An artistic conference to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day

On 26 January, Ariogala hosted a conference for the communities of the Tolerance Education Centres, “Children in the Holocaust”.

On the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an artistic conference for the communities of the Tolerance Education Centres, “Children in the Holocaust”, took place in Ariogala on 26 January. Students and teachers from 13 Lithuanian schools participated in the conference. The participants presented artistic sketches and compositions based on the stories of Jewish children described in the book “Saved in Potato Sacks”.

The organisers, Arvydas Stankus, Director of Ariogala Gymnasium, thanked the students and teachers for participating in the event and commemorating the historical memory. Ronaldas Račinskas, Executive Director of the International Commission, reminded the participants of the crimes against humanity committed in the twentieth century and the complex situation in the present context. Ronaldas Račinskas said, “Today, the world is facing a confrontation between democracy and autocracy, and we must be extremely vigilant.”

Diplomats from Israel and the United States also attended the conference. Ambassador Hadas Wittenberg Silverstein, Ambassador of the State of Israel, addressed the conference and said: “I am here today not only as an Ambassador of the State of Israel but also as the granddaughter of a survivor of the Holocaust. This biographical detail has profoundly shaped my values, attitudes and identity”. William Kendrick, political counsellor at the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania, recalled in his speech that “when authoritarian regimes seek to provoke fear and spread lies, we respond with one of our most powerful weapons: the truth. Just as we reject the Kremlin’s false justification of so-called ‘de-Nazification’ for the war in Ukraine, we must also reject attempts to distort or trivialise the history of the Holocaust in Lithuania”.

The director of the NGO “North Jerusalem,” Anna Avidan, shared her memories of compiling the book “Saved in Potato Sacks.” She told us that the book contained the stories of fifty people who survived the Holocaust. But, according to Anna Avidan, “it was challenging to put the book together – not everyone wanted to share their experiences because even after many years, they were harrowing memories.” During the conference, the students presented the stories of the Jewish children described in the book in various ways.

In the presentation of the “Žara” gymnasium from Vilnius, the words “There is only one weapon to defeat hatred, it’s love” were spoken by the students as they told the stories of the children who were rescued from the Kaunas ghetto. In his speech, Mingaudas Tamaliūnas, Deputy Mayor of Raseiniai Municipality, also present at the conference, wished the young people: “Dear young people, as you act sincerely, be sincere and remain sincere .”Modesta Gailė, Head of the Education Department of Raseiniai District Municipality, wished everyone that “positive stories always inspire good actions.”

Gercas Žakas, President of the Jewish Community of Kaunas, who attends the conference every year, shared his thoughts: “I have great faith that students who participate in such an event will be more sensitive, understanding, and intolerant of evil and hatred.”

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day Artists’ Conference was launched in 2011. It was held for the eighth time in Ariogala and was attended by 120 students and 22 teachers from 13 general education institutions:

Tomas Norus-Narusevičius Gymnasium in Krokialaukis, Alytus district

“Saulės” Gymnasium, Biržai

Vladas Mironas Gymnasium, Daugava

“Veršvų” Gymnasium, Kaunas

Jonas and Petras Vileišiai High School, Kaunas

Juozas Grušas Art Gymnasium, Kaunas

Vocational Training Centre, Kėdainiai

Povilas Matulionis Grammar School, Kupiškis

Lavoriškės Gymnasium, Vilnius district

“Ryto” Primary School, Marijampolė

Baisogala Cultural Centre, Radviliškis district

Ariogala Gymnasium, Raseiniai district

“Žaros” Gymnasium, Vilnius

The organisers are very pleased that the event was attended by many guests, whose participation confirmed the importance of the commemoration day, and the presentations prepared by the students reminded us once again that we have to talk about the Holocaust and that we must. As every year, we have to participate in the World Jewish Congress initiative “We Remember”.

The traditional artistic conference was organised by the Secretariat of the International Commission together with the Tolerance Education Centre of the Ariogala Gymnasium.