Our deepest condolences on the death of Elena Zagorskaitė, mother, grandmother and wife to former LJC board member Tobijas Jafetas. We are filled with sorrow and wish the entire family strength in this difficult time.
On February 8, 2018, the Lithuanian Jewish Community learned Vigilijus Sadauskas, the academic ethics and procedures inspector for the Republic of Lithuania, possibly in a conflict of private and public interest, presented an invitation on his webpage to collect information “on people of Jewish ethnicity who contributed to deportations and torture,” for which a monetary prize was announced.
Based on the European Parliament’s resolution of July 1, 2017, adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, one form of anti-Semitism is a blanket accusation made against all Jews as a people, that we are responsible for a real or imagined transgression committed by an individual Jew or group of Jews, or even responsible for acts committed by non-Jews. Based on this definition and article 170, section 2 of the Lithuanian criminal code, Sadauskas’s internet post is anti-Semitic, causing ethnic discord, and must be judged correspondingly.
The LJC supports the initiative by members of parliament on a statement of no-confidence in academic ethics and procedures inspector Vigilijus Sadauskas and thanks speaker of Lithuanian parliament Viktoras Pranckietis for his understanding of the situation and call for the aforementioned person to resign from his post.
The LJC finds the actions by Vigilijus Sadauskas in violation of public service ethics and basic principles, and in violation of law, and therefore the LJC is considering taking the matter to the appropriate law enforcement institutions for initiating a pre-trial investigation into the actions by this person.
It’s not Lithuania alone who has problems with the emotional experience and historical interpretation of the Holocaust, but unlike in Lithuania where there is no idea even to ban by law statements with no basis in historical fact … the right-wing Government of Poland has chosen the path of prosecution.
What for? For wide-spread statements the death camps in Poland were Polish.
Well, there were no Polish death camps, as Angela Merkel has said.
So why this law politicizing the discipline of history and restricting free speech? Supposedly to defend Poland’s honor, the right-wing Government adopted a law carrying penalties of up to three years in prison for those who publicly call the death camps established in Poland by the Germans “Polish.” And three years as well for those who say the Polish people collaborated with the Nazis. Responding to Israel’s concerns on the attempt by Poland to possibly hoax history, the webpage wPolityce supported by the Polish Government has been publishing articles which accuse Israel of engaging in a conspiracy with Brussels, Jewish lobbyists in Washington, D. C., and the Polish opposition to harm the ruling Law and Justice Party in Poland. The state channel TVP on the evening news program showed anti-Semitic inscriptions claiming Israel was exploiting the Holocaust in order to pump billions out of Poland.
Full editorial in Lithuanian here.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community for many years now has been posing the question: does Lithuania even know and is she able to name her true heroes? As we begin to celebrate 100 years since the founding of the Lithuanian Republic and look back over all the people who contributed, we cannot forget the noble Lithuanian Jews and the noble rescuers of Jews from the Holocaust who managed to keep the flame of hope alive during the most shameful passage in Lithuania’s history. The Sondeckis family who saved Lithuania’s honor are now forced to defend their own.
At the start of Lithuania’s 100th birthday celebration, the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter Center) has on their webpage published a journal containing a registry of files on people from the KGB archive.
This list includes Saulius Sondeckas, the son of Jackus Sondeckis, a well-known Lithuanian public figure, a member of the independence movement over 100 years ago and a Righteous Gentile who saved Jews. On February 3, 2018, we marked the three-year anniversary of the death of Saulius Sondeckis, a true aristocrat of the spirit who represented Lithuania and put Lithuania on the world map with his exceptional musical talent and noble deeds. That these allegations of possible criminal activity leveled against Saulius Sondeckis, who is now dead and unable to defend himself, and against his family fall on the 100th anniversary of the modern Lithuanian Republic makes graver the circumstances surrounding the charges and increases the harm done to the family who so rightly deserve the honor of the Lithuanian nation for their contributions. This accusation treads upon the title Righteous Gentile and also inflicts damage on the Lithuanian Jewish Community, which considers Saulius Sondeckis an honorary member.
On February 9 there was a ceremony to celebrate International Day of the Greek Language with recitals of music and classical poetry at the small auditorium at Vilnius University. Greek deputy minister of state Terence Spencer Nicholas Quick attended and met with Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, and old acquaintance. They spoke about the concept for a Jewish museum in Quick’s native city of Thessaloniki and future discussion of possible cooperation and sharing of expertise in building a similar new Jewish museum in Lithuania, as well as ideas for cooperation between the Lithuanian and Greek Jewish communities.
Lithuanian Limmud 2018 kicked of Friday at the Grand Resort Hotel in Vilnius. The educational Judaism conference again invited all Jewish Community members to spend three days together, to feel what we have in common, to talk and to celebrate Sabbath together.
For over 10 years Panevėžys theater director Valerijus Jevsejevas has been putting on an Anne Frank drama based on the diary on stages around Lithuania.
On February 4 there the play “Forever Yours, Anne Frank” gave its farewell performance at the Juozas Miltinis Drama Theater in Panevėžys, attended by members of the Panevėžys Jewish Community. Tenor Rafailas Karpis performed a concert concluding with kaddish.
Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky’s series of seminars continues this Sunday at 5:30 P.M. at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. Admission is free and open to everyone. Call +370 650 18270 for more information.
Interview by Ieva Elenbergienė
Professor emeritus of history at Millersville University Saulius Sužiedėlis explains the Nazis didn’t need gas chambers in Lithuania. While 40 percent of Holocaust victims were murdered in gas chambers, this wasn’t the case in Lithuania, where the Nazis discovered sufficient man-power for mass murder. Although there were informal attempts to stop the violence in Lithuania, Dr. Sužiedėlis says there was no universal condemnation, nor public statements against by authorities. Church officials were also silent. Sužiedėlis says we must stop denying ugly things and look our past squarely in the face.
At the end of November Saulius Sužiedėlis was invited by the Lithuanian Jewish Community to speak at the conference #AtmintisAtsakomybėAteitis held in Vilnius.
When people are talking publicly and the topic turns to Lithuanian collaboration in the Holocaust, there is often a defensive reaction expressed as an attack on Jews: “But they did this and this and that to us!”
It’s not just characteristic of us, the human reaction of trying to place guilt on others. For instance, in the USA for a long time the destruction of the Indians was completely ignored, there was talk of the wars of the Wild West, but new studies show these so-called Indian wars were in many cases nothing more than the massacre of peaceful local residents. Of course some people didn’t like this, and accusations came up, for example, “But what did they do to the cowboys?” and so on. I personally, though, have no concern about what Jews have done. I’m concerned with what Lithuanians have done. Of course there were Jews, just as there were Lithuanians and Russians, who were involved in deportations. What does that have in common with, let’s say, Jewish children murdered in Telšiai? I don’t feel personal shame–I wasn’t even born yet–but I do feel a kind of collective shame, that people of my ethnicity were able to act this way in this Catholic, religion-practicing country.
A meeting of the executive council of the Lithuanian Jewish Community Monday discussed topical issues, shared examples of best practices and voiced suggestions for expanding LJC activities. Current administrative issues and the future of support for Holocaust rescuers were discussed. The council elected a new LJC board of directors including Faina Kukliansky, Gercas Žakas, Feliksas Puzemskis, Gennady Kofman, Shmuel Levinas, Daumantas- Levas Todesas and Semionas Finkelšteinas. The board of directors is in charge current activities and maintenance between conferences based on the regulations of the LJC and under decisions made by the executive council.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas met speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Viktoras Pranckietis Wendesday. They discussed current issues in the Lithuanian Jewish Community regarding protection of Jewish heritage sites and the transfer of the former Hassidic synagogue in Kaunas for use by the Jewish Community, and agreed to work together to mark the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto with an academic conference at parliament.
Photo: O. Posaškova/Lithuanian parliament
Gita-Enta Broidi performed at an evening of Yiddish song at the Šiauliai Jewish Community February 4. Chaim Bergman of Kaunas attended and said he was pleasantly surprised to learn almost all members of the Šiauliai Jewish Community speak Yiddish well. Many lingered after the concert for coffee and conversation and the vocalist spoke of her work in Israel. She studied under the famous Nekhama Lifshits and has her own reputation and record of accomplishment around the world. She is a past winner of the International Yiddish Song Festival prize.
The Museum of Lithuanian Theater, Music and Film is celebrating cartoonist Ilja Bereznickas’s 70th birthday with a new show called “It Would Be Said If It Weren’t Funny” showcasing the animator, director, artist and author’s work.
The exhibit is to include cartoons, comics, caricatures, book illustrations and animation sketches and cels. Stills from his newest film “Happiness Is Not Found in the She-Goat” will be displayed publicly for the first time. The museum also plans to screen some of his earlier animated features. The author will also present his latest book “Animation: From Idea to Screen” at the exhibition.
The exhibition is to run from February 13 till March 3, 2018.
The two-storey wooden synagogue in Varėna, Lithuania, has been listed on the registry of cultural heritage treasures.
It was listed as being of local significance and important for its architecture and as a memorial. The synagogue has a stone and mortar foundation under the compact wooden building. Some of the original windows have survived.
The synagogue was mentioned in an account by a traveler from the Crimea in 1930, who wrote: “There were three Jewish synagogues and about 600 families in Varėna before the war. Now there are barely 70. There were three public schools, now there is only one. The only synagogue [left] was rebuilt in 1922. The Jews have their own People’s Bank established in 1920 with a turnover of one million litai in 1929.”
January 27, 2018, New York–AJC Central Europe is firmly opposed to legislation which would penalize claims that Poland or Polish citizens bear responsibility for any Holocaust crimes.
The bill approved by the lower chamber of the Polish parliament makes it a crime punishable by up to three years in prison to use statements such as “Polish death camps,” suggesting Poland bears responsibility for crimes against humanity committed by Nazi Germany.
“This kind of legislation is both provocative and totally unnecessary. It will inflame the debate over historical responsibility,” said Agnieszka Markiewicz, director of AJC Central Europe.
“Education, not punitive laws, is essential to building greater awareness of all the facts of what transpired in Poland during World War II and the Holocaust,” Markiewicz continued. “The Polish government should reconsider this measure aimed at penalizing the use of language, even if we agree this language should not be used.”
A group of students in the sixth grade at the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius decided to make a presentation on the Holocaust and the Vilnius ghetto. Saulius Vinokuras, Danielius Bedulskis, Aleksandras Kormilcevas and Kajus Maksimaitis came up with the idea of asking complete strangers, resident in Vilnius, what they know about the Vilnius ghetto and the Holocaust. The result is a six minute video with captions in English edited by Saulius Vinokuras. Watch it below.
With deep sadness we announce the passing of Sima Sturonienė of Tauragė on January 31. She was born December 25, 1939. Our condolences to her family and friends.
Natalja Cheifec invites you to a lecture on the following topics:
Who are Litvaks?
Lithuanian Jewish traditions and customs
What is Hassidism, how it arose and a short history
Mitnagdim: the heirs of the Vilna Gaon
Mitangdim and Hassidim: is there a real reason for the communal conflict?
Time: 3:00 P.M., February 11, 2018
Place: Meeting hall, second floor, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Vilnius
Please register for free here: goo.gl/JbypwU
Simon Rozenbaum at the consulate in Tel Aviv. Photo: LTV program Menora
by Aidanas Praleika
Lithuania recently supported the United Nations against Donald Trump’s initiative supporting Jerusalem. How would Lithuania have voted a century ago?
Many today association Zionism with conspiracy theories, but a century ago the basic “conspiracy” was the foundation of the State of Israel. An idea which Lithuania, a state based on ethnicity, supported. If Lithuania had been asked back then to give her verdict on recognizing the capital of the Jewish state, she would have almost certainly voted the other way. Lietuvos Žinios spoke with publicist and Menora television program producer Vitalijus Karakorskis about the connection between the Zionists and Lithuania back then.
The Jewish Floridan reports G. Volkauskas’s appointment as Lithuanian general consul in Palestine.
Lithuanian-Israeli diplomatic relations are numbered in the years since the restoration of independence, but you are talking about a much larger time scale.
The date and topic of the event wasn’t accidental. Ariogala gymnasium principal Arvydas Stankus said this event was a kind of mobile memorial recalling history. Event guest Gercas Žakas, chairman of the Kaunas Jewish Community, expressed satisfaction at the large turn-out, over 200 people, and said he expected they were tolerant people, not militants, able to speak what exists and what has been lost. He said it was important to remember losses because otherwise we would again enter into historical oblivion. Until World War II everyone got along well and there were about 3,000 Jewish volunteers for the Lithuanian military. It was recalled Lithuanians gave Jews Easter eggs before the war and Jews gave Lithuanians matzo. Then the Soviets came, and all groups suffered, then the Nazis with their crazy policies culminating in genocide.
Ronaldas Račinskas, executive director of the International Commission to Assess the Crimes of the Soviet and Nazi Occupational Regimes in Lithuania, said the world opened the gates of Auschwitz 73 years ago and saw what had gone on there. He said the world did not see other things, and perhaps didn’t want to see or judge what happened up to that point. He said the conference was a sad occasion since it commemorates the murder of 6 million Jews. It would be easy, he said, to claim that this was down to circumstances, Nazi policy and power supporting the idea of the destruction of people, but that there were signs of values pointing to the future, people who took exceptional risk, and some had made accomplishments of global significance. Račinskas said we no longer live in times when aid to the weaker carries a death penalty. Now we can demonstrate our values without waiting for extreme situations to occur. This will result in a better, stronger and more educated Lithuania, he said, and 100 years from now there will be no need to mark June 14, August 23, September 23 or January 27, since it will not be able to happen again at that point. He pointed out there are people at each and every educational and cultural agency doing much more than is demanded by different programs, and said he looked forward to the appearance of leaders whom others would follow. Without the heart-felt and since work and the personal commitment of the teachers, he said, such events as this could not take place.