Tuesday, 4 January 2011



Jewish-Lithuanian relationships: facing difficult questions

February 6-10, 2011

It is obvious that the history of the coexistence of the Lithuanians and the Jews is far from simple but the frequent desire to simplify it is also clear. One standpoint shows Lithuanian-Jewish relations as an ever-growing conflict – from the very beginnings of the Jewish community in Lithuania in the 14th c. up to World War II and the Holocaust, where according to the memories of the post-war Jewish Diaspora, Jews were killed not so much by the German Nazis as by their neighbours the Lithuanians. The opposing viewpoint focuses on the long-term peaceful coexistence of two ethnoreligious groups with the blame for the Holocaust in Lithuania being laid at the door of German racist politics.

The popularity of simplified historical interpretations has in large part been due to different approaches adopted in historiography. Soviet historians had to write the histories of social classes but not of ethnic and religious groups, and the euphemism “the killing of Soviet citizens” was a way to minimise the enormous number of Jews singled out for brutal murder during the Holocaust. Serious academic research in Lithuania on Jewish history has only been developed over the last twenty years and today the situation has changed. This has been witnessed by the quite intensive collaboration between historians from Lithuania and Israel as well as other countries, studying the history of Jews in Lithuania, and by the number of books and articles published.

At the international colloquium No Simple Stories: Jewish-Lithuanian relationships between coexistence and violence, which will take place 6-7 February 2011 at University College London, historians will discuss the topic of Jewish-Lithuanian relations in the context of the Holocaust in Lithuania, as well as long term features of Lithuanian-Jewish coexistence between the late 18th and the 20th centuries. The colloquium will offer a unique opportunity to contextualise difficult questions, which are both sensitive and important.

The workshop will be accompanied by a programme of cultural events: the exhibitions The Synagogues of Lithuania and The Sounds of Silence, as well as the film screenings of I Leave My Child to You (Lithuania, 1999), and The World was Ours: The Jewish Legacy of Vilna (US, 2006). The Vilner Klezmorim will be reviving the klezmer music of Lithuanian and Vilnius Jews and presenting a contemporary take on this expressive music. Following the screening of the film Yitgadal V’yitkadash: Memorial Statues in the Strashun Forest (Israel, 2005), there will be an open discussion with the workshop participants on the theme of Why is it still difficult to speak about the Holocaust in Lithuania?



6 February, Sunday, 5.30 pm, West London Synagogue

Goldsmid Hall, 34 Upper Berkeley Street, W1H 5AU


Opening of the exhibition

Launch of the book Synagogues in Lithuania A-M

The exhibition presents Jewish houses of worship and their architecture, bringing into focus the uniqueness of wooden synagogues. It is a vanishing heritage with the distinct artistic aspects of architecture and philosophy gradually disappearing. The organizers of the exhibition have for the first time documented 92 synagogues in 59 Lithuanian cities and towns.

During World War II the Jewish communities that had built the synagogues and lived in their vicinity were wiped out. Because of the brutal attempts during the war years and Soviet times “to adapt” these buildings that had lost their congregants without any regard to preserving their heritage, the distinctive characteristics of the architecture and the interiors of the synagogues were lost and the synagogue courtyard spaces (shulhoyf in Yiddish) became unrecognisable.

Free entrance

Exhibition continues until 22 February, 2011


6 February, Sunday, 7.00 pm, West London Synagogue

34 Upper Berkeley Street, London W1H 5AU


Liora Grodnikaitė (voice)

Petras Vyšniauskas (reeds)

Raimondas Sviackevičius (accordion)

Borisas Kirzneris (violin)

Arkadijus Gotesmanas (percussion)

Klezmer music is an integral part of the tradition of East European Jewish music. No wedding or any other family or local celebration could do without klezmer music full of joy and fiery emotion mostly meant to be danced to. The aim of the Vilner Klezmorim is to revive the klezmer music of Lithuanian and the Vilnius Jews, to preserve the tradition and to give it a contemporary form. Taking part in this evening’s programme are some of Lithuania’s best jazz musicians and the well-known mezzo-soprano Liora Grodnikaitė.

Tickets: £15 (students £10)


7 February – 29 April, Mon-Fri 10 am – 5pm

Lithuanian Embassy in London

84 Gloucester Place, London W1U 6AU

5 May – 17 June, Mon-Fri 10 am – 5pm

Spiro Ark, Jewish Culture and Education Centre

25-26 Enford Street, London W1H 1DW


Traces of Jewish life in Lithuania

Exhibition of photographs by Raimondas Paknys

The exhibition is dedicated to the annihilated Jewish communities of Lithuania. The photographs capture the images of the cemeteries, prayer houses, and other buildings and sites, portraying the remnants of the Jewish golden age in Lithuania. Apart from a number of telling figures from the history of Lithuania’s Jews, the viewers will learn about the Yiddish and Lithuanian names of towns and villages where the Jewish inhabitants used to make up a large proportion, perhaps even the majority of the overall population, in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Free entrance


8 February, Tuesday 7.30 pm, West London Synagogue

Samson Family Concourse, 33 Seymour Place, London W1H 5AU


Film screening followed by the discussion Why is it still difficult to speak about the Holocaust in Lithuania?


Prof Antony Polonsky

Prof Šarūnas Liekis

Prof Saulius Sužiedėlis

Prof Motti Zalkin

Dr Christoph Dieckmann

Dr Darius Staliūnas

In 1992, a Lithuanian mayor and a woodcarver born after the Holocaust, both non-Jewish, erected three memorial wooden statues near the site where 2,200 Jews were murdered, many being buried while still half-alive by the Nazis and their local collaborators in August 1941. In the winter of 2004, the statues were burned down. The perpetrators of the crime have yet to be discovered by the Lithuanian police. The film is the last evidence of the memorial.

Israel, 2005. Directed by: Dov Shinar, Motti Zalkin. Duration: 12’. Language: English

Tickets: £8 (students £5)


9 February, Wednesday, 7.30 pm, West London Synagogue

Multimedia Room, 33 Seymour Place, London W1H 5AU


During World War II Pranas Laucevičius hid the Jewish girl Rūta Gurvičiūtė in his house in Telšiai. They soon fell in love and their son Telesforas was born. After a long period of hiding, the couple were reported to the Gestapo and both were shot dead just days before the end of the German occupation. Telesforas was raised by Pranas's sister Jadvyga, who lived to an old age in her native town Telšiai.

This ‘not simple story’ is told by Jakov Gurvich, brother of Rūta Gurvičiūtė, who came from Israel to Lithuania in June 2005, visited the places and people of his childhood, and shared his memories with them.

Lithuania, 2005. Created by Lilija Kopač, Dana Selčinskaja, Algis Liutkevičius, Virginijus Kubilius, Anatolijus Teliušinas. Duration: 60’. Language: English

Q&A with the consultant of the film Dr Irena Veisaitė, former chair of the Open Society Fund–Lithuania Board and a member of the OSI-Budapest Board.

Tickets: £8 (students £5)


9 February, Wednesday, 7 pm, Jewish Museum

129-131 Albert Street, Camden Town, London NW1 7NB

10 February, Thursday, 7.30 pm, West London Synagogue

Multimedia Room, 33 Seymour Place, London W1H 5AU


The Jewish Legacy of Vilna

The World was Ours is a documentary film dedicated to the memory of Jewish Vilnius. Vilnius, often referred to as “The Jerusalem of Lithuania”, was one of the great cultural centres of East European Jewry. The film focuses on the pre-war life of this vibrant culture, producing illustrious figures such as Chaim Soutine, Jaques Lipschitz, Jascha Heifetz, Avram Sutzkever, Chaim Grade, and Joseph Buloff, to name just a few, as well as the Vilna Theatre. The film weaves together interviews, diaries, letters, poems, archival photographs and footage. Archival music and specially recorded performances evoke the spirit of the times.

US, 2006. Producer / Director: Mira Jedwabnik van Doren. Producer: Adam van Doren. Duration: 60’. Language: English

Tickets (Jewish Museum): £10 including free admission to the galleries

Tickets (West London Synagogue): £8 (students £5)

Book tickets in advance through: http://www.spiroark.org/

Combined ticket offer for all the events (concert + 3 film screenings) at the West London Synagogue - £25 (students £20)

Organizers: Lithuanian Embassy in London, Spiro Ark and West London Synagogue


The Centre for the Study of the Culture and History of East European Jews, Vilnius www.jewishstudies.lt

The Vilnius Academy of Arts: www.vda.lt

The Department of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania: www.heritage.lt

The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum: www.jmuseum.lt

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania: www.urm.lt

The Vilna Project, Inc.: www.thevilnaproject.org

Supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania

For any further information please contact Lithuanian Embassy in the UK


Cultural attaché Daiva Parulskienė, 020 7935 9872, culture@lithuanianembassy.co.uk


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