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Reviews

The below comment is of Dovid Katz, professor of Yiddish at Vilnius University (1999-2010), editor of DefendingHistory.com, author of Lithuanian Jewish Culture

“Joseph Levinson’s book on the Lithuanian Holocaust is the most important single book to appear on the topic in a generation. From the original documents of the murderous Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) and Provisional Government (PG), to the open confrontation with (and documentation of) the “Double Genocide” revisionist theory supported by some East European governments and academic establishments, Levinson’s book cuts right to the core. It goes to the heart of the issues the way no other has dared go in our times. An essential book for understanding not only the Lithuanian Holocaust but its 21st century legacies in the battle for memory.”"

- Dovid Katz

The below comment are from Steinar Gil the former Norwegian ambassador in lithuania.

“Joseph Levinson’s ”The Shoah (Holocaust) in Lithuania” is one of the most important books about the Holocaust in Lithuania. Its broad and detailed documentation and the numerous stories of eyewitnesses and survivors give ample evidence to the singularity of this horrendous crime against humanity committed by the Nazi German occupiers and their local collaborators. The book is therefore a strong and convincing refutation of the thesis of a double genocide. It leaves no doubt that the Holocaust was unique in intent and scope. The goal was total extermination of the Jewish nation, and by 1945 more than 200.000 or about 95% of all Lithuanian Jews had been murdered. Joseph Levinson presents a chilling list of 239 sites of massacre in Lithuania. The Soviet regime committed terrible crimes against the Lithuanian nation, but it never aimed at killing all Lithuanians.

“The Shoah (Holocaust) in Lithuania” contains documents that prove beyond any doubt the Nazi ideology and the anti-Semitism of the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) and the decisions made by the collaborationist Provisional Government to deprive Jewish citizens of Lithuania of all rights, confiscate their property and establish a concentration camp (ghetto) for Jews. These documents were signed by Juozas Ambrazevičius (Brazaitis), Acting Prime Minister. The preamble to one of these documents reads as follows (English translation in ”The Shoah (Holocaust) in Lithuania”, p. 180: ”In gratitude to the savior of European culture, Chancellor Adolf Hitler of the Greater German Reich, and to his courageous army, which has liberated the territory of Lithuania…” It is a sad fact that Juozas Ambrazevičius was reburied with honours in Kaunas on 20 May 2012 in the presence of former heads of state Vytautas Landsbergis and Valdas Adamkus. The Government of Lithuania contributed financially to the reburial.

In all fairness it must be said that Joseph Levinson’s book also contains moving pages about brave Lithuanians who saved Jews at the risk of their own lives. Some of them paid the highest price for their noble efforts.

In the final chapter of his book Joseph Levinson draws a vibrant and deeply moving picture of Jewish life before the war in his home town Veisiejai. When he returned there after the war, he heard that his father and his friends had been shot in the very beginning of the German occupation.

Joseph Levinson is also the author of “Skausmo knyga – The Book of Sorrow” in which he presents photos and information about the 239 sites of massacre and burial and the memorials erected there.”

Oslo, 25 September 2013

- Steinar Gil

Summary

COVER2

The purpose of the book The Shoah in Lithuania is to provide a broader audience of readers with the opportunity to become acquainted with what really happened during the Shoah in Lithuania and to grasp its terrible consequences, scale, and the role of individual factors in it.

Various types of material are presented here – documents, articles, memoirs, studies of events, testimonies, etc. Their sources and circle of authors are diverse and wide. These are people who lived through the Shoah, who were fated to survive and publish their memoirs in press and in books, including Yahadut Lita [The Jews of Lithuania]. These are people from Lithuanian cities and towns, witnesses of those events, who also published their memoirs. These are historians who have researched those events. These are criminals who participated in one way or another in the massacres and gave testimonies to law enforcement agencies. These are authentic documents that have survived from those times.

- Joseph Levinson

Read some chapters from the book here:

Foreword – Joseph Levinson (11)

Introduction (to Volume One) – Saulius Sužiedėlis (17)
Introduction (to Volume Two) – Saulius Sužiedėlis (21)

The LAF and First Acts of the Provisional Government (163)

Appeals Distributed in Lithuania Before June 22, 1941 (166)

A Decree on the Collection of Documentary Material About the Activities of the Partisans (170)

 

Summary

sorroa
This is a book about the Holocaust, the unprecedented extermination of about 6 million Jews, including more than 200.000 from Lithuania, during World War II.

Within half a year of the beginning of the Nazi occupation, the Jewish inhabitants of Lithuania were annihilated. About 35 thousand remained in the ghettos of Vilnius, Kaunas and Šiauliai, where they were used as slave labour. Their fate is well-known. Out of nearly a quarter of a million Jews in Lithuania, only 6 to 8 percent survived – either those who were out of reach of the Nazi executioners and their local collaborators, or those whom time favoured. There were nearly 200 massacre sites in Nazi-occupied Lithuania, where deep ditches were often dug in Jewish cemeteries to serve as mass graves for thousands of innocent Jews, including children, women and elderly people.

With the emergence of the Lithuanian National Revival movement in 1988, the Jewish community immediately began tending the mass-murder sites in an effort to perpetuate the memory of those who were exterminated there. In response to a proposal by the Lithuanian Jewish Culture Society and the State Jewish Museum, the Supreme Council of Lithuania passed a resolution “On tending to the graves and cemeteries of the victims of the Jewish genocide and preserving the Jewish heritage”. Local municipalities and conservation services, together with Lithuanian Jewish organizations, cleaned up the extermination sites and erected monuments to the Holocaust victims. Some of the Lithuanian Jewish émigrés provided funds to complete this work. All the monuments bear inscriptions in Lithuanian and Yiddish about the tragedy that struck the Jewish population during World War II.

The book includes pictures of nearly all of the Jewish extermination sites in Nazi-occupied Lithuania. Some data from the State Jewish Museum is used in this book. Let this book serve as a modest monument to the annihilated Lithuanian Jewish community as well as a grave accusation against the organizers and executors of the systematic destruction of the Jewish people. Joseph Levinson

Excerpts

What did the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) put in writing concerning its intentions for fellow citizens who were Jews in the days and weeks before the German invaders took actual control of various locations within Lithuania?

The below excerpts are all from the translations from Lithuanian in the English edition of Joseph Levinson’s The Shoah (Holocaust) in Lithuania (Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum of Lithuania: Vilnius 2006).  The full texts (or much larger excerpts) appear on pages 166 to 179 of the book.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

“After centuries of slavery, Fellow Lithuanian, join the struggle for freedom. The hour of reckoning has come. Someone is on our side. Let us wreak hundredfold vengeance on the Jews and Communists for shedding the innocent blood of our countrymen. Enough of the Jews baking their matzos in Lithuanian blood.”

[before 22 June 1941]

***

“At the hour of reckoning all degenerates, traitors, sellouts, Communists, and Jews will be repaid at the price they themselves have set. [...] Judases, your days are numbered. The final hours of enslavement by Jews and Bolsheviks are approaching. After being ravaged and mauled by you, Lithuania is ready to rise up. Freedom will come to us over your corpses. Away with the Jews, Communists and Lithuanian Judases. All hail an independent new Lithuania.”

[before 22 June 1941]

***

“In one year the Jews and Communists have not yet managed to cut from our hearts the thirst for freedom. Let us pay the Jews back in kind — in blood. Let us not make any distinctions among them; all of them rejoiced during our days of woe. Let us pull up by the roots for all time the most hateful parasite of our nation and our exploiter — the Jew. Let us swear to wreak hundredfold vengeance on the Jews and Communists for shedding the innocent blood of our countrymen. [...]  Our Fellow Lithuanians, if you are still among the living, come forward in the struggle against Jewry. Our Fellow Lithuanians, if you are still among the living, come forward in the struggle against Jewry. Our fellow Lithuanians, let us liberate our fatherland from the Jews. Long Live Independent Lithuania.”

[before 22 June 1941]

***

“Once the campaign from the west has begun, you will be informed about it that very minute by radio or other means. At that point, in the towns, villages and hamlets of occupied Lithuania local uprisings must take place, or more precisely put, the taking of the government into our own hands. Local Communists and other sorts of traitors to Lithuania must immediately be arrested so that not even one of them may avoid retribution for his actions. [...] Inform the Jews today that their fate is sealed. Whoever can, therefore, let him get out of Lithuania in order to avoid unnecessary victims. At the decisive moment, take their property into your own hands in order to avoid unnecessary losses.”

[19 March 1941]

***

“Our Lithuanian Brothers and Sisters!

[...] The fateful hour of final reckoning with the Jews has come. Lithuania must be liberated not only from Asiatic Bolshevik slavery but also from the age-old yoke of Jewry. In the name of the entire Lithuanian nation, the Lithuanian Activist Front most solemnly declares [...]:

1. The ancient right of refuge in Lithuania, granted to the Jews during the times of Vytautas the Great, is completely and finally revoked.

2. Every Lithuanian Jew without exception is hereby sternly warned to abandon the land of Lithuania without delay.

3. All those Jews who exceptionally distinguished themselves with actions of betraying the Lithuanian state and of persecuting, torturing, or abusing our Lithuanian countrymen will be separately be held accountable and receive the appropriate punishment. It it should become clear that at the fateful hour of reckoning and of Lithuanian rebirth especially guilty Jews are finding opportunities to escape somewhere in secret, it will be the duty of all honorable Lithuanians to take their own measures to apprehend such Jews, and if necessary, carry out the punishment. [...]

The Jews are to be expelled completely and for all time. If any one of them should dare to believe that in the new Lithuania he will nevertheless find a refuge of sorts, let hum learn today the irrevocable judgment on the Jews: in the newly restored Lithuania not even one Jew will have either the rights of citizenship or the means of earning a living. In this way, we will rectify past mistakes and repay Jewish villainy. In this way, we will lay a strong foundation for the happy future and creative work of our Aryan nation.”

[not later than 22 June 1941]

„Today, unfortunately, after more than sixty years since the Shoah, the theory of the two (symmetrical) genocides still persists in Lithuania: a poorly masked attempt to justify the mass slaughter of the Jews. Nevertheless, no matter how much anyone attempts to whitewash this theory, the „ears“ of racism stick out of it because the Jews were killed en masse, without even determining their identity, not to mention any kind of court verdict.
In Lithuania after the war, during Soviet times, the events connected with the Jewish Catastrophe could not be researched. They were taboo because the Shoah was regarded as „the slaughter of Soviet people“.

During the 1960s and later, articles appeared in the Lithuanian press about the mass slaughter of Jews here. They mentioned that the killers of the Jews had found refuge in the United States and other Western countries, but the fact of Holocaust itself was circumvented. In essence, these articles were Soviet counterpropaganda inspired by the protests of American Jews against Jewish oppression in the Soviet Union. As an exception, one should note a book published in Lithuania at that time, Ir be ginklo kariai [Soldiers Without Weapons], which has already been mentioned at the beginning of this book.” (page 325)

***

“Meanwhile, as already mentioned, the theory of the two genocides still persists in Lithuania till the present day. Distorting the facts, their nature and scale, its apologists blame the Jews for all the misfortunes that befell Lithuania during the Soviet occupation – the loss of independence, mass repressions, the destruction of the economy, etc. – in order to excuse those Lithuanians who, in collaboration with Nazi executioners, perpetrated the chillingly cruel, total massacre of Jews, of everyone without exception – independently of their age, political and religious views, social origin and status, including even Jews who had fought for Lithuanian independence.

A Jew’s ethnicity was his crime. This was genocide, which has been recognized throughout the world, as already mentioned, as a crime against humanity, a crime that nothing, no circumstances can excuse.

Thus, in essence, the theory of the two genocides represents a cynical attempt by murderers to change places with their victims. The foundation for this theory was laid by the ideologues of the LAF (Lithuanian Activist Front).” (page 327)

***

“The Jews had only these alternatives: to perish or to have a chance of surviving, because getting any sort of help from the West – England, France, the United States – was not, given the situation at that time, realistic. Moreover, did meeting the Soviet Army necessarily mean support for what the stationing of these troops in Lithuania would lead to? After all, no one knew what would happen! (The historian Saulius Sužiedėlis assesses the Lithuanian mood at that time in a similar way: “many Lithuanians awaited liberation from the West, i.e. practically speaking, from Germany”, and as he later notes, such desire “did not necessarily mean sympathy for Nazism.”)” (page 328)

 

Books

The Shoah in Lithuania

COVER2

“The purpose of the book is to provide the readers with the opportunity to find out what really happened during the Shoah in Lithuania and to grasp its terrible consequences, scale, and the role of individual factors in it.”

The Book of Sorrow

sorroa

“This is a book about the Holocaust, the unprecedented extermination of about 6 million Jews, including more than 200,000 from Lithuania, during the World War II. Let it serve as a modest monument to the annihilated Lithuanian Jewish community as well as a grave accusation against the organizers and executors of the systematic destruction of the Jewish people.“

 

Biography

J.Levinson

Joseph Levinson was born in March 1917.  He grew up in the small town (shtetl) Vishéy (Veisiejai) in Dzūkija (Southern Lithuania). He received a degree in engineering from the Technical Faculty of Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. Joseph Levinson fought the Nazis as a serviceman of the 16th Lithuanian Division during World War II and was seriously injured.  He is a founding figure of Vilnius’s ‘Green House’ and a historian of the Lithuanian Holocaust.

In 1941, during the massacre of the Jews in Lithuania, his father and relatives were murdered in the village of Katkiškė near Lazdéy (Lazdijai).

Joseph Levinson was the chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s Commission for Maintenance of Jewish Cemeteries and Sites of Massacre. In the early 1990s he spearheaded the Jewish community’s and museum’s work for the preservation and respectful marking of both old Jewish cemeteries and mass grave sites. It was at his initiative that the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Society (later reorganized into the Lithuanian Jewish Community) and the State Jewish Museum presented the then Lithuanian Supreme Council with a draft resolution on restoring and preserving the Jewish cemeteries and sites of Jewish massacre. The resolution was passed at the end of 1990.

J. Levinson devoted many years to organizing and supervising the restoration and maintenance of both the mass graves and old cemeteries. The material he had collected about the sites of these mass killings was published in Skausmo knyga (The Book of Sorrow) with texts in Lithuanian, English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. He is also the author of another major work on the Holocaust in Lithuania The Shoah in Lithuania.

J. Levinson was honored for his many contributions in London’s Central Synagogue at a major event on 1 September 2010 that was attended by a UK Government minister and the Israeli Ambassador.

Key accomplishments

  • Revival of Lithuania’s Jewish Community (LJC) -former active LJC Board member
  • Establishment of LJC Jewish Museum and Holocaust Section (the Green House)
  • Discovering and marking mass graves of Lithuanian Jewry (worked closely with local municipalities in finding and marking mass graves of Holocaust massacre; documented the work done which resulted in The Book of Sorrow)
  • Inspecting, inventorizing and protecting the old Jewish cemeteries of Lithuania (worked closely with local municipalities in finding and marking the old Jewish cemeteries; part of the abovementioned work done was presented in The Book of Sorrow)
  • Mounting major historic exhibits (Butrimonys)
  • Combating Holocaust Revisionism and “Double Genocide” with the facts (wrote about it in the book The Shoah in Lithuania, 2006)

award

Media

Interviews:

THE JEWISH CHRONICLE ONLINE. Interview: Josef Levinson  (visit article)
A Trip Down Memory Lane: an interview with Joseph Levinson    (visit article)

Publications:

Joseph Levinson, 93, Holocaust Historian, Honored in London; But Q & A session is manipulated by translator (visit the article)

2010 Sept 2 Jewish News On Levinson

2011 Feb Chersonski on Levinson

 

 
Watch Video:


Joseph_Levinson at London Central Synagogue by Joseph_Levinson