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Archive for December, 2012

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Kaunas massacre of 29 October 1941
The largest mass murder
of Lithuanian Jews


Thousands of Jews were killed to fall in pits like these.

Kaunas massacre of 29 October 1941, also known as the Great Action, was the largest mass murder of Lithuanian Jews.

By the order of SS-Standartenführer Karl Jäger and SS-Rottenführer Helmut Rauca, the Sonderkommando under the leadership of SS-Obersturmführer Joachim Hamann, and 8 to 10 men from Einsatzkommando 3, in collaboration with Lithuanian henchmen, murdered 2,007 Jewish men, 2,920 women, and 4,273 children in a single day at the Ninth Fort, Kaunas, Lithuania.

With the arrival of the SS Einsatzgruppen, the 'Great Action' began on October 28th. The Jewish inhabitants of the Ghetto were assembled on Democrats Square and all those fit for work were allowed back into the Ghetto. The others, over 9,000 men, women and children were marched to the SS execution centre in the Ninth Fort and there, stripped of their clothes and in the freezing cold, they awaited their fate. In groups of 200, they were stood on the edge of large pits, dug previously by Russian P.O.W.s, and were systematically machine-gunned to death.

Read more…

Category : Front page

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Kaunas massacre of 29 October 1941
The largest mass murder
of Lithuanian Jews


Thousands of Jews were killed to fall in pits like these.

Kaunas massacre of 29 October 1941, also known as the Great Action, was the largest mass murder of Lithuanian Jews.

By the order of SS-Standartenführer Karl Jäger and SS-Rottenführer Helmut Rauca, the Sonderkommando under the leadership of SS-Obersturmführer Joachim Hamann, and 8 to 10 men from Einsatzkommando 3, in collaboration with Lithuanian henchmen, murdered 2,007 Jewish men, 2,920 women, and 4,273 children in a single day at the Ninth Fort, Kaunas, Lithuania.

With the arrival of the SS Einsatzgruppen, the 'Great Action' began on October 28th. The Jewish inhabitants of the Ghetto were assembled on Democrats Square and all those fit for work were allowed back into the Ghetto. The others, over 9,000 men, women and children were marched to the SS execution centre in the Ninth Fort and there, stripped of their clothes and in the freezing cold, they awaited their fate. In groups of 200, they were stood on the edge of large pits, dug previously by Russian P.O.W.s, and were systematically machine-gunned to death.

These mass graves were later re-opened and all the bodies burned in an attempt to conceal the crime. This work was done by 72 men and women from the ghetto. While working, the prisoners were chained together to prevent escapes but all were later put to death when their work was finished.

In July, 1944, the Ghetto was burned down, blown apart and completely destroyed. The Germans and Lithuanians destroyed the small ghetto on October 4, 1941, and killed almost all of its inhabitants at the Ninth Fort. Later that same month, on October 28, SS-Rottenführer Helmut Rauca of the Kaunas Gestapo (secret state police) conducted the selection in the Kaunas Ghetto. All ghetto inhabitants were forced to assemble in a central square of the ghetto. Rauca selected 9,200 Jewish men, women, and children, about one-third of the ghetto population. The next day, 29 October, they shot these people at the Ninth Fort in huge pits dug in advance.

http://collections.yadvashem.org/photosarchive/s637-469/2746129566280570327.jpg 
Jewish women, minutes before they are murdered by the
SS and their Lithuanian henchmen, Kaunas 1941.

KAUNAS’ NINTH FORT

http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/revolt/images/The%20Ninth%20Fort%20outside%20of%20Kovno.jpg

At the end of 19th century, the city of Kaunas was fortified, and by 1890 it was encircled by eight forts and nine gun batteries. The construction of the Ninth Fort (its numerical designation having stuck as a proper noun) began in 1902 and was completed on the eve of World War I. From 1924 on, the Ninth Fort was used as the Kaunas City prison.

During the years of Soviet occupation, 1940-1941, the Ninth Fort was used by the NKVD to house political prisoners on their way to the labour camps in Siberia.

During the years of Nazi occupation, the Ninth Fort was put to use as a place of mass murder. At least 10,000 Jews, most of Kaunas, largely taken from the Kovno Ghetto, were transported to the Ninth Fort and killed by Nazis with the collaboration of some Lithuanians in what became known as the Kaunas massacre.

Notable among the victims was Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman of Baranovitch. In addition, Jews from as far as France, Austria and Germany were brought to Kaunas during the course of Nazi occupation and executed in the Ninth Fort. On 1943 the Germans operated special Jewish squads to open the massgraves and burn the remaining corpses. Such squad of 62 people managed to escape the fortress on the eve of 1944. In 1944, as the Soviets moved in, the Germans liquidated the ghetto and what had by then come to be known as the "Fort of Death", and the prisoners were dispersed to other camps. After World War II, the Soviets again used the Ninth Fort as a prison for several years. From 1948 to 1958, farm organizations were run out of the Ninth Fort.

In 1958, a museum was established in the Ninth Fort. In 1959, a first exposition was prepared in four cells telling about Nazi war crimes carried out in Lithuania. In 1960, the discovery, cataloguing, and forensic investigation of local mass murder sites began in an effort to gain knowledge regarding the scope of these crimes.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ac/IX_Fort_%282008-09-20%2923.jpg
Through this door, 64 prisoners escaped on 25 December 1943.

TODAY A MUSEUM

The Ninth Fort museum contains collections of historical artifacts related both to Soviet atrocities and the Nazi genocide, as well as materials related to the earlier history of Kaunas and Ninth Fort.

The memorial to the victims of Nazism at the Ninth Fort in Kaunas, Lithuania, was designed by sculptor A. Ambraziunas. Erected in 1984, the monument is 105 feet (32 m) high. The mass burial place of the victims of the massacres carried out in the fort is a grass field, marked by a simple yet frankly worded memorial written in several languages. It reads, "This is the place where Nazis and their assistants killed more than 30,000 Jews from Lithuania and other European countries."

On April 11, 2011, the memorial to the victims of Nazism was vandalized - The memorial tombstones were knocked down, and white swastikas were sprayed on the memorial. On the adjacent sidewalk, the words “Juden raus” (German: Jews Out) were inscribed.

http://antisemitism.org.il/imagecache/150-225/334.jpg
Kaunas – A sign saying “Jews out” and “Hitler was right” (Juden raus“„Hitleris buvo teisus“)
were hung in front of the synagogue on April 20th 2011, Hitler's day of birth.

Category : Litvak forum

- Posted by - (0) Comment

How I escaped from
the Kaunas Ghetto


My coffee chat with Irena Veisaite (84) started here in the kitchen of her
cosy apartment in the outskirts of Vilnius Old Town. What a life story
hasn’t this gentle lady got to tell...

Text/photos: Aage Myhre

A room full of books. A desk covered with pamphlets, documents, newspaper clippings. Walls and bookshelves overcrowded with framed photographs of friends and relatives. Her today’s home in Vilnius is filled with warmth  and  wisdom.

Was this the way they lived? The Lithuanian Jews, often named as the Litvaks.  Before the World War II horrific events so brutally took them and their culture here in Lithuania away forever?  Or perhaps not forever? 
Because here she lives, Irena Veisaite, born in this country in 1928. She is one of the few Litvaks who survived the Holocaust in Lithuania. A living evidence of cruelty and injustice. Yet with less bitterness and anger than you might think.

"Love," she says, "love is so much more important than hatred. Hatred is the most destructive feature that humanity possesses and even in the most difficult times I experienced a lot of kindness".

Irena was born in 1928 in Kaunas, the inter-war Lithuanian capital when Vilnius and the south-western part of the country was occupied by Poland. Her parents had a liberal European education and she grew up, as she describes, surrounded by very different people.  She was playing with the neighbourhood children and never thought much of what nationality the other kids were. It was only when rumours of a potential war grew in strength that she began to feel a certain degree of insecurity.

Read more…

Category : Front page

- Posted by - (0) Comment


Chiune Sugihara:
The Japanese diplomat/spy who became a hero of the Holocaust


An article by Dr. Boris Bakunas, exclusively for VilNews.
Read it
HERE

Comments:
__________________________

This man and his wife belong in the annals of history, not to be set aside, but to be lauded, loud and clear from every person with a heart and soul
How many outside of Lithuania know about this brave man? How many would have done what he did - a rhetorical question because we know the answer. This was an act of charity, an act of love for fellow human beings. This man and his wife belong in the annals of history, not to be set aside, but to be lauded, loud and clear from every person with a heart and soul. What happened to the Jews in Europe in general is horrific, hate begets hate, love saves lives as demonstrated by this great diplomat. Thank you for the story, Boris. It is heart warming despite the background of horror that made it possible.

Bernard Terway
__________________________

Sugihara deserves to be placed among the giants in Lithuanian history.
Schindler is lauded for saving Jews from whose labor he acquired his wealth. Why then are Sugihara's selfless and heroic deeds submerged in the mists of time, only to be brought to the surface by wonderful articles as this? Sugihara deserves to be placed among the giants in Lithuanian history.

Jon Platakis
__________________________

In Japan, where he was first considered to be a traitor, he is celebrated as a hero
Sugihara is very famous. There is a prize in his honor, several streets named after him in Lithuania, and various initiatives where he is mentioned. Also, in Japan, where he was first considered to be a traitor, he is celebrated as a hero, and all Japanese tourists consider it a must to visit the former consulate in Kaunas.

Daiva Repeckaite
__________________________

It is very important for Lithuanians, Israelis, the people of Japan, and people of goodwill around the world to spread their story as an example of what individuals can do to stem the hatred
Chiune and Yukiko's Sugihara's fame are increasing. And it is very important for Lithuanians, Israelis, the people of Japan, and people of goodwill around the world to spread their story as an example of what individuals can do to stem the hatred and...See More

Boris Bakunas
Category : Litvak forum sidebar / Opinions

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Abraham Sutzkever (1913-2010)

Poetry translation contest to be introduced at this year’s Summer Literary Seminars in Lithuania

Summer Literary Seminars has announced its Abraham Sutzkever Translation Prize, marking the centennial of the birth of one of the most acclaimed Yiddish poets of the 20th century.

“To me, he is the leading Yiddish poet, the epitome of Yiddish literature in the 20th century,” Mikhail Iossel said of Sutzkever. Iossel, a Soviet émigré and associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Concordia University in Montreal, is the founder and director of the literary, creative writing and historical workshops that have taken place in St. Petersburg, Montreal, Nairobi and Vilnius. The Sutzkever Prize is associated with the SLS Lithuania program for summer 2013.

The new prize is being added to a lineup of already existing ones that are given through the SLS Unified Literary Contest, awarding winners with tuition, stipends and publication assurances. The winner of the Sutzkever Prize will receive tuition to SLS Lithuania plus $500 toward travel expenses. In addition, the winning entry will be translated into Lithuanian, and read at a celebration in Vilnius on the centennial, on July 15, 2013. The deadline for submissions is February 28, 2013. 

READ MORE…

Category : News

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A poem by Abraham Sutzkever

How?

How will you fill your goblet
On the day of liberation? And with what?
Are you prepared, in your joy, to endure
The dark keeing you have heard
Where skulls of days glitter
In a bottomless pit?

You will search for a key to fit
You jammed locks. You will bite
The sidewalks like bread,
Thinking: It used to be better.
And time will gnaw at you like a cricket
Caught in a fist.

Then your memory will resemble
And ancient buried town
And your estranged eyes will burrow down
Like a mole, a mole….

Vilna Ghetto, February 14, 1943
Translated by Chana Bloch

Summer Literary Seminars in Lithuania 2013
SESSION 1: 13 – 27 July
SESSION 2: 27 July – 10 Aug

Programme
http://sumlitsem.org/Lithuania/
Category : News

- Posted by - (7) Comment

How I escaped from
the Kaunas Ghetto


My coffee chat with Irena Veisaite (84) started here in the kitchen of her cosy apartment in the outskirts of
Vilnius Old Town. What a life story hasn’t this gentle lady got to tell...

Text/photos: Aage Myhre

A room full of books. A desk covered with pamphlets, documents, newspaper clippings. Walls and bookshelves overcrowded with framed photographs of friends and relatives. Her today’s home in Vilnius is filled with warmth  and  wisdom. Was this the way they lived? The Lithuanian Jews, often named as the Litvaks.  Before the World War II horrific events so brutally took them and their culture here in Lithuania away forever?  Or perhaps not forever? Because here she lives, Irena Veisaite, born in this country in 1928. She is one of the few Litvaks who survived the Holocaust in Lithuania. A living evidence of cruelty and injustice. Yet with less bitterness and anger than you might think.

"Love," she says, "love is so much more important than hatred. Hatred is the most destructive feature that humanity possesses and even in the most difficult times I experienced a lot of kindness".

Irena was born in 1928 in Kaunas, the inter-war Lithuanian capital when Vilnius and the south-western part of the country was occupied by Poland. Her parents had a liberal European education and she grew up, as she describes, surrounded by very different people.  She was playing with the neighbourhood children and never thought much of what nationality the other kids were. It was only when rumours of a potential war grew in strength that she began to feel a certain degree of insecurity.

"But," she says," my biggest fear in the early 1930's was that my parents would divorce. Not the potential war."

She also remembers with great pleasure that the house her father built in Kaunas in 1936 was named as Lithuania's top residential housing. However, insecurity began to make itself increasingly evident in the late thirties. More and more often her parents whispered among themselves. About Adolph Hitler. About growing fears of war. Eight-year-old Irena began to experience painful nightmares. She would often wake up at night because of frightening dreams of a deadly despot, a man who was now leading a country that she and her family had so many good memories about, a country named Germany.

"I learned a new phrase when I was eight years old," she tells me while we sit in her book-crowded apartment in Vilnius this early February day. "The word was 'Anti Semitism'. “But what this word really meant I understood only much later.”

 Irena stands in her kitchen, making coffee for me while she talks about those first, painful childhood experiences.

 "Unfortunately my greatest childhood fears came true when I was 10 years old and my parents decided to divorce. The agreement was that I should stay with my mother in Kaunas during the year but spend the summer vacations with my father. In the summer of 1938 my father took me on a wonderful European trip. We travelled through Berlin to Switzerland, Belgium and France”

"It is very vivid in my memory how we walked along Berlin's famous street, Unter den Linden, and saw the yellow benches which were different from all others, meant only for the Jews. As foreigners, we could have sat down on any bench, but my father insisted that we should sit on a yellow bench out of solidarity with the German Jews and to get the feeling of what it meant to be excluded."


Yellow benches

In German city parks by the end of the 1930s, there were yellow benches bearing the logo “for Jews only.” Jews were not permitted to sit on any other park benches nor use public transportation or drive a car. These measures made it easy to identify the stigmatized Jews so that they could then be transported to ghettos in the East and finally carted to their deaths in concentration camps such as Sobibor, Auschwitz, Neuengamme, Buchenwald etc.


http://www.hmd.org.uk/assets/downloads/211_Yellow_park_bench_marked_Only_for_Jews.jpg

 

In 1939, Hitler's war machinery started to roll east. The infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed that year, and it soon became clear that little Lithuania was about to be squeezed between two superpowers that were not to show any mercy to the Lithuanian people.

The Soviet Union's first WWII occupation of Lithuania took place in 1940. One year later they were driven back by the German troops and the country was suddenly under German domination. While the Soviet occupation was infinitely tragic for the ethnic Lithuanians, due to the  memory of the Tsarist Russia's occupation of the country from late 1700's until well into the First World War and especially the deportations of the 14 June 1941, the Nazi occupation may have appeared as liberation from the Soviet dictatorship.

For the Jews deportation to Siberia was still a chance to survive, while the devastating Nazi occupation meant certain death. Jews and Lithuanians, who had lived in peace and harmony side by side for hundreds of years, became involuntary victims of a war none of them wanted.

Irena recalls the outbreak of the war as a very dark time. She remembers the overpowering Nazi propaganda which identified all the Jews with Communists who betrayed their homeland - Lithuania - to the Soviet Union. The Jews were apportioned the blame for carrying out the deportations of the Lithuanians to Siberia without any mention of the fact that many Jews were also deported. The mood of hatred and retaliation escalated, there were pogroms in Kaunas. Jewish people were arrested and shot in the streets.

Just a few days after the German occupation in June of 1941, Irena's mother was arrested in hospital where she was recovering after major kidney surgery. She was taken to a prison and it is estimated that she was executed in mid-July. 13-year old Irena became motherless in an unimaginably tragic way.

Irena's voice trembles when she talks about her Mother and what happened that July day.

After the brutal murder, Irena remained alone because her father then lived in Belgium (where he survived the war). They had no contact anymore.

During the war years that followed, there was substantial cooperation and collaboration between the German forces and some Lithuanians. The Lithuanian Activist Front volunteer police force, known as Tautinio Darbo Apsaugos Batalionas (TDA), that was hoping to be transformed into a regular army of independent Lithuania, became instead employed by the Germans as auxiliary in massacres of the Jews during the Holocaust that led to the tragic destruction of around 200 000 Jews, about 90- 95% of the country’s pre-war Jewish population.

In August 1941 all the Kaunas Jews were imprisoned in the ghetto which was located in the Kaunas suburb Vilijampole. Irena stayed in the ghetto with her grandparents and one aunt.

The 7th of November 1943 is a date Irena will never forget. Lithuanian friends of her parents, the Strimaitis family, had managed to convey a message to her in the ghetto, saying that she should follow one of the labour brigades out of the ghetto to the work place in town. They also had procured false documents for her. An agreement was reached with a Jewish policeman who was responsible for the list of workers that she should not be included on the list that day, but still follow the group out and then try to escape unnoticed into a side street as soon as they passed the ghetto gates. The moment of stepping out of the column of Jewish workers was the most horrifying and dangerous one in young Irena's life. But fortunately she made it without being detected.

November 1943, Jews in a street in the Kovno Ghetto, Lithuania
Kaunas Ghetto street, November 1943.

She managed to get off the yellow stars that all Jews were obliged to bear on both the chest and back, and went unnoticed to the agreed meeting point on the Viljampole bridge across river Neris.  The work brigade had been more than an hour late out of the ghetto that day, and her family friends had already gone home when Irena came to the meeting place, so she had to find her way alone, walking through the centre of town.

Irena knew the address to the Strimaitis family and managed to find their house in the centre of Kaunas. What she did not know was the number of their apartment, so she found herself ringing the caretaker's door bell. Both she and her friends knew, however, that caretakers were among the most eager informers for the Gestapo, and her contact with the caretaker made the friends so nervous that none of them could sleep that night.

Early next morning they travelled to Vilnius, hoping that the caretaker had not been able or wanted to alert the Gestapo. Irena's Lithuanian was luckily very good, so it was also possible that the caretaker had not realized that she was Jewish.

The Strimaitis family continued to take care of Irena and found a few places for her to stay in Vilnius. Finally, in March 1944, she was taken into a home of Stefanija Ladigiene who took her into her family and became her ‘second mother’. She stayed with this family also after the war had ended because she had no one else left. All her friends and family had perished in the Holocaust.

As Irena had identification papers (false, though) she was able to take a job. Marcele Kubiliute, a friend of the Strimaitis family, found her a job at an orphanage in Vilnius Old Town, where she worked in the laundry and as a cleaner until the summer of 1944.

When the Soviets re-occupied Lithuania the summer of 1944, Irena desperately wanted to rebuild her life. She entered a Lithuanian high school in Vilnius which she finished in record speed, taking only three years instead of the usual five, to get her final exam papers. She then applied to Vilnius University to study Lithuanian Language and Literature. Unfortunately at this time the KGB was after Irena and wanted to enlist her as an informant, to which she would never agree. Her ‘second mother’ was arrested in March 1946, and there was another complication: Irena's father lived abroad and was classified as a bourgeois, and for this reason she was in danger of being expelled from the University. With the help of her relatives in Moscow she left Vilnius and continued her education in Moscow, studying German language and literature.

In 1953, having graduated from the Moscow Lomonosov State University, Irena came back to Vilnius, determined to work in Lithuania. She became a lecturer at the Pedagogical University in Vilnius, where she taught the history of Western European and German literature. She later taught at other universities, and became involved in theatre and many other activities, although the pedagogical university remained her main employer, through 43 relatively good, happy years.

Soon after Lithuania's new process of liberation, in 1990, Irena, together with Professor Ceslovas Kudaba was invited by the philanthropist and billionaire George Soros to create the Open Society Fund in Lithuania.

"I was happy to accept the offer. I felt like I was getting new wings because this gave me the possibility to do on a much bigger scale what I was trying to do all my life - stimulating critical and creative thinking and bringing Lithuania back to Europe and  basic European human values... To show an alternative to Soviet thinking. I accepted his invitation to lead the Fund for the years 1990-2000."

Today Irena is still working with George Soros and his Open Society Fund, and now acts as Ombudsman for his worldwide organization.


George Soros

http://www.georgesoros.com/

http://www.georgesoros.com/page/-/wrapper/img/home-pic-new.png

To Irena Veisaite,
my fellow traveller
in spreading the
ideology of no
ideology

With affection
George Soros
May 27, 94 Vilnius

In spite of her tragic past Irena leads a very active life. She is appreciated for her positive thinking and tolerance, and was in 2002 awarded the prestigious title; "Person of Tolerance in Lithuania.”  Irena is not affected by hatred or revenge.

As she puts it to me; “I do not remember the faces of any evil people from my past, but I do very well remember the faces of those that expressed goodness. We have to learn to love and to understand..."


Dr. Irena Veisaite (84) at her study desk in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Category : Litvak forum

Kaunas was an important centre of Jewish life

- Posted by - (4) Comment

File:Lithuania Kaunas Synagogue.jpg
Kaunas Synagogue is one of two operating choral synagogues in Lithuania.

Jews are first known to have lived in Kaunas (Kovno) as early as 1410 when they were brought forcibly as prisoners of war by the Grand Duke Vytautas. Many of those Jews were later active as traders between Kovno and Danzig (today's Gdansk, Poland). Living conditions for many Jews were squalid. In 1858, archaic living restrictions were relaxed and all but 6,000 of the city's 35,000 Jews flocked to the Old Town in search of something better. In July 1941, however, the Nazis expelled all the Jews from the town and sent them back to Slobodka. The Kovno Ghetto was thus established.

Kaunas became an important center of Jewish cultural life in the latter half of the 19th century. Distinguished Jewish leaders moved here from Vilnius, the capital, to establish yeshivas. Influential thinkers also moved to Kaunas.

When Vilnius was annexed by Poland during the interwar years, Kaunas became the provisional capital of Lithuania. In 1928, there were 1,000 Jewish students at the Vytautas Magnus University. There was even a Semitic studies program.

In 1931, the Jewish Ethnographic Museum was opened. Within only a few years, it had collected some 3,000 Jewish art works and artifacts. By the mid-1930s there were successful Jewish writers, poets, and artists residing in the city. By 1938, the Jewish population was nearly 40,000 and the area was a booming hub for Jewish businessmen, entrepreneurs, artisans, doctors, and lawyers. Five Jewish newspapers were published daily. There were schools for all ages, adult training centers, theatres, libraries, sports clubs, and political groups. Even the Central Jewish Bank of Lithuania was centered in Kaunas.

Kaunas Synagogue is one of two operating choral synagogues in Lithuania. It is located in Centras eldership, Kaunas. The Neo-Baroque synagogue was built in 1872. In 1902, before the Holocaust in Lithuania, the city had some 25 synagogues and prayer houses.

Dating from 1871, this radically designed synagogue, once one of over 35 synagogues and Jewish prayer houses in the city, claims to have one of the most beautiful altars in the entire Jewish world. A memorial to the estimated 50,000 Lithuanian Jewish children killed during the Holocaust can be found at the rear of the building, complete with 37 stone tablets showing in which towns and cities they lost their lives and just how many of them died in each one.

Kovno video:

Jewish bank in Kaunas
See also: http://vilnews.com/?p=12028

In pre-war Lithuania, many members of the Jewish middle class, especially the educated strata, who had already experienced to some extent the establishing of Jewish autonomy, mobilized their resources for the strengthening of the social economic basis of the Jewish masses and their livelihood. With the blessing and initiation of the Economics Committee at the Ministry for Jewish Affairs and with the assistance of the “Foundation”, a national financial system was established of co-operative credit societies. By the end of 1920, these were already active in 44 cities and towns and were named “Peoples Bank” (in Yiddish Folksbank). In addition to the positive local economic activity (extending loans etc) they were also of importance in the social and cultural sphere. In a number of places, the community organs and other organizations also used the bank building. There were also cases of the bank granting study scholarships and prizes for cultural activities.

In order to co-ordinate and regulate the activities of the Peoples Banks in time of need and crises and other difficulties, a central institution was established in 1921, formally called the “Central Jewish Bank for the Encouragement of Co-operation.” 71 Peoples Banks throughout the country linked to it, and the number of (dues paying) members reached 11,000. Over the years, the capital assets of the institutions increased, as did also the amount of deposits and savings. Thanks to that, the conditions were eased under which the loans were granted to members and public institutions. In 1930, 85 Peoples Banks existed in Lithuania with 22,262 members. In that year, 11,953 loans were granted to them and to others in a total amount of 10,249,159 Lit (approximately one million Dollars).

Although the Peoples Bank was open to non-Jews as well, this figure was no more than 5%. The work in the offices, the correspondence and the daily work routine was conducted in Yiddish, and this was also true of the national conventions and conferences, which took place every few years. This was therefore, a Jewish banking system spread throughout the cities and towns of Lithuania. At that time, the total deposits amounted to 14,113,413 Lit (approximately $1.4 million), of which 46% came from the members, 16% from institutions and 48% from non-members. If we take into consideration the members families and all others requiring the Peoples Banks' services, and that of its associates, then we can conclude that they served about two thirds of the Jewish population. Unlike the similar Lithuanian banks, which enjoyed cheap governmental credit, the Peoples Banks had to depend on deposits only. In 1933, a special bank was established to assist Jewish farmers (Yiddisher Landwirten Bank).

The central office was in Kaunas with 31 branches spread out in towns through the land.

Description: http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/pinkas_lita/images/lit052.jpg
The Central Jewish Bank. Kaunas 1923.

Read more:
http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9490-kovno
http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/kovno/kovno.html
http://www.northernjerusalem.com/objektai/locations/the-schwabe-hebrew-gymnasium-in-kaunas

 

Hebrew Real ("Reali") Gymnasium in Kovno/Kaunas, Lithuania before WWII
From  http://aaronrachovich.blogspot.com/2012/01/hebrew-real-gymnasium-in-kovnokaunas.html#.UNq2L-Ssh8E

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-9FLzXVErWww/TwwHXCBCsuI/AAAAAAAAAQo/VBR2CDcskNY/s320/BWWII-Kaunas-Dad%2527s+school.jpghttp://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Yb8zpPH-HAk/UENBOeLTJ_I/AAAAAAAAAf0/tXg9md3B014/s320/BWWII-Kaunas-Hebrew+Real+Gymnasium++-+Prof+Stoupel+collec.jpg

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-YJCcVhsiofI/UEYgGhNVRFI/AAAAAAAAAgQ/_t8SIBkNT6U/s320/zydu_gimnaz_kestucio-.jpg

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-oJ3y_tstY0Q/TwwH1kOXjHI/AAAAAAAAAQ4/JkcLoiX-hYA/s320/BWWII-Kaunas+Dad%2527s+sclool+real.jpg

My father Aaron Rachowitz attended the Hebrew Real/Reali Gymnasium (Kauno žydų realinė gimnazija, today Kęstučio g. 85 [1] formerly  Kęstučio g. 59, in front of the theater/Valstybės teatras בית הריאל-גימנסיון העברי בקאונסin Kovno/Kaunas for four years, i.e., completed four grades/classes: from 1936 to 1940 (the above pictures [2]show the gymnasium building then and today). His younger brother, Nathan Rachowitz, also attended this school. My father's good friend Eliyahu Stoupel (later to become a well known cardiologist in the world -- Professor Eliyahu Stoupel[3]), was his classmate. Most of their friends and classmates were killed during World War II in Kaunas, at Dachau and other locations. Hadassah Gorbulski (the sister of the famous Lithuanian composer Benjaminas Gorbulskis), Shura Katz, David Shein (former EL AL director in New York), Shlomo Yarmovski and Nissim Krakinovski were among those who survived the Holocaust. [4] The school's principal language of instruction was Hebrew but students communicated among themselves in Yiddish. They also studied Latin and Lithuanian. All courses -- except for Lithuanian language, literature and history -- were taught in Hebrew. According to my Dad, the gymnasium was a private institution. If parents do not pay their tuition fee on time (by the due date), the students will be reminded, in front of the whole class, to settle the debt. The gymnasium was on the name of Edward Azriel Chase (Eduardas Čais or Čaisas in Lithuanian), the famous Jewish philanthropist who was born (1874), grew up and spent the greater part of his youth in Tsarist Alytus/Alite (between the two World Wars and since the end of World War II, the town has been a part of Lithuania), but later immigrated to the United States and lived in Manchester, New Hampshire. With his financial help, a new building was erected for the Hebrew Real Gymnasium in 1930 (pictures above) in Kaunas (a formal inauguration dates from August 30, 1931, in the presence of the Lithuanian Minister of Education Konstantinas Šakenis, the mayor/burmistras of Kaunas, Juozas Vokietaitis, as well as Edward Chase and his wife, and many others---250 guests took part in the event), where thousands of Jewish children received their education and Jewish upbringing. The Hebrew Real/Reali Gymnasium had a good academic reputation all over the country (The roots of this gymnasium go back to 1915, i.e., the period of German occupation of Lithuania. Jüdische Realgymnasium was founded by Jewish-German Rabbi Dr. Joseph Hirsch Carlebach, who was charged by the German Occupation Authority in Lithuania with organizing a secondary school system. By the late 1920s, the gymnasium had earned good name but lacked adequate premises, i.e., had been housed in various locations/rented buildings). The total cost of the project, including Chase funding, was estimated in 1931 at 700,000 LT (approximately $70,000). The new gymnasium building (nauji žydų realinės gimnazijos rūmai)accommodated both girls' classes and boys' classes. It had two big halls: the gymnastics hall and the celebration hall; 19 classes; physics cabinet; a technical drawing hall; buffet; 4 wardrobes; 4 rooms with showers. Every floor had twocorridors and etc. [5] The Hebrew Real Gymnasium was designed by Baruch Kling who also supervised the construction. From an architectural point of view, the gymnasium has features derived from the German Bauhaus style or Dutch De Stijl style. [6] Edward Chase also established the Chase Fund that gave dozens of Jewish students the possibility of studying abroad or in Lithuanian universities. In addition, Chase established a scholarship fund to help outstanding students from different religious backgrounds. He contributed much for the development of his native town of Alytus (built houses, awarded scholarships to local students, etc). And his last dream during his visit to Lithuania in 1938 was to turn his former house in Alytus into a Jewish cultural center for Lithuanian youth. At its peak, the Hebrew Real Gymnasium had 40 teachers and 1,000 students. Dr. Zemach Feldstein had been the director of the gymnasium during 1922-1940. By the way, My Dad served as a goalkeeper on the school's football team, defended staunchly the goal and had been called (in Yiddish): "ארקה די הינדשה פלייש" ("Arke die hundische fleisch").

The Jews had enjoyed full cultural autonomy in prewar Kaunas, according to my Dad. In addition to the Hebrew Real/Reali Gymnasium, my Dad also mentioned frequently other Jewish gymnasia and schools that were established in the city: a "Yavne" Hebrew Gymnasium for girls; a "Yavne" Hebrew Gymnasium for boys. Yavne schools were well known for their strong religious education and were partially supported by religious-Zionist Mizrachi organization; a leftist "Commerce" Yiddish Gymnasium (named later after Shalom Aleichem); the Hebrew Gymnasium headed by Dr. Moshe Schwabe and thus called the "Schwabe" Gymnasium (In 1924, Dr. Schwabe immigrated to Eretz-Israel where he was a lecturer in the newly created Hebrew University of Jerusalem and later became its rector. A prolific Hebrew language poet, Leah Goldberg, studied at "Schwabe" Hebrew Gymnasium from 1920 to 1928---please see a commemorative plaque below. By the way, students of the "Schwabe" Gymnasium were sometimes called in Yiddish: "שוואבה די גרינע זשאבע" according to my Dad/"schwabe die grüne zhabe" which means: schwabe the green toad). The Schwabe Gymnasium (the picture of a new building inaugurated in 1927, below) had Revisionist Zionist orientatation; the Hebrew Tarbut Gymnasium affiliated with the Socialist Zionist party Mapai (my Dad's best friend, Dr. Semen Yakobson, at first studied at the Tarbut Gymnasium until 1940, but with the advent of Soviet rule moved to the Shalom Aleichem Gymnasium/previously known as "Commerce" Gymnasium, occupying since the Soviet era the former building of the Schwabe Gymnasium, located on the banks of the Nemunas River
 [7]---please see the building of the Schwabe Gymnasium, below); Hebrew "Tarbut" schools with strong secular nationalist Zionist orientation. There was also one Jewish gymnasium where students were taught in Lithuanian language. Hundreds of Jewish youth from all over country continued their education in the Lithuanian University of Kaunas (in 1930 the university was renamed to Vytautas Magnus University/Vytauto Didžiojo universitetas). Kaunas had many Jewish associations, organizations, student unions and sports unions, like Maccabi and Hapoel. The Jewish youth joined the Zionist movements like Hashomer Hatzair and Beitar---the Hebrew Real Gymnasium, where my Dad studied, was well known for its support for the Beitar movement, according to my Dad. The young Jews were trained for immigration to and life in Eretz Israel. "Kibbutz Hachshara" (Training Kibbutz) on behalf of "HeChalutz" Zionist youth movement acted in Kaunas. Many of these "Chalutzim" made "Aliyah" to Eretz Israel. The "Tarbut" association initiated public lectures in Hebrew. Throughout the interwar period a Yiddish theater operated in Kaunas. Also, the Jews of Kaunas were privileged to have had theater shows from Poland, the United States and Eretz Israel (the “Habima” theater, "Haohel" theater, etc. Ida Kaminska, for example, performed in Kaunas). A drama studio was run in Hebrew. In the interwar period, more than 100 books in Hebrew were published in Kaunas and etc. Professor Dov Levin wrote that Lithuania's Hebrew educational institutions in the interwar period "not only gave their pupils a solid education in Judaism and Hebrew culture, as well as in the sciences and the arts, but also encouraged them to be active in youth movements, sporting associations, student groups, and training groups preparing to emigrate to Palestine. In fact, Lithuania came to be known as the 'Second Eretz Israel,' in no small measure thanks to the varied and wide-ranging network of Hebrew schools, which was quite unparalled throughout the Jewish world." [8] On a visit to Kovno/Kaunas in the 1930s, the foremost Hebrew poet of modern time, Hayim Nahman Bialik said: "if Vilna is known as the Yerushalayim DeLita [Jerusalem of Lithuania], then Jewish Lithuania should be known as the Eretz-Israel deGaluta [The Land of Israel of the Exile]. 
____________________________
[1]
 The Hebrew Real/Reali Gymnasium building now serves as a music school (Kauno apskrities Juozo Naujalio muzikos gimnazija).Dr. Semen Yakobson drew my attention to the fact. 

[2]
 The second photo, by courtesy of Prof. Eli Stoupel. The third photo was found on the web: KVB, Kaunas: Datos ir Faktai. Fotogr. R. Vaitilavičienė (2009 m.).

[3] Please see Prof Stoupel's new book:
 Space Weather and Timing of Cardiovascular Events, LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2012 

[4]
 Information provided by Prof Eliyahu Stoupel.

[5] For further details, please see
 "Nauja Žydų Kultūrinė Įstaiga: Jos labdarys p. Čais," Rytas, Sept 7, 1931, p 2 viahttp://www.epaveldas.lt/vbspi/biRecord.do?biExemplarId=122209

[6]
 Northern Jerusalem website

[7]
 Information provided by Dr Semen Yakobson.

[8] Dov Levin, The Litvaks:  A Short History of the Jews in Lithuania, Yad Vashem Publications, 2000 

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-cZqjyxLRRdg/UFSAqiFVdlI/AAAAAAAAAgs/m8ZfuYKwRl0/s320/zydu_gimnaz_karaliaus-.jpg

Description: In 1927-1940, this building housed Schwabe (Švabės) Hebrew Gymnasium 
(present Karaliaus Mindaugo Ave. 11). 2009.
 Photo by R. Vaitilavičienė Source: KVB, Kaunas: Datos ir Faktai. Fotogr. R. Vaitilavičienė (2009 m.) Holocaust: Most of its students were murdered during the Holocaust---please see the commemorative plaque below -- D.R.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-kh-KIIxJDVs/UMYucQu_utI/AAAAAAAAAlo/mca61tNC8OQ/s400/school1.jpg
Source: LitaLita.com

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-n9e-xD1vQ4s/UMYpW8E7q2I/AAAAAAAAAlM/wOUoB4d_3rc/s400/goldberg_lenta_d.jpg
Source: http://atminimas.kvb.lt/iliustracija.php?img=iliustracijos/goldberg_lenta_d

Category : Litvak forum

Kaunas was an important centre of Jewish life

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Kaunas Synagogue is one of two operating choral synagogues in Lithuania.

Jews are first known to have lived in Kaunas (Kovno) as early as 1410 when they were brought forcibly as prisoners of war by the Grand Duke Vytautas. Many of those Jews were later active as traders between Kovno and Danzig (today's Gdansk, Poland). Living conditions for many Jews were squalid. In 1858, archaic living restrictions were relaxed and all but 6,000 of the city's 35,000 Jews flocked to the Old Town in search of something better. In July 1941, however, the Nazis expelled all the Jews from the town and sent them back to Slobodka. The Kovno Ghetto was thus established.

Kaunas became an important center of Jewish cultural life in the latter half of the 19th century. Distinguished Jewish leaders moved here from Vilnius, the capital, to establish yeshivas. Influential thinkers also moved to Kaunas.

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Kovno video:

 

Jewish bank in Kaunas
See also: http://vilnews.com/?p=12028

In pre-war Lithuania, many members of the Jewish middle class, especially the educated strata, who had already experienced to some extent the establishing of Jewish autonomy, mobilized their resources for the strengthening of the social economic basis of the Jewish masses and their livelihood. With the blessing and initiation of the Economics Committee at the Ministry for Jewish Affairs and with the assistance of the “Foundation”, a national financial system was established of co-operative credit societies. By the end of 1920, these were already active in 44 cities and towns and were named “Peoples Bank” (in Yiddish Folksbank). In addition to the positive local economic activity (extending loans etc) they were also of importance in the social and cultural sphere. In a number of places, the community organs and other organizations also used the bank building. There were also cases of the bank granting study scholarships and prizes for cultural activities.


The Central Jewish Bank. Kaunas, 1923.

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Category : Front page

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Kovno Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spector (1817-1896), served as chief rabbi of Kovno, the most prominent rabbinical position at the height of 19th century Lithuanian Jewry.

Jewish postcards from the past
http://vilnews.com/?p=790

We were very impressed with the scope of the articles, photos and vast scope of coverage of all things Lithuanian

Stephanie Comfort's Jewish Postcard Collection has been featured in the online Lithuania News called the "VilNews e-magazine". The VilNews e-magazine was launched on February 15, 2011 and hopes to be one of the most comprehensive online resources for Lithuania.

We were very impressed with the scope of the articles, photos and vast scope of coverage of all things Lithuania and wish them much success.
Category : Litvak forum sidebar / Opinions

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Lithuania’s new Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius

Lithuania's new Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius:
Let's be more polite to our neighbours

Talking and showing respect – such is the recipe that Lithuania's new Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius will follow in his quest to mend the country's soured relations with neighbouring nations.

In an interview to 15min, Linkevičius says that Lithuania must not be hostage to the past in dealing with Russia; should balance democratic values with pragmatic interests in its treatment of Belarus, and give up the sense of indignation and be more polite while talking to Poland – and keep the old promises once made by Vilnius to Warsaw.

What are your nearest plans and what's the agenda for the entire term?
– Presidency over the Council of the European Union next year makes all other tasks pale in comparison. All the attention is now focused on this job – not just in our ministry but in all state institutions. What is crucial is a smooth cooperation among them.

When it comes to good neighbourly relations, I still see much room for improvement.

I am a man of consensus, that's what I always seek and I value agreement in areas like defence, foreign policy, security.

Foreign policy requires less revolution and more continuity. In the wake of our independence, we had three main priorities: membership in the EU, joining NATO, and friendly neighbourhood. The first two tasks have been accomplished, but when it comes to good neighbourly relations, I still see much room for improvement. I do not want to be over-dramatic, but nor do I wish to be indulgent.

– What directions will our foreign policy take, geographically speaking?
– There's no either-or in such matters – we need to look in all directions. Neighbours can be different, but they are important to all states. We share EU and NATO membership with Latvia and Poland, we have a common agenda and values, even though there are certain variations. Belarus and Russia have chosen a different path, but that does not mean we have to be slaves to our prejudices and drown ourselves in analysis of differences.

READ MORE…

Category : News

OPINIONS

Have your say. Send to:
editor@VilNews.com


By Dr. Boris Vytautas Bakunas,
Ph. D., Chicago

A wave of unity sweeps the international Lithuanian community on March 11th every year as Lithuanians celebrated the anniversary of the Lithuanian Parliament's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. However, the sense of national unity engendered by the celebration could be short-lived.

Human beings have a strong tendency to overgeneralize and succumb to stereotypical us-them distinctions that can shatter even the strongest bonds. We need only search the internet to find examples of divisive thinking at work:

- "50 years of Soviet rule has ruined an entire generation of Lithuanian.

- "Those who fled Lithuania during World II were cowards -- and now they come back, flaunt their wealth, and tell us 'true Lithuanians' how to live."

- "Lithuanians who work abroad have abandoned their homeland and should be deprived of their Lithuanian citizenship."

Could such stereotypical, emotionally-charged accusations be one of the main reasons why relations between Lithuania's diaspora groups and their countrymen back home have become strained?

Read more...
* * *


Text: Saulene Valskyte

In Lithuania Christmas Eve is a family event and the New Year's Eve a great party with friends!
Lithuanian say "Kaip sutiksi naujus metus, taip juos ir praleisi" (the way you'll meet the new year is the way you will spend it). So everyone is trying to spend New Year's Eve with friend and have as much fun as possible.

Lithuanian New Year's traditions are very similar to those in other countries, and actually were similar since many years ago. Also, the traditional Lithuanian New Years Eve party was very similar to other big celebrations throughout the year.

The New Year's Eve table is quite similar to the Christmas Eve table, but without straws under the tablecloth, and now including meat dishes. A tradition that definitely hasn't changes is that everybody is trying not to fell asleep before midnight. It was said that if you oversleep the midnight point you will be lazy all the upcoming year. People were also trying to get up early on the first day of the new year, because waking up late also meant a very lazy and unfortunate year.

During the New Year celebration people were dancing, singing, playing games and doing magic to guess the future. People didn't drink much of alcohol, especially was that the case for women.

Here are some advices from elders:
- During the New Year, be very nice and listen to relatives - what you are during New Year Eve, you will be throughout the year.

- During to the New Year Eve, try not to fall, because if this happens, next year you will be unhappy.

- If in the start of the New Year, the first news are good - then the year will be successful. If not - the year will be problematic.

New year predictions
* If during New Year eve it's snowing - then it will be bad weather all year round. If the day is fine - one can expect good harvest.
* If New Year's night is cold and starry - look forward to a good summer!
* If the during New Year Eve trees are covered with frost - then it will be a good year. If it is wet weather on New Year's Eve, one can expect a year where many will die and dangerous epidemics occur.
* If the first day of the new year is snowy - the upcoming year will see many young people die. If the night is snowy - mostly old people will die.
* If the New Year time is cold - then Easter will be warm.
* If during New Year there are a lot of birds in your homestead - then all year around there will be many guests and the year will be fun.

Read more...
* * *

* * *
VilNews
Christmas greetings
from Vilnius


* * *
Ukraine won the historic
and epic battle for the
future
By Leonidas Donskis
Kaunas
Philosopher, political theorist, historian of
ideas, social analyst, and political
commentator

Immediately after Russia stepped in Syria, we understood that it is time to sum up the convoluted and long story about Ukraine and the EU - a story of pride and prejudice which has a chance to become a story of a new vision regained after self-inflicted blindness.

Ukraine was and continues to be perceived by the EU political class as a sort of grey zone with its immense potential and possibilities for the future, yet deeply embedded and trapped in No Man's Land with all of its troubled past, post-Soviet traumas, ambiguities, insecurities, corruption, social divisions, and despair. Why worry for what has yet to emerge as a new actor of world history in terms of nation-building, European identity, and deeper commitments to transparency and free market economy?

Right? Wrong. No matter how troubled Ukraine's economic and political reality could be, the country has already passed the point of no return. Even if Vladimir Putin retains his leverage of power to blackmail Ukraine and the West in terms of Ukraine's zero chances to accede to NATO due to the problems of territorial integrity, occupation and annexation of Crimea, and mayhem or a frozen conflict in the Donbas region, Ukraine will never return to Russia's zone of influence. It could be deprived of the chances to join NATO or the EU in the coming years or decades, yet there are no forces on earth to make present Ukraine part of the Eurasia project fostered by Putin.

Read more...
* * *
Watch this video if you
want to learn about the
new, scary propaganda
war between Russia,
The West and the
Baltic States!


* * *
90% of all Lithuanians
believe their government
is corrupt
Lithuania is perceived to be the country with the most widespread government corruption, according to an international survey involving almost 40 countries.

Read more...
* * *
Lithuanian medical
students say no to
bribes for doctors

On International Anticorruption Day, the Special Investigation Service shifted their attention to medical institutions, where citizens encounter bribery most often. Doctors blame citizens for giving bribes while patients complain that, without bribes, they won't receive proper medical attention. Campaigners against corruption say that bribery would disappear if medical institutions themselves were to take resolute actions against corruption and made an effort to take care of their patients.

Read more...
* * *
Doing business in Lithuania

By Grant Arthur Gochin
California - USA

Lithuania emerged from the yoke of the Soviet Union a mere 25 years ago. Since then, Lithuania has attempted to model upon other European nations, joining NATO, Schengen, and the EU. But, has the Soviet Union left Lithuania?

During Soviet times, government was administered for the people in control, not for the local population, court decisions were decreed, they were not the administration of justice, and academia was the domain of ideologues. 25 years of freedom and openness should have put those bad experiences behind Lithuania, but that is not so.

Today, it is a matter of expectation that court pronouncements will be governed by ideological dictates. Few, if any Lithuanians expect real justice to be effected. For foreign companies, doing business in Lithuania is almost impossible in a situation where business people do not expect rule of law, so, surely Government would be a refuge of competence?

Lithuanian Government has not emerged from Soviet styles. In an attempt to devolve power, Lithuania has created a myriad of fiefdoms of power, each speaking in the name of the Government, each its own centralized power base of ideology.

Read more...
* * *
Greetings from Wales!
By Anita Šovaitė-Woronycz
Chepstow, Wales

Think of a nation in northern Europe whose population is around the 3 million mark a land of song, of rivers, lakes, forests, rolling green hills, beautiful coastline a land where mushrooms grow ready for the picking, a land with a passion for preserving its ancient language and culture.

Doesn't that sound suspiciously like Lithuania? Ah, but I didn't mention the mountains of Snowdonia, which would give the game away.

I'm talking about Wales, that part of the UK which Lithuanians used to call "Valija", but later named "Velsas" (why?). Wales, the nation which has welcomed two Lithuanian heads of state to its shores - firstly Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, who has paid several visits and, more recently, President Dalia Grybauskaitė who attended the 2014 NATO summit which was held in Newport, South Wales.
MADE IN WALES -
ENGLISH VERSION OF THE
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF
VYTAUTAS LANDSBERGIS.

Read more...
* * *
IS IT POSSIBLE TO
COMMENT ON OUR
ARTICLES? :-)
Read Cassandra's article HERE

Read Rugile's article HERE

Did you know there is a comment field right after every article we publish? If you read the two above posts, you will see that they both have received many comments. Also YOU are welcome with your comments. To all our articles!
* * *

Greetings from Toronto
By Antanas Sileika,
Toronto, Canada

Toronto was a major postwar settlement centre for Lithuanian Displaced Persons, and to this day there are two Catholic parishes and one Lutheran one, as well as a Lithuanian House, retirement home, and nursing home. A new wave of immigrants has showed interest in sports.

Although Lithuanian activities have thinned over the decades as that postwar generation died out, the Lithuanian Martyrs' parish hall is crowded with many, many hundreds of visitors who come to the Lithuanian cemetery for All Souls' Day. Similarly, the Franciscan parish has standing room only for Christmas Eve mass.

Although I am firmly embedded in the literary culture of Canada, my themes are usually Lithuanian, and I'll be in Kaunas and Vilnius in mid-November 2015 to give talks about the Lithuanian translations of my novels and short stories, which I write in English.

If you have the Lithuanian language, come by to one of the talks listed in the links below. And if you don't, you can read more about my work at
www.anatanassileika.com

http://www.vdu.lt/lt/rasytojas-antanas-sileika-pristatys-savo-kuryba/
https://leu.lt/lt/lf/lf_naujienos/kvieciame-i-rasytojo-59hc.html
* * *

As long as VilNews exists,
there is hope for the future
Professor Irena Veisaite, Chairwoman of our Honorary Council, asked us to convey her heartfelt greetings to the other Council Members and to all readers of VilNews.

"My love and best wishes to all. As long as VilNews exists, there is hope for the future,"" she writes.

Irena Veisaite means very much for our publication, and we do hereby thank her for the support and wise commitment she always shows.

You can read our interview with her
HERE.
* * *
EU-Russia:
Facing a new reality

By Vygaudas Ušackas
EU Ambassador to the Russian Federation

Dear readers of VilNews,

It's great to see this online resource for people interested in Baltic affairs. I congratulate the editors. From my position as EU Ambassador to Russia, allow me to share some observations.

For a number of years, the EU and Russia had assumed the existence of a strategic partnership, based on the convergence of values, economic integration and increasingly open markets and a modernisation agenda for society.

Our agenda was positive and ambitious. We looked at Russia as a country ready to converge with "European values", a country likely to embrace both the basic principles of democratic government and a liberal concept of the world order. It was believed this would bring our relations to a new level, covering the whole spectrum of the EU's strategic relationship with Russia.

Read more...
* * *

The likelihood of Putin
invading Lithuania
By Mikhail Iossel
Professor of English at Concordia University, Canada
Founding Director at Summer Literary Seminars

The likelihood of Putin's invading Lithuania or fomenting a Donbass-style counterfeit pro-Russian uprising there, at this point, in my strong opinion, is no higher than that of his attacking Portugal, say, or Ecuador. Regardless of whether he might or might not, in principle, be interested in the insane idea of expanding Russia's geographic boundaries to those of the former USSR (and I for one do not believe that has ever been his goal), he knows this would be entirely unfeasible, both in near- and long-term historical perspective, for a variety of reasons. It is not going to happen. There will be no restoration of the Soviet Union as a geopolitical entity.

Read more...
* * *

Are all Lithuanian energy
problems now resolved?
By Dr. Stasys Backaitis,
P.E., CSMP, SAE Fellow Member of Central and Eastern European Coalition, Washington, D.C., USA

Lithuania's Energy Timeline - from total dependence to independence

Lithuania as a country does not have significant energy resources. Energy consuming infrastructure after WWII was small and totally supported by energy imports from Russia.

First nuclear reactor begins power generation at Ignalina in 1983, the second reactor in 1987. Iganlina generates enough electricity to cover Lithuania's needs and about 50%.for export. As, prerequisite for membership in EU, Ignalina ceases all nuclear power generation in 2009

The Klaipėda Sea terminal begins Russia's oil export operations in 1959 and imports in 1994.

Mazeikiu Nafta (current ORLEAN Lietuva) begins operation of oil refinery in 1980.

Read more...
* * *

Have Lithuanian ties across
the Baltic Sea become
stronger in recent years?
By Eitvydas Bajarunas
Ambassador to Sweden

My answer to affirmative "yes". Yes, Lithuanian ties across the Baltic Sea become as never before solid in recent years. For me the biggest achievement of Lithuania in the Baltic Sea region during recent years is boosting Baltic and Nordic ties. And not because of mere accident - Nordic direction was Lithuania's strategic choice.

The two decades that have passed since regaining Lithuania's independence can be described as a "building boom". From the wreckage of a captive Soviet republic, a generation of Lithuanians have built a modern European state, and are now helping construct a Nordic-Baltic community replete with institutions intended to promote political coordination and foster a trans-Baltic regional identity. Indeed, a "Nordic-Baltic community" - I will explain later in my text the meaning of this catch-phrase.

Since the restoration of Lithuania's independence 25 years ago, we have continuously felt a strong support from Nordic countries. Nordics in particular were among the countries supporting Lithuania's and Baltic States' striving towards independence. Take example of Iceland, country which recognized Lithuania in February of 1991, well in advance of other countries. Yet another example - Swedish Ambassador was the first ambassador accredited to Lithuania in 1991. The other countries followed suit. When we restored our statehood, Nordic Countries became champions in promoting Baltic integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. To large degree thanks Nordic Countries, massive transformations occurred in Lithuania since then, Lithuania became fully-fledged member of the EU and NATO, and we joined the Eurozone on 1 January 2015.

Read more...
* * *

It's the economy, stupid *
By Valdas (Val) Samonis,
PhD, CPC

n his article, Val Samonis takes a comparative policy look at the Lithuanian economy during the period 2000-2015. He argues that the LT policy response (a radical and classical austerity) was wrong and unenlightened because it coincided with strong and continuing deflationary forces in the EU and the global economy which forces were predictable, given the right policy guidance. Also, he makes a point that LT austerity, and the resulting sharp drop in GDP and employment in LT, stimulated emigration of young people (and the related worsening of other demographics) which processes took huge dimensions thereby undercutting even the future enlightened efforts to get out of the middle-income growth trap by LT. Consequently, the country is now on the trajectory (development path) similar to that of a dog that chases its own tail. A strong effort by new generation of policymakers is badly needed to jolt the country out of that wrong trajectory and to offer the chance of escaping the middle-income growth trap via innovations.

Read more...
* * *

Have you heard about the
South African "Pencil Test"?
By Karina Simonson

If you are not South African, then, probably, you haven't. It is a test performed in South Africa during the apartheid regime and was used, together with the other ways, to determine racial identity, distinguishing whites from coloureds and blacks. That repressive test was very close to Nazi implemented ways to separate Jews from Aryans. Could you now imagine a Lithuanian mother, performing it on her own child?

But that is exactly what happened to me when I came back from South Africa. I will tell you how.

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