On March 15, an event was held in the hall of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius to remember and honor the rescuers of Lithuanian Jews.
The event began with the sound of a “weeping” violin, followed by the shadow theatre from the Baisogala Cultural Centre presenting the artistic composition “From 1847 to 1941…”. The composition revealed – without words – how the Jews came to Baisogala, how they lived, what they did for a living, and how the Jewish community of Baisogala was destroyed.
At the beginning of the event, Faina Kukliansky, the Chairwoman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, thanked the large audience and said, “you have no idea how grateful we, the Jews, are to those who saved our lives. That is why we remember all the rescuers; we remember those who were rescued and those who were not…” The Chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community presented a medal issued by the community to Danuta Selčinskaja, an employee of the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History, for her many years of work searching for Jewish rescuers throughout Lithuania.
The commemoration event, hosted by journalist Rimas Bružas, featured interviews with descendants of the rescued Jews and the rescuers. Romualdas Juknelevčius, associate professor at Vilnius University, told the unique story of his father, who rescued the Jews in Simnas, and the continuation of this story – his communication with Mejer, the son of the rescued Abel. The word “courage” and the expression “guilt,” which the rescued Jews felt when they knew that their relatives or friends had been killed, rang out many times in the sensitive recollections of the speakers Reiza Zinkeviciene, Faina Kukliansky, and Romualdas Juknelevicius.
The event guest, Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, told the story of his father, who, when he was almost 100 years old, was visited by a film director who was making a film on the subject of rescuers. The director asked the professor’s father the question, “why were you rescuing?”. According to Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, his father did not understand the director’s repeated question because, for him, it was a natural thing to do – after all, you have to help a person in trouble.
At the event, Emanuelis Zingeris, Chairman of the International Commission, presented a commemorative token in honor of the rescuers of Lithuanian Jews, which the International Commission initiated. The symbolic token was created by the artist Viktorija Sidaraitė and her team of associates. According to Emanuelis Zingeris, Chairman of the International Commission, “We are embarking on a not-so-popular path to commemorate the Jewish rescuers. And together, we will fill an empty niche.”
The event was attended by German Ambassador Matthias Sonn, diplomats from the Embassies of Israel and the United States of America, Paulė Kuzmickienė, the Chair of the Commission on Freedom Fights and Historical Remembrance of the State of the Republic of Lithuania, as well as guests from various institutions, Jewish community presidents from Kaunas, Palanga, Švenčionys, teachers and students from Vilnius Simonas Daukantas, Užupis, Pilaitė, Vasilijus Kačialovas Gymnasiums, the Vilnius Naujamiesčio School and the Vilnius Saulėtekis School – Multifunctional Centre.
The Jewish Community of Lithuania organized the event in cooperation with the International Commission for the Evaluation of Crimes Committed by the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania.
Events commemorating the Day of the Rescuers of Lithuanian Jews were also held in other Lithuanian towns and cities, organized by local Jewish communities, local museums, and Tolerance Education Centres – schools.
You can find information on the International Commission’s website / TEC (Tolerance Education Centers) News: https://www.komisija.lt/en/tolerance-education-center-news/.