I should consider the additional publication of Shtetl Love Song the most important. News of this made me extraordinarily happy.

Book about Samuelis Kukliansky Presented at Vilnius Book Fair

Book about Samuelis Kukliansky Presented at Vilnius Book Fair

An autobiography in Lithuanian by noted Lithuanian attorney Samuelis Kukliansky who miraculously survived the Holocaust is available at the Vilnius Book Fair. His story is about maintaining human dignity and keeping alive that core of humanity in every person. The book “Samuelis Kuklianskis- teisininkas” [Samuelis Kuklianskis, Attorney] is for sale at the Vilnius Book Fair at the Adrena booth, booth no. 5D01, in hall 5.

BBC Looks at Holocaust Denial in Lithuania

BBC Looks at Holocaust Denial in Lithuania

The BBC’s channel 2 aired “Confronting Holocaust Denial” Tuesday night in Great Britain, a personal documentary about the current state of denial by son of survivors David Baddiel. Baddiel begins with the Allies suppressing the fact of Jewish extermination for strategic reasons, moves on to the upsurge in Holocaust denial in the 1970s and then what he perceives as an anti-Semitic backlash following NBC television’s miniseries the Holocaust viewed in America by 120 million people in 1978 and subsequently shown in Europe. He devotes some time to the Holocaust denial case against German-Canadian Holocaust revisionist Ernst Zündel (1939-2017) and David Irving’s libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt in the UK.

Following two interviews with Lipstadt, Baddiel travels to Vilnius and looks at controversy surrounding the removal of the plaque commemorating Jonas Noreika by Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius. Trying to understand the Lithuanian nationalist position, he visits Kęstutis Mackevičius, the son of a murdered partisan, who claims Noreika was not a Nazi collaborator and only wanted to free his country. Baddiel examines the documents more carefully, including authentic documents posted by Noreika’s granddaughter Silvia Foti which clearly show he was involved in the extermination of Jews and the theft of their property in Lithuania. Baddiel concludes Lithuanians might be afraid they won’t have any heroes at all if they exclude collaborators, and that Lithuanian lionization of perpetrators is a response to Soviet distortions of history.

The documentary was filmed before nationalists replaced the plaque with their own version and only shows flowers and candles at the impromptu shrine Lithuanian nationalists set up outside the library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences where the plaque hung formerly.

More information about the film is available here.

Interesting Discussions at Vilnius Book Fair

Interesting Discussions at Vilnius Book Fair

This year’s annual Vilnius Book Fair will feature some interesting presentations involving Jewish topics.

At 3:00 P.M. on Thursday, February 20, Moi Ver’s “Ghetto Lane in Wilna” album will be presented by Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, Lolita Jablonskienė, Nissan N. Perez, Yossi Raviv and Sigutė Chlebinskaitė in Hall 3. The discussion will be held in Lithuanian and English.

At 12 noon on Friday, February 21, Matilda Olkinaitė’s book “Atrakintas dienoraštis” will be presented by editor Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas with Dr. Irena Veisaitė, Laima Vincė and Neringa Danienė participating.

At 6:00 P.M. on Friday, February 21, Dr. Lara Lempertienė, Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas and Rimantas will present “Dešimt eilėraščių/Ten Poems,” a selection of poems by Abraham Sutzkever, at the Writers’ Corner.

At 3:00 P.M. on Saturday, February 22, the book “Žydų kultūra paveikslėlių knygose: Karaliaus Motiejuko karalystė (pagal Januszą Korzcaką)” will be presented by Anna Czerwińska and Iwona Chmielewska at conference hall 5.3. The discussion will be held in Polish and English.

LJC Members Who Received National Awards Recognized on February 16

LJC Members Who Received National Awards Recognized on February 16

The executive board of the Lithuanian Jewish Community congratulated Community members who had received state awards on the eve of February 16, the pre-war Lithuanian Independence Day.

Vocalist Rafailas Karpis, named soloist of the year by the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theater and Linas Vildžiūnas, editor of the Seven Days of Art weekly newspaper and recipient of the Leonidas Donskis prize, were recognized. Daumantas Levas Todesas, an active cultural figure, supporter of culture and long-time member of the LJC, who was elected chairman of the Ethnic Communities Service for the term between 2020 and 2024, was also recognized.

Journalist and public figure Eugenijus Bunka, named Tolerant Person of the Year, was also recognized and sent a greeting to the audience on the eve of February 16. His brief address follows.

Israeli Dance Classes

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Rikudei Am Israeli dance club invite everyone to a dance workshop from 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. every Sunday at the LJC, Pylimo streeet no. 4, Vilnius. The cost is 5 euros per session, or 16 euros in advance for 4 sessions. For more information and to register, call 8 659 55 965 or email karina.semionova@gmail.com

New Exhibit Opens in Dulbin to Mark Lithuania’s Year of the VIlna Gaon and Litvak History

New Exhibit Opens in Dulbin to Mark Lithuania’s Year of the VIlna Gaon and Litvak History

Information from the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, URM.lt

A new exhibit called “Lithuanian and Irish Jewish History” opened in Dublin February 3 to mark 2020, the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Vilna Gaon, declared the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Lithuanian Jewish History by the Lithuanian parliament.

The exhibit covers Jewish life in Lithuania from settlement in the Lithuanian Grand Duchy in the 14th century to the present and the history of Lithuanian Jews in Ireland.

Lithuanian ambassador to the Republic of Ireland Egidijus Meilūnas said at the opening ceremony next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic relations between the two republics, although Litvaks had brought the two countries together 150 years ago.

The event attracted a large audience, including members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of the Irish and Lithuanian Jewish communities, politicians, cultural and academic figures and reporters.

Greetings on February 16, Lithuanian Independence Day

Greetings on February 16, Lithuanian Independence Day

Students, staff and teachers of the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius marked Lithuanian Independence Day February 16 with a full day of events.

The program included song and dance in the late morning and afternoon Friday to celebrate the day in 1918 102 years ago when the modern state of Lithuania was born. Pupils performed Lithuanian folk dancing and sang the national anthem.

Acting principal Ruth Reches said: “Children of different nationalities attend our gymnasium and one of our aims is to teach them citizenship, and to teach both the children and young people dates and holidays important to both Jewish and Lithuanian families. The day of the restoration of Lithuanian statehood celebrated on February 16 is very important to all of us, to our freedom and self-expression, and we, the entire school community, celebrated this independence day enthusiastically and ethnically.”