Truth – Legends / Tell me who your friend is .......

    I saw an article in the newspaper Kauno Diena dated July 24, 1998 with the heading, “Escape from the Ninth Fort. Who was in charge?” I anticipated its contents even before I read it. The point is that Haim Bargman and I have known each other a long time and, frankly speaking, I am not particularly proud of this acquaintance. I remember that on July 13, 1994, there was a conference in Kaunas dedicated to the fiftieth anniversary of the destruction of the Kaunas ghetto. In speaking about the escape from the Kaunas Ninth Fort, I mentioned the very same Haim Bargman, who at the time was seated in the conference hall. I cite my own words: “…I cannot understand the position of those people who, for some unknown reason, totally disregard facts (which, by the way, are supported by documents), completely ignore those people, who personally took part in historic events. To put it mildly, an article published in a Kaunas newspaper by a Kaunas resident, considering himself a major authority, namely, Haim Bargman, appears strange. In describing the escape from the Ninth Fort, he mentions many names, but never that of Alex Faitelson, as if Faitelson was never there. I would call this an act of baseness, at least barefaced effrontery, ‘chutzpah’ in Yiddish.”
   By the way, Haim Bargman did not challenge my assertions, did not even try to defend himself, even though I had literally humiliated him in front of a large group of people. Moreover, he upheld normal relations with me, as if nothing had happened.
   That’s one thing. The other is, whom does Haim Bargman base himself on, in presenting his opinions and claiming his inventions to be genuine coinage? He relied on his friend Israel Veselnitzki. I knew this man, too. I was a partisan with him, then we often met in Vilnius, where we both lived. One should not speak ill of the dead, but this time I want to show by some information about Israel Veselnitzki, how unreliable were the sources used by Haim Bargman.
   I have before me documents penned at different times by Israel Veselnitzki in person. There is a lot of inconsistency. In other words, the man essentially and repeatedly lied. For example, on July 25, 1944, he writes, in an autobiography for the Institute of Party History, that he is a Ukrainian by nationality, who completed higher education, an academic military education and who had been a prisoner of war. But on March 10, 1952 he lists as personal data for registration of party cadres that he is a Jew by nationality, that he did not complete higher education and was not a prisoner of war. Not a word about an academic military education, but he does say that, as a participant in a military operation, he had been given the rank of captain-building engineer. In one application form he affirms that he had escaped four times from prison camp, in another, twice only, and in a third, denies ever having been captured.
   Similar (if I may call them so) irregularities often occur in various documents filled in by him. Even more tangled are the biographical articles written by him in the journal Komunistas, no. 1 of 1980; the journal Svyturis, no. 22-23 for 1984; the newspaper Soviet Lithuania on December 25, 1989; the Autobiography, which Israel Veselnitzki periodically sent his nephew Gideon Sadni in Israel during the years 1985 to 1989.
   By the way, neither in the personal data for the registration of cadres, nor in his official autobiography, does Israel Veselnitzki write that he was incarcerated in the Kaunas Ninth Fort. How should this be understood?
   The question arises, whether one can trust such a liar?
   Haim Bargman believes him 100 percent, and never bases himself on documents or on the eyewitness accounts of other participants in the escape.
   A few words about myself. I was born in Kaunas in 1922, I was incarcerated in the Kaunas ghetto. I was in the partisans. For about fifty years I worked in the Lithuanian pedagogic press, for nearly five years (1989–1994) I was editor of the newspaper Lithuanian Jerusalem (published in four languages). Since 1994 I have been living in Israel. I have published five books, two in Lithuanian, one in German and two in Yiddish. I have translated into Lithuanian quite a few literary works written originally in Yiddish (see Flowers of the North, The Last Vilnius Prophet).

With deepest respect,

Tzvi Smoliakov,
Petah Tikva, Israel
August 4, 1998.