My Grandfather was a War Criminal.

This is a chat show presented by Dirk de Klein. On this episode Dirk’s guests are Grant Gochin and Silvia Foti. Grant and Silvia have been campaigning against the Lithuanian government in relation to the revised history of Lithuania’s part in the Holocaust. Some of Grant’s family were murdered in Lithuania during the Holocaust. One of the men responsible was Jonas Noreika.

Jonas Noreika was the Grandfather of Silvia. While doing research on her Grandfather for a book she had promised her Mother she would write, about her Mother’s dad, she discovered disturbing facts about her Grandfather. Grant Gochin is actively involved in Jewish affairs, focusing on historical justice. He has spent the past twenty years documenting and restoring signs of Jewish life in Lithuania. He has served as the Chair of the Maceva Project in Lithuania, which mapped / inventoried / documented / restored over fifty abandoned and neglected Jewish cemeteries. He is the author of “Malice, Murder and Manipulation”, published in 2013. His book documents his family history of oppression in Lithuania. Silvia Foti, MSJ, MAT, MFA, is a journalist, creative writer, teacher, and mother. She is author of the book The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Learned My Grandfather was a War Criminal, Regnery History, coming May 2021; Mi Abuelo: El General Storm ¿Héroe o criminal nazi? Harper Collins Mexico, Spanish edition, coming August 2020.

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Legally irrelevant

Posting this for 2 reasons.

  1. It is important that the truth is told
  2. Grant Gochin is a honorable man and I am proud to call him a friend.

Times of Israel blog by Grant Gochin

 

For the past eight years I have been fighting a protracted legal battle to remove honors awarded to Lithuania’s Nazi collaborators like Jonas Noreika and prevent their glorification. I consider it my moral responsibility to be a voice – sometimes a lonely one – for truth in Lithuania with regard to the Holocaust, which devastated my family along with the families of the 200,000+ Jews that were murdered at the hands of Lithuanians like Noreika and their Nazi enablers.

As head of the country’s Šiauliai district during the Nazi occupation, after his predecessor resigned for “humanitarian reasons,” Noreika signed off on the ghettoization and dispossession of the district’s Jews. Hundreds were murdered during the round-up for no other reason than their Jewishness, making clear the ultimate intention of being placed into a ghetto. Almost all of the rest were slaughtered subsequently by Lithuanians and a small number of Nazis. Vast numbers of Lithuanians celebrated the sharing of Jewish plunder……read more by clicking on the link.

https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/legally-irrelevant/?fbclid=IwAR1zDip_AbpKhdPc00WF1BsM0GJ-Av5L7MbQrR_EptXniI-MwbqdBZuY5DU

Chaim Nussbaum- The Rabbi who escaped the Nazis and survived theBurma Railway

Nussbaum

Rabbi Chaim Nussbaum was born in Lithuania, but  grew up in Scheveningen in the Netherlands.  His story in World War 2 is a remarkable, some people just have a very strong life force.

After he got  married  he returned, together with his wife, to his country of origin, Lithuania. When the Nazis invaded Lithuania in 1941,he  managed to escape with his family.

H reached Java in the Dutch East Indies via Via Russia and Japan . In  the Dutch East Indies (nowadays known as Indonesia) he became Rabbi of the Jewish communities of Batavia and Bandung.

In 1943, the Japanese occupiers of the Dutch East Indies, imprisoned  him in the Changi Prisoner of War Camp in eastern Singapore.

Changi

There  he was forced to work to do slave labor on the notorious Burma Railway. Chaim also took up a role  as the rabbi for the Jewish prisoners in the camp, and  even established a synagogue there named Ohel Jacob.

A fellow prisoner, Bert Besser, made this tapestry, which was to function  as a curtain for that synagogue’s Holy Ark, which stored the Torah scrolls.

tapsetry

The text on the curtain say: ‘The Torah is Our Life’ and ‘House of Worship of POWs, Changi’. Chaim Nussbaum survived the war and after he was liberated he  moved to Canada.

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Joods Historisch Museum

One lost shoe-One stolen life.

Shoe

There were several horrific events on March 27 1944

1,000 Jews were deported from Drancy, France, to Auschwitz.
2,000 Jews are murdered in Kovno Lithuania
40 Jewish policemen in Riga, Latvia, ghetto are shot by the Gestapo
Children’s Aktion-Nazis take all the Jewish children of Kovno,Lithuania.,and deport them

One Father carves the date of the taking of his daughter in the sole of the shoe she had lost when she was taken.

The daughter was only 2, her name was Hinda Cohen she was deported to Auschwitz where she was murdered.

One lost shoe-One stolen life

One lost shoe- One desperate Father

One lost shoe- One grieving mother-

One lost shoe- One future denied

One lost shoe

Hinda’s parents  Dov and Tzipporah Cohen both survived the Holocaust but forever there was a void that could never be filled, a void caused by hate and evil. I cannot imagine how they felt nor do I want to because it would dive me insane.

 

 

 

Judenfrei-Free of Jews: At least 2 executions a man per day.

Frei

I am always amazed by the fact that there are still people who desperately want to deny the Holocaust. Although there is so much evident and a lot of it very graphic, they still say it never happened and that the photographic evidence are staged pictures, produced by the allies.

The one thing they do forget is the evidence produced by the Nazi’s themselves. The Nazis kept records of nearly everything they did, in fact they insisted in getting this done pright. Some used the records to impress their superiors. Reports like the Jaeger and the Stahlecker reports proved extremely valuable during the Nuremberg trials.

nuremberg

Franz Walter Stahlecker  was commander of the SS  for the Reichskommissariat Ostland (the civilian occupation regime in the Baltic states-Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania-, the northeastern part of Poland and the west part of  Belarus).in 1941–42.

On October 16 1941, Stahlecker submitted a report documenting the murder of over 220,000 Jewish men,women and children between  June 22 and October 15, 1941,by Einsatzgruppe A.

report

The map at the start of this blog was included in the report, it gives the breakdown of the deaths per country, the deaths are illustrated as coffins. The total number on the map is just over 218,000 so I don’t know if the map was complete before he finished his report or if there are discrepancies, either way the numbers are massive On top of the map it says “Judenfrei” meaning free of Jews.

Most of these killings would have been done via executions. The einsatzgruppen varied from 500-1000 men, so if you take the higher number of 1000 that would come down to more then 220 executions per man, or close to 2 executions, per man a day.

But if you take that massive number of 220,000 it still only represents about 3.5 % of all Jews killed during the Holocaust.

Stahlecker was killed in action on 23 March 1942, by Soviet partisans near  Krasnogvardeysk, Russia.

Stahlbecker

 

 

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The Jäger Report- The mathematics of evil

jaeger

5 Months=137,346 deaths, that is the disturbing mathematical equation that could be made from the Jäger report.

Not human beings, just numbers on a spreadsheet created by a man who claimed I was always a person with a heightened sense of duty”

The so-called Jäger Report (full title: Complete tabulation of executions carried out in the Einsatzkommando 3 zone up to December 1, 1941) was written on 1 December 1941 by Karl Jäger, commander of Einsatzkommando 3 (EK 3), a killing unit of Einsatzgruppe A which was attached to Army Group North during the Operation Barbarossa.

GermanSoldsiers&sovietpeople

It is the most detailed and precise surviving chronicle of the activities of one individual Einsatzkommando, and a key record documenting the Holocaust in Lithuania as well as in Latvia and Belarus.

Oberstes Gericht, Globke-Prozess, Beweisstück

SS-Standartenfuehrer Karl Jaeger, was a Swiss-born mid-ranking official in the SS of Nazi Germany and Einsatzkommando

Among all Nazi documents detailing dastardly acts of mass murder and other atrocities, the “Jaeger Report” is one of the most horrifying.  It provides a very detailed account of the murderous rampage of this “special squad” in Nazi-occupied USSR. Usually, the figures for Jews who were murdered by EK 3 are broken into “Jewish men”, “Jewish women”, and “Jewish children”.

The report commences with:

    1. “Secret Reich Business! 5 copies Complete list of executions carried out in theEK 3 area up to 1 December 1941.”

And goes on to list the daily numbers of the victims; some typical entries are (see the sixth page):

    1. 20.9.41 in Nemencing
      1. 128 Jews, 176 Jewesses, 99 Jewish children
      1. 22.9.41 in Novo-Wilejka
      1. 468 Jews, 495 Jewesses, 196 Jewish children
      1. 24.9.41 in Riess
      1. 512 Jews, 744 Jewesses, 511 Jewish children
      1. 25.9.41 in Jahiunai
      1. 215 Jews, 229 Jewesses, 131 Jewish children 27.9.41 in Eysisky
      1. 989 Jews, 1,636 Jewesses, 821 Jewish children.

_digging_of_OWN graves

Jaeger flatly describes how the victims were rounded up, taken into secluded areas, and shot – men, women, and children:

“Depending on the number of Jews a place for the graves had to be found and then the graves dug. The distance from the assembly point to the graves was on average 4 to 5 Km. The Jews were transported in detachments of 500 to the execution area, with a distance of at least 2 Km between them.”

Piaśnica_before_execution

The most shocking aspect of the report is the ‘matter of fact- another day in the office’ type of language was used.

“I can state today that the goal of solving the Jewish problem for Lithuania has been achieved by Einsatzkommando 3. In Lithuania, there are no more Jews, other than the Work Jews, including their families. They are:

		In Schaulen		around   4,500
		In Kauen		  “     15,000
		In Wilna		  “     15,000

I also wanted to kill these Work Jews, including their families, which however brought upon me acrimonious challenges from the civil administration (the Reichskommisar) and the army and caused the prohibition: the Work Jews and their families are not to be shot!

The goal of making Lithuania free of Jews could only be attained through the deployment of a raiding commando with selected men under the leadership of SS First Lieutenant Hamann, who completely and entirely adopted my goals and understood the importance of ensuring the co-operation of the Lithuanian partisans and the competent civilian positions.

The implementation of such activities is primarily a question of organization. The decision to systematically make every district free of Jews necessitated an exhaustive preparation of each individual operation and reconnaissance of the prevailing circumstances in the applicable district. The Jews had to be assembled at one or several locations. Depending on the number, a place for the required pits had to be found and the pits dug. The marching route from the assembly place to the pits amounted on average to 4 to 5 kilometers. The Jews were transported to the place of execution in detachments of 500, at intervals of at least 2 kilometers. The attendant difficulties and nerve-wracking activity occasioned in doing this are shown in a randomly selected example:

In Rokiskis, 3,208 people had to be transported 4.5 kilometers before they could be liquidated. To accomplish this task in 24 hours, more than 60 of the 80 available Lithuanian partisans had to be allocated for transportation and cordoning off duty.”

img007

Jäger escaped capture by the Allies when the war ended, assumed a false identity, and was able to assimilate back into society as a farm hand until his report was discovered in March 1959. Arrested and charged with his crimes, Jäger committed suicide by hanging himself in prison in Hohenasperg while he was awaiting trial in June 1959.

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Anton Schmid- Austrian Hero.

Schmid

Anton Schmid (January 9, 1900 in Vienna, Austria – April 13, 1942 in Vilnius, Lithuania) was an Austrian conscript to the Wehrmacht in World War II who, as a sergeant (feldwebel) in Vilnius, Lithuania, was executed by his superiors for helping 250 Jewish men, women, and children escape from extermination by the Nazi SS ] He did this by hiding them and supplying them with false ID papers.

Anton Schmid was born in Vienna in 1900. He owned a radio shop was married with one daughter. When the Second World War broke out he was drafted into the German army (in 1938 Austria became part of Germany and therefore all Austrians were now German citizens).

Austria

He served first in Poland, and after the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 in the newly occupied territories. Schmid was stationed in Vilna, and put in charge of the Versprengten-Sammelstelle – the army unit responsible for reassigning soldiers who had been separated from their units. His headquarters were situated in the Vilna railway station, and like all the people in the area, he became witness to the persecution and murder of the Jews. Soon rumors spread in the ghetto that an Austrian soldier was being friendly towards Jews. It was Schmid who used every possibility to help the Jews. He employed them as workers for his military unit, provided papers to some, got others released from the infamous Lukiski prison.

Lukiškės_Prison

He used his army trucks to transfer them to less dangerous places, and went as far as to shelter Jews in his apartment and office.

Herman Adler and his wife Anita were members of the Zionist movement in Vilna. When Adler was in danger, Schmid arranged a hiding place for the couple at his home. At Adler’s request Schmid met with one of the leaders of the Dror pioneer movement, Mordechai Tenenbaum-Tamarof. A special relationship was forged between the Wehrmacht soldier and the Jewish Zionist activist. Schmid began to help the Jewish underground.

Schmid repeatedly used military vehicles to smuggle Jews from Vilna, where danger seemed to be greater at that time, to other places where there was relative quiet; he took members of the resistance movement from Vilna to Bialystok and even to Warsaw; he facilitated contact between the Jewish underground groups in various locations, passing messages and transferring activists. In October 1941 in an attempt to reduce the Jewish population of Vilna, the Germans distributed 3,000 yellow colored permits to expert workers. Each permit protected its owner and three members of his family, and all the remaining Jews – those without permits – were  to be killed. Schmid made sure that his Jewish workers got as many permits as possible, and helped smuggle the others out of Vilna.

Vilna Ghetto gate

On 31 December 1941 Schmid hosted the leadership of the Dror Jewish underground in his apartment to mark the New Year. He used the occasion to once again express his repulsion towards Nazism. Tenenbaum, also present, responded that when the Jewish State would come into being after the war, it would honor Schmid for his help to the Jews. Schmid replied that he would wear that award with pride. Regrettably, both men did not live to see the end of the war, the establishment of the State of Israel and the Jewish State’s recognition of Schmid’s heroism.

As time went on, Schmid’s exploits got bolder. He was warned by Tenembaum that knowledge about his help to the Jews had widely spread and that he was in grave danger. But Schmid persisted and went on helping the persecuted Jews. He was to pay for his humanity with his life. In the second half of January 1942 he was arrested and court-martialed for high treason. After being found guilty, he was executed on April  the 13th 1942.

Before his execution he wrote a letter to his wife from his prison cell – “I only acted as a human being and desired doing harm to no one.”

Only two letters of his have been preserved as the only written testimonial of his motives. In one letter to his wife Stefi, Schmid described after his arrest his horror at the sight of mass murder and of children being beaten on the way:

“I will tell you how this came about: there were many Jews here, who were rounded up by the Lithuanian militia and were shot in a field outside of the City, always around 2,000 to 3,000 people. The children were already killed on the way by bashing them against trees. You can only imagine.”

Wilna, Juden, litauischer Polizist

It was not only Schmid who suffered the consequences of his humane and brave conduct. After her husband’s execution, Schmid’s widow and daughter suffered abuse from their neighbors for his alleged treachery. In those days there was wide popular support of Nazism. It is only many years after the war that a street in Vienna was named after Schmid.

_Anton_Schmid-Hof

In 1964 – over twenty years after Schmid’s execution and Tenebaum’s death in the Bialystok ghetto uprising – Tenenbaum’s promise to Schmid was fulfilled. Yad Vashem bestowed the title of Righteous Among the Nations on Anton Schmid.

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Sources

Bundesarchiv

Yad Vashem

Kazys Škirpa-Lithuanian Diplomat;Russian Teacher and War Criminal

Kazys_Skirpa

There are several things that amaze me in the story of this man. Firstly even though I have read a lot about the Holocaust I had never heard of him, his name was pointed out to me by an acquaintance.

Secondly he actually lived in Ireland for three years after the war, from 1946 to 1949. Although initially I only had seen a mention of this on Wikipedia which wasn’t enough for me to take as gospel truth, but I came across an article posted by the Lithuanian Embassy in Ireland dated the 16th of September 2011, where he was mentioned.

“Lithuanians also felt the helping hand of the Irish during this tragic period of our history when independence was lost. The last Prime Minister of independent Lithuania Kazys Škirpa was cordially received in Ireland, and Dublin was home to the famous Lithuanian statesman from 1946 to 1949.”

Thirdly ,after Dublin he emigrated to the United States. He worked at the Library of Congress. In 1975 his memoir book about the 1941 independence movement was published. Originally interred in Washington, D.C,where he died on August 18 1979,unpunished for his crimes.

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Kazys Škirpa (born February 18, 1895, Namajūnai, Kovno Governorate, Lithuania – August 18, 1979, Washington DC) was a Lithuanian military officer and diplomat. He is best known as the founder of the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) and his involvement in the attempt to establish Lithuanian independence in June 1941. His legacy is controversial due to LAF’s anti-Semitic policies and later collaboration in the Holocaust

During World War I he was mobilized into the Russian army and attempted to form Lithuanian detachments in Petrograd. After Lithuania declared independence in 1918, he returned and volunteered during the Lithuanian Wars of Independence. In 1920, as a member of the Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union, he was elected to the Constituent Assembly of Lithuania. After that he decided to pursue military education in Institute of Technology in Zurich, Higher Military School in Kaunas, and Royal Military Academy (Belgium). Upon graduation in 1925, he worked as chief of the General Staff, but was forced to resign after the 1926 Lithuanian coup d’état, because he was actively refusing it and was trying to gather military force to protect the Government.

Lithuanian_coup_1926

Later he served as a Lithuanian representative to Germany (1927–1930), League of Nations (1937), Poland (1938), and again Germany (1938–1941). After Soviet Union occupied Lithuania in 1940, Škirpa fled to Germany and formed the anti-Semitic and anti-Polish Lithuanian Activist Front, a short-lived resistance organisation whose goal was to liberate Lithuania and re-establish its independence by working with the Nazis.

(Skirpa in the middle of the picture)

Rastikis-SKirpa-Hitler

When Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, LAF cooperated with the Nazis and killed many Lithuanian Jews .

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t1larg.yadvashem

He was named Prime Minister in the Provisional Government of Lithuania, however Germans placed him under house arrest and did not allow him to leave for Lithuania.

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From Berlin he moved to southern Germany and was allowed a short visit to Kaunas only in October 1943.In June 1944, he was arrested for sending a memorandum to the Nazi officials asking to replace German authorities in Lithuania with a Lithuanian government. He was first imprisoned in a concentration camp in Bad Godesberg and in February 1945 moved to Jezeří Castle.

03-SkirpaKovok

The Lithuanian Central State Archives have made available digital copies of Kazys Škirpa’s (1895-1979) original memoir, “Fight! Efforts to Rescue Lithuania” (Kovok! Pastangos gelbėti Lietuvą), along with 110 documents which he references. These works detail his efforts from June 1940 to July 1942 to free Lithuania from Soviet-occupation and establish its independence as a New Lithuania within the context of Hitler’s New Europe. They make clear that ethnic cleansing of Jews from Lithuania was a high priority for Škirpa from July 1940 (when he submitted his first proposals to Nazi strategist Peter Kleist) to May 1941 (when he honored requests from Lithuania not to send any more literature). Škirpa’s correspondence with Lithuania’s diplomats shows that Stasys Lozoraitis and Petras Klimas supported his plans for ethnic cleansing.

Below are some English translations of the memoirs

Jews of Lithuania!

The Lithuanian nation long suffered your ungratefulness and audacity, although by your own behavior you yourselves fostered in the Lithuanian nation a deep disdain for Jews. However, the Lithuanian nation cannot forgive how you bear yourself in this recent period because it cannot and never will forget the fact that you betrayed Lithuania in its most difficult and unfortunate time in its historical life.

Therefore the Lithuanian Activist Front, restoring a new Free and Independent Lithuania, in the name of the entire Lithuanian nation ceremoniously and irrevocably declares that:

  • 1. The old right of refuge which Vytautas the Great granted to Jews in Lithuania is revoked completely and for all times;
  • 2. It is demanded that Jews abandon the land of Lithuania as soon as possible. Whosoever of Jewish nationality at this time does not take off along with the Soviet army will be:
    • 1. Arrested and handed over to a military field trial if they have distinguished themselves by their especially wicked actions directed against Lithuania, the Lithuanian nation or an individual Lithuanian;
    • 2. Removed from Lithuania by force, and their property seized for the general purposes of the Lithuanian nation and state;
    • 3. Whosoever of the Jews should try to destroy or damage their property will be severely punished on the spot.

Lithuanian Activist Front’s SENIOR LEADERSHIP

19410510_Lozoraitis_Turauskui_668_1_734_00199

Kazys Škirpa imagined that the Nazi German air force could drop this and other leaflets at the start of the war and thus incite Lithuanians to rebel. He first proposed this on July 13, 1940 to Nazi party strategist Peter Kleist of Dienststelle von Ribbentrop. Škirpa includes “Raus die Juden aus Litauen” (Jews, get the hell out of Lithuania) as one of the proposed leaflets in his strategic plan which he submitted to Kurt Graebe of the Military High Command (OKW) on January 25, 1941. Bronys Raila wrote between 11 and 19 (“keliolika”) leaflets for Kazys Škirpa and this might well have been one of them. Kazys Škirpa submitted the completed leaflet on April 28 to OKW, on May 10 to Dienststelle von Ribbentrop, and on May 12 to Kurt Graebe. He also shared it with his fellow Lithuanian diplomats along with his letter to Stasys Lozoraitis (Rome, Italy) dated April 7, 1941, with a copy to Edvardas Turauskas (Bern, Switzerland), and a request that the latter acquaint Petras Klimas (Vichy, France), Jurgis Šaulys (Lugano, Switzerland) and Albertas Gerutis (Bern, Switzerland). Škirpa also shared their correspondence and documents in Berlin with Ernestas Galvanauskas, who the ambassadors settled on as the chairman of their Lithuanian National Committee.

After the war, he went to Paris and from there to Dublin where he taught Russian language at a University. It is unclear which one but it’s more then likely Trinity College because that is the only University in Dublin with a Russian department.

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 In 1949, he emigrated to the United States. He worked at the Library of Congress. In 1975 his memoir book about the 1941 independence movement was published. Originally interred in Washington, D.C., his remains were returned to Kaunas in June 1995, where he was reburied in Petrašiūnai Cemetery.

skirpa-sukilimas-18

References

http://defendinghistory.com/documents-which-argue-for-ethnic-cleansing-by-kazys-skirpa-stasys-rastikis-stasys-lozoraitis-and-petras-klimas-in-1940-1941-and-by-birute-terese-burauskaite-in-2015/78459

http://www.selflearners.net/wiki/Holocaust/Kazys%C5%A0kirpa

http://urm.lt/ie/en/news/address-by-his-excellency-vidmantas-purlys-at-the-commemoration-of-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-establishment-of-the-diplomatic-relations-between-ireland-and-lithuania-15-september-griffith-college-dublin

 

 

Abba Kovner-Poet and Hero

quote-we-will-not-be-led-like-sheep-to-the-slaughter-abba-kovner-78-12-46

Abba Kovner was a somewhat controversial figure and by today’s standards he could be considered a terrorist, but as the saying goes “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” But considering what he witnessed one can not blame him for some of his actions after the war.

Abba Kovner was born on March 14, 1918, in the Crimean Black Sea port city of Sevastopol. His parents were Rachel (Rosa) Taubman and Israel Kovner. At a young age he moved with his family to Vilnius, which at this time was part of Poland, where he grew up and was educated at the secondary Hebrew academy and the school of the arts. While pursuing his studies, he joined and became an active member in the socialist Zionist youth movement HaShomer HaTzair.

220px-Hashomer_Hatzair

In September 1939, World War II began. Only two weeks later, on September 19, the Red Army entered Vilna and soon incorporated it into the Soviet Union. Kovner became active during this time, 1940 to 1941, with the underground. But life changed drastically for Kovner once the Germans invaded.

On June 24, 1941, two days after Germany launched its surprise attack against the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa), the Germans occupied Vilna. As the Germans were sweeping east toward Moscow, they instigated their ruthless oppression and murderous actions in the communities they occupied.

Vilna, with a Jewish population of approximately 55,000, was known as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” for its flourishing Jewish culture and history. The Nazis soon changed that.

As Kovner and 16 other members of the Ha-Shomer ha-Tsa’ir hid in a convent of Dominican nuns a few miles outside of Vilna, the Nazis began to rid Vilna of its “Jewish problem.”

Less than a month after the Germans occupied Vilna, they committed on of their first atrocities. Einsatzkommando 9 rounded up 5,000 Jewish men of Vilna and took them to Ponary (a location approximately six miles from Vilna that had pre-dug large pits, which the Nazis used as a mass extermination area for Jews from the Vilna area).

The Nazis made the pretense that the men were to be sent to labor camps, when they were really sent to Ponary and shot.

At the start of 1942, Kovner released a manifesto in the Vilnius ghetto, twice repeating the phrase “Let us not go like lambs to the slaughter!” that later became famous.The manifesto declared that Hitler had decided to kill all the Jews of Europe and that it was best to die fighting. It was the first time such a notion had been declared in Europe,nobody at that time knew for certain of more than local killing,and many received it with skepticism;however, for many this proclamation represented a turning point in an understanding of the situation and how to respond to it.

Kovner was responsible for writing a call to revolt. In front of the 150 attendees gathered together at 2 Straszuna Street in a public soup kitchen, Kovner read aloud:

Jewish youth!Do not trust those who are trying to deceive you. Out of the eighty thousand Jews in the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” only twenty thousand are left. . . . Ponar [Ponary] is not a concentration camp. They have all been shot there. Hitler plans to destroy all the Jews of Europe, and the Jews of Lithuania have been chosen as the first in line.

We will not be led like sheep to the slaughter!

True, we are weak and defenseless, but the only reply to the murderer is revolt!

Brothers! Better to fall as free fighters than to live by the mercy of the murderers.

Arise! Arise with your last breath!

At first there was silence. Then the group broke out in spirited song.

The idea of resistance was disseminated from Vilnius by youth movement couriers, mainly women, to the ghettos of occupied Poland, occupied Belarus and of Lithuania. Kovner, Yitzhak Wittenberg, and others formed the United Partisan Organization (“Fareynigte Partizaner Organizatsye”, or FPO), one of the first armed underground organizations in the Jewish ghettos under Nazi occupation.

Ghetto_Vilinus

Unlike in other ghettos, the resistance movement in the Vilna Ghetto was not run by ghetto officials. Jacob Gens, appointed head of the ghetto by the Nazis but originally chief of police, ostensibly cooperated with German officials in stopping armed struggle.

The FPO represented the full spectrum of political persuasions and parties in Jewish life.

The goals of the FPO were to establish a means for the self-defence of the ghetto population, to sabotage German industrial and military activities and to join the partisan and Red Army’s fight against the Nazis.

 

In early 1943, the Germans caught a member of the Communist underground who revealed some contacts under torture and the Judenrat, in response to German threats, tried to turn Yitzhak Wittenberg, the head of the FPO, over to the Gestapo.

Yitzhak Wittenberg

Wittenberg was arrested by the Lithuanian police only to be freed by armed FPO members. He went into hiding in the ghetto, and the consensus of the ghetto’s population was that 20,000 people should not be jeopardized for the sake of one man.

Kovner became its leader in July 1943, after Wittenberg had turned himself in to prevent an attack on the ghetto.The FPO planned to fight the Germans when the end of the ghetto came, but circumstances and the opposition of the ghetto leaders made this impossible and they escaped to the forests.

From September 1943 until the arrival of the Soviet army in July 1944, Kovner, along with his lieutenants Vitka Kempner and Rozka Korczak, commanded a partisan group called the Avengers(“Nokmim”) in the forests near Vilna and engaged in sabotage and guerrilla attacks against the Germans and their local collaborators. The Avengers were one of four predominantly Jewish groups that operated under the command of the Soviet-led partisans.

After the occupation of Vilnius by the Soviet Red Army in July 1944, Kovner became one of the founders of the Berihah movement, helping Jews escape Eastern Europe after the war.

At the end of the war, Kovner was one of the founders of a secret organization Nakam (revenge), also known as Dam Yisrael Noter (“the blood of Israel avenges”, with the acronym DIN meaning “judgement”)whose purpose was to seek revenge for the Holocaust.Two plans were formulated. Plan A was to kill a large number of German citizens by poisoning the water supplies of Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich, and Nuremberg, Nakam intended to kill 6 million Germans.Plan B was to kill SS prisoners held in Allied POW camps. In pursuit of Plan A, members of the group were infiltrated into water and sewage plants in several cities, while Kovner went to Palestine in search of a suitable poison. Kovner discussed Nakam with Yishuv leaders, though it is not clear how much he told them and he doesn’t seem to have received much support.According to Kovner’s own account, Chaim Weizmann approved the idea and put him in touch with the scientist Ernst Bergmann, who gave the job of preparing poison to Ephraim Katzir (later president of Israel) and his brother Aharon. Historians have expressed doubt over Weizmann’s involvement, since he was overseas at the time Kovner specified.The Katzir brothers confirmed that they gave poison to Kovner, but said that he only mentioned Plan B and they denied that Weizmann could be involved.As Kovner and an accomplice were returning to Europe on a British ship, they threw the poison overboard when Kovner was arrested. He was imprisoned for a few months in Cairo and Plan A was abandoned.

In April 1946, members of Nakam broke into a bakery used to supply bread for the Langwasser internment camp near Nuremberg, where many German POWs were being held.

2-langwasser

They coated many of the loaves with arsenic but were disturbed and fled before finishing their work. More than 2,200 of the German prisoners fell ill and 207 were hospitalized, but no deaths were reported.

Kovner joined the Haganah(a Jewish paramilitary organization in the British Mandate of Palestine (1921–48), which became the core of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).) in December 1947, and soon after Israel declared independence in May 1948 he became a captain in the Givati Brigade of the IDF.

During the Israeli War of Independence he became known for his “battle pages”, headed “Death to the invaders!”, that contained news from the Egyptian front and essays designed to keep up morale. However, the tone of the pages, which called for revenge for the Holocaust and referred to the Egyptian enemy as vipers and dogs, upset many Israeli political and military leaders.His first battle page started a controversy that still continues today when it accused the Nitzanim garrison of cowardice for surrendering to an overwhelming Egyptian force.

From 1946 to his death, Kovner was a resident of Kibbutz Ein HaHoresh.He was active in Mapam as well as in HaShomer HaTzair, but never took on a formal political role.He played a major part in the design and construction of several Holocaust museums, including the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv.

Abba_Kovner_quote,_diaspora_museum

He died in 1987 (aged 69) of cancer that had started in his vocal cords, perhaps due to his lifelong heavy smoking. Vitka Kempner, who married Kovner in 1946, survived him.

Kovner’s book of poetry Ad Lo-Or, (“Until No-Light”), 1947, describes in lyric-dramatic narrative the struggle of the Resistance partisans in the swamps and forests of Eastern Europe.

Kovner’s story is the basis for the song “Six Million Germans / Nakam”, by Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird.

Kovner testified about his experiences during the war at the trial of Adolf Eichmann.

800px-Abba_Kovner_at_Eichmann_trial1961

Forgotten History-Chiune Sugihara Japanese WW2 Hero

chiune

Forgotten may not be the best description for this man, since he has been remembered in fact earlier this year a movie ,with the title”Persona Non Grata” about him was released in the cinema. But a lot of people on the globe,including me; have never heard of this man.

I was tempted to call him the Japanese Schindler but I feel it would not do justice to him.

Although he was part of an evil regime he refused to give up on his humanity and his respect for his fellow man.

Chiune (Sempo) Sugihara, born on January 1, 1900, was the first Japanese diplomat posted to Lithuania. He was born to a middle-class family from Yaotsu, in Japan’s Gifu Prefecture on the main Japanese Island of Honshu, north of Nagoya. Sugihara is sometimes also referred to as “Chiune,” an earlier rendition of the Japanese character for “Sempo,” part of his formal name.

In 1912, he graduated with top honors from Furuwatari Elementary School, and entered Aichi prefectural 5th secondary school (now Zuiryo high school), a combined junior and senior high school. His father wanted him to become a physician, but Chiune deliberately failed the entrance exam by writing only his name on the exam papers. Instead, he entered Waseda University in 1918 and majored in English language. At that time, he entered Yuai Gakusha, the Christian fraternity that had been founded by Baptist pastor Harry Baxter Benninhof, to improve his English. In 1919, he passed the Foreign Ministry Scholarship exam. The Japanese Foreign Ministry recruited him and assigned him to Harbin, China, where he also studied the Russian and German languages and later became an expert on Russian affairs.

When Sugihara served in the Manchurian Foreign Office, he took part in the negotiations with the Soviet Union concerning the Northern Manchurian Railroad.

railway

He quit his post as Deputy Foreign Minister in Manchuria in protest over Japanese mistreatment of the local Chinese. While in Harbin, he got married to Klaudia Semionovna Apollonova. They divorced in 1935, before he returned to Japan, where he married Yukiko Kikuchi, who became Yukiko Sugihara  after the marriage; they had four sons (Hiroki, Chiaki, Haruki, Nobuki).  Chiune Sugihara also served in the Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as a translator for the Japanese legation in Helsinki, Finland.

In 1939, Sugihara became a vice-consul of the Japanese Consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania.

Sugihara-konsulat_w_Kownie

His duties included reporting on Soviet and German troop movements, and to find out if Germany planned an attack on the Soviets and, if so, to report the details of this attack to his superiors in Berlin and Tokyo.

Sugihara had cooperated with Polish intelligence as part of a bigger Japanese–Polish cooperative plan.[As the Soviet Union occupied sovereign Lithuania in 1940, many Jewish refugees from Poland  as well as Lithuanian Jews tried to acquire exit visas. Without the visas, it was dangerous to travel, yet it was impossible to find countries willing to issue them. Hundreds of refugees came to the Japanese consulate in Kaunas, trying to get a visa to Japan. At the time, on the brink of the war, Lithuanian Jews made up one third of Lithuania’s urban population and half of the residents of every town as well The Dutch consul Jan Zwartendijk

Jan_Zwartendijk

(Zwartendijk directed the Philips plants in Lithuania. On June 19, 1940, he was also a part-time an acting consul of the Netherlands – or, to be exact, of the Dutch government-in-exile. His superior was the Dutch ambassador to Latvia, De Decker).

had provided some of them with an official third destination to Curaçao, a Caribbean island and Dutch colony that required no entry visa, or Surinam (which was a Dutch colony).

Jan_Zwartendijk_hand_signed_visa_from_1940

At the time, the Japanese government required that visas be issued only to those who had gone through appropriate immigration procedures and had enough funds. Most of the refugees did not fulfill these criteria. Sugihara dutifully contacted the Japanese Foreign Ministry three times for instructions. Each time, the Ministry responded that anybody granted a visa should have a visa to a third destination to exit Japan, with no exceptions.

In the summer of 1940, when refugees came to him with bogus visas for Curacao and other Dutch caribbean colonies Sugihara decided to facilitate their escape from war-torn Europe. In the absence of clear instructions from Tokyo, he granted 10-day visas for transit through Japan to hundreds of refugees who held Curacao destination visas. Before closing his consulate in the fall of 1940, Sugihara even gave visas to refugees who lacked all travel papers.

Given his inferior post and the culture of the Japanese Foreign Service bureaucracy, this was an unusual act of disobedience. He spoke to Soviet officials who agreed to let the Jews travel through the country via the Trans-Siberian Railway at five times the standard ticket price.

After Sugihara had issued some 1,800 visas, he received a cable from Tokyo reminding him: “You must make sure that they [refugees] have finished their procedure for their entry visas and also they must possess the travel money or the money that they need during their stay in Japan. Otherwise, you should not give them the transit visa.”

In his response to the cable, Sugihara admitted issuing visas to people who had not completed all arrangements for destination visas. He explained the extenuating circumstances: Japan was the only transit country available for those going in the direction of the United States, and his visas were needed for departure from the Soviet Union. Sugihara suggested that travelers who arrived in the Soviet port of Vladivostok with incomplete paperwork should not be allowed to board ship for Japan. Tokyo wrote back that the Soviet Union insisted that Japan honor all visas already issued by its consulates.

Sugihara continued to hand write visas, reportedly spending 18–20 hours a day on them, producing a normal month’s worth of visas each day, until 4 September, when he had to leave his post before the consulate was closed.

1940_issued_visa_by_consul_Sugihara_in_Lithuania

By that time he had granted thousands of visas to Jews, many of whom were heads of households and thus permitted to take their families with them. According to witnesses, he was still writing visas while in transit from his hotel and after boarding the train at the Kaunas Railway Station, throwing visas into the crowd of desperate refugees out of the train’s window even as the train pulled out.

 

Lithuania train station KAUNAS Kowno

In final desperation, blank sheets of paper with only the consulate seal and his signature (that could be later written over into a visa) were hurriedly prepared and flung out from the train. As he prepared to depart, he said, “Please forgive me. I cannot write anymore. I wish you the best.” When he bowed deeply to the people before him, someone exclaimed, “Sugihara. We’ll never forget you. I’ll surely see you again!”

Sugihara himself wondered about official reaction to the thousands of visas he issued. Many years later, he recalled, “No one ever said anything about it. I remember thinking that they probably didn’t realize how many I actually issued.”

By the time Sugihara left Lithuania he had issued visas to 2,140 persons. These visas also covered some 300 others, mostly children. Not everyone who held visas was able to leave Lithuania, however, before the Soviet Union stopped granting exit visas.

The total number of Jews saved by Sugihara is in dispute, estimating about 6,000; family visas—which allowed several people to travel on one visa—were also issued, which would account for the much higher figure. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has estimated that Chiune Sugihara issued transit visas for about 6,000 Jews and that around 40,000 descendants of the Jewish refugees are alive today because of his actions. Polish intelligence produced some false visas. Sugihara’s widow and eldest son estimate that he saved 10,000 Jews from certain death, whereas Boston University professor and author, Hillel Levine, also estimates that he helped “as many as 10,000 people”, but that far fewer people ultimately survived.Indeed, some Jews who received Sugihara visas failed to leave Lithuania in time, were later captured by the Germans who invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, and perished in the Holocaust.

The Diplomatic Record Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has opened to the public two documents concerning Sugihara’s file: the first aforementioned document is a 5 February 1941 diplomatic note from Chiune Sugihara to Japan’s then Foreign Minister Yōsuke Matsuoka in which Sugihara stated he issued 1,500 out of 2,139 transit visas to Jews and Poles; however, another document from the same foreign office file “indicates an additional 3,448 visas were issued in Kaunas for a total of 5,580 visas” which were likely given to Jews desperate to flee Lithuania for safety in Japan or Japanese occupied China.

Many refugees used their visas to travel across the Soviet Union to Vladivostok and then by boat to Kobe, Japan, where there was a Jewish community. Tadeusz Romer, the Polish ambassador in Tokyo, organised help for them.

Tadeusz_Romer

From August 1940 to November 1941, he had managed to get transit visas in Japan, asylum visas to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Burma, immigration certificates to the British Mandate of Palestine, and immigrant visas to the United States and some Latin American countries for more than two thousand Polish-Lithuanian Jewish refugees, who arrived in Kobe, Japan, and the Shanghai Ghetto, China.

The remaining number of Sugihara survivors stayed in Japan until they were deported to Japanese-held Shanghai, where there was already a large Jewish community that had existed as early as the mid-1930s. Some took the route through Korea directly to Shanghai without passing through Japan. A group of thirty people, all possessing a visa of “Jakub Goldberg”, were bounced back and forth on the open sea for several weeks before finally being allowed to pass through Tsuruga. Most of the around 20,000 Jews survived the Holocaust in the Shanghai ghetto until the Japanese surrender in 1945, three to four months following the collapse of the Third Reich itself.

Sugihara left Lithuania in early September 1940. The Japanese transferred him to Prague in Bohemia and then to Bucharest, Romania, Germany’s ally, where he remained until after the end of the war. During the victorious Soviet army’s march though the Balkans in 1944, the Soviets arrested Sugihara together with other diplomats from enemy nations. Soviet authorities held him and his family, under fairly benign conditions, for the next three years. When Sugihara returned to Japan in 1947, the Foreign Ministry retired him with a small pension as part of a large staff reduction enacted under the American occupation.

Sugihara settled in Fujisawa in Kanagawa prefecture with his wife and 3 sons. To support his family he took a series of menial jobs, at one point selling light bulbs door to door. He suffered a personal tragedy in 1947 when his youngest son, Haruki, died at the age of seven, shortly after their return to Japan.In 1949 they had one more son, Nobuki, who is the last son alive representing the Chiune Sugihara Family, residing in Belgium. He later began to work for an export company as General Manager of U.S. Military Post Exchange. Utilizing his command of the Russian language, Sugihara went on to work and live a low-key existence in the Soviet Union for sixteen years, while his family stayed in Japan.

In 1968, Jehoshua Nishri, an economic attaché to the Israeli Embassy in Tokyo and one of the Sugihara beneficiaries, finally located and contacted him. Nishri had been a Polish teen in the 1940s. The next year Sugihara visited Israel and was greeted by the Israeli government. Sugihara beneficiaries began to lobby for his inclusion in the Yad Vashem memorial.

Chiune_Sugihara_with_his_son_Nobuki

In 1985, Chiune Sugihara was granted the honor of the Righteous Among the Nations ( by the government of Israel. Sugihara was too ill to travel to Israel, so his wife and youngest son Nobuki accepted the honor on his behalf. Sugihara and his descendants were given perpetual Israeli citizenship.

Sugihara Street in Kaunas and Vilnius, Lithuania, Sugihara Street in Tel Aviv, Israel, and the asteroid 25893 Sugihara are named after him.

The Chiune Sugihara Memorial Museum in the town of Yaotsu (his birthplace), Gifu Prefecture, in central Japan was built by the people of the town in his honor.[

Also, a corner for Sugihara Chiune is set up in the Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum near Tsuruga Port, the place where many Jewish refugees arrived in Japan, in the city of Tsuruga, Fukui, Japan.

Port_of_Humanity_Tsuruga_Museum_Tsuruga_Fukui_prefecture_Japan02n

The Sugihara House Museum is in Kaunas, Lithuania. The Conservative synagogue Temple Emeth, in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, has built a “Sugihara Memorial Garden”and holds an Annual Sugihara Memorial Concert.

When Sugihara’s widow Yukiko traveled to Jerusalem in 1998, she was met by tearful survivors who showed her the yellowing visas that her husband had signed. A park in Jerusalem is named after him. The Japanese government honored him on the centennial of his birth in 2000.

A memorial to Sugihara was built in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo in 2002, and dedicated with consuls from Japan, Israel and Lithuania, Los Angeles city officials and Sugihara’s son, Chiaki Sugihara, in attendance. The memorial, entitled “Chiune Sugihara Memorial, Hero of the Holocaust” depicts a life-sized Sugihara seated on a bench, holding a visa in his hand and is accompanied by a quote from the Talmud: “He who saves one life, saves the entire world.”

120207-LA-SugiharaMemorial

He was posthumously awarded the Commander’s Cross with the Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta in 2007, and the Commander’s Cross Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by the President of Poland in 1996Also, in 1993, he was awarded the Life Saving Cross of Lithuania.

 

 

He was posthumously awarded the Sakura Award by the Japanese Canadian Cultural Center (JCCC) in Toronto in November 2014.

A truly great hero who proved that in order to save lives you sometimes just have to do what needs to be done without thinking of yourself.

 

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