Return to the Catholics and the
Holocaust Home Page
ORAL & WRITTEN TESTIMONIES:
LITHUANIA AND THE HOLOCAUST
"LIKE A BIRD SHE RETURNS"
by Egle Ciobutiene
(Kalba Vilnius, 16 September 1993)
is a biographical essay about renowned pianist, Gold Wainberg-Tatz, a Lithuanian-born
Jew, who has lived in Israel and now resides in New York. Her precocious
skill in piano is described, together with her subsequent musical triumphs
on the international scene. Toward the end of the article that mentions
her travels, one reads:
"And beyond all that, why not vacation in her homeland of Lithuania to
give concerts? But most importantly of all, like a bird she returns
so that in Rokiskis she can visit Father Antanas Gobis, who, during the
German occupation, rescued her mother from death, and in addition sheltered
several Jewish children. Father Antanas risked his life. Recently,
officials of the Israeli Government bestowed on him a high national award
for aiding Jews. Furthermore, there is in Israel an olive grove where
an olive tree is planted there for anyone in the world who has saved at
least one Jew. Such a tree is named for Father Gobis. Inscribed
on an attractive plaque is his name, surname, and other information.
"Thus next Sunday evening during our second radio program we shall hear
Golda Wainberg-Tatz's muscianship. Be assured that she is like that
bird that always returns to her homeland, and shall enrich us with her
A MEMORIAL TO THE NAZI VICTIMS OF STUTTOF
(Draugas [Chicago-based Lithuanian daily], 18 May 1995)
Gdansk, Poland, May 9
----- In order to fix the memory of some 60,000 political prisoners from
twenty-five nations and twenty-eight ethnic groups, the sounds of a trumpet
and a triple volley echoed in Balys Sruoga's novel, In the Forest of
the Gods, a scene set in the former Stutthof concentration camp, now
converted to a museum not far from Gdansk, Poland.
There came from Warsaw, Ambassador Antanas Valionis, General Counsul Sarunas
Adomavivius, and about fifty former prisoners and relatives of prisoners
who perished, along with representatives of Lithuanian television and the
Leading the religious portion of the commemoration were Metropolitan Archbishop
Tadeusz Gotzlowsky, Bishop Andrziej Szlivinski of Elbing, along with Orthodox
and Lutheran clergy, and Rabbi Chackel Zak from Kaunas.
The first wreath was carried by political prisoners representing the nations
of all those who died at Stutthof. Pilypas Naruits represented Lithuania.
The Lithuanian ambassador laid a floral wreath at the monument and set
a memorial plaque at the crematorium. In the plaza of the crematorium,
a short silence for meditation was arranged for all the Lithuanians.
At this point, Lithuanian Ambassador A. Valionis offered remarks and Pilypas
Narutis, former Stutthof prisoner, read a special declaration on behalf
of the Lithuanian groups of hostages.
In his comments, Pilypas Narutis recalled that victory over the Nazis was
not the end of genocide. Rather "the Soviet Union, with a deeper
level of brutality, brought terror to occupied nations, and with that occuaption
a greater and prolonged slavery, annihilating one third of the Lithuanian
people in Siberian gulags."
JEWS HONORED NATIVES OF SIAULIAI
by Jonas Daugela
(Draugas, 29 May 1998)
It's not likely that there was anywhere in a Lithuanian city -- a Jewish
community so well organized as in Siauliai. Siauliai was a leather
and commercial center. Besides that, it housed the largest shoe factory
of all three Baltic nations. These enterprizes employed over 5,000
workers. Jews very intimately fraternized with activist Lithuanians
and cooperated with them. Outstanding Jews took part in the autonomous
city administration and greatly aided in the rebuiding and beautifying
of Siauliai. In this way, they acquired many good Lithuanian friends.
Just as soon as the German Army had entered Siauliai, the destruction of
the Jews began, as elsewhere throughout Lithuania. Immediately and
in a short time, organized roving killer squads murdered Jews in all the
cities and villages of Siauliai County. In the city itself, the Jews
were confined to a ghetto. Without doubt, such scenes deeply moved
the Lithuanian community of Siauliai.
Promptly, Lithuanians set out in every way possible to aid the Jews.
Lithuanian groups were formed into secret cells that gathered food
products, medicines, and material for bandages, and in various ways smuggled
them into the ghetto. Nevertheless, it was not long before each night
groups of Jews were led out of the ghetto and shot to death. Likewise,
many of them were herdered into freight cars and sent far away into Germany.
Lithuanians sought to devise ways to help at least the Jewish children.
To provide aid to those children, to protect them and hide them --- a voluntary
secret network was organized. Several leading families of Siauliai
organized the endeavor and in every manner possible fostered the effort.
But, most of all, in all Lithuania, the well-known Venclauskas family was
of service in this matter.
K. Venclauskas was a well-known attorney and leading political figure.
He had been a member of every democratic convention. His wife, Stanislava,
was well-known as the protector of students coming form the poor class.
She housed these unfortuante children in her own home, nurtured them, and
sent them to the gymnasium [secondary school]. One surmises that
there were some one hundred such Venclauskas "offspring" --- alumni
of the Siauliai gymnasiium.
The Venclauskases were true vessels of the ideals of Christian humanism.
Mr. Venclauskas died soon after the Bolsheviks invaded Lithuania.
Thus it was that during the Nazi occupation, Mrs. Venclaukskas and here
two daughters --- Grozvyle and Danute --- pooled their efforts in aiding
They found a way to approach German officials; and by devising various
ruses, they "abducted" from the ghetto as many as several hundred Jewish
children of tender age. Throughout the County of Siauliai, the Venclauskases
had been well acquainted with many good and trustworthy farmers and workers.
Accordingly, the Venclauskases rescued youths from the ghetto and hid them
in farmsteads. Without a doubt, these were highly dangerous efforts
on the part of the rescuers. Nevertheless, our villagers were exceptionally
trustworthy and noble Lithuanians. Thus, one has not heard of any
accusations or betrayals of any sort. They mutually defended one
another, and mutually aided one another. Even to this day, there
are some surviving rescued Jews. Some of them live in Lithuania,
while others have established themselves in Israel.
During the second incursion of the Red Army into Lithuania, Grozvyle remained
in Lithuania, whereas Mrs. Venslauskas and Danute withdrew to the west.
At first they lived in Germany; later, they came to America and settled
in Waterbury, Connecticut. From their first days, they immediately
engaged in helping others. They organized mailing of parcels to Lithuania,
an especially supported surviving families, exiled to Siberia and imprisoned
there. For these endeavors, Grozvyle, who remained in Lithuania,
provided considerable help.
In Waterbury, the Jew, Aaron Frenkel, recognized them [mother and daughter].
You see, he was one of those whom Danute rescued from the ghetto and hid
with a farmer. At that time, he was an eleven-year-old lad.
Presently, he is established in the same Waterbury where he operates a
meat market, now administerd by his son, Sid. Both of them speak
Lithuanian as well. At his place of business, Aaron recognized Danue.
Indeed, their meeting was emotional, and once again ties of deep friendship
were renewed, characterized by reminiscences of painful days.
This year, Danute celebrated her ninety-fifth birthday. For the occasion,
the Jewish Federation of Waterbury arranged an impressive birthday banquet.
To participate in this feast, the sister, Grozvyle, came here from Siauliai.
However, a sudden attack forced her to return quickly to Siauliai for an
operation. The Jews wanted to honor her too.
At the entrance to the hall, leaflets in English and Lithuanian were distributed,
decribing the destruction fo the Jews, all the horrors of the Holocaust,
and the efforts of Lithuanians to rescue Jews. It was a pleasure
to hear Lithuanian spoke by Jews chatting among themselves.
During the ceremony, a Lithuanian speech was read by Sid, son of Aaron
Frenkel, who had been rescued by the efforts of Danute. Later, there
was read a translation into English. Afra Farhi, a representative
of the Israel Consulate who had come from New York, read a touching speech.
She announced that the Government of Israel was giving the highest order,
up to now not yet ever awarded to a non-Jew, for heroism shown by Danute
in rescuing hundreds of Jews during the years of the Holocaust. Furthermore,
she [Afra Fahri] gave a $1,000 gift, adding that Danute will receive a
monthly $400 pension for the rest of her life.
At the conclusion, Danute herself, the one who occasioned this observance,
spoke a few works. She thanked all who were present, especially the
delegates of the Israeli Government, for the attention shown to her.
At the end, in a loud voice that the entire hall could hear, she shouted
in both English and Lithuanian: "Lithuanians never killed Jews. Never,
never, never!" The entire proceedings and speeches were very widely
written about in the local press.
In recent years, Jews have increasingly and stubbornly faulted Lithuanians
for the annihilation of their fellow Jews. Worst of all, it has not
been individuals being blames, but the entire nation. For that reason,
perhaps such observances will at least partially open Jewish eyes and show
them the face of the giant-hearted Lithuanians.
A NEW MEMORIAL ON THE HILL OF CROSSES
by Pilypas Narutis
[A survivor of Stutthof]
(Teviskes Ziburiai, 2 February 1999)
In Lithuania on the Hill of Crosses in the outskirts of Siauliai, a new
memorial has been raised, dedicated to the forty-six prisoners of Lithuania
held hostage at Stutthof. The memorial is a cross designed by architect
Leonas Juozonis. Monsignor Kleopas Jakaitis blessed the memorial.
This memorial expresses the distinct struggle of Lithuania with Nazi Germany
which used the most brutal methods to bend Lithuania to the wishes of the
Why Were Hostages Needed?
The start of 1943 was also the start of the tragedy of Adolf Hitler.
When the German army, having ventured to the Caspian Sea, experienced a
painful defeat in an effort to withstand the Moscow-London-Washington united
front, Hitler gave orders to use the occupied peoples as a buffer for the
Reich. The German administration announced for Lithuania the mobilization
of young men in an attempt to form a new SS legion. In this instance,
the Lithuanian nation already took a stance with the West against the occupying
forces. The intended Nazi mobilization did not succeed at all.
Just as the united Lithuanian nation rose up against Moscow on June 23,
1941, so too the entire nation opposed the Berlin-announced mobilization
at the start of 1943. A. T. von Rentein (ruler of Lithuania),
Heinrich Lohse (ruler of the occupant's Eastern lands) and Heinrich Himmler
(supreme planner of all killings) met in conference at Riga and drew up
a new plan of oppression.
An Unexpected Knock at the Door
On March 16-17, 1943, Rentein announced the closing of all higher schools
of learning in Lithuania (occupied-Poland schools had already been closed
from 1939) , while the Gestapo ordered fifty of the known resistant activists
to be taken as hostages in order to terrorize the whole nation.
I was living in the old section of Kaunas on Valancius Street. On
orders of the Gestapo, Bronius Stasiukaitis and I had been under house
arrest. We could not leave Kaunas, and we had to register with the
Gestapo every Monday. We used to register separately, and the next
day we used to meet to chat about what transpired at the registration,
since we were aware that some day we might not return to our homes.
On March 15, 1943, I registered with the Gestapo. On March 16, as
I was about to leave for the university, Bronius Stasiukaitis
stopped by about 8:00 A. M. A loud knocking on the door interrupted
our converation. When the door opened, Sveicorius, a
German of Lithuania (a Gestapo official), along with several others,
informed me that I was under arrest. I had the presence of mind to
say that I had a student with me with whom I wanted to go to class, and
"Perhaps you could let him go?" Sveicorius, without even asking the
student's surname, blurted out: "Let him go!" B. Stasiukaitis quickly
left. I rejoiced. Now word will spread about me, and perhaps
about another wave of arrests.
In the Gestapo Cellar
The Gestapo men asked me if I had a weapon. Superficially they glanced
at the bookshelves, ordered me to dress warmly, seated me in a "Mercedes
Benz" and . . . off to the Gestapo quarters . . . to a level below
ground in a dark room. Here I found Fr. Stays Yla [1908-1983] . .
. Within a day and night, they filled all the Gestapo underground
rooms. In the morning (March 17), they led all of us out of the cellar
to a second-story room. There we found breakfast on a table with
dishes and also some chairs. Here I found a few acquaintances, but
mostly unfamiliar faces. I can't recall in which group I found myself.
All was unclear to me. Not all had an appetite to eat. After
breakfast, all exited down the stairway to a waiting bus under heavy military
guard. Thus began our journey. We didn't know where.
We didn't know why. No one spoke. No one threatened.
To A Camp of Destruction
The order from Berlin to seize fifty hostages was not succeeding well for
the Gestapo. Out of the planned fifty hostages, after a few days,
the Gestapo succeeded to grab only forty (They did not find Prof. Zenonas
Ivinskis, Lt. Izidorius Kriaunaitis, Petras Vilutis, Dr. Pr[anas] Padolskis
. . .) In an effort to fill the quota of fifty hostages, they seized
six more for a total of forty-six. The hostage were swiftly taken
out of Lithuania in two bus loads. The haste was perhaps due to the
fear of the unrest or perhaps an uprising of the people.
Jurgis Valiukevicius, a student, was snatched in place of his brother,
an attorney; A. Kantvilas in place of Kazys Veverskis; Jonas Sernas in
place of his brother, Prof. Jokubas Sernas,. They [Nazis] confused
Vytautas and Algirdas Tumenas who had numerous relatives with similar surnames.
(On p. 102 in Zmones ir zverys, Fr. Stasys Yla writes: "The Tumenases
land in the concentration camp by no fault of their own . . . Prof. Antanas
Tumenas was the intended hostage . . .") Juozas Valenta was taken
in place of a teacher who managed to hide.
Though the forty-six hostages were swiftly taken out of Lithuania, their
trip to Stutthof dragged out. The occupying German officials were
debating; some sought to have at least some of the hostages shot
to death (this is what the infuriated Gestapo in Lithuania wanted), until
finally Berlin dictated that the hostages be brought to Stutthof.
During the journey, they were held in prisons at Tilsit, Karalaiciai,
In two buses (from Kaunas and Vilniujs) the transported group was registered
on a common roster (see Fr. Stasys Yla, Zmones ir zverys, p. 21),
without any indication of accusations. Quite a bit later, the one
and the same accusation was stamped on the name of each member of the hostage
group: "Participated in the resistance and opposed the decrees of the Reich."
Kaunas the Gestapo sent a special "kapo" who one Sunday struck and beat
certain members of our group: V. Jurgutis, Fr. Stasys Yla, Fr. Alfonsas
Lipniunas, attorneys and professors; and on another day --- everyone.
These beatings and injuries (apart from the usual daily annoyances) hastened
the weakening process of our group. In the first month alone as many
as nine of our group were tortured to death. Word of their death
("allegemeine Schwaeche") was announced in Lithuania. Within
a month, the hostage group was close to annihilation. This was a
way of pressuring Lithuania.
Unrest in Lithuania
After the school-closing and the hostage-taking there began an unrest in
Lithuania in various institutions and among the populace. Workmanship
declined. A. T. von Rentein searched for a solution; he allowed Lithuanian
delegates to gather for "sessions," dictated the outcome which was supposed
to be accepted, to improve matters . . . Gestapo officials Jaegeris spoke
with families of the hostages, explaining that Lithuania must be compliant,
on which basis the fate of the hostages hinged. A conference of "Lithuania's
Delegates" took place in Kaunas on April 5, 1943. The underground
press informed the public about the situation.
Whether it would do any good for Germany or for the "benefit" of Lithuania,
Nazi Germany needed young men. Lithuania did have an interest in
the matter. The Red Army was approaching. Lithuania wanted
somehow to prepare to defend itself against the new impending Communist
devastation, such as experienced during the first occupation [1940-41].
For Rentein, the swift annihilation of the Stutthof hostages was not politically
advantageous. Nor did Berlin want an immediate annihilation of the
hostages of Lithuania, since killing them would have done away with any
basis for political maneuvering. With hostages dying off so quickly,
Berlin eased up on restrictions, and elevated the group of hostages from
Lithuania to the category of "respected" prisoners, and separated us from
murderes . . . Only at the time when Stutthof was evacuated were
the respected prisoners mingled with all the other prisoners.
The Monument --- A Witness
The new monument on the Hill of Crosses recalls that special time.
The folks of Lithuania are saying: "You recognize a human in misfortune."
As to me, I happened to experience the noble people of our nation more
so than those in misfortune --- in the clutch of death. And now I
marvel at what great giants of spirit Lithuania reared, what personages
dedicated to defend the homeland. Those heroes were the leaders of
Lithuania at that time, with whom I happened to become acquainated within
the hostage group in the concentration camp of Stutthof wherein the following
died a martyr's death:
1. Stasys Puodziuis (age 47), General Administrative Advisor,
April 14, 1943
2. Zigmas Masaitis (age 46), Gymnasium Director, April 18, 1943
3. Algirdas Tumenas (age 34), Economist, April 19, 1943
4. Petras Kerpe (age 53), Attorney, April 20, 1943
5. Broniius Grigas (age 41), Deputy Mayor of Vilnius, May 2, 1943
6. Kazys Bauba (age 53), editor of I Laisve [To Freedom]
and Gymnasium Director
in Kaunas, May 14, 1943
7. Ignas Budrys (age 58), Agronomist, May 14, 1943
8. Vytautas Tumenas (age 38), Secretary, Lithuanian Academy of Education,
May 15, 1943
9. Antanas Januskevicius (age 51), Gymnasium Director, June 7, 1943
10. Fr. Alfonsas Lipniunas (age 38), March 28, 1945
11. Pranas Germantas-Meskaukkas (age 40), General Educational Advisor,
April 10, 1945
"HOW MANY RESCUERS OF JEWS WERE THERE?"
(An answer to an article in Zemaiciu saulute at Palanga)
by Genius Procuta of Toronto
(Teviskes Ziburiai, a Canadian weekly, March 16, 1999)
In issue Nr. 4 of this year in Zemaiciu saulute, Vygantas Vareikis'
mention of the "Politics of genocide in Lithuania and the comparatively
little rescue activity . . ." greatly caught my attention. I want
to ask him: Compared to what? Rescuing Jews in Poland, France, Italy, Holland
or anywhere else? Do you have concrete evidence for your comparison?
Irena Velsaite, one of those who were rescued, asserts quite the opposite:
in Lithuania "comparatively speaking, there were many individual rescuers."
(Kulturos barai, December 1998, p. 59). Whom shall we believe:
Vareikis or Velsaite?
I have dedicated several years to researching this question. In 1982
at Tabor Farm in the United States, I read a paper at the meeting of "Santara-Sviesa,"
entitled: "The Holocaust and Lithuania: New Evidence and An Effort to Achieve
Balance." Relying on various published sources, along with S. Binkiene's
book, Soldiers Even Without a Weapon [ir be ginklo kariai],
I arrived at the conclusion that in Lithuania about 12,000 people took
part in rescuing Jews. Does that mean few or many? In my opinion,
it means many, knowing what and how much the rescuers risked . . .
Besides, Lithuania was a small, flat land, without large cities and high
mountains with out-of-the way villages, as in Italy, France, Yugoslavia
--- where it was easier to hide Jews. The Nazi occupational regime
in Italy, France, Holland, and Denmark was much less oppressive.
At this point, I should like to recall Thomas Venclova [who says] that
the Danish government together with King Christian complied with all basic
German demands. "King Christian never threatened to wear the star
[yellow Star of David] nor did he ever actually wear one . . . "
Richard Petrow, The Bitter Years: Invasion and Occupation of Denmark
and Norway (New York, 1979, pp. 164, 228).
In 1984 and 1986, I visited Lithuania for a month at the University of
Vilnius for "academic purposes." The rector, Dr. Jonas Kubilius,
(with whom I was well acquainted at Chicago University at the time of his
graduate studies) and several other Vilnius inhabitants knew what I was
searching for. In the Holocaust literature, I found hints that, during
the Nazi occupation, an organized group of teachers and library personnel
aided Jews. Among them was the noble Ona Simaite. So I had
come to search for the trail of rescuers of Jews. I surmise that
[Soviet] Security quickly made this discovery. After all, how could
one find anything in a strictly unobserved manner. Needless, I wasn't
engaged in anything that was truly anti-Soviet. I merely distributed
three dozen books and journals that I had brought along. At worst,
I was simply a searcher for rescuers and a book distributor.
I knew I was on the right track because a few years earlier I became acquainted
with Antanas Gureviciius (now about ninety years of age) who, through twenty
years of painstaking and systematic effort, had gathered and tabulated
a name-list, supported by sources --- "Tally of Lithuanian Rescueres of
Jews." Therein are 6,171 men and women altogether. Let's tip our
hat to them and to Antanas Gureviciius who himself during wartime also
extended his hand to Jews, and in his old age performed a monumental task
that no Jewish or Lithuanian orgnization succeeded in achieving.
In 1994, at the Jewish Museum in Vilnius, I became acquainted with Michail
Erenburg. At that time, he headed the Research Section of Jewish
Rescue, now headed by Viktorija Sakaite. We engaged in conversation.
At that time, M. Erenburg said: "In the matter of rescuing Jews in Lithuania,
there participated at minimum (he stressed and repeated that worst at least
several times) at minimum ten thousand people [emphasis
in original], among whom were about two hundred priests." Thus, at
last, my estimate prepared in the capital of Canada at Ottawa, announced
at the Tabor Farm meeting at "Santara-Sviesa," and confirmed and backed
by the list of Antanas Gurevicius --- my estimate was confirmed by the
conclusions of M. Erenburg and V. Sakaite at Vilnius. Indeed,
as Tomas Venciovadays, we did not have a Danish king, but who is he compared
to Ona Simaite and Brother [Bronius] Gotautas!
In fact, a few years ago, M. Erenburg indicated in the Lithuanian press
that he reported the evidence of his research to the Yad Vashem Institute
in Jerusalem and to the onetime Jewish Educational Institute in Vilnius
that was, after the war or during the war, transferred to New York and
revived there. Yet he has received no response from the latter.
Reliable sources tell me that on publication of the bilingual monograph,
Gyvybe ir duona nesancious rankos [Hands Bringing Life and Bread],
Viktorija Sakaite received threats. It appears that someone fears
both the rescuers of Jews in Luthuania (although the majority of
them are now deceased) and those who toil to immortalize their names.
SPECIAL OBSERVANCE AT STUTTOF
by P. Narutis
(Darbininkas, Lithuanian weekly, Brooklyn,
NY, 22 October 1999)
On Sunday, September 8 , salvos of the Polish Military Honor Guard
resounded in the Stutthof valley, honoring all --- and Lithuanians too
--- martyred at Stutthof. The observance was arranged by the Polish
National Museum in remembrance of the fact that sixty years ago the Nazis
herded 300 Polish captives into Stutthof to start the construction of the
concentration camp. Up to the end of the war, the Nazis managed to
bring to the camp upwards of 110,000 prisoners from various nations.
solemn commemoration at Stutthof is especially dear to us Lithuanians because
in honoring the 108 martyrs in Nazi camps proclaimed by the pope [13 June
1999 in Warsaw] as "Blessed," Poles and Lithuanians prayed also for Fr.
Alfonsas Lipniunas, seized as a hostage of Lithuania and martyred.
This was a special moment, preparing the way for Fr. Alfonsas Lipniunas
to be declared "Blessed." The assistance of the general public will
lighten and hasten the work of Msgr. Juozapas Ansius who is very much attentive
to the [pertinent] documentation. (Anyone who personally knew Fr.
Alfonsas Lipniunas, or knows anything about him, is asked to send one's
testimony to: Msgr. J. Antanavicius, Vysk. Paltoroko g. 12, Panevezys,
Regading Stutthof, we have several books written by prisoners themselves
in Lithuanian and other languages: Fr. St[asys] Yla in Lithuanian and Englilsh,
and Prof. B[alys] Sruoga in Lithuanian, Russian, and lately in English.
Those books and the recollections of those who suffered and were tortured,
and especially of those hostages of Lithuania at Stutthof, have described
the truth that was concealed or falsified for fifty years by the occupation
forces. In the present epoch of Lithuania, it is essential to demonstrate
what an arduous path it was for those struggling for God and Country when
spiritual directors of youths, such as Fr. Alfonsas Lipniunas, were annihilated.
The earthly path of the past illumines the ideals of the nation's existence
for the present. Fr. Alfonsas Lipniunas is a shining beacon for contemporary
youth and for the future, but we need to make him known!
TESTIMONIES TO THE TRAGIC FATE OF JEWS
by Jadvyga Godunaviciene
(Draugas, 23 October 1999)
The publication house of "Margi rastai" in Lithuania has published Atminimoknyga
[A Book of Memory] by Professor Sata Ginas-Rubinson, former professor
of economics at Vilnius University and a Canadian resident since 1983.
Four years ago the author published a booklet, The Beginning of the
Tragedy of the Jewish People in Lithuania, wherein, briefly and credibly,
there are portrayed the tragic events of the Jewish ghetto in Kaunas during
the Nazi years of occupation, and the massive killings in that temporary
capital [Kaunas] and other locales in Lithuania.
knyga is, so to speak, a continuation of this theme. Here, nevertheless,
the background of these events is more fully illuminiated: the prewar life
of the Jewish community in independent Lithuania [1918-1939] and the resistance
movement in the ghetto itself and beyond its confinies. The book
tells of Lithuanians who rescued Jews and their children from destruction,
and tells about those who aided the Nazis in their bloody undertakings.
For this, in no way does the author attempt to blame the entire Lithuanian
nation, as is done not rarely. She simply relates her authentic life
experiences as well as gathered historic facts.
One theme of the recollections is the experiences of her own family and
close intimates, and the fatality of her father and mother. In the
summer of 1941 when the Germans had just taken over Kaunas, several of
the local white-banded ones [members of the hastily-formed Lithuanian Provisional
Government] broke into the home of the Ginas family, expelled five adult
men and fatally shot them beyond the fence. Miss Sara Ginas, just
graduated from secondary school, peering through the window, witnessed
with her own eyes this execution of her close friends. Later, she
like other Jews, experienced humiliations and ridicule when these people
were unscrupulously divided into those slated for death and those who for
the time being avoided a cruel fate. The author managed to escape
from the ghetto, and with weapon in hand, fought against the Nazis and
After the war, Sara Ginas studied economics at Vilnius University, later
taught this same subject, became a professor, married journalist Michael
Rubinson --- a fellow Jew together with whom she participated in the resistance
struggle, and raised two daughters. After the premature death of
her husband, she decided, along with her daughter Tankia Vasiliauskas and
family, to emigrate to Canada, where Ania, the younger Rubinson daughter,
[Referring to the author's day in Lithuania] Of course, there began harassment,
persecution, noisy expulsion from the Communist Party. Out of fear,
more than one colleague and acquaintance turned away. In a book about
the university, Sara Ginas's surname and photograph were not even published.
After departure, Sara Ginas-Rubinson took up residence in Toronto where
she taught sociology at York University, and then she began to research
the problems of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe and Lithuania. For
that purpose she visited more than a few countries. Almost annually
she visited Lithuania.
The author of the book remains an objective witness of history, not an
accuser. In one chapterof Atminimo knyga, "The Context and
Interpretation of the Jewish Catastrophe in Lithuania," she seeks to unearth
the Holocaust's political, economic, religious, and other causes.
At the end there is a documentary bibliography and a list of surnames.
In the book, there is mention of Nazi collaborators, mention of people
who at great risk concealed Jews, and mention of many close friends and
acquaintances who were tortured, and / or fatally shot.
LITHUANIAN CITIZENS HONORED FOR AIDING JEWS
Baltic News Service
(Draugas, 9 February 2000)
VILNIUS, 8 FEB. (bns) - Israel has awarded "Righteous Gentile" medals
to eight Lithuanian citizens. This is the highest award of Israel
conferred on non-Jews. The award is designated for those who, risking
their lives, aided Jews during the Holocaust years of World War II.
The award ceremony will take place Thursday [10 Feb.] in Vilnius at the
Community Center of Jews of Lithuania, announced the Israeli Embassy for
the Baltic nations. Acting Deputy of the Embassy, Ronit Ben Dor,
will confer the award.
Since 1953, when the award called "Righteous Gentile" was inaugurated,
it has been granted to 15,000 residents of various European nations, including
422 Lithuanian citizens. The most recent recipients of Lithuania
are: Ustinija Vasiljeva, Anastasija Jemmeljanova, Julija Vitkauskiene and
her son, Arejas Stasys Vitkauskas, Eduardas and Ona Leonavicius, Gene Jonusiene
Premenckaite, Kipras and Elena Petrauskas, Rev. Stanislovas Jakubauskis,
Marija Paskevic and her daughter, Elzbieta Tomasevskaja.
One medal is awarded to spouses and to parents and children if they, in
consort, aided Jews.
Many of the recipients are now deceased, and so their children will accept
"Righteous Gentiles" receive medals and certificates, and their names are
inscriped on the Wall of Honor for such Righteous Gentiles in the orchard
of the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem.
[It is estimated that 240,000
Lithuanian Jews (or 94% of the Jewish population, the largest percentage
of any country) perished during the Holocaust.]
AN OPEN LETTER TO MR. [SIMON] WIESENTHAL
(Draugas, 31 March 2000)
Honorable Sir: As a daughter of Lithuania, "nation of Jew-shooters," I
make bold to address you.
It wounds me greatly that you speak about us with such hatred. Why
don't you remember that Jews as much as Lithuanians equally sufferd the
yoke of an occcupant during whose regime not only Jews but also Lithuanians
I often ask myself: Why you don't call as "Je w-shooters"
the Germans who started this "machine of hell" or Poles or French?
Why are we alone the Jew-shooters, when at that time Jews were being uniformly
During the years of German occupation, there arose people who collaborated
with the Nazis. But they [collaborators] were fewer in number than
those who risked their own lives and the lives of loved ones to save Jews.
I knew many such people, but only one Jew-shooter. People condemned
him, avoided him -- he was an "alienated one."
Honorable Sir, I want to remind you that not all Jews were "holy"
[blameless]. Perhaps you don't know or have forgotten that many Jews
were collaborators in 1940 during the deportation of Lithuanians to Siberia.
With the arrival of the Communists, Jews were a loyal support of the Soviet
Union. In the little forest of Rainiai near Telsiai, people were
tortured not by [the Russian national Petr] Raslan alone; he had many assistants
of Jewish ethnicity.
Why is there a desire to silence authentic history? Presenting Lithuania
to the whole world as a land of the greatest evildoers and killers is dishonest
Among all nations one finds scoundrels -- there were some among Lithuanians
and Jews. What a shame, but it's true.
In writing this letter to you, I feel I have a right to do so. During
the German occupation, I grew up in a family that rescued twenty-six Jews.
I experienced the horror of that era. I saw everything. I remember
Pardon me, Mr. Wiesenthal that I dare contradict you that Lithuanians are
not Jew-shooters! We endured long years of two occupations, having
buried hundreds of thousands of loved ones in the expanses of Siberia,
in the tundras of Laptevai, and the grass plains at forest edges . . .
We have reconciled ourselves and forgiven our murderers . . .
You are unable to do so; the bonfire of hatred cannot die out in your heart.
You occasionally stir up the embers. I want to ask you: Why?
Birute Straupyte Jereminiene
[Editor's Note: The author of this letter (living in Canada) now writes
in abbreviated form about her experiences of how her parents rescued twenty-six
Jews from death, and for four years kept them hidden. These are true happenings,
by no means exceptions. Many Lithuanians, prompted by fraternal charity
and humanitarianism, risked their very lives to help the unfortunate from
the raging storm of the Nazis.]
MORE LITHUANIANS HONORED FOR RESCUING JEWS
Baltic News Service
(Draugas, 2 MAY 2000)
VILNIUS, May 2 (BNS) -- Tuesday, at a commemoration of World War II Holocaust
victims -- the memorial Day of Catastrophe, President Valdas Adamkus bestowed
[the Lithuanian] humanitarian-rescue crosses on a large number of "Righteous
Gentile" recipients or their heirs. Among the fifty-one honorees
were representatives of the intelligentia, Catholic clergy, laborers, and
farmers who, as asserted in the president's decree, "disregarding mortal
danger to oneself and one's family, aided Jews from Nazi genocide during
the years of World War Two."
Among the recipients, thirty-three persons have died, including three clergymen:
Bronius Gotautas, Kazys Kavaliauskas, and Nikodemas Svoglis-Milzinas.
The Jewish Museum of Lithuania and the dioceses of Sauliai and Kaisiadorys
accepted the crosses bestowed on them [the priests].
Humanitarian-aid crosses were also bestowed on representatives of the famous
Venclauskas family. Stanislava Venclauskiene was a celebrated actress
the Siauliai Drama Theater.
On this Holocaust Day throughout the world, there was recalled the uprising
in the Warsaw Ghetto, so cruelly suppressed on 2 May 194.
"The events of those fateful years became tragic for all ethnic communities
and nations wherein Nazis and their collaborators carried out the Holocaust.
For many this was a moral and humanitarian test. We must admit that
not all endured this testing. At the same time, there must not disappear
from history the fact that, resisting force and brute-like behavior, in
more than one nation Jews were hidden and aided. Thanks to you, Lithuania
was no exception," asserted V. Adamkus.
According to the President, "the power of humaneness and life is, by comparison,
strong than endeavors to destroy, plunder, and murder. You behavior
was worth more than the activity of world power politics of that era."
Regretting that not a few painful questions of history remain unanswered
up to now, V. Adamkus emphasized that no one person, no one ethnic community,
nation, will generate any good by toppling the lives and fates of others.
After the bestowal of honors, the huge audience turned its attention to
a guest from Boston -- Rosian Zerner, rescued as a six-year old in Kaunas,
by sisters -- Lida Goluboviene and Natalija Fugaleviciute. More than
one Lithuanian understook the risk also in saving her [Zerner's] mother,
whereas her father managed to escape from the Kaunas Ghetto to haven with
the members of the resistance.
Masa Grodnikiene, Deputy President of the Jewish Community of Lithuania,
on behalf of her fellow Jews, offered thanks to the rescuers whom the Israeli
Government honored, granting these noble and fearless people the name of
In Lithuania, Lithuanians who aided Jews are usually honored twice a year
-- on the Day of Catastrophe, and in September on teh Day of Jewish
THOUSANDS OF LITHUANIANS AIDED JEWS
A Book Review by Vincas Valkavicius
(Draugas, 20 May 2000)
A. Martinionis, ed. A Gureviciaus sarasai: tuktanciai lietuviu kuri
gelbejo tukstancius Lietuvos zydu Antrojo pasaulinio karo metais -- The
List of A. Gurevicius: Thousands of Lithuanians who rescued Thousands of
Lithuanian Jews in the Second World War (Vilnius: Proteviu Kardas Press,
1999), 190 pp., soft cover, available from the publisher (Lithuanian Journalists
Alliance of Canada), $10.00 in United States currency, including postage.
Gintutis Procuta composed a substantial, scholarly introduction for this
book (pp. 5-31) with forty-eight footnotes (pp. 32-39), mostly from English-language
sources. It is immediately evident to the reader that Procuta is well-acquainted
with Holocaust literature that he meticulously examined. The Lithuanian
introduction is followed by a translation into English (pp. 43-70) rather
well done, though there are some stylistic shortcomings. In the translation,
nine liines of p. 6 are omitted, meant for the translation on p. 44; likewise,
omitted are five lines on pp. 6-7, intended for the translation on p. 45.
Among the handful of erroneous translations, on p. 60 the phrase "several
Jewish families" should be "several hundred Jewish families." Likewise,
Procuta's use of the word "humanistai" would ring more correctly in English
as "humanitarians." The word "humanist" derives from "humanism" --
the philosophy that ignores God, but rather relies only on human values.
Farther along in the book there is Gurevicius' compilation -- "a list of
Lithuanians who aided Jews (pp. 71-113) and three supplementary lists (pp.
114-152). Spanning pp. 153 to 183 are the "List of the aided and
rescued Jews of Lithuania and a supplement (pp. 184-188). In the
first lists the helpers are named and enumerated. In the latter lists,
an effort was made to name and enumerate the aided Jews. Sources
for all the lists are fully footnoted. In all there are registered
6,271 helpers and 10,137 aided persons.
[The book has] a chart (p. 41) dividing the helpers into these categories:
205 soldiers, police
59 people in liberal arts
42 physicians, nurses
119 punished for giving aid
This reviewer is personally acquainted with the case of aided Alexander
Shtromes (p. 178, #4362). Professor Shtromas was a Visiting Lecutrer
at Boston College for the 1988-89 season. Having learned of his presence
in my area, I invited him to my rectory on March 7, 1989, to view my archives
of Lithuanian American history. On this occasion, he began to relate
how a village priest and Lithuanian family hid and protected twelve-year-old
Alexander during the Nazi occupation. The priest taught him how to
serve holy Mass, garbed in surplice, assisting as a fictitious altar boy.
After forty-five years, Professor Shtromas, deeply moved and ever grateful,
began to recite the Latin Mass prayers. This left me an indelible
One observes that Guerevicius has overlooked more than a few names and
surnames. Understandably, as a solo investigator, he was unable to
gather total information, though he devoted an entire decade to this goal,
searching for data in periodical literature, books, and private archives.
No doubt, more witnesses could come forth to testify about aid to Jews
To the present day throughout the world there has lingered the view, accepted
even by a handful of the Lithuanian public, that only a small number of
Lithuanians helped Jews. Holocaust literature and the general press
hav long voiced this position. This viewpoint was especially propagated
a few years ago when the case of Aleksandras Lileikis was written about.
What irony that in her letter of September 30, 1974, to Draugas,
the Jewess S. Grodnikaite asserts that Lileikis himself provided help for
her. Alas, Grodnkaite is not included in the Gurevicius lists.
Every lover of truth should promptly obtain a copy of this monograph and
keep it handy. When uninformed non-Lithuanians begin to hurl accusations
that the Lithuanian nation was killing Jews, we can show the gurevicius
lists, indicating as the subtitle says: "Thousands of Lithuanians Aided
Thousands of Jews."
"[SHE] FOUND THE SHELTERED JEWESS"
(2 January 2001)
One morning in 1942 during the German occupation, Stefanija Andriuniene,
Director of Kaunas orphanage, found a five-year old girl, standing at the
threshold of the orphanage entry. Stefanija took her into the shelter
and cared for her until 1944 when she [Stefanija] withdrew to the West.
A few years ago when Stefanija returned to live in Lithuania, she determined
to find that five-year-old. After a lengthy search and inquiry, she
found the seriously ill Janina Vytiene receiving medical attention at a
clinic in Kaunas. Little Janina had been left by her Jewish
mother at the orphanage threshold. In that way, Janina avoided the
persecution of Jews and avoided eventual death.
Stefanija Andriuniene-Egan allotted a suitable sum of money for her protected
Janina so that Janina could receive further medical help at the clinic
and physically recover. I. K.
[In an accompanying photo Stefanija, now living in Kaunas, Lithuania, after
her long residency Toronto, Canada, is receiving an award of heroism from
President Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania, on Jewish Genocide Day, August 13,
2000, for helping preserve Jewish children from extermination in World
FR. JUOZAS INKRATAS AWARDED CROSS
FOR AIDING THOSE IMPERILED
(Draugas, 12 June 2001)
On April 17, the remembrance day for World War Two Holocaust victims, President
Valdas Adamkus of the Republic of Lithuania awarded the Cross of Helpers
of The Imperiled posthumously to onetime pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual
Help Parish in Sestokai --- Father Juozas Inkratas. This award
of the Lithuanian Government was bestowed on Fr. J. Inkratas for aiding
Jews from the Nazi genocide during the years of World War Two.
On April 20, in the mansion of the Republic's President, with A. Benjamin,
Israeli Ambassador to Lithuania present, the Cross of Helpers of the
Imperiled was awarded to forty-nine recipients. The award designated
for Fr. J. Inkratas was presented to the present pastor of Sestokai Parish
--- Father Kestutis Bekasovas.
Fr. J. Inkratas was born 2 July 1894 in Gutkaimas, County of Vilkaviskis,
homestead of Kybartai. He studied at the Graziskiai elementary school,
and alter at the gymnasia at Marijampole and Vilkaviskis. He completed
priestly studies at the seiniai Seminary, taking final examinations at
St. Petersburg. From 1915 to 1916, he studied at the exiles' school
in Rezekne, Latvia, and also taught there. From 1916 to 1917, he
studied further at the priests' seminary at St. Petersburg.
From 1917 to 1918, he worked with the exiles' organization at Rezekne.
In 1918, Fr. Inkratas returned to Lithuania where he was assigned as assistant
priest at the parish in Pajevonys. In 1926, he was entrusted with
to duties as assistant at the parish in Sintautai. In 1931, he was
assigned to the parish at Slavikai, and in 1934 as pastor at Sestokai.
In 1950, he was transferred to Lazdijai. that same year, on September
26th, he was designated Dean of Lazdijai.
In 1964, Fr. Inkratas withdrew from all his duties and became an
"altarista" [retired priest] with full rights of an assistant priest. For
a time, he functioned in that capacity at Prienai. In 1965, he was
assigned as altarista at St. Anthonky Parish in Kaunas. In
1970, he was transferred to a Carmelite parish with the rights of an altarista.
Fr. Juozas Inkratas died 23 November 1973. He was buried 26 November
in Kaunas at the Aukstosios Panemune Cemetery. His rescued Jewish
women were present at the funeral of Fr. Juozas Inkratas.
BZ., 2001, Nr. 9
NOTE: The testimonies presented here have been
translated from Lithuanian
by William Wolkovich-Valkavicius.
RIGHTEOUS GENTILES WHO HELPED JEWS IN LITHUANIA
Ignas and Elena Anuzis
(Gabriele Anuzis Chvedukas)
Mother Superior Anna Borkowska (d. 1988)
(Nuns of St. Catherine Convent near Vilnius)
Br. Bronius Gotautas
Rev. Stanislovas Jokubauskis
Gene Jonusiene Premenckaite
Rev. Kazys Kavaliauskas
Rev. Adolfas Kleiba
Eduardas and Ona Leonavicius
Marija Paskevic and her daughter,
Paukstys, S. D. B. (1897-1966)
Rutkauskas (a Lithuanian Schindler)
Vincas (1886-1964) & Julija (1900-1964) Stanevicius
Juozas & Bronie Straupis
(1880-1940) & Stanislava (1874-1948)Venclauskas
Julija Vitkauskiene (1905-1980)
& Arejas Stasys Vitkauskas (1925-1995), her son
RECIPIENTS OF THE CROSS FOR SAVING PEOPLE UNDER DEATH
Br. Bronius Gotautas
Rev. Kazys Kavaliauskas
Sofija Lukavskaite Jasaitiene (1901-81)
Rev. Nikodemas Svogzlys-Milzinas (1899-1985)
OTHER RESCUERS WHO HELPED JEWS IN LITHUANIA
Rev. Jonas B. Borevicius, S. J. (1906-1989)
Capuchin Friars of Petrasiunai
Rev. Karl Fulst, S. J. (1903-1991)
Gdowski of Vilna
Father Jonas of Vidukle
Rev. Juozas Inkratas
Rev. J. Kardauskas
Father Lapis of Siauliai
Rev. Dr. Liutkevicius
Rev. Simonas Morkunas
Rev. Jonas B. Paukstys, S. J. (1899-1965)
Rev. Alfonsas Radzvilas
Rev. Justinas Steponaitis
Rev. J. Zelvys
Rev. Jonas Zemaitis (b. 1904)
Jankus of Siauliai
Dr. B. Matulionis
Mrs. Milukaitis of Kaunas
Peasants Thaddeus and Barbara
Liusvikas Smulkstys (1902-89)
Antanas Starkus (1901-75)
Captain Ignas Vylius
Sister Marija Mikulska
Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
(About 20 in Siauliai)
SOME LITHUANIAN CHURCHMEN OF WORLD WAR II
Vincentas Borisevicius of Telsiai (1887-1947) +
Vincentas Brizgys of Kaunas (1903-1992)
Teofilius Matulionis of Kaisiadorys (1873-1962) +
Petras Mazelis of Telsiai (1894-1966)
Kasimir Paltarokas of Panevezys (1875-1958)
Pranciskus Ramanauskas of Telsiai (1893-1959)
Administrator Mecislovas Reinys of Vilna (1884-1953) +
Juozapas Skvireckas of Kaunas (1873-1959)
Cardinal Sladkevicius, M. I. C., of Kaunas (1920-2000)
Justinas Staugaitis of Telsiai (1866-1943)
Steponavicius of Vilnius (1911-1991)
Kuodyte, Dalia & Rimantas Stankevicius (compilers),
Saves One Life (Vilnius, 2002)
Prunskis, Juozas, Lithuania's Jews and the Holocaust
Vilnius, National Jewish Gaon Museum, Gyvybe ir Duona
Nesancios Rankos -- Hands Bringing Life and Bread (2 volumes; Vilnius,
Vilnius, National Jewish Gaon Museum, Zydu Gelbejimas
Lietuvoje II Pasalinio Karo Metais 1941-1944 -- Rescuing
of Jews in Lithuania During World War II War Years, 1941-1944: Index of
Surnames (Pavardziu rodykle; Vilnius, 2001)
Wolkovich-Valkavicius, William, "Lithuanian Rescuers of
Jews," Bridges, Issue 1 (January / February 2001), 20-24.
Land of Martyrs
Heroes of the Holocaust in Lithuania
Holocaust and Lithuanian Historical Consciousness
Heroes of the Holocaust
Families Helped to Save Jews in Holocaust
Heroes Who Hid Jews in Kovno
Thesis on the Holocaust in Lithuania
Rescuers Who Helped Jews During the Holocaust
Rainiai Martyrs of Lithuania
Horror of the Nazis and Communists in Lithuania
Church in Lithuania
Bishops Apologize for Failure to Defend Jews
Cities and Towns of Lithuania
Historical Sites of Lithuania
Hill of Crosses in Lithuania
Hermitage on Hill of Crosses
Lady of Siluva
Write to: Rev.
Vincent A. Lapomarda, S. J. (email@example.com) with comments
Last updated June 21, 2005. Copyright
© 1997-2005, College of the Holy Cross