Friday, June 27, 2014

Lithuanian citizenship

Because my father was a Lithuanian citizen after Soviet occupation, my children and I are eligible to apply for Lithuanian EU passports via the Chicago consulate.
My father would be turning in his grave to see any dilution of his family's beloved US citizenship.  The bitter memories of Lithuania overpowered any sweet memories he might have had. My father never wanted to return to Lithuania let alone regain citizenship.
But that EU status that comes with Lithuanian citizenship is tempting.
During the tour, present day Jews in Lithuania insisted that life was good. The quality of life in Vilnius is attractive, with many wonderful restaurants and beautiful architecture and parks.
Only Lithuanian citizens can own property, so there is also a potential economic opportunity for my children. Lithuania is a shopping destination for Scandinavians because of its low prices.
 One thing is certain, life in Lithuania is often not what it seems on the surface, it is complicated. There are a multitude of attitudes toward Jews. Here are two positive and one more frightening view, from Slate.com.

Citizenship-of-lithuania
 
Jews are cool in lithuania

Faina

Lithuania and Nazis. The country wants to forget its collaborationist past.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ziezmarai






Only remaining wooden synagogue in Lithuania, built in 1819.

Book about WW2 resistance.

Ziezmarai  has about 4000 residents, none are Jews. Before WWII, half were Jews.
The simple  bulletin board of information shown below tells only part of the story, and even it is only recent and because of the kindness of Mr. Ludviga.





Mr. Ludviga is the nephew of the man who risked his entire family's lives by hiding three Jewish families. Mr. Ludviga was very young at the time but he remembers playing with one of those boys And he remembers people disguising themselves as beggars as a way to bring food to the families.




The remains of the women's balcony.

Mr. Ludviga does all maintenance on his own accord without government support. He lives next door 
and unlocks the door when people want to visit. Mr. Ludviga told us UNESCO looked at the site but nothing came of it which is a pity because in such a small place one can really sense the enormity of losing half of one's neighbors in one day.

Many Lithuanians have yet to be convinced that it is important to remember the crimes of the Nazis. They say "it was so long ago" or their vision of history remains clouded by anti-Soviet sentiment. 

Please read this profile by Gordon Brown of Rachel Margolis. Everything is complicated in Lithuania.

#Izzy's Fire#Rachel Margolis#Ziezmarai

Sugihara House

Simonas Dovidavicus, same Simon of the Keidan  visit and Yudel Ronder visit, is Director of the Sugihara House, a very small but full of heart museum in the former Japanese embassy to Lithuania.
More than 2000 visas were issued, saving the lives of 6000. An act which Sugihara chose to do of his own independent will and for which his career and life suffered.
The Place Called Heaven is a short film we saw.
One man can make a difference.



Simon at Sugihara's desk.
Simon also told us about the other diplomat who made the heroic choice to issue visas to Jews and paid the price in his career. He is Jens deDecker of Holland.

Simon does noble work keeping these memories alive.
I feel connected to his mission and hold the dream of getting involved with the 
Sugihara memorial at Temple Emeth in Chestnut Hill, Ma 

Sugihara children's picture on the desk.

                                                                      Chiune Sugihara

Kaunas street scenes


Statue of Jewish singer, and Bill Segal look-alike, Danielius Dolskis, on the pedestrian artery.



Market

 

Art Deco Movie theater.
in use during my father's University years in Kaunas in 1930s.

Panorama from Nerus River





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Kaunas Synagogue


We are here on the somber anniversary of 70 years since the Kaunas ghetto was liquidated at the IX Fort  in 1944. My father was 29 years old at the time and had spent four years in medical school in this city only a few years earlier.


The only remaining synagogue in Kaunas. Unfortunately it is not used for services. The 200 Jewish residents of Kaunas have a community center elsewhere.

Linden trees along the synagogue.



The doorway of the American embassy from the period when Kaunas was the capital of Lithuania, 1934-1938.





Finding dad's medical school


The Kaunas Medical School is under restoration and without its signage. This is the building, Jill and Susan helped me find it. The building was new when my father attended in the early 1930s and is just a few blocks from our Hotel Kaunas in the central artery of Kaunas. 

before the Soviet occupation, when Lithuania was an independent country, the President, or it may have been the President's pianist son, had foresight and took it upon himself to safeguard the medical school records of Jews who were graduates of Lithuanian medical schools. he had their records sent to the American Academy of Medicine. The Academy is near Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Thus, By serendipity, my father's medical school records landed in NY before he did.
Somehow he was told they were they there and he was able to get a residency and practice medicine when he came to NY in 1948.


Napoleon

For a place that people have barely heard of, It is hard to believe how much history has happened here.
Vingis park which I visited by bike in Vilnius turns out is quite historical.
In War and Peace when someone whispers into the Grand Duke's ear on June 23, 1812 that Napoleon has invaded Russia, turns out that takes place in the summer palace in Vingis Park.
And where Napoleon invaded Russia....
That was Kaunas.
The Nemunas River in Kaunas marked the east/west boundary where Napoleon entered Russia from Prussia.
It was just the beginning of the end for the more than 400,000 French soldiers who famously suffered from the harsh Russian winter and disgruntled Russian serfs and dwindled to fewer than 40,000 by the time they returned to France.
Perhaps the origin of the phrase "won the war but lost the battle?"