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Welcome to JosephLevinson.com!

p. Levinsonas

Welcome to the website www.josephlevinson.com!

This website was created with the purpose to save the work of my father, Joseph Levinson, in preserving the memory of the Lithuanian Jews who perished during the Holocaust.

It also serves as an information source of what my father did in discovering and marking mass graves of Lithuanian Jewry as well as in inspecting, inventorizing and putting in order the old Jewish cemeteries of Lithuania.

At the moment the webpage enables the readers to see initial information about Joseph Levinson and his accomplishments. One can also buy Joseph Levinson‘s books, The Book of Sorrow and The Shoah (Holocaust) in Lithuania, through Amazon or from the website directly. In addition to the hardcover options today we can already also offer the abovementioned books in some electronic formats: The Shoah (Holocaust) in Lithuania in PDF format, and The Book of Sorrow in ePUB and MOBI formats.

In the future the website will be developed by loading more information, pictures and other materials related to the work of Joseph Levinson.

We‘ll do our best to respond to all your inquiries which could be sent from the Contact section of the website.

We would also appreciate your comments and suggestion on how to improve the web page and would place valuable material received from you on the website.

With best wishes,

Alex Levinson

 

Contributions

Joseph Levinson contributed extensively to:

  • Revival of Lithuania’s Jewish Community (LJC)’ – was for many years an active LJC Board member .
  • Discovering and marking mass graves of Lithuanian Jews (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 bringing into order the desolated old Jewish cemeteries of Lithuania (worked closely with local municipalities in finding and marking them; part of the abovementioned work done was presented in The Book of Sorrow).
  • Mounting major unique historic exhibitions including “Jews in fight against Fascism” and “Jews’ mass massacre places in Lithuania”; created his own concept on the exhibition of Butrimonys (Yiddish Butrimánts).
  • Combating Holocaust Revisionism and the theory of  “Double Genocide” with the facts (wrote about it in the book The Shoah in Lithuania, 2006, before the topic became internationally explosive).
  • Participated in publishing the LJC newspaper  Jerusalem of Lithuania  (was for a while the editor of the newspaper, wrote articles, organized the translation of the newspaper into Yiddish).
  • Actively participated in the work of the Jewish Museum and its Holocaust Section (the Green House) almost from the very beginning.

Awards:

Lenta11

 

award

 

 

Excerpts

„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.

The Lithuanian Jewish community became irrevocably extinct, even though it had developed for centuries, had come to identify with Lithuania, had contributed to Lithuania’s economic and cultural life, and had taken an active part in its fight for independence and reestablishment of statehood.
A variegated, active community had disappeared, along with its remarkable faith to their national culture and traditions, highly developed system of education and publishing (based on two national languages, Yiddish and Hebrew), and its zealous and dynamic youth, which was widely involved in a broad range of international movements which sought a way out of our centuries-long history of persecution. The outstanding Jewish Institute of Research (YIVO) and centres of religious thought and education functioned here: the Telšiai and Slabada (Kaunas) yeshivot (Talmudic Schools) were famous all over the Jewish world. The Gaon of Vilna, the mathematician H. Minkovski, the world- famous violinist and musician J. Heifetz, Esperanto creator L. Zamenhof, the sculptors M. Antokolski and Z. Lipshitz, the artist I. Levitan, the creator of the modern Hebrew novel A. Mapu, and many others came from here and started their creative and professional careers here. Because of this, the Lithuanian Jews, who were called “Litvaks”, occupied a special place in the Jewish world and constituted a respected branch of the Jewish world community. All that is now in the past and will never be regained.“
(Page 13)

***

“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. The Jewish genocide did not end with their mass graves. During the following years of Soviet occupation, the Holocaust victims were doomed to spiritual annihilation through oblivion. The monuments at their mass graves indicated that these sites were the burial place of “Soviet people” or “civilians”. No mention was made of what really happened there and who the victims of the “Final Solution” were (see p. 21).
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 emigres 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.”
(Page 15)

***

„Dear reader, you have opened the book of SORROW
What can it tell you about the humiliation the Jews of Lithuania were subject to and which before their deaths they were forced to wear as a yellow star on their chests and backs? Perhaps this was an attempt first to kill the spirit, to trample upon the dignity of man and nation, to bend its wise head, to break faith and hope.
But condemnation and scorn befell the victimizers, and it was their victims who were extolled. From beyond graves and monuments – both large and small – they issue a warning and reminder: give way to the man, stop the beast.
This book can tell you the story, dear reader, about the road that broke off, that was cut short, about a road more than 600 years long travelled by the Jews of Lithuania.
Here lies its end. Here is the burial site of more than two hundred thousand defenseless men, women and children who were exterminated.
Here, too, rest those who were still to be born.
Perhaps they are happier because they did not see what their mothers saw: they did not see the barrel of the gun aimed at them. They did not hear their mothers’ wailing before they died as their hands hastened to shield their wombs.
The world, too, was deaf.
It was still very much like an unborn babe.
The truth of the world and its love
proved to be weak, powerless, and confused.
This is where the road of Lithuanian Jewry broke off,
this is where it passed into the shining dark.
Yet where is its beginning?
It is not reflected in this book.
But perhaps its beginning goes back to the letter Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas signed on May 26, 1323, and addressed to the people of Lubeck, Rostock, Zund, Greifswald, Stettin and Gotland, wherein guarantees for safety, care and assistance were given “…to artisans of any status
they may come together with their children, wives and cattle,
they may arrive and take leave in accordance with their wishes
without the slightest hindrance;
thus with this letter we guarantee and promise
that they will be safe and immune from the unlawful claims of my subjects”.
One can rightly assume that this invitation extended by the Grand Duke of Lithuania did not go Unheard by the Jews in the cities of Europe, mentioned and unmentioned, in this letter. Traces of their deft and hard working hands lie imprinted in Lithuania’s towns and townships. They were gifted artisans, merchants and traders, people of learning and culture. The privilege granted by another Lithuanian Grand Duke in 1388 – Vytautas the Great – elevated the Jews who had come to Lithuania to the status of the gentry, thus declaring them free people.
The history of the Jews can thus be traced back to Lithuania’s distant past, breaking off at the grave dug for them in the middle of the 20th century.
It was not Lithuania that dug this grave, for it no longer exercised control over its own land, yet how we live with the pain and shame that a handful of Lithuanians grunned down their fellow citizens – the Jews – and plundered their property. Is it not them that the Psalm of David refers to:
“Let them be blotted out of the book of the living and not be written with the righteous.” /Psalm 69-28/
(Page 17)

***

Can pictures be taken of pain, suffering, despair, and death?
Yes, this book contains all this and those with eyes should see:
the ground, meadows, wild flowers, trees, bushes, and rocks
marking the boundaries of a large burial site, modest monuments
with eloquent inscriptions…

Not one picture is there of a person.

He lies buried in the ground.

You can see people alongside these pictures – perhaps they
are kneeling because of the burden of unbearable pain, perhaps
they are kissing soil soaked with blood, perhaps they are pounding
it with their fists and moaning. This book is a lament of the dead and living.

This book is a book of remembrance. A book of graves. The
book of the buried Lithuanian Jerusalem. “This is Lithuania’s
unhealed wound” – we read in one monument’s inscription. And
this wound is equally painful to everyone.

This book seeks to tell you, dear reader, about the pain, about
the excruciating constant pain left to us by the innocent.

Left as an undying eternal echo, to be passed on from
generation to generation, from heart to heart.

We are all brothers in life and death.

Poet Justinas Marcinkevičius,
1995
(Page 19)

***

Deep pits. Red clay.
Once I had a home.
Many years have passed
The pits are still there
The clay is even redder;
The clay. It is my home.

There my brothers rest
Who were torn to pieces,
Who were murdered in their homes,
Who were murdered at the pits.
Deep pits. Red clay.
Once I had a home.

Lines from S. Halkin’s verses,
translated from Lithuanian by
Nijolė Maskaliūnienė

(Page 23)

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

“Long before it was trendy, Joseph Levinson traveled up and down the Lithuanian countryside to locate and document the Holocaust-era mass grave sites of Lithuania and the country’s old Jewish cemeteries. Without his pioneering work, newcomers could not have continued the project to discover and preserve ever more sites. Levinson is the guardian of the memory of Lithuanian Jewry and this little classic occupies a unique and irreplaceable niche in the history.”
Dovid Katz

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.”